Making A Mark

This news event did not have one or even two articles written about it: It had thousands. All the newspapers around the world knew about the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl in Karachi, Pakistan in 2003. The news coverage by certain television stations would be what some people would describe as astonishing and outright disrespectful. Others tried hard to maintain the accuracy of an event happening thousands of miles away on another continent. A lot of them tried to make an understandable, objective piece about a place that is completely foreign and unknown to most Americans. To this day, thousands of people still argue, speculate and mourn over what exactly had happened to a fellow American journalist.

Image

Daniel Pearl, picture taken from one of the members of the extremist group that kidnapped him.
Picture from Nydailynews.com

Pearl was born in New Jersey, but raised in Los Angeles, California. His mother, Judea, was of Iraqi-Jewish descent, making Daniel’s religion Judaism.  He eventually graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a B.A. in Communications. Pearl then wound up at the Wall Street Journal in 1990, where he climbed his way up the ladder to become a foreign journalist for the paper. Pearl eventually became the South Asia Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal. He has a boy, born four months after his death, named Adam D. Pearl. Adam was born in France, where Daniel’s widow, Mariane Pearl, was raised. Mariane Pearl had written a book titled A Mighty Heart, personally documenting the days before, during and after the abduction of her husband. She had been on-site with him in Pakistan during that time.

In January of 2002, Pearl was on his way to conduct an interview with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani. Gilani was suspected of connections with the “shoe bomber”, Richard Reid, and Pearl was doing research over these supposed connections for a news story. At 7:00 p.m., however, things took a turn for the worse, and Pearl was kidnapped by a militant group calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. This group supposedly has connections to al-Qaeda. They were saying multiple things about Pearl, such as him being a spy, a member of the CIA and a threat to Pakistan. A main reason why he was kidnapped, however, would not be because he was an American journalist but because of his being a Jew. This group created a Hotmail account and sent multiple, threatening e-mails to the U.S., claiming that they would execute Pearl if their demands were not met. Some of their demands were to release all terrorist Pakistani detainees, and to continue the halted operation of sending F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistani government. They even sent pictures of Pearl to the people trying to rescue him, one of them being his wife. The photos contained Pearl shackled and holding up a newspaper clipping. The most dramatic and horrendous one, however, was when one of the group members was holding a gun to Pearl’s head, with his face down, still shackled.

Pearl’s editor, John Bussey, and Mariane Pearl, tried desperately to hold public pleas, asking the group to give Daniel back. They were ignored. Nine days after the photos were released, Daniel Pearl was gruesomely beheaded. On May 16, his body was found decomposed and cut up into at least 10 pieces. He was found in a grave just 30 miles north of Karachi, where his rescue team and Mariane were located. His body was collected and later transported to Los Angeles, back to his hometown. A video of his murder, publicized by the extremist group in February 2002, shows Daniel speaking his last famous words: “My name is Daniel Pearl. I’m a Jewish American from Encino, California, USA. I come from, uh, on my father’s side the family is Zionist. My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish. My family follows Judaism. We’ve made numerous family visits to Israel.” The video also showed the gruesome murder. It lasted 3 minutes and 36 seconds.

The video was broadcasted in parts by CBS. No other news station had decided to broadcast it. Mariane Pearl reacted with great disdain for their decision to publicize parts of the video. She called it ‘inhumane’ and fought with the CBS news anchors about their decision that, to her, was a complete lack of respect for Daniel. The only response CBS had for Marianne is that it was “newsworthy” to the public. The main newspapers around the U.S., such as The New York Times, Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News and plenty others, kept up with the kidnapping of Daniel and tried to relay accurate, timely information to the American public as the abduction went on.

Image

Mariane Pearl and daughter, widow of Daniel Pearl.
Picture from Nytimes.com

Afterward, Daniel Pearl’s friends and family made the Daniel Pearl Foundation in honor of a beloved friend, husband, son and father. It was made to “continue Pearl’s mission, and to address what they consider the root causes of his death, in the spirit, style, and principles that shaped Pearl’s work and character.” Daniel Pearl World Music Days was made as well, by Daniel’s friends who played music with him years ago. It promoted over 1,500 concerts in over 60 countries throughout the world.  A film was produced from Mariane Pearl’s memoir of her husband’s abduction. It was made in 2007, starring Dan Futterman as Daniel Pearl and Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl. Bernard Henri-Levy published a controversial book titled Who Killed Daniel Pearl? In 2003. It got many criticisms because of the way he had worded certain aspects of the novel, such as fictionalizing Pearl’s final thoughts and its speculative conclusions to the slaying of Pearl. Nonetheless, this book is also being adapted into a film currently, starring Josh Lucas.  HBO Films produced a 79-minute documentary titled The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl in 2006. Not only have books and films and the news world given Pearl much recognition, but a lot of awards for his work and courageous acts as a journalist have awarded him, posthumously.

The Bind with Bynes

There was a time when actress Amanda Bynes made millions of kids laugh daily, starting with the Nickolodeon show “All That”, and receiving artistic freedom with hosting her own variety show called “The Amanda Show”.  Unless kids in the early 2000’s lived underneath rocks through their childhood, every kid knew Amanda Bynes and her comedic charm.

 

It seems lately that many former child stars are having issues staying on the straight and narrow, which sadly includes actress Amanda Bynes. But this article isn’t being written to bash or ridicule Ms. Bynes. Instead I chose to think of a strategy using my public relations skills in a hypothetical sense. Months before I had read about Amanda Bynes on Twitter and how she was causing so much controversy with her half naked pictures, plus her alarming posts. I thought to myself that maybe there could be a chance of still saving Bynes’ career by using my PR skills, and incorporating them into a plan to bring the once former comedically charming Amanda back.

 

First, I had to think; how could I get Amanda’s former fans to return? To make this happen, I would have to watch her old televisions shows and movies to remember what made Amanda so watchable. As I watched I began to feel the younger version of myself shine as I remembered how funny this girl could be! I saw a completely different person on the screen versus the girl I’ve been Twitter stalking. It occurred to me that maybe the way to bring Amanda back into the spotlight would be to hypothetically imagine that she would hire me as her PR practitioner, and I would help her get back on her feet.

 

Ideally, there is no perfect strategy, especially when it comes to former child actors. But since Amanda hasn’t been in the cold for too long, and if Amanda was able to clean up her act, there’s a chance that she could reinvent her career. All Amanda would have to hypothetically do is build her confidence back up, and more so in the way that she appeared once before. Maybe in time Amanda could have another comedic variety show in which she’s able to genuinely laugh at the fool she once made of herself. This act alone could show Amanda has grown up from her rebellious, attention-seeking act, and would in turn receive her true fans’ attention.

 

This idea may not be perfect, but it would help turn Amanda’s career around. After all, I always remember thinking that this girl had potential, and would go very far in her career.  I truly think she still has that chance, because everybody has a rebellious stage. Amanda just happened to have it later as an adult as most child stars unfortunately do. Unlike most child stars, I hope Amanda will be able to turn things around.

Ethics in Advertising?

Advertisements decades ago oozed of sexual, racist and downright eye-opening themes and images that might cause one to wonder how someone OK’d it in the first place. Racial imagery, sexualized women and exaggerated stereotypes of the LGBT community were what shaped a lot of advertisements back then. The advertisements for cigarettes and alcohol were around a lot as well, and children could easily just turn on the television and see them. Fat shaming was a popular theme, too. Restaurants, food brands and any other line of business associated with commercials for food were quite blatant with their opinion on plus-size people. There was little to no regard for ethics or a moral code when doing business in advertising. Advertisers just wanted to catch the public’s eye, and they succeeded.

But why?

When America is comprised of a hegemonic society, that is, of a masculine normative that has shaped our history and societal expectations, advertisements like these are aplenty.  When America is comprised of a culturally narrow society where racism is still abound, just type in a quick Google search on 21st Century advertisements and you will find a lot of the ad firms playing into the same game of discriminatory practice that they have been doing since the beginning stages of advertising.

Image

Whatitsayswhatitmeans.blogspot.com

Advertising firms may play a utilitarianism role with no hint of distributive justice, since advertisements still blatantly show, even if they are subtle, hints of racism, sexism and homophobia. Distributive justice means that there may be no justice to the people who do not have their voices heard in the mainstream media as much, as compared to, say, a white, middle-class, heterosexual man. Advertising firms play the utilitarianism role because they like to cater more to the majority voice. America’s normative society is exactly what I listed earlier: White men. If they are not happy, then advertising business isn’t happy.

A code of ethics in advertising is questionable. Advertising firms cater to the majority of our society. What does that say about America’s code of ethics then?

I think if we were to look at the advertisement’s view of ethics, we will see society’s code of ethics.  Eye-opening, questionable, raw, dirty themes and messages are everywhere, because these kinds of advertisements are what gets the public’s attention, not one that plays by the rules. Advertisers, to me, are just issuing out what we as a society expect to want when we seek entertainment. It may not be the code of ethics in advertising that we must consider, but the code of ethics in U.S. culture. 

For a long time now I have been contemplating as to why Disney Channel stars seem to go off of the deep end. At this point in time, I still cannot come up with an answer that explains the turbulence caused by the erratic behavior of the rich and famous. Then I started to think. These kids are rich and famous. They can have anything and everything they want, thanks to their big paychecks. Even though money seems to be the answer to all problems, it’s also irrevocably the cause of the downward spiral.

Famous Disney Channel stars such as Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes and recently, Miley Cyrus, are the constant talk of the media. People are always picking up copies of Us Weekly magazines, and are checking their social media accounts just to see what indescribable act these reckless teenagers have committed this week. But wait a second. These aren’t teenagers.

These former Disney Channel stars are grown adults but pull rebellious acts, as if they are teenagers. And sadly, current teenagers don’t have these people to look up to, as I once did when I was a teenager. I started to do some research about child stars after I discovered all of my favorite, once former Disney Stars went off the deep end. It seems as though every child star who grew up in the spotlight, and received endless amounts of money had missed out on a real childhood. You have to wonder… Waking up early every day, memorizing lines, doing photo shoot after photo shoot, receiving little privacy, and missing out on real relationships can make it difficult to grow up.

Image

uk.movies.yahoo.com

Lately my attention has been on one particular star, Shia Labeouf. I think everybody who grew up in the early 2000s remembers him. Who could forget such titles as “Transformers”, “Disturbia” and “Lawless.” But I want to go a little further back: Does anyone remember a Disney Channel show called “Even Stevens”? The show was about a goofy brother, played by Labeouf, who torments his older, perfectionist sister Ren, who was played by Christy Carlson Romano. LaBeouf was a happy, energetic young star full of potential, who seeked to advance his career from Disney child star to successful adult actor. At this time and later on, Labeouf became a pretty big household name. And if my memory serves, this star seemed like a pretty successful, well rounded celebrity.

Currently, the 27-year-old star has gone off the deep end, as well. Since 2005, legal troubles, controversy and plagiarism (the biggest sin) lied in wake for this actor. Running his car into a neighbor’s garage and then allegedly brandishing a kitchen knife at the neighbor hours later, refusing to leave a Chicago Walgreens and drunk driving make him sound like the next of a long line of celebrities who have, to be quite blunt, gone berserk with fame.

This blog was to warn readers of the more negative parts of publicity, and the consequences that come along with losing who you are when people look to you in judgment every second. Publicity and fame ain’t all it’s cracked up to be after all.

Learn From the Best: Part 2

I think it is important as aspiring public relations practitioners that we learn our PR history. Unlike circus showman and performer P.T. Barnum, Ivy lee came into the picture with a firmer definition of ethics of public relations in mind.  One of my blog posts has already been about Edward Bernays and his influence on our profession, so now it is time to look at the other “Father of PR”, Ivy Lee.

Ivy Ledbetter Lee was definitely another practitioner that shaped modern public relations. In fact, he is considered the primary contributor to how we handle public relations today. He was also specifically the man who helped shape crisis communication tactics.

Lee was born in Cedartown, Georgia on July 16, 1877. He studied at Emory College and then graduated at Princeton. Like a lot of public relations practitioners, Lee was a stringer and was writing for newspapers like The New York Times at first. The Citizen’s Union as a publicity manager in 1903 was his first public relations-related job. He then took a job with the Democratic National Committee. Lee and his partner George Parker established in 1905 the United States’ third public relations firm, Parker and Lee. He was also the first public relations person at an executive level when he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1912.

1914 was Lee’s year, as he was asked by John D. Rockefeller to help promote his family’s image and his company, Standard Oil. “The Ludlow Massacre” was a coal mining rebellion in Colorado, when the National Colorado Guard came and attacked around 1,200 coal miners. Lee also had a strong contribution to the making of the Rockefeller Center, continuing to assist Rockefeller and his image from then on.

During World War I, Lee was a publicity director, and later as an Assistant to the Chairman with the American Red Cross.

In 1921, Lee was an inaugural member of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. A quote by Lee had spread around then, giving him his infamous saying: “Tell the truth, because sooner or later the public will find out anyway. And if the public doesn’t like what you are doing, change your policies and bring them into line with what people want.”

Lee also established a Declaration of Principles in 1906: “This is not a secret press bureau. All our work is done in the open. We aim to supply news. This is not an advertising agency. If you think any of our matter ought properly to go to your business office, do not use it. Our matter is accurate. Further details on any subject treated will be supplied promptly, and any editor will be assisted most carefully in verifying directly any statement of fact. … In brief, our plan is frankly, and openly, on behalf of business concerns and public institutions, to supply the press and public of the United States prompt and accurate information concerning subjects which it is of value and interest to the public to know about.”

Imagehttps://blairburney.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/ivyledbetterlee.jpg?w=487

Source: Bryanlong.com

The quote is a basic summation of Lee and his stance on his profession. Transparency and honesty is what the audience needs. He established the “two way street” that is necessary in modern times between the public relations practitioner and her or his client and public. In specific, communication and feedback from the public is necessary to establish a meaningful relationship between the two entities.

Ivy Lee did not always practice what he preached, however.

In actual practice, Lee would conduct one-way propagandizing practices to his clients. This was obviously not a pleasant outcome and feedback for the public. Although he said the right things, his actions did not necessarily follow. We’re all human, right?

If anything, “The Father of PR’s” actions should only serve as a basis for the founding of our profession. Ethics is always essential for a profession that includes serving information to the public or persuading the public. He is certainly still an inspiration for his work changing public relations.

“Flacking” Up Again

“PR flack touts Amy Adams’ bag at Philip Seymour Hoffman wake.”
“Shameless PR person promotes Amy Adams’ bag at Philip Seymour Hoffman wake.”
“Tacky PR agency announces that Amy Adams carried Valentino to PHS wake.”

Uh-oh. Sounds like another “flack” has crossed the ethics line again.

An apparently unknowing public relations practitioner had promoted actress Amy Adams’ bag who had arrived for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s wake. Adams was using the purse of a client on whom the public relations company represented, and thus milked the appearance for all it was worth, without doing that useful thing called fact-checking.
The press release said: “We are pleased to announce Amy Adams carrying the Valentino Garavani Rockstud Duble bag from the Spring/Summer 2014 collection on Feb. 6 in New York.”

Was Upasna Khosla, the PR executive, lacking of a heart that day and decided to promote the Valentino bag despite why Adams was out? Or did she simply make a mistake, completely oblivious to the black clothing and somber expression on the actress’ face in the picture?

Either way, these news outlets and blogs have given the Valentino bag that the PR company was trying to promote even more publicity. Although it is in a bad light, the bag and its company is still getting awareness and acknowledgment from the public.

Eventually on Friday, the company expressed their apologies:

“We sincerely regret releasing a photo to the media this morning of Amy Adams with a Valentino bag. We were not aware the photography was taken while she was attending the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was an innocent mistake, and we apologize to Ms. Adams who was not aware, or a part of, our PR efforts.”

To me, these journalists do not know what objectivity means. Using words like “tacky” and “shameless”, although truthful IF that PR company had prior knowledge of the wake, are not words of indifference. The symbiotic relationship between PR folk and journalists wear thin in this tale, and is a classic example of how the two entities clash.

All right, now I am done with being devil’s advocate.

Image

Source: New York Daily News

It is pretty negligent and ignorant to just assume this PR company had no idea about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s wake. In all honesty, this company probably did know and went ahead with their promotion anyway, just to get more bang for their buck.

Yes, they got some publicity with their dull-looking handbags. But at what cost?
The actress is furious that she was promoted in this way , the public is upset at how tasteless the promotion was and the company is groveling at everyone’s feet stating that they had no idea.

Sometimes, as much as I fight for public relations and how we are not “flacks”, this money-hungry business still happens. It is important to remember though that a whole entity such as the profession of public relations should not be negatively seen just because of one bad rat. These types of companies do no good for our profession.

Time will tell how this story will play out. Oh wait, we already know. People are gonna get fired, and the company is going to have a real hard time trying to get out of this one.

UPDATE: To make things even better (but worse), I stumbled across the New York Daily News’ cover for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death on my fellow classmates’ blog post. Who is being shameless now?

image

Good Uses of Social Media

Social media is a huge business innovation that public relations practitioners should consider to further build their brand, client or company. Let’s face it, the two entities are fusing together. With social media, it is easier to create conversational topics to customers, introduce discussions and receive constructive feedback (or nasty feedback). These channels of potential communication between company and public can be used through different sectors of a social media site such as Facebook message, Tweets or blog comments on your company’s website. I decided to create this blog post regarding the ever-evolving world of social media and its practical uses for practitioners, because let’s face it, social media ain’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Facebook
We all know and love Facebook. It’s a grade up from Myspace and allows users to post their own statuses, post pictures and videos, and message their friends. As social and unprofessional as it may sound, companies can gain a lot of coverage and publicity through this site. Professional companies can even create their own page through a Facebook account. Through this page, you can schedule posts, view your activity log and view analytics of your page.  Posting statuses regarding special offers from your company, a chance to win tickets to your client’s concert or any overall promotions you want people to know about can be posted right to your page with easy access to your consumers. Photos can also be posted (via Instagram if you want that fancy filter) so consumers are also getting a visual aspect that is always visually rewarding… Photographs speak 1,000 words after all.

Twitter
Twitter is basically a condensed form of Facebook’s statuses. Limited to only 140 characters a Tweet, it is important for the company to realize this, and think thoroughly of a condensed message that will be understandable to your public. It is a great site to also post photos, ReTweet your clients or follow relevant people.
Side note: Don’t lose your company’s dignity by messaging every new follower with a generic “Thank you for following! Please go to our website at www.overkill.com to learn more information!”

YouTube
This site is a great place for… you guessed it… videos. If your company wants to create content such as “How-Tos” or “DIY (Do It Yourself)” tutorials, it might be better to create videos in order to make it easier for your consumer to comprehend with visuals instead of reading a long list. It also can present great opportunities for other potential stakeholders that are new to your organization, brand or company to be aware of, and possibly gain more overall publicity.

All in all, it is important to stay engaged with your social media sites. It does no good leaving your sites dead for a week or even a couple days with little to no activity. It is also important to not only be active, but create posts that make conversation. Your messages should be open to questions from your customers, and always facilitate a good environment for both your client and the public you are trying to attract.