Public Relations Now vs. Then

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There are some things in the world that will never change. And for now, it looks like Public Relations is necessary for firms, organizations, and even people to gain positive exposure in the world.

The World Assembly of PR defines Public Relations as “the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequence, counseling organization leaders, and implementing planning programs of action that serve both the organization’s and publics interest.”

Years ago, PR was much simpler. Direct mail was used to send off press kits, news spread much slower, press conferences were live and in-person, complete with demonstrations and speeches. Today, with the widespread use of the internet, so many doors have opened that were not possible in the past.

For example, today, news spreads in minutes, even across the whole world. Our technology is much faster and more efficient. Smart phones have Apps which allow for nearly instantaneous access to the internet, and can even notify us when news strikes. Bloggers can spread the word from behind their computer screens, quick phone calls and Skype video chats enable clear and long-distance contact. We even have the ability to stream commercials on the TV based on different geographic regions.

In addition, social media has made an even bigger impact on the PR world in both good and bad ways. With just a clever video on YouTube, word about a film, a cause or an event can go viral, spreading like a wildfire across the internet. This can be extremely helpful, if done right. Of course, there will always be mistakes. For instance, when Dominos workers uploaded a video in which they appeared to be tampering with the pizza, the backlash was huge. The employees in the video were immediately fired, the location of the restaurant was cleaned thoroughly from head to toe, and the CEO of Dominos released his own YouTube video apologizing for the unfortunate incident. This NY Times article digs deeper into the controversy. 

Similar to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have also blown up into some of the best ways to spread news and create a huge buzz. Liking, sharing, and retweeting are all ways we can connect with anyone in the world. Unfortunately, when crisis strikes, it is much more difficult for a PR team to clear it up. 

For example, with the use of so much social media, the likelihood of making a mistake that others can see is much more heightened. Almost everyday, we see a public figure or celebrity apologizing for something they inappropriately tweeted. Examples of tweets gone wrong are below:

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In the past, if word about an inappropriate comment got out to the press, a PR expert could claim that the statement was taken out of context or that it was misunderstood. But when someone’s Twitter account directly states something offensive, there is no way to take it back or blame anyone else. 

More recently, Buzzfeed.com posted this interesting collection of the top 5 PR disasters of this year so far, including Justin Bieber’s meltdown that was recorded on video and even an incident in Denmark where a zoo killed a perfectly healthy giraffe in front of park visitors. With the help of internet and social media, word about both of those events spread in moments, causing a quick and disastrous upheaval.

Although there are many differences between PR now and then, some things remain stable. The world always has and always will want the truth from credible, reliable sources in a speedy manor, so even as the world continues to evolve, PR will evolve with it. 

What is News?

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There are two main types of news that we come across in newspapers, online and on TV today. A good portion of the news is hard news, which includes facts that answer who, what, where, when, why, and how, of a news event. There is also soft news, which is better known as a feature story, news feature, or profile.

Hard news stories tend to just give the main information that the public needs to know about an event. There is no fluff, opinion or narrative aspect. A good example that has been discussed in the news recently is this article from Buzzfeed that informs about the teen that was stowed away inside the landing gear of a plane, all the way from California to Hawaii, which is a 5-hour flight. Notice how the article is short and sweet, it gets to the point without giving too many unimportant details. The one and only quote really sheds light on how dangerous and newsworthy this particular piece of news is. 

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While hard news is very informative and easy to read, feature stories are usually more fun by incorporating a topic of human interest into its story. Because it does not necessarily have to be news, it is often called a “Hey Martha” story. Just imagine a husband and wife sitting around the kitchen table on a Sunday morning reading the newspaper. The husband sees this Time article, titled “Beyond Death: The Science of the Afterlife” and finds it interesting, so he says, “Hey Martha, check this out.” Another example of a soft news story seen in the mass media today is this article from CNN talking about Justin Bieber’s recent problems with the law in the US. 

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Is isn’t really possible to do a hard news type story on a soft news topic because soft news isn’t really news at all. Of course, you should still answer the questions: who, what, where, when, why and how. But it would not be interesting without a cool topic, narrative, or a lot of detail and information. Similarly, you cannot really write a soft news story on a hard news topic because it would be too lengthy, making it harder for readers to sift through all the unnecessary fluff to find the most important parts. The distinction between hard and soft news is important and really impacts how we receive news today.

 

The Age of Netflix

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It’s no secret that Netflix has blown up, replacing almost every other movie rental organization out there. It’s so simple: create an account with your payment information and easily access the website on virtually any device, allowing you to enter into a world of entertainment and distraction. Netflix is responsible for anything from “Breaking Bad” marathons to revisiting old favorite movies. All it takes is internet access.

As easy and efficient Netflix seems to be, there are definitely some downsides. First of all, you can only watch the shows and movies that Netflix provides. Unfortunately, that leaves out quite a lot of films and programs. Also, even for shows that are on the site, it takes a while for new episodes to be posted to view. If you like to watch a plethora of different shows without TV, you’d have to subscribe and pay for multiple platforms such as Hulu or Amazon Prime, as well.  However, if you’re lucky enough to find a series you love on Netflix, you’ll know how real the addiction is. One episode easily turns into six, and before you know it, you’ve lost your day.

But Netflix definitely offers more benefits than problems. You can easily watch shows that aren’t played anymore on TV like “Leave it to Beaver,” or even relatively recent shows that have ended, such as the ever famous, “Lost.” Netflix has become so popular and successful, it has even done something unique – creating series exclusive only to Netflix, like “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards” which have both been widely received among audiences.

Could it be that Netflix is replacing cable TV? For me, in college without access to a television, Netflix is the holy grail for me, and I’m sure it is the same across college campuses in America. I don’t think it has gotten to the point yet where Netflix is used instead of TV, but I would definitely say that Netflix comes in close second, beginning to pose a threat for cable companies.  To help mediate the tension between cable companies and Netflix, efforts have been made to work together. This article from Time.com talks about how Comcast Internet users recently experienced much faster connection with better quality when on the Netflix site after the two companies came together  to reach a deal.

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Youtube: the new TV?

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Youtube.com is a video-sharing website that allows users to upload media onto the internet for unregistered viewers to see. It’s easy, quick, efficient, and best of all, free. It is not limited to professional filmmakers, making it possible for almost anyone to share their video content. Created in 2005 and owned by Google, Youtube has taken off, and became one of the most popular forms of media today, almost becoming a substitute for a television. The website has had a huge social impact on society. It has become an outlet for people to get discovered for their talents via its partner program in which a user is paid by Youtube to produce video uploads. Many artists, like Justin Bieber, got their starts on Youtube. It is often the source for a hit video that becomes the current fad of the time, such as the “Friday” music video by Rebecca Black. Youtube is the home to beauty gurus, how-to videos, and promotional videos. A lot of big companies also have a Youtube channel to promote themselves.

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Screenshot of BMW Youtube channel taken by me.

There isn’t anything out on the web that is quite like Youtube. Though some sites may feature video sharing, many of them, like Hulu.com for example, offers television content, but it is limited and may require payment. Vimeo.com is another site that is similar to Youtube, but it is targeted more toward professional filmmakers. You won’t find a video of a lady dancing on butter there. 

Although Youtube offers a plethora of useful, an often highly entertaining information, there is definitely controversy over inappropriate content and users’ comments. Because Youtube is such a huge site, it is almost impossible to regulate all of the videos that are uploaded, relying only on other viewers to flag offensive content, such as pornography, violence or any copywrite issues.  But is it safe for everyone? Even children? Luckily, Youtube also requires users to verify they are of age 18 before viewing specific content that could be deemed inappropriate for kids, but there are more problems than that. Cyber bullying and spam are also issues in the comments section of videos on Youtube. With a registered account, any Youtube user can write a message, good or bad, on a video they view. In efforts to better moderate this problem, Youtube now requires a Google+ account to leave a comment. That way, you are held more accountable for your actions and it is easier to block you from the site. 

Some argue that Youtube does not do enough to monitor the information flowing on the site but Youtube believes they are doing the most effective means to police the site. There are “rules” that a Youtube user must agree to follow in order to interact on the site, but could probably easily get away with breaking them unless flagged by another user. Whether you agree with how Youtube handles its gatekeepers on its media or not, it is clear that it has become a major player in the world of media today. With the click of a mouse, virtually any clip of video that has ever been created could end up on Youtube, and you might just become an internet sensation.

Click here to read an article about the Pros and Cons of YouTube.