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Why IUPUI School of Journalism Students Should Take #J560 Online Public Relations

I really believe J560 Online Public Relations through the IUPUI School of Journalism should move from an elective status to being a required class.

This class is for all students, even those who think they have mastered social media because they are already active on multiple platforms. I was one of those students and realized halfway into the semester that I really did not know it all. I still don’t, but realize we should always be students, even after graduation.

Being a lifelong student is critical to keeping up with the ever changing world of online public relations. So here is what you can learn over 12 weeks in 12 simple statements:

  1. It’s the best environment for learning how to brand oneself in the age of social media.
  2. If you don’t know your personal brand, this class will bring you many steps closer to figuring that out.
  3. It will challenge you to step up your social media game in a real world environment.
  4. You will learn how to have meaningful online conversations with people you don’t know.
  5. You will learn that video is king and needs to be a regular part of your social media posting schedule to increase your influence online.
  6. You will learn how to integrate many different social mphoto (1)edia platforms into your personal branding experience.
  7. You will be a huge step ahead of your peers who have not taken this class.
  8. You will have created some new professional habits that you will want to integrate into your daily life going forward.
  9. You will groan at the social media postings quota at the beginning of the semester, but be excited to keep up the schedule when the class is complete.
  10. You will increase your social media clout. Be sure to sign up at at the beginning of the semester to begin measuring your social media influence. Karen's Klout score image
  11. You will learn why Google Plus is becoming the “it girl” and how it is important to your personal branding adventure.
  12. You will have a great time and meet some great people along the way!

A kindergartner’s guide to public relations

I’m about to finish my master’s degree in public relations from Indiana University (I say that proudly despite what follows in this post). But, I often wonder that perhaps I could learn all I need to know if I could just go back to kindergarten for one day.

Never hog the toys

When I was in kindergarten we had a rule: whoever got to a toy first during play time got to play with it. Sure, our parents taught us to share everything but in kindergarten that was NOT the rule. It was every child for themselves.

This is welcome to kindergarten graphic
Courtesy of Google images

I do remember being traumatized when a girl named Deanna W. framed me and said she arrived at the play kitchen first when, in fact, I arrived first. The incident led me to a very embarrassing visit to the principal’s office (for the record that was the ONLY principal’s office visit during my entire academic career).

What I learned from that experience was invaluable: No one likes a bully. You see, Deanna W. wanted the play kitchen all to herself, and that is what she got. No one wanted to be with her. She hogged the toys but she did not make friends. As a wise PR professor of mine once said, “choose people over stuff.”

When you are planning a public relations campaign, especially if it involves crisis management, the needs of people should outrank your organization’s concerns over profit. Never forget the lessons of Deanna W. who chose stuff over people.

Who knew you could be your own show-and-tell

When I was in kindergarten I broke my collar bone. Because I was in kindergarten during an ancient time in medicine they put a cast on me that was like a shirt vest. When I went back to class, with the cast beneath my shirt, my teacher said I should be my own show-and-tell object. At 5-years-old I was quite shy, and remember being mortified about the prospect. What followed was even more embarrassing. My teacher had each student line up and one-by-one each kid in the class was allowed to come and knock on my cast, which meant they were knocking on my chest.

The PR lesson here: Never exploit people even if it seems like a good idea at the time. Just don’t do it.

How to know when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’

Perhaps you are like me in that you quickly seize good opportunities that come your way. Props to you if you do! If, however, you find yourself somewhat indecisive about whether to say ‘yes’ or to say ‘no’ when opportunities arise, this post is for you.

This is an image of yes man movieI have taken on a number of new roles lately and to the casual observer it may seem a little excessive. Yes, I have a very busy full-time job as a public relations director. Yes, I’m a PR graduate student. Yes, I am now a foundation board trustee, and, yes, I’m a part-time executive director of an association that has partnered with my primary employer, a membership association with a related group of members. I have said ‘yes’ a lot lately but I’m a big believer in saying ‘no’ when the opportunities do not fit in a framework of deliberately planned objectives.

Why, yes, to so many things at once? It’s really a matter of thinking long-term. Will saying ‘yes’ to this opportunity fulfill an important personal or professional goal? Will saying ‘no’ prevent future opportunities from coming my way? Will saying ‘yes’ challenge me enough to make it worth my time? Will saying ‘no’ prevent me from networking with people who could help further me along with my future objectives? This is a picture of dice with yes no maybe on sides

Perhaps an even more important question is this: Do I see myself developing a passion for the work with which I would be involved? If your answer is a definitive ‘no’, say ‘no thank you’ and move on.

While this is not a simple check list I hope I have provided some questions to get you moving in the right direction. Go now and seize the moment!



Four reasons you should volunteer in your community

Over the last several years I have had many occasions to serve in some kind of volunteer capacity, some using my public relations skills and others that involved just a listening ear or hands-on work. Giving back to your community is just a good thing to do but if you need some reasons, here you go:



  1. Your life will be enriched by new friends. Several years ago I volunteered my public relations skills to help raise money and increase volunteers for a soup kitchen in my community. There were a lot of late working nights, and sleepless nights as we sweated through all the details to ensure the success of our campaign. We did see success but the biggest payoff for me was the development of really good friends who I cannot imagine not having in my life.
  2. You may gain valuable work experience. That same soup kitchen campaign gave me hands-on experience planning and implementing a public relations campaign that saw much success with not only earned media placement, but also exceeding our fundraising goal. It was great for the resume.
  3. You just might change someone’s life for the good. I have volunteered as a youth mentor for various organizations over the years, and there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a young person find inspiration to be the best they can be.
  4. You will be a better person. Following the public relations work for the soup kitchen I decided to do some hands-on work for the organization and volunteered to cook and serve. Over the course of the next year I ended up getting more than I gave. I met people who I never would have been exposed to had I not spent time in the kitchen. I also learned that I’m not “all that.” I never considered myself a prideful person but deep down I did see myself a little farther up the food chain than the patrons who frequented the soup kitchen. During that year, I realized how much I had to learn from the people we served.

One final thought about volunteering: It’s important to try out different organizations and give yourself freedom to fail. I’m not saying you should do shoddy work or skip around to different organizations every week. What I mean is that you should give yourself freedom to step down from your volunteer role if you have given all you can give. Remember that there is a season for everything, and this includes both work and rest.

Is there a connection between dementia and post-anesthesia confusion?

For this week’s post I am departing from the norm and am writing about what’s consumed my thinking this week: my dad’s crazy health scare. If you are looking for a communication connection, please hang with me until the end. You’ll be glad you did. Alzheimers Concept Horizontal

The emotional roller coaster began eight days ago when my 75-year-old dad woke up from a routine surgery in a confused and agitated state. I know this can be normal for some people and had happened to a lesser degree with my dad during a previous procedure. I’m not looking for comfort or reassurance. What I am looking for, however, is some kind of connection. My mind typically wanders into exploring connections between all kinds of ideas, oddities, etc., and perhaps doing so brings me comfort.

Anyway, as the week progressed my dad was in and out of a confused state, at times thinking the hospital was an apartment building where he and mom were looking to move. At other times dad was having angry conversations with people, some he had known and some who were total strangers. During one of his more lucid moments this week he said he knew everything going on in reality but was also having “crazy dreams” about people who had been dead for many years. He slept very little this week so these were not sleeping “dreams.”

The scary part is that my dad sounded just like his dad did when he had been suffering from severe dementia for many years. The interesting part, to me, is how he could remember being simultaneously in both worlds: reality and the visions. Since his symptoms mimic dementia, I have cause to wonder how much people who have suffered for years with dementia understand about their present reality. Perhaps they understand more than we think but just can’t communicate what they understand. What makes me sad is how many dementia and Alzheimer’s patients are ignored in nursing homes, or at home by frustrated family members.

I asked my mom to write down everything. Who knows? Maybe my dad’s situation and others who have dealt with post-anesthesia confusion could be used to help better understand dementia.

Amazing breakthrough with Alzheimer's patient
Amazing breakthrough with Alzheimer’s patient

It is situations like dad’s and the lady in this amazing video that show me the importance of keeping the communication flowing with family members suffering from this terrible disease.

Top Ten Reasons to get a Pinterest account

  1. You love bulletin boards but don’t exactly want a gazillion pins in your walls.
  2. It has pretty pictures.
  3. You can revolutionize the way you cook.
  4. Finding your tried and true recipes is just a couple of clicks away. Pinterest Cooking light board

5. Not sure if you have the ingredients for that tried and true recipe? Simply open your phone’s Pinterest app at the grocery store!


6. You can learn how to dress properly.


7. Pinning is more productive than seeing who produced with who in the grocery store line.


8. You can pin all kinds of great remodeling projects that you know will never happen in your house.

Pinterest remodeling

9. You can show your husband all of your pipe dream projects, and then say, “But, honey, all I really want is this wall painted before we are too old to enjoy it.” He will surely make it happen then!

10. And finally, it’s yet another place to show off your skydive video!


The value of face-to-face meetings: They never grow old

Don’t forget the PR basics.

The fixation with social media in all business sectors is understandably relevant. However, in our quest to be ahead of the curve it’s important to remember to always look for ways to engage the publics (audiences) that matter to our organizations. I work for a local government association. While I think we have done a pretty good job with engaging our members who have adopted certain social media platforms, it is critical to remember that some members are just not there yet. And we still have engagement problems that need to be addressed.

As Ronald Smith taught in Strategic Planning for Public Relations, interpersonal communication tactics such as face-to-face communications are among the most useful tactics for influencing change; that could be a change in a belief system, moving someone to action, etc.

A personal success story

In my work as a public relations director for my association I have seen how face-to-face communications have increased member engagement.

Courtesy of Google Images
Courtesy of Google Images

One challenge we faced in 2013 was increasing participation in a very important annual data survey from one segment of our membership. I studied participation data from previous years and found that there were a handful of members who, year after year, had not participated in this survey.

Courtesy of Google Images

The strategy we implemented involved planning face-to-face meetings with these members during our spring district meeting travel season which occurred during this survey period. During one such meeting, I had – in my mind – written this person off because he did not appear to be engaged in our face-to-face conversation. To my surprise the very next Monday, the survey from this person arrived in my inbox!

Never underestimate the power of public relations strategies, especially those involving a hand shake and a kind word.

The year of the chicken

2013 will be known at the Avery house as the year we got chickens. Mind you, we do not live on a farm. But after nearly 22 years of being married to Bob, a true renaissance man, I have learned to never be surprised about what comes next.

The next big thing that came on Bob’s radar early in 2013 was the desire to raise chickens – for eggs. I should say for the record that I do not like eggs. “I do not like them here, or there, or anywhere. I do not like them in a house or with a mouse,” said Dr. Seuss, a wise old soul he was.

Bob the Builder
Bob the Builder

Regardless of my distaste for eggs of any kind, my dear husband proceeded with the plans, and started building what was supposed to be a mobile coop. But the problem was it began to get bigger and heavier, all while he was building it in the driveway, in front of the garage.

But finally, after two months of hammering away, and buying more and more supplies (Bob still won’t tell me the final cost of the coop), it was ready to roll up the driveway to its place of glory – my front yard. I sometimes feel a little like Mother Parker, the mom in The Christmas Story, when Old Man Parker proudly puts on display his leg lamp prize.Image Anyway, there it sits, a massive budget-sucking chicken coop full of (insert rhyming word here) for seven very lucky little chickens who took a very long time to earn their keep.


The first birth!

The renaissance man really does know stuff

The chickens were born in May 2013 and came to live with us a month or so later. Every day Bob would check the roost only to find a lone golf ball in the roost. A golf ball? Yes, Bob thought it would show the chickens that they should be making a daily deposit and not the kind that rhymes with coop. But finally on a brisk day in November one of the chickens gave birth to our very first egg! Bob thought it would be fun to keep the first egg – kind of like a business owner who displays the first dollar he ever made in a glass enclosed shrine. We don’t have an egg shrine yet, just lots of eggs – a few dozen every week…..for two people, one of whom does not like eggs.

The kids

Now Bob has gone from Bob the Builder to Bob the Barterer. Yes, he trades eggs. He’s traded eggs for snow plowing, for homemade granola, for firewood, and for fresh bread. I always loved Little House on the Prairie, but never thought we would end up being the ma and pa of chickens.

Raising your parents

If you are anywhere near my age bracket (we’ll just call it middle age) you likely have experienced or will soon begin to experience a reversal in the relationship with your parents. I often said during the 8.5 years that my husband’s mother lived with us that we were “raising a mother-in-law.” We never had children of our own so this was really a first for us in the parenting department. Sure, we have raised dogs, but providing a proper upbringing for your parents is an entirely different thing altogether.

When my husband’s mother moved out a couple of years ago I was ecstatic. I imagined myself to be like many moms who have fresh cans of paint ready and waiting to makeover their kids’ rooms when they finally go off to college.

My husband and I have been empty nesters for two years now and I had almost forgotten what it was like to rear your parents in the way that they should go, that is until a wedding this past weekend that brought many family members together. Everything was going reasonably well until most of us parted ways. My husband was really worried about his dad and step-mom, both of whom are well into their 80s, when they set out for the four hour drive home. The conversation went something like this:

My husband: It is 4 p.m., dad. Do you really think you should be setting out this late in the day?

Dad: We’ll be fine.

Me: Perhaps you two should change out of your tux and evening gown before you leave.

Dad: We’ll be fine.

My husband: Do you have our cell number?

Dad: We’ll be fine.

Later that evening…

My husband: I’m really worried about them; I better call.

Dad: I’m not sure how it happened but we ran out of gas on the way home.

What my husband wanted to say: But didn’t I tell you to always have at least a half tank of gas in the car? YOU ARE GROUNDED!

Photo by Neil. Moralee, 2012, Flickr Creative Commons

I have many stories I can share about those “teen” and “prepubescent” years with the parents we have been raising, but it may be some time before I can share those…you know with the whole protecting the names of the innocent thing.

I hope this post does not seem disrespectful in any way. But what I learned most from raising a mother-in-law those 8.5 years is that without a sense of humor you cannot survive parenthood, especially when you are parenting your parents!

Until next time, live like you mean it!