Monday, May 2, 2011

Ethics Class Finale

I’ve really enjoyed my ethics class and have learned so much about advertising and PR. My “oh wow” moment was when we started to learn all the codes of the PRSA code of ethics. I’ve never realized how many there were and the standards they required. It made me proud to know that, unlike most business roles, PR offered a sort of “playbook” to follow.

I understand that not every PR practitioner will follow these codes or even sign up for them, but knowing that my major has one really makes me happy. I’ve grown up knowing what is right or wrong but sometimes it’s hard to decipher what those two things are in business. In this class, with the help of our codes, we were taught how to take case studies and break them down to see their flaws. I really enjoyed this and walked away learning a lot.

Along with this, I learned that signing up with PRSA and agreeing to their codes makes you look more reliable and more professional.  Even in business, people should be held to a certain standard and again, it’s nice that PRSA gives us a “playbook” to help us.

My other “oh wow” moment was realizing that, although you can quit a shady job that asks you to do something you don’t agree with, that job might have a reputation for that kind of work and now it’s on your resume. We talked about researching companies and learning if they have a reputation before you take a job with them because it can harness or ruin your career in the end.

There was so much I learned in this class including laws, case studies and advertising rules. I’m proud to go to a school that requires young professionals, like myself, to take an ethics course because I know that everything I learned can and will be taken with me into the business world. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

CEO Pride Creates Media Disaster

So the PR daily came out with the top five media disasters of April and I’m not sure how I missed the number one.  Although the other four were worthy of mentioning, number one was the best.

The founder of, Bob Parsons, put out a video of his success in killing an elephant while on vacation in Africa. He posed, with his gun, over the elephant and put the video to AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.” Obviously, this pissed off PETA and a lot of customers. Instead of just taking it off the Internet, Parsons made the situation worse by supposedly threatening to sue bloggers who posted his video. Clearly Parsons wouldn’t win since he placed the video online first.

It’s obvious that Mr. Parsons created a perfect PR disaster for himself single-handedly.  Why would a CEO of a company release a video of himself killing an animal that is loved by millions? Understandable that he was proud, but come on; does everyone have to know about it?

Anyone in the public eye needs to know that they should watch their actions more than most. Even private actions can hurt their image and cause damage to their company or reputation. I’m not sure what Mr. Parson’s was really thinking but it sounds like he needs to hire a publicist to take care of what he says, does, and what he puts on the web.

Hopefully Bob Parsons has learned his lesson and stays away from Africa for a while.  Maybe he will take my advice and hire a publicist. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Race, Gender and the Media 4/25

We've been discussing, in class, about how the media portrays illegal immigration. Most illegal immigrants, but not all, are hispanics. The portrayal of hispanics have been that all hispanics are illegal, drug dealers and wife beaters. Obviously, this is just caused from ignorance and the media putting these kinds of ideas into the minds of Americans. The media portrayal of hispanics reminds me a lot of what my people, the Polish, went through in the 1970s. That is where I want to take this blog.

The media always likes to create racism towards ethnic groups. Have you ever heard of a Polish joke? I bet everyone has. It's understandable that people in the south haven't really heard of Polish jokes because there aren't a lot of Polish people in the south. A lot of racist jokes originally come from Polish jokes. Here's a little history.

Polish jokes are the longest running jokes in this country, longer than any other race or even Aggie jokes. (Crazy, I know!) Polish people are considered dumb (usually called a Polak) and dirty. There are a couple of theories of where the Polish jokes originated. One of these theories is that, when everyone was immigrating in the early 1900's, people maintained their "old-world" ideology. With this, came hatred towards Poles. Poland is considered a weak country because it has been owned by every country around it at some point in history. The other theory is that, because Slavic is such a hard language to speak, Polish-Americans had a hard time learning English creating the idea that they are dumb.

The media loved Polish jokes/stereotypes and in the 1970's, people started to regularly say and use them. Classic stereotypes are that Polish people love sausage, the Pope John Paul II, polka music, and bowling.
Here are some websites that contain Polish jokes. What I find interesting is the explanation that some of these websites contain in order to excuse their behavior.

I think you get the picture. Why is it still okay to say Polish jokes? Supposedly, the word Polack, Pollack, or Pole doesn't mean a real person anymore, but "only the individuals described in the jokes themselves."

I'm not saying that I agree with illegal immigration. I think that everyone should go through the same process to become an American citizen and that means applying for citizenship. What I don't agree with is stereotyping ethnicity's and creating racial views or hatred. Like the Polish, the Hispanics are being grouped into these stereotypes that only apply to a small minority. The worst part is, once people start saying racial jokes and create these stereotypes in their minds, they have a hard time letting them go. This in the end, creates a hatred towards people who are hard working and just trying to start a new life.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

SMU "death penalty" Good Example Of Kickbacks Gone Wrong

For my ethics class, I have to write a paper about the 1980’s Southern Methodist University Mustangs football team receiving the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s death penalty, which caused SMU’s football league to not have a 1987 or 1988 football year.  ESPN’s 30 by 30 movie called “Pony Excess” discusses all of SMU’s football scandal and what happened afterwards.

So here’s what happened. SMU was a decent team in the 1970’s but became remarkable, all of a sudden, in the early 1980’s. After beating the University of Texas one year, the NCAA decided to investigate the players and team to make sure that their new recruits were recruited ethically. The NCAA found that they were under-dealing a few illegal things to get football players so the NCAA put them on probation during the years of 1981 and 1982.

After 1982, when the team was at their best, their head coach, Ron Meyer, randomly decided to leave and coach for the New England Patriots. Some say he left because the NCAA was investigating, others say it’s because he wanted to take the opportunity. After he left, they hired a coach from Mississippi. The SMU boosters took it upon themselves to continue to do illegal dealings with recruitments and the new coach, Bobby Collins, just told them to do what they wanted while he “coached.”

After years of doing illegal recruiting, SMU got caught. In 1985, the NCAA came out with a new rule called the “death penalty.” Basically, it if a school was a repeat violator of illegal dealings, their program would be shut down completely.

In 1986, a disgruntled player came out to Channel 8, specifically Dale Hansen, about what exactly was happening. SMU paid him $25,000 to play there. With this information, the board and athletic director was questioned, and instead of fixing the situation, they basically dug their own grave.

Since these dealings happened while SMU was still on probation, they became a repeat violator leading to the NCAA giving them the death penalty. They went without a football program in the year 1987 and chose to not have another season in 1988 in order to create a new team.

This case, although more detailed than written above, is a prime example of how a lie can grow and soon ruin a company or even a football team. In PR, there are tons of opportunities for PR practitioners to do illegal dealings and tell lies. There are codes that try to get people to maintain ethical behaviors but the choice is really that persons. PR practitioners need to be careful of kickbacks. They are small, hidden but can come back and literally kick back in a negative way. Like the old mantra, what goes around, comes around.

To learn more, check out ESPN's 30 by 30 movie called "Pony Excess"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Three Cups of Tea" Author Being Questioned

This week, a best selling author is being questioned about the authenticity of his book and the stories within. Greg Mortenson is the author of “Three Cups of Tea” that became a best selling book about raising awareness and funds to build schools for girls in Pakistan.

Supposedly, Mortenson tried to climb the highest peak in Pakistan, K2, had to be rescued by local villagers. Seeing a need for schools, he came back to the states and wrote his book. On Sunday, a gentleman named Jon Krakauer said the story isn’t true. Krakauer was a donor to Mortenson’s charitable organization, Central Asia Institute, but decided to withdraw his support after he became concerned that the money wasn’t being used properly.

Along with this allegation, and a lot of others, came one from Central Asia Institute themselves. Although they have seen an increase in their funds since the book came out, probably from people inspired by the book, they said that there is a lot of money not actually going to the building of schools in Afghanistan. President of the American Institute of Philanthropy, Daniel Borachoff, says that there was only one audited financial statement in 14 years that showed “a lack of transparency and "disappointing" intermingling of Mortenson's personal interests with those of his charity”.

CBS “60 minutes” has found a lot of evidence that backs up Krakauer’s claim that the story is false. Mortenson came out with a statement saying that the interview, on “60 minutes” with Krakauer, saying he stands by his stories and defended his charity group. Although, I found it interesting he declined CBS’ request to do an interview with him and CNN was unable to contact him. He says he denied them access to an interview because the result would come out “unfair and imbalanced.”

In a PR aspect, Mortenson has done some of the right things. He has written a statement against the claims before they even were aired and he makes sure he hits all the claims made. The only thing he isn’t doing right is contacting CNN back. He supposedly has medical issues keeping him from an interview, which is understandable, but I feel like, if he is going to respond to theses claims, than he should respond to everyone to show he is confident in his story.

I’m interested to see what happens with this allegation. I have personally read the book and absolutely loved it. I’m curious to find out if it’s still a real story or not.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason Digs Another Hole.....Deeper and Deeper

The company Groupon use to be known for giving great deals and coupons for things across your local metropolis. Today, Groupon is known for their horrible Super Bowl Ads that were meant to mock themselves but instead, offended a lot of people.

Recently, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason threw the ad agency he used, called CP&B, under the bus saying that they relied on them to be edgy, informative and entertaining, and we turned off the part of our brain where we should have made our own decisions. We learned that you can't rely on anyone else to control and maintain your own brand." This statement came out publicly right after CP&B was dropped by one of their biggest clients, Burger King. This is clearly a big PR no-no.

Mr. Mason, I feel, is digging a bigger hole for himself each time he speaks. At first, he backed Groupons decision to allow the CP&B designed ads to run but then quickly turned on the ad agency once his company went under the heat lamp. On top of this, Groupon is making it seem that they fired CP&B, although the contracts tell a different story. Supposedly, CP&Bs contract was up in February and seem to only have been used for the Super Bowl.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that what Mr. Mason did was wrong. Although the ads were distasteful and obviously designed by the ad agency, Mr. Mason gave them full permission to be used. Groupon wanted to take a gamble and then couldn’t handle the pressure once it failed.

In a PR world, Groupon shouldn’t have ever dissed CP&B the way they did and instead, should have just admitted that they were wrong and be done with it.

I was impressed with CP&B’s CEO Andrew Keller statement about the whole situation. He said; “We signed on with Groupon on a project basis and produced the work that we agreed upon. They are incredibly smart marketers, [we] felt privileged to work with them and look forward to their continued success."

This statement was classy, honest, and didn’t take away from what they did, right or wrong. If Mr. Mason would have just been honest with the public that they made a mistake and that they were happy that CP&B did the work they asked but were looking for a new ad agency, I think everything would be better. 

Sea World's Killer Whale to Re-Appear

This last week, Sea World made a big announcement that they were letting one of their orcas, Tilikum, come back into their “Believe” show in Orlando. Tilikum is the orca that famously killed trainer Dawn Brancheau last February, causing Sea World to shut down and their PR department into crisis management mode.

A lot of the public is confused why they are putting this “killer” killer whale, which has supposedly killed 3 people, back into their show in Orlando. Since the incident last February, Sea World has not allowed any of their trainers in the waters with the orcas. This has helped relieve a lot of anxiety of people wanting to visit the parks but a lot of people are still confused why he isn’t being taken out of the show permanently.

Sea World has yet to answer CNN’s questions about the incident but came out with a statement last week saying that putting Tilikum back into their show would help him physically, mentally, and will help with his “enrichment.” Grey Stafford, trainer from the Wildlife Zoo and Aquarium, did an interview with CNN discussing why he thinks it’s a good idea that Tilikum be brought back into the show. He mentions that the biggest reason they are bringing Tilikum back to the show is because he is not an immediate threat to any one besides the trainers and that Sea World was taking extra precautions to protect the trainers.

As for PR, the reason I thought this should be discussed is, although Sea World has done its best to clean up the crisis, bringing Tilikum back into the picture might hurt them more than help them. Not answering the media’s questions quickly has left some people confused and for a business all about “butts in seats”, they need to make sure the public understands, fully, why they chose to do what they did.

Not only is the public needed to be reassured about this idea but also the family of Brancheau. Sea World’s PR department needs to make sure they make the public fully aware that they are sorry about the incident but that they are trying to think what is best for one of their orcas. Obviously Dawn died doing what she loved, but the whole incident was sad and shouldn’t be tossed aside so easily. It will be interesting to see if Sea World ever responds to CNN.