Walking the CSR Line

20131101-093456.jpgCorporate Social Responsibility. The balance between profitability and sustainability. Few companies like to walk the CSR line, and even fewer do it well. But regardless of whether we enjoy it, CSR is a key component of public relations – especially “green PR.” This weekend I was lucky enough to attend a “Leveraging Corporate Social Responsibility” workshop at the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) National Conference in Philadelphia. Here were a couple of my quick takeaways from it all:


Align Your Message  

Having a green image or working within your community is great…if done right. Choose a cause that’s related to your company’s goals or something that a VIP at your company has close ties to. Not only will be connected to your goals help you achieve them, but also your efforts will seem more genuine. No one wants to work with the company who picks a random organization to support just to seem more “green” or “involved.” Being passionate about a cause registers with clients and consumers and puts your company in a good light.

Go Big or Go Home

Set lofty goals. Look, we all like to set goals we know we can achieve. I’m the kind of person who puts filler things on my “to-do” list just so I know I can at least check something off. But the really impressive feats are the ones we don’t know if we can actually accomplish. People notice if you’re half-assing your goals, but if your company is setting legitimate, lofty goals (even if you don’t achieve them), you gain respect from clients and consumers. When it comes to CSR, it’s better to try and fail than never to try at all.

A Company That Cares

Good CSR doesn’t happen overnight. A company can’t just wake up and suddenly to be green. It’s about setting concrete and difficult goals. It’s about actually getting involved, not just putting on a mask to seem like you are. Don’t depart too much from your company’s intent, but challenge your organization or firm to be better, profitably and sustainably.

What is good CSR? It’s about a company that cares and that people care about.


R.I.P. Photojournalism?

LatCameraShotely there has been a lot of talk about the death of photojournalism. But honestly, I think it’s quite the opposite.

Photojournalism is simply being reborn.

With the accessibility of camera phones and photoshop, a once nitty-gritty and highly revered profession is changing into something far more domestic. And while most of my fellow journalists detest the change, I am far more optimistic.

As an amateur photographer and videographer, I revel in the new opportunity. As a PR professional, footage has never been more attainable. And in an increasingly visual and digital world, what’s there to complain about?

So don’t whine about the death of photojournalism; rather celebrate its rebirth! For mankind loves a challenge, and with every instagram shot we are forced to rise up and improve.

The field is changing, so you can either drag your heels or join the revolution. My suggestion? Evolve…evolve and take lots of pictures.

Where I’ve Been…

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Sorry it has been a while since my last post. Rather than explaining all of what I have been up to, I thought I’d show you. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well what about a moving picture… Check out this quick video I produced on what my news team does over at DuckTV.
I’ve taken on a lot more responsibility over at DuckTV as web producer these past couple months, and hence my blog writing has been more than sporadic. I apologize and promise there will be more environment and media posts coming your way soon!

Voice to the Voiceless

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I’ve adored Anne Curry ever since I was a little girl watching the Today show before catching the school bus. I admire her not only for experience and professionalism, but for the compassion and humility she brings to the field. And tonight I was lucky enough to meet her.

Anne Curry, a graduate of my beloved University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications, came to give the school’s Ruhl Lecture on ethics. The speech, titled “Journalism: An Act of Faith in the Future”, was quite possibly the most inspiring speech I have ever been blessed enough to hear in person.

Contrary to popular belief, journalism is not dying out – it’s evolving. Anne (and yes, I will be calling her by her first name because I like to pretend we are pals) explained it best, saying that a “commitment to journalism isn’t crazy…it’s courageous.” Maybe I don’t want to be a journalist in the most traditional sense, but I want to spend my years spreading truth to the public and that, my friends, is journalism at it’s core.

Anne’s passion for humanitarianism and disasters, her overwhelming desire to give “voice to the voiceless”? That’s how I feel about the environment. No, I won’t be reporting from a bomb shelter in a war zone, but I want to dedicate my life to standing up for something, to making a difference. A nonprofit, a government sector, a client for an agency – however it may be, I’m going to use public relations to give a voice to the planet.

Because let’s be realistic, even mother Earth could use some good PR.

Nonprofit Public Relations: The Do’s and Don’ts

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 9.41.45 AMThe more I delve into the world of nonprofit and environmental organizations, the more I notice how the field all too often puts public relations on the back burner. What should nonprofits be doing to keep their PR alive? I did a bit of digging in Nonprofit Management & Leadership for a public relations class and stumbled across the following article:

Kelly, K. (2000). Managing public relations for nonprofits. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 11 (1), 87-95.

Noticing how nonprofits fail to pay enough attention to PR, Kelly compares two different texts, Jason Salzman’s Making the news: A Guide for Nonprofits and Activists and Janel M. Radtke’s Strategic Communications for Nonprofit Organizations, to find the do’s and don’ts of nonprofit PR.

Do use the media to get people’s attention. Getting people to notice your nonprofit doesn’t distract from your work – it highlights it. No one ever looked at an organization and said it has too good of a relationship with the public.

Don’t blindly try and get the media’s attention. Whoever said there’s no such thing as bad publicity was certainly mistaken. Journalists can make or break your nonprofit, so think strategically (and ethically) before giving them a call.

Do set objectives. This is emphasized over and over again…for good reason.  If you don’t know what you want out of a campaign, then you’ll have no way of tailoring it for those specific needs; without knowing where you want to end up, how are you supposed to know how to get there?

Don’t set objectives that you can’t follow up on. In PR we love talking numbers, and your objectives are no exception ­– objectives should be verifiable and based on product not process. Being vague might be easy and appealing, but when it comes to objectives specificity is key.

Do maintain your nonprofit’s integrity. One of the main reasons nonprofits don’t pay attention to PR is for fear of distracting from “doing the real work” – but that doesn’t have to be the case. Inform the public of who you are and what you’re doing…without being a sellout.

Kelly uses the article to highlight key factors in both the theory and practice of nonprofit public relations, and I hope to use all of her do’s and don’ts in my own future in the public relations field.

Little Things That Make A Big Difference

VSGSFLPV2DUQRPLKYes, I love public relations, but I’m also passionate about being passionate about something. I love getting lost in a cause, being driven and devoting myself to something, and that’s why I want to work at a nonprofit. This past week I had the opportunity to chat with Greenhill Humane Society’s staff members Katy Colburn and Tuesday Scott about how to represent a nonprofit organization and, more importantly, how to represent a larger cause.

Both Katy and Tuesday deal with the public, though they do so through very different means; Tuesday is in charge of community outreach and fills the more traditional public relations role with responsibilities like working with the media and planning events, whereas Katy deals with the public more indirectly by training volunteers.

Despite their differences, both women agreed on a few things to remember when representing a nonprofit.

Answer all questions – over and over again

When you’re dealing with the public, there is bound to be questions. Don’t get frustrated when people don’t understand; try explaining it to them in another way. Never talk down to people who don’t get what you’re saying- that’s just as much on you as it is on them.

A little smile goes a long way

“Being approachable is one the most important things for all volunteers to remember” Katy explains. And that’s where smiling comes in. People are much more likely to ask you questions and, in this case, adopt an animal if they feel comfortable talking to you. Plus, they’re more likely to smile if you do.

And remember…

You represent something much bigger

Yes, you’re here representing a specific organization, but you’re also representing a cause. In the case of Greenhill Humane Society, volunteers and staff are promoting adopting an animal to “save a life,” so if neither of their locations has the right fit for a particular family, staff shouldn’t be afraid to suggest another shelter nearby. Saving a life is saving a life – period.

Media Angst

I was reading Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle (and yes, I do read actual newspapers still), when I stumbled across an article entitled “Content Fleet offers publishers hot tips”.  Basically, the article highlighted Content Fleet’s software which monitors internet popularity, and how it is being sold to media houses to help journalists know what subjects would generate the most traffic and interest.

At first I didn’t think much of it, and I went about my day.  But I kept coming back to that article, and here’s why.

Yes, Content Fleet’s software may be ingenious, and I’m sure it has value to publishers and media houses, but what frustrates me is that this information is being used to drive content.  Software like this urges journalists to focus on what is popular rather than what is newsworthy.

The truth is, not everything in news is glamorous. Important topics aren’t always the ones that sell, and the stuff that sells isn’t always pretty.  Software like Content Fleet’s only adds to the already competitive field, urging journalists to push a popular agenda rather than one that informs its viewers- one that pleases viewers rather than benefits them.

Let me be clear, I understand that the news industry is exactly this, an industry.  And a competitive industry at that.  Perhaps it is naiive of me to hope that the news be delivered to us in hopes of educating the public as opposed to keeping viewers, but regardless- software like Content Fleet’s only adds to the existing disparity.

But say it does come down to consumers driving content.  Say we get to determine what’s on the front page.  Let’s vote for the impactful, meaningful stories- even if they don’t have a clever title or cool photo.

Let’s vote for the unglamorous story.