Archive for the ‘Communications Today’ category

Public Relations Defined

March 3, 2012

Bravo to the Public Relations Society of America for updating a rumpled, 30-year-old definition of public relations.

Whether coincidental or purposeful, PRSA did it in tweet style — exactly 140 characters.

During the past year, PRSA initiated a crowdsourcing campaign and public vote that produced the following definition:

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

It’s simple and straightforward and reflects the strategic nature of the communication process. This definition received 46.4 percent of the 1,447 votes to easily outdistance the other two finalists that emerged from 927 submitted definitions.

As a point of comparison, here is the previous formal definition, adopted by PRSA’s National Assembly in 1982: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

The other two finalists this year were “Public relations is the management function of researching, communicating and collaborating with publics to build mutually beneficial relationships” and “Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals.”

Whew. After failed efforts in 2003 and again in 2007, this time PRSA used a transparent, crowdsourcing approach to reach an outcome that better defines what public relations is. I like it.

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Ingredients for Success

October 5, 2011

On the eve of our national accreditation review, I’ve been reading the School of Communications website as if I’ve come to it for the first time.

At times, I cringe at an out-of-date reference or an inelegant flow of content. But for the most part, our website has currency and appeal. In fact, I like one Q&A in our section for prospective students so much that I’m repeating it here:

Q: I’m curious. What would you consider the key indicators for a career in communications?

A: You said the magic words when you began “I’m curious.” To succeed in a communications career, you first need curiosity about the world you live in. Do you ask lots of questions? Do you probe under the surface? If so, then that curiosity needs to grow into knowledge so that what you communicate will have depth, context and accuracy.

Being a good writer is important because clear and logical writing reflects a clear and logical mind. Of course, hard work is necessary, with a generous dose of creativity. Finally, you need a strong sense of who you are and what values you hold, so that when you face temptation to do wrong, you will have the courage to do right.

These are six ingredients for succeeding: curiosity, knowledge, writing, hard work, creativity, values.

Computerworld Laureate

April 23, 2011

Congratulations to the Imagining the Internet Center and its director, Professor Janna Anderson of the School of Communications, for being named a laureate in the 2011 Computerworld Honors Program. It recognizes the use of information technology to promote positive social, economic and educational change.

The Imagining the Internet Center was selected as a laureate in the education and training category from more than 1,000 nominations. Laureates will gather for a black-tie awards gala on June 20 in Washington, D.C. At the ceremony, five laureates in each category will be named finalists for a 21st Century Achievement Award.

The center, an initiative of the School of Communications, admirably involves students in its activities. For example, students travel abroad each year to cover the Internet Governance Forum under the direction of a faculty member. Their coverage of these global events both serves the public good and can be a transformative experience for the students.

You’re Staring at a Screen Right Now

April 16, 2011

Every day, the average American spends 8 hours and 11 minutes consuming radio, television and the internet, according to a survey by two media measurement firms reported in The New York Times.

This represents a 20 percent increase from 2000, when the average American spent 6 hours and 50 minutes with these media.

Yes, more Americans have internet access today than a decade ago. But we’ve also seen the demise of what once were silent spaces.

For instance, Tom Webster of Edison Research told the Times: “This morning, a colleague in the cab with me spent 20 minutes checking e-mail and listening to things online. These are times and places where media were not consumable before.”

Media Law Comes to Twitter

April 4, 2011

When an NBA referee whistled a foul and the Minnesota Timberwolves coach complained, an Associated Press reporter covering the game sent this tweet:

“Ref Bill Spooner told Rambis he’d ‘get it back’ after a bad call. Then he made an even worse call on Rockets. That’s NBA officiating folks.”

Now, the NBA referee has filed a $75,000 libel lawsuit against the AP reporter.

NBA referee Bill Spooner (US PRESSWIRE)

When established law comes face to face with new media, we have to think deeply about how to apply the law in the new situation. Good law can be applied consistently in almost all situations.

Let’s analyze this case: Libel law protects both truthful statements as well as opinion and fair comment. So if the referee did say this to the coach, then it’s not libel. But if he didn’t say it, then the tweet clearly is a statement of fact rather than opinion, and it could harm the referee’s reputation and perhaps even his livelihood. That’s what libel law protects.

Now let’s say the AP reporter states that he may have misheard the ref, and he’s sorry. If the NBA referee is a limited-purpose public figure (which I think he is as a professional referee), then an apology probably would deflate the lawsuit because public figures must prove “actual malice” — the telling of a deliberate falsehood to cause injury.

From this analysis, the only way the referee could win a libel suit is if a court decided that an NBA official is a private person who must only prove negligence instead of actual malice, that the statement never was made, and that the AP tweet caused the referee real injury. It’s possible, but not likely.

Ironically, if the AP reporter instead had tweeted something like “What an awful officiating job in this game,” that would be a statement of opinion protected under established law.

Elon: Home of Filmmakers

February 13, 2011

Congratulations to 13 students in the School of Communications who comprise an amazing third of students selected nationally as screenwriters, producers and crew for original works to be filmed in this year’s Sprite competition.

Seniors Josh Chagani and Kristin Genszler are two of the six college students whose original screenplays will be produced. They join students from Northwestern, Indiana University and Florida State. Trailers for their films will be screened at 20,000 theaters across the nation, directing viewers to a website where they can view the 6- to 12-minute films.

Eleven more Elon students were selected in a blind review for the 33 production roles on the films. Films will be shot in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and New York, with a completion date of March 31.

A special congratulations to cinema professor Paul Castro for securing Elon’s place in the competition and shepherding the students to success. Castro knows firsthand what it takes. As a film student at UCLA, he was awarded the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker Grant Award.

This year’s competition attracted more than 100 applications from 12 schools invited to participate: Elon, Northwestern, Indiana, Florida State, Columbia, Texas, Colorado, Iowa, Chapman, Cal State Long Beach, Savannah College of Art and Design, and the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Worse Than Cleaning a Toilet?

January 29, 2011

The daily e-mail deluge is so unrelenting that sometimes all a person can do is laugh.

Our overflowing inboxes create a daily challenge to keep up — respond to this, skip that, save that one.

In fact, a recent survey by Yahoo! found that nearly one-third of people would rather clean their toilets than clean out their inboxes. Don’t count me among that number. Toilet-cleaning still sounds worse to me. But admittedly, a clogged inbox certainly consumes more time on a daily basis and, as a result, causes us to be less productive.

In 2010, the number of e-mails sent globally topped 100 trillion, according to tech website Royal Pingdom. That translates into 294 billion messages sent each day, up 19 percent from one year before.

Right now, the average corporate employee spends 25 percent of the workday on e-mail-related tasks, according to tech research firm The Radicati Group, compared to 14 percent on face-to-face meetings and 9 percent on the phone. Increasingly, we are captives to electronic communications.