“We have met the enemy…”

.. “and s/he is us”

I was talking with a co-worker a couple of days ago about all of the great stuff I learned at the PRSA and CASE conferences. Our conversation, as it does sometimes, veered into the number of alumni/a/ae/aeiou/eieio who start trashing the university upon graduation, and how that has been affecting our brand. It’s almost as if, in addition to the degree, we give them a card that tells them they can start talking about all of the stuff they didn’t like about the institution.

I could have, and have at various times, gone into “evangelist mode” talking about the great things going on around campus, or the really cool research our profs are doing. My view is, when talking about the university, I tend to talk about good people (students, staff, etc.) doing good work at a good school. My co-worker said that I was one of the rare exceptions, I graduated from the college I work at now, and I’m fired up about the school in general. (although not this fired up…)

Instead I started taking time to think about what our grads are saying. There’s the usual talk about the food or the facilities around campus (computer labs are always full, library’s not open 24-7) or that some of our faculty aren’t available at the necessary times or aren’t receptive to student concerns. These are all factors which have hurt the university’s brand, especially since we are not holding up our end of the bargain and addressing these students complaints when brought up. In the past we’ve tended to “shield up” when these concerns come to light and that is being reflected in the response of our alumni when they graduate. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of alumni out there who are proud graduates, and maybe this is nothing more than an expected percentage of students who were not happy with their experience in college.

Our uni. president mentioned this during his webcast last week to present his strategic plan for the next five years. One of the first things he addressed was openness and transparency with the public, our students and employees. This might be the opening our office is looking for to add blogging and more podcast/video work to our efforts. The key is going to be transparency, and if we can get everyone on board with facing our detractors and telling them what we are doing to improve the university, we might be able to reverse some of the negative feelings people have towards our university.

True? False? Indifferent? What do y’all think?

“We have met the enemy…”

.. “and s/he is us”

I was talking with a co-worker a couple of days ago about all of the great stuff I learned at the PRSA and CASE conferences. Our conversation, as it does sometimes, veered into the number of alumni/a/ae/aeiou/eieio who start trashing the university upon graduation, and how that has been affecting our brand. It’s almost as if, in addition to the degree, we give them a card that tells them they can start talking about all of the stuff they didn’t like about the institution.

I could have, and have at various times, gone into “evangelist mode” talking about the great things going on around campus, or the really cool research our profs are doing. My view is, when talking about the university, I tend to talk about good people (students, staff, etc.) doing good work at a good school. My co-worker said that I was one of the rare exceptions, I graduated from the college I work at now, and I’m fired up about the school in general. (although not this fired up…)

Instead I started taking time to think about what our grads are saying. There’s the usual talk about the food or the facilities around campus (computer labs are always full, library’s not open 24-7) or that some of our faculty aren’t available at the necessary times or aren’t receptive to student concerns. These are all factors which have hurt the university’s brand, especially since we are not holding up our end of the bargain and addressing these students complaints when brought up. In the past we’ve tended to “shield up” when these concerns come to light and that is being reflected in the response of our alumni when they graduate. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of alumni out there who are proud graduates, and maybe this is nothing more than an expected percentage of students who were not happy with their experience in college.

Our uni. president mentioned this during his webcast last week to present his strategic plan for the next five years. One of the first things he addressed was openness and transparency with the public, our students and employees. This might be the opening our office is looking for to add blogging and more podcast/video work to our efforts. The key is going to be transparency, and if we can get everyone on board with facing our detractors and telling them what we are doing to improve the university, we might be able to reverse some of the negative feelings people have towards our university.

True? False? Indifferent? What do y’all think?

Little Rockin’ and Rollin’

Got back from Little Rock on Friday. The conferences were amazing! At PRSA I got to listen to Chris Brogan, Adam Denison from GM Blogs, David Neff from the American Cancer Society – the two of them are doing some amazing things in social media, check out http://www.sharinghope.tv/ right now! (All three of you reading this! 😉 ) it’s amazing! There is some great work going on in the PR Social Media-sphere! And some of the speakers, like Adam Broitman and C.C. Chapman, that I really wanted to but didn’t get to see.

Plus I got to hang out with the Marketing Diva herself, Toby Bloomberg was speaking at the conference as well! Talked with her quite a bit about how to introduce social media to my organization, and hopefully will see some of the fruits of that labor come to pass sooner rather than later.

And, just as an aside, I got to listen to Duncan Wardle, VP of Walt Disney World and Global PR for Disney Parks talk about branding and social media and a lot of the cool stuff that Disney was doing in that sphere. Oh yeah, and there was Richard Edelman, one of the godfathers of PR and Social Media, discussing Authentic Communications. It was an amazing discussion, and one that I’m glad I have the PPT to – since there is a lot to digest in that presentation.

Then there was me.

As the three of you 😉 who read me regularly know, I was a little nervous about speaking at the conference. But the Arkansas PRSA and a lot of the other speakers I was hanging out with were great and helped put my mind at ease that I knew what I was talking about. And Adam and David (and Chris Brogan bounced in and out a few times) were in the audience and I saw them nodding in agreement a few times so I figured I was making sense. 😉

There’s more to talk about, like the hotel we were staying in – the Peabody – and the twice daily duck march (which I have pictures of and will post more on later) and the Clinton Library. But I’ll get to that in a bit, now it’s off for some coffee and taking the dog outside for a run around the yard.

Little Rockin' and Rollin'

Got back from Little Rock on Friday. The conferences were amazing! At PRSA I got to listen to Chris Brogan, Adam Denison from GM Blogs, David Neff from the American Cancer Society – the two of them are doing some amazing things in social media, check out http://www.sharinghope.tv/ right now! (All three of you reading this! 😉 ) it’s amazing! There is some great work going on in the PR Social Media-sphere! And some of the speakers, like Adam Broitman and C.C. Chapman, that I really wanted to but didn’t get to see.

Plus I got to hang out with the Marketing Diva herself, Toby Bloomberg was speaking at the conference as well! Talked with her quite a bit about how to introduce social media to my organization, and hopefully will see some of the fruits of that labor come to pass sooner rather than later.

And, just as an aside, I got to listen to Duncan Wardle, VP of Walt Disney World and Global PR for Disney Parks talk about branding and social media and a lot of the cool stuff that Disney was doing in that sphere. Oh yeah, and there was Richard Edelman, one of the godfathers of PR and Social Media, discussing Authentic Communications. It was an amazing discussion, and one that I’m glad I have the PPT to – since there is a lot to digest in that presentation.

Then there was me.

As the three of you 😉 who read me regularly know, I was a little nervous about speaking at the conference. But the Arkansas PRSA and a lot of the other speakers I was hanging out with were great and helped put my mind at ease that I knew what I was talking about. And Adam and David (and Chris Brogan bounced in and out a few times) were in the audience and I saw them nodding in agreement a few times so I figured I was making sense. 😉

There’s more to talk about, like the hotel we were staying in – the Peabody – and the twice daily duck march (which I have pictures of and will post more on later) and the Clinton Library. But I’ll get to that in a bit, now it’s off for some coffee and taking the dog outside for a run around the yard.

*Gulp* No Pressure

Practiced my Social Media presentation for the upcoming Nxt.Pr PRSA Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas.  To put it nicely, it went over like a pregnant polevaulter. (actually, that might be an insult to polevaulters of the pregnant persuasion… 😉 )

I’ve looked at the speaker list for the conference, and there are all of these experts and executives… and then there’s me.  I think that’s what’s got me intimidated.  So I need to step up my mad skillz a little bit.

Plus, I’ll be liveblogging most of the conference, so that should be fun!  I just need to whittle 35 minutes off of my presentation to make it work. (and not be so intimidated)

“Off the Record” is Not a Shield

I’ve been catching up on my Inside PR listening, given recent events, and was listening to episode #102 – dealing with the idea of going “off the record” with a reporter.  They used the recent Samantha Power incident where the former Barack Obama foreign policy advisor was quoted in The Scotsman newspaper calling Hillary Clinton “a monster” who would do anything to win.  

Ouch.  (And then she said “that’s off the record.”) 

The exact quote is:

“We fucked up in Ohio. In Ohio, they are obsessed and Hillary is going to town on it, because she knows Ohio’s the only place they can win. She is a monster, too — that is off the record — she is stooping to anything”

She quickly tried to take back her statement by saying “oopsie, that’s off the record.” Off the record is one of those things that people are bandying about far too easily.  Reportees think that they can say what they want  and if something slips out just slyly wink at the reporter and say “that’s off the record, you know” and actually expect the reporter to honor that.

One of the Inside PR hosts, I can’t remember if it was Terry or Dave, asked if the reporter, Gerri Peev, should have resigned from The Scotsman instead of Samantha Power. 

Absolutely not.  

Power said “off the record” after stating her opinion.  Trying to hide behind that “I didn’t mean it, really – honest even!”   Clinton’s campaign demanded that Obama repudiate, or disagree with or deny, whatever the new terminology is these days, Power’s statement and Obama’s camp learned a hard lesson in media relations that day. (not that it matters much, because the wing of the electorate who are Obama-stars probably loved the quote, and cheered it on)  

They sent Power out to speak on behalf of the candidate, and apparently didn’t bother telling her (and she’s a former reporter, so she should know better) to presume that everything that is said in front of the reporter is fair game.  

It’s the first thing they need to teach people in political PR, or any kind of media relations – if a reporter hasn’t agreed to “off the record” before you sit down (not three minutes before either, I mean before they even show up) then you need to carefully measure your words. Because there’s no guarantee that once you meet the reporter they won’t say “sure it’s off the record” and then run the story again. 

Especially before and after the “interview,” these are two times that a lot of people think is safe – because the reporter has put his notebook up or is packing to leave.  Here’s a tidbit for you to think about – my best friend (my fiancee calls him my “bestest friend” since that sounds so third grade 😉 But I digress) worked as a reporter for five years, and he would keep a digital recorder in his pocket with his reporters notebook.  And before he met with someone he would turn it on, and keep it hidden under his notebook, out of view.  And he’d put it back in his pocket after the “interview” was over – problem was, it was still running.

“You didn’t say ‘X’ or ‘Y’? That’s funny, because I have it right here, and I’d swear that is your voice. Did you say that before, or after, this statement…”

Samantha Power got what she deserved, she made a statement off the cuff and expected the reporter to protect her. Even in the best of times, it’s the reporter’s discretion whether or not to allow you to go off the record.  In this case, as in most cases when I have helped media train people or worked with the press, it’s best to follow your mom’s advice.

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” (or at least stand behind what you say)

And for the statement that people will know to think twice before “trusting” the reporter with “off the record” information – good!  They should, they should always be thinking that.

Sorry Terry and Dave, I have to disagree with your sentiments on this one – “off the record” is not a shield.  It’s a gun you can shoot yourself in the foot with.