Issue 4 of CRED Magazine is available in Philadelphia and I am excited. Why, you may ask? I'm excited because my second article for CRED was included. The story is a Q&A I did with Tye James. It was a great interview and a great story.
Note: I wrote the article about the Breaking Amish reunion special that happened in late November. I have not been able to post the article until now, because this was being graded.
From Left to Right: Sabrina (Mennonite), Abe, Rebecca, Jeremiah and Kate (Amish)
Television network TLC recently hosted a reunion special with Michelle Beadle for its reality series, Breaking Amish. Breaking Amish follows the real lives of four Amish men and women as well as one Mennonite woman as they leave their homes to follow their dreams in New York City. The show followed the group as they dealt with problems from their pasts, exposure to alcohol, sex and relationships, and other situations that tested their morals and their resolve. The reunion premiered on TLC in late November in two parts where the cast of the show answered questions about clips from the TV show and new information that has surfaced about them since the show.
There were several tense moments during the reunion. They often occurred when Michelle asked one of the cast members about a new piece of information the cast member did not know would be brought into the discussion. Because of this, the cast members found themselves in several miniscule crisis communications situations. Some of the situations were handled better than others, but in the end the cast came through the discussion with their reputations unscathed. In fact, many public relations practitioners can learn a lesson or two about how to handle tense communications situations from the cast from how to stay on message to how to not talk to members of the media.
Below are five lessons public relations practitioners can learn about crisis communications from the Breaking Amish cast:
1. Do not deviate from the core message(s). A public relations practitioner’s main job is to advocate for a client. The main way to do this is to deliver a client’s core message or messages to its various publics and to manage the communications between the client and its publics. This requires PR professionals to cut through the “noise” created by competitors and the media to make sure the client’s core message(s) is heard. Sticking to the message means repeating the core message several times whenever the opportunity presents itself. This helps the targeted audience(s) retain the message. For example, the Breaking Amish cast repeatedly told viewers they signed up to do the show to inform the world that the Amish people were not that different from everyone else. They repeated their message despite the rumors stating the cast members were paid actors and the cast were on the show to make the Amish community look bad. The cast did not allow detractors to paint them as inauthentic, hypocrites or Amish bashers. They kept reiterating they were just like everyone else. Doing this helped them to maintain credibility with viewers and to cut through the clutter created by the many voices on the internet.
2. Do not make enemies out of the media. Public relations practitioners ideally have relationships with journalists and other media professionals. However, this depends on how a PR professional views and treats them. The PR practitioner and the journalist can build a mutually beneficial relationship if the PR professional sees the journalist as a necessity for their livelihood and a potential ally, which can come in handy in a crisis communications situation. The cast members faced small scale crisis situations throughout the reunion show every time new information they intended to keep hidden came up for conversation. Public relations professionals should speak to journalists cautiously, wisely, honestly and cordially when a crisis situation of any magnitude occurs and they should train their clients to act the same way.
The cast did not always do this well. For example, when the host asks Jeremiah to define the love he has for Sabrina he responds rudely by saying the host should know what love is at her age so he does not need to explain. Also, Rebecca and Abe come close to losing their tempers with Michelle after she persistently asks about Rebecca’s daughter and whether Abe is the baby’s father. The key to communicating with journalists in stressful situations is to stay calm and stick to the core message(s) without being nasty or losing your temper. This allows the practitioner to carefully communicate with journalists while not driving the journalists away. You never know when you need them again.
3. There is no such thing as a secret in the age of social media. Social media has created a 24-hour news cycle, because people use it to learn up-to-date information about world events. Even more importantly, however, social media is forcing companies to be transparent because the new news cycle makes it nearly impossible to keep anything hidden forever. This means organizations, businesses and individuals should be very careful about what they post online because it can come back to haunt them when they least expect it.
This happened several times during the Breaking Amish reunion. For example, photos of Sabrina’s wedding photos were posted on the internet. Sabrina never mentioned this on the show, but she handled the situation gracefully. This also occurred when a picture of Rebecca in a bikini surfaced on the internet. The fact these pictures surfaced should serve as a lesson to PR practitioners and clients. PR professionals should advise clients to think carefully about what they say, do or post because nothing stays a secret forever.
4. Make sure everyone is conveying the same message. When a public relations professional is trying to get a client’s core messages across, make sure everyone on the team (ex. the public relations team and organizational management) are on the same page. This helps PR professionals achieve their objectives because repetition helps the messages reach the targeted audience or audiences. If this is not done well, trying to spread the core message becomes much more difficult.
The cast of the Breaking Amish reunion exemplified this lesson well. For example when the host started asking Abe about Rebecca’s baby after Rebecca declined to talk about her, Abe refused to speak about the baby out of respect for Rebecca. Another example of this occurs when Sabrina backs up Jeremiah’s claim that he now pays child support despite his past mistakes. This efficiency in communication is important, because the public hears a core message through multiple channels, including people. The more a targeted audience hears the message, the better the chances the targeted audience will believe it.
5. Confront threats to a client’s brand head on. If issues arise, which can hurt a client’s brand, confront them in a timely manner. Running away from these situations can hurt a client’s image more than facing the problem. The worst thing a PR professional can do is let their client’s message be drowned out by the public. This allows the public to create their own theories and to present them as truths, if left unchallenged. The cast does a good job of addressing issues as they present themselves. A good example of this occurs when Rebecca addresses the rumor she wears dentures, because her teeth were taken out as punishment. She did not allow rumors to gain any traction or overshadow the core message of the show.
Most PR practitioners have heard all of these lessons from professors or other professionals. They have also been told what can wrong if these rules are not carefully followed. However, there is nothing like seeing this play out in the real world. It helps the message sink in and public relations professionals can use the show as a tool to prepare future clients for crisis communications situations. After all, PR professionals never know when these lessons might pay off.
If you are a public relations practitioner and have seen the reunion, what public relations lessons did you get from the reunion? If you are not and you were just watching the show, what did you think of the reunion? Let me know.
The third issue of CRED Magazine has been published and I'm happy to say I'm one of the writers whose interview made it in. I interviewed Illa Straight, a 23-year old rapper from Chicago, Illinois who has had a lot of experience in the music industry. If you are in the Philadelphia area, pick up a copy and let me know what you think of the interview.
CRED Magazine Social Media Soup:
This past March, my internship organized an for Olde City Tattoo, located in the Olde City neighborhood of Philadelphia. It was a tattoo art show with a rock band performance. However, the biggest act of the night was a burlesque performance by the Peek-a-Boo Revue.
I recently discovered there was video recap of the event on YouTube. You can view the video HERE. Make sure you watch the credits closely when you do.
I had to do another blog post for my Writers at Work class. This time we learned about using long sentences in paragraphs and we were asked to analyze a writer's work we admire based on what we learned. Here is my entry below:
The works I read this past weekend and respond to talked about how to use long sentences. Style gave suggestions on how to effectively use long sentences without weakening my writing or confusing the reader. Roy’s Writing Tools podcasts suggested we not only use the long sentence and interchange them with short sentences, but vary the lengths of our paragraphs as well. For this assignment, I am taking a look at “Audacity” by celebrated hip-hop journalist dream hampton. The piece is featured in Rebecca Walker and Henry Louis Gates Jr.’sBlack Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness.
dream hampton’s writing style is concise. She prefers to use the least words possible to say as much as possible. Despite this, there are some instances where she uses long sentences. An example of this is the second sentence of the final paragraph which reads, “I’ve never been able to summon fearlessness by anger, even when it’s been a reaction to deep injustice, social or personal, instead it’s functioned in my life as a kind of walking meditation, one that has driven me around and back.” The subject and the verb of the sentence are presented with the first few words and we are able to clearly follow her through the sentence without getting confused.
I recently had a photography assignment where I had to go into the streets and capture motion. I needed a stop motion photo, a watch motion photo and a self portrait. To do this assignment, I chose to go down to Concilio's 50th Annual Puerto Rican Day Parade on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
HERE are the results.
When I read Joseph Williams and Gregory Colomb’s Style and Patrick J. Lynch and Sarah Horton’s Web Style Guide, I was expecting to receive two completely contradictory pieces of advice on how to write. I discovered the readings talk about writing for different mediums and talk about different methods, but the lessons each book taught complimented the other. Style’s Chapter 5 dealt with cohesion and coherence. The book gives readers two main principles to help us achieve these two goals. The principles are:
I am currently taking a class called Writers at Work: Multimedia Writing. The class is centered around writing for the web including criticisms and reviews and blogging among other channels of web writing. You can keep up with my writings by clicking the link below: