PR means business!

The Manship Derby April 26, 2012

And they’re off! Out of the gates, Anticipation has taken the lead, followed by Excitement. Around the first turn, Anticipation and Excitement have fallen to the back while Stress and Debt take the lead. Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like this will be a long race with Stress and Debt leading the pack. Although Social Life had a promising lead in the beginning, it appears as though he will finish in dead last. Oh, wait! Future and Failure have taken the lead through the last turn. The finish line is in sight now and it’s going to be close between Future and Failure. They are neck and neck. And the winner is…

It has been such a long, tedious and often times, painful journey through the Manship School of Mass Communication. As I approach the end of my own college race and see the finish line right in front of me, one thing comes to my mind; “Don’t ‘F’ this up now!” ‘F’ for failure, of course. I think I can speak for all of the candidates preparing to graduate in May that it’s scary to think about the future. We’ve spent the past four years, or so, working toward this moment and now that it’s here, we want to go back in time. We’re no longer fighting for a grade, but for a job. Our economic dependence relies on a job. USA Today wrote an article about the angst of finding a job after graduation during a recession. Because of this, the job hunt has become a lot more competitive (click here to read the article).

Those that have studied in the Manship School of Mass Communication know that it can be extremely competitive in class, but are we ready for the competitiveness of the real world? We are all just a giant group of grade hoarders. We want to be the best and pretend we kept our sanity becoming the best. Although we suffer from insomnia and maybe we’ll develop wrinkles before we’re 25 years old, we can say that we are the best in Louisiana because we graduated from the Manship and lived to tell the tale. Now that we’re done, we will enter a whole new echelon of competitiveness. Hopefully, the years of sleeping with our AP Style Book under our pillows have prepared us enough not to suck after graduation.

My advice to Manship rookies would be to take advantage of every opportunity that the school has to offer. The Manship offers its students the very best opportunities from distinguished professors to resume-building extracurricular activities. You may never get another change to be apart of all the opportunities that the Manship offers after you graduate. Lastly, it is a collegiate sin to purchase textbooks from the LSU Union! It’s called Amazon, people. Google it.

So I guess it’s time for us to put on our big kid pants and enter the PR world with style – AP style, that is!


I wonder if God is on Twitter… March 29, 2012

There is one thing that I will never completely understand; social media. Why does someone need one hundred social networking accounts? Is it really that important how many people follow you on Twitter or how many friends you have on Facebook? Just because you aren’t mayor at the local Wal-Mart doesn’t mean your not cool. For anyone lost, that was a FourSquare reference, duh! Sadly, I possess accounts of all the examples I just gave.

Social media is literally everywhere. It does not discriminate nor does it limit people. Anyone from a four-year-old, a grandparent or even a family pet can have their own social media account. But why do people do it? What is so awesome about knowing what your friends are doing at every second of the day? Honestly, I couldn’t care less about the new album whats-his-face posted or who is in a relationship and who’s not. If I didn’t know when your birthday was to begin with, then we’re probably not good friends anyway so stop reminding me who’s birthday is today, Facebook. I DON’T CARE!

As the baby boomer generation gets older, the net generation gets smarter. As a generation, we don’t know how to research something without the use of the Internet. Dewy Decimal System? What’s that? I’ll Google it later on my smart phone. I’m not ashamed to say that I am one of “those” people. Not only does it make us lazier, but I think at the same time we are getting smarter. We literally have the world at our finger tips. Well, as long as there is WiFi around. Not only are we more informed, but I think social media also enhances democracy. The most attractive thing about social media is that it reinforces the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause and gives everyone a voice. From the ‘A’ list celebrities to the bullied kids at school, anyone can be heard. The main ingredient for democracy is the voice of the public. With blogs such as WordPress and Blogger, you can connect with anyone.

In opposition, social media can also damage democracy. Lets face it, not everyone out there knows what they are talking about. There are some strange people in this world and you can’t always take things as fact. At the same time, there are people out there who will believe anything they hear. When you mix vulnerability with falsity, it can’t result in anything good.

As with everything else, there are good and bad sides to it. As for social media, I think the good outweights the bad. The connectivity of the world enhances relations and the understanding of other cultures. Social media is the only thing that can help you get a job, find out what your mom is cooking for dinner, see what Justin Bieber is up too and start a nation-wide rebellion all at the same time.

If you liked this blog, click the “Like” button on the right to share it on Facebook. I’m really just kidding. Don’t do it! Maybe instead of stalking your ex on Facebook today, you could try reading a book. What am I thinking? A book? If it’s really that good then it will probably come out on video in a couple of months. So nevermind, just share it on Facebook!


Middle Schoolers vs. Tobacco Companies March 14, 2012

 Who Dat Doesn't Smoke?....We Don't!!

Last weekend, a member of my group, Erin Bernard, and I attended a Youth Summit for Tobacco Free Living in New Orleans. I have to be honest; I was dreading it. I did not want to spend my entire day listening to experts say exactly why smoking is bad. My initial feels about the Summit was eventually replaced as the day went on. It was actually really interesting. The first workshop I attended that day was Marketing Geniuses with Merritt McLaughlin from Forget Tobacco in New York. We learned about how big tobacco companies market to youth. It’s pretty alarming the lengths the companies go to get people to smoke. Every day, the big tobacco companies spend $28 million just in advertising. That’s insane! The logic behind targeting kids is that the companies want to get them addicted because they will be addicted for life. Among smokers, 75 percent wish they could stop and only 13 percent actually stop.

The next workshop I attended was Kick Butts Online: Using #SmokingMedia to Stand Out, Speak Up, and Seize Control Against Big Tobacco. The speaker in this group was Meagan Yarborough who is a social media expert in Washington D.C. (If you’re interested in getting advice from her about social media, follow her on Twitter @MissHealth). I have always been pretty good with social media, but she made me feel like a rookie. She taught us ways to increase our audience on Twitter and Facebook. Also, she showed us a website that had online petitions where people could just sign it electronically. The cool part is that with every submission made, a copy of the electronically signed petition is sent to the person trying to be persuaded. In SmokingWords’ case, we could do one and have it sent to the Chancellor.

The part of the day that will always stay with me was talking to a little girl while waiting for a workshop to begin. She said she was a middle school student in New Orleans. I asked her if she was here with her school and she said yes, but then started telling me why she hates smoking. She said that at her school, a lot of “crack-heads,” hang out across the street. Often times, she doesn’t feel safe in her own school. The reason she wanted to fight against the tobacco companies is because a lot of her friends at school smoke and some are already addicted to even worse. She said that for all of the kids at school that are addicted to worse drugs, all started out by just smoking. It eventually leads to wanting more. It’s sad to me that someone so young is already so affected by smoking. When I was in middle school, I don’t think I even knew what addiction was. Her story really encouraged me to stay in the fight against tobacco companies not for my own advantage, but for her and for other kids who are affected negatively by smoking.


You’re not American without a flag lapel pin. March 1, 2012

In the midst of the GOP nomination going on, I have come to the conclusion that politics are for losers. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a debate on tax rates just as much as the next guy, but I think we can all agree that this whole election thing is needs to be reevaluated. There will never be a topic that everyone in America will all agree on. Everyone is either mad at the democrats or the republicans, but no one wants to take any blame for themselves. If I were to give the State of the Union speech and just say “America is cool,” I’m pretty certain headline’s the next day would say things like, “Vicknair is a communist,” or “State of the Union speech causes riots.”

I wonder how much of politics is real and how much is strictly for an image. Public relations practitioners for political candidates might be the closest anyone will ever get to being Inspector Gadget. When a candidate gets bad coverage, their PR person just says, “go, go gadget positive image control,” and suddenly their opening a new children’s hospital. It even comes down to who wore the flag pin on their lapel and who didn’t. Of course that’s because when you don’t wear an American flag pin on your collar it means you hate America. If you don’t believe me, check out Mitt Romney’s Facebook page. You’ll see him nicely framed in front of a waving flag with a flag pin on his lapel. Nothing says I’ll make an awesome president like that “must-have” accessory. People complain so much when politicians don’t wear their flag pin. I guess flag pins are much more important than feeding the homeless and lowering the unemployment rate. CNN commented on the ludicrous arguments over the lapel pin debate. Click here to read the article.

 I know that PR works pretty close to the media, but it seems like in politics, they won’t ever get along. PR practitioners for political candidates will work most of their careers at changing the public opinion from what the media originally said about them. They will work to undo every negative thing done and said about their candidate, even when it is the politician’s fault. The PR team works to create and run the entire campaign but done via an individual candidate.  According to a psychology study on the effects of political communications, PR’s goal is to persuade the audience and control the agenda.

To follow more of the current election and how it’s being covered by the media follow The New York Times on Twitter @nytimespolitics.


Research: Evil Villian or Hero? February 17, 2012

A challenge more difficult than banning tobacco use on all universities in Louisiana is actually researching what smoking studies have been done before. That was the task my public relations campaign group had the privilege, for a lack of better words, of tackling the past few weeks. Research is a word that makes even the strongest men flinch in agony. Darth Vader would even say that research is just too evil.

All evil villans are faced with a choice at the cross-roads of their evil lives. They can either continue down the path of destruction and always be feared, or they can reinvent themselves, join the good side and become a hero (que the revelation music).

Many people would agree that research starts out as pure evil. Wreaking havoc among society and scaring the villagers. It can eventually take one of two paths. It can reveal absolutely nothing about the objectives you want to achieve. At this point, you have to decide to either continue down the evil path of researching, or you can abandon ship and pretend you never experienced the dark side. The other path research can take is the evolution into a hero. Sometimes, the results of your research can clarify your objectives and lead to a successful campaign. Research hero’s become the foundation of any study. When things start to go wrong, your research is there to once again save the world.

At the start of our research journey, we knew that emotional preparation was going to be necessary if we were to make it out alive. Letters were written to loved ones and goals were successfully scratched off bucket-lists as we went into this daring assignment of researching smoking statistics. This was a painstaking task to complete for our client, SmokingWords. Not only is there an enormous amount of research circulating in this universe and other galaxies far, far away, but it also challenged some of our emotions. There was one piece of information that I won’t ever forget. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. That’s a shocking revelation for anyone, smoker or not, to have to learn. In Louisiana alone, approximately 6,500 adults die each year from smoking related illnesses. That number doesn’t include all of the people who suffer from secondhand smoke. Just when you thought the force could protect you from any evil, you were wrong. Even jedi knights are negatively effected by smoking.

Another shocking discovery is the monetary costs of smoking in Louisiana. Annual health care cost directly caused by smoking is approximately $1.47 billion. And you’re worried about LSU budget cuts? Are you kidding me? People know the risks and the financial sacrafices behind smoking and yet they still do it.

I know that people have a choice to smoke and they should enjoy the right to do so. However, as a non-smoker myself, I don’t want to be a part of that health care statistic because of smoke. I understand that the risks of secondhand smoke are less severe than that of a smoker, but it’s pretty obvious that some of the $1.47 billion went to people who don’t smoke but was still affected by secondhand smoke.

SmokingWords has received some help with it’s initiatives. In October of 2011, WAFB Channel 9 News, covered a story about Dr. Judith Sylvester, director of SmokingWords, and the fight to get LSU to ban smoking on campus. Although it portrayed SmokingWords in a positive way, it also highlighted opposition to a ban of that nature. In my opinion, a lack of smoking education is to blame. If students were aware of all the risks surrounding tobacco, I think SmokingWords would gain a lot more support from the student body. To read the full article, CLICK HERE.

Aside from gathering secondary research, we have also worked toward gathering primary data through a survey. We disseminated the survey among students on the LSU campus. Students were asked various questions about smoking habits. The survey is completely confidential to protect participant’s identity and to ensure fair results. To take the survey, CLICK HERE.

Through all the research we have done on smoking facts and statistics on college campuses, it gives me more of an incentive to work to make LSU a smoke-free campus. I can joke about villans and super heros, but voluntarily harming the health of you and others around you is no joke. Hopefully, our research can be a hero for others to inspire them to quit smoking. If not for yourself, then for others who have already made the choice to stay healthy. Heed the advice from the great jedi Yoda, “Quit smoking, you must!”


Fresh Campus for LSU: Support & Educate February 16, 2012

My name is Samantha Vicknair. I am a public relations student in the Manship School of Mass Communication with a history minor. Now that my graduation date has been set, it’s time for me to complete my capstone course; Public Relations Campaigns. Through all of my years at Louisiana State University, or LSU, I have heard horror stories about the campaigns class. Now that I am in the class and things are getting started, I feel a lot more at ease. One of our first assignments was to create a firm name and logo. After deliberation and trying out different creative ideas, we chose PlanIt Public Relations as our firm’s name.

My group and I were assigned to SmokingWords, a campaign to get LSU to become a tobacco-free campus. My role is the strategy director. We had our first meeting with our client, Dr. Sylvester, on Tuesday, Jan. 31. In my opinion, the meeting went very well. I think it was a good way to get us all started on the same page. Now that we know what she expects from us, we can plan accordingly. As the strategy director, it was important for me to know what her goals are for us so I can lay out a plan for the group.

Dr. Sylvester’s main goal is to educate the students about the harmful effects of tobacco use and to persuade action to change the current policy. I think that our main target audience should be the non-smokers. I’m sure that smokers are well aware that it is a dangerous addiction and they have the choice to quit at any time. It’s the non-smokers who aren’t aware of what they are being subjected to. Although we as Americans enjoy the right to smoke, we should also enjoy the right to not be effected by smoke. According to the Mayo Clinic, impurities from cigarettes in the air can cause serious illnesses to non-smokers including cancer.

There will always be those people who refuse to acknowledge that the unhealthy choices they make are harming others. According to The Telegraph from the United Kingdom, smokers feel as if the government is telling them how they can and cannot relieve stress.

We have a lot of work ahead of us to achieve our goals. I feel that it is an attainable goal and I hope changes will be made soon to make LSU a tobacco-free campus. According to CNN, tobacco-free campuses are a growing trend with about 60 campuses involved in the United States. Hopefully, LSU will join the 60 other campuses and gain momentum for the tobacco-free campus campaign.