To wind down our semester in Corporate Public Relations, each student will create a short review of his or her chosen chapter from the book Reputation Management by John Doorley and Fred Garcia.

Create a three- to five-minute interactive overview of your chapter for our class. Be sure to include at least three things that PR students should know about your chapter. Get creative! But remember that you only have five minutes maximum; after that, I will get out my hook and pull you off the stage (metaphorically speaking). We’ll do our review session in class on Tuesday, Dec. 7.

Also, write a blog post that covers the highlights of your chapter. You may want to look back to your Reading Notes that you’ve already prepared and posted on your own blog. When the post is done, reply to this blog post with telling me the hyperlink to the new review post you have written.


Photo Credit: "REBOOT!" by Mark Magnusson

In reviewing the Personality Profiles written by my PR Writing students over the last several semesters, I’ve discovered that there are several common errors that seem to show up. Avoiding these common errors will help ensure that someone might actually want to read the story you have written.

  • Treating the story as if it’s a pre-obituary… you know, the obituaries that newspapers and TV stations have waiting, just in case someone famous dies. They tend to simply recite a few key facts from the person’s life. These pre-obituaries, posing as personality profiles for my class, are flat and fail to engage the readers. Yawn.
  • Telling the story in chronological order.Just because we live our lives in chronological order doesn’t mean that is how the stories should be told.
  • Writing a snoozer of a headline. Something like “A True Leader in Our Community!” is not something that would entice someone to read the story.
  • Not reading well-done personality profiles before starting out to write one. People magazine and Sports Illustrated always have numerous profiles in each issue.
  • Not interviewing the person you’re writing about. You can typically learn more about your subject in a face-to-face interview in 30 minutes than you can by reading things others have written for three hours. (Okay, I made up those numbers, but you get my point.) Spend some time learning who the person IS, and then you can better write about what the person DOES.
  • Lack of quotations. Using the words of the subject of the story and those who know the person well can bring the story to life. Aim to incorporate quotations in every three to four paragraphs. They don’t need to be long ones, just ones that punctuate the point you are trying to make.
  • Using the first paragraph or two to recite the subject’s job description. Try leading off with something that might be interesting to the readers instead. You can add in bits and pieces of the job description throughout the story if needed, but please don’t lead with them.
  • Focusing on only one part of the subject’s life. In addition to describing the subject’s connection with the client organization, it’s smart to also sprinkle in some details about outside interests.
  • Making the subject seem superhuman or saccharine. Even if the story is for your internal company newsletter, it’s important to make the subject seem like a real person that others can aspire to becoming like. If you put the subject too high on a pedestal, there’s the danger of creating a persona that is not likable.
  • Failing to use standard news release format. Remember that a personality profile is just a specific type of news release. Datelines, contact information, -MORE-, slugs, end signs and perhaps even boilerplate information are still needed.
  • Neglecting AP Style. See my post on 8 Common Errors for more details on this.

What other tips would you add for creating an effective personality profile?

Text Messaging in Class

As a professor, I'm not ROTFL about cell phones in class

A colleague and I were having a discussion today about cell phone use in class, especially during student presentations. We were of the same mindset that it’s especially rude to be texting while a peer is doing a presentation for a grade. It’s tough enough to be standing up in front of a room full of peers; it’s doubly or triply tough to do it when your peers are (apparently) more interested in a tiny electronic device in their hands than whoever is baring his/her heart and soul by doing a presentation. A great majority of student speakers I have worked with would prefer eye contact and other forms of engagement to the appearance of boredom by the audience. Wouldn’t you?

NOTE: I do have a different view of tweeting in class, if the students are distilling the presentation and sharing soundbites in 140-character segments so that others can also benefit from the presentation. At times, I even encourage tweeting in class.

This reminded me of a blog post I wrote on my Becoming Learner Centered blog a while back. Below is a cross-post of what I wrote in 2008. The sentiment remains the same here in 2010.

Like many educators, I have a short statement in my syllabi stating that I do not want my students to be spending time in class text messaging or surfing the web. But many of my students probably believe this is just because I want them focused on me instead of elsewhere. And that’s partially true.

Why don’t I want them doing other things in class? Read this syllabus excerpt by Professor Cara A. Finnegan. (Cara gave me permission to reproduce her article from her First Efforts blog.)

Technology and the Problem of Divided Attention

In recent years the saturation of cell phones, text messaging, and laptops, combined with the broad availability of wireless in classrooms, has produced something I call the problem of divided attention. A March 25, 2007, article in the New York Times summarized recent studies of productivity in business settings. Researchers found that after responding to email or text messages, it took people more than 15 minutes to re- focus on the “serious mental tasks” they had been performing before the interruption. Other research has shown that when people attempt to perform two tasks at once (e.g., following what’s happening in class while checking text messages), the brain literally cannot do it. The brain has got to give up on one of the tasks in order to effectively accomplish the other. Hidden behind all the hype about multi-tasking, then, is this sad truth: it makes you slower and dumber. For this reason alone you should seek to avoid the problem of divided attention when you are in class. But there’s another reason, too: technology often causes us to lose our senses when it comes to norms of polite behavior and, as a result, perfectly lovely people become unbelievably rude.

For both these reasons, then, turn off your cellphones or set them on silent mode when you come to class; it is rude for our activities to be interrupted by a ringing cellphone. Similarly, text messaging will not be tolerated in class; any student found to be sending or checking text messages during class will be invited (quite publicly) to make a choice either to cease the texting or leave the classroom. You are welcome to bring your laptop to class and use it to take notes, access readings we’re discussing, and the like. You are not welcome to surf the web, check email, or otherwise perform non-class-related activities during class. Here’s my best advice: If you aren’t using it to perform a task specifically related to what we are doing in class at that very moment, put it away.

Thanks, Cara, for explaining why texting in class is not a good idea.

Photo Credit: “Spink!” was originally uploaded to Flickr by apples for lylah

So, what are your thoughts about students texting while other students are giving presentations in class?


Photo Credit: The Perfect Software Architect, by Martino Sabia

For your Final Project Presentation in COMM 4363 (Corporate PR), please keep these guidelines in mind. Both the presentation and the final project are due in class on Tuesday, November 16.

In General

  • Share with your class 10 Things People Should Know About [Your Company], based on the research you did for your series of blog posts. Pick and choose the information you find to be most relevant and important to share with your classmates.
  • Dress professionally (business casual at a minimum), just as you would if presenting directly to a client.
  • Follow this basic format (just like you learned in your public speaking class)
    • Introduction (remember to start with an attention getter to lead into your introduction)
    • Body (the 10 Things)
    • Conclusion
  • Please use either PowerPoint or Prezi to augment the spoken part of your presentation, but no Death by PowerPoint. If possible, embed your presentation or presentation slides in your blog.
  • You will use your own computer, not mine. I can help you set it up. (If you have a Mac, bring the appropriate adapter.)
  • Though I love gum and hard candy as much as the next person, avoid them when you are in front of the room.
  • Review my tips on How to NOT Suck as a Guest Speaker; even though this post was about being a guest speaker, not doing a class presentation, many of the guidelines still work well.

Solo Presentation, 5-7 minutes

  • See above

Team Presentation, 17-20 minutes

  • In addition to the 10 Things, also include approximately 10 minutes on an overview of your mini-campaign. Use visuals, as applicable, to back up your points. Be sure to include a section on what you’d do differently if faced with a similar campaign in the future.
  • Each team member must have a speaking role. Practice transitions between speakers, in addition to practicing the content. Also think about where people who are not speaking will be when one of you is presenting. It’s important that the entire team appears engaged during the presentation.

As an Audience Member

  • Treat the speakers with the same level of respect as you would wish for your own presentation.
  • Tweeting during presentations is acceptable. Use the class hashtag of #COMM4363 with any tweets. (Avoid any other use of electronics, please.)
  • Develop a question or two to ask the speakers. I expect to hear at least one question from everyone in the class on the day of presentations.
  • Applaud when the presentations are over.
  • See additional tips on being a good audience member by Cathy Stucker.

For my PR students at Southeastern University and Georgia Southern University:

As this semester is winding down, please take a few moments to complete this Blog Checklist to ensure your blog is on track.


Public Relations Evaluation

On November 2, 2010, in COMM 2322 Fall 2010, public relations, by Barbara Nixon

In this week’s COMM 2322 class, we are discussing the fourth part of the RACE process of public relations, evaluation. Below are the slides to accompany my talk in class.


I Voted. Have You?

On November 2, 2010, in social media, by Barbara Nixon

Thanks to FourSquare, we can see where people have checked in (via the location-based app FourSquare) to vote all around the US. People who checked in by sharing “I voted” or “#Ivoted” even earned a special FourSquare badge.

NOTE: This interactive chart was not designed by me. I am sorry, friends in Alaska, Hawaii and a few other places, that you cannot be seen easily here. You can click on the Zoom Out icon (the minus sign) to see yourself that way.