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Life As A Criminal Justice Major in PR

Hey there! My name is Aida Gashi and I am a Criminal Justice major. This semester I found myself in a PR class for 1853. I did not know what to expect when starting this class. I remember the first day when I walked into the classroom and was surrounded by Marketing and PR students. I was worried I was not going to understand the terminology or the processes of creating materials for clients. I quickly learned
that it’s really everyday stuff and experience that counts and could be contributed in the class. I was still very nervous and all around terrified I would say something wrong or something that was totally out there. More and more I started to get more comfortable with the class and realized that no one is going to make fun of me for throwing out my ideas. Honestly, I have always been intimidated taking any class that was outside of my major because I did not want to feel less intelligent than the other students. I think that PR gave me the little push I needed to venture out of my comfort zone and try other things.

PR is really taking what you know about the world, your experiences, and other people’s experiences and making it come to life. It’s all about doing research and conducting surveys to see what people enjoy the most about a certain topic and using all of the information you have gathered to advertise an organization or a product. I think these skills not only help in the PR world, but in your career as well. Do the research about a job you want, inquire about the skills needed, ask people who are in that industry for advice and what they did, and then advertise yourself for the job you want. I guarantee you will be first on the employers mind. So you see, PR isn’t all about working to advertise a company or product, you can advertise yourself as well. And that is what I have learned being a Criminal Justice major in a PR class.

PR Through the Lens of a Bio Major

The world of communications and public relations was not something I had ever thought about branching into. As a biology major, joining 1853 Communications seemed like a decision that was completely out of left field. However, the more that I had sat with my choice to become a part of the agency, the more it made sense. I have always had a love for social media and connecting with people, so the ability to integrate these interests into a more professional setting was an experience that I did not want to miss out on. The only thing that I worried about was feeling completely out of my comfort zone as I deviated from my science background, but, as time went on, I learned I really had nothing to be afraid of.

Of course, the first few times meeting with the agency consisted of a lot of listening and learning. I made myself akin to a sponge as I absorbed as much information as possible. One of the main takeaways I have gathered is that it is all a learning experience. It is okay to not know and to have questions! There will always be peers and mentors who you can lean on.

My time here in the agency has been filled with acquiring new skills and garnering new experiences. As I have spent most of my academic career enveloped in test tubes, flasks, and various bunsen burners, I never had the opportunity to build and express my creative side. With the agency, I have learned ways to be creative even when in an academic atmosphere. Despite having no prior knowledge or ability, I was quick to gain an understanding of how to use the graphic design platform, Canva, for creating materials like newsletters and social media posts. I have also been given the opportunity to meet and interview individuals who I would have never crossed paths with otherwise.

I have come to learn that there are similarities between PR and the field of biology. Developing a pr plan using the RACE acronym is quite comparable to using the scientific method when designing an experiment. This synthesis allowed me to thoroughly understand the RACE model and helped me better contribute to the conversation when planning for our clientele.

Advertising, PR, and the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is one of the most highly anticipated annual sports events in the United States. From the best of the best halftime performers, to all the memorable commercials, to the game itself, almost everyone can find some reason to watch the big game. Before, during, and after the game there is a lot of talk about the famous commercials. For some, they may only be watching for those commercials. Super Bowl day is a huge thing for the public relations industry. The game is not only a platform for companies to show off their advertisements, but all of the public relations and marketing that surround the game. When marketing begins for the Super Bowl, the league does not know the two teams that will be dueling yet, so they must go at a different angle. Whether it is the performers they have confirmed, the location or even the parties associated with the game, the NFL has to find a way to make it bigger each year.

If there is one thing we learn about advertising during the Super Bowl, it is truly the perfect place to introduce viewers to new products and places through advertising. Public relations can have an impact beyond simple ads. The cost of these 30 second ads is up in the high millions. These companies have to make sure what they are putting out is worthwhile for them and the viewers.

Public relations is what keeps people talking about the ads and hopefully remember what they see. The Super Bowl gives public relations professionals a chance to find a way to reach their target audiences. Public relations professionals have realized that they have to appeal to all viewers, whether they are actual football fans or not.

In the National Football League, everything pretty much leads up to the Super Bowl. It is the highest-earning revenue event for the NFL from all of the merchandise, advertisements, and TV rights. Teams, coaches, employees and executives work the whole season for this big game. Public Relations professionals are working towards the same!

PR is Behind Everything

Whether you are a sports fan or not, I am sure that the topic of the 2023 Super Bowl came up more than once or twice in past few weeks. Along with the NFL marketing team, we have Public Relations to thank for that.

The Super Bowl is one of the most anticipated events in sports. It is the biggest stage for the best of the best in the NFL to compete for the championship. This year, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs faced off for the title.

The Chiefs ended up taking home the Lombardi trophy, and for the Eagles, it was a heartbreaking end to an otherwise incredible season. Their last Super Bowl win was in 2018 and fans were counting on them for another. When it comes to image, the team relies on their in-house PR unit to keep the Eagles name known in a positive light.

The PR teams of both the Eagles and Chiefs helped promote the Super Bowl in a variety of ways this year. They wrote press releases, managed media relations, and organized press conferences. They also worked to build relationships with key journalists, and other stakeholders to help spread the word about the upcoming event. Additionally, PR professionals created content for social media campaigns, developed creative strategies to engage audiences, and monitored media coverage to ensure that the Super Bowl was being represented accurately. Even after the loss of the Eagles, strategies for positive social media posts have helped fans keep their loyalty to the team.

The Eagles’ in-house PR team has helped the outcome of the loss of the Super Bowl by focusing on the accomplishments of the Eagles throughout the season, highlighting the great plays and successes the team had, and looking towards the future and building excitement for the next season. The PR team continues working to create positive press and coverage of the team, highlighting the players, coaches, and staff that worked hard to get the team to the Super Bowl.

Dubai with Tarte

Recently my for you page on TikTok got flooded by content creators, also referred to as “influencers,” posting videos highlighting their lavish excursions in Dubai, an all-expenses paid 3-day brand trip hosted by Tarte Cosmetics. Tarte flew out beauty and lifestyle creators with millions of followers, such as the Mian twins, Monet McMichael, Alix Earle, Meredith Duxbury, and over 40 more, with their plus ones to stay in luxury villas at the Ritz-Carlton. Followers of these creators were excited to see some of their favorite influencers together in one place. However, the trip itself left many viewers with a bad taste about brand trips, and in this case, all eyes were on Tarte Cosmetics.

Tarte Cosmetics is a high-end makeup brand that is no stranger to the brand trip scene, as they have become well-known for the hashtag they created, “trippinwithtarte.” Before Covid, brand trips were popular in the beauty and lifestyle industry. Makeup brands would invite beauty and lifestyle content creators to a luxury destination, typically right before or after releasing a new product. The attendees were allowed a plus one but would not get paid to go on the trip. Instead, they signed a contract where they agreed to publish a set amount of content for the brand, whether through Instagram or YouTube at the time, usually both.

Many viewers saw makeup brands turning to brand trips compared to traditional forms of marketing as a smart move. Similarly, brands use “brand deals” where they partner with content creators who they believe have the audience they want to be influenced to buy the product their favorite creator gets paid to speak highly about. For the content creator with a significant number of followers who can charge an absorbent amount of money for a brand deal, the partnership becomes a mutually beneficial relationship, which is what the brand seeks to build. In contrast, brand trips allow the brands to cut the cost of spending a lot of money on deals with individual creators by paying less for the trip itself. In turn, brands are still getting their products talked about to their target audience and building positive relationships with creators. Brands also intend to utilize trips for building these relationships in hopes influencers will like the products and continue posting about them after the trip because they want to be invited back for the next trip.

Due to Covid, it has been a while since the internet has watched brand trip content, and after TikTok blew up during the pandemic, what used to be watching your favorite YouTubers post about these trips switched to seeing popular TikTokers posting TikToks about the Tarte Dubai trip. What is noteworthy about the Dubai trip, which differs immensely from previous brand trips, is that many viewers of the TikTok videos posted by the attendees noticed the lack of Tarte products used by the influencers. As a result, many began speculating if creators had to sign contracts to go on the trip. In the past, you would only see attendees using makeup products of the brand hosting the trip. On Tarte’s end, this could be a new strategy for developing relationships with content creators. Although, the question remains whether or not it was the right decision to get their target audience to buy Tarte products if their favorite influencers are not even using them.

While the Dubai trip has the internet talking about Tarte Cosmetics, many are referring to Tarte’s decision as “tone-deaf,” given the current state of the economy. TikTok videos have gone viral from creators who do not fall into the beauty and lifestyle category talking about brand trips, explicitly highlighting how beneficial they are financially for the brand. For an expensive makeup brand like Tarte, which many cannot afford, it is unknown whether or not the brand deems this trip a success and how it will impact them moving forward.

The Relationship of PR & Valentine’s Day

When most of us think about Valentine’s Day, our brains automatically go to hearts, pink and red, balloons, roses, and heart shaped boxes of chocolates. Then there are the group of people who dread the heart filled day; this group usually consists of singles and public relations professionals.

            As an outsider looking in, most people would think that Valentine’s Day would be a PR or marketers dream holiday, 4media group says no. 4media group is a global integrated communications and marketing company. People who are responsible for promoting this day just see it as “a single day crammed full of commercial opportunities, bursting at the seams with options for slick ads appealing to emotion and begging couples to spend money on one another.” It is hard to walk into any store and not be overwhelmed by the amount of pink, hearts, and stuffed animals.

            Public relations professionals at 4media group have gathered a few tips to remember when it comes to V-Day.

  1. Remember that Valentine’s Day is not only the 14th of February. Almost every holiday had a lead up to the special day and can be seen being promoted weeks before. Valentine’s Day promos and marketing can be seen as early as New Years Day. Although all major holidays happen on the same day every year and do not change, getting your content out early is essential to try and beat the rush of everyone else.
  2. As I said before, we all have the stereotypes that we all automatically think about when talking about Valentine’s Day. It can be hard to think of a campaign idea that has not been done before. Most campaigns focus on people falling into a deep love, heart-shaped jewelry, and huge bouquets of roses. For many people, this isn’t the version of Valentine’s Day that they experience. People may be single, might live across the country from their partner and not see them on V-Day, or may not have the money to spend on Valentine’s Day. Public relations professionals need to focus on that. When thinking about a potential campaign, try and make it actually be relatable for people!
  3. Like #2 said, many people just simply aren’t in love! For these people, Valentine’s Day can be a dreaded day that they can’t seem to escape. The last thing we want to do is alienate those people. PR professionals need to make a point to really sell the alternatives for these people; ‘Galentine’s Day’ or ‘Singles Awareness Day.’
  4. And lastly, really think…does Valentine’s Day work with my brand? There are some brands that make sense to focus on Valentine’s Day and others that do not. The ones that do, run with it and put out that V-Day campaign. But before you do that, really think if it makes sense for you.

Although there is a lot of negative talk surrounding the love filled day, it can be a great opportunity for public relations professionals in the world.

Global Communications

Have you ever wondered how advertising, public relations, communications, etc. are in other countries? I never really wondered too much about it until I visited Ireland in May 2022. 

While shopping, I noticed how differently they advertised their products. I could not really tell what most products were unless I got a good look at it, I am not sure if that was the goal to have more people pick up the product, but I was so used to automatically knowing what everything was in America based off of the huge colorful bold letters that pop out in your face. 

To advertise the country as a whole, there is a huge focus on the Cliffs of Moher. Mostly every post, newsletter, etc, that is advertising the country always mentions the cliffs. It is very different from America, considering how big it is no one would really be able to pick one tourist attraction to bring in more tourists. 

Where I was staying, a very small town in the county of Clare called Ballyvaughan, advertisements were basically nonexistent. In such a small town, the only thing I  really saw that was advertising anything was  a small board in the only  grocery shop in town, basically promoting farmers markets and charity events. 

It was amazing to see how other countries live not so engulfed by huge companies and advertisements taking over everywhere, the main thing they really cared about in Ballyvaughan was supporting each other and staying local. It was such a huge transition for me considering I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I would love to visit Ballyvaughan again some day, and even explore the rest of Ireland to see if different parts of the country are the same or different when it comes to advertising and all. Ireland is really a beautiful country with lots to do, they  even got me advertising the whole country for them!

The Hidden Industry

It is sitting quietly behind every business you know. It’s the hidden industry behind every industry. Public Relations, Branding, Marketing, and Advertising, jointly known as Communications create and execute the messaging behind every company. Although many remain unaware of the real job communications does, there’s a $500 billion industry behind every major company, and its obscurity is its strength.

            Every company has, or at least should have, a brand. The identity that the company operates under. Most executive decisions are made to maintain congruence in the brand. Decisions are made every day about messaging, copy, colors, representation, and other signals that can influence a brand’s customers. This is exactly why the industry is hidden. Those messages, those words, those brand ambassadors are all specifically chosen to appeal to very specific demographics. Those appeals tend to work best when done discreetly. After all, nobody likes to be told what to buy or what to do, but through the power of suggestion, people are much more amenable to making brand-conscious decisions.

            Although nearly every brand, certainly the big brands we all know, have their attention on marketing, many people are blissfully unaware of the painstaking intentions and perspiration behind each advertisement, each press release, and each marketing decision. The work is plenty and perpetual, with marketing work being a constant game of managing expectations, crisis prevention, and mediated messaging.

            Each word can have an impact, and investing in marketing can yield great results. Don’t be fooled though, it can be a long game. Cultivating a brand and matching that brand with your audience is something that people in the communications field work tirelessly at. Creating one ad, one social account, or distributing one press release is helpful for any company, but creating consistent success in marketing can’t be a one off. Once an audience starts to take notice of your brand, the work is not done. Building a strong brand and a consistent identity does more than increase sales. Studies have found it can increase employee recruitment within your company, it can tell a story to customers, and reinforce audience awareness of your values.

            The hidden industry of communications at its core is like a mentor or a guardian. Communications agencies do far more than just writing press releases and crafting ads; collaborating on a brand story and not just reaching but connecting with audiences all fall under the advisory purview of a quality agency. Communications agencies don’t tend to see the spotlight, but their work rather highlights the brand they have as a client, and the return on investment can begin when the client is shining.

            Working for a communications agency requires a strong work ethic, but can yield profoundly rewarding results. For both the client and the agency, working hard to ensure a brand’s identity is known does far more than just increase sales. Playing the long game is something that not all are willing to do, but ensuring success is never easy. Although success is never final, connecting with your audiences can help secure your success for the future.

New Netflix Docuseries Shows the Power of PR

The 1990’s was a radical time. Seinfeld was on TV; Titanic was the highest-grossing film, and the internet was still a baby. A big contention in the 90’s was the Cola wars between Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. Much like Team Edward and Team Jacob during the popularity of the Twilight saga, there were passionate camps for the soda companies. Both companies used advertising to win the popularity of the people. Coca-Cola sought to advertise a certain “family-friendly” image and even a “new” formula to sway the public. However, Pepsi leaned deep into star studded sponsorship. The iconic Cindy Crawford commercial that made young boys lifelong Pepsi fans is one of the most memorable Pepsi campaigns. There was another Pepsi campaign that was memorable for other reasons.

Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? (2022), a 4-part docuseries on Netflix details college student John Leonard. In response to Pepsi’s “Drink Pepsi, Get Stuff” campaign, John sought to win a Harrier Jet. The Jet was priced at 7 million Pepsi points and John found a way to buy enough points to get the jet.The Pepsi and BBDO advertising campaign immediately came under fire and began a legal battle with John. The documentary is very tongue-in-cheek with its editing that includes reenactments, simulations, and cheeky text that echoes Pepsi’s later amendment on their Harrier Jet campaign that said, “just kidding”. For PR students, this is an interesting look at public relations and advertising. The Cola Wars was a big PR Campaign but as the legal battle with John went on, we can see PR as a way to control a certain narrative or to cover up company oversights.

(Mild Spoilers Ahead)

After going public about his feud with Pepsi, John’s reputation started to be under attack. The Pepsi CEO at the time went on news outlets to paint John as an opportunistic kid trying to get money from the company. In the beginning, the public was on John’s side until Pepsi decided to fight back. Later John, with the help of Michael Avenatti, started an ad campaign to help sway public opinion back to John’s side. One ad featured John with a black eye in the shape of the Pepsi logo. Another ad featured a blank page with small writing that pointed out that’s how advertisement features fine print for ads.

(Spoilers Ended)

The documentary goes on to show the many levels of marketing and how advertisement shapes public spending. This series is a good example of the challenges of PR and advertising. Every company dream of an impactful campaign but there are dangers (laws even) regarding what an advertisement can or cannot show. Leonard v. Pepsi Co became a landmark case in the reach of contract law that is studied in law schools today. This docuseries is like a nice cross section on how PR Firms for advertisements, law, or big companies work to tell a certain story to the public.

Arcadia Campus Renovation Pictures Spark Controversy Among Students and Alumni

American college campuses are somewhat of a unique type of place in which the students’ tuition and alumni donations funds the university but those groups are often left out of important decision making processes. It can often manifest in a serious disconnect between the community of students and staff and the executive departments that advance changes which affect students and their on-campus experience. Arcadia University recently had to reckon with this disconnect when the university’s instagram posted some before and after images of renovations that had been made to various campus spaces prior to the start of the Fall 2022 semester. The renovations included changes to the first floor of Landman Library, the renovation of Stiteler auditorium into a space for a Physical Therapy program, and the installation of a new student lounge and computer lab in Murphy hall. The images, posted on November 4,  consisted of several slides of photo grids that showcased the recent “upgrades” to those spaces. The post amassed over 350 comments from current students and alumni expressing deep disappointment, anger, and confusion with the changes made. The overwhelming amount of lengthy comments stand in stark contrast to the normal 1-3 comments that can be found under all other posts on the Arcadia Instagram page.

The first slide shows the before and after of Landman Library’s first floor where the older wooden tables and bookshelves were replaced with rows of newer work tables and a variety of funky and organic shaped chairs, stools and couches. The “after” images however seemed to lack intention as they left the space looking incredibly empty and not conducive to a productive workspace. The second slide shows the renovations made to Stiteler auditorium which cannot really be classified as an auditorium anymore because all the seating was removed and the stage cut in half. This was the point of most contention in the comments but before delving into the contents of those comments, there was also the final slide that showed an inaccurate before and after depiction. The before pictures show images of Murphy Hall’s photo lab on the second floor and the after images show pictures of the newly installed student lounge and updated computer lab on the first floor, an entirely different part of the building. This caused confusion as many students and alum thought that the photo lab had been removed altogether. Several commenters also pointed out how the library no longer looked like a workspace but rather an empty lounge area. Yet, it was the changes to Stiteler auditorium, also in Murphy Hall, that caused the most uproar from current students and alumni alike.

The commenters were overwhelmingly upset for several significant reasons. First, it’s important to know Arcadia University considers itself a Liberal Arts School and Murphy Hall is home to the Media and Communications Department, and much of the Visual and Performing Arts Departments.  Murphy Hall is also the oldest building on campus and has held a long history as a community space. Actually, Stiteler Auditorium was originally a chapel and up until the renovation had beautiful stained glass windows along the wall that looked out into the Murphy courtyard. The historic stained glass windows were removed during the renovation and not properly handled so when delivered to the Gallery staff who were in charge of archiving the windows, there were many broken pieces. As the comments explained, students and alum all expressed how much they loved and enjoyed the space during their time, their fond memories of seeing performances and club meetings. The overall feeling among the students was that their space and community as students of liberal arts had been disregarded and replaced with a space for something that isn’t a part of that community. Many current students also talked about how their times for performing arts classes and activities are being frequently interrupted by the new users of the space. Students also pointed out a variety of other updates that were truly needed in other parts of campus, especially the need for more accessibility on campus, and the low quality of the housing buildings. Another point of contention was the recent purchase of Bishop McDevitt High School which shut down a few years ago. The property has been a point of interest for the University for a long time but it wasn’t until the school shut down that they purchased the property. Many commenters pointed out that this massive purchase should have been considered as a location for the PT facility rather than taking away the already small space belonging to liberal arts students.

Several alumni even commented that they were no longer interested in making donations to the University because of this oversight. The Arcadia University account made one response in the comments which directed students to read the article with more details about the renovations. The comment was met with more outrage and accusation of disregarding the true feedback from the commenters. Then, about four days later on November 8th, Arcadia University released a statement. Posted to their Instagram page, the statement was directed to the University Community and apologized for their “poor communication and engagement on this issue”. The statement clarified that there is no intent to close or minimize any of the arts programs, and that  President Nair met with faculty leadership to plan listening and campus planning sessions for community members. It’s unclear who exactly runs the Universities instagram as in the past it’s often been run by media and communications students but not currently. In any case, the social media channel is one of the largest online representations of the University and it was interesting to see what their strategic response would be to the intensity of the comments.

Their key plan of action was to put together the listening sessions to show genuine concern for the thoughts students and alumni had but judging by the comments left under the statement, many felt it was too little, too late. From what I’ve heard the online listening sessions were poorly attended and people felt like there was no point in discussion because the damage was already done. Since the listening sessions, attention to the issue seems to have faded into the background of campus activity. It’s yet to be seen whether the issues of performing and visual arts students using the Stiteler space will be compromised any further. It’s unlikely that this will be the end of the controversy surrounding Stiteler in particular as the University has made a point of deeming it a “multi-use space”. For now, Arcadia can shift focus elsewhere but it will be important to see how they manage decisions surrounding renovations and especially the use of the newly purchased Bishop McDevitt High School space going forward.

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