April Five: Ethical Decision Making

When you reach a fork in the road, will you know which road to take?

When you reach a fork in the road, will you know which road to take?


It’s hard to believe my college career is almost over! I have been taking my last required course this semester, which is Ethics, Law and Diversity in Strategic Communication, the inspiration behind many of my blog posts this year. Although this class is my last required course, it’s definitely not the least. Although it’s important to be experienced and educated on topics in public relations to have a successful career, ethics is the only facet of any industry that can make or break a career in a matter of seconds. This class has taught me lifelong methods for making ethical decisions and has equipped me with resources I know will refer to many years from now.

Here are five resources and decision-making tools that I have used in-depth this semester:

1. LEAP is a decision-making model that I learned at the beginning of the semester that I plan to keep handy as I “LEAP” into my first job. This is a great model to use for any decision, as it is thorough and asks a few really great questions.

L- Learn everything you can

  • What are the key facts and data?
  • What outcome is important?
  • Which laws/policies/codes apply? (Always keep the PRSA Code of Ethics handy)
  • What raises an ethical red flag?
  • Who are the stakeholders?

E- Evaluate your options

  • Level 1: If all stakeholders agree, move ahead
  • Level 2: When it’ s not that simple…
  • Consult a mentor for a fresh perspective
  • Identify key consequences

A-  Access your intuition

  • Can you sleep at night knowing you made a certain decision?
  • What would your mother think about said decision?
  • As my professor says, “how would you feel if your decisions today were tomorrow’s headlines?”

P- Put your decision into action

  • Time to act
  • Evaluate

2. The Potter Box is a decision-making tool created by Harvard’s Ralph Potter that helps break down an ethical dilemma into a definition, list of values, principles and loyalties that help the user make a final decision. This model is useful in seeing the bigger picture when making important choices that will have consequences, good or bad.

Screen shot 2014-04-30 at 11.30.32 PM

  • Definition: What took place?
  • Values: What values come into play in each decision you could take? (Values can be professional, logical, moral, sociocultural or religious).
  • Principles: What moral principle is applicable to this situation?
  • Loyalties: How will your decision affect those who you are loyal to?

3. The PRSA Code of Ethics has basically been my Bible throughout this course. Even before taking this ethics class I have used the PRSA Code of Ethics at PRSSA conferences and events, but I know this will always be a helpful tool and reminder of the important values each professional should exercise

4. Case Studies- How can we ensure the past wont repeat itself if we don’t know the history of ethics in public relations and advertising? I enjoyed participating in four case studies this semester that helped me understand applied ethics on a deeper level and examine how an understanding of ethics can help professionals avoid major consequences. More importantly, conducting ethical business is much more rewarding and beneficial for the industry, the company and the community. Several case study projects I participated in include SeaWorld’s response to Blackfish, Dolce and Gabbana’s “fantasy rape” ad campaign and BP’s crisis management in the destructive oil spill. I hope to continue paying attention as case studies play out so I know how to handle my own if the time comes.

5. Lastly, I’ve been learning how a network of reliable professionals can be important throughout my career. The longer I’ve had internships, the more I know how easy it is to stumble into potential ethics blunders. As a new professional it’s so important to have mentors who have been in the field longer than I have so I they can guide me along the way and help me spot potential crises. It doesn’t matter how old or experienced you are—there’s always more to learn.

I look forward to a lifelong journey of learning, experiencing and blazing trails. Graduation is only the beginning!

Preparing to A.C.H.I.E.V.E.

IMG_8575This year I attended my last PRSSA National Conference. Although I’m excited to graduate and enter the real world this May, it was bittersweet to leave Philadelphia knowing that it was the last time I’d attend Conference as a student.

During the awards dinner on the last night we were all given a note card that says, “today’s preparation determines tomorrow’s achievement.” On the back is an acronym for A.C.H.I.E.V.E., which I think is an excellent summary of the insight shared during PRSSA National Conference.

A is for aspire.

Aspiration has been a main theme of every PRSSA event I’ve attended. Aspire means to align your hopes toward achieving something. PRSSA encourages students to set big goals and chase after them, which is, of course, much easier said than done.

Mary Henige and Mary Beth West are admirable speakers who presented at Conference. These two women are strong role models for pre-professionals and encouraged attendees to stretch further to achieve success. Here are some words of wisdom given during their presentations:

  • Be a life-long learner. I was surprised to see that even West was taking notes when the other panelists were speaking during the Living Legends panel, showing that she embraces that there is always more to learn!
  • Showing up is not enough. Have a roll-up-your sleeves approach to your work.
  • Squeeze everything you can out of college. Learn all you can so you’ll leave with a rounded education.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of reverse mentoring. Just because you’re young does not mean you can’t teach others who are older than you.
  • It’s okay to not know where you’re going, but everything you do should be driven by goals.
  • Quality of experience not quantity (salary). A person of initiative doesn’t sit back and get frustrated about something, they change it. – Mary Heinigie
  • Applying for jobs is scary. Don’t let that stop you.

 “Don’t create obstacles for yourself- stop thinking of yourself as a woman. Think of yourself as a professional” – Mary Beth West

It all comes down to the fact that it’s not someone else’s job to prepare you for your career. College is the best time to start your legacy of initiative and integrity.

C is for challenge

Brian Solis, Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group presented on  learning how to #LeanForward

Brian Solis, Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group presented on learning how to #LeanForward

One of my favorite parts of PRSSA National Conference is sitting in on PRSA ICON sessions. This year Brian Solis presented on leaning forward. Although my generation grew up with social media, I know it will not stop with what we have now. Social media is always changing and what’s “in” today won’t necessarily be “in” tomorrow. It’s important to embrace change and avoid pulling back, because brands that embrace change are the brands that stay relevant to consumers

Social media has a reputation of being narcissistic, but when social media is done well, it’s not about me, or the brand I’m representing. The A.R.T. of social media is actions, reactions and transactions. We live in an age where brands are now people and people are now brands. How can we leverage this as PR professionals?

Here is a Storify summary of the Twitter conversations revolving around Solis’ lecture.

 “Humbly recognize there’s more to learn. Learning helps us lead and learning brings about change.” – Brian Solis #LeanForward

H is for hope

When I was a kid I didn’t think twice about how fortunate I was that I could read. The PRSA ICON presentation by John Wood, who explained how a library card could be the passport to a better life, was very inspiring. Wood is very passionate about making education accessible to boys and girls all over the world. In fact, he is so passionate about this mission that he quit his job at Microsoft to develop his nonprofit organization, Room to Read, from scratch.

I was deeply touched by this man’s passion and willingness to take a risk. He taught that bold goals attract bold people and that hope can go a long way. He encourages attendees to strive for more than just small-scale leadership. “Don’t be the leader of an organization,” he said. “I want to be one of many leaders of a global movement.”

As a future professional it’s important to have big, hairy audacious goals (B.H.A.G.S.) and learn to have hope in what might seem impossible.

“An entrepreneur is someone who does something with resources not yet acquired.” – John Wood, Room to Read

I is for insight

Kingsford Coal's data-driven campaign included sending a special visitor to the nicest social media user. Clever!

Kingsford Coal’s data-driven campaign included sending a special visitor to the nicest social media user. Clever!

Insight is a key asset for job seekers to leverage themselves as an asset to a public relations team. Valuable hires come into a company ready to put their knowledge to work for a company or a brand. In a session on analytics and big data led by Adam Singer, Shonali Burke and Deidre Breakenridge, we learned a few of the ways data is used in real-world applications:

  • Use data to tell stories with visual representations.
  • Use data to pitch- No one likes receiving pitches that are not based on factual evidence.
  • Use data to influence strategy decisions.
  • Use data to predict future outcomes.

One of the best examples given was for crises. Data can help make responses more efficient and can even save lives. Another good example discussed was the clever campaign created for Kingsford Coal, which involved sending Santa to visit the nicest social media user. The lucky winner in the photo (left) was found through data-driven research. The number of times he said, “thank you” and “please” on social media were monitored and his politeness was recognized. Who knew good manners could help you win a visit from Santa?

Here are some of the basic tools PR students can familiarize themselves with, suggested by Adam Singer from Google:

E is for enthusiasm

Of the many areas in PR, agency life was emphasized in the sessions at Conference. Juggling life at an agency is often challenging for new professionals that are employed at agencies right after college.

New professionals are typically younger, unmarried and can handle more stress than employees that have been in the workforce for a longer period of time. Because of this, they are often pushed to accomplish more. Every professional is faced with the challenge at one time or another to decide their limit and maintain the work-life balance that works for them. In addition, if you’re enthusiastic about your job it won’t feel like work, but if you dread going to the office, it might be time to try something new.

Members of the panel included Jessica Noonan of Burson-Marsteller, Joe Clarkson of Taylor Strategy and Nick Lucido of Edelman Public Relations. Here are a few tips they shared during the panel discussion:

  • Have an outlet for creativity and fun. Too much work will inevitably lead to burnout.
  • Don’t work hard; work smart. Working inefficiently is actually a disservice for your clients.
  • Love what you do, because if you’re in it for the money, you’re in for a let-down.

“Be nice to people. The PR world is very, very small and your relationships can help or hurt you.” –Nick Lucido, Edelman Public Relations

V is for voice

There was a special session for Chapter presidents on the first night of Conference. Cassandra Bailey, principal at Slice Communications in Philadelphia shared her wisdom on the importance of uniqueness and drive. She advised students to embrace personal branding as a chance to show authenticity and individuality.

Here are some of her key points:

  • Ideas, time and insights are the currency of PR agencies. What values do your ideas have over those of other agencies?
  • Your personal brand should be unique as a fingerprint. What’s unique about you? How can you communicate this with others?
  • There is inherent value in being different. How can your voice be distinguishable in the sea of noise?

“There is inherent value in being different.” –Cassandra Bailey

E is for enjoy

With all the sessions and presentations at PRSSANC and PRSA ICON, luckily I found some time to enjoy Philadelphia. I ate a Philadelphia cheese steak (Two, actually. We found a place called Zio’s that was so we good we had to come back again before leaving the city), visited LOVE park, saw the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and even made some new friends.

This post would be incomplete without photos from the trip!

If you are a PR student I highly recommend joining PRSSA and attending National Conference. Although it’s expensive, attending events helps you meet speakers and other PRSSA members that will help you learn and grow as a future professional. I am so thankful I joined this organization as a sophomore journalism student and that I invested as much as I have so far. I know what I’ve learned and the connections I’ve made will help me succeed as a professional in the pubic relations industry.

View my PRSSANC Recap presentation for UNT PRSSA on Prezi.

So you want to be a sports PR professional?

IMG_8183

Standing on the star at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys!

Dallas Cowboys PR Assistant, Joe Trahan has played an instrumental role in educating UNT’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America about sports public relations.  Members from my chapter had the opportunity to visit the AT&T Stadium in Arlington and learn more about Trahan’s role in public relations for the Dallas Cowboys.

Here are a few of the key lessons he taught us about sports public relations:

1. Learn to respect the brand.

In sports PR it’s important to understand the importance of a brand. Make sure to get sponsors right when communicating about them and also strive to effectively communicate your own brand. Miscommunicating a brand can leave you on bad terms with sponsors, or in some cases, cause a crisis.

2. Don’t be afraid of rejection.

As Trahan said during the tour, when applying for positions with major sports teams it’s like asking out the most beautiful girl in school. It’s terrifying and it might be easy to assume the answer is no, but you’ll never know if you never try. Successful people in any field learn to get over the fear of rejection. Consider it a challenge and strive for excellence. It may surprise you.

3. Ethics, ethics, ethics.

There are always ethical situations to be aware of, but in sports PR, it’s important to be ethical in decision-making, especially when there’s a crisis. There are often crises that deal with members of sports teams and it’s important to be able to make ethical decisions quickly. In all situations remember to be honest, fair and strive for accuracy.

4. Learn how to say no.

Sporting events are an atmosphere where PR professionals need to be attentive to what is happening around them. Often crazed fans try to overstep their bounds by trying to interact with players or go places that are off-limits. It’s important to be firm and to be able to say no.

5. LOVE what you do.

Sports PR professionals are not paid much, but there are many benefits, such as meeting celebrities, working at sporting events and opportunities to travel. Unless you’re very passionate about sports and public relations the long hours will be difficult to manage and you won’t be happy. Be passionate about what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.

If you’re interested in sports public relations the best thing to do is try. Network through LinkedIn and your local PRSSA chapter and offer to volunteer at sporting events. Remember that it’s okay to start off small and to be bold! You might surprise yourself.

Ethics in PR: Six questions to consider when offered an unpaid internship

September is Ethics Month for the PR community. To celebrate, I wanted to touch on a major topic affecting public relations students and employers today: unpaid internships.

Unpaid internships received a lot of buzz this summer after two unpaid production interns that worked on the movie “Black Swan” sued 20th Century Fox for giving them the workload similar to the that of their salaried full-time coworkers. Sure enough, they won.

Read more details of the ruling from The Atlantic Wire.

Are unpaid internships lawful?

The Fair Labor Standards Act released six criteria employers must follow in order to offer lawful unpaid internships. In summary;

  •  Lawful unpaid internships should not advance the employer’s company financially nor should interns fill the role of a salaried employee.
  •  Lawful unpaid internships must be oriented for the benefit of the intern, with direct supervision and an educational environment.
  •  Lawful unpaid internships must not entitle interns to a job after completion.
  • Lawful unpaid internships must be offered with honesty, disclosing upfront that the position is unpaid.

Expanding on the criteria above, a notable point is that the internship must be beneficial for the intern. This is very important because the overall benefit of accepting internships is to learn and grow as a future professional.

As you weigh your options, consider asking employers about opportunities to expand your professional network, add to your portfolio or participate in training or a mentoring program while
interning with a company. If none of these opportunities are available, it might be best to keep looking.

Are unpaid internships ethical?

As the maxim goes, just because something is lawful, does not always mean it’s ethical.

A survey by the Public Relations Consultants Association found that out of about 150 new public relations professionals, approximately 23 percent held an internship with no pay and only 28 percent of the professionals in the research group were paid at or above minimum wage. The others were either paid a stipend or had some expenses covered by the employer.

Among many concerns expressed in response to this data, researchers found that diversity was compromised. The reality of the situation is that economically challenged applicants had to turn down the opportunity because they could not afford accepting an unpaid internship. In addition, graduates lacking internship experience have lower chances of receiving a job in a competitive market, which is often difficult for students of lower income families. Paid internships are much less prevalent, according to data from the survey, making it difficult for students to gain experience. These issues have called to question the ethics of unpaid internships.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) issued a Professional Standards Advisory in February 2011 about the ethical use of interns. This document makes a case for interns and adds perspective for employers who may not understand that course credit is often costly for the student, as well as travel expenses such as gasoline and car maintenance.

Lastly, the document specifically names code provisions and professional values in the PRSA Member Code of Ethics that are often overlooked in decisions involving unpaid internships.

Is an unpaid internship for you?

There will be unpaid internships as long as students are willing to accept them. However, sometimes taking an unpaid internship is worth it in the long run.

First of all, no matter what your pay is at an internship, recognize and value the time and/or money the company invests in you as an intern. However, as you pursue opportunities, don’t sell yourself short by accepting an opportunity that will not ultimately help you succeed and accomplish your goals in public relations. It might take time, but develop a keen eye for opportunities that will shape your future.

If you’re ever offered an unpaid internship you’d hate to turn down, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does this internship abide by the Fair Labor Standards Act?
  2. Will this internship give you opportunities to add to your resume and portfolio?
  3. Can you get the same opportunities elsewhere? (Note: volunteering at a nonprofit organization or helping with the communications tasks at your part time job can be great alternatives)
  4.   Is this internship feasible for your budget?
  5.  Is there a way you can divide your time between a part time job and your internship?
  6. Are you motivated to do well at this internship despite the fact you won’t be receiving a paycheck?

PR Daily recently published an article about the things employers should expect from an unpaid intern. Overall the article ensures that unpaid interns will undoubtedly slack off at work and anything more shouldn’t be expected. Unpaid internships are often challenging, but if you accept an unpaid position and are aware of what you signed up for from the start (which you should, by law), there is nothing more detrimental for your career than performing poorly on the job. The world of public relations is interconnected and the chance you’ll be known as a slacker — at least in the area — is likely. If you don’t think you’ll be able to work with integrity at an unpaid internship, don’t accept one.

It all boils down to one simple question: does the benefit outweigh the cost?

As a Millennial, I’ve heard my fair share of accusations about entitlement of my generation. Yes, work is work, but it’s important to remember that we were never owed an internship and any opportunities we take should be received with gratefulness.

Whether you’re paid or not, internships cost companies money, and if you develop a keen eye for selecting lawful and ethical internships and the employer holds up their end, you will benefit greatly in the long run.

 What do you think about unpaid internships? Comment in the box below.

Summer Top Ten

As my last day of summer winds down (already?) and I prepare to return to classes for my last fall semester as a college student tomorrow it’s bittersweet, but also exciting. All this hard work is paying off and I’ve had so much fun along the way.

I compiled a lit of my favorite memories or accomplishments from this summer. Although my internship and job didn’t provide me with too much time off, this year I wanted to complete the ten things below:

1. Go somewhere exciting

This year my family went to Alaska. My mom had a goal to travel to all 50 states before her 50th birthday and Alaska was her 49th state (North Dakota was her 50th).  We went on an Alaskan cruise and stopped at Juneau, Icy Strait Point and Ketchikan. We went sea kayaking and I rode the longest zip line in the world! It was a great vacation. Here are a few photos of the trip’s highlights:

2. Intern at an agency

I had the opportunity to intern at an international agency in Dallas this summer with the Digital Team. I learned a lot about social media and analytics and loved being surrounded by young, brilliant PR professionals.

3. Reconnect with PRSSA friends

As president of UNT PRSSA, I had the honor, once again, of representing my Chapter at the PRSSA 2013 Leadership Rally! It was great to see friends new and old and learn more about the profession and planning a great semester. Want to see my notes from the last two years at the Rally? Download the PDF: PRSSA Leadership Rally Notes 2012-13.

When I was in Scottsdale, Arizona I had the opportunity to stop by the scene of summer’s most hilarious PR crisis, Amy’s Baking Company. In case you missed it, view the video here. Although I didn’t have bad service or witness anything notable, it was fun to see the infamous husband and wife team in person after seeing so much about them for a month. Plus, my lemon meringue pie was delicious.

4. Get published

My latest position at UNT has allowed me the opportunity to get my work published several times. I wrote several stories that were posted on UNT’s InHouse blog and even a few news releases. Maybe I’m just new at this, but I get excited every time I see my work published.

5. Read a good book

One of the best books I read this summer was on the airplane to the PRSSA Leadership Rally. It’s called The One Minute Manager. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I loved the way it was written and the advice it had for busy, successful leaders.

You set One Minute Goals with your people to make sure they know what they are being held accountable for and what good performance looks like. You then try to catch them doing something right so you can give them a One Minute Praising. And then, finally, if they have all the skills to do something right and they don’t, you give them a One Minute Reprimand.

I loved this book because it taught me a lot about leadership and helping those that are following you better understand expectations and how to make them feel valued and appreciated, while at the same time, getting things done.

6. Make a new friend

I always love making new friends. I was at church one Sunday and I sat down next to a girl I didn’t recognize. After talking with her for a few minutes I found that she was from out of state and had come to Denton to take a 5-week class for her major that was only offered at UNT. She didn’t know anyone, so I made myself available and saw her many more times before she flew back to Indiana! I was so thankful I randomly sat down by her and I hope to see her again someday soon.

IMG_7176

Thankful for good times with friends this summer

7. Start one new good habit

I’m really hoping this habit carries over into the school year, but I focused a lot on productivity and prioritization this summer. Time is money and at my internship, I had to be fast in order to meet all the deadlines I was given. I allowed myself a block of time that was long enough to complete the task with no distractions. Sometimes I even set a timer. The countdown really motivated me to move quickly. I also made an effort to use my Outlook calendar to be extra organized and keep track of where my time was going.

8. Cook something delicious

I’ve been wanting to work on my cooking skills and the summer was a perfect opportunity to do so. I rarely make recipes off the side of a bag, but I made a recipe for cheesy chicken monterey and it was delicious! The recipe is below:

Cheesy Chicken Monterey

Cheesy Chicken Monterey

You will need:

  • One package of chicken flavored rice (I used Knorr brand)
  • One 11 oz. can of corn , drained
  • One 11 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • One 4 oz. can of chopped green chilies, undrained
  • One pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • One cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 4 oz.)
  1. Prepare rice according to the package directions. Stir in corn, beans and chilies.
  2. Meanwhile, heat one tablestoon vegetable oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook chicken, stirring frequently, 4 mins. or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.
  3. Arrange rice mixture on serving platter, then top with chicken and cheese

Here’s to perfecting future mom skills!

9. Learn something new

In an interview with a UNT alum for a story I was writing for UNT’s alumni magazine I asked her if there are any words she lives by. I loved what she told me;

“Stress is a choice. You can decide to use your energy worrying about the problem or finding a situation. You can’t change the situation, but you can change your reaction to the situation.”

I love that she shared that with me and I hope I remember those wise words next time I feel the stress building up.

10. Relax

I didn’t have a lot of time to relax (or sleep) this summer, but there were several days I stopped by the pool after work or had a lazy weekend curled up on the couch with a book. It’s so nice to have had that time to rejuvenate for a busy semester.

IMG_6963

So long, summer 2013. It was wonderful knowing you!

PR Lessons from the Ice Cream Parlor

IMG_5452Last weekend I had the opportunity to work at an ice cream parlor for a day to help raise money for my university’s PRSSA Chapter. We had a lot of fun making sundaes and serving customers, but I couldn’t help but notice the public relations lessons to learn during our time behind the counter.

 1. It’s all about teamwork

Every time we had a wave of customers it was hard not to run into each other as we scrambled to prepare each order in a timely manner. After the first couple waves of customers had passed, we realized it was much easier to help each other out. One person would handle each order, but the order was filled by an effort from each of us. In public relations, a lot of what is done is not possible without teamwork. Usually if one person tried to do all of the work, the overall product would not be as high quality than if there were a group effort.

2. Give people exactly what they want (Unless they’re in danger)

One of the first things we learned as servers for the day was to give people exactly what they want. People often come in with a specific craving and are not interested in substitutes. The exception, however, is when we see potential danger. For instance, a young child can ask to sample something, but when they might not realize it has nuts and they have an allergy, there can be a big problem at hand.

In PR it’s important to excel at client service. Be available, attentive and helpful, and when you see potential danger ahead, work with your client to proceed with caution, taking necessary steps to avoid crisis. This should all be done in an ethical manner, openly and transparently and taking blame where blame is due.

3. Communication is key

With four of us behind the counter, it was hard, at times, to remember which customers had been helped. When there was a problem, it often took a lot of backtracking to find out which cone or toppings the customer ordered.

In PR it’s so important to dedicate one spokesperson to handle an issue with a client so others aren’t attempting to reestablish what’s already been stated. Communication between employees is important as well to ensure that efficiency is mastered.

4. Be prepared for messes

With more than one hundred ice cream flavors, a blender, a shelf of glassware, more that ten different toppings and four amateurs scooping ice cream, a mess was bound to happen. We designated a clean up person to sweep the floors every so often and kept everything where it belonged to avoid catastrophe and after a few errors and chose specific roles for each person to make sure everything was being done correctly, leaving no room for confusion.

In public relations it’s not about “if” a crisis happens, but “when.” It’s important to be proactive, keep everything in order and always plan ahead because you never know when you’ll be faced with a crisis where every minute counts.

 5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

The 45-minute training session was helpful, but in the heat of the moment, it was easy to forget small details such as how much the ice cream weighed, if the customer wanted a to-go container and which flavor belonged in which cup or cone. We found out very quickly that it’s better to present the customer with exactly what they ordered without making them wait rather than messing up a few times before getting it right.

Public relations work is no different. One question can be the difference between a high-quality end product and having to completely start over and waste the resources put into the first try. Be efficient, ask questions, and be transparent to make sure your end result is acceptable.

How will you apply lessons from the ice cream parlor in your client work this week?