Lessons at the Disaster Drill

On Wednesday, April 19 Harding University conducted its annual disaster drill. The drill simulated a multi-vehicle accident involving a University bus carrying students to a sports tournament in Texas. The local fire department brought out the Jaws of Life, and the hospital even flew out a rescue helicopter. My entire Public Relations Tactics class was invited to accompany the PR professionals at Harding to observe the event and watch how they handled the situation.

The most important thing I learned was the specifics about timing. We were told that ideally, the University would know about any disaster situation before the media and/or the general public. The company/organization involved in a disaster should be the first to make a statement about it. However, there are instances in which local authorities or the media will contact you first, and the second that that contact is made, you’re on the clock. At Harding, they said that as soon as they learn about an incident they have one hour to prepare a statement. Another thing you have to watch out for is social media. We were told that it is becoming more and more common to find out about a situation because someone who saw it or was involved in it posted about it on social media. Regardless of how the situation is made known to the school, they still have a one-hour deadline.

Another thing I learned about crisis communication is that in the event of casualties, the local authorities MUST be the one to tell them, they cannot find out about it any other way. If that means you have to call the Denver Police Department to inform them of a casualty, then you call the Denver Police Department. Also, it was stressed heavily that you never tell the family about the loss of a loved one over the phone. If they ask you, tell them that the situation is being investigated, and you or someone with the proper authority will let them know as soon as possible, and then you let their local authorities tell them in person.

It truly was a blessing to be able to watch PR professionals handle a disaster and the crisis communication involved in real time.

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United Airlines’ Crash Landing

It’s been almost a week since Chicago Department of Aviation officers dragged Dr. David Dao off his United Airlines flight, in order to make room for other crew members. Since then, there has been extensive coverage of the event and United Airlines has issued several statements. I believe from a public relations standpoint, United started off very poorly, but since then they have responded more thoughtfully and carefully.

Monday morning, the morning after the event, Oscar Munoz, United’s CEO issued a public statement and a letter to employee’s. That letter to the employees was where United really messed up.

“This situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help,” Munoz said. “Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.”

Yikes. There are a few words and phrases in that letter that anyone who has seen the video would instantly red flag. First and foremost, “politely” and “established procedures”. Now, I’m sure that the altercation began with a polite request, but the video evidence shows three officers dragging the bloodied man out of the plane as he struggles and screams. That’s not “polite” and I really hope that’s not United’s “established procedure” for such instances. I can understand Munoz saying those things when everything was still up in the air, but this is after he, and thousands of others, had seen the video. And then to end the statement claiming that you, the CEO, stand behind the officers that did this. Not good. Not good at all.

However, since that letter, and as things became clearer, I think Munoz and United took the right steps, including the suspension of the three officers and multiple apologies to Dao, the other passengers, and all United Airlines patrons stating,

“The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.”

Munoz went on to say that United is committing that law enforcement will not be contacted unless there is a security threat, and they are conducting a thorough review of company policies and crew training, and results of the review will be released by April 30.

This nightmare event followed by the very poorly worded letter to employees has dug United into a very deep hole, and it’s going to take a lot more than apologizing to regain the trust of the public. Unfortunately for them, that’s all they can really do for now.

Click here for a video and more information.

Seeing the Work of a Master

On Tuesday, March 28th I went with my advanced photography class on a field trip (yes, apparently they do have those in college) to the Arkansas Arts Center to see the Ansel Adams exhibit currently on display. As an aspiring photographer, it was surreal.

We got to the center right when it opened at 10 a.m. and proceeded to the exhibit. There were probably around 30 to 40 prints. And not just reprints but the actual prints. The first image I saw was titled Yosemite from Inspiration Point, Summer andansel adams inspiration point
I was immediately taken aback by the clarity of the image. When people talk about the detail Adams was able to capture in his images, they are underselling it. When people say that even the clearest monitor displaying the most high-resolution image doesn’t do his photographs justice, they aren’t lying. I
could make out details on individual trees on the furthest horizon as if I was actually standing there in real life. But there’s more to the images than the clarity. Everything about them was calculated. It’s been said that if you can see it in the image, Adams wanted you to see it. And if you can’t, he didn’t. Being able to see the work of such a legendary photographic genius was incredible. And to add onto this, some of the photographs were accompanied by notes Adams wrote himself. Right in front of me were an 80-year-old print and an 80-year-old piece of paper that Ansel Adams himself wrote on. It’s still hard to believe that I was able to see that.

I had decided to go on the field trip because I figured it would be silly to pass up the opportunity to see the work of such an iconic, and a personal favorite, photographer. I left with a completely different grasp on what photography can be. If I were to pick one positive of the trip, it would be my renewed sense of passion for the documentation of the beauty this world has to offer, and the dedication it takes to do it right. If I had to pick one negative of the trip, it would be that they didn’t have the actual negatives of any of the photographs, but I may be getting a little greedy with that.

Ansel Adams possessed the unique ability to capture a whole other location, and place you in it. I will never forget what it was like to visit those locations.

A Look at Luke

Who am I?

My name is Luke Theisen, I am currently a junior at Harding University working towards a bachelor’s degree in public relations. I am a native Michigander from a town named Howell. I have five things that I am truly passionate about: God, my girlfriend and future wife Mikaela, the Detroit Red Wings, video games, and Star Wars (more specifically Darth Vader). There was a time where playing piano, guitar and ukulele would have been on that list, but as my life progresses certain things start to get replaced by school and work and other lame adult responsibility things. At least that’s what I like to say. In honesty, most of my time is spent with Mikaela.

As for my career choice, I have two “dream jobs” that brought me to the field of public relations. The first is being hired as a community manager for a video game company. The ideal scenario would be to work at Bungie, Inc. as a community manager for their game Destiny, as that’s the game/company that introduced me to the job. The second “dream job” would be working as a PR rep for the Red Wings.

As you can see, I’m trying my best to intertwine my passions with my career. I’m a firm believer in pursuing your passions and making what you love also what you get paid to do. I want to have a job I actually enjoy, not one that just brings in a paycheck. Now if only the Galactic Empire needed a PR guy…

What is this blog about?

This blog is pretty much just a class blog. I created it in Fall 2016 for my Print News Writing class and now it serves as my blog for Public Relations Tactics. Naturally, that means the theme for this blog is Public Relations. Up until this point all of my posts are about prompts I am given by a professor, however, pretty soon my fellow students and I will be writing about ideas and events we choose. As for the future of this blog after I graduate, we will just have to wait and see.

What I’ve learned about blogging.

I’ve learned quite a bit since creating this blog. On the technical side of things, I’ve learned about Search Engine Optimization and how to improve your chances of getting your content onto people’s screens and I’ve learned about the back end workings of a blog and blogging websites. But on a more practical side of things, I’ve learned how much work actually goes into creating a successful blog. I’ve learned that it isn’t about getting the most views, it’s about getting consistent viewers. And I’ve learned that blogs are a very powerful platform in the right hands, and can make or break a person or company.

Using SEO to Rise to the Top

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of creating a website that attracts as many visitors as possible and appears first/high on the first page of a search result online. There are many factors that go into SEO, but first I want to briefly mention the types.

There are two types of SEO, organic (free) and paid. Paid SEO is, obviously, when you pay for your ad or website or whatever it is to be seen. YouTube ads, banner ads on the sides and tops of websites and search ads are all examples of paid SEO. If you or your company has the money, it’s sometimes a good idea to pay for these things to ensure that your website will be at the top of the Google search result or your ad will stream before YouTube videos. However, there are things you can do to optimize your websites SEO without paying a cent, which is where organic SEO comes in. As mentioned earlier, there are many factors that go into maximizing your SEO so I’m just going to mention the basics.

First up is site speed. Believe it or not, Google doesn’t like a slow website and if your website takes longer than two seconds to load, it gets pushed further down the search results. You can use Google Analytics to monitor your site speed as well as its traffic and your core audience.

Next is keyword optimization. This is when you use words and phrases within your website that your audience uses so that when they search for something, your content appears. There are many tools to help with this, one being Google keyword planner.

The third thing could almost be considered a subpoint of the last idea, use keywords in your websites file names, especially images. For example, if your website is for a camping store don’t save an image as “001.jpg”, instead save it as “green_tent.jpg” or “cheap_camping_chair.jpg” or something along those lines. That way when someone searches “cheap camping chair in Google, your website will show as a result.

The fourth factor is permalinks, which are the permanent URLs to your individual pages. Make sure they are short and contain searchable terms and keywords.

Next is mobile responsiveness. You want to make sure that your website is mobile friendly. Not only are phones and tablets being used more and more to browse the internet, but Google won’t even promote a website if it’s not mobile responsive.

And finally, saving the most important thing for last, make sure you have a quality website. It sounds obvious, but quality is the new SEO and pushing quality content is the most important thing you can do.

Hopefully this helps to clear some things up and show you the importance of SEO. If you’re trying to promote a website, try these things out and make sure to research the topic further.

The Death of the Press Release

After reading “Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!” I was very confused as to what was going on in 2006 to cause Tom Foremski to write the article in the first place. He was very upset at the state of press releases at the time and offered his suggestions on how to reform them, some of which are common practices now when a press release is written correctly. His other suggestions, however, are fueled by what I can only describe as laziness. To quote from his post,

“Here is my proposal: …

-Provide a brief description of what the announcement is, but leave the spin to the journalists. The journalists are going to go with their own spin on the story anyway, so why bother? Keep it straightforward rather than spintastic.”

(This I agree with mainly because this is how they are supposed to be written.)

“-Provide a page of quotes from the CEO or other C-level execs.

-Provide a page of quotes from customers, if applicable.

-Provide a page of quotes from analysts, if applicable.

-Provide financial information in many different formats.

-Provide many links inside the press release copy, and also provide a whole page of relevant links to other news stories or reference sources. And tag everything so that I can pre-assemble my stories.

When I read that all I heard was, “All I want to do is add a spin to the story. You go out and get 5+ pages of lists of information, quotes, facts, links, etc. and then arrange them in a way so that I can effortlessly tab through them and copy and paste what I like into a document and add a ‘spin.’” I’m sorry, but that doesn’t work for me. As a public relations professional it is my job to tell you what you need to know. And in its current state, a press release is a page (maybe two) of pertinent information, facts, and quotes of things a journalist needs to know. If you want more information than what’s in the press release, that’s on you, Tom. You are a journalist after all.

On a less cynical note, I don’t know what press releases were like in 2006, but I do know that even today there are some outrageously awful examples. Based on the article, press releases have come a long way in regards to how they are (supposed to be) written. And with the growth of the Social Media News Release, I can only imagine that Mr. Foremski is much happier now than he was in 2006.

What’s New: Accidents and Crashes

Every year, a new version of the AP Stylebook is released containing all kinds of additions, retractions and changes. The 2016 AP Stylebook, for example, contains over 240 changes, highlighted in the “What’s New?” section at the beginning of the book. One of those changes is in regards to car – and other types – of accidents and crashes. The entry for accident, crash reads,

“Generally acceptable for automobile and other collisions and wrecks. However, when negligence is claimed or proven, avoid accident, which can be read by some as a term exonerating the person responsible. In such cases, use crash, collision or other terms.”

So according to this new entry, if you were writing a report on a car accident or crash that had occurred and neither parties claimed negligence, nor was it proven, then you are free to report the incident as an accident. However, if negligence is claimed or proven, meaning that one of the parties involved is being held responsible, you would report the incident as a crash or collision because the word “accident” has an implication that it was not anyone’s fault.

I think this is important to the communication world because the news is one of the largest if not the largest field for communication professionals. On top of that, one of the most reported incidents in the news, especially in local news, is car crashes. This change to AP style adds a differentiation in how these events are reported that has not been there before. I feel that, due to the sheer amount of accidents and crashes being reported every day, that this was a very important change to write about. It may not be the most groundbreaking change in meaning, but in terms of usage I think it is important to be aware of.