One Little Duck, So Much Trouble

Last weekend here in Eugene, cheers of joy echoed throughout the streets surrounding the campus as the Ducks football team beat Arizona in overtime. This football season is especially thrilling and students are finding new ways to show their devotion. Recently, three seniors published a youtube video titled “I Love My Ducks .” This impressive video caused drama for the athletic department because it showed Puddles the mascot without permission. Puddles the mascot is based on Disney’s Donald Duck character through a special license agreement. This undoubtedly caused the University of Oregon to cringe fearing the wrath of Disney and barred the video from youtube.

This incident makes me wonder what the thought process was for the public relations office. The video’s popularity soared; appearing on SI.com, news channels, the radio and other media. Obviously it positively supported the university, but officials could not overlook the possible legal ramifications of copyright infringement. While some consider the university’s actions extreme, I understand the need to protect the university. This would be a difficult decision to make considering the video’s growing popularity and positive nature— it is essentially free publicity. The administration should have clearly stated why the video could potentially harm the university. As a student, the only piece of news I gathered was that the university barred it from youtube; I learned why they barred the video from other sources.

The administration should show more appreciation for student-run campaigns and encourage more students to show their support for the school. If I was doing public relations for the school, I would encourage student-run campaigns with a video and slogan contest. I would include clear guidelines to exclude copyrighted material. The university could use these advertising campaigns that would cost immense amount of money from an agency for little to no cost. I would suggest a stronger connection between the administration and the students and an opportunity for two-way communication. This way, the students could understand the administrations actions and still have a creative outlet to show their support. Go Ducks!


Google Search: PR Mistakes

PR practitioners make mistakes. I’ve discussed several instances of PR mistakes in my classes, and I decided to hunt around on the Internet to find more examples of PR blunders. Some examples included

*Mistakes made by President Obama, stating he is over-publicized and making too many promises

*Lady Gaga’s PR sending a confusing and annoying media release found here

Most Web sites included tips on how to avoid common PR mistakes. Recurring tips include

* Make sure news releases are sent to the proper contacts

*Do not use a dull or long headline

*Provide a source after sending a news release

*Properly pinpoint the appropriate time to send news releases

*Write news releases without jargon

Reading all of these tips made me think, “What did these people learn in school?” Of course it’s important to double check who you’re sending a news release to, and obviously a good headline is a necessity. While I’m not claiming I could do a better job than these people (only time will tell) I am frightened at the thought that some PR professionals were not trained in PR. This might be old news, but as a college student about to enter the real world, this thought rocks my schema of PR training. What are the specific qualifications necessary for a PR practitioner to do well in the profession? Is a degree in the field a must-have? Or can the tools be learned from experience? I am beginning to wonder how many PR practitioners received the same education I am getting and how many practitioners fell into the job.


PR Small Talk

Recently, I’ve had several social occasions where I’ve had to describe my major of public relations. One audience consisted of a group of science-minded people and when I was deep into my description I glanced around I could see their eyes glaze over. I realized I had abandoned polite dinner conversation and moved to a lecture. I stopped myself and simply stated that public relations is about relationships. Afterwards, I questioned if I accurately described my soon-to-be profession. Did I just ramble off what I’ve discussed in classes thus far? What is a quick way to describe PR in a social setting? I’ve learned in my classes there is not a clear definition of PR and there is even debate within the profession. Some would characterize PR as “convincing people to do things” or “building relationships” or “affecting public opinion.” All of these definitions are useful, but what phrase could be readily available to inform people who are uneducated about the field that accurately describes the importance of PR? The Webster dictionary defines public relations as “Communication with various sectors of the public to influence their attitudes and opinions in the interest of promoting a person, product, or idea. PRSA states “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” These definitions help narrow my thoughts about public relations and make it easier for me to describe to people outside of the profession, but I still haven’t come up with a phrase on my own to describe the importance of PR.  I may not be able to answer that question now, but I can imagine once I’m gainfully employed I can learn how to share my job with others without boring them. I wonder if there are any quick definitions I’m overlooking…


International Body Language: Have You Done Your Homework?

Let’s pretend for a moment I’m a public relations professional about to go on an international business trip. I pack my bags, double check my flights and reservations. However, will I review the customs of my destination? Will I look at international body language and make sure I do not offend my potential clients? For example, using the left hand for any public purpose is usually unacceptable in many Middle Eastern countries. I know that now because I am currently researching a speech for a class this term focusing on international body language. Another example is the commonly accepted sign for “okay” in the United States. In Japan, the hand signal means “money” and in France it literally means “zero.” In other countries, such as Brazil, the seemingly harmless gesture could be seen as offensive and should not be used. Also, if you were to cross your legs and expose the bottom of your foot, you might offend those in Thailand or in middle eastern countries because the foot is considered the lowest part of the body. Other body language blunders can be found here, in a 2000 article by CNN.com.

Now, I do not know the preparatory steps for most companies and maybe body language is reviewed. But if I had to guess, most entry-level public relations professionals–if they are lucky enough to get a job where they can travel–do not research the customs of their potential clients. I’m researching past international body language mistakes and hopefully will continue to update with interesting facts I find.

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