There is no greater evidence that a public relations debacle has become part of the cultural consciousness than making Saturday Night Live — so today we offer our very bittersweet congratulations to Rutgers University for finding its way into the zeitgeist via a big old PR fail.
In a country in which school budget cuts have cost districts everything from paper to teachers to entire programs, fundraising efforts need to go a lot further than local bake sales.
In an effort to boost revenue for New Jersey school districts, Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law in January that would allow advertisements on school buses. Half of all revenue generated will be used by to offset transportation costs, while the other half will be spent at the discretion of the Board of Education. The bill’s sponsors called it “an easy way for schools to generate additional revenue to help keep programs running.”
While ads promoting alcohol, tobacco, and political advocacy are prohibited and the ads are technically targeted to passing motorists (not the kids themselves), the whole idea of monetizing school buses doesn’t sit well with everyone. And one town’s proposal to allow ads at the school track and sell naming rights to libraries, cafeterias and classrooms has some up in arms. An editorial published on nj.com voices concerns about the messages such ads might send to children:
Kent State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication earned a bit of bad PR today for pulling what we call “a dick move“: choosing not to renew the contract of a non-tenure instructor who helped create its groundbreaking online PR masters program.
The summary: Kent State hired Gene Sasso, a longtime PR pro, to help create a program that has “generated $6M in revenue” over two years and then told him that it would not consider his review and that he would not be returning as a lecturer.
It would appear that the school let Sasso go in order to save a little money (after he created the highly successful program for which they hired him in the first place). While non-tenured professors get a performance/renewal review every year, tenured faculty only have to do it every three years–and after passing their first review they receive additional “union employment protection.”
Students and faculty registered their dissent, submitting letters to university administrators urging them to reconsider, chastising them for deciding to terminate a popular lecturer without consulting faculty ahead of time and questioning whether the school followed union collective bargaining practices.
One question: We understand the financial concerns at work here, but how did the administration, with their communications know-how, not recognize this move as a major PR fail?
In the wake of the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook, quite a few national personalities and organizations like the NRA tried to place blame on the nebulous “media”, which supposedly encourages such horrific acts through its glorification of a “culture of violence” in movies, TV shows and video games.
Now representatives and lobbying groups representing major media companies have vowed to take initiative, creating a “nationwide educational campaign” designed to reassure skeptical parents and fulfill a promise made to VP Joe Biden that they would “be part of the solution to curb gun violence.”
Details of the campaign are scarce at the moment, but it will include TV PSA spots, social media initiatives and a relaunch of the sites TVBoss and FilmRatings. The larger point is to remind parents that ratings systems are there to give them a choice regarding their children’s media exposure and that they can use tools provided by the industry to assert greater control over what their kids watch. Participants include the Motion Picture Association of America, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the National Association of Theatre Owners, the American Cable Association (ACA) and member companies.
Will this campaign affect the public debate? Will it make use of related research? We don’t know–but it should be interesting. We’ll follow closely.
From Lance Armstrong to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, 2013 is turning out to be the year of holding cheaters accountable. Today we’re glad to welcome a few newbies to the group: U.S. News & World Report and the five (or more) colleges that “misreported” admissions data for the publication’s inexplicably revered college rankings.
Industry professionals know that dishonesty is the most direct route to bad PR. People don’t like being lied to by other people even if they are oddball strangers on the subway, so the public certainly doesn’t appreciate being lied to by companies, personalities, brands and universities that they support with their hard-earned money–especially those touted as “experts” in their given fields.
With rising tuition costs and a dwindling ability to guarantee graduates employment, colleges and universities are fighting more vehemently than ever to retain the elevated status they have enjoyed in our culture over the centuries. So we were disheartened to read the Washington Post article that included this comment regarding the matter from Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education: “In any highly competitive environment, there is always a temptation to cut corners.”
You don’t say…
We recently reported on the Seattle Police Department’s attempts to endear itself to the public via helpful block-by-block crime tweets. Now we find that the PD’s communications team might just be perfect for social media—they certainly have a sense of humor.
In case you missed the memo, earlier this month the states of Washington and Colorado became the first in our nation to legalize the possession and use of marijuana “for recreational purposes”–no prescription required, man. We mention this because the Seattle PD just unveiled a page on its crime blotter blog titled “Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle.”
The page, quite obviously tailored to Seattle residents with certain…habits, includes the answers to such probing questions as “Will police officers be able to smoke marijuana?” and “What happens if I get pulled over and I’m sober, but an officer or his K9 buddy smells the ounce of Super Skunk I’ve got in my trunk?” The page’s author, veteran crime reporter Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, advises those caught with marijuana before the law goes into effect on Dec. 6 to “hold your breath.”
So, like, we find this all endlessly amusing and stuff, but it’s also a great example of good PR on the department’s behalf.
Another chapter in the long, sundry case of Penn State and Jerry Sandusky further emphasizes the challenges faced by Edelman PR, La Torre Communications and the institution itself as all work to restore the school’s previous reputation for greatness in both sports and academics.
Unfortunately, this latest update will undoubtedly inflict more damage on the school: it concerns staff attempts to cover up, deny or, at the very least, minimize the scandal. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly just announced charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, endangering the welfare of children, and failure to report suspected child abuse against former University President Graham Spanier.
That’s quite a list–and we didn’t even mention the additional charges brought against the school’s former athletic director and vice president of business and finance, both of whom await trial in January.
Spanier’s greatest offense? After stepping down, he claimed that no one had ever mentioned the possibility of ongoing child abuse during his time at Penn State–but the email trail told a very different story.
Penn State’s board members and PR reps have been wishing Spanier would slink away and disappear for some time: first they argued over whether he’d resigned on his own volition after “going rogue and altering a press release that had been a collaborative effort”, and then he participated in this very ill-advised interview for some unknown reason.
Penn State and its PR organizations will never have to defend Graham Spanier again. Unfortunately, the law is far from done with him–and his case will expose the public to yet another angle on a tragic tale that can never be untold.
Dinesh D’Souza, a prominent author, filmmaker and Christian intellectual who has spent the last four years trying to convince as many folks as possible that President Obama really hates white people, found himself in a bit of a jam this week.
What happened? Well, let’s just say D’Souza got caught in a compromising situation–maybe all the fame he earned from his Obama 2016 documentary went to his head. In short, he showed up for an evangelical conference in South Carolina (go Gamecocks!) in the company of a much younger woman who was not his wife of twenty years. They even stayed in the same hotel together. Scandal!
Our favorite part of this story has to be D’Souza’s explanation for his behavior. He claims that “nothing happened” in the hotel with the woman in question, but he calls her his “fiancé” despite the fact that he is still married to that wife of twenty years we mentioned above. Here’s his classic cop-out: Read more
Being the book nerds and information junkies we are, we’re always happy to see libraries make national headlines, lest the public forget how awesome and relevant they really are. You never know what treasures might be awaiting discovery in the dusty stacks and decades-old archives–and as recent news out of the Bancroft Library at University of California Berkley demonstrates, not all of those treasures are books.
UC dance professor Catherine Cole recently allowed her curiosity to get the best of her in the archives (the only way to experience a library if you ask us). While sifting through stored documents, she noticed the name of famous photographer Ansel Adams appearing repeatedly. After following the paperwork trail, she finally came upon a box of 605 signed photographs.
“I kept seeing the name Ansel Adams and thought ‘what the heck is he doing all over the UC archives,” Cole told the San Fransisco Chronicle. “This is an extraordinary resource that has been buried like a time capsule.”
In the advertising world, the teenage demographic is perhaps the most highly-sought-after group of consumers; agencies use everything from focus groups to research consultants to figure out how to best reach the youth of our nation.
But how can a company be sure that their campaign truly speaks to teens? Well, they could let teens create and execute that campaign themselves, couldn’t they? That’s what PBS decided to do when they hired IAM Advertising, an ad agency run by students from the Innovation and Media High School in Brooklyn, NY.
IAM Advertising is the first accredited agency in the country run by high-school students, and PBS will be its first paying client. The National Black Programming Consortium/BlackPublicMedia.org will work with the students to promote its PBS documentary series, “DC Met: Life Inside School Reform,” which focuses on the lives of staff and students at an alternative high school in Washington, D.C. called DC Met.
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