Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How Social media & Technology Affect Relationships

Time for our next guest post from an NYU grad student. Please welcome the musings of Anna Saxon:

Whatever happened to a man calling to ask you out on a date? Or showing up at your apartment with flowers to express his feelings? Now, men text you to ask you out and only buy flowers when they’ve done something wrong or your grandmother died.  

Not only that, but a man showing up at your apartment now is considered creepy or an invasion of space. Now the things that used to be second nature to a man are considered above and beyond what’s necessary.

The birth of social media has broken down barriers like knowing about someone’s past and created new ones around intimacy. People seem to think they know a person because they stalked their Facebook profile or texted back and forth conversations for a week. Information that normally needs to be gained from a person through discussion is now easily accessible on the internet.

Essentially, technology has taken the work out of dating. Social media give us all the useful information needed, set us up on dates, and even provide us with the Facebook “poke” button to handle our flirting.

Social media has changed the landscape of many things in modern day, removing the intimacy from the way relationships begin, end, and operate. Maybe the solution is: men, put your phones down, minimize Facebook, stop by the corner bodega and go knock on her door.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Think like a Woman, Write like a Man

Time for a guest post! Tonight's commentary comes from NYU grad student Olive Zhang. 

I remember when I was little, my beloved kitten died of illness. I was so sad and I asked my parents: Will Fluffy go to heaven? Their answers were completely different. My dad says: “I can’t tell you baby, it is too complicated. If I said yes, then you will start wondering if flies and mosquitoes will also go to heaven. I don’t want you to question the existence of heaven and I don’t want you sad.” I couldn’t understand a word of that! But when I turned to my mom, she said only one sentence and completely solved the problem. She said, “Of course babe, but only our Fluffy can go. ”

My dad is logical and he cares about facts, while my mom knows how I feel and how to comfort me. When it comes to writing, it's better to grasp advantage of both genders.

Think like a woman means a writer needs to be knowledgeable on topic, attentive to every important detail, sensitive to underlying emotion and most important, aware of how to grab readers’ attention. For PR writers, think like woman is even more important because whether it comes to news releases, pitch letters or CEO memos, they all requires a personal touch and a sensitive story angle. 

Write like a man means the writer needs to apply simplicity. Hemingway is a perfect example of simplicity. Just use plain grammar, short words and easily accessible language. Use clean style that avoids adjectives and uses short, rhythmic sentences that concentrate on action rather than reflection. His style is direct and personal, his imagery rich and earthy, and his words simple and vigorous. For example, Hemingway once wrote a story in only six words: For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

What if we combine the advantage of both a woman’s sensitivity and man’s simple style and vigorous words? Why not try it in your next PR writing assignment?

Olive is a real-life PR candidate from NYU. She has interned at several international Forums and Advisory Firms, and is going back to China to pitch herself into the coming China PR revolution.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Using the word “tragedy”

I sit in a classroom while students in my NYU class take the mid-term exam. They are pondering this… 

Question 2 —

Here is the opening of President Obama’s statement on April 15, one year after the bombing of  the Boston Marathon.
“A year ago, tragedy struck at the 117th Boston Marathon. Four innocent people were killed that week, and hundreds more were wounded. Today, we remember [names of those killed]. And we send our thoughts and prayers to those still struggling to recover.”

My question to you:
a) Why, in your view, did Obama choose this precise wording (“tragedy struck,” etc.) for his first two sentences? What do these sentences communicate about the event and what do they avoid saying?

I have not yet seen my students’ answers, but I’m hoping that they see that Obama’s characterization — “tragedy struck” — is a classic case of avoiding the reality of what happened. “Tragedy struck” — as if by cosmic accident — tells the world that, gee whiz, things just happen and, that every now and then for no apparent identifiable reason tragedy just strikes.

Obama's words not only intentionally avoid assigning blame (as in, "people set bombs here that murdered our fellow citizens, including a little boy"). They also side-step matters of accountability for protecting fellow citizens from such deliberate acts of human design.

A few days later, on April 18, CNN reported on the Korean ferry sinking, which left 270 people – mostly high school kids – to die in the sunken boat.

Compounding the tragedy of the ship sinking, one of those rescued, a high school vice principal who was on board the ferry along with more than 300 students, was found hanging from a tree, police said.

Kang Min Kyu, 52, vice principal of Ansan Danwon High School, was among the first survivors to be rescued.

Police said he apparently hanged himself with a belt from a tree near a gymnasium in Jindo, where distraught relatives of missing passengers have been camping out.

Part of the tragedy? I leave my readers to ponder whether the suicide of a grown man who, in saving himself, apparently left behind hundreds of kids to die, constitutes another part of the tragedy. Or was the vice principal's suicide a human event of an entirely different category?


Friday, March 21, 2014

Sometimes you don't need a brand

Let's face it. Sometimes you don't need a sparkling brand. Why bother investing in a name and logo when your convenience trumps everything. You're there with the goods people want when people need them.

And your brand name is?… Well, whatever.

Honey, run to the corner and get me a beer. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Let’s parking lot your idea

I was at a meeting the other day when someone offered an idea and someone else said, “Let’s parking lot that issue for now.” Then everyone moved on to another subject. 

Parking lot an issue? I immediately embraced "to parking lot" as a transitive verb.
I parking lot, you parking lot, he, she or it parking lots.

So many obvious everyday uses. Let’s say your child asks you something you can’t answer. “Sonny,” you say, “let’s parking lot that question until you’ve done your homework.” Your kid is instantly backed into his slot, engine off.
Your best idea here.
Or say a colleague challenges you at work, questioning your intelligence, your relevance to the company, and your knowledge of anything other than the one Hemingway novel you skimmed in college while watching cowboy shows on TV. And furthermore, the colleague wonders aloud if you’re even man enough to…

“Okay, okay,” you say in firm command of the latest comment-quasher from the world of commerce, “Let’s just agree to parking-lot those minor issues until I get a chance to check with HR about your legal status.” 

One caveat. You can’t use the verb parking lot in an actual parking lot. You can’t ask an attendant, “Do you have available parking spaces in this parking lot where I can parking lot my car?”

Likely answer: “Why don't you take your issue and shove it.”


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Obama's body language

As Russian troops swarmed over Crimea this weekend, President Obama and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone for 90 minutes. If you flip through CNN's gallery of photos, you'll see pictures like this of troops representing Russian aggression and Putin's resolve.

You'll also see — in the same CNN gallery — this shot of Obama speaking with Putin. Look at Obama's stance — his slumping posture, hand on hip, head down — and his clothes suitable to an insurance salesman on golfing day.

As war in Central Europe looms, what impression of our President does this picture convey? Is this the body language of strength? This picture could be that of a man being scolded, not of a man standing up to a military bully. The composition sends the wrong signal: Small man in a big room.

Personally, I believe the White House needs a clear, bold and principled foreign policy. But short of that, the White House could at least APPEAR to have a clear, bold and principled foreign policy. Start by portraying our commander in chief as a chief, not a chef.

PS - Look up Putin and Obama on Wikipedia. I don't know who chose their photos, but again, one guy shows resolve, the other guy congeniality. Now I know one is a dictator and the other a fairly elected leader. Still, in times like this, the world looks to America for power. To portray that, I'd use a picture of Michelle, who looks like she can handle Vladimir.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Billboards — A few punchy words long before Twitter

Billboards and Tweets have a lot in common. They come up on you all of a sudden, use only a few words, and have emotional punch.

The difference between highway billboards and Tweets is that — when you hit 80 — you can read a billboard without looking down in your lap. 

Bad billboards and bad Tweets belong in the same junk-pile. 

I found this little mock-up (never actually produced) in a pile of stuff from an ad agency. Could you figure out what this thing is about as you speed along to work? When those trees grow bushier, drivers will be spared their confusion.   

Now look at this master monster from the recent battle over unionizing a VW plant in Tennessee. You might love unions and adore Obama — but you have to admit the visceral power of this roadside ad. I'm sure drivers chewed on these words long after they'd digested their Egg McMuffins. 

From the same Tennessee union battle came this digital thingy with an equally crude but effective message. In SEVEN words — far fewer than 140 characters — it accuses the UAW of ruining the great city of Detroit. Admire the crisp choice of words even as you might gag over the sentiment.

A good billboard is economy of language plus verbal punch — born in a pre-Twitter era.

I will definitely add a billboard-writing exercise to my NYU communication course this spring. I can squeeze it in right before we discuss spit balls and just after sky-writing.