The Ferguson Crisis. Why Weren’t They Prepared?

The Ferguson, Missouri case spread nation-wide like wild fire and sparked civil unrest throughout many communities. While civil unrest is expected with national court cases involving racial matters, there are some ways that it could have been minimized. In the beginning of the crisis, some would say that Ferguson officials made a big mistake. The video of Michael Brown robbing a convenience store was released with good intentions. It was supposed to deflect the opinions of the public who associated Brown with the image of an innocent child. However, information later came out that this store robbery did not go hand-in-hand with the incident including Officer Darren Wilson. So, was it a good call or a bad call to release this video?

From the perspective of a public relations professional, the answer to this question is debatable. Because the robbery wasn’t directly related with the Darren Wilson incident, some would say that the video is not relevant and was strictly released to put positive attention on Officer Wilson. On the other hand, some would say that is is important to paint a true picture of who Michael Brown really was. He wasn’t a sweet, innocent boy who was shot and killed by a racist officer with no cause. The world now saw him (or at least some of the world), as a 6 ft. tall man with a criminal background. In this particular situation, it is hard to say whether the video should have been released or not. In other situations, you should ask yourself, “Is this video truly beneficial to this case?” Weigh out the pros and cons of releasing such information. Also, try to empathize with your audience; would they want this information to be released?

Following the grand jury decision not to indite Darren Wilson a few weeks ago, complete uproar struck Ferguson. Innocent bystanders watched as their local businesses burned to the ground or their cars were vandalized. With proper crisis management communication, this civil unrest could have occurred on a smaller scale. Below is a list of crisis communication tips that officials should have implemented:

1. Communicate with the public and press on a daily basis. Holding daily press conferences with updates on the matter establishes trust between you and your public.

2. Establish counseling or community outreach centers for those affected by the crisis. Local churches could also have been utilized here.

3. Create a social media page to release updates immediately. Online publishing is much faster than a scheduled press conference.

4. Monitor social media. This could have been a great deal of help following the grand jury decision. Locations of protests and criminal acts could have been identified.

5. Last but not least, enforce a curfew. This is a bit extreme, but this could have saved many destroyed buildings, cars, and a lot of injuries.

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Fallen Eagle Sparks Alcohol Initiative

Students gathered at candle lit vigil for fallen eagle, Michael Gatto.

Good ole’ Statesboro, Georgia. The land of cotton fields, wide open spaces, and an overwhelming population of more than 20,000 college students. The location of Statesboro is also known as being a “dry county” (where alcohol is not sold), but that doesn’t stop the thousands of college students at Georgia Southern University from indulging in a big night out. Georgia Southern is known for its party hard reputation, its high crime rates, and its leading numbers of STD’s. These are all things that outsiders say; GSU students know most of these things not to be true. However, at the very beginning of the 2014 school year, Georgia Southern definitely did not precede its reputation.

August 29, 2014 a fellow GSU Eagle, Michael Gatto, was pronounced dead by local news. Gatto was involved in a bar brawl with Grant Spencer, an off duty bouncer at the bar Rude Rudy’s. Both involved in the incident were under the drinking age. Gatto was airlifted to East Georgia Regional Medial Center in Savannah, Ga due to head injuries, where he later died. Grant Spencer was charged with felony murder and is looking at life in prison.

Although a very tragic event, Statesboro needed to focus on repairing its image. There are many steps the city of Statesboro has taken to alleviate its reputation, starting with the closing of Rude Rudy’s. The local bars were very lenient towards underage drinking, but that is no longer the case. Checking identification before entering a bar is taken very seriously. This was a smart move for Statesboro in terms of working through this crisis, but it has drastically affected the bar’s business. I am a student at Georgia Southern, so I know this first hand. It is safe to say that the bars resemble ghost towns more times than not during the weekends.

The school newspaper recently reported that GSU will be adopting the alcohol initiative from the University of Georgia in Athens. The initiative is to prevent underage drinking. The article can be found here.

These steps were necessary in order to show surrounding cities that this incident was being taken seriously. But many students chose to attend GSU because it is (was) a fun school. It will be interesting to see if the amount of admissions is affected in the future. Will Georgia Southern ever recover from this? I don’t know. The bar scene is dying out; and the bar scene is what made the school so attractive.

A Few Notes on the Ebola Crisis

United States citizens  have taken it upon themselves to royally freak out about the Ebola virus. With all of the science fiction films about zombie apocalypses and plagues, it’s hard not to think, “Here it is. We’ve all been given the hints through these movies. We are all going to be wiped out by Ebola.” However, this is very much not the case. The news media calmed nerves by announcing that the virus can only be contracted through bodily fluids, which is true. That was a great play on their part in terms of communication during a crisis like this. But people are still freaked out. Four more people contracted Ebola and returned back to the U.S. after the patient in Texas died. That is not something the public will take lightly. The good news is, the five largest airports in America are now screening fliers returning from Africa for symptoms of the virus.

“Anyone who starts running a fever or having symptoms is isolated and tested for Ebola. If the test is positive, that person is kept in isolation and treated, and his or her contacts are then traced for 21 days.”

Although these precautions are being heavily enforced, there is still a feeling of fear and the unknown circulating the minds of United States residents. I too will admit that I have let the thought of an Ebola epidemic cross my mind, but my mind is still at ease. As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed today, I saw a video that Buzz Feed published entitled “Ebola: everything you need to know in 94 seconds.” I myself am receiving a degree in public relations, and I was drawn to this video. When I watched the video, I kept thinking how successful this tactic was going to be. It was going to increase awareness about the virus and change the public’s perception all at the same time. I applaud Buzz Feed’s efforts and creative thinking: take a simple, easy to understand video, and put it on social media, where most people spend a large percent of their day. I have posted the video at the top of this post. Watch it, and learn a little about the virus instead of worrying about the unknown.

Ray Rice Gives Voice to Women

Ray Rice video increases domestic violence awareness, not donations.

In February 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice, punched and dragged his wife, Janay Palmer, out of an elevator that was later shown on a leaked video. only after this video was shown, did the NFL suspend Rice indefinitely. This was one of the many mistakes the NFL made during the crisis of Ray Rice. Originally, Rice was benched for two games with the coach’s knowledge of Rice committing domestic violence. When the video was leaked, this was Coach John Harbaugh’s only explanation:

“It was something we saw for the first time today, all of us. It changed things, of course. It made things a little bit different,” Harbaugh said.

If by “making things a little different,” he meant that this video puts your organization through the eyes of every angry woman in America, then yes, the video did make things different. In every crisis situation, it is never recommended to wait to act on a crisis until it has become mass public knowledge. It seems that this was taken into account a month later when Adrian Peterson also found himself in a similar dilemma.

A tip for crisis communication: STAY ON TOP OF YOUR GAME…. literally. Communicating with the media consecutively is key. The NFL Player’s Union as well as Rice’s agent chose to duck down and not immediately respond to CNN’s inquiries. Saying “no comment,” none the less not saying anything at all, is a big no-no in crisis communication. You appear to be hiding information or to be insincere which decreases your credibility and appearance of honesty.

After the video was leaked, a few domestic violence shelters in Texas, were flooded with phone calls of women reaching out for help. It is always a good thing to increases awareness about an issue, but not when the means to support the issue aren’t provided. Due to the influx of calls, shelters were running out of money to support these women, but weren’t receiving any donations. A domestic violence foundation, Joyful Heart Foundation, appears to have a handle on the solution to lack of donations. A number of commercials have been produced featuring celebrities and even NFL players with the message of ending domestic violence. Their message: “No More.”

The Garden of the Coastal Plain- assignment #9

The Garden of the Coastal Plain

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            Bland Cottage firmly sits on a foundation of young love and hard work. With long white panels, original green shutters, and tall southern columns, the cottage holds the history of Dan and Catherine Bland.

In the early twentieth century at the First District Agriculture and Medical School, which is now Georgia Southern University, Dan met Catherine Amelia O’Neil. It wasn’t long before Catherine O’Neil became Mrs. Bland. Together, the Blands took over several acres of farm land to serve as the foundation for their lives together. A tenant house quickly transformed into Bland cottage where the couple spent the remainder of their lives, a large rustic barn was built to hold their livestock, a small garage to hold Dan’s cars, and an ice box that oddly resembles a chicken coop was added to the miles and miles of the farms acres.

“It is truly amazing to see these original structures still standing in the garden. They offer a bit of authentic aestheticism that makes the garden even more special,” Kathy Tucker, garden director said.

Dan Bland, a man of many trades, is recognized not only as a famer, but a botanist and naturalist. Through his botanic skills, the acres of sweet green grass that stretched for miles, were molded into a terrene of beauty with sky scraping trees and blooming flowers that surrounded every corner.

In 1985, the Blands left six of their 57 acres to Georgia Southern University’s foundation. Within these six acres lies the Garden of the Coastal Plain. The botanical garden effortlessly captivates the naturalism and earthly beauty of the Southern plains. Open for 25 years, the garden continues to spread its history and is kept alive through the efforts and support of the surrounding community.

Thoughts on a Media Release with Emotional Appeal

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http://southerncompany.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=2867#.UbXrW7yrg1c.google_plusone_share(The First Tee Swings into Birmingham City Schools—Helping Students Link Golf Skills with Life Lessons Press Release)

The First Tee press release offered a large impact towards the program itself, as well as associated companies. The construction of this release in particular, was very well thought out and put together. The release starts out with basic and important facts about the First Tee program, the schools that will be adopting this program and the power companies that are subsidizing the program as well as the Birmingham schools.

As the release goes on and the facts are being listed, there is almost a story being intertwined among the ‘dry’ information. The story focuses on the young children within the schools that will reap the benefits of the First Tee program. Crafting a story among improving children’s lives is always an ample tactic to pull on a reader’s emotional strings. Towards the end of the media release, not only does the text narrow in on the accomplishments and company propositions, but it wraps up with fragments of generic and historic information about to First Tee program. This media release did a lot of good for all companies mentioned as well as the schools in the Birmingham area by granting them a sufficient amount of publicity.

A Close Reading into Georgia Southern Magazine

Georgia Southern University has many student media magazines including The Reflector, The Micellany, and FM Magazine. Recently I discovered that there is an online magazine pertaining to ‘all things Georgia Southern.’ I came across this online magazine while doing an assignment for my public relations writing course. It has articles in different sections such as news, research, and athletics.

One article in the magazine that I selected to read was titled “A Conversation with the Carters.” This article is an interview style piece that was written after former president, Jimmy Carter, and first lady Rosalynn Carter, came to speak at Georgia Southern University. This article stuck out to me because of the subject matter and the style of the writing. The fact that such a famous president, such as Jimmy Carter, visited our school, is enough to make this article news worthy. The construction of the article is a series of Q and A’s with Jimmy Carter and a member from the magazine, which makes this piece more interesting than others because it is more personal with Jimmy Carter. I interpreted that the target audience for this article was people who could not attend the event, or for anyone in the Georgia Southern community.

A second article that I read from the magazine was “Georgia Southern Alumnus Searches for Major League Baseball’s Next Big Thing.” Articles like this one are what bring recognition to our school. Dustin Evans, a GSU alumnus, is now a scout for the Seattle Mariners, and is searching for new players to draft. This article really hits home for a lot of people in the Southern community because it shows how such great things are born from within our school. Evans is a former player for the GSU Eagles and as well as the Atlanta Braves. Having an alumnus who has accomplished something so special really inspires a lot of students and prospective students to love Georgia Southern.

Georgia Southern has had many famous public figures graduate from the university. Often times, the school is the foundation for the person’s talents and creations. Michael Knight, who was on Project Runway, and now has his own fashion line, is another example of a famous alumnus. Even with the attendance of Jimmy Carter as a guest speaker, having people like this is what inspires students and really makes them appreciate their school. As far as the Fall 2013 issue, I hope that Georgia Southern Magazine continues to focus on important events like the ones mentioned previously.Image

3 PR Blogs to Strike My Interest

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Online social media is very pertinent to this day and age as technology has hit it’s all time high. One form of social media that has worked its way to the top, that is often overlooked, is blogging. Ordinary people now get paid to write about their thoughts or experiences. Almost every business has jumped on the blogging bandwagon as well. Keeping audiences updated with information is what keeps an audience alive and engaged. I have recently read three blogs pertaining to public relations that I thought were worthwhile.

Shel Holtz, of Holtz Communication and Technology, has a blog titled A Shell of My Former Self. Holtz writes a blog post every Friday called the ‘Friday Wrap.’ He posts things that are very current and in the now, like technology and social media. A few things that I liked about this blog in particular, are the fact that Holtz molds his posts to make the reader feel as if it was written for them. He often includes words like ‘you’ and always chooses a topic that is relevant to almost every reader. I also enjoy that instead of daily or every now and then posts, he chooses to post every Friday. This way, the reader has something to look forward to at the end of the week, and you aren’t overwhelmed with daily posts.

The Flack by Peter Himler looks into the role of Public Relations within politics, journalism, social media, and other broad topics. His blog reflects many qualities that readers seek out when choosing a blog to follow. In every post, Himler includes sub-links that take you to different websites for the words or topics that he has written about. This gives readers the option of having a better understanding upon his topics. Another thing that I liked about this blog is that not only does he also discuss current, popular topics, but he provides videos, photos, and newspaper articles that relate to his post that make it more entertaining.

Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich is the last blog that I read. This was perhaps my favorite blog to go through. The topics that she chooses to write about, in my opinion, are more interesting. They are different from other broad topics in the sense that these topics are more narrowed down and diverse. Most authors write to make their readers fell as thought the posts are about them, but Dietrich strays away from this tactic. You can tell that she wrote the posts as she includes herself in almost every one and shares her experiences. This was refreshing to me as I was reading some of her posts, and this might be a blog that I will start to follow.

Blog Comments & Responces

 

Theory of a Deadpan/ PRogression- Blog Entry #4


http://muccillomegan.wordpress.com/author/theoryofadeadpan/
My Response:

“I agree with you one-hundred percent. The fact that you brought up that these communication skills are helping businesses stay in business is a great point. You are absolutely right when you say that if businesses didn’t know how to effectively communicate with their costumers and project a positive image for themselves, that they wouldn’t be successful. Even more so because alot of smaller businesses don’t have the funds to higher PR professionals, they must take on those responsabilities for themselves. I liked that you incorporated the theme of teamwork into this post. I had never thought of that before, and yes, I imagine it would be very difficult to stay in business if you can’t work well and communicate amongst others.”

Briana Davis- Securing a Job in PR


http://brianaedavis.wordpress.com/
My Response:

“Briana, first of all, way to go on your experience! The fact that you already have had three internships is great. I completely agree with you on all six points that you made. You shouldn’t doubt checking job postings as not being a way to secure a job. I think that constantly checking new job posts is a great way to snag a job, especially if you are one of the first people to see it and apply. It is also a good way to get an internship. I like that you are constantly seeking new networking opportunities, as am I. Especially being college students, it is crucial that we stay on out A game in terms of networking. You are exactly right when you say “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.””

Krystal McMath- Public relations>Event Planning


http://krystalmcmath.wordpress.com/
My Response:

“Krystal, I really enjoyed reading this post. I am with the George-Anne now in student media, and I completely agree, it isn’t necessarily the type of writing that we all dream about. I had a chance to write and design a few pages for the reflector this semester and I had far more fun doing that then I have ever had writing for the news paper. I think that this concept closely ties into oublic relations. Having imagination, having an eye for design, being able to write creatively, and advertising as you would when assembling a magazine, are all great skills to have in PR. These are especially great skills to have with the direction that you are moving toward; Event Planning.”

Eden Smith- Promoting Diversity at Events


http://edensmith16.wordpress.com/
My Response:

Eden, I am glad you chose this topic to blog about. It’s crazy to think that even a church, which isn’t a business, uses public relations tactics. It is wonderful that Connections has facebook and Twitter pages to reach out to potential church goers. The fact that they use these forms of social media are great promotional uses for their church and this very heavily coincides with PR. Connection is connecting with the public no matter how diverse their public may be. It is also beneficial that they hand out cards and flyers which any business would do in the field of Public Relations.

The Devil Wears PRada- Reaction to Guest Speakers


http://thedevilwearspradablog.wordpress.com/
My Response:

I agree that have the opportunity to ask our own questions about the realities of PR was a great one to have. When you mentioned the crisis management issues of Intercontinental Hotel Groups, deaths or suicides wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. This really opened my eyes to the number or crisis’ that could happen throughout different businesses. I also liked that they speakers were from completely different areas of PR, it really showed us all of the opportunities that we have. Great post!

Adventures of Intro to PR- Scandal is it Good for PR?


http://sh04090.wordpress.com/
My Response:

I’m glad that you brought up this topic. Even if it isn’t public relations, the media is ALWAYS portraying things in false light. I agree that Scandal does have some good portions of PR displayed throughout the show, but I think that people need to look past that. Kerry Washington is dishonest, like Krystal said, and she participates in illegal actions to cover up mistakes that she makes in her profession. This is not what the reality of Public Relations really is. I understand that the media needs events like these to gain show veiwer’s intererests, but I hope that the public doesn’t really see PR in this way.

Knowing The Basics of PR is a Must

Public Relations are a set of skills that every business man or woman should learn and endure. The effect of good public relations is to lessen the gap between how an organization sees itself and how others outside the organization perceive it. This is a notion that is important no matter what field your profession is in. (Public Relations, 2013) Any profession will have to respond and communicate to the public more times than none. A conference, meeting, broadcast, commercial, advertisement, etc. are occurrences where businessmen will need to know the basics of public relations/ communications.

For example, a student that majored in journalism is writing a new novel. This novel is going to need publicity and exposure to increase its sales. Taking an intro to public relations course would inform the author the effective routes to take to make their book a number one seller. A PR course would teach the basics of customer relations, media relations, brand awareness, and how to create buzz. The author could publicize their book through social media sites, and communicating with the right crowd. (5 Benefits of PR)

I believe that knowing the fundamentals of PR is beneficial for any professional. Knowing how to communicate through your company or business is a skill that will set you apart from others on a day to day basis.
http://publicrelationsblogger.com/2010/05/what-can-pr-do-5-benefits-of-public.html
http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/encyclopedia/Pro-Res/Public-Relations.html