Reacting to the #CTshooting – Remember to Love

Today was supposed to be a normal day. Children were supposed to go to school and learn. Whisper to each other to speculate about whether or not they were on the “nice” list this year. Rip a paper chain, signifying one day closer to a time that is magical and full of wonder.

But for some children, this was not the reality. For some, it was a horrifying experience that will forever impact the way they live their life. For some, it was confusing and scary, with many questions left unanswered. For some, their young, precious life was senselessly torn away from them.

I don’t know any of these victims. But what I do know is that I am connected to them. As Americans, as students, and most importantly, as a human being. And as I tried to get through the rest of my work day with a heavy heart, tears in my eyes, and glued to any news source I trust – I can’t imagine the pain and suffering the families and friends of anyone affected by this could possibly feel.

Judging from my Twitter and Facebook feeds, this tragedy is making us all feel. We feel anger. We feel hatred. We feel deep sadness. Some of us can’t even describe what we’re feeling – especially those who have children and know what that sort of bond is like.

The feeling that we cannot lose sight of in the midst of this unspeakable tragedy is love.

When I was crowded with my co-workers around a computer screen looking for solace in the words of the President, this was a theme that was reflected. He said:

This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours.

So as you make sense of this tragedy, I’d ask that you remember to love. I’d ask that you gather the facts, but don’t obsess over those responsible. I’d ask that you seek solutions, not place blame.

Finally, I’d ask that you tell someone that you love them. Because as we were all shown today, you never know when you won’t have the opportunity to do it again.

Lance Armstrong: How will his Indiscretions Impact Brands?

Lance Armstrong has had a rough couple months – and this week it seems as if he has hit rock bottom.

Nike just announced this morning that they are cutting ties with the cyclying superstar whose image has been forever destroyed thanks to the uncovering of the “most sophisticated” doping scheme in the history of sports:

“Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him,” Nike said in a statement. “Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner.”

Armstrong had an announcement of his own this morning – he has stepped down as the chairman of the Livestrong foundation, his cancer fighting charity. Thankfully, Nike will continue suporting the Livestrong foundation despite its unraveled relationship with Armstrong.

ImageI have to admit – I was saddened when I heard about the doping. I never cared about cyclying, but I appreciated the symbol of hope he had become for people around the world fighting cancer. I think you could liken the situation to when Magic Johnson came out as being HIV positive and brought that discussion to the general populace in a more constructive way.

Did Nike make the right move? Absolutely. They really didn’t have much of a choice in this matter. What I appreciated about Nike is that they didn’t end their relationship with Armstrong right away when the allegations were brought up or even immediately after Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France victories.

They waited until it seemed absolutely clear that Armstrong was not innocent in this matter. I think that it demonstrated loyalty and excellent decisionmaking.

Nike will be fine. But what about the Livestrong foundation?

They have raised $500 million over the years to support the fight against cancer. Even with Lance literally separating himself from the organization, will his reputation taint public support for it?

This is still to be seen. If I had to guess, I’d say you probably won’t see as many people wearing those bright yellow bracelets anymore.

Chick-fil-A: The Nightmare Continues

When I found out I would need to write a blog post about public affairs each week for my Emerson College Public Affairs course, the Chick-fil-A debacle immediately came to mind as something I would write about. And not because of the gay marriage issue (which admittedly, I care very deeply about). I want to talk about it as a public affairs issue and a corporate identity issue – which has brought about several questions that I find truly fascinating as someone who communicates on behalf of an organization myself.

We all know what happened here – here are the recent developments I will be referring to:

Due to the issues related to Chick-fil-A giving money to WinShape Foundation and other anti-gay marriage organizations, the city of Chicago was not going to allow Chick-fil-A to build there. In reaction, Chick-fil-A’s senior director of real estate said in a letter to city Alderman Joe Moreno:

“The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”

Many perceived this to mean that Chick-fil-A would stop donating money to anti-gay marriage organizations. However, on Sept. 18, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy posted a Tweet from a fundraiser for the anti-LBGT group Marriage and Family Foundation:

This sparked outrage from people who viewed this to mean that the company was saying one thing, yet doing another thing entirely. On the flip side, the perceived promise to stop funding anti-gay marriage groups also angered their conservative consumers who stood by their side during the controversy.

In reaction, Chick-fil-A released a manifesto titled “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are” which outlined their corporate values and CSR activities.

For me, this raises a few key questions:

  • To what extent do the views of the CEO of a company impact the viewpoints of the organization in the eyes of its stakeholders?
  • Should there be consequences when a company misleads the public?
  • Is it the responsibility of the consumer to do their due diligence and research the CSR practices and values of a company, or should it be clearly spelled out by the organization?

Personally, I do believe that the views of the CEO cannot be separated from the views of the company that they lead – at least in the public sense. While I respect the right of the CEO and Chick-fil-A to have the point of view that they have (although as I mentioned above, I deeply disagree with the view in this case), they need to own up to it and embrace it. They need to be truthful and allow consumers to make an informed choice about where their money is going.

I’ve never been to a Chick-fil-A but I have talked to several friends who are from the South who explained to me that this is a true staple of southern food – and that they are actually deeply disappointed that they cannot morally enjoy one of their chicken sandwiches again (or at least until their CSR activities are shifted).

Should there be a consequence for them? Well, I definitely think they are getting a lot of unwarranted attention which clearly isn’t helpful for the company. I do believe it should go further than that. This has now become a case of business ethics that cannot be ignored. To be transparent, I don’t really have an opinion on what that consequence should or even could be – but I don’t think they should get out of this unscathed.

All of that being said, I also believe that it is the responsibility of the consumer to do their research. Writing this blog post was the first time I actually looked at different sides of the story. While I hate that Chick-fil-A supports anti-gay marriage groups, I discovered in my research that they do a lot of good for the communities they are in, especially in the fields of education and youth development – and that should not be ignored.

No matter your feelings on the issue of gay marriage, this is certainly a dynamic example of the power of public affairs.

What are your thoughts on the key questions? Do you have any other questions this has raised for you? Let me know in the comments…

Muted Group Theory: How the Media is Silencing Women

I don’t really consider myself a feminist in an active sense of the word. I’m proud to be a woman, I get annoyed by stereotypes, but I don’t really do much about it. However, I’ve come across some things over the past couple days that have made me want to take a stand.

First, I came across the trailer for Miss Representation, a documentary that claims that “media is educating yet another generation that a woman’s primary value lay in her youth, beauty and sexuality—and not in her capacity as a leader, making it difficult for women to obtain leadership positions and for girls to reach their full potential.”

Now, I know it’s 10 minutes and most people don’t watch videos longer than three minutes (or maybe that’s just me) but I promise you it is worth a watch:

Second, I was introduced to Muted Group Theory developed by Cheris Kramarae in my Communication Theory course last night. I’ve never been one to really get excited about theories, but this one really resonated with me.

Essentially, it states that people with little power have trouble giving voice to their perceptions because they must re-encode their thoughts to make them understood in the public sphere. Not all muted groups are silent; but many are not given the proper channels to have their message be heard.

This theory is based in division of labor and language; which does not serve all people equally. Just think about the professions you view as masculine and feminine I’m willing to bet you didn’t picture a woman in a policeman or fireman uniform, did you?

Even if the language is developed to define the feminine experience, women will still be muted if media gatekeepers don’t integrate the new language and perceptions.

Judging from the current state of things, it is clearly an uphill battle.

What type of newspaper reader are you?

I’m reading Effective Public Relations by Glen R. Broom for my Introduction to Public Relations and Stakeholder Communication course at Emerson (which is an incredibly good text book, by the way) and I came across a section discussing what the different types of newspaper readers are.

I haven’t read the newspaper consistently since I was in college (more specifically, the semester I took COMM 301: News Writing and Reporting when I had a free subscription to the New York Times) but it is interesting to think about the different types of newspaper readers.

Here is what the text laid out:

  1. Instrumental Readers use newspapers to get info they think will be useful for daily living
  2. Opinion Makers use newspapers to get advice and guidance for formulating and validating opinions
  3. Pleasure Readers use newspaper reading as an enjoyable habit
  4. Ego Boosters use the newspaper as a source of information for impressing others. They read to enhance their self-image and status with others
  5. Scanners use newspapers for many reasons, but there is no single motivation or pattern to suggest they belong in on of the other four types
  6. When I was in college, I’d have to say that I fell under the Opinion Maker category because at that time, I was a political columnist for the Cardinal Courier and a political/lifestyle  blogger for AOL.

    Now that I live in Boston, I read the Metro everyday on the T on my way to work, but I’m not sure if that is truly a newspaper… I’d have to say it is more of a tabloid than anything.

    Thinking about why I read the Metro everyday, I feel like I fall under pretty much every category, which I suppose places me in the Scanners category.

    For those of you who still read newspapers (I know you’re out there!) what category do you most align yourself with?

Online Dating? Why No One Wants You

That was the brash title of an article recently published on that clearly caught my attention.

As someone who has utilized online dating for the past couple years, and has admittedly had my fair share of unanswered messages both incoming and outgoing, I find it fascinating to find out what people are finding attractive (and unattractive) on the web.

And after recently receiving a message from a dude who decided to break the ice by telling me about dealing with his sister’s cat that is currently in heat, this article certainly made me laugh and also made me realize a few of the gaffes I’ve been making online.

Here were some of my favorites (that I’ve honestly had to deal with lately):

1) The Eccentric

I think that the “cat in heat” guy is a great example of this. Just think: if its something that you wouldn’t say to someone you find attractive in person, why would you think its attractive to say it to them online? I’m all about being unique and creative, but there’s a fine line between that and immature/idiotic.

2) The Gusher

If I’m only talking to you over text and through messages, I don’t know what makes you think its okay to start giving me pet names and tell me how much you care about me. Not only did a dude do this to me recently, but he also wasn’t able to hang out with me one evening because it was too late and he couldn’t get permission from his mother. And before you ask, he was 25-years-old. Yikes.

3) The Wordless Wonder

So you don’t have the balls to send me a message, but you want me to know that I’ve been added to your favorites on Okcupid? C-a-reepy. The thing that bothers me about that the most is how can you define me as being one of your “favorites” if we’ve never exchanged messages? For all you know, I could be a Hello Kitty obsessed chick with like three different Twitter accounts and several blogs. Oh, wait…

Facing the high school drop out crisis

That’s me and Cody Rath, a buddy from home, circa 2005 at our high school graduation. We were both in the top 10 of our class and were members of the National Honor Society.

Now that I’ve graduated from college and am on my way to getting a Master’s degree, the accomplishment of graduating from high school doesn’t feel like that much of an accomplishment anymore.

But for millions of young people in this country, photos like the one you see above won’t ever get taken of them. 

In fact, of the 3.4 million young people who will start high school this year, a quarter of them won’t graduate. The impact this will have on our economy is tremendous. These dropouts won’t be eligible for 90 percent of jobs in the work force and will end up costing taxpayers between $320 billion and $350 billion a year in lost wages, taxable income, health, welfare and incarceration costs, among others, Sanchez told NPR’s Linda Wertheimer on Weekend Edition Sunday.

And that’s the very issue being addressed this week on NPR. They are doing a series entitled School’s Out: America’s Dropout Crisis. Each day they share a personal struggle of a young person in America who is fighting to graduate from high school.

To learn more about the crisis, check out the video below: