Author Archives: PRSA Houston

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One of Houston's largest communications organizations with more than 400 members.

Keynote Speaker Explains How Network News is Drastically Changing

This year’s keynote speaker for the 2012 PR Day: Treats of the Trade on Wednesday October 31, is Dave Armon of Critical Mention on “Pitching Multi-Media in a Post Network TV World.” Throughout his speech, the audience will learn how consumer media consumption habits are changing; how local TV news will be affected; how newspapers are the next American broadcaster; and how PR pros have opportunities to pitch video news to web, radio, TV. Deloitte reported that nine million Americans have either pulled out their cable TV or are planning to yank cable. To learn more about Dave Armon’s fascinating topic on the transformation of network television, and what type of impact this is having on PR professionals across the nation, go to http://www.prsahouston.org to register today! The Early Bird Special has been extended to Sept. 21! We hope to see you at 2012 PR Day: Treats of the Trade!

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PR Day 2009 Co-Chairs Explain How You Get What You Give

“When Lisa and I were asked to co-chair PR Day 2009, I resisted. Over the years I had served in many roles—from committee chair to chapter president to assembly delegate—so I felt I had done my part for PRSA Houston. Add to that the fact that I am co-owner of a small business, which takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to run. But I finally agreed, and I’m so glad I did. For one thing, we were able to recruit a great committee – made up of both newcomers and long-time members of PRSA. In addition, we had wonderful support from the board and Paula Ruth, our chapter administrator. As we began our monthly meetings, it became clear that we have incredibly talented and committed people in PRSA. We got a lot done and had fun at the same time. I encourage every PRSA Houston member to chair or serve on a committee. It was a terrific experience for me – one that I will never forget!”

Margot Dimond, APR
Principal
DoubleDimond Public Relations, LLC
Co-Chair of PR Day 2009

“Fairly new to PRSA, I was a bit surprised yet honored to be asked to take on the important role of PR Day 2009 co-chair with my business partner (who happens to be my mother) Margot Dimond. I had served on the PR Day committee the previous year and picked up a lot watching Jennifer Evans’ strong leadership, but actually taking the reins as co-chair would be taking things to a whole new level. Like Margot, I was also a bit concerned about juggling PR Day along with the needs of our clients. I soon realized that with a very active committee made up of both experienced PR pros and those new to the industry, a timeline and persistence, we were able to put together an amazing PR Day 2009! And I have to say I gained so much both personally and professionally from this experience—not only the obvious—that I met so many incredible people and made so many friends—but I also learned so much from our committee members whose countless contributions led to a successful event.”

Lisa Dimond Vasquez
Principal
DoubleDimond Public Relations, LLC
Co-Chair of PR Day 2009

Interested in chairing PR Day 2010? Visit the PRSA Houston job bank for more information.

PR Day 2009 co-chairs Margot Dimond, APR (seated) and Lisa Dimond Vasquez of DoubleDimond Public Relations

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Baron Versus Shankman: PR Day Speakers Spar Online

Two speakers at the highly successful PR Day 2009 on October 7 are sparing online about presentations made at the event. On his Crisisblogger site, breakout speaker Gerald Baron took keynote speaker Peter Shankman to task for speaking too fast and using social media mostly as a way to get dates. And that’s just for starters.

Undeterred, Shankman fired back that Baron basically misunderstood everything he said. Since it’s Baron’s blog, he then commented on Shankman’s comments about his comments on Shankman’s comments. Makes for fun reading: http://crisisblogger.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/comments-on-peter-shankmans-comments/

Contributed by Christi Dunn, Chair, PRSA Houston Web Committee

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Letterman’s Crisis Communications Options

Boston Herald Business crisis management sources “gave high marks to David Letterman’s frank on-air revelation last week of a $2 million extortion attempt that threatened to reveal the late-night talk show host’s sexual liaisons with female staff.  Letterman took control of the story by releasing the information on his own terms and portraying himself as a victim – key elements to a successful crisis communications strategy.

For anyone living under a rock, CBS News employee Robert Halderman, a producer for the real-life crime show “48 Hours,” pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree attempted grand larceny in a Manhattan court Friday and is out on bail. His blackmail attempt prompted the 62-year-old Letterman to acknowledge the sexual affairs to his studio audience and viewers during last Thursday’s “Late Show” on CBS, without specifying when they took place. In March, Letterman married Regina Lasko, his longtime girlfriend, and the couple has a 5-year-old son.

Letterman’s crisis communication options were actually much broader than to tell or not to tell. Some general image restoration strategies that he, and Worldwide Pants, had at their disposal were:

1. Denial
a. Deny the act occurred
b. Shift the blame for an act to another person or organization

2. Evasion of responsibility
a. Claims a lack of responsibility because the misdeed was a result of provocation, an accident, or committed with good intention.

3. Reduction of the offensiveness of event
a. Bolstering
b. Differentiation
c. Transcendence
d. Minimizing
e. Attacking the accuser to lessen the impact of the accusation
f. Offering to compensate the injured party

4. Corrective action
a. Restoring the state of affairs existing before the offensive action and/or promising to prevent recurrence of the offensive act

5. Mortification
a. Requires the accused to admit the wrongful act and ask forgiveness.

These courses of action are rooted in the rhetorical approach of apologizing and based on readings from Robert Heath’s Handbook of Public Relations.

Contributed by Karen Naumann Blanchard, APR, president of Naumann Blanchard, LLC , and PRSA Houston Board Member.

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Essay Question: Option 1

Remember completing the dreaded essay question?  If it’s written well it could mean getting a good (or at least reasonable) grade on an exam, being promoted to a better job, or– as in this case–being selected as a finalist for the Public Relations Foundation of Houston’s  (PRFH) $3,000 scholarship. 

This past spring, applicants for the 2009/2010 PRFH scholarship had four topics from which to choose and one single-spaced typed page in which to share their thoughts. The following essay is by finalist Jennifer Miller, currently a junior at the University of Texas majoring in advertising. It provided much food for thought as she explained how her experiences as a sometimes awkward but always polite restaurant server have prepared her for a career in the always changing and not always polite world of communications.  I think you’ll enjoy reading it as much as the scholarship committee did.

           Spilling queso, precisely chile con queso, down your shirt teaches you many things. First, and most obvious, only professional jugglers can balance skillet queso, salsa, chips, and a tray full of drinks. Second, since everyone else is laughing at you, you might as well laugh with them. And third, the unexpected makes everything either interesting or frustrating, and the difference is how you choose to react. 

            Working in a restaurant taught me, first and foremost, balance, how to be polite to impolite strangers, responsibility, and flexibility. On any given night, anything, actually everything, would go wrong. We were out of fries, the broccoli was cooked wrong, the fork had a spot on it, the drink isn’t strong enough, or “I ordered chicken, not steak!” Although telling the red-faced woman that I specifically told the chef not to put tomatoes in the pasta, redirecting the blame did not help the situation. One of the most important, and pride-swallowing, lessons I learned was to take responsibility for the problem; even if the fault is not mine, it is my responsibility to find the solution. The customer’s pasta does not become magically tomato-free by blaming the chef, but apologizing, taking the responsibility, and fixing the problem will hopefully put a smile back on her face.

            This quality transferred directly into my next job: the account executive position at the Daily Texan. This time, clients are paying hundreds for their ad space, not $12.95 for Cajun Chicken pasta. The Daily Texan works as a team, but once again, I am the only liaison between the team and the client. When one member makes a mistake, the responsibility falls to me, and now I easily accept it. A new challenge that I faced at the Daily Texan, one the restaurant didn’t prepare me for, was overcoming rejection. I’ve always considered myself a positive person, but my first month confronted my positivity. I had never taken a sales position before and I was not prepared for the amount of rejection that came with it. Through self-encouragement, encouragement from my co-workers, and getting rejected 100+ times, I found the ability to move past it. Receiving “no’s” is by no means my favorite pass-time, but I am now strong enough to handle them and proceed on with full confidence.

            Although I feel both jobs have taught me valuable lessons for the future, the most important lesson was one that I experienced, rather than learned. After a little searching, I found my home-away-from-home at a school with 55,000 undergraduates in Texas Spirits. I’ve always known this about myself, but its been particularly exemplified through my membership and leadership in this organization: In life, whatever you do, you will receive as much as you put in. I dedicate a large amount of myself to Texas Spirits, and through friendships, work, and life experiences I receive it back tenfold. Whatever it is I’m passionate about, I put my entire self into it, because that is the only way to truly achieve my goals.

I view every experience I have as a learning experience—I’m always looking to see what I can take from the situation. Whether it’s finally learning to balance a tray or realizing how to react in a situation, I don’t let lessons pass me by. These lessons I’ve learned in past will help me in the future, especially in a Public Relations job. It’s important to be confident with clients, even if the previous one tore you down; it’s important to be flexible and repair a problem, instead of assigning blame; and it’s important to not only be passionate, but to use that passion as motivation. All experiences relate to each other, and all provide something you can take from it. I used to barely be able to hold a tray with two hands, but after dedication, and 3 months in a restaurant, I can proudly say that I can hold a tray with 5 plates above my head, with a single hand.

Jen Miller would love to hear from you, especially if you’re offering encouragement and/or a paying job that’s not restaurant related.  She can be reached at jenmiller@mail.utexas.edu.

Contributed by Eydie Pengelly, APR, principal of Marcomm.biz and president of the Public Relations Foundation of Houston (http://www.prsahouston.org/foundation)

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Generational Diversity: The good, the bad, and the ugly

“Serenity now!” This quote from Frank Costanza on “Seinfeld” is increasingly becoming my favorite mantra for the workplace.  When my uber-generation-Y colleague communicates in 20 e-mails what she could easily say to my face  – serenity now! When I’m treated like “the little sister” because I’m numerically the youngest in my group – serenity now!  When a peer calls me a suck up because I respect my boss – serenity now!

Don’t get me wrong, being a generational mutt has its perks.  I’m a Generation Y-er by birth, a Gen X-er by nature, and I was raised by boomers. So I get it! I get that my boomer boss may occasionally turn to me for help in resolving some techno glitch, and I’ve learned not to take it personally when a Gen Y-er colleague throws an occasional hissy fit.

Yes, generational differences can create conflict and miscommunication in the workplace, but they also drive our ability to effectively communicate with diverse audiences – and as PR professionals, that’s what we do.

On Wednesday, October 7, we’ll be discussing generational diversity at the PR Day New Pros Roundtable. Join me and three other panelists as we discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of working in a generationally diverse team.  From budding professionals to seasoned pros, the panelists will answer everything you’ve wanted to know about different generations but were too afraid to ask.

In the meantime, to quote Pat Benatar, “Hit me with your best shot.”  What are some of your workplace horror stories? Did diverse generational perspectives help your communications team lead a successful project? We’d love to hear your stories.  Post your comments to this blog or to the PRSA Houston page on Facebook.

Click here for more information about PR Day 2009 or to register.

Contributed by Ariana Montelongo, public relations and minority outreach coordinator for LifeGift Organ Donation Center.

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Socrates, Aristotle, Plato… and what 2,000-year-old guys have to do with public relations today?

The PRSA Houston September luncheon focused on “The Socratic Approach to Effective Organizational Communications.” Alan Hilburg, President and CEO of Hilburg and Associates, taught us how the 2000-year-old Socratic Method can be used to structure and deliver more effective organizational communications to both internal and external audiences. More specifically, we learned how to use the Socratic Method to increase personal and departmental brand equity with colleagues and stakeholders, and how to transform how organizational communications is valued within our organizations. See the @PRSAHouston tweets from the luncheon for details.

Applying Socrates thought to PR reminded of what I recently read in Dr. Robert Heath’s book, “Handbook of Public Relations.” In it, the UH Professor cites the ancient Greek philosophers as the founders of the rhetorical roots of public relations’ two-way symmetrical model.

It was Aristotle, not Socrates, who concluded that rhetoric is “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” So, what did Aristotle consider the source of the persuasiveness? “A statement is persuasive and credible either because it is directly self-evident or because it appears to be proved from other statements that are so.”

Aristotle believed that “persuasion is achieved by the speakers’ personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.”

According to Aristotle people rely on “good sense, good moral character, and good will” to draw conclusions from debated matters. Conversely, he also thought, “false statements and bad advice are due to one or more of the following three causes. (1) Men either form a false opinion through want of good sense; or (2) they form a true opinion but because of their moral badness do not say what they really think; or finally, (3) they are both sensible and upright, but not well disposed to their hearers, and may fail in consequence to recommend what they know to be the best course.”

Now Plato would have argued – Does a world of knowledge and sound choice exist independent of the rhetorical process? Is the rhetorical process (dialogue) engaged by ethical people the best means for discovering truth and making sound judgment?

To which, Aristotle believed that the ends of social discourse was social good.

Heath wisely concluded that, “ethics arise from the process. The end is not predetermined but rather forged through the process. If an priori conclusions exists, then rhetoric is not needed; it operates in the realm of the contingent – of decision making. When a rhetoric recommends a conclusion or an action, he or she does so ‘on the ground that it will do good; if he urges its rejection, he does so on the ground that it will do harm.'”

So, in a final retort, Aristotle would blog, “if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any others, and at the highest good.”

Contributed by Karen Naumann Blanchard, APR, president of Naumann Blanchard, LLC , and PRSA Houston Board Member.

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Squatters grab advantage in Twitter ID battle

A possible battle is looming over Twitter squatting.  Cyber squatters have registered the names of companies on Twitter, and the law to prevent that practice is unclear. 

“Legitimate holders of brands can sue for them, and Twitter can just turn them over if asked.  But, because the investment and risk for the squatter are zero, you are going to see the rapid evaporation of available Twitter IDs,” said research analyst Richard Stiennon, as early as last year, in PC magazine.  “My guess is that Twitter squatters have grabbed all of these (names) in the hopes that they will be worth selling in the not too distant future.”  

Trademark owners have the right to sue cyber squatters, but the law, as it applies to disputed Twitter registrations, has not been tested in court.  Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has said that companies can contact Twitter with cases of impersonation and those accounts will be reviewed. 

Fake profiles of celebrities have surfaced on Twitter, so to thwart that, the microblogging service is beta testing an authentication routine with a small group.  However, Twitter has no plans to verify accounts for businesses because of the costs.

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense, as companies register and protect their names and brands against speculators.  The primary Twitter ID naming convention for a business is @companyname which is displayed on the Web as twitter.com/companyname.

The biggest Fortune 500 companies, those that market to consumers, have not fared especially well in protecting their brands in the Twittershphere.  No. 1 Wal-Mart Stores doesn’t own the walmart Twitter ID.  The mega retailer only has walmartdeals.  The 1,000 followers of walmart don’t tweet about Wal-Mart but do post about good and bad hair days.

Twitter indicates that the ExxonMobil ID is owned by Jayme Sanchez, who is or was with the public affairs office of Exxon Mobil Corp., the No. 2 company.  The Twitter site of Sanchez has one follower.

 “Janet,” the owner of the ID ExxonMobilCorp, has several followers, though, and she sure has a lot of positive remarks about the company.  The problem is that hers are not the official comments of Exxon Mobil.  The company recently told the Houston Chronicle that Janet isn’t part of Exxon’s public relations machinery.

No. 3 Chevron Corp. has no alternative but to use an ID other than its name Chevron.  That ID is owned by a tweeter with “protected” tweets and no followers or postings.  The company uses Chevron_JustinH for its official Twitter site.  Not very inspired or catchy is it?

 Canadian Marketing Association blogger Bill Sweetman  predicts that over the next few years, millions of dollars will be spent by companies buying, selling and fighting over Twitter IDs.  Attorneys want a brawl, I’m sure. 

They’d better hope that Twitter becomes a mainstream medium for a wider range of companies willing to vigorously defend their IDs.  So far, tweeting has worked for early adopters Jet Blue Airways, Dell Inc., Starbucks Coffee Co. and assorted celebrities, politicians and news media.

If the early and late majorities and laggards adopt Twitter, then let’s get ready to rumble.

Contributed by Mike Wysatta, business development manager at Ryder Scott.

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Daily newspapers: Dead, dying or just digitizing?

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated, author Mark Twain quipped after his obituary was published.  Fast forward more than 100 years and actor Jeff Goldblum responded with the same sound bite to deny an erroneous tweet from delicioushair about his reported fatal accident.

Like people, industries and their products also bite the big one.  Certainly, for the most part, the only place that typewriters still tap and pagers still beep is in the great scrapheap in the sky.  While obits on those industries and their products are accurate, is the death knell for the newspaper industry premature?  Is it time to just add maggots?

Some blogs are pulling the plug.  Newspaper Death Watch is a popular blog chronicling the decline of newspapers.  So is blog PoynterOnline.

This year, The Public Relations Strategist magazine of the Public Relations Society of America published a doomsday article, “Farewell to the “mass media,” stating that the top 10 daily newspapers had lost 700,000 subscribers over the most recent six months.  At the PRSA annual meeting last year, “technology journalist” Paul Gillin declared, “Mass media is going away.  It’s not coming back.”

Now that’s extreme.  The Media Audit reported that 42 daily newspapers in the U.S. boosted cume readership over the last seven years.  Cume is short for the cumulative, unduplicated net readership over period of time.  Our local daily, the Houston Chronicle, grew 6 percent over that time, according to the study.  Other major dailies in Texas also gained readership with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram posting 13 percent growth and Austin American-Statesman at 10 percent.

The ghouls have not ruled out that newspapers will somehow pull out of the death spiral by reinventing themselves.  Industry insider and Editor & Publisher magazine columnist Steve Outing, said, “Digital is the future.”  He discourages retooling of print editions, which are so thin now, some pet bird owners say they no longer make good cage liners.  “Don’t bother chasing young people.  …They are sitting with their laptops or tapping on their smart phones,” said Outing.

Like other major dailies, the Houston Chronicle is attempting to appeal to the digitally inclined, which incidentally includes a large, fast-growing segment of geezers.  I peruse the print edition but also read breaking stories on my cell phone at mobile.chron.com.  The Chronicle also offers a free Web-based edition and subscription-based full digital editions through third party PressDisplay.  Other Web 2.0 media include SMS text messaging, various blogs and RSS and Twitter feeds.  Perhaps next to come are investigative exposés in 140-word tweets.

For major dailies, it’s not business as usual.  A look at the Chronicle’s robust job listings in a down job market is revealing.  The newspaper needs an ad solutions associate to support the digital sales team, multi-media sales rep to identify digital revenue opportunities, computer-assisted reporter to make Web information available to staff, channel producer to manage an online site for the religious community and digital account manager to develop online advertising and engage with national digital agencies.

Major dailies aren’t dead at least yet.  The question is whether their digital editions can pull in subscription and single-copy sales and ad revenue.  If few are willing to pay for online content, then I see delicioushair in my future for my news.  By the way, Britney Spears is alive.  Or at least she was the last time I checked.

Contributed by Mike Wysatta, business development manager at Ryder Scott.

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PR Gone Bad: How NOT to Deal with Twitter

There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. They must have coined this one in the olden days, before Twitter.  Because these days there is such a thing as bad publicity, and a Chicago company named Horizon Realty is getting it in spades.

One of Horizon’s former tenants, Amanda Bonnen, allegedly posted a not-so-favorable Tweet about her Chicago apartment, and the 22 people who followed her on Twitter saw it. That was grounds enough for a $50,000 libel lawsuit, according to Horizon Realty.

In fact, one of the company’s owners, Jeffrey Michael, told the Chicago Sun-Times, “We’re a ‘sue first, ask questions later’ kind of organization.”

As you can imagine, this quote has gone viral. The lawsuit and the response are all over the Twittersphere, with the Twitterati daring Horizon to sue them as well. Their 140 characters include the hash tag “#SueMeHorizonRealty.”

I’m assuming that being a company with a lot of properties to rent, Horizon Realty probably spends a fair amount of money on advertising to potential tenants. You know: young up-and-comers who probably use twitter. I would guess that its advertising budget is far more than $50,000. So how much money will the company have to spend now to erase “SueMeHorizonRealty”?

On top of that, the little tweet that only 22 people originally saw is now “a shot heard ’round the world.” Bonnen allegedly wrote, “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.” So now add moldy to their brand perception.

Chalk this up as a lesson in Social Media 101: what NOT to do.

Contributed by Christi Dunn, Chair, PRSA Houston Web Committee

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