• The Pepper Shaker

  • July 2018
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My Prezime

I recently discovered and fell in love with prezi.com. It’s an innovative online tool for creating presentations that allows you to zoom around frames and pictures instead of tediously clicking slide after slide.

Taking advantage of this, I created my first visual resume! It literally follows my path in public relations in what I hope is a creative way to show a future employer what makes me the best candidate for the job. Take a look.

+ Hi. I’m Todd. Resume 2.0

I would have liked to embed the link, but the Web site is still working out a few features, like making Prezi compatible with WordPress. Anyway, thanks for checking it out!


Compassion vs. Sensationalism

Only a week after arriving in Australia to commence my studies at the University of Sydney, the country’s “sister” nation of New Zealand was devastated by a powerful 6.3 earthquake. Even though I had only just arrived, I knew those around me would be affected by the events in Christchurch. They would perhaps have family, close friends, colleagues, or other loved ones complicated by or suffering from the incident.

As I watched the news reports roll out over the following days, I began to notice a trend in the style of news coverage that I was not accustomed to seeing. Footage of limp bodies being pulled from rubble, older folk walking by the screen with blood on their shirt, another woman holding a bloody cloth to her head as she cried. I was taken aback by the real-life video of these people obviously in pain, and realized that I would likely have never seen such intense video if I was back home.

Human Nature: A Constant Battle

Many people undoubtedly share the same feelings of empathy and sadness after disasters like the Christchurch earthquake. According to communications scholars who studied the effects of the media, those feelings of empathy that naturally occur should be a guideline in professional media matters. “The sacredness of life, evident in the natural being, grounds a responsibility that is global in scope and self-evident regardless of cultures and competing ideologies” (Ward 2010). This is to say that caring and empathetic feelings should create in media professionals a safeguard from overexposing the distress and grim reality of events out of respect for those who suffered.

However, as Immanuel Kant indicated, there are “particular attributes of human nature” that lead us to wrongful acts. In order to help prevent these actions, we should only act if at the same time we would will it to be a universal law, meaning that one’s judgment and following action could be applied to everyone, including one’s self. (Abbot 1909, p. 38).  Such thinking requires one to place him or herself into the shoes who are receivers of the action. In the Christchurch earthquake case, it would require reporters and photojournalists and their editors to put themselves in the shoes of those affected before publishing their work.

Codes for Compassion

It is this type of noble work that many journalists’ codes of ethics encourage. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), an international organisation, states the following rule in part of their code for ethical journalist behaviour: “Journalists should show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage” (Code of Ethics 2011). The compassion journalists should have in their work again echoes the principle that media workers should not publish or otherwise exploit the distressed. Instead, they should offer honorable news stories that respect individuals’ privacy and be sensitive to feelings, as they would want had positions been reversed.

The guideline to report the news with respect and compassion to those who are affected seems to be a globally-held guideline for journalists. A discrepancy, though, lies in where the line of decency should be maintained. Rightfully so, too. Compassion is like other virtuous traits and has a broad range of expression. Some people may have little to offer while other have much to give. This presents some problems in maintaining a concrete guideline that protects the private moments of distress of individuals and broadcast decent news.

Decency Throughout the World

Another important observation is that this guideline fluctuates between countries around the world. If this guideline is so widely believed and obeyed, then news workers throughout the world should be consistent in their reporting. But it is not. A closer look on how the Christchurch earthquake was broadcast throughout the world indicates this point.

To evaluate how the line of decency changes throughout the world, I reviewed three television news broadcast reports of the Christchurch earthquake immediately following the event. One was a news video broadcast from The Los Angeles Times in the US, another from an international Latin American news broadcast, and a third television broadcast from a major news station in New Zealand.

The video broadcast from the US displayed film of people conversing in streets, reports by government officials, destroyed buildings, and a short clip showing bleeding (Deadly Quake 2011).


The television report from New Zealand pictured clips of people scurrying to escape falling buildings, conversing in streets, some official reports and longer segments of blood and distress (Christchurch Earthquake 2011).

The Latin American television news broadcast presented constant clips of distress, a limp body, rescue efforts and rubble, with much less presentation of official reports by a governing officer (Primer Impacto 2011).

Clearly, the line of what is decent to air varies widely between these three regions.

It is observable that the reports relay a similar use of exported B-roll film, likely recorded by local news organizations. It is interesting to review which clips each news organisation choose to use and if they added to it more exclusive footage. The reasons for this variation may have to do with the cultural expectations of the news media, a reflection of cultural values, or knowledge and adherence to professional journalistic guidelines. Compassion, by definition provided SPJ Code of Ethics, appears to vary for some reason or another.

Sensational Journalism

The most difficult problem may be caused by the marketing power of sensationalism. According to research, sensationalism is vague by definition, even in academic circles (Grabe, 2001). It indicates that topics that are often sensationalized for attention are stories about crime, accidents, disaster, and scandal. Interestingly, all of these points call for sensitivity from journalists reporting the news. The main effects of sensational journalism are threefold: it displaces socially significant stories, violates notions of human decency, and is seen as a marketing ploy that debases the purpose of news. (Grabe, 2001).

If compassion is the guideline to which media professionals maintain news decency, then sensationalism is its nemesis. Future industry workers should maintain the more virtuous part, if not for compassion alone, then at least for the sake of honest journalism and honorable behaviour.

Facebook: The World Within

I’ve recently become fascinated with what the future of Facebook means for social and business relationships. Of course, it has been fascinating ever since it started, but a look at recent trends makes me wonder where it will take us socially and professionally.

Mashable.com has released a couple articles on this, but I would like to compile them together for this entry. First, let’s look at where Facebook stood as a social media provider in June 2009:

Facebook Dominance in June 2009

According to the chart above, Facebook is the coverage leader with most countries using it as opposed to other networks. The countries that do not primarily use Facebook use a variety of other platforms – some I can’t pronounce. Now lets look at it currently:

Facebook Dominance as of December 2010

Facebook Dominance as of December 2010

Not only does Facebook proceed to take over South America and Western Asia, but the actual number of platforms even competing are down from 17 to 11. It’s like the game of “RISK”.

But let’s go deeper.

What does Facebook’s widespread use have to do with relationships? Well, the idea was once called making a “global village,” meaning that distant people and groups could still communicate personally and effectively, breaking any barriers distance would normally cause. See this image below for an idea on how Facebook makes this happen:

Facebook Connects the World

Facebook Connects the World

So with Facebook’s complete social media dominance imminent, I’d like to take a couple stabs at what this means, along with some other things I wonder might happen:

1. As the internet grows and becomes more easily accessible, more people around the world will get on Facebook, opening up social interactions with Northern South America, Africa, and Northern Asia.

2. Brazil will soon be Facebook-dominant while Russia and Japan might be with time. China, on the other hand, might take longer.

3. Data used from Facebook will be continue to be used in social studies and used by businesses for making critical marketing decisions.

4. I wonder if one day there will be a Facebook “President.” No, I’m not talking about Zuckerberg. I’m thinking of an elected body of officials, voted through Facebook to represent the voice of the people on Facebook. They would act as leaders in standing up for the opinion of the masses on Facebook topics and take it up with corporate. (For example, “Nobody wants the new profile, go back!” or “The people are concerned that a variety of their friends are not showing on the News Feed, please fix this issue.”) It would make for very interesting campaigning as petitions could be filled and people could run for elected seats all throughout the world.

5. Facebook will likely be attacked by more hackers and spam hosts, as well as dissenters against Facebook all together, who refuse to join.

6. More books will be written on etiquette, personal relationship management, and business integration, all on Facebook.

7. Finally, many many years from now, a revolution will occur. A new social media platform will begin, and what will start as a few will end up in a mass migration to the new platform just for something different.

I wonder if any of these will be true. How do you see the future of Facebook?

Messing Up….Live!

Let this be a lesson in preparation.

There are a lot of ways individuals can mess up. Too many to count, really. But when the error is recorded on a live show, that can seriously make the situation worse. There have been stories of political candidates leaving their microphones on backstage expressing personal opinions, obvious lip-syncs by musicians, word slips by newscasters, and many other blunders never to be let down by the relentless sharing powers of the internet.

Some are harder to overcome than others. Take this clip for example: Mike Myers and Kanye West are presenting the need to donate to New Orleans victims after Hurricane Katrina when – as is characteristic of him – Kanye makes a personal outburst.

Did you see Myers’ and Chris Tucker’s face after he said that?! Poor guys got stuck in an awkward situation. Now, Kanye is well known for these antics today, but he received a bit of backlash from his obviously racial attack.  In these situations, time doesn’t immediately allow for you to cover up the error right away and may take a lot of time to work out backlash criticism. A part of me thinks Kanye likes that kind of attention, but it was clearly not a messaging point desired by the relief fund. Good thing for them other stars took the stage in later efforts and restored a bit of peace.

Here’s another example I came across just the other day. It’s in Spanish, but I think you’ll understand perfectly what happens as the hosts try to demonstrate how their product is “unbreakable.”

I love how sure of themselves they are right before it breaks (notice the female host’s sassy attitude.) I also love how the male host tries to redirect attention after happens. Unfortunately, it’s too late!

It’s all in preparation. If you’re going live, do you your research, prepare for the worst, and do your best.

PR Patties

I came across yet another peppery example of public relations today.

The scene: Bustling Tokyo.

The background: There are a lot of people in a small area. They all eat rice daily.

The problem: Too many business buildings, not enough farmland for rice to sustain everyone. People get mad at businesses for taking land, and businessmen start to sweat.

The solution: Simple! Put a rice paddy in your office building!

The outcome: The company produces the rice on their own dime. Neighbors are happy their environment isn’t entirely wasted due to big business.

My take: I think it’s great. Not only does it appear to ease tensions over food production and land management, but it helps those well-dressed white collars to get down-to-earth. While some might think they do it in vain, I think it helps concerned citizens understand that they are trying their best. I’ve read  a lot of jokes about undertaking this particular program here (like, do they serve the rice in their own cafeteria, too?) but I think their efforts are worthwhile and may increase moral among employees. What do you think?

Speaking and Writing Boldly

I recently came across a video that has opened my eyes as to how I communicate with others on a daily basis. It emphasizes how the current generation uses language to – sadly – their disadvantage. Check this out:

Now I KNOW I am guilty of tacking on “ya know?” at the end of my sentences in conversations, ya know? I guess I never realized that it is an effort to find agreement with “the receiver.” We all too often base our convictions and opinions on the perceived acceptance of it by others, when it should not be so.

Now, I don’t think that means we can go offending and blabbing about like we know everything. Unfortunately, I think that’s the cause of poor speech – people don’t think things through. Thoughts should instead be well-thought and then boldly stated. I think that has more of an influence on people than sublting trying to lift them up to agreement with your opinion. If it is logical, researched, and considerate, I say stand by your opinion and make it sound like it. No questions, no “seeking agreement”, no bologna. Then we would have efficient communicators.

Disaster PR Planning

I give much kudos to PR pros who find themselves in extremely sticky situations. Those are tough times. It’s my belief that every company will have to work through a public relations crisis at some time or another, and most of them come as surprises. They are mostly unprepared, and even the most composed PR practitioners go into a frenzy.

When a crisis occurs, there is so much going on behind the scenes that the general public doesn’t see. I am sure PR teams throw out all kinds of ideas on the table on how to best fix their faltering image or dimming reputation before deciding which ones are good. But I bet most are bad.

Let’s take a look at BP and the oil spill . Now that the worst oil disaster in US history is over, we can look back and evaluate their actions. Sadly, much of it is laughable. I’ll admit, they found themselves in a very difficult situation to begin with, but their seemingly slow response and the incident itself will be had for jokes for years to come. I guess I can’t take it too hard on them, though. When you’re having a crisis, you begin to panic and who knows what kind of vain ideas you’ll come up with.

This short video is a BP commercial spoof. It’s not so funny as it is an illustration on how PR pros could “spin” the message and make a negative thing a positive one.

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