Seven things you don’t know about me (and perhaps never wanted to)

The challenge to write this post was announced originally by Geoff Livingston, who tagged school PR guru, Richie Escovedo, Mansfield Independent School District, who then tagged me. The challenge? A writing exercise that will reveal Seven Things You Don’t Know About Me.

So, now I’m “it.” I realize that many of you won’t care to know these facts. If that is the case, stop reading this post right now. For the intrepid, I’m offering up part of my soul when I tell you:

1. I once rented my home to one of America’s 10 Most Wanted. Mind you, I didn’t purposefully set out to do this. I was a new mom, and we had just moved to Texas from our paradise island home on Vashon Island, Wash. A well-known realtor on the island called me, saying that a prominent businessman from Orange County, Calif., wanted to lease our home for 6 months while he built a new one across the [Puget] Sound. The realtor guaranteed that the guy checked out every which way, and best of all, he was willing to pay for the lease up front. I didn’t blink an eye, accepting $6,500, and certainly didn’t check with my pilot husband who was on an extended trip to Japan. A week later, I became very well acquainted with the FBI, which is another story completely. Suffice it to say that after this two-year drama, my husband and I made an agreement about signing contracts.

2. I once wrote a humorous short story in Portuguese. Portuguese is a beautifully fluid language that lends itself to double entendre. My story was a side-splitter, too. I’d translate it here, but it’s not funny in English. For wordsmiths, being able to converse on a literary level in a foreign language has to be the ultimate high. Just ask Paulo Coelho.

3. Secretly, I agree with George Banks that “some big-shot over at the wiener company got together with some big-shot over at the bun company and decided to rip off the American public.” What can I say? I’ve never understood the inequity of eight wieners to 12 buns, which is why I totally support Mrs. Baird’s and always buy their hot dog buns. They’ve figured out that the American consumer wants equality in the wiener : bun ratio.

4. After college, I ditched my B.A. in English to become a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines. I love to travel and thought of this as an adventure to capture foie gras for my planned career as America’s next Hemingway. Travel! See the world! I didn’t expect to have to serve coffee and Bloody Mary’s while doing it, however. I did meet my pilot husband, the love of my life, while working there, along with Duane Woerth, whom I hope will be our nation's next leader of the FAA, and a whole host of other aviation visionaries. That was pre 9/11 and also before Northwest became just another operating unit of Delta Airlines.

5. My middle name is an initial. No, it isn’t that my parents couldn’t spell. My middle name Ld signals the heritage of my birth middle and last names, which I used for 29 years before I married. Thus, the L refers to my given middle name Lee, and the d refers to my father’s family name, Drozd. Mostly my middle name is a non sequitur, as people usually call me by the initials Lj.

6. I’m ashamed to say that I drive an SUV. I exude American ambivalence at its best. On the pro side, I’m proud of the fact that my hunker SUV is made in America. On the con end of things, I hate the wastefulness and disregard for the next generation. Regardless of how I feel about the Big Three loan-to-survive package, I have recently discussed options of how to be a greener citizen with Scott Monty, Ford’s social media expert, and realize that it’s time I address my contradictions (I know what will happen if I don't!) and align my values with my actions.

7. I have always believed – and always will – that my greatest contribution to Earth is my progeny. As a career mom, I know that my two kiddos can think for themselves, find humor in all situations, love challenges, care about humanity, believe in God. This is why I truly believe yes, mavericks can. (Drats. Now I’ve revealed I’m an independent politico, which means technically that you know eight things about me.)

I now tag:
Pete Wann
Dan Keeney, APR
Laura Van Hoosier, APR
Susan Iskiwitch
Kami Huyse
Terry Moraski
Scott Monty

The rules:
• Link your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
• Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
• Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
• Let them know they’ve been tagged.
(Hat tip to Beth Harte for the rules.)


Putting Ethics into PR Practice

After listening to Doug Newsom, grande dame of public relations, speak about the ethical situations in which a public relations professional can become mired, I was surprised to hear her tell of how she resigned a position because she was asked to do something unethical. And in her words, she had four children to support at the time. The show-and-tell of that kind of moxie is really needed so that those of us in the public relations profession understand that, where the stakes are high, resigning just might be the appropriate action.

Newsom delivered several powerful lessons from her 40 years' experience at the Nov. 13 Greater Fort Worth/Dallas PRSA meeting. Chief among them:

1. Stand your ground. When dealing with senior execs, more than likely you're dealing with strong opinions and strong personalities. You have expertise in your field - expertise that the CEO counts on hearing.

2. Understand the culture of the corporation. As Newsom pointed out, when it comes to communication, companies range from closed to open. Know where the company/client falls on that continuum, and decide if your personal values fit that culture. If not, you'll likely encounter some conflicts when sensitive issues arise.

3. Adhere to an ethics model. She specifically discussed a utilitarian model, which supports decision-making of doing the greatest good for the greatest number, or a communitarian ethics model, which stresses morality in the community and being a good "corporate citizen." She mentioned Mitch Land's book, Contemporary Media Ethics, which I highly recommend. Land and co-editor Hornaday present multiple case studies of PR ethics problems, considering them from both perspectives, so the reader can see the difference in the two models.

Newsom also discussed two likely ethics dilemmas with the audience and then stuck around to answer questions.

Her message, so needed in today's transparent world, was timeless and a good reminder to anyone in the communications business.


Punching Away at PR

Seems like local journalists at both the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Mitch Schnurman, 7.16.08 column) and the Dallas Morning News (Steve Blow, 7.13.08 column) don't mind beating up on the profession of PR. What'd they use as an excuse? Chesapeake Energy's bold entry into online video to disperse information concerning the Barnett Shale (shale.tv).

Rather than attack corporate PR efforts, maybe these journalists should consider the interesting changes happening with media. It's no secret that many journalists are monitoring blogs and other social media sites to find out what's important to folks these days. The interest in social media clearly explains why Chesapeake Energy and other corporations are deciding to offer their information online through a "pull" technology.

Largely due to social media, public relations in the last several years has been moving to a much more transparent model, one that invites two-way communication. The issue of transparency hasn't been lost on PR professionals. Witness the case study of Edelman's Wal-Marting Across America to understand how badly PR can be practiced. It seems to me that the field of PR - including Richard Edelman who issued an apology on behalf of his agency - took that case (and a couple of others) to heart. Edelman's redoubled their emphasis on ethical practice and issued a call to the entire industry to do the same, resulting in a terribly positive industry response.

PR practitioners are called to perform their jobs ethically and to abide by a Code of Ethics, as laid out by the Public Relations Society of America.

I work with many public relations practitioners and corporate communicators who act ethically and professionally in every sense of the word. I know that in my corner of the world, I work diligently to uphold that standard, going so far as to include an ethics statement on every client contract I sign. In other words, I agree to act ethically, but I also ask my clients to do the same. If they don't or won't agree, we don't do business.

I also believe our local schools, i.e.; Texas Christian University, University of Texas at Arlington and University of North Texas, do an excellent job in raising awareness of basic ethics issues likely to arise, either by requiring students to take a PR ethics course or by consistent discussion of ethical issues within the context of other public relations courses.

I'm proud to be part of a profession that has an ethics code and works to follow it, even to the point of educating new practitioners about ethical issues.

If Schnurman and Blow disagree with Chesapeake's direction, they should offer a meatier argument than not liking the venue (shale.tv) and printing inflammatory statements about PR. For all their posturing, by choosing to attack PR efforts - without a counterbalanced perspective - they're actually communicating more about the current state of journalism than the current state of PR.


Flak Attack

Well, well, well. Seems CBS News has decided to take on the PR profession. Or rather, take off on it. Andrew Cohen has decided to lump every single PR practitioner into the unethical category. Now, that's a shame. Here's my response to his opinion:

With regard to L'Affair Cohen, if he wanted to take a swipe at the PR profession, he shouldn't have led with a journalistic hook beginning with Scott McClellan. Say what you want to say, Mr. Cohen, but don''t hide behind the pants of a newly-released author.

I very much adhere to an ethical PR practice and believe that most of my peers do also. Mr. Cohen, if you look at any profession, you're going to find those that do not live up to the professions' standards. But to roundly accuse an entire profession of not having standards or of manipulating them is irresponsible. So, perhaps, Mr. Cohen, you''re in the same percentage as Mr. McClellan with regard to your profession?

I think this PR blogger may be onto something.

I believe the PRSA has undertaken the best course of action in publishing a code of ethics. And I also believe that at any moment in time, there will be individuals who fail to follow those ethics. But to ascribe one person's failure to an entire profession is simply irresponsible.


Getting Back To My Roots

Wow. I've been gone a long time from this blog but not from PR. In the meantime, lots of questions have popped up in the field concerning ethics, not to mention where the field of PR is headed in PR 2.0.

More later on that topic, but here's a question:
Is it ethical for a PR practitioner to pitch for casinos?