Cindy Brugge

A Public Relations Student

Month: January, 2014

Perfect in her Imperfections: Why the Whole World Loves Jennifer Lawrence

On television, Jennifer Lawrence manages to cuss, flip off her co-stars and talk about her spitting on people, and yet the country still loves her. In fact, there is a subreddit dedicated to her, where her fans have posted their undying praise for the beautiful actress. However, her public actions seem unfiltered and sometimes even uncouth. In a world where female public figures have always been expected to act with dignity and poise, why are conservative, polite stars like Anne Hathaway hated, while the rough edges of J-Law make her irresistible?

She’s down to earth. Although many people think that she is better than imaginable, the truth is she is actually incredibly relatable. We can see real people in Jennifer. I see my imaginary best friend’s awesome older sister, who comes home from college and everything she says is a little jewel of wisdom. She’s fun, she’s confident and she’s happy to laugh at herself. Jennifer is the girl that you look up to, rather than the girl that you envy because she’s so untouchable. When one reporter asked Jennifer how the Hunger Games: Catching Fire premier was going, she replied, “Good! I just found two mentos in my pocket.” She didn’t take this opportunity to relate the starving children of Africa to the citizens of District 12. No, she said something that grounded her, so that her fans would say, “Haha! She’s just like me.”

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The many hilarious faces of Jennifer Lawrence to remind us that she’s totally normal.

She isn’t afraid to be herself. Many actresses seem to be constantly spouting off an acceptance speech. They don’t seem like real people. Instead, they feel like Barbie’s who are overly nice. The natural reaction is to question who they really are and to assume that they are hiding something. There are definitely stars on the other side of the spectrum who are giving drunken speeches and flashing the media. What separates J-Law is that she seems to soberly say who she is with no fear. Her stance on body image is the most revered opinion that sways against Hollywood norms. Though she is the definition of beauty, she doesn’t fall into the anorexic look of many Hollywood stars. She’s thin, but her features are soft and her bust is full. However, when she was hired to play Katniss, some people thought that she was too overweight to play the character. She refused to lose weight, because she didn’t want to become the poster child of anorexia that every preteen girl was looking up to and saying, “If only I was that skinny.” In regards to a question about certain individuals telling Jennifer to lose weight, her response was, “If anybody even tries to whisper the word ‘diet’, I’m like, ‘You can go f–k yourself.”

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Jennifer Lawrence in Elle Magazine (December 2012)

She’s humble. Amid her strength in her opinions and her ability to make jokes, Jennifer seems completely unaware of how remarkable she is. She still blushes and gets starstruck around her favorite stars. She acts super shy around famous actors and is so excited when they stop by to say hi. Even in these little endearing moments, she shines.

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Jennifer Lawrence Freaks Out when She Meets Jack Nicholson. Click Image to View Video.

Although each of these subtitles address slight differences in her personality, ultimately Jennifer is just Jennifer. We could all learn something from Ms. Lawrence. When it comes to interacting with the media, people can read write through your script and see your heart. Now, let’s not be hasty to abandon communications counsel and air your dirty laundry on television. There is definitely a balance.

Honestly, if I owned a public relations company and J-Law was my client, I might be a little worried from time to time. In a Barbara Walters interview, Lawrence said, “I don’t know what’s going to fly out my mouth.” That’s definitely not the best option for most people in the media. It somehow works for her, but most of the time it won’t work for you.

However, we can still recognize that Jennifer’s frankness is refreshing. Let public relations professionals help you figure out how to say what needs to be said, while BEING YOURSELF. Be real, don’t take yourself too seriously and always be the last to toot your own horn.

Protecting the Pedophiles to Save your Butt: Unethical and Unsustainable

Last year, when a Texas father beat his 5-year-old daughter’s rapist to death and was not charged with murder, the world quickly realized: here in Texas, we have no tolerance for sexual abuse. I’ve found that the American south is a bit more adamant than other areas of the world, but, all in all, this nation generally agrees that pedophiliac acts are disgusting and entirely unacceptable.

However, after observing the repeated incidents of pedophiliac actions covered up to protect numerous companies’ image, I have begun to doubt how deeply we despise these actions. The following three cases have been revealed in the past few years and definitely bring corporate ethics into question.

The Boy Scouts of America: In 2012, files were uncovered that revealed 20 years of sexual abuse gone unreported. The Boy Scouts keep detailed records of the goings-on within the organization. When scout leaders were acknowledged as sex offenders, the organization would remove them from their troop and keep them from re-entering the Boy Scouts. However, these actions never included police involvement and didn’t aim to protect the abused child. Although these records date from 1965-1985, the organization kept the details private until a judge ordered their release two years ago. The result has been a steep decline in public respect and trust for a previously revered organization.

Pennsylvania State University: Penn State has been the focus of a major scandal for the past two years, involving a senior level sexual abuse cover-up. Former Football Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky worked for PSU for 30 years and founded Second Mile, a nonprofit for underprivileged children. With his connections, Second Mile held youth sports camps on Penn State campus. However, it was later revealed that Sandusky had been molesting the kids in his program. When Penn State officials discovered multiple incidents of molestation, they stopped allowing the camps to happen on Penn State property, but they never took the issue to the police or investigated the welfare of the victims. Once the scandal went public, multiple former Second Mile participants stepped forward with details of sexual abuse. Many victims sued both Sandusky and Penn State. Second Mile filed bankruptcy and Sandusky was sentenced to life in prison.

The Catholic Church: The Vatican has long been the center of attention for its sex abuse scandal. The entity has protected priests accused of indecency by shuffling them around from parish to parish, when any allegations arise. The truth began to leak out, as numerous men stepped forward to bring charges against their attackers. As a result, the public became aware of the trend that allowed repeated offenses from the same priests. The scandal has become a source of stress for the church and a discomfort for Catholic families around the world.

We wince in disgust for the cases we see on TV, but when it comes to our companies, we are willing to protect an image rather than a child. It has led me to a terrifying question.

Why are companies willing to abandon their ethical standing (on a generally unacceptable action) to protect themselves?

The simple answer is for immediate protection. To avoid the public eye and find the quickest fix, organizations are willing to stomach the most despicable of actions, with the hopes that no one will discover the truth.

The unfortunate reality of this world is that, ultimately, the dirtiest secrets are hung on the line for all to see. The public will discover every misstep and will judge twice as harshly. For this reason, public relations practitioners usually encourage honesty and apology. They help a company recognize that the truth may not set you free, but at least it’s not a lie.

In fact, the PRSA code of ethics holds honesty as one of its six professional values. Additionally, PRSA reminds its members that although they should be loyal to their clients, their primary obligation is to serve the general public. Public relations professionals of these companies were either not alerted or completely overlooked the public.

In these examples, the scariest part is their complete desertion of a conscience that considers the wellbeing of the child. All of these mentioned organizations strive to provide services to improve the quality of the lives of children. However, they have proven that their interests lie elsewhere.

By protecting the abuser and ignoring the abused, these corporations invalidate their mission statements. The Boy Scouts of America’s mission statement is a prime example of this unfortunate paradox.

“The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes…” 

The mission statement should guide the actions of an organization. When a mission statement obviously values ethics, then the decisions should follow those boundaries. However, it evidently doesn’t usually work that way. Many companies fail to act ethically and eventually take the fall.

Simply put, hiding unethical actions might seem like the most efficient way to contain a crisis in the moment, but deceit isn’t sustainable. One day, someone will bring the evil to light and the perpetrator will pay. (As a do-gooder, I personally find this very comforting.)

Despite their initial mistakes, the aforementioned companies have gone back to make their wrongs right. In the months following these scandals, the organizations took steps to create a safer environment for children and eradicate any sexual abuse.

Nevertheless, the general consensus from the public has been that it’s just a little too late and I would agree. Distrust and distaste are the only logical responses for their involvement in such a disliked action.

 

I know there’s mostly porn on the Internet, but has the rest of it gone to crap, too?

Just so you know, I’ve never done well with ethics. It’s not because I’m a bad person, who thinks that we should just do whatever we want. In fact, I’ve been known to be a bit of a goody-two-shoes. However, I commonly find it simple to see both sides of a situation and reason out why each side is entitled to its opinion. I can find a logical reason to justify some of the most questionable acts. However, there is one area, that even I concede, could use some boundaries and it is the World Wide Web.

Online ethics have been a source of debate and intrigue, since the invention of the Internet.  From the beginning, individuals have questioned how best to police human interaction in a virtual landscape.  Over time, officials have instigated laws to reign over the web, but what remains are large grey areas that don’t fall into illegal bounds.

Many professionals tried to break down the black and white immediately. One 1994 issue of the American Journalism Review included a sidebar with online tips for journalists. One such tip claims that private emails written to the reporter should be considered on the record, unless there was a prior agreement.

This advice would seem obvious to most reporters today, 20 years later. With time, we’ve grown more comfortable in these areas, but in the meantime more questions have arisen.

Should journalists or public relations professionals incorporate social media into their writing? Should they take social media at its word and assume that quotes posted on a wall originated from the user? If so, is their name correct? Is there a certain way to grant attribution? These are basic questions when considering how easy it is to snag a quote from a social media site and they barely skim the surface.

With the invention of blogging, the Internet has introduced a whole new medium to spread information quickly. Bloggers get away with bypassing substantiated facts, while touting extreme ideas with no authority. Anyone can be a blogger and legally talk about whatever they would like. Nothing separates Brad Pitt and your 12-year-old brother from writing a film blog. No blogger is required to provide any credibility before they begin typing away. (Says the blogger, who is only a college student.)  This has led to a mass entrance of questionable content. As a result, the public has begun to pull much of its information from unreliable sources. There is no accountability to govern the content, and surprisingly, there are few places to find information about online media ethics.

Out of this void, public relations and media professionals would devour a book on online media ethics. It might strike up entire university courses for journalism students or at least supplement journalism ethics courses.

After doing some research, I found that this idea has been somewhat explored.  Cecilia Friend and Jane Singer released a book in 2007, called Online Journalism Ethics. From what I saw, this book does not seem well known and has little reader potential. Disregarding its horrible cover and summary, it has grown irrelevant with time. Over half a decade old, it is hardly able to provide a comprehensive guidebook to the emerging media that grows exponentially.

Louisiana State University recognized this issue and created its own solution. Each semester, a media ethics course in its Manship School of Mass Communication requires its students to compile a pocket-sized book with useful tips and guidelines to an ethical online presence. The book covers issues ranging from transparency to photos and art to plagiarism. The manual isn’t for sale and (from what I have found) can only be requested by contacting Dean Jerry Ceppos, who teaches the course. I haven’t read it yet, but I appreciate the method they have taken to address this difficult topic. By creating the annual manual, they override the risk of outdated information.

I really appreciate their efforts to make a more ethically minded profession. With cyber-bullies and complete lies flooding the “news,” it’s nice to know that some people out there still care for the common decency of the Internet.

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The Target of a Public Relations Crisis

 

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DISCLAIMER: I am a major Target shopper. I am so addicted to shopping there that I considered job searching for a career at their corporate headquarters, for the supermarket discount. That idea lasted all of about three minutes, until I realized that its headquarters are in Minnesota. No thank you. However, I still consider myself a die-hard fan. However, even I was shaken into fear, when Target fell into a credit card fraudulence crisis this holiday season.

In the past month, Target has been the focus of a PR crisis, involving 110 million Americans. In a three-week period, Target’s computer systems were hacked and all individuals shopping during that time period were at risk for credit card fraud.

First of all, I’d like to note that in less than a month, over 100 million people shopped at Target. As one of those customers, I can tell you that many of us likely visited our neighborhood Mecca of deals and delights, more than once in that time-period. Granted, it was also the holiday season and Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, but still…

In immediate response to the attack, Target executives released statements and funded commercials to alert the public of the issue. These statements simply said that victims of fraud should contact Target directly to handle the issue. They also promised to share more information, if discovered.

In the following month, the uproar of media has died down, but many customers are afraid to visit Target stores and experience repeated difficulty with fraudulence. As a result, Target has experienced 2.5% drop in sales this quarter, compared with 2012.

It is my opinion that this drop comes from a small mistake in Target’s public relations department. Although they were quick to give the public all of the necessary information, they didn’t say what they were doing to protect customers in the future. Customers needed to be reassured that their money is safe at Target. They weren’t.

Target executives finally reached out Monday to apologize for their actions and say that it was only because they didn’t want to release incorrect or incomplete information. They also promised to invest $5 million into education about cyber-security. They also agreed to free identity theft protection to all Target customers.

These actions were needed and welcomed. However, they could have come sooner. During a season of warm and fuzzy forgiveness, Target might have been better off with apologizing before Christmas and the New Year. This mistake cost them a giant drop in sales for the last quarter and these penalties could linger into the following months. Thankfully for Target, shoppers like me still exist. We will continue to shop at Target and keep an eye on our bank statements, knowing we can always count on our favorite store.