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Archive for April, 2009

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speakClear and effective communication constitutes a very large part of any PR professional’s responsibilities. Advancements in technologies have taken the place of some face-to-face communication, but being able to speak to someone in person is still a very big part of PR. Whether one is speaking to a single individual or a large audience, one needs to be able to communicate clearly.

Communication involves more than just speaking. Listening and feedback are two very important, yet often underdeveloped skills. Almost everyone knows someone who tends to space out when you are speaking to them. One of my friends will start singing to herself while I am speaking to her sometimes. It drives  me CRAZY!!! I may not be the best multi-tasker in the world, but I’m pretty sure that listening is done best when one can hear what another person is saying.  However, I can not just point the finger at others. I am guilty of similar offenses, though I consider mine to be a little less obvious. So how do we become better listeners who, in turn, provide relavant feedback to the speaker? Below is an exerpt from a short article on how to listen:

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  1. Give your full attention on the person who is speaking. Don’t look out the window or at what else is going on in the room.
  2. Make sure your mind is focused, too. It can be easy to let your mind wander if you think you know what the person is going to say next, but you might be wrong! If you feel your mind wandering, change the position of your body and try to concentrate on the speaker’s words.
  3. Let the speaker finish before you begin to talk. Speakers appreciate having the chance to say everything they would like to say without being interrupted. When you interrupt, it looks like you aren’t listening, even if you really are.
  4. Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak! You can’t really listen if you are busy thinking about what you want say next.
  5. Listen for main ideas. The main ideas are the most important points the speaker wants to get across. They may be mentioned at the start or end of a talk, and repeated a number of times. Pay special attention to statements that begin with phrases such as “My point is…” or “The thing to remember is…”
  6. Ask questions. If you are not sure you understand what the speaker has said, just ask. It is a good idea to repeat in your own words what the speaker said so that you can be sure your understanding is correct. For example, you might say, “When you said that no two zebras are alike, did you mean that the stripes are different on each one?”
  7. Give feedback. Sit up straight and look directly at the speaker. Now and then, nod to show that you understand. At appropriate points you may also smile, frown, laugh, or be silent. These are all ways to let the speaker know that you are really listening. Remember, you listen with your face as well as your ears!

I like to get to the point when discussing things like when I’m going to meet a friend for lunch or what my schedule looks like for the rest of the day. I think my listening skills are the worst in the middle of the day when someone wants to chat before asking a question about schedueling a get-together or some other business that really only takes a few minutes to do. I should give my full attention to someone who is speaking to me, if only for a few minutes, and politely let them know if I need to be on my way. Committing myself to a conversation despite time limits will definitely improve my listening skills.

*“speakability” pic

** Figure listening

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handshake1

In my Intro. to Public Relations class, we talked about how people interact differently in various areas of the world, and how being aware of these differences can be advantageous to people doing business abroad or with people from other countries.  Below is an exerpt from an article by Sheng Wang on body language in different parts of the world.

Handshakes:

• United States and Canada: Firm handshake.
• France: Soft, quick handshake.
• Japan: Handshake with arm fully extended, accompanied by a bow.
• Germany: Firm handshake. Men traditionally accompany the handshake with a slight bow.
• Middle East: Handshake with the free hand placed on the forearm of the other person.

Some other things we discussed in class was how close people are comfortable standing to each other. In the U.S. we have a wide radius around us that we usually maintain. In many Eastern countries, people are used to standing and talking a lot closer to one another.

Gestures are another aspect of nonverbal commnication that differ in various cultures. For example, the common sign for “OK” in the U.S. formed by touching the index finger and thumb in a circle, is the equivalent in some other countires as holding up the middle finger.

In many cultures, members of the opposite sex, and sometimes members of the same sex, greet new people they meet with a kiss on the cheek. Such is the custom in Costa Rica, where I spent two weeks last summer on a study abroad trip with Georgia Southern.  Being there at least introduced me to this new form of greeting, though it still felt strange to me. Recently, when I was in New York with the GSU Model UN team, I met someone from Hawaii who greeted me with a handshake and then a kiss on the cheek. Although it caught me a little off guard, I was able to respond with enough grace that it looked natural. If I were completely unaware of this custom, I could have embarrassed myself and my new aquaintance with a surprised response.

Being aware of others’ customs is a critical part of interaction, expecially in the business world where first impressions are important. Public Relations pros should be aware of who they will be working with and do the appropriate research to be familiar with any special customs.

*Picture above can be found here

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The Big Apple

I was recently in New York for a week at a Model UN competition with the team from Georgia Southern University.  We stayed at the Marriott on Times Square – right in the middle of everything!! It was beautiful and I had a great experience.

Examples of innovative Public Relations techniques were everywhere. In the picture below, you can see huge screens that constantly flash advertisements on Times Square. Nothing like a 5 story moving screen to get your attention! There were even TVs in the taxis, with GPS to show you where you were going and Regis and Kelly explaining all the available features.

new-york1

The competition was a mock United Nations conference. Georgia Southern represented the Republic of South Africa. We were split into committees and worked together to write resolutions on which we  voted at the end.

I used a lot of things I have learned in Intro. to Public Relations, especially in my interactions with others. It was a competition, so everyone wanted to be recognized by the dias (chair) for exceptional work. However, we also had to work together and get support for our papers. Therefore, there was a lot of persuasion and “selling” our ideas to each other. Overall, it was a really great experience. It was my first time in New York and I would love to go back again. Maybe I’ll even get an internship there………preferably a paying one.  😉

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Punctuation

Punctuation is important.  I think most people would agree with me on this statement.  Well, Cormac McCarthy might not.  I just finished Part I of The Crossing for my Honors World Literature class.  He is opposed to comma usage, so the only punctuation you get is . ” ” ? !  Makes it a little challenging 🙂  However, we did an activity yesterday in Intro. to PR that affirmed to me the importance of proper punctuation that has been embedded in my mind by years of school.  Below is the activity we did in class provided by my professor, Barbara Nixon: two versions of the same document, with the only difference being punctuation and capitalization.

Dear Tom, I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy. Will you let me be yours? Sheila.

Dear Tom, I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be? Yours, Sheila.

As you can see, there is quite a difference in the tone that is set with the two different versions. If the passage were read aloud, the meaning would be inferred by intonations in the reader’s voice.  However, since PR involves a lot of writing that must present precise ideas in a timely manner, correct punctuation is a critical skill for PR professionals, as well as many other professions.

Sometimes, despite the best efforts of well-intentioned professionals, misunderstandings do occur. Although the person who made the mistake probably does not find it humorous, it can be quite entertaining for the rest of us. Below is a YouTube video of some of the headlines shown by host Jay Leno in The Tonight Show’s regular segment: Headlines.

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Yesterday, Wednesday, April 29th, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requested in a CNN interview for Americans to refer to Swine Flu as H1N1 Flu.  This request comes as pork imports from the U.S.  have been banned in several countries, including Russia, China, Dubai, and the Philippines.  Health officials have announced that the flu can not be spread by consuming pork.  However, the stigma that has been attached to pork still remains for many.  The U.S. government is hoping that this change will dissipate the connection between pork and the virus.  Fred Tasker explains the situation in an article in the Miami Herald.

When I first heard about the name change, I thought it was silly.  However, after learning how steeply imports of pork have been affected, I now see the value in changing the way we refer to this new strain of the flu virus.  I think it’s interesting that Vilsack made a request to the American people as a whole, not just government and health officials.  This broad approach could be helpful as people interact with importers of pork.  It will be interesting to see how many people actually change the name.  I think the new name may be used by government and health officials, but the first name of something new has a way of sticking in the general public, especially when it’s referred to on the news.

Below is a video of Dr. Joe Bresee, M.D. with the CDC Influenza Division speaking about the H1N1 Flu, which he called “Swine Flu” at the time:

Source: Tasker, Fred. “Name Change: Government stops salling virus ‘swine flu’.” The Miami Herald. 2009. Apr. 30, 2009 <http://www.miamiherald.com/459/story/1025884.html&gt;.

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Domino’s Disaster

We recently discussed the video on YouTube posted by a Domino’s employee who videotaped her co-worker doing some disgusting things to the food they were preparing to deliver to customers.  I won’t give the dirty details, but this was definitely a PR disaster for Domino’s.  The president of Domino’s, Patrick Doyle, offered a formal apology in a YouTube video.

I think the formal apology on YouTubewas a very good move.  Hopefully, the same people who have visited YouTube and saw the offending video will see the apology as well.  Unfortunately, the initial shock and disgust felt by Domino’s customers can not be fully retracted.

With current technology, viral videos are putting power in the hands of anyone with the know-how to upload a video. Obviously, when that power is abused, the reputations of multi-million dollar companies can be put on the line. If  these businesses are not up to date on PR outlets such as social media, they may suffer great loss. Hopefully this teaches a lesson to all companies, one which we have been reminded of multiple times in my PR 2330 class: track what is being said about your company!! With the incredibly fast pace of social media, responses need to be as fast as possible – someone is commenting on what is being said/watched. You would rather those comments be made by your company than other sources.

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