Tag Archive: PRSA


“As well as teaching, examining and certification, college education creates social capital. Students learn how to debate, present themselves, make contacts and roll joints. How can a digital college experience deliver all of that?” – The Economist, The Future of Universities; The Digital Degree, June 28, 2014

After spending 16 years in Silicon Valley, the author of digital communications blog, Almost DailyBrett, and social media evangelist, fully gets it when it comes to destructive technologies.

Social, mobile and cloud have changed the world as we can self-publish and exchange views via the Internet to anyone around the globe instantaneously on a 24/7/365 basis.

When it comes to drinking the cyber Kool-Aid, there is one area in which I am pushing back and displaying a healthy dose of skepticism, not cynicism: teaching public relations online, particularly advanced courses.onlinegraduate

Couldn’t help but note the web ad for Ball State University (Muncie, Indiana), championing its only PRSA-certified graduate level PR program, about earning a master’s degree in public relations online. Check out the Ball State website language:

“Our online students have ongoing interaction with their instructors and classmates via e-mail, discussion boards, file sharing, online chats, web page posting, and other communications. These courses are typically taught asynchronously—meaning you can log on for class participation whenever you wish.”

My issues pertain to the incongruity of  (presumably human) “interaction” with the words, “online discussion boards, file sharing, online charts, web page posting, and other communications.” That doesn’t sound very touchy, feely to little ole me.

Making Love … Online?

Let’s get straight to the point: Can you make love online? … Real “From Here to Eternity” physical contact between two hormone-driven, amorous individuals? File sharing may fall a little short, when it comes to the real thing.eternitybeach

Now let’s take the discussion to the next logical step: Public relations is working with … target publics. Right? It is stakeholder relations. It is working in teams. It is making in-person presentations. It is motivating the public to take a favorable action that benefits your employer or your client. These are living-breathing human-to-living-breathing human interactions

There is little doubt that you can teach theory (i.e., Agenda Setting, Uses and Gratifications, Hierarchy of Needs, Diffusion of Innovation, Two-Way Asymmetrical, Two-Way Symmetrical) in the classroom, so why can’t you do that online? You can.

The same applies to ethics including responsible advocacy, honesty, guarding against copyright and/or trademark infringement, protecting intellectual property, and taking steps to avoid slander, libel and/or defamation. Yes, we can teach them all online.

In fact, I should come clean and tell you right now that I am indeed teaching online COM 270 Introduction to Public Relations and COM 280 Advertising Fundamentals, using Panopto recordings, Canvas and old-fashioned email at Central Washington University this summer. CWU’s School of Education this week was honored for its online teaching of School Administration master’s level curricula. As Martha would say, “This is a good thing.”

Where I am getting off the bus comes to the absence of eyeball-to-eyeball (Skype or FaceTime are not the same) human communication associated with online-only curricula. Sure, it may work wonders for more reclusive disciplines, such as statistics, accounting, software code writing, but when it comes to qualitative interplay with target audience Homo sapiens that needs to be done face-to-face. And that’s where online teaching falls short … it just has too.alonetogether3

Grading, Not Teaching? 

In my last few years in Silicon Valley, your author remembers the opinions of C-level publicly traded technology executives pontificating and bloviating that online schools were essentially degree factors, selling diplomas for a King’s ransom.

The Washington Post recently reported about the 20 colleges with one-fifth of all the federal student loan debt in the 2013-2014 academic year. Number one was online superstar, Walden College at $756 million. University of Phoenix was second at $493 million; Capella University was sixth at $399 million and Kaplan University was #13 at $226 million.

These numbers represent serious student loan debt and what are these mostly online students getting in return? Are the faculty at these institutions merely grading or are they actually teaching?

Another concern that comes to mind is the recent book by M.I.T. professor Sherry Turkle, “Alone Together: What We Expect From Technology and Less From Each Other.” Her main points pertain to the literally hundreds of thousands, who are in physical proximity with other humans, but their full attention is on their mobile devices. Some even sit in restaurant tables, pay attention to their smart phones,  ignoring their dinner companion(s).alonetogether1

Successful public relations professionals must be knowledgeable and practiced in digital communications – blogging, social media, websites, images, video, infographics – and must be adroit enough to adopt the next round of destructive technologies … they are out there. We must know them all.

Having made this point, we still must interact with people. We need people. We need to see the look on their faces. We need to see the reaction in their eyes. We need to deduce the inflection of their voices. We need to experience first-hand their culture.

This is the essence of public relations.

There must be a real face time component, when it comes to teaching and mentoring.

Online is good, but not good enough. 

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21605899-staid-higher-education-business-about-experience-welcome-earthquake-digital

http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2015/02/27/4-questions-to-ask-before-enrolling-in-a-for-profit-online-program

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2015/07/09/these-20-schools-are-responsible-for-a-fifth-of-all-graduate-school-debt/?tid=sm_fb 

http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21646986-online-learning-could-disrupt-higher-education-many-universities-are-resisting-it-not

http://www.cwu.edu/cwu-online-education-master%E2%80%99s-programs-rated-among-best-country

http://cms.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/journalism/graduateprograms/mapublicrelations

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/the-rebirth-of-pettiness-the-death-of-conversation/

 

 

 

It’s not really about asking for the raise but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along. And that I think might be one of the additional superpowers that quite frankly women who don’t ask for raises have. Because that’s good karma, that’ll come back.” – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Was inarticulate re how women should ask for raise. Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias.” – Nadella follow-up tweet

satya

The new Microsoft chief hit the wrong button on his PowerPoint clicker …

Or will his dentist find foot prints in his mouth?

Women should not ask for pay raises and just rely on “Karma.”

There is no Namaste at Microsoft today.

Sexism is Alive and Well

As Almost DailyBrett has previously commented sexism still lurks, even in women-dominated professions, including public relations.

Working at Edelman Public Relations five years ago, our Silicon Valley office was 134 kind souls, 110 with XX chromosomes. There was no line at the men’s room, simply because representatives of the knuckle-dragging gender were in short supply. Nonetheless, we male folk were well compensated.

Looking around my public relations and integrated marketing communication classrooms at Central Washington University, approximately three-out-of-every-four students is female. A comparable trend exists at the University of Oregon and conceivably other universities teaching public relations and communications around the nation.

And despite the undeniable numerical superiority for women practitioners, there is a pervasive, stubborn and resolute pay gap between men and women in public relations. According to a San Diego State School of Journalism & Media Studies quantitative study of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) members, published in Public Relations Journal, male public relations practitioners earn on the average $84,368, compared to women at $76,063. That amounts to an $8,305 difference in annual salary between the two genders. At first glance, that figure sounds relatively close.

However, the magnitude of the different pay for equal work comes into play when you multiply the $8,305 delta over the course of a 40-year career, bringing the total to a staggering $332,200 loss of earning power for women practitioners, their children and their families.

Microsoft’s Nadella is undoubtedly one bright dude, but he made comments Thursday that are not smart. Weren’t blacks told to chill out, have faith and wait out inequality? That seems to be the message that Nadella extolled about pay inequity in the workplace. Nadella upon reflection (and probably a kick in his nether region by Microsoft’s PR department) fired off the obligatory apology tweet … but the damage was done.

karma

“Rounding Error”

One of my former students was being offered an entry-level job by a West Coast public relations agency. She was thrilled by the prospect of a $33,000 annual salary and believe it or not: Three weeks of annual vacation (try taking off 15 working days at any major agency).

When it was suggested that she not take the first offer, and to ask for $2,000 more per year (essentially a rounding error for the finance department of a multi-million-dollar agency), she initially balked. Eventually she diplomatically said she needed a $35,000 salary, and the hiring manager didn’t even blink.

Upon reflection, she said (her words, not mine) that women are not good in negotiations and asking for what they want. Almost DailyBrett has no empirical data to confirm or deny that assertion, but she was convinced it was true.

What Must Be Done

Do public relations, marketing, social media and investor relations professors and instructors have a role to play in closing the communications salary pay gap between men and women? The answer is affirmative particularly when it comes to mentoring.

What jobs pay more? Technicians or managers? Let’s face it, technicians will always be paid in the five-figure range, the only variable is what is the first number. Some women may prefer working behind the scenes and being an integral part of a team. That’s fine, but these jobs most likely will never lead to six-figures.

Why not encourage more women students to be leaders of teams and to train for management in public relations, marcom, investor relations or social media? When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton said “that’s where the money is.”

There is also a major difference in pay rates within communications segments: Investor relations, financial communications and corporate public relations pay very well, non-profit and community relations not so much.

The average pay for practitioners in investor relations/financial communications is $117,233 … ka-ching. For corporate public relations, professionals are earning on an average, $88,827 … conceivably with managers, directors and vice presidents making above the median.

Conversely, community relations jobs pay $63,437 and non-profit positions, $62,275. Think of it this way, it is a big leap from the median to the six-figure mark for those working in community relations and/or non-profit.

Should women students be encouraged to seriously consider managerial positions, particularly those in high-paying investor relations, financial communications and corporate public relations disciplines? The answer seems obvious.

Ultimately, the choice will be made by the graduating student as she embarks into the wide-ranging field of public relations, marcom, investor relations and social media. Her decision and those made by literally thousands of her colleagues may play a pivotal role in closing the public relations gender pay gap once and for all.

http://mashable.com/2014/10/09/microsoft-ceo-women-karma-raises/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link

http://techcrunch.com/2014/10/09/microsoft-ceo-opens-mouth-inserts-foot-on-gender-pay-gap/?ncid=rss

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/addressing-the-gender-pay-gap-in-public-relations/

 

 

Let’s ask the question another way: Should left-brain quantitative types be teaching communications to right-brain qualitative types or at least overseeing their academic progress?

Recently, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) asked corporate executives if the Whartons, Haas’, Tucks, Kelloggs and oodles of other prestigious business schools should be teaching public relations to MBA candidates. The answer was overwhelming and loud and clear…”Yes!” wharton

Today, Almost DailyBrett is posing a different question:

Should the entire undergraduate and graduate sequences for the instruction of public relations and advertising (a logical extension) be taught by business schools?

This suggestion has been brought to my repeated attention by people who know both sides of the reporter/flack divide.

The thinking, which is credible, is that PR and advertising build, support and extend corporate brands. In most cases, brand is associated with a privately held or publicly traded company/corporation, directly flowing from a business strategy. Doesn’t it make sense for future PR and advertising professionals to be taught by MBAs and others holding advanced business degrees?

Strategic Business/Financial Communications

In creating an upper division college course as my master’s degree project, I was immediately struck by the opening of University of North Carolina Professor Chris Roush’s book, Show me the money: Writing business and economics stories for mass communication.

Roush recounted the story of the reporter interviewing the CEO of Humana Corporation. The CEO made several references to the regulatory SEC. The reporter asked: “Excuse me, but what does the Southeastern Conference have to do with your business?

How many students, majoring in public relations and advertising, do not know the difference between the Securities Exchange Commission and the Southeastern Conference?

showmethemoney How many more cannot explain the difference between revenues and net income?

Is gross margin increasing/decreasing or expanding/contracting?

And what constitutes accretive as opposed to dilutive when it comes to EPS?

Asking for a show of hands, there are always more than a few honest souls who openly admit they are majoring in public relations or advertising because they are not on friendly terms with numbers.

As a green public relations director back in the 1990s/2000s Silicon Valley, the author of Almost DailyBrett was asked to produce quarterly earnings releases (10-Q), the CEO letter for the annual report (10-K) and oodles of unplanned disclosures, including material  top-line or bottom-line misses, mergers and acquisitions and restructurings (8-K).

Help!

Why was I not taught how to read an income statement, a balance sheet, a cash-flow statement or how to track a stock back in college? The reason was simple: I went to journalism school.

The Five W’s, One H, The Inverted Pyramid and Who the Hell Cares?

Having acknowledged the lack of quantitative skills for the vast majority of journalism graduates, and this number definitely includes those majoring in public relations and advertising, there is still a compelling need for these students to learn journalism.

Some may differ because those who employ earned media (public relations) and paid media (advertising) are not objective. They have a point of view. PR and advertising pros want the public to do something that directly benefits their client or clients. True, enough.

Regardless, these practitioners still have an obligation to get the story right. They need to understand if a story is newsworthy or not for the intended audience(s). They need to pose the story in the inverted pyramid-style with the all-important what, when, where, who, why, how and who cares questions being answered in a concise and compelling manner.

invertedpyramid Are business schools equipped to teach journalism to PR and advertising majors? Do they want to teach journalism? Would they just outsource this responsibility to the journalism schools? They would still have ultimate oversight for these PR and advertising students.

Before these questions are all answered, let’s address another assumption, and a wrong contention as well. We are assuming that all public relations and advertising majors will be working for the greater glory and good of privately held (e.g., Dell, Subway) and publicly traded companies (e.g., Google, Amazon).

What about those who want to work in the public sector, politics, non-profits or NGOs? Yes, there are still bottom lines for all of these entities because they all have to stay in business. (Okay, the $18 trillion in cumulative debt federal government is an exception, but let’s avoid that subject for now).

Can business schools effectively teach issues management? Can they teach community relations? Can they really convey corporate social responsibility as opposed to fiduciary responsibility? Or will all of these subjects be taught by journalism schools? Do they want to teach these subjects and more? If not, why move public relations and advertising students to business schools?

The End of Journalism Schools?

If public relations and advertising students are transferred to business schools, what happens to journalism/communications schools?

First, the demographic makeup of business schools becomes more XX-chromosomes by means of the influx or public relations and advertising students, and the percentage of XY-chromosome journalism student bodies increases. Whether these results are demographically important or not, Almost DailyBrett will leave that analysis to those with higher pay grades.

Second, one must ask whether the tasks for already hard-pressed journalism school development (e.g., fundraising) professionals will become next to impossible if they lose students and graduates from two highly compensated professions?

Third, university and college politics are thorny enough without posing this transfer public relations/advertising students from J-schools to Biz schools. Is this a fight that anyone really wants to undertake? Would one jump into a venomous snake pit, if it was not necessary?

Maybe the answer lies with a hybrid approach? Keep public relations and advertising students under the J-school/Communications-school tent, but require them to take essential strategic business classes, particularly those that focus on brand management, reading income statements and balance sheets.

In return, business students should learn effective writing, grammar and persuasion skills offered by J-schools. The result may be more students, hailing from business and journalism schools, who are qualitatively and quantitatively equipped to serve as corporate public relations and investor relations technicians, managers, directors or vice presidents.

Heck, they will at least know the difference between the top-line and the bottom-line.

One can always dream. Right?

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/mba-admissions-strictly-business/2011/12/16/why-b-schools-need-to-teach-pr

http://www.socialbusinessnews.com/should-public-relations-be-taught-in-business-school/

http://www.businessweek.com/business-schools/public-relations-coming-to-a-bschool-near-you-12072011.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/are-public-relations-pros-journalists/

The shattered pieces of the glass ceiling may lie on the floor, but no one is partying.

In case you haven’t noticed it, women dominate the profession of public relations.

When I was a senior vice president at A&R Edelman in San Mateo, CA, there were 134 on our staff, 110 were women.

There was no line for the men’s room; physiology had nothing to do with it.

Teaching and lecturing upper-division public relations courses at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, more than once I entered a classroom and there was not a male face to be found.

Who invited me?

The ratio of women-to-men students majoring in Public Relations at UO is north of 7-to-3. Similar women-to-men out of balance ratios can be found at other university PR departments.

gender1

Women may be dominating in numbers, but compensation is sadly a very different story.

San Diego State School of Journalism & Media Studies Professors David M. Dozier, Bey-Ling Sha and Hongmei Shen reported the pay differentials between men and women in public relations in their Why Women Earn Less Than Men: The Cost of Gender Discrimination in U.S. Public Relations.

The quantitative study of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) members, published in Public Relations Journal, revealed that male public relations practitioners earn on the average $84,368, compared to women at $76,063. That amounts to an $8,305 difference in annual salary between the two genders. At first glance, that figure sounds relatively close.

However, the magnitude of the different pay for equal work comes into play when you multiply the $8,305 over the course of a 40-year career, bringing the total to a staggering $332,200 loss of earning power for women practitioners, their children and their families.

That’s serious money.

You could outright buy a very comfortable house in Eugene, Oregon with that amount or maybe make a down payment for a home in Silicon Valley. More than $300,000 is the difference between a comfortable retirement, and being forced to flip hamburgers in your Golden Years.

Dozier, Sha and Shen offered several potential explanations for this inequity including differences in experience, career-interruptions (e.g., babies and family) and simply because of gender.

gender2

One area that was studied by these San Diego State profs that still needs more attention are choices of specific jobs made by the two genders. The academics noted that corporate PR shops ($88,823 average salary) had more men, while non-profits ($62,275 average salary) were composed of more women. There is a major difference in pay and yet more women gravitate to non-profits than men. America is a free country, but are non-profits the right choice?

Community relations pays on the average $63,437 annually. In contrast, financial relations provides the highest rate of compensation in the industry, an average of $117,233 per year. Are enough women focusing on investor relations and corporate public relations? IMHO, they should. Not only do these categories pay extremely well, they also require one to be talented both qualitatively (e.g., developing relationships with buy-and-sell-side analysts) and quantitatively (e.g., reading income statements and balance sheets).

There is also the question of the technician vs. manager divide as the former will most likely always be compensated in five figures, while the latter potentially leads to the six-figure salaries. Every profession needs worker bees, but there is no justification for one gender making up the majority of subordinates.

What can college and university instructors do to help rectify this inequity? The word “mentoring” comes immediately to mind. What if…

● We encourage women public relations majors to take Strategic Business/Financial Communications and other business communications classes to have a better understanding of businesses. Every organization – for profit or non-profit – operates on the basis of an income statement and a balance sheet. Remember GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) is your friend.

● In group settings, more times than not, it is the male of the species that is clamoring to be the group leader. Why don’t we quietly encourage more women students to lead these groups? If this experience is positive, it could spur more women to pursue the road-to-six-figure managerial jobs. Yes, industry always needs its technicians, but skilled managers as well.

● Another huge positive that comes from group leadership is the management of people. Keep in mind, not everyone is cut out to supervise and encourage employees. Having said that, organization management is a skill that will always be in demand, and it cannot be effectively outsourced.

● We present the full gambit of positions that are available in public relations, not just community relations, internal communications and non-profit communications, but corporate public relations, investor relations, reputation/brand management and crisis communications.

Guess which ones pay the most?

● The same also applies to chosen end market. There is more to life than just non-profits and PR agencies (I served in both), but also corporate and government (I toiled here and there as well). Where is the compensation the greatest? The answer usually revolves around where the supply is the smallest; the demand and challenges are the greatest.

gender3

Almost DailyBrett wishes for a magic wand to wave away the last vestiges of ugly and flat-out wrong sexism and racism from global societies.

Absent supernatural powers, we can instead take positive mentoring steps to help close and eliminate the pay inequity between men and women in public relations. Today is a great day to start.

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/2013DozierShaShen.pdf

http://womeninbusiness.about.com/od/sexual-discrimination/a/Corporations-Sued-For-Gender-Discrimination-Against-Women-And-Men.htm

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/pr%E2%80%99s-endangered-species/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/where-are-the-guys/

 

 

 

Is Ghost Blogging Kosher?

Is undisclosed ghost blogging ethical even in cases in which the stated executive author concurs with the content and approves the posting of the blog in her or his name?

What’s the problem? Barack Obama doesn’t write his speeches? Everyone knows this.

ghost

More than 70 percent agree that ghost writing an executive blog is no big deal.

And yet there is a sizeable minority with qualms.

Isn’t blogging the development of personal relationships by means of digital two-way symmetrical conversation?

You can ghost write speeches. Ditto for op-eds and commentaries. But can you effectively “outsource” your conversations?

Isn’t undisclosed ghost blogging the antithesis of the public relations industry movement toward “radical transparency?”

Maybe this question isn’t so easy?

Arriving on the University of Oregon campus in fall 2010 after my nearly four-year tenure at Edelman Public Relations, I remember discussing the Edelman/Wal-Mart debacle with School of Journalism and Communication Assistant Professor Tiffany Gallicano.

edelman

The 2006 Wal-Mart/Edelman controversy revolved around the use of non-Wal-Mart employees “Jim and Laura” to blog about the pleasant working conditions at the retail giant. This “astroturfing” deception resulted in banner headlines and embarrassment for both Edelman Public Relations and its client Wal-Mart.

Essentially, Edelman hired “ringers,” one a Washington Post photographer and the other a U.S. Department of Treasury employee, to play for the Wal-Mart management team and everything was fine until they were caught. What made this caper all the more embarrassing is that Edelman participated in the formulation of disclosure standards for the blogging industry Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).

To Richard Edelman’s credit, he visited virtually all Edelman offices to apologize and all Edelman employees were mandated to take training in online disclosure. Richard is a major proponent of “radical transparency” and one can surmise the Wal-Mart experience plays into his evangelizing on this issue.

mackey

Similar headlines and rebukes were directed in 2007 against Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey, who blogged incessantly under the alias “Rahodeb” (an anagram on his wife’s name, Deborah). His posts found a litany of faults with rival Wild Oats, a company that Whole Foods was trying to acquire. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was none-too-pleased.

As Tiffany and I discussed the Edelman/Wal-Mart and Whole Foods cases, we realized that while the issue of undisclosed ghost blogging was not new, it was far from settled. The question: Is there a consensus among the public relations community about the ethics of this issue? We quickly became indebted to Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for allowing us to circulate a quantitative survey of its membership on this subject. Nearly 300 (agency, corporate, public sector and NGO) practitioners responded.

PRSA has adopted an ethics code that all of its members should be “honest and accurate in all communications” and to “avoid deceptive practices.” The trade organization makes no distinction between communications that are traditional in nature, such as newspapers, or digital, such as blogging and podcasting.

Soon it was time to analyze the results and we were glad to have the assistance of quantitative Wunderkind and Ph.D candidate, Toby Hopp, to assist us. The study was declared valid, but the results were not clean-cut. This point was magnified when Tiffany and yours truly presented our results at the International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) in Miami in spring of 2012.

We made several presentations, each starting first with the professorial types nodding their heads, but quickly arguing with each other. Tastes great! Less filling! No Disclosure! Disclosure? It was a sight to behold.

First, the easy part. Is it okay for an organization to list executives as blog authors even though they were written by others (e.g., PR types) as long as the ideas come from the listed executives and they approve the message: 71.1 percent, agreed; 20.7 percent disagreed.

Seems easy.

Next we asked is it okay for an organization to NOT disclose a PR agency’s assistance in writing blog posts under a client’s name? This is where the Radical Transparency movement first exhibited its influence: 44.7 percent concurred; 37.9 percent did not. Interesting.

The third question: “As a standard practice any ghostwriting of employer executive or client executive blogs should be publicly disclosed?” 37.1 percent, affirmative; 40.9 percent, negative. This was getting too close for comfort.

When it comes to staffers writing executive responses to reader comments (provided the ideas come from the executive and she or he gives approval), 56.3 percent believed this practice was acceptable, while 35.4 percent disagreed.

Finally, there is the question of a PR staffer writing an executive’s comment on subjects posted on some other blog, even with the ideas coming from that exec and she or he giving approval. The results revealed a reversal in sentiments: 42.6 percent approved; 44.0 percent disapproved.

We were pleased to receive the Jackson-Sharpe Award from the IPRRC in March 2012, and our research was published earlier this month by the PRSA’s Public Relations Journal. The Institute for Public Relations has created a Social Science of Social Media Research Center (SSSMRC). Our study will be available there as well.

Looking back at our research, a strong majority of industry practitioners see ghost blogging as essentially the equivalent of ghost writing a speech or op-ed. Everyone knows that Obama tinkers with his speeches, approves them but does not have the time to write them. That is largely true for CEOs as their time is precious.

speech

Isn’t it the job of PR practitioners (e.g., in-house corporate, agency) to assist executives in telling an organization’s story? Sure.

But is a blog the same as a speech or an op-ed/commentary? Speeches are two-way asymmetrical. Blogs are two-way symmetrical. Blogs invite conversation. Blogs benefit from comments.

Can you effectively outsource your digital conversations and still lead torch-light parades behind the banner of Radical Transparency?

The question of undisclosed ghost blogging does not lend itself to easy answers or quick consensus. Let the arguments continue into the night.

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/2013_Gallicano.pdf

http://www.instituteforpr.org/scienceofsocialmedia/

http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2006-10-17/wal-mart-vs-dot-the-blogospherebusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/business/12foods.html?_r=0

“You only have to go through one or two communications debacles as a senior executive to understand the importance of communications.” – PepsiCo chairman and chief executive officer Indra Nooyi

State Leadership: An Opportunity for Global Action: Michael Froman: Indra Nooyi

“Corporate crises often do manage to stick in people’s minds because business has such low credibility in the first place, reinforced by incessant media images of ruthless and profit-hungry corporations. A public that was already predisposed to hate big companies could not be completely surprised by what happened to the Exxon Valdez.” – Dartmouth Business Professor Paul A. Argenti

I flunked geometry in high school.

It was my one-and-only “falcon.”

I flunked it big time…and vowed to never take another math class for the rest of my life.

So far, I have kept my promise.

The obvious question that arises is why am I teaching J410 Strategic Business/Financial Communications at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication starting today? And why was the creation of this course the basis of my master’s degree in journalism?

Does not J410 Strategic Business/Financial Communications involve the very numbers that I so despised?

The answers are that I could have used this class repeatedly during the course of my professional career.

Many go into journalism, public relations and advertising because we don’t like math and/or we lack confidence in our arithmetic skills. The problem is the numbers will find us. We can run but we can’t hide from these little buggers.

We should remember that behind every number is a story. As communicators, we are trained to tell stories. Numbers do not appear out of thin air (okay, they disappeared at Enron…but that is a different tale).

One day I woke up as the press secretary of the Governor of California. Yes, the largest state of the union with approximately 37 million souls. Soon I was writing the news release for the state budget (12 agencies and 250,000 employees), about $70 billion (including bond funds) in the late 1980s. A quick Internet check can reveal the size and scope of California’s exploding budget and related bureaucracy today.

My job was to tell the story of the state budget, how it was balanced, how it did not require new taxes on the citizens of California, and how it even contained (gasp!) a $1 billion reserve for emergencies. Almost seems quaint when compared to the present day.

Shortly after arriving at LSI Logic (NYSE: LSI) in the mid-1990s, I was assigned to write the 10Q (quarterly earnings) releases, the 8-K (crisis communication) releases and the 10K CEO (annual report) letter to investors, customers, employees, partners, suppliers, distributors and other stakeholders.

Help.

What is market capitalization? What is the top line? What is the bottom line? Why is gross margin expanding (does it need to be put on a diet?). And is it better that a deal is accretive or dilutive…dilutive of precisely what?

Reading Professor Chris Roush’s book, “Show Me The Money,” I learned about the editor of a Kentucky newspaper, who was interviewing the CEO of Humana Incorporated, a major managed care company. The CEO referenced on several occasions the regulatory Securities Exchange Commission by its acronym, SEC. This prompted the editor to ask: “Excuse me, but what does the Southeastern Conference have to do with your business?”

roush

One of my academic colleagues recalled a day when she was interviewing a business executive who kept on referencing the S&P 500. She resisted the temptation to ask, what does a car race have to do with the executive’s business? (Do they use Indy Cars or Formula One in the S&P 500?)

There are approximately 5,000 publicly traded companies on the NYSE or the NASDAQ and each one has strict SEC mandated reporting requirements. There are also requirements to preclude the selective disclosure of “material” information…Factoids that would prompt someone to buy, hold or sell a company’s stock.

There are regulations that mandate that GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) are given greater or at least the same precedence as Pro Forma (Latin: “As a matter of form”) accounting. At LSI Logic, we reported using both methodologies with GAAP always coming first. One reporter from Reuters took issue with us employing both methods, prompting yours truly to reply: “You are the first reporter I have ever met that complains about more information as opposed to less information.”

I wish someone had taught me the rules of business communications as opposed to learning it in the School of Hard Knocks.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) announced in December 2011 the results of a quantitative survey of more than 200 corporate executives (vice president or above) on whether corporate communications/reputation management should be taught at leading business schools. Ninety-eight percent of these corporate leaders believe that U.S. business schools need to incorporate corporate communication and reputation management coursework into the standard MBA curriculum.

In addition, the PRSA survey revealed that 94 percent believe that corporate management needs additional training in core communication disciplines. Only 40 percent rated recent company MBA hires as “extremely strong” in responding to crisis situations, building and protecting company credibility.

I bet ya they would have similar sentiments about the business acumen of J-school graduates. It’s time to change these opinions through action.

The goals of J410 Strategic Business/Financial Communications is to instill in future journalists, public relations and advertising professionals with the quantitative abilities to tell the story not only about the numbers, but behind the numbers. For business majors, who are adept at numbers and spread sheets, the mission is to help them in storytelling.

The Securities Exchange Commission is a fact of life. Whether we like it or not, publicly traded companies must communicate (at least every 90 days) and they must instill confidence and conduct themselves in a manner that conveys trust. These skills cannot be outsourced with all due respect to the outsourcing nations.

SEC

The result of seven months of labor over a computer, churning out 61 pages, 15,000 words and more than 140 citations (and just about as many rewrites) becomes reality today. And if all else fails, I will always remember: Buy low, Sell high.

Almost DailyBrett Note: Roush deserves full credit for “Behind Every Number is a Story.” I will never forget this clever use of the English language.

Roush, C. (2004). Show me the money: Writing business and economics stories for mass communication. Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. Pages 1-407.

Argenti, P., Forman, J. (2002). The power of corporate communication. Crafting the voice and image of your business. New York, N.Y. McGraw-Hill. Page 250.

Argenti, P.A., Howell, R.A. and Beck, K.A. (2005). The strategic communication imperative. MIT Sloan Management Review. Spring 2005. Volume 46. Number 3. Pages 83-89.

http://media.prsa.org/article_display.cfm?article_id=2383

http://www.businessweek.com/business-schools/public-relations-coming-to-a-bschool-near-you-12072011.html

Wasn’t the 1992 Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes movie actually titled, “White Men Can’t Jump?”

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That’s right, but one could easily substitute “Aging Pale Males” for “White Men” and the message would be exactly the same. Now what if you substituted a minority group, females or those of alternative lifestyle for “White Men” in the title of the movie? We all know the answer to this question and we don’t need to go there.

You may be thinking right now that this particular blog post is nothing more and nothing less than mid-life crisis sour grapes. After all, Almost DailyBrett is written by a follicly challenged pale male with more than a few miles on his personal odometer (even though the fire has not gone out).

Haven’t white men had more than their share of disproportionate glory (i.e., the first 43 POTUS’, even all of the presidents with wigs and beards, and all of those who have walked on the moon)? They have. Does that now mean it is high time to even the score and consign pale males to the ash heap of history?

Go ahead make fun and tell jokes about pale males (and lawyers too), you can do so with impunity.

When the political talking heads discuss the “gender gap,” does it ever relate to one candidate’s subpar performance in securing the votes of pale males?

A recent CBS New York Times poll demonstrated that President Barack Obama was six points in front of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney among women (49-43 percent), but Romney held an exact same lead (49-43 percent) over the president among men. And yet the article in its lead paragraph assessed the impact of reproductive health, contraception and career choices on the gender gap: all hot button issues for women.

There is even a concerted national effort to marginalize one party and equate it to being the party of the pale males…as though that is an unforgiveable sin.

Certainly there is still a sizeable “gender gap” when it comes to equal pay for equal work between men and women, and the female of the species has every reason to be hacked off. The Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) 2010 Work, Life & Gender Survey reported that the average annual income for men in public relations was about $120K. The figure for women was about $72K, even though women dominate the ranks of the PR industry.

The public policy question that must be posed is does society effectively respond to decades of sexism and racism in this country (and others) by permanently casting aside a particular demographic group? Do two wrongs ever equate to a right? Is Affirmative Action seen as Negative Action by pale males, at least in private? Does Affirmative Action mean that aging pale males need not apply?

As an aging pale male, I have been asked to fill out dreaded optional “demographic profiles” for jobs. Let’s see: Male or female…darn, male. Vet or non-vet? Ah, non-vet? African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific-Islander or…ehh…white? Can I check Pacific Islander since I have been to Hawaii a half a dozen times? I even channel surfed Hawaii Five 0.

How does one counteract being north of the young/old Mendoza Line (e.g., north of 50) with a pale complexion and that annoying y-chromosome that requires shaving your face every morning?

One of the reasons given to not hiring aging pale males is the overqualified syndrome. Yours truly just received his Master of Arts degree in communication and society from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Should I be proud of this accomplishment or should I be fearful that I just made myself even more overqualified? And if I actually decide to be the first person in my family to earn a doctorate is that curtains for any and all chances to ever being hired again in my life?

Hey, what if I try to dumb down my curriculum vitae…err resume? Can I possibly come across as less experienced, less costly and more appealing for a perspective employer? How’s that for counterintuitive out-of-the-box thinking?

Even if I succeed in making myself less overqualified, I still cannot change (other than sex reassignment surgery) who I am. For better or for worse (I fear the latter), I am an aging pale male. I am learning to deal with this albatross around my neck and hoping at some time the pendulum will swing a tad in the other direction (maybe just enough for me), even though I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. All of this discussion harkens back to some key questions for aging pale males.

What do you call 500 aging pale males in the bottom of the ocean? A good start.

What’s the difference between a dead aging pale male and a dead skunk on the freeway? The skid marks in front of the skunk (Sigh).

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2012/05/13/the_average_white_guy_vote_114135.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Men_Can’t_Jump

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57418064-503544/a-history-of-the-gender-gap/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/pr%e2%80%99s-endangered-species/

How do you follow a lecture about male and female condoms including a video demonstration about inserting the latter?

And in particular, how do you compete with an erotic discussion about “social marketing” (not to be confused with social media) with a lecture about financial statements, fiduciary responsibility and market psychology?

The answer is to remind students that it all boils down to dollars-and-cents and return on investment (ROI).

There is no doubt that condoms, both the ubiquitous male version and the relatively new offering for the female of the species, do help defend against nasty STDs. And I will humbly submit that knowledge about financial statements from the top-line-to-the-bottom-line may help guard against long-time unemployment. It may also make you wealthy and fiscally healthy.

Take a look at a 2006 PRSA/Korn Ferry International Survey of average salaries from public relations practitioners. Financial public relations/investor relations pros averaged $165,620 (serious money); Crisis management specialists, $150,000; Reputation management, $143,000; Public affairs (lobbying), $98,500 and Community relations, $59,910.

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Yes, the survey has grown some moss in the last five years and the world is now in a global economic funk, but I seriously doubt the employer preference for those who know how to work with investors and positively impact share values has changed. There may also be some cross over between financial/IR and crisis management/reputation management, but they are all handsomely compensated.

When you take financial statements into account, a job applicant should be less prone to state that “I really work well with people” in an interview with a perspective employer. What is the ROI (return on investment) in that particular overused assertion? How can you separate yourself from your competition for a job if your only claim to fame is working well with people?

Keep in mind that any firm – profit or non-profit, private sector or public sector – is making an investment in hiring any employee. One of the primary factors for the nearly 10 percent unemployment rate is the massive amount of private capital sitting on the sidelines waiting for certainty from Washington and Brussels…err Berlin…something that may not happen until 2013.

And if these firms are making an investment, they are asking what is the return on the invested capital. Will this new employee get quickly up to speed? Will she or he bring existing contacts to the job? Does her or his prior have experience that directly relates to the job? Can she or he solve a particular problem? Does she or he speak our language? Can she or he become fluent in the lexicon of our company?

Corporate fluency includes understanding how a business operates. And this also applies to non-profits that are also governed by the tyranny of the financial statement. They may be not-for-profit, but at the same time they cannot consistently lose money if they want to stay in “business.”

investorrelations

Do you understand what constitutes the top line other than it is located on the top of the page? Hint it has to do with revenues. What about COGS? If you don’t know, you need to find out pronto. The same goes for gross margin. Is it expanding or contracting? Year-over-year? Sequentially? Is your function included in SG&A? If so, how do you feel about being an “expense?” Can you distinguish between gross margin and operating margin? What is the bottom line other than being on the bottom of the page?

Companies also must comply with GAAP, but some will also use pro forma or non-GAAP and are required by the SEC to reconcile the difference (Reg. G). Don’t be the reporter in Chris Roush’s “Show Me The Money,” who asked a CEO what the Southeastern Conference (SEC) had to do with his business…He was referring to a different SEC, the Securities Exchange Commission. Oops.

In this tough job environment, doing your homework prior to the interview is an absolute must. Included in this study is coming completely up to speed on the language of business and that includes the financial statement and fiduciary responsibility.

Adam Smith stated that the (fiduciary) duty of a capitalistic endeavor is to make a profit and remain viable. Economist Milton Friedman said the job of business is not only to survive but to do well.

So how can you help your perspective employer or present employer in doing well? If you can answer this question affirmatively and convincingly, you should do well as well.

Editor’s Note: I am presently working on my University of Oregon master’s project creating a course, “Communicating with Wall Street.” Any insights on market psychology, media relations, crisis communications, analyst relations, social media and employee communications are greatly appreciated.

It’s time to petition the US Fish and Wildlife Service to add yet another new critter to the Endangered Species List.

And while we are at it, let’s not forget about designating abundant critical habitat to aid the recovery of this threatened-with-extinction species.

Another bird? Another animal? Another plant?

Nope. Instead in it is the Male-knuckledragging-kommunikashuns-pee-are-a-sourous.

How do we know that the male of the species is dying out in terms of the future of the public relations profession? All one has to do is simply open one’s eyes.

When I was working for Edelman Public Relations in San Mateo, CA, we had a staff of 134 working on a wide array of hardware, software and green/clean tech accounts. From this significantly sized team, 110 were card-carrying members of the fairer gender. Yep, there were no lines for the men’s room and it had nothing to do with physiological plumbing, just sheer numbers or in this case…the absence of numbers.

allen

Coming north to the School of Journalism and Communication at University of Oregon in Eugene, the beat just continues unabated. The female/male split in the undergraduate level, introductory, “Principles of PR” is about 60/40 in favor of women in a class of 160 students. No alarm bells are going off when you weigh this almost perfect state of gender balance, even though males are in the minority. A trip down the hall reveals another and more telling story.

I was asked to present a PowerPoint presentation on writing quarterly earnings releases and annual report letters for publicly traded companies to an upper division class, “Strategic Public Relations and Communication.” I went into the room and was greeted by 16 students and their Ph.D instructor…I was the only representative of the male of the species…

Who the heck invited me?

After the class was over, I started to reflect on the undeniable dominance of women in the PR profession now and based upon the present trend more so in the future. Several have written about the feminization of the industry, and why shouldn’t we welcome this change? And at the same time, we should abhor that women are still getting shafted (no sexual pun intended) when it comes to pay disparity in public relations.

The Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) 2010 Work, Life & Gender Survey reported that the average annual income for men in public relations was about $120K. The figure for women was about $72K. In PRSA’s 2006 survey, the average annual income for men was $98,188.82; the average for women was $67,853.08. The percent and sheer numbers of women in the profession are going up, and yet the pay gap is increasing. Yep, women have a good reason to be torked.

But wait a minute. If men – rightfully or wrongly — are being paid more, why aren’t more knuckle draggers trying to enter the PR ranks?  Average six-figure salaries are nothing to be sneezed at (especially in this economy) and yet women are dominating the profession just as they have taken over real estate and local government. Education and nursing have been feminized for generations.

Do men lack empathy? Are they really that insensitive? Do we see PR as a “soft”-profession, not befitting a true macho dude?  Are women naturally better at softening images of their clients? Do tough guy personas not work any longer in the courtroom of public opinion? (Donald Trump’s commanding use of the F-bomb would suggest there is still a market for testosterone-fueled bombast, bloviation and demagoguery. How long will it take for his lounge act to get tired and boring?)

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Let me also ask: Are women better at detail-oriented communications work, coordination, choreography and message development poetry and prose? Undoubtedly, we should celebrate the fact that women are voting by their sheer numbers to join the ranks of public relations professionals.

At the same time, shouldn’t a rising tide raise all boats? And shouldn’t the profession benefit from a wide array of talented individuals regardless of gender? Come on guys, it’s time once again to take the PR plunge.

Let the competition resume.

http://media.prsa.org/article_display.cfm?article_id=1978

http://www.prconversations.com/index.php/2011/02/pr-its-a-womans-world/

http://www.nywici.org/features/blogs/aloud/feminization-pr-why-aren%E2%80%99t-more-women-top

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