A Lesson to All PR Specialists and Journalists

By: Jenna Meltzer

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All public relations specialists know that the first step to writing a feature story for publication is to get multiple primary and secondary sources. The reliance on one person for the basis of a national story is risky and holds a multitude of consequences–Rolling Stone Magazine made this mistake.

On November 19, 2014, Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” which told the story of a student named Jackie who was gang-raped in the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia. On December 1, Rolling Stone admitted that they did not speak to any men from the fraternity, and the following day, made the claim that Jackie was a credible source. The magazine said the validity of her story should not be questioned. Three days later, Rolling Stone came out with a statement stating that they misjudged the situation and Jackie’s story may not be entirely true. After a thorough investigation earlier this year, it was confirmed that this story was entirely false.

Sexual assault stories are very difficult to report. It is a personal matter that is hard to disprove, especially when people are retelling traumatizing events that happened to them in the past. However, as PR specialists, it is our job to find physical evidence to back up the story being told. Rolling Stone failed to investigate properly, and instead, relied entirely on Jackie’s words.

Rolling Stone’s mistake offers a lesson for all journalists and PR specialists: always use more than one source for any article or news release. This major publication is currently reaping the consequences that could have been easily avoided if they followed simple journalistic standards. No matter how credible a source seems, never solely rely on it.

Meet Your 2015-2016 Texas PRSSA Executive Board!

Taylor Griffin10497230_10152236835592794_3197867864317726476_o

Position: President

Areas of Study: PR major / Government minor / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

Fun Fact: “I have dual citizenship in Ireland!”

 
 
 

Cody Church10411112_785800394805413_5249220549579469348_n

Position: VP of Public Relations

Areas of Study: PR major / Public Policy, Environment and Sustainability Certificate / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Lexington, Texas

Fun Fact: “I am a certified Subway sandwich artist.”

 
 
 

Ashley Jonesprssa election pic

Position: VP of Event Planning

Areas of Study: PR major / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Fun Fact: “I did the 26-mile hike to Machu Picchu a couple summers ago!”

 
 
 

Cindy Lien10258573_1483863781828504_1175766773535554257_n

Position: VP of Professional Development

Areas of Study: PR major / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Fun Fact: “One of my favorite drinks in the world is orange Hi-C. Ice cold Hi-C equals happy Cindy.”

 
 
 

Sydney Schoolfield10891940_10205461309192917_1591226157877922322_n

Position: VP of Philanthropy

Areas of Study: PR major

Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

Fun Fact: “I’ve broken my arm three times — fell off a log, a scooter and a slide.”

 
 
 

Nancy Lien11030979_1605883722959842_580269496_o

Position: VP of Operations

Areas of Study: PR major / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Garland, Texas

Fun Fact: “I’m tiny, but I’ll never turn down food.”

 
 
 

Autumn TaylorAutumn_Taylor2

Position: Creative Director

Areas of Study: PR major / TexasMedia

Hometown: Breckenridge, Texas

Fun Fact: “I’m a big nerd. Like, I play video games. And make them. My dream is to build an awesome desktop.”

 
 
 

Sarah Elise Vasquezrsz_facebook-20140705-042517

Position: Secretary

Areas of Study: PR major

Hometown: Uvalde, Texas

Fun Fact: “I’m a Valentine’s Day baby!!! And I love mango juice!”

 
 
 

Selena Albanese464834_3586729835052_916790492_o

Position: Treasure

Areas of Study: PR major / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Fun Fact: “I was an extra in How I Met Your Mother.”

AP Style – With You For the Long Haul

By: Sydney Schoolfield

2014_APSTYLEBOOK_COVER

Recognize that picture? If not, you must not have had the pleasure of taking Dr. Junker’s writing courses yet. Those who have taken the quizzes in Junker’s class know that the AP Stylebook is a standardized way of referencing people, places, dates, things and so much more. The book is commonly used as a writing and editing reference in newsrooms and corporate offices worldwide.

So why am I writing a blog post on a 500-page book with more terms than you can count? Well, if you think this book will be buried in your bookshelf gathering dust after college, you’re wrong. After speaking with several public relations professionals, I learned that they always have their books handy and some even refer to the book as the “journalist and public relations bible.”

On the bright side, once you get the hang of it, you won’t have to flip through all of the pages for every word you write.

Here are a few basic AP style tip rules that are commonly forgotten. We’ll call it AP Style 101:

Names

On first reference, list the person’s full name (i.e. Dr. Tom Smith). On second reference, only list the person’s last name (i.e. Smith); however, if the story involves family members with the same last name, use first and last name.

Times

Although the exact time of day an event has occurred is not necessary in most stories, these guidelines apply. Use numeric figures except for 12 p.m. and 12 a.m. In these cases, use noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes. Examples: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9-11 a.m.

Dates

When referencing months, always capitalize the name. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec., but spell out the others. Spell out the month when using alone or with a year alone.

Addresses

Spell out street names when they are used alone or with more than one street name (i.e. Pennsylvania Avenue). Use the abbreviated versions of Ave., Blvd., and St. only with numbered addresses (i.e. 1400 Pearl St.)

Titles

Generally, writers should capitalize formal titles used directly before an individual’s name (i.e. Sen. Jane Smith). However, when the title is used without a name, lowercase and spell it out (i.e. The senator was here).

Numerals

In general, spell out the numbers one through nine. Use figures for 10 and above.

State Names

When used in the body of a story, state names should always be spelled out. In datelines, most states are abbreviated. However, they are not abbreviated in the same form as postal codes (see your AP style book). In addition, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah are never abbreviated.

Composition Titles

For titles of movies, books, operas, poems and more, capitalize all the principle words as well as the first and last words. Put quotation marks around all of these titles excluding the Bible, almanacs, dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Hope you enjoyed AP Style 101. Go ahead and personalize your AP Stylebook with tabs and stickers, because it’s not going anywhere!

Plan Your Summer Road Trip Using PR Skills

By: Kayla Paschall

Shutter Stock

Summer is approaching as the semester is ending. For some, the end of the semester means summer internships, and for others it means starting a career after graduation. Before the real world comes into play, maybe you could use some of those PR skills to take a spontaneous road trip. Remember the days of mapping out destination spots with your friends? Well now is the time to dive head first into the idea with this road trip guide.

  1. Money does not grow on trees

This was always the issue with my friends and I, because it can be difficult to gather enough money, especially within two months. The secret is “the more the merrier.” In other words – more people means less money each person needs to bring. The advice I can give you is to lay out a savings plan. For example, set up some babysitting gigs or take those offers on campus to participate in a survey for cash. Or possibly sell some old stuff you do not use anymore on Craigslist. I would not be concerned with making more than $300, but it would not hurt to try and save more. A good strategy could be along the lines of saving $50 a week for 6 weeks. It may also be a good idea to use a money pool with a certain amount of cash thrown in by each person to use on the trip so no one pays more than the other.

  1. Wait, where are we going to stay?

Become used to the concept of camping and sleeping in a car. This is where your sense of adventure is supposed to come in (cue spirit fingers). Hitching a tent at a campground can cost around $10 to $20. However, a cheap hotel can be found for around $40 a night. Before you leave, I propose labeling some camping spots or hotels on the route. It is likely you are not going to arrive when you expect to, so other options need to be available. Imagine finding an awesome campground with an ocean view and bonfires at night. Was your expectation for sleeping arrangements fine with being lowered after that perception?

  1. So many destinations with so little time

Let each person pick a town or attraction they want to visit. This will eliminate any arguments over where to go. Just make sure to map out the route before driving off so you do not blindly try to find the exit or next turn. It is important everyone is on the same page about the destination spots and all the costs that come along with it. The exciting part about the voyage is having a vague idea where you will end up. Take your time on the expedition to stop and sightsee.

  1. We may have to eat every once in a while

Food can easily account for most of your budget if you do not plan accordingly. I suggest packing a cooler with groceries of pre-cooked food. Look at this way-the more money spent on food, the less money spent on entertainment. It is okay to stop at places to eat, but only pick out affordable locations.

  1. What about gas?

Gas is definitely pricey, especially with a gas-guzzling vehicle. The solution is to pack light and drive the speed limit. Because it will be summer, all you really need is a swimsuit or two, shorts and tank tops. And according to the Independent Traveler, driving the speed limit saves gas. It also recommends looking for places with a variety of gas stations, because gas will be cheaper with all of the competition. To calculate how much gas will cost you, you can use this example with a total of five people in the group:

Austin to Miami, Florida 2,700 miles (to and back)
Tahoe 26 mph on highway
Gallons Tahoe takes 21 gallons
How many miles per tank of gas? 26 mph X 21 gallons=544 miles/tank of gas
How many times to fill up? 2,700 miles/544 miles=5 times
How much does gas cost per gallon? Anywhere from $2-$3.50
Total gas cost? ($2 or $3.50 X 21 gallons) X 5 trips=$210 to $367
How much will each person pay? Between $42 and $73 per person

A road trip can be a great way to use your PR skills for this real life scenario. This is especially true for event planners, because they must be flexible, creative and organized – all the skills needed for a road trip. It is important to accept that the trip will not always go according to plan. Just like in a work situation, something may come up and it is your job to have a back-up strategy. And like a PR practitioner, it is also your job to communicate and make relationships with your audience. So come up with a proposition and pitch it to your friends to persuade them to jump aboard this spontaneous road trip scheme.

Sports Scandals and Social Media

By: Nancy Lien

They may be signing off on multi-million dollar contracts and sponsorships year after year, but athletes are no better than the “Average Joe.” Hit with the misfortune of being a public figure, their scandals are the ones that land on the front covers of newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites. Today, the public can take matters into their own hands by spreading the news via social media and personal blogs.

1. Lance Armstrong: Doping Scandal

Damien Ressiot, a French sports reporter, was the first to report about Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal in October 2012. Not long after the release of Ressiot’s story, ex-fans and even celebrities took to Twitter to express their distaste, accusing him of lying and cheating during his interview with Oprah Winfrey. However, the whole world was not turning their backs just yet. There were defensive tweets in support of the cyclist who was once hailed as a hero and an iconic symbol of hope for cancer survival. Nevertheless, Armstrong’s scandal created a stir in the world for a second. While he was able to keep some fans, his image had been tainted.

lance 1 (2)

Photo: Twitter

2. Tiger Woods: Multiple Mistresses

The reaction to Tiger Woods’ apology in February 2010 of his adultery was split online. His apology aired on multiple channels following the scandal that broke out earlier that year from a tabloid accusing Woods of having multiple affairs. Many users took to blogs and Twitter to dish it out. There was even a hashtag on Twitter named #tigershouldve. He was a trending topic by the end of the day. Some of his more loyal fans were upset he was not playing golf and venting their frustrations on discussion boards. Fortunately, Woods has been able to bounce back into the “swing” of things and has since competed in tournaments.

tiger 1

Photo: Twitter

3. Jerry Sandusky: Child Sex Abuse Allegations

A fiasco quickly ensued when the news broke out in November 2011 of allegations of child sex abuse against Penn State coaching assistant, Jerry Sandusky. Before long multiple officials on the coaching staff and the school president were either charged with obstruction of justice or fired. The reactions from students, fans, players and activists were just as chaotic. Some called for a shutdown of the program, while others defended Sandusky and head coach Joe Paterno, arguing that the two accomplished a lot for the school. The phrase “we are” was popular among the Penn State community. Users also used their social media accounts to discuss child sex abuse. Amongst the outcries, many were able to shed a light and bring awareness to the issue.

penn state 1

Photo: Penn State Facebook page

While sports scandals are not a new concept, fans can still be very unforgiving. With many platforms to air out their anger and frustration, these athletes aren’t left to defend themselves only to reporters, but to anyone with online access as well.

Moody College of Communication Week 2015

By: Kamilla Rahman

The University of Texas at Austin boasts one of the top communication colleges in the country. With renowned programs in public relations, advertising, journalism, RTF and many more, the Moody College of Communication is definitely something to celebrate.

Each spring Communication Council, the official student voice for Moody College, organizes Moody College of Communication Week. The week is filled with a variety of events to celebrate the spirit and diversity of Moody College and to give back to its dedicated students.

This year, Moody College of Communication Week will take place from March 30, 2015 to April 2, 2015, with events including social gatherings on campus with fellow Moody students and faculty, lectures, chances to win prizes and opportunities to give feedback on the college.

For frequent updates, you can RSVP to the Facebook event. All events are free and open to all Moody College of Communication students. The event schedule is listed below.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Yoga

BMC Student Leadership Suite

8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Tuesday March 31, 2015

Donuts with the Deans

BMC Lobby

8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Meet the Professors

BMC 1.202

6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Wednesday April 1, 2015

Town Hall Promo

BMC Lobby

12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Town Hall Meeting

BMC 1.202

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Thursday April 2, 2015

Lecture Series

BMC 1.202

6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Friday April 3, 2015

Moody Gras

CMA Plaza

1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Crisis Management 101

By: Alexa Gonzaga

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What are you supposed to do when your organization is in hot water? On March 10, Greg Wise, vice president of global public relations and communications firm Weber Shandwick, spoke to us about how to handle a PR fiasco.

A crisis can happen to any organization, regardless of what field they’re in. According to Wise, it’s not a matter of “if” a crisis occurs, it’s “when.” Wise stresses the importance of being prepared for whatever bad situation arises. “Things happen so quickly in a crisis situation that if you haven’t done things in advance, there’s no time to do it while it’s happening,” Wise said.

Wise spoke of the four phases of handling crisis situations:

Anticipation

The first step is developing a plan to put in place should a crisis occur. You don’t want to be caught off guard. Don’t just wing it – be prepared!

Preparedness

Does the plan work? According to Wise, it’s important to test that plan and see how effective it is. “Today we do crisis drills that are really ‘360,’” Wise said. “We can simulate a crisis where the internal communications team is seeing and living a crisis as it happens. The objective is to create a crisis situation as close to real life as possible.”

Rapid Response

“When a crisis does happen, we want to draw on all the preparation we’ve done beforehand so we can be ready to respond,” Wise said. In other words, now is the time to deploy your plan through various channels. At the end of the day, you should look at what worked and what didn’t and decide on what steps to take next.

Recovery

Once the crisis has passed, it’s time to perform a post-crisis analysis and to make any necessary changes. Ask, how well did your plan work?

Above all, it’s vital for an organization to be truthful with its constituents. Emotion plays a huge role in crises and it’s important to connect with people on that level, rather than just spewing the same statement over and over like a robot. People tend to respond more positively to organizations that show their humanity.

“We all have emotions and we’re going to look at what the company is presenting through the lens of how we feel about it,” Wise said. “It’s important to be authentic and transparent and honest about how you’re handling the crisis.”