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Internships are Study Abroad Experiences

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Internships are Study Abroad Experiences

Ideally, Internships aren’t just about getting resume-filler.  They’re about practical experience, networking, and portfolio-building.  One aspect of internships that most of us take for granted is the vital role they play in acclimating young people to  office culture.

Don’t laugh.  I was fortunate to have worked in my father’s insurance office since I was 13, but most young people don’t have that sort of exposure to the white-collar working world and its various intricacies.

Office culture is so ubiquitous and richly-textured that the sitcom “The Office” has spawned numerous adaptations for the varying office cultures around the world, beginning first in the UK but then moving to the US, Germany, Canada, Chile, Israel, and Sweden.

Virtually every textbook in Communications and Public Relations stresses the importance of cultural competence in effective communication.  So many of our paradigms for encoding and decoding messages are culture-specific.  Here’s what I mean:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K5SycZjGhI

Tips for Students on Maximizing Their Internships

1. Get Something out of the Experience: Unfortunately there are still a lot of organizations that don’t monetarily compensate their interns.  The practice is unethical in my opinion (and the opinion of the Public Relations Society of America).  The current dismal economic climate isn’t helping matters much, but for students unable to get hourly pay or a stipend (to cover the cost of the credits for the class) for their efforts there are still ways to get value from the experience by ensuring that one of three things comes out of their work:

  • A Name: It’s easier to make the case to take an unpaid internship if the organization is one that has a solid reputation that will look good as legitimate work experience on a resume.
  • Solid Experience: Another intangible value if a name and money aren’t available for an internship is hands-on experience.  Particularly for nonprofits and small companies, the possibility exists for an intern to be given a great deal of responsibility that exceeds the typical student experience.  Being able to oversee projects and produce valuable portfolio content also has a great deal of merit.
  • Cultural Competence: For the rare student that already knows what field or type of PR that they want to practice, gaining exposure to the networks of professionals and world they operate in is also valuable.  Absent a name, cash, or responsibility in return for one’s work – being a fly on the wall in high-level meetings or consuming industry-specific literature on the job can also be valuable.

2.  Keep a Diary: Many people find journaling to be valuable while studying abroad and that also applies to “studying abroad” in the office environment.  Frequently when we’re in the moment at a job, it can be extraordinarily difficult to process and remember everything we experience.  Writing them down helps not only the exercise of processing what we learn, but helping us internalize it so that we can actually apply it to our own careers.  Try the following:

  • Jot down terms you don’t understand to look up later.
  • Keep records of the names of people you meet and the organizations they work for (this may come in handy .  Maintain a running list of all of the unspoken “rules” for office behavior that you encounter (email alone is rife with behavioral norms).

3.  Stay Open to Unfamiliar Experiences: Just as when traveling abroad, working in an office is a richer experience when you keep an open mind and volunteer for (or better yet, seek out) opportunities to do things or go places we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Looking back now after 15 years in PR, I realize that learning what I DON’T like has been just as valuable as learning what I DO like.  The earlier you can develop self-awareness, the more opportunity you have to change your career trajectory toward a career that is fulfilling.

It may not seem like it now when you’re eating Ramen and worrying about affording gas for your car, but money isn’t everything.  Contrary to what many textbooks, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and services like Salary.com say – you’re likely not going to get rich doing PR (the “starting salaries” they list are laughably inaccurate) … and that’s okay.  What matters more is that you like the work and find it life-affirming.

4.  Observe Others Reactions to You: Despite egalitarian ethos espoused by the the US, not everyone is equal in the workplace.  Different standards (and in some cases, double-standards) still exist for for race, gender and culture.  Understanding this is critical to navigating office politics.  I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you that a strong work ethic and quality output aren’t all you need to be successful in the white-collar world.

Given how much of PR is interpersonal relationships (with the media, with clients, with co-workers, with customers), every aspiring professional needs to be aware of how they may be received by the people they interact with daily.  Fortunately you have plenty of opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them early in your career – those opportunities diminish as you get older.

Women especially have to be aware of relationship dynamics in the office, as they are more frequently held to a different standard than men.  Take the adage “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult” from Charlotte Whitton.  Regrettably I’ve found this to be true in the so-called enlightened workplace of the “modern” era.

The curious thing I’ve observed is that women need to worry less about sexism from men than they do from other women.  Throughout my career, the majority of my supervisors have been female and I’ve watched as a female colleague many years my senior in experience and ability has her view challenged where I am not even though I’m making the same contention.

As far as race and ethnicity go, the sad reality is that most organizations put the “White” in “White-Collar.”  There isn’t nearly as much diversity in most offices as there should be.  The upside is that this creates a great deal of opportunity for minority PR students: savvy firms and companies are looking to hire them.  Naturally, PR pros know the intrinsic value of a diverse range of backgrounds and viewpoints in generating creative ideas as well as in relating to the increasingly-diverse US population.

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O’Dwyer Runs Afoul of Wikipedia in Effort to Defame PRSA

January 15, 2012 3 comments

Jack O'Dwyer's Conspiracy Theories

In his zeal to advance his attack on the Public Relations Society of America my favorite curmudgeon Jack O’Dwyer has finally discovered Wikipedia.

Unfortunately O’Dwyer doesn’t really understand it, and now he’s attacking the Wikimedia Foundation and Jimmy Wales because of the articles on “public relations” as well as its “history” and the fact that Wikipedia strongly discourages PR pros from contributing directly to the vaunted online encyclopedia.

To this end, Phil Gomes with Edelman started a group on Facebook called “Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement” or CREWE.  It’s already made some excellent strides toward creating policy and procedure that everyone can follow for contributing to the entries in Wikipedia.  As he frequently does (which makes him a fantastic case study in how to be a spokesperson for an organization), Jimmy Wales actually joined the discussion on CREWE and has been active in helping address the concerns that some of the public relations pros have had with Wikipedia.

Unfortunately O’Dwyer’s lack of comprehension has led him to again don his tinfoil cap and allege a conspiracy where none exists.  He mistakenly believes Wikipedia is deliberately ignoring or censoring mentions of a disputed account of the Tylenol Case Study (it’s not).  He also described many of the standard conventions of Wikipedia entries as significant in the case of the entries on PR and its history (unaware that they’re automatic configurations).

O’Dwyer took it upon himself to edit these entries and when his entries were rejected for publication, he cried foul and demanded action (both publicly and trying to run up the chain of command inside Wikipedia rather than appealing directly to the editors that removed his contributions).

Here’s the response he received from Jimmy Wales (which I was so amused by that I published a sensational tweet about it, something I was rightly chastised by Wales for):

“Jack, I am unsure what you are asking for here. If you want to have a meeting with people to argue that your site is reliable, then I don’t think the NYC chapter is the right organization to do that, since they would have nothing to do with that. 

I checked our internal email system to see why you might think your email was ignored. It turns out that it was forwarded to Jay Walsh who has been on vacation. But nevermind, you have my ear now so if you can explain more clearly what you are asking I can try to help.

Your email to us claimed that you had been blocked from Wikipedia, but the volunteer who processed your email pointed out internally that that isn’t true – your account has not been blocked.

What did happen was that an embarrassingly bad edit you made to an article was reverted. The edit was blatantly promotional about a book that, news sources say, you are “supporting”. Is this a client? 

In any event, in this case, we have a lovely example of how the system works and how NOT to try to edit Wikipedia and WHY I think paid advocates should not edit articles directly, ever.” – Jimmy Wales, January 10 at 12:15pm

Too right.  O’Dwyer’s conspiracy theories aside, here’s what is ACTUALLY happening:

1. People don’t CARE about the definition of Public Relations, or the history of PR.  That’s why there is a dearth of content – it’s not a deliberate lack of inclusion from Wikipedia.  That’s also why there is a dearth of books on the subject (outside of textbooks or tactical manuals).  They care even less about the “Council of PR Firms” – another entity O’Dwyer complains about a lack of content for.  That’s one of the downsides of crowdsourcing – it produces content skewed populist (which is why the Wikipedia entries for Tim Tebow and Beyonce have more in-depth content).

2. Content published by public relations pros gets deleted by Wikipedia editors as a direct result of the non-transparent and dishonest way PR people have used Wikipedia in the past.  Unfortunately a combination of avarice and ignorance on the part of PR pros created a very hostile relationship with Wikipedians so that they are very mistrustful – I don’t blame them.

Since then, however, a process has emerged for PR people to contribute content to Wikipedia (some excellent detailed suggestions for PR pros are provided by Wikipedian JMabel here):

  1. Learn about Wikipedia (particularly spend some time observing the discussion forums where the specifics of entries, contributors and contributions are debated).
  2. Be open and transparent.
  3. Post your suggestions for contributions to the “Talk” section of a Wikipedia entry and appeal to some of the Wikipedians who have contributed to that entry or similar entries to consider your content for inclusion.
  4. Freely license any intellectual property (images, video) you’d like included under either a Gnu Free Documentation License (GFDL) or a Creative Commons license.  If you want something on Wikipedia – you can’t retain a traditional, exclusive license to it – because it will invariably be re-used by others for a variety of purposes (which is a good thing).

3. Wikipedia is decentralized and lacks a hierarchy – which is the POINT.  As he’s accustomed to bullying his way to preferential treatment, O’Dwyer actually attempted to go right up the chain of command at the Wikimedia Foundation and have his way:

“E-mails to NYC WP leaders inviting them to my office have been ignored. E-mails to Wikimedia are ignored and someone told me in a live WP chat that only volunteers handle the media.” – Jack O’Dwyer, January 10 at 11:57am

4. Dexterity is the point of wiki tools; after all, the etymology of the word is Hawaiian for “very quickly” – which is why it was chosen by Ward Cunningham for the first “Wiki” he created back in 1995.  This has two very important ramifications for how content will appear on Wikipedia:

  • It must be DIGITAL.  Any sourcing for Wikipedia must go to either webpages or digital versions of photo, video and documents.
  • It must be OPEN.  As a crowdsourced innovation, Wikipedia allows for democratic participation by all – and that means that everyone gets to see not only the final product but the sausage-making that took place to get there.  That’s why it’s important for ORIGINAL sourcing to be used as opposed to secondary sourcing.

What we Learn

O’Dwyer is failing at interacting with Wikipedia because he tried to link to content in the subscriber-only section of his website, and rather than publish his sources online – he wants to try to coax someone into his office to pore over the mouldering stacks of paper documents and books he has.  Not only that, but O’Dwyer doesn’t understand that he can’t simultaneously profit from his paywalled content AND have people actually read it – you have to choose one or the other.

This should be instructive to anyone who wants to be successful in the digital world: in order to spread, content must be freely shared and easily-accessible.

The Internet in many ways rebooted our world to Year Zero; by that I mean the credibility and reputation earned by certain organizations over the past thousands of years of human interaction were rendered less important.  The web, instead, bases reputation and credibility on MERIT.  That’s why Wikipedia is searched and cited far more than Encyclopedia Britannica.  O’Dwyer stridently attempted to cash in on his years of print publications, but the editors of Wikipedia would have none of it:

“WP needs to acknowledge O’Dwyer’s as a “reliable” source since we are the only ones ever to cover PR Seminar, the 65-year-old very important “secret society” of top corporate and agency execs. ” – Jack O’Dwyer, January 10 at 11:57am

A hilarious footnote to this whole situation is that O’Dwyer has continued to use the CREWE group to wage his war against PRSA, and he’s been specifically asked to stop doing this by the moderator of the group and several of its members because it’s irrelevant to the actual discussion at hand (he’s not just posting irrelevant replies, he’s been publishing irrelevant wall posts).  Sigh.

Seeking Advice From Journalists who Made the Leap to “Brand Journalism”

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

The Public Relations Society of America asked me to write a little piece on Brand Journalism for a series they’re doing on trends for 2012 (“#PRin2012: 12 Trends That Will Change Public Relations“).

As a follow-up, I’d love to hear from journalists who recently made the jump to public relations who perform a similar journalistic role for their company/organization – reporting on its “news.”

If you’re a news professional who now reports on a company/organization’s news in a PR role and you’re interested in sharing your insights, please visit this form (I will gladly keep your personal information confidential and attribute your comments anonymously if you request).

Jack O’Dwyer is Less Woodward & Bernstein, More Statler & Waldorf

November 2, 2011 Leave a comment
Jack O'Dwyer is Statler & Waldorf, not Woodard & Bernstein

Jack O'Dwyer is Statler & Waldorf, not Woodard & Bernstein

If Jack O’Dwyer’s journalistic credentials were ever in question before, let all doubt be removed with his recent flurry of scandal-mongering.

Responding to PRSA’s thorough documentation of O’Dwyer’s unethical behavior and rationale for his lack of press credentials at the latest PRSA International Conference, O’Dwyer has ramped up his campaign against the organization and is now incorporating students in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

Unlike Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who have taken an objective approach to covering the US Government in their careers, Jack O’Dwyer is much more like Statler and Waldorf – the comical gadflies on the Muppets who criticize the performers no matter what they do.

It’$ All About the Benjamin$

The economic backbone of O’Dwyer’s operation is, like much of the traditional media, based on “eyeballs” (ie subscribers, traffic to his website, etc).  In order for it to be financially-viable, O’Dwyer needs to be perceived as being an important figure in the public relations industry where his trade is plied, and to have attention-grabbing material to write about. Read more…

PR Watch Bungles Criticism of PRSA With Error- and Omission-Riddled Attack

October 12, 2011 7 comments

It’s important to preface this post by noting while I’m a PRSA member – I’m no shill for the organization.

I support PR Watch and the Center for Media and Democracy – in fact, I believe I’ve even contributed financially to them in the past. I enjoy their Media Minute (and I’m glad it’s once again being produced), and I’ve frequently recommended  their tool sourcewatch.org to colleagues and students (and contributed to it).  I own all of John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton’s books (and my copy of “Toxic Sludge is Good for You” is even autographed from when I met Rampton at a lecture he gave in Grand Rapids).  I’ve also frequently criticized PRSA.

That said …

this analysis by Anne Landman of PR Watch (“The Battle Between O”Dwyer and PRSA) is completely misguided and full of fatal flaws and it seriously impugns PR Watch’s credibility – something I’m truly sad to see.

Here are some of the problems:

  • Landman failed to note in the initial publication of the piece that Jack O’Dwyer is a member of the PR Watch staff (a fact only corrected when Arthur Yann, VP of PR for PRSA pointed it out).
  • Landman falsely identifies PRSA President & COO William Murray, CAE as having previously worked for Phillip Morris (as a way of tarring his reputation by association) – confusing him with R. William “Bill” Murray.  I was disappointed to see that grievous and sophomoric error is still in place on SourceWatch.org.
  • Nowhere in Landman’s analysis does she mention that PRSA has hard evidence demonstrating O’Dwyer’s organization illegally accessed internal PRSA conference calls AND hacked into the PRSA members-only website.
  • Amazingly, nowhere in Landman’s editorial does she mention O’Dwyer’s strident claims that PRSA owes him money because it duplicated some of his content as part of its clippings-sharing service many years ago (which is the primary motivator behind his aggression toward the organization).
  • Landman attempts to bolster O’Dwyer’s credibility by citing a Forbes Magazine article which was also seriously deficient in its analysis.
  • Landman name-checks Wendell Potter, but doesn’t note that PRSA made him a featured speaker during its 2009 International Conference.
  • Landman incorrectly describes O’Dwyer’s criticism of PRSA as going back “a few years” – but O’Dwyer has been a caustic opponent of PRSA ever since I was an undergraduate student in the Public Relations Student Society of America back in 1999 (that’s more than ‘a few’ years ago).

O’Dwyer isn’t barred from attending the PRSA International Conference because the organization fears he’ll produce unfavorable reporting.  They’re barring him because he’s NOT A JOURNALIST.  He has routinely violated the Code of Ethics prescribed by the Society of Professional Journalists (of which O’Dwyer is a member).

O’Dwyer is a profiteer with a financial vendetta who has found it valuable to criticize PRSA (which is why he focuses disproportionate attention on them, virtually ignoring all other professional public relations organizations).   He’s also turned his criticism to any organization he feels owes him money (like the PR firms that declined to pay to be listed with his service) – using his faux-journalistic enterprise to criticize them as a way to extort money from them.

I urge PR Watch to reconsider this line of attack.  There are plenty of legitimate criticisms to make of the PR industry and PRSA – but Jack O’Dwyer is not the horse you want to back in doing so.

O’Dwyer Continues PRSA Witchhunt by Demonstrating Lack of Civics Knowledge

September 28, 2011 1 comment

O'Dwyer's Witchhunt "They Turned me Into a Newt!"

A while ago, Jack O’Dwyer continued his “PRSA Smear a Day” campaign with another digression into the bizarre.  Here are some of my favorite parts:

[In an attack on PRSA Ethics Chair, Prof Deborah Silverman] “Teachers and scientists do not turn their backs on information but seek every last scrap of it with zeal. They prize the historical record of anything and listen to all voices. Facts and knowledge are revered, not feared.”

  • This is a standard O’Dwyer tactic: to attempt to besmirch a target of an interview with their employer by calling co-workers and supervisors and even writing about the employer themselves in an attempt to bully the subject into talking to him.  It’s easy to understand why very few people return O’Dwyers’ calls.

[Describing the limitations placed on his coverage of PRSA International Conferences] “Freedom of the press is a right granted by the First Amendment to the Constitution and in America an accused person has the right to face his or her accusers.”

  • Among the numerous problems with this sentence are:
    • PRSA is a private organization, not required by law to allow any news media to attend (nor subject to the Freedom of Information Act or the Open Meetings Act).
    • No one is infringing on O’Dwyer’s First Amendment rights – he’s free to probe and blog to his heart’s content.
    • The “Confrontation Clause” (the right to face accusers) is part of the Sixth Amendment, not the First – and it only applies to persons charged with a crime.  But then O’Dwyer never claimed to be a legal scholar.

[Describing his further grievances against PRSA] “Withholding transcripts of the Assembly since 2005 and refusal to provide transcripts of teleconferences. These are like the “slow-motion” replays that are common in sports journalism that give fans needed details.”

  • Why would PRSA send transcripts of meetings to someone who mines them looking for dirt?  Just look at the “reporting” on Gail Baker that O’Dwyer dredged up from previous columns – there’s no proof of wrongdoing or anything more than a clerical error but the assertion made is that there was foul play involved.  I think I speak for the majority of PRSA members when I say that I would find it difficult to speak candidly if I knew a scandal-monger was going over everything I said with a fine-toothed comb.
  • Transcripts are available to members of PRSA, so it’s not as though they need O’Dwyer to provide that service.
  • Besides – PRSA has evidence that O’Dwyer’s company has hacked into the phone calls and the organization’s members-only website.  He should have all of the information he needs from those illicit activities.

[Another of O’Dwyer’s Grievances] “5. Blocking PR reporters from accessing the audit or quarterly reports. They are in the members’ area and reporters are not allowed to join the Society. No reason is given for this. Reporters are members of PR groups including IABC and IPRA.”

“14. Refusal to investigate or disavow threats of physical violence made in person and in a letter to Jack O’Dwyer by an Assembly delegate following the 2010 Assembly. VP-PR Arthur Yann has e-mailed that a national director witnessed this incident.”

  • If O’Dwyer doesn’t know the name of the person who threatened him, how does he know that person was a PRSA assembly delegate?

“15. Refusing to compensate numerous authors after selling hundreds of thousands of copies of their articles from 1980-94. An expose by O’Dwyer’s ended the practice.”

  • The only “author” requesting compensation is O’Dwyer, and despite his above discussion about jurisprudence he has not filed suit against PRSA.  As I said earlier – fish or cut bait, man.

A Rhetorical Question

O’Dwyer insists he’s a journalist and that his rights are being infringed by the Public Relations Society of America. If he really is a journalist covering the public relations world, wouldn’t that mean that he devote proportionally the same amount of investigative and editorial attention to all of the professional organizations that represent public relations professionals?

After all, PRSA isn’t the only game in town.  There are other groups also advocating on behalf of the public relations profession:

  • International Association of Business Communicators (www.iabc.com) | 15,000 members
  • International Public Relations Association (www.ipra.org) | >1,000 members
  • Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (www.case.org) | 64,000 members
  • National Investor Relations Institute (www.niri.org) | 3,500 members
Doing a quick search of O’Dwyer’s blog (at the time of drafting this post) – here are the total number of stories that mention each organization:
  • International Association of Business Communicators – 18 entries
  • International Public Relations Association – 7 entries
  • Council for the Advancement and Support of Education – 0 entries
  • National Investor Relations Institute – 7 entries
  • Public Relations Society of America – 236 entries
Looks a little lopsided for a “journalistic” organization, don’tcha think?

O’Dwyer Alleges Copyright Infringement While Infringing Copyrights

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Are you ready for a Jack O’Dwyer hypocrisy trifecta?

1. In his latest anti-PRSA screed, Jack O’Dwyer again regurgitates his accusation that the organization owes him money because their research library distributed copies of his work (something most intellectual property law experts would call “fair use” – which is likely why O’Dwyer never bothered to take the issue to court).

What’s particularly hilarious is that O’Dwyer includes an image in his blog post of a dodo in reference to a slight against PRSA: Read more…