What’s in a name?

UNTJ4250- Race, gender and media

In class we talked about the story of Jose Zamora who found that he was not getting called back for job interviews, so he changes the name on his resume to Joe. He removed one letter in his name- already, I’m assuming, short for Joseph.

This reminded me of a conversation that I had with one of my peers that she brought up in a discussion group that we set up amongst friends.

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This post broke my heart. This friend was the president of her PRSSA chapter, was an account director in her school’s student-run P.R. firm and had six internships/ jobs before she graduated last year. Professionals say that before graduating, students need to show leadership skills and experience. But she was still having difficulty finding a job she would enjoy and that she felt was qualified for. I am biased, because I am a little jealous of all she accomplished before she graduated. Obviously, there could be many other reasons that she wasn’t getting calls back for jobs.

But if you think you would be the perfect candidate for a job, and you have received good reviews from your bosses, and knowing that people do judge a book by it’s cover (in this case your resume) then what are you supposed to do in order to make your resume seem appealing or comfortable to employers?

This friend has a “different” last name (she is Nigerian). It’s not Johnson, it’s not Smith- it’s not English. So when looking at Jose’s story and thinking about my friend, it’s disheartening to know that no matter how much I might impress my current employers, or what my grades look like or what my references say about me (all good things I hope), there is a possibility that my resume might be pushed to the side because my name is “different.”

I love my name and I would never change it for anything to make someone else’s life easier. And if that’s the only difference between Sally Smith and name that’s not English is an issue of not being recognizable… then I don’t know what to do.

And my friend is in a job that she enjoys and that she believes she is deserving of (finally)!


#RaceTogether.. or not

UNTJ4250- Race, gender and media

In December, inspired by the state of race relations in the U.S. Starbucks CEO Howard Schutz announced the company would start conversations on race in America amongst Starbucks partners. His rational was that some of the problems that we are witnessing might be prevented through conversations.

In March, Starbucks announced that they would expand the scope of these discussions and encourage baristas to engage in conversations about and talk about #RaceTogether at Starbucks stores.

USA Today ad

USA Today ad


New York Times ad

There were lots of mixed emotions on this initiative. Personally, I think that this initiative was born with all the best intentions. With that being said, when I get to get my venti iced mocha frappaccino, I don’t want to engage in a conversation- I’ve already waited 15 minutes and I would just like my drink. Conversations about race can get pretty heated- I’m not saying that Starbucks barristas can’t engage in insightful conversation, but if I were to talk about race with a stranger, it wouldn’t be my barrista. I think that there is a time and a place for everything. It makes sense to talk about race issues in our class, but I wouldn’t want to engage in conversations about our class topics with a server at a restaurant, with a cashier at a grocery store or when I am getting my hair done at the salon.

Less that a week after the announcement, Starbucks said that they would end the program. This comes after the company’s senior vice president of global communications deleted his Twitter account (then reactivated it), lots of social media trolling, and

I think Starbucks’ intentions were good. I think that the execution was good. But can the implementation of a program like this ever happen successfully- we might never know.

UNT Distinguished Lecture Series: Ta-Nehesi Coates

UNTJ4250- Race, gender and media

*extra credit post 

As a part of the UNT Distinguished Lecture Series, Ta-Nehesi Coates came to talk about the role that millennial have in issues on social justice.


Ta-Nehesi Coates- The Atlantic

Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic Magazine. I became interested in Coates after his piece A Case for ReparationsI stated following him on Twitter after this piece came out and have enjoyed some of the insightful conversations that he engages in with other journalists.

Before the lecture, I was honored to be a part of a roundtable discussion. This was an opportunity for a select group of students and faculty members to ask Coates questions one-on-one.

Coates considers Ida B. Wells a genius. She was an African-American journalist who advocated for anti-lynching legislation, but no such bill was ever passed. Since Wells did not live to see the change she advocated for, does that mean her cause was lost. Coates notes that most activists don’t live to see the change they advocate for. But that shouldn’t discourage activists. With that being said, not everyone is born to be an activists, and if you don’t love what you are doing (being an activist, writer, etc.) then you shouldn’t do it.

Coates also talked about the “nonviolent fairytale” that was the 60s in the United States. If Hitler didn’t show the world the most extreme form of racism or if the Freedom Rides weren’t televised (embarrassing America) then change might not have happened at that time. The take away from the Civil Rights Movement is that you (individually) can not change the world- “the impossibility of change is the norm.”

One of the final questions Coates was answered was this thoughts on the use of the word “nigga.” His answer is in my opinion the best explanation I have heard (followed closely by this response from Marc Lamont Hill). People engage in conversations with people based on relationships. Coates’ wife refers to her friends as “bitches,” but he does not have the relationship with his wife or her friends that he would call any of them a “bitch.” Coates understand why black people refer to each other as “niggas” but he doesn’t understand the rhetoric that says the word should be banned. When black people use the word amongst each other, it is done in an ironic fashion, so for anyone to not respect that is to not respect the relationship that black people have with each other when they use the term.

Mayborn students at the VIP reception with Coates and Mayborn Dean Dorothy Bland (and our TA Matt)!

Mayborn students at the VIP reception with Coates and Mayborn Dean Dorothy Bland (and our TA Matt)!- picture from the UNT Division of Student Activities Facebook page. 

Now on to the lecture. Coates says that we make the decisions about what we individually identify as. For example- black people in Brazil and black people in Texas might not consider themselves the same.

Ending slavery was the ending of the right to someone else’s body. Voting is “cute” but it is just the right to have a say in how your tax money should be spent.

Race doesn’t exist, but racism does, but in order to get past race, we need to get past racism. This begs the question- whose job is it to get rid of racism? Do we need to end racism in our lifetime? Can we get rid of racism?

Coates ended the lecture a bit awkwardly, saying the biggest challenge our generation faces is…. climate change. I found this to be a bit random. I don’t see the connection between issues of race and climate change (he said that if we can’t get past racism, then we will continue to lie to ourselves).

One of the more surprising things that I took away from the night was that Coates does not consider himself an activist. I found that surprising because I think a lot of the things that he writes about bring make people feel like they should do something to change the world (that’s how I feel after reading his pieces anyway).

Talks for PR professonals

UNTJ4460- PR Communication

SXSW is this week and I wish with everything in my heart that I was there. Not for the music or the movies or the parties, but for all of the interactive sessions. There are so many great brands and professionals in all industries that a speaking on their successes and insights in industries from beauty, to film, to P.R. to technology. This year SXSW will live-stream a lot more of their keynotes addresses. Until then, I decided to take a look at some TED talks that are meant to inspire public relations professionals.

The article 5 TED talks to inspire the PR and marketing professional, Rowley Cubitt lists five talks that do just that.

I chose to watch Tim Leberetch’s talk on how brands can give up some control in order to have better relationships with employees and customers. The Occupy movement showed us how easy it is for a company to lose control of its message.

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Credit: Slideshare by Karianne Stinson, social media manager at Priceline.com

With Bezos’ quote in mind Leberetch offers advice on how brands can take control of their message:

  1. Giving employees and customers more control
  2. Giving people less control, and therefore more meaningful experiences
  3. Staying true to themselves

Examples of giving others more control can be news organizations giving views the opportunity to be citizen journalists like CNN’s iReport. The same can be said for Radiohead’s album In Rainbows, which they allowed, fans to decide how much they wanted to pay for the album. Patagonia told customers not to buy new products, and instead encouraged them to buy their products used.

An example of giving people less control can be seen in the company Nextpedition, which takes customers on a journey, but doesn’t tell them where they are going until the last minute. Frog, Leberetch’s company puts on employee speed meeting events to encourage employees to meet new and old colleges and develop relationships with people that they otherwise would not meet cooped up in their cubicles.

In giving up control, companies still need to understand that they need to be true to themselves. Being open is good, but being too open is not good. If everyone can see all your vulnerabilities, then it would be hard for you to get anything done.

Public relations professionals can take Leberetch’s advice to heart when thinking of when coming up with ideas on how to connect with different publics, whether that be employees or customers.

Agency Life

UNTJ4460- PR Communication

Today, members of UNT PRSSA, as well and NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists) and NAHJ (National Association of Hispanic Journalists) members had the opportunity to make visits to the Edelman and Weber Shandwick offices. These are some of the top public relations agencies in the country (and world) and today was definitely a great learning experience.

We started our day at Edelman and heard from Leigh Daniels, who is a UNT alumnae. She started off as an intern in the Dallas office and is currently an assistant account executive in their corporate practice.

Edelman is the largest PR agency in the world with over 6,500 employees in 65 cities. They have an impressive client list and have done some cool campaigns with Dos Equis and Symantec, just to name a few. We also heard from Erica Harmon and Shea Agnew who work on Edelman’s education practice.

For lunch we met with Lauren Frock, former president of UNT PRSSA who was recently promoted to an assistant account executive position at another agency Fleishman Hillard, as well as other UNT alumni that currently work there. It was great to talk to someone who has so recently experienced what we are currently going through in terms of succeeding at a great internship at a great firm and loving what they are doing. Thanks Lauren!

Up next was Weber Shandwick.

We first heard from Neil Nowlin, executive vice president and general manager. He shared some great advice with us on how to succeed in an internship, not just at Weber, but anywhere.

  1. Take initiative
  2. Come with the right attitude
  3. Be willing to do anything

We also heard from two staff members who transitioned from being interns and are now staff members about some of the tech accounts that they are working on.

Next up were staffers that work in The Studio, which is Weber Shandwick’s in-house creative team. We got to look at some of the work that they have done including the bid book for Dallas to host the 2016 Republican National Convention and the annual report for The Meadows Foundation.

Anytime professional take the time out of their workdays to meet with students, I am grateful. The learning we get in classrooms is good, but hearing from people who currently work in the industry is something that is invaluable.

Thanks again to all the staff at Weber Shandwick and Edelman for the hospitality.


Who wrote it?: Content marketing edition

UNTJ4460- PR Communication

In the 30 under 30 edition of Fortune magazine, Forbes Media staffer Lewis D’Vorkin speaks to a room full of public relations professionals about BrandVoice, Forbes’ answer to paid content journalism. This platform allows “marketers to join the conversation with their own narrative and expertise”- in other words companies get to pay to have content in Forbes magazine and Forbes.com, but it doesn’t look like a traditional ad, it looks like just another page in the magazine.

D’Vorkin notes that the line between paid content and editorial content in blurring because the worlds of advertising and journalism are changing. BrandVoice is an example of native advertising or content marketing. He talks about the differences between paid, owned and earned media and how content marketing had blended the three together, which can be a problem. If a brand is paying to have content that they have written in a newspaper, but the content is not an ad, it should be clear to readers that the content is paid for.

Media companies such as Buzzfeed and Conde Nast are coming up with their own creative ways to get revenue from companies in a time where ads need to be bought to pay the bills, but readers do not want to see pop-up ads when they read a story online.

Buzzfeed came out with new editorial standards last month. One of the reasons was probably to help them recover from their plagiarism scandal last year and to help them increase their legitimacy as a player in the journalism world. Buzzfeed explained how they are going to seperate editorial staff members who report news items and their creative staff who creates branded content.

“[Buzzfeed will] maintain a strict and traditional separation between advertising and editorial content. The work of reporters, writers, and editors is entirely independent of our ad salespeople and their clients. Ad creatives report to the business side of BuzzFeed, not to editorial…. We encourage staffers in editorial to collaborate with staffers in video or tech or data. But edit staffers must never collaborate or contribute to content that is part of an ad campaign — whether it’s video or text. Creative/ad sales staffers are not permitted to contribute to editorial-driven content. Creative staffers may create community posts under clear bylines that state they are not on the editorial team.”

Conde Nast is another media company that is venturing into the branded content market. The difference in their program 23 Stories by Conde Nast is that their own writers will be creating the content. This begs the question, can journalists write unbiased editorial content, while at the same time create content that is paid for by advertisers? Conde Nast executives seem to think it is possible for their content creators to do both.


The biggest challenges to content marketing from The Huffington Post

As more media companies trying to find a balance between being transparent to readers and not having a conflict in their creative and editorial staff D’Vorkin says that P.R. professionals aren’t always going to be the ones writing content for the brands that they represent. BrandVoice is meant to join the “traditional media values and standards with the realities of the times.”

Everything (about John Legend) is awesome


Y’all. We need to talk about John Legend (and Common) SLAYED at the Oscars. I have been waiting for this performance for a month. After watching Selma I knew that this performance would be everything- Glory is such a powerful song.

I would recommend that you see Selma if you haven’t. David Oyelowo became Dr. King. The last line of the movie when he says “Thine eyes have seen the GLORY!” WHEW- I thought I was listening to an actual Dr. King speech. Obviously, you should keep in mind that this is historical fiction- if you go to see Selma and expect a history lesson, you are going to be very disappointed. Heck, if you’re expecting a Dr. King speech, you can’t even get that. Spielberg owns the rights to Dr. King’s speeches and is yet to make a MLK movie (I personally think that Spielberg would slay such a movie. I’m not mad at him, at the end of the day King’s kids sold their dad’s legacy to the highest bidder so…)

I think movies like Selma, that are based on actual events are so important especially in a time where students aren’t getting the education they deserve (especially in U.S. History). You should watch movies like this, then go home and read about the people that were depicted in the movie, see how these events were covered in the news at the time and see how our history books recall these events. We are lucky that these events happens not so long ago that we have videos of the events and people that are still alive to tell their stories.

Also at the Oscars
I slacked last year and didn’t see many of the movies that were nominated at the Oscars this year, so I won’t comment on the awards. I thought Neil Patrick Harris was an alright host.

Lady Gaga SLAYED the songs from the Sound of Music. I think that if most artists strip away all the gimmicks and drama, people would appreciate them more. Stephanie is classically trained, and it showed in the performance. And Queen Julie Andrews is EVERYTHING. It’s so sad that she no longer has her singing voice.

The Sony hacks revealed that, SURPRISE, even among in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, women still get paid less than women. Former chairwoman of Sony pictures acknowledge that while the wage gap is real, people should know their worth (which I think is 1000% true).

The Oscars can be a great time for winners to highlight a cause that is close to their heart. This year, John Legend and Common highlighted the need for prison reform in America. Julianne Moore highlighted Alzheimer’s. Graham Moore highlighted depression and suicide. Patricia Arquette highlighted the gender income inequality issue- which she kind of muddled up backstage.

On my list of Oscar movies to see: Imitation Game, American Sniper, Birdman, The Theory of Everything, Into the Woods and The Lego Movie (Everything is Awesome is a great song, no?).

Farewell awards season, see you next year!

Day at the #DigiDOC

UNTJ4460- PR Communication

Today members of UNT PRSSA took a trip to the North Texas Region headquarters of the American Red Cross.

The office covers the entire North Texas region and provides disaster relief, blood donations (the Red Cross collect 40% of America’s blood), health and safety services, international services and provides services for military families.

I was really excited to visit the Digital Operations Center (DigiDOC). The Red Cross uses social media to get out immediate safety information, to answer questions, to offer emotional support to those in disaster areas and to thank supporters and donors.

During emergency situations social media has proved to be the best way to get out information to the public. Amy Chen, regional marketing program manager for the North Texas region says that traditional media can not keep up with constant changes that occur in an emergency. For example, when the media wants to know the locations of emergency shelters that will open, Chen directs them to the DFW Red Cross Twitter account for updates because information can change every half hour.

As a part of a response team, the Red Cross will send a photographer to help document events. This is a part of their overall communications effort that shows the DFW Red Cross’ stewardship efforts and provides transparency to their many audiences.

The photographers are volunteers- Chen says 95% of people representing the Red Cross are volunteers, this includes, bloggers, spokespeople, digital, graphic designers and videographers.


The DigiDOC in the Dallas office is one of two in the nation, the first one in the Red Cross National headquarters in D.C. The Dallas DigiDOC opened in April 2014- Dallas being a great fit because it is the fifth largest Red Cross region in the nation, they already had a large social media presence and Texas unfortunately happens to be in the middle of disaster prone area.

Chen says the center, which is powered by Dell is a great example of a corporate partnership which shows partner expertise, and the blending of the mission and philanthropic goals with the needs of the organization.

The digital volunteers help run the digital operations center by taking information from social media to make decisions and help spread awareness that integrates with the Red Cross’ Digital Response Operations. Most digital volunteers work remotely. The DigiDOC uses Radian6, a social media monitoring system, to to pull tweets in real time by searching disaster related words and geographic locations.

Chen says that Hurricane Sandy in 2012 serves as a model of how the Red Cross can use social media to repose to an emergency. Over 20 million tweets were made about the storm in four days, which was not expected.

The Red Cross always needs volunteers and Chen says that her ideal digital volunteer candidate is someone who is a communications professional (or a PR student) which is definitely something to think about as I finish school and look for potentially rewarding things to do with all the free time that I will have once I am no longer a student!

Embracing “new media”

UNTJ4460- PR Communication

Daniel Pfeiffer, former Obama senior staffer gave an interview with Bloomberg discussing the administration’s changing media strategy. He talks about the changing media landscape and how the White House has had to deal with that while at the same time getting their message out to the American people.

An example of this changing strategy can be seen in President Obama’s YouTube interviews that he gave following the State of the Union. This week, the White House announced that the President would be giving interviews to Vox and Buzzfeed News, two organizations that are relatively new to the media landscape.

The Vox is known for its “explainer journalism” approach to the news. The interview seemed to leave critics wanting more.

The Buzzfeed interview was a little different. Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith interviewed President Obama on a wide-ranging view of topics. In the deal that Buzzfeed worked out with the White House they also got a chance to shoot a video with their Motion Pictures team that was done in their style to help promote the healthcare.gov deadline on February 15.

The short video, which features the president taking a picture with a selfie-stick ended up being the more popular that the interview. In a little over 24 hours, the video was watched over 23 million times, which speaks to Buzzfeed’s success in understanding how to use social media to share viral content.

No matter the person in the White House, I think that tackling the changing media landscape would not be easy for anyone. No one can say where journalism will be in the next 10 years. But with more and more people not receiving information from traditional forms of news, it will be interesting to see how politicians embrace this change, how media outlets use the tools available to them to share their news, as well as how brands can adopt these same strategies. As public relations professionals, we need to understand how we can get our message out to our audiences as the means of pushing out news is constantly changing.

Networking: A Dallas Love Story

UNTJ4460- PR Communication

Being a part of a pre-professional organization is something that has become very important to my education, and hopefully will continue to be so as I start my career. Here’s my recap of a PRSA Dallas Breakfast I attended this week.

The Wright Amendment, to my understanding, was passed after the regional airports in Dallas and Fort Worth stopped receiving federal funding to allow the creation of what is now the Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport. Southwest Airlines found its success during this time, but in order to continue operating out of Love Field, airlines were limited to where they could fly.

Virgin America was founded in 2007 and branded itself as a low-cost airline that would cater to the young, urban professional, at a time when the airline industry was not doing so well.

Abby Lunardi, vice president of brand marketing and communications for Virgin America and Marvin Singleton, executive vice president and general manager for Hill + Knowlton in Dallas presented a case study on how Virgin came to operate out of Love Field.

Love Field, LaGuardia and Reagan airports are the business airports in America and Dallas’ demographics matched Virgin’s target market. In 2014, with the phasing out of the Wright Amendment, it would be possible for Virgin to move to Dallas.

Virgin did not have the big bank or the relationships that other airlines had in Dallas to be able to easily get the bid for the two newly empty hangers at Love Field. They had to figure out a way to compete for them, which is not a part of Virgin’s company culture. Since they were not seeing any gains with campaigning with officials in Dallas, they looked at creating a consumer campaign to gain support.

Virgin and Hill + Knowlton played up the “David and Goliath” story- them coming to Dallas would lead to more competition in the skies and lower costs, which would be beneficial for all involved, especially consumers.

Virgin announced a press event for which they only had a week to plan for. The team in Dallas wanted to use a plane for the event, but since they were not allowed to park it at a gate in Love Field, they had to be crafty about it. They announced that they were going to start selling tickets for service from Love Field, but at the time of the announcement, they still did not have the approval they needed to operate in Love Field. This led to over 13 stories in the Dallas Morning News alone.

Virgin launched a website (freelovefield.com) that linked to a Change.org petition and had infographics that plead their case.

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They played with the airport’s name and their own brand to appeal to consumers. While the campgain received a lot of momentum (press, consumer support) politically it was still going nowhere.

To thank Dallas for the support that they received, they held a party at The Rustic at which they got more people to sign the petition and showed some corporate social responsibility by making a donation to KIPP DFW, while teaming up with Uber. Sir Richard Branson made an appearance and the next day was appeared on Fox Business pleading Virgin’s case.

That led to Sir Branson’s “love letter” to Dallas, which was dropped during the Dallas city council meeting that determined the fate of the two gates at Love Field.

Virgin’s first flight in Love Field was another event in itself, a short ride from DFW to DAL.

Since Virgin’s arrival in Dallas, air fares have reduced by 30% in the region and Virgin has gained brand awareness among their intended audience.

It is always great to hear from professionals in the field. Listening to current case studies from people that are working now provides an education that can’t always be taught in the classroom, which is why I like to attend networking events whenever I can.