How Social Media is Changing PR

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It seems that social media is creeping it’s way into every aspect of our lives. According to the Pew Center for Research, 73 percent of adults use social networking sites. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become central sources for news and information.

While technology’s rapid changing landscape is sometimes criticized, it has also created many valuable opportunities for PR practitioners. New technology tools are available, which allow for measurement of trends and behavior of target audiences. These tools can be used for preliminary research or to obtain feedback from target audiences about a particular campaign. Social media allows for new forms of creativity. Traditional print or visual content can now be taken in countless different directions. Social media is also being used by companies to provide customer service and manage crisis.

This infographic by inkhouse is a great comparison of PR then and now (2013). It shows how advancements in technology and the use of social media are impacting the industry, but serves as a reminder that the core values of PR haven’t changed.


Using Technology to Increase Voter Turnout

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A few days ago, I ran across an article for an app that redesigns how we vote by streamlining the voting process, making it easier to get information on when, where, and how to vote. Ideas like this remind me of technology’s potential to improve lives and bring people together to exercise a right too few citizens take advantage of: the right to vote.

Less than two-thirds of voting-age citizens cast a ballot in most elections.

There are many variables affecting voter outcome and so extensive research would be needed to plan a successful public relations campaign. PR practitioners would need to understand the demographics of nonvoters. A mixture of qualitative and quantitative research would provide insight to the barriers to voting for nonvoters.

My concern is that an app making it easier to get voting information might not actually solve the problem because perhaps certain groups aren’t voting for other reasons. Nonetheless, making a process like voting easier isn’t going to hurt anyone and if the app increases interest and engagement in voting for even a small number of people, I’m all for it.


Infographic Tips for a Novice Designer

I enjoy visual storytelling, so I had a great time creating this infographic for a class assignment. The inspiration for my infographic comes from my passion for working with child abuse victims. My goal: raise awareness of child abuse in Oregon. I appreciate good design, but I am a novice designer so I came up with a few infographic tips for beginners.

  1. Start with your story. Take the time to brainstorm your ideas. Draw an outline to organize the information you want to include.
  1. Consider your audience. Who are you trying to reach? Infographics are a great tool to convey information visually to a broad audience and it’s important to think about your different readers. Consider your 3-second readers, 30-second readers and 3-minute readers.
  1. Balance. Be sure to balance the content of your infographic and think strategically about where to place the most important information. Select a complementary color palette and use colors that reinforce your story.
  1. Font is crucial. My favorite font right now is Coolvetica but I understand I can’t use it for every project. It’s important to choose a typeface that is versatile with a range of weights. This way you can use the same typeface throughout the infographic to give it a clean look while using variations of the font to emphasize and organize your content. I found the Ten Commandments of Typography helpful for selecting a typeface for my project.

There are countless resources out there you just have to take the time to find the information you need and think through your ideas. From this assignment I learned that content and style are equally important. Just as a well written story takes time, so too does an effective design.


Tech Companies, CSR and Inclusivity

I ran across Justin Edmund’s essay on Medium and found his story powerful and thought-provoking. In “Growing Up,” Edmund, a Pinterest employee, shares his reaction to the tech industry’s lack of reaction after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

An overwhelming percentage of the tech workforce is either White or Asian. In June 2014, Facebook released its diversity figures sharing that only 3 percent of the company’s US employees are Hispanic and 1 percent are Black.

Edmund talks about the issue quite honestly.

“Powerful leaders, be they in technology or politics or Hollywood, don’t actually seem to care. Focusing solely on Silicon Valley, one of the most progressive places in the world, powerful companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter all have stood up for LGBTQ rights, immigration reform, and most recently awareness for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), all of which is respectful and very welcome. I have not seen a single technology leader (editbesides @jack) acknowledge the crisis in Ferguson. And why would they bother?”

Edmund was also interviewed on USA today.

Edmund’s concern reminds us that what a company chooses not to respond to can be just as important as what it chooses to focus on. Although, the larger issue is the lack of racial diversity in the industry. Tech companies should consider racial inclusivity part of CSR. Good CSR programs benefit employees, customers, and the larger community.


Tim Cook Becomes First Openly Gay CEO of Fortune 500 Company

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Apple CEO Tim Cook became the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company last week. Although not everyone supports the LGBT community, there is a trend of growing support, and I believe that in the future this announcement will be respected as a bold turning point for the American workplace.

We have a ways to go though. In 29 states it’s still legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation. This creates a lot of pressure for some LGBT employees to hide their sexual orientation. “In a recent study, 83 percent of LGB respondents said they had covered in the workplace, and more than half said that doing so was detrimental to their sense of self.”

From a PR perspective, Cook’s announcement brings up the tension between public and private information. What information does the public deserve to know about the CEO of Apple and in what ways will this information affect the company? I would argue that Cook’s announcement shows Apple’s inclusive culture and may prompt other companies to consider how they handle diversity. Cook’s decision speaks to Apple’s company culture of acceptance and that’s good PR. Overall, it generates good PR for Apple because more people respect public figures when they show their true identity (even if they do not agree with that person’s beliefs/decisions). I’m confident that Cook’s decision to share his sexuality will pave the way for others.


Amazon’s CSR: People, Planet and Profit

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Amazon’s mission statement: “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” How does such a massive company go about achieving this mission in a socially responsible manner? Amazon has a number of CSR programs ranging from Frustration-Free Packaging/Environmentally Friendly Packaging to sustainable corporate building designs.

Two of my favorite Amazon CSR programs are:

  1. AmazonSmile, which allows users to donate 0.5% of their purchase to over 100 million different charities. This program grabs my attention because it allows the customer to truly feel like he or she is making a difference with each purchase. This type of program also gives the customer control over what cause the money goes towards, making the entire experience more meaningful.
  2. Amazon Student Scholarship, which awards $250,000 in merit scholarships and $25,000 in textbook gift cards. As a student, I am particularly impressed by Amazon interest in helping my generation. This program has long-lasting potential because eventually my generation will become Amazon’s primary public and I will remember this program.

Amazon is obviously doing something right because for the second consecutive year, it is the most reputable company in the United States, with a reputation score of 83.87. The only suggestion I’d make is that these CSR programs could be communicated to the public more effectively. I didn’t know about any of these important programs until I researched Amazon and that’s not good.

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Facebook’s Safety Check Feature

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Finally Facebook has created a tool I appreciate. I’m not the biggest fan of the recent privacy changes and new features on Facebook but this tool serves an important purpose. “Safety Check” will allow users to let friends and family know they’re safe and check on others in the affected area during a natural disaster.

Whether you like Facebook or not, this tool has the ability to impact Facebook’s 1.3 billion users and help reduce chaos during a crisis. On Oct. 15, Facebook said:

“We hope it’s a tool that helps you stay connected to those you care about, and gives you the comfort of knowing your loved ones are safe.”

Facebook is about staying connected with friends. If and when people use this tool, they will associate Facebook with helping them communicate with friends and family. This is an important association because it creates value for Facebook’s users.

What does Facebook’s “Safety Check” say to the public?

  • Facebook cares about you
  • Facebook is still developing new features and serving  its public
  • Facebook is doing something newsworthy and positive