Monday, April 9, 2007

Uh Oh: The Problem in the PR Department

This week’s blog will focus on the Public Relations curriculum at the University of Southern California emphasizing its strengths and weaknesses regarding the major. As a transfer student from Pasadena City College, anticipating a heavier, and possibly a more challenging work load at USC has now become the least of my worries. According to the Annenberg School for Communication website, “USC Annenberg scholars, both students and faculty, are defining communication, journalism and public relations for the 21st century and beyond.” Throughout my experience at Annenberg, I have noticed a few flaws in the Public Relations department. The concerns of the students are not being addressed to the fullest degree of keeping PR majors consistently satisfied with the curriculum.

Many of us, including myself have run into problems regarding night courses. Since the staff at Annenberg take pride in its adjunct faculty and seniors get priority over class registration, underclassman are left with taking classes that end at ten at night. It bothers me to be a full time student taking only night courses because it feels as though I am on a full time work schedule and only have time for night classes. As an undergraduate student, I feel my time in class should be spent during the day. Many students, including myself, tend to not pay close attention when having classes after 5pm. Counselors stress the idea that one-on-one teaching is more important and beneficial than lecturing to a larger class size. East Coast schools such as Harvard and Florida University have been cutting down on its adjunct faculty constituency because of budget issues. According to an article written by Jack Stripling, “…universities and community colleges rely too heavily on cheap and often temporary instructors, [which has become] a practice that is diminishing the quality of education…” I believe the students' needs and concerns should be met first because we are the ones paying for tuition and taking the courses, not the faculty. It seems as though the school is more concerned with making more money rather than keeping students happy and focusing on other important issues such as technology in education.

I do applaud most of the courses offered for PR majors; however, I would like to see more classes that focus on the use of technology. PR practitioners are being required to do more within their field which not only includes excellent writing skills but also technological skills as well. Since the Internet has become the leading source of gathering and presenting research, it would be great if Annenberg offered PR students courses on web design or Photoshop replacing the current a couple of current courses offered. Classes based on using the computer and applying specific Internet knowledge would definitely put Annenberg students ahead of other institutions, making us more qualified and prepared for the real world. Teachers from Europe, West Asia and Africa have been investing their time into implementing technology in education. More than 200 professors attended a two-day conference in Paris to discuss enriching the youth’s educational experience by using technology. “Teachers' initiatives range from incorporating the internet and online courses in curricula, to interactive classroom exercises, through the use of blogs and digital portals for teachers, students and parents for interactive coursework, evaluation, feedback and dialogue.” I feel if the school implemented the use of technology into the upper or lower division courses, PR students will be better equipped to work in an advanced business environment without feeling ill prepared. Overall, studying at Annenberg has been a great privilege and with my knowledge about PR, I (along with my colleagues)can start a campaign facing the issues stated above and witness change for the greater good of PR majors.

Friday, April 6, 2007

USC Honorary Degree Nominee: Molly Miller

As the commencement season approaches, this week’s blog will focus on one of the most inspirational parts of the ceremony, the honorary. The honorand is the individual who gives the commencement speech to the graduating class. According to James Freedman (pictured left), “In bestowing an honorary degree, a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most.” Each year the University of Southern California awards the degree to such “individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities; [to] individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the community of which they are a part.”

As a Public Relations major at USC, I would have the pleasure of nominating the CEO of Engage PR, Molly Miller, with a doctorial degree in laws. With twenty years of public relations experience, Miller received a BA in English from the University of Tennessee and BS degrees in computer science and mathematics from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. She has also performed graduate work in symbolic and heuristic computation at Stanford University. Her company is an award-winning public relationa gency for tchnology comapnies that strives to "increase visibility, influence sales and positively impact the bottom line." Engage PR’s account executive Armi Elma says community service is what defines the company. Employees of the company have volunteered at “homeless shelters, participated in a national MS walk, mentored children [and] cleaned up beaches.” Miller’s passion for maintaining a successful company and reaching out to the community is a principal example of what undergraduate students should look up to.

In my perspective, Miller posses the qualities inscribed on the statue of Tommy Trojan: faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous, and ambitious. She strives to “give young people and new recruits to her business, a wider view of the world at large.” “My staff has a lot of young people, and I want them to see a broader view of society,” said Miller. I believe her drive to push younger generations to give back to their communities to be quite fascinating. According to USC’s Honorary Degree guidelines, nominees must be “highly regarded for achievements on their respective fields of endeavor.” As CEO of her award-winning public relations company and being a positive role model to young adults, Miller has definitely shown the world that she is worthy of such an award. A professor of mine once mentioned that even though women make up most of the PR industry, it is men who acquire top management and executive positions. To me, Miller is the exception to this paradigm.

Earlier this year, she was honored by the East Bay Business Times as one of its 2007 Women of Distinction. This special award recognizes and “celebrates 25 women who have broken barriers, served as members to other women and left a mark on East Bay Business.” “The wide variety of careers represented by the women that were recognized was impressive and very encouraging. I’m honored to be included among such interesting and successful women,” said Miller. In 2006, she was also honored as a Women of Distinction by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal. Miller’s company is on the right track to have been recognized twice as one of the “Best Places to Work in the Bay Area.” Her message to my generation would be to work hard, to continue to strive for one’s dreams and to consider ways of improving the community of which we live in. USC’s future graduating class would be privileged to the commencement speech of such a driven and compassionate women.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This I Believe: My Family and My Future

This week’s post focuses on my personal belief in family and my future. Living in the United States has been a great privilege for me and has taught me to always count my blessings because many people in this world are not as lucky as I am. As a Filipina, I grow up in an environment where family would always come first. As a child, I was the most outspoken, and still am, and always had an idea of where I wanted to end up in life. After graduating from high school it became clear to me precisely what I wanted to do with my post secondary education and my future. My goal was to transfer to The University of Southern California and receive a B.A. in Public Relations. Several, if not majority of my family have decided to have a career in nursing or accounting. Yes, at times, I was pushed by some of my family to take that route but, I knew I didn’t have the heart for it.

Upon graduating from SC, I plan on pursuing a career in the entertainment industry, hopefully on that allows me to travel the world. I aim to make enough money to where I can spend it comfortably and to not have to worry about living pay check to pay check. After being financially stable, I would like to start a charity foundation that would aid children and families with food, clothing and housing in the Philippines. I still have several family members on my mother’s side who still live there. Every time I visit, even though it may be for only a short period of time, I leave with a greater sense of humility. Many of them struggle to provide for their own families and work so hard for barely enough money to budget within a week. It saddens me deeply to witness that some of my own family members (pictured right) currently live this way. They are the most loving, caring and hard working people I know. Sometimes I wonder how my life would be if I were to never live in the states. My ultimate goal in life is to make enough money to be able to send my family in the Philippines to America. I sincerely want a better life for them because out of all the people I know, they deserve it the most. They are the reason why I have had a clear mind and never steered away from finishing school. I know how privileged I am to be able to go so far with my education. I believe that with my dedication and hard work, all my goals will be accomplished. I believe in having a great passion to pursue dreams with the help of family faith and support.

The two people, who I call my foundation and inspiration for achieving my dreams, are my mother, Gina (right) and my grandmother, Fe (left). I had about six years living alone with my mother after my parents divorced and before she remarried. During that time in my life, she really instilled a lot of my views about life, education and my future. She really pushed me to believe that I did not need to really on anyone, especially a man, to provide for me. It was clear to me that this was true since she was able to take care of me on her own and not live in as state of destitute. My independence and ambitious nature derives from her. She has always opened my eyes into looking at the bigger picture and no matter how much of a tough time I am going through, she reminds me to feel lucky and blessed that I come from such an amazing family. “Don’t dwell on something minute, Can. Look at what you already have in your life and appreciate it for what it is,” she says. Hearing those words makes me want to work that much harder to be able to retire my mom and dad and to share my wealth with my family. My grandmother, or “Nanay”, as I like to call her has been my personal cheer leader from the day I was born. She sees that I have this drive to really accomplish what I put my mind to. She has the most optimistic outlook on my future and can not wait for me to finish college and see me in action. “I know you can do it Candice,” she says. I believe that Nanay is the person in my life who truly cherishes family and my future. Her heart is big enough to care for her children and grandchildren in the states as well those in the Philippines. Her human nature to love everyone has given me the grace to love her and my entire family unconditionally. Nanay believes in me, therefore I am her shining star. I try to live everyday to the fullest to get closer to my goals. Although at times school can be daunting, I think about the bigger picture and the reason how I got to where I am today. I reflect on where I want to be and the belief in myself emerges from within me. I believe my family and future are the reason to live to work.

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Life of a Celebrity Personal Assistant: Run now or forever hold your grief

It is 2:30 am and all of sudden you hear, “Can you pick up my dry cleaning, has Pinky been washed yet, can you schedule my colonics appointment, and is Starbuck still open by the way, I need my non-fat latte”? These types of questions are not out of the norm for a celebrity personal assistant to hear (or CPA’s as I would like to call them). Besides, giving Pinky her daily bath doesn’t seem so bad when knowing that night you will have to attend a red carpet event alongside Celebrity X and Pinky right? Britney Spear’s former personal assistant, Felicia Culotta, (picture left) who has worked for Spears for 9 and half years, recently spoke out about her experiences working with her. Culotta wrote a letter to kid Ruben, creator of the World of Britney fan site that expressed her feelings about Britney’s downward spiral. In it, she focused on how saddened she was to see Britney’s life unfold and how, at this point, feels helpless. I guess after years of watching Britney’s crazy antics (ie. flashings, puking in public and baby dropping) it was about time to say something.

As a celebrity personal assistant, many of them are able to attend movie premieres, benefits, parties and plenty more. In some cases the benefits involve relationships and assistants become romantically involved with their boss or boss’ friend. Jessica Simpson’s former personal assistant and best friend, Cacee Cobb was able to steal actor Donald Faison's heart, (pictured right). Yes, the perks of being a celebrity personal assistant sounds amazing, but is it really worth being pushed around or at least having a cell phone thrown at you?

Amanda Brack was Naomi Campbell’s personal assistant for a couple years, but became fed up with Naomi’s anger problems. According to an article in the New York Post, Brack claimed that Campbell (pictured right) “smacked her, spat in her face, whacked her with a BlackBerry, ripped the clothes off her back, took her cash and stranded her in Morocco.” Campbell, 36 denied the accusations. “I have a deep sense of shame for the things I’ve done. I felt very remorseful for having thrown the phone at someone that didn’t deserve it,” said Campbell. Campbell later pled guilty to misdemeanor charges. It may seem tempting to work for a supermodel, especially Naomi Campbell…NOT! Most supermodels get to travel the world, are invited to the best parties and receive the trendiest clothes. I guess it takes a cell phone beating to realize that the job isn’t so great.

What is the fascination with working for a celebrity anyway? Is it an easy way to climb up the Hollywood social latter? Or is it a job people may find effortless to tackle? It doesn’t take a certain type of degree to become a celebrity personal assistant which makes the job a little less competitive. The job does, however require excellent persuasive communication skills and a can-do attitude. According to an article from Jobseekers Advice, CPA’s “need strong skills of persuasion to be able to work the ‘small circles’ stars seem to require on a daily basis. A lot of persuasive communication is psychological, and involves understanding the needs, motivation and drives of others in order to convince them that whatever you’re suggesting is in their best interest.” Being a CPA doesn’t seem to be too bad; there are worse jobs out there. It seems like people who are comfortable being submissive and/or passive are more equipped to do these jobs. I, on the other hand, would prefer hiring my own assistants and sharing my Starbucks with them.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Hollywood and Politics: Is it really a good mix?

This week’s post is yet another commentary on a couple blogs. Due to the recent Hollywood extravaganza event, the Oscars, I was reminded not only about the anticipation of the winners and who wore what, but also the random political statements made on the red carpet or during acceptance speeches. In the past several years some celebrities felt strongly about expressing their political views during an event like the Oscars and some were more conservative and subtle about it. Previous Oscar winner, director Michael Moore, pictured left, charged President Bush “with wagging a fictitious war” during his acceptance speech in 2003. I came across the Democratic Daily blog that gave out of the ordinary celebrity quotes on politics and political issues, which was fun to read, and another blog called Hollywood’s Glitterati Line up for Obama which addressed the political campaign strategies of him and Hilary Clinton.

First post comment:
This post was interesting to read and I would have to agree with you on the fact that celebrities do have a platform and because of the First Amendment, can say whatever they wish. I also agree that many have nonsense to say, when they do comment on anything about politics. I couldn’t believe Matt Damon, pictured right, said that “people join the military for financial reason.” Hearing celebrity quotes like these makes them appear less credible and sometimes under educated. I would have to disagree with you though about McClure’s comment on John Kerry. It was clear the Kerry was poking fun at US soldiers and not President Bush. I read and heard that his intentions were to make a joke about it, but the delivery came out the wrong way. Overall, I think it would be safer for some, if not all celebrities to keep their political comments to themselves. They are there to entertain not campaign.

Second post comment:
After reading this post, I had no idea this many celebrities were passionate or had that much of an interest in politics. It does come to my attention, however, if these certain celebrities you mentioned such as George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Sharon Stone just to name a few, are active in political fundraising parties for politics or for just publicity. Besides that issue, I question the idea if it is safe for candidates to include celebrities in their campaigns. I understand if they are in need of the campaign money, but in terms of becoming a spokesperson or becoming very vocal for their campaign is another story. I feel as though the general public could care less about their political viewpoints and would rather see them busy doing what celebrities normally do (i.e. make movies, donate to charities, etc). I did find it fascinating to read how well Mr. Obama, pictured bottom left campaigning, is doing in the Hollywood social scene and how many supporters he’s racking up. You also mentioned how Hilary , pictured on top left, is still a favorite among Californian’s. I think it would be interesting to see who ends up on top regarding their celebrity support.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Oscars: It's not just about the stars

The Academy Awards is not only a big deal for Hollywood, but also for the advertising industry. The long time Oscar network, ABC, has already sold all the commercial spots that are set to run during the show. ABC charged the companies an estimated $1.7 million for each 30 seconds of commercial time. The big spenders this year were AT&T, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Eastman Kodak, MasterCard, General Motors, McDonald’s, J.C. Penny, Unilever and Microsoft. Since the Oscar’s are the second most highly watched television event after the Super Bowl, it gives high-end companies the chance to promote its brands. “It’s about being in front of as many people as we can. Just like the Super Bowl, the Oscars are a highly rated show so it has the reach,” said Cynthia McIntyre, senior director-advertising at CareerBuilder. The Oscars can be considered as “one of the premier television events for advertisers.” According to Nielsen Media Research, the average ratings for the show range from 30 to 40 million viewers. The advertisers are not only interested in the numbers, but also with the fact that a good amount of viewers are people with incomes of $100,000 or more. TNS data found that viewers are exposed to about 11-12 minutes of ads per hour during the Academy Awards shows since 2003.

With the amount of attention the Oscars receive, no wonder blue-chip companies are willing to buy ridiculously expensive spots for its ads. Several companies such as Coca-Cola, General Motors and Dove have decided to showcase new campaign slogans and brand images. Coca-Cola, for instance, is introducing a campaign for Diet Coke from the brand’s new agency, Wieden & Kennedy. Diet Coke has for a long time been associated with entertainment and celebrities. “That’s a very important place for our marketing mix for big-event television. Especially for Diet Coke, it makes all the sense in the world,” said Katie J. Bayne, senior vice president for Coca-Cola brands in North America. General Motors is also taking the opportunity to introduce new work which includes running commercials for Saturn, Cadillac and G.M.’s corporate image. Dove decided to take a strategic approach and have the general public compete in an online contest which asked women to create a commercial for its new product, Dove Cream Oil Body Wash. According to Kathy O’Brien, Dove received well over 1,000 entries for the contest. Although companies may receive plenty of publicity, it is also important that its advertisement satisfy the millions of viewers. “For the Academy Awards, everybody’s at their best, and it has to be your brand at its best,” said Joyce King Thomas, executive vice president and chief creative officer at the MasterCard agency.

As an avid Oscar watcher, paying attention to what the stars are wearing and personally critiquing acceptance speeches was and is a priority for me. Reese Witherspoon, pictured left, won Best Actress in "Walk the Line" in 2006. The Oscars is a chance for top celebrities and industry executives to get credit for their work. It is also a chance for the general public to gawk at their favorite stars on the red carpet. It seems that the whole glitz and glamour portion of the ceremony became the most important to viewers, but as a PR major with an emphasis in entertainment, I am at an advantage when it comes to looking at certain events at all angles. It is easier for me at least, to point out publicity stunts compared to a well thought out event. The companies who do get a spot for their ads understand that big spending is well worth it when there is a great increase in consumer purchases. However, over analyzing Coca-Cola’s ads can be quite daunting that is why taking time to watch Johnny Depp in a pin stripe suit couldn’t hurt anyone.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

PR Stereotypes: The Undercover Manipulators

This week, I decided to explore and comment on blogs that brought up PR’s position in entertainment. As a PR major, it is not encouraging to hear that many view celebrity publicists as conniving manipulators who provide distortions of the truth to the media. I researched a blog that talked about what the work of a celebrity publicist entails, and found it to be a principal stereotype as to why they are, or can be perceived this way. The second blog applauded the PR industry, or who the NY Times dubbed the PR rock star, and felt much better about embracing a PR job in entertainment.

First blog comment:
This is a good example as to why some celebrity publicists are perceived negatively in the public eye. The term "flacks" was mentioned in this post as a nickname for the publicist, and to my understanding it means "to serve as a press agent." As a journalism major, there is a guideline called the Code of Ethics that we like to follow. Nowhere in it dos it state to give the media false or made up information about a person, place or event. I do however, understand that working for a celebrity has, in some circumstances, no barriers and that the main objective is to make sure one's client is not portrayed in a negative light. Isn’t there a way to get rid of the stereotype of celebrity publicists as manipulators who spend most of their time "misdirecting" the public?

Second blog comment:
After reading this post, it makes me excited to begin my PR career. It is pleasing to read up on how successful a particular PR firm is doing knowing that its employees take pride in their job. Since my emphasis in PR is entertainment, and many people believe PR in this industry to be glamorous, they do need to realize that it consists of a lot of strategic planning and hard work. 5W's values and work ethics are a great reflection as to why this firm is doing so well. To me, it seems difficult to receive credibility and a certain amount of trust in regards to PR in entertainment, therefore making it more challenging for the PR professional to be taken seriously. Hollywood has its many facades and the work put into PR should not be one of them.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Coke and Crowns: The Miss Universe Dis-organization

The Miss Universe Organization has been intensely criticized ever since its current Miss USA, Tara Conner (pictured left) admitted to drugs and alcohol abuse. “Cocaine was one of the drugs that I did use. It's hard to look back at that. I was an equal-opportunity (user) – I would try anything once,” said Conner. It all began last December when reports of Ms. Conner seen partying hard, drinking underage and being promiscuous with men became public. Owner of the Miss USA pageant and of the Miss Universe Organization, Donald Trump, considered removing her title in consequence of her bad behavior. He instead decided to give her a second chance and announced that she would attend a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic in Pennsylvania.

Many women who view Miss USA as a role model were upset to hear that her title was not stripped away. Miss USA 2005, Chelsea Cooley, and this year’s first runner up, Tamiko Nash, made an appearance on the Dr. Keith Ablow Show to comment on Trump’s decision. During the show, both women expressed their personl opnions about Conner's current state. The news of Tara's drug and alcohol use was “very disappointing” and “unfortunate,” and left her wondering if Conner ever "looked at it (being Miss USA) as a job," said Cooley. According to the Miss USA's website, the organization “is an international company that advances and supports today’s women. These women are savvy, goal-oriented and aware. The delegates who become part of the Miss Universe Organization display those characteristics in their everyday lives both as individuals who participate in the competitions to advance their careers, personal and humanitarian goals, and as a woman who seeks to improve the lives of others.”

Trump’s decision to give Conner a second chance said a lot about what he feels is a good role model for young women. Not only is he implying that experimenting with drugs is acceptable, but also that the Miss Universe organizations tolerates immoral behavior. I do understand his take on forgiving people and allowing them to make up for their faults, but Conner made the wrong decision to participate in illegal activity while holding the title as Miss USA. It is not fair for other women who take that title seriously and have to sit back and watch someone else take advantage of it. Having participated in pageants myself, I know how much of an honor it is to receive a pageant title and how important it is to keep a positive image through out one’s reign.

Another controversy within the organization that also happened last winter involved Miss Nevada, Katie Rees (pictured right) being stripped from her title due to racy girl on girl photos that appeared on the internet. In an attempt to speak out about the issue, Rees’ attorney, Mario Torres said, "She clearly acknowledges that her actions were not appropriate and she deeply regrets them-- but it was an isolated incident and long before she even thought of entering the Nevada USA pageant." I sympathized for what happened to Rees because although her scandal was awful, it happened more than four years ago prior to her joining the pageant. If anyone were to be dethroned, it should have been Ms. Conner. Potential contestants who participate in any of the pageants can view the titles in a negative way or would at least take it for granted. The problem originated with Tara Conner and Trump not giving her the right punishment. Now, it seems that the bad publicity surrounding the organization is diminishing the desire for women to participate in well renowned pageants.

Monday, January 29, 2007

K-Fed's Super Bowl Ad: A Smart Choice for Nationwide

One of the great attractions that get millions of people to watch the Super Bowl every year is its commercials. Besides die hard fans bragging about whose team won the next day, the water cooler conversations at work usually evolve around the commercials that viewers saw and had not forgotten. Nationwide Insurance recently announced that they will be airing a commercial during the Super Bowl featuring Britney Spears' ex-husband, Kevin Federline. The theme of the commercial and Nationwide's campaign slogan Life Comes at You Fast puts a sense of humor on how quickly life can change for the worse. It shows Federline in his own glorified rap video which, quickly cuts to him singing into a camera at a fast food restaurant where he was interrupted by his boss to hurry up with the fries. Nationwide's decision to use K-Fed as its spokesperson was a smart choice on their part because of the amount of publicity they are currently receiving.

The ad received complaints from individuals working in the restaurant business saying the ad was demeaning and offensive towards people who work at fast food venues. According to an MSNBC article, the National Restaurant Association's chief executive, Steven Anderson commented, "An ad such as this would be a strong and a direct insult to the 12.8 million Americans who work in the restaurant industry." Anderson continued with, "Developing creative concepts that accomplish the marketing strategies for a product should not require denigrating another industry." Although he does have a point, Nationwide would not have received this much attention if the ad did not come across as somewhat controversial. The insurance company probably had a good idea that its ad would receive some negative feedback. Nationwide's spokesman, Eric Hardgrove defended the ad by saying, "The intent of the ad isn't to offend or insult the many fine individuals who work in the restaurant industry. The focus of the ad is the element of surprise, not the setting of a fast food restaurant." This ad controversy has become one of the top stories for a couple networks which include MSNBC and E! Online. Nationwide's strategic plan to promote its company definitely worked. They were able to make the general public more aware of their insurance company and also generate good and bad publicity.

The strategic part of their plan comes in when viewers become more interested in what the actual commercial entails. By sparking this interest, people would most likely browse Nationwide's website to personally view the ad which, leads to more exposure of their company. The controversy around the ad was an indirect way to catch the attention of the public. Using K-Fed's celebrity name already brought interest to the commercial itself. People who have paid any attention to the roller coaster ride of Mr. Federline's life know that it has been tough and sadly at times pathetic. He was known as that one back up dancer who married Britney Spears, while trying to use her celebrity to make a name for himslef. His reputation in Hollywood's Tinsel town is diminishing, but thanks to Nationwide's ad with its new star, things could be looking up for K-Fed. Well, instead of people associating K-Fed's name with a wanna be rapper or Britney Spear's estranged husband, it could possibly be "K-Fed, the Nationwide Insurance guy." Any publicity is good publicity right?