Taking Up Arms: The Feminist Movement

Don’t be too skinny, but don’t be fat. Be assertive, but don’t be a bitch. Make sure to dress cute, but make sure you don’t look like a slut. You might make a man want to rape you.

According to Sky News reporter Stephen Dixon, women who wear short skirts when they go out with their friends are responsible for the sexual assault that occurs. Apparently, the woman provoked that man into raping her for wearing an outfit that makes her feel confident in her body.

People like Dixon are the reason why feminism is a necessity in today’s society. Feminism is no longer just a fight for political rights. It’s a fight for females to gain respect from men, women, and the government.

American feminists have been in a constant struggle with the government since they began the women’s suffrage movement in 1848. Women have had to fight for the right to vote, to be accepted in the workplace, paid maternity leave and for equal pay. While progress has been made with the government, women are still not considered equals.

Since 1923, the National Women’s party, a feminist group, has been trying to push the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) through congress. The ERA would guarantee that women and women are paid equally based on qualifications, not gender.

According to Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), women earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by men on average, despite being the primary source of income in over 40 percent of homes. Women have earned the right to make as much as men. Feminism is the voice that makes that known to society and lawmakers.

While feminist groups attempt to advance legislation through congress, they also do what they can to make sure women are free to be who they want to be. The phrase “like a girl” has had a negative connotation around it for as long as it’s been used. In a study conducted by Always, a feminine product producer, 72 percent of girls feel as if society as limits that hold them back.

Based on these findings, Always launched an advertising campaign aimed at boosting the confidence of women and young girls. The first commercial aired during the Super Bowl in 2014, meaning entire families were exposed to its message. After seeing the influence and success of the “#LikeAGirl” campaign, Always created a sequel to “#LikeAGirl,” called “Unstoppable.” These campaigns reached over 85 million people. The negativity that once surrounded that phrase has since began to disappear.

During the 2016 presidential election, a video leaked of President Donald Trump saying, “Grab ‘em by the pussy.”

This comment about women sparked an uproar from men and women across the globe. At the Women’s March 2017 in Washington, D.C., around half a million people from all over the world to protest Trump’s election. Feminists of all backgrounds stood against the rape culture Trump promoted in the election. At the rally, feminist and Navajo Nellis Kennedy-Howard held a bright pink sign that reads, “1 in 3 Native women are raped.”

“We don’t want to promote rape culture any further than the problem that we already have,” Kennedy-Howard told Huffington Post, “and this president is not doing a very good job of modeling that type of behavior.”

Similar to the gender pay gap, feminists are taking up the fight for paid family leave, including paid maternity and paternity leave. Only 13 percent of employees in the private sector are able to take paid family leave according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A hundred years ago, society believed it was a woman’s job to have children. However, 77 percent of private sector business don’t offer paid maternity leave. But if a woman doesn’t want to have children, society judges that decision.

“The gender revolution has been a one-sided effort. We have not pushed hard enough to put men in traditionally female roles—that is where our priority should lie now,” Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill wrote in a Brookings Institution report.

Feminism is not about just fighting for women’s rights. It’s about equal rights for all, regardless of gender, skin color, sexuality or religion. While the general feminism population fight for shared interests, there’s intersectionality within feminism.

“There are many, many different kinds of intersectional exclusions ― not just black women, but other women of color,” Kimberlé Crenshaw told the Huffington Post. “Not just people of color, but people with disabilities. Immigrants. LGBTQ people. Indigenous people.”

The feminist movement isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Rather than shrinking, the movement continues to gain momentum. Women who wear short skirts are not provoking men to rape them, but comments like the ones made by Trump and Dixon provoke feminists to take up arms.

Inside the mind of a hiring manager

Go to college. Graduate. Find a job. This is what society expects from people in their late teens and early twenties, like me. But, how do we find our first job? What do employers look for in their ideal candidates?

I find myself in a unique position. I’m a senior about to start searching for my first “big kid” job, but my current job is to overhaul IUPUI Campus Center and Student Experiences’ on-boarding and hiring processes. This position has made me privy to some insider information about what characteristics employers are searching for.

I’ve sat through numerous amount of interviews since I began this position in May. Some of them have been really good, and some of them I thought would never end. Today, I want to focus on the good ones; the ones that made me remember why I love this job.

As I reflected on the resumes I reviewed and the interviews I conducted, I noticed that the candidates I couldn’t wait to hire had three things in common: passion, curiosity and individuality.

Be Passionate.

Listen, I’m not saying you need to love every aspect of a job, just be passionate about something. The jobs I tend to hire for aren’t super fun. Most of the jobs involve a pretty hefty amount of manual labor. It’s safe to say I have never interviewed a candidate who said, “Moving furniture around and setting up rooms is my favorite thing to do.”

So, what do my ideal candidate for this position say? There is no perfect answer to this question. There won’t be for any job. Whatever your passion is, do your best to connect it to the position you’re being considered for. Do you love to help people? Do you love being a part of a team? Whatever your passion is connect it to the position, and articulate that throughout the hiring and interview processes.

Be Curious.

This is an instance when curiosity does not kill the cat. I want to see candidates who are hungry to learn as much as they can. I want candidates who are genuinely interested in my organization and what it stands for. And maybe this is selfish, but I want candidates who are at least somewhat interested in my thoughts about the job and how I obtained my position.

My point is, come ready to ask questions. But don’t just ask the basic questions. Show me that you really put some thought and time into it. I promise that you can wow me, and any other hiring manager, with a question we aren’t expecting.

Be You.

I know what you’re thinking. Everyone says this, but it’s true. Organizations don’t just hire based skill sets. They hire based on personality. They want to see if you’re a good fit for the team. So before you freak yourself out preparing for an interview, just take a deep breath. The most important thing to remember is to let your personality shine through.

Article Review: VEO is coming

Hey Siri,  what’s search engine optimization?

“Search engine optimization is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results- often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results.”

But how does Siri find that information? Search engine optimization (SEO), like every other technology, has evolved. SEO used to be simple… Okay, simple might not be the best word for that, but the point is there’s so much more to it now.

Think about it. How do you search for information? On a computer? Tablet? Do you use your phone? Do you ask Siri or Alexa? Research suggests that between 30 and 50 percent of all searches will be conducted using voice by 2020. That means SEO just got a lot more complicated.

I recently ran across a guide to SEO in 2019. The guide is split into nine different chapters, each outlining how to cultivate successful SEO in the coming year. All of the content is useful, but chapter seven holds the secret to SEO’s future: Voice Engine Optimization.  The guide broke down voice engine optimization in three easy (or at least kind of easy) parts:

  1. High ranking content wins.
  2. Featured snippets are your friend.
  3. Q & A’s mean business.

High ranking content wins.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that all optimization, including voice, should be geared towards Google. When it comes to SEO, Google writes the rule book… literally. Google used to just analyze five sections of a website for keywords: Title Tag, URL, Image ALT text, description tag and H1 tag.

Not anymore, folks. Now Google analyzes content and context. Google’s highest ranking content covers topics in-depth. What does that mean? The SEO in 2019 guide suggests that content is at least 2000 words. The content needs to be authoritative, and share everything there is to know about the topic.

But the key to high ranking content? Keywords. Keywords need to be repeated all across the page. It should be in the metadata, the article, the caption of the picture. If there is content on your page, the keyword should be in it.

Combined, all of these suggestions should rank your content higher on Google. Voice searches typically only list the top one to five search results. That means if you don’t have a high ranking, you’re out of luck. The higher your content ranks, the more visible it will be in voice searches.

Featured snippets are your friend.

Google has all of these fancy algorithms to determine what the best content on the internet is. One of these algorithms determines what will appear as a featured snippet. Featured snippets appear at the top of a search, even before the first link. A study of 10,000 Google home devices revealed that 40.7 percent of voice search results come from a featured snippet.

But how can you get your content to appear in a featured snippet? Well, the guide to SEO in 2019 covers that too. To put it simply, you need “snippet bait.”

“Snippet bait is a 40-60 word block of content specifically designed to rank in the Featured Snippet spot.”

If you look at the featured snippet, you’ll notice two things: its short and it gives you the answer to your question. The featured snippet section makes it easy for voice search engines to give you the answer you want without having to dig.

Q & A’s mean business.

Let’s pause for a minute, and think about how I started this article off. That’s right. I started it by asking Siri a question, as I assume most of you do when you conduct voice searches. Embedding questions and answers into your site makes it easier for voice engines to find your content.

The guide to SEO in 2019 suggest developing a FAQ page if you’re going to attempt to optimize your site for voice search. FAQ pages are typically easy to create, and it’s easier to find for your users. The questions on your FAQ page need to be simple and conversational. In other words, write it as someone would ask it. Don’t try to get fancy.

Answers should stay between 40 and 60 words, and capitalize on keywords. The answer shouldn’t be over-complicated. It should be easy for the voice engine to find. Wait… doesn’t that sound like something you just read about? Q & A’s are a great way to increase the odds of obtaining a featured snippet.

Voice search optimization is relatively simple, as long as you know a little bit about SEO. Keep in mind, between 30 and 50 percent of people will be using voice search by 2020. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you should start optimizing for voice now.

Twitter makes it easy to spark conversations

“What’s your favorite social media platform for business?”

The answer to this question is rather complicated. One organization may find success with Facebook, while another finds it on Twitter. The audience, message and goals of the organization all play a part in determining the appropriate social platform on which the organization should establish a presence.

Throughout every blog, I’ve remain constant in my values. Despite the growth of digital media, establishing and nourishing relationships is the key to success in business. Twitter is an engagement goldmine. From hashtag to photos and videos, there are so many tools and features businesses can utilize to connect with their clients.

As we all know, in order to engage with someone, the content you produce needs to be relevant to them. Twitter makes it easy to identify the users you should be targeting. Through Twitter Ads, businesses can target specific audiences based on gender, language, personal interests, followers, devices, behavior, keywords and geography.  However, the targeting capability that could be most useful when attempting to spark a conversation is tailored audience targeting. Tailored audience targeting allows businesses to target users who have already expressed interest in their brand or product.

Twitter-Tailored-Audiences-640x425

Not only is Twitter unique in that it allows for easy communication between business and client, it gives businesses creative freedom to establish their tone on social media. Twitter typically has more light-hearted and fun content, rather than the matter-of-fact content found on Facebook.

One of my favorite business accounts on Twitter is Wendy’s. Wendy’s isn’t afraid to make fun of themselves online… or their competition. Wendy’s, as they like to say, “roasts the competition.” By interacting with competitors and critics online, Wendy’s built a social media reputation. Many times these interactions have gone viral.

wendys

What else does Wendy’s do on Twitter? The company interacts with customers, news outlets and other random accounts. Imagine that. A business finding success by igniting conversation. Who would have thought?

Twitter is really unlike any platform. It’s features are built to encourage friendly, or in some cases not-so-friendly, conversation. If the main objective of a business is to build relationships, Twitter might be the platform to build a brand on. Just keep in mind that every business is different. The platform that might be perfect for one business could be a nightmare for another.

A blessing in disguise

Two hundred and five days. That’s how long the IUPUI’s class of 2019 has until graduation. Throughout our school experiences, we’ve all been faced with a multitude of decisions:

Do I want to play sports? Should I take choir, band, orchestra or art? What’s my major going to be? Where will I go to college?

The list could go on and on, but today I want to focus on my decision to attend IUPUI. I’ll come right on out and say it: IUPUI is not where I thought I would end up.

Let’s flashback to three years ago. I was a senior at Southport High School, which is about 10 miles south of IUPUI. Since I had started high school in 2012, I had started at midfield on the varsity soccer team, and I wanted to continue my soccer career in college. Sports have always been an integral part of my life. Basketball, softball, track and soccer all played a part in shaping who I was, and I wasn’t ready to give that up.

Every college I had scouted out and that had scouted me was outside of Indiana. I had no desire to stay in this state after graduation, and frankly, I wasn’t good enough to earn a soccer scholarship at any of the schools in Indy. After about a year of college visits, I had landed on Greenville College, a small Christian school in the middle of nowhere Illinois. The school is small, and there really isn’t very much to do around it. But, I didn’t care. It wasn’t Indiana.

Except, my plans were foiled just a few games into my senior season. In the game against our rival, Perry Meridian, I snapped the tendons and ligaments in my dominant ankle. My season was over and so was my soccer career. Months of pain management, physical therapy and eventually, surgery followed my injury.

As it turns out, the injury was a blessing in disguise. Because of my physical therapy and follow-up appointments, I thought it would be better to stay close to home. I told myself, “IUPUI won’t be terrible for just one year.” But after just a few weeks of classes, I fell in love. I fell in love with the people, the campus and the opportunities I had being so close to downtown.

Looking back now, I wouldn’t have changed anything. IUPUI is where I met my best friend. It’s where my faith in Jesus was challenged and reaffirmed. It’s where I’ve made connections and build relationships with professors, advisors and coworkers who have inspired me to become the best professional I can be.

From the start of my college career, I knew journalism and public relations was the career I wanted to pursue. Little did I know, I would be blessed with professors who established reputations as experts in their field. These professors have supported me and encouraged me in opportunity I’ve dream of of have chosen to pursue. Without them, I wouldn’t be as confident as I prepare to enter the workforce in a mere 205 days. Without their encouragement and support, I probably wouldn’t have landed an internship with Eli Lilly this past summer.

My life isn’t what I thought it would be three years ago, and thank God it isn’t. I ended up right where I was supposed to: Surrounded my people who are invested in my success in a place where I can achieve my dreams.

Book Review: “Known”

Whether it’s on social media, in the workplace, or at school, it seems like nearly every person has an innate desire to become known by their peers. As a society, we tend to define who we are based on the opinions of others. We mistakenly confuse this phenomenon of believing the world’s label for us as becoming known. Being known isn’t dependent on who has the most friends or the most followers. It’s not dependent on who’s the prettiest or funniest. Being known means utilizing digital media to building an actionable audience that respects your reputation and authority.

But, you don’t have to take my word for it. Take an expert’s. In “Known: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age,” Mark W. Schaefer breaks down how to build your personal brand in four easy parts: find your place, determine your space, find your fuel and create an actionable audience. Although these steps seem relatively simple, each one takes a tremendous amount of research, thought, patience and desire. Schaefer intends for these steps to be used specifically for building a personal brand, all four are applicable across different subject areas, including social media.

Step One: Find your place

Growing up, teachers, parents and other authority figures say, “Find your passion and run with it.” But, what if I told you that isn’t enough? According to Schaefer, discovering your passion is only half of the battle when it comes to find your place. Now, I won’t lie. It took a lot of convincing for me to believe that. In my last blog, I talked about social media’s influence on my life, and how it led me to my passion. My life, including my career choice, has been built around my passion for giving others a voice. But after 27 pages, Schaefer had me convinced.

Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean it will translate into a successful and enjoyable career. As much as it pains me to say this, passion just isn’t enough. Instead, Schaefer suggests finding a sustainable interest. “What does that mean?” you ask. Well, please, allow me to enlighten you because I find this topic extremely intriguing.

Explained simply, Schaefer defines a sustainable interest as a topic you love, but that you want to become known for. But, this definition didn’t differ from the definition of a passion to me. Let’s paint a picture:

I graduate in approximately eight months (but who’s counting?). Within the next eight months, I need to start thinking about what my sustainable interest might be. Now, if there is anything that anyone needs to know about me, it’s that I have an undying love for dogs. A cute video of a pup can turn even the darkest of days around for me. But, I can’t necessarily make a career based upon my love for dogs. Instead, I need to think about something I’m passionate about, but that I can also pave the path for me to achieve my long term goals.

Schaefer used his past experiences to identify his sustainable interest, but that’s only one of many ways you could find yours. In fact, Schaefer was nice enough to give you seven different exercises to find yours:

  1. The “Only I…”
  2. The 2 by 2
  3. The Core Mash-Up
  4. Strengths Finder
  5. The beautiful questions
  6. Visualize your future
  7. The 35 headlines

Now, I’m not going to go through explain all of these, but I did them all as I read through chapter three. They were all helpful and helped me identify my sustainable interest, but I found “The Core Mash-Up” the most helpful.

When you go through “The Core Mash-up,” you find your sustainable interest by combining a personal values or characteristics with something you love to do or that you’re passionate about. First, start with creating a list of your core characteristics and values. It could be as little as 10 words or up to fifty. My list consisted of about 20 words, which I narrowed down to three:

  1. Honesty
  2. Creativity
  3. Communication

The trick is to mix and match the different values to create a sustainable interest. It’s apparent to be that my sustainable interest is going to fall somewhere in the public relations field – good thing since I’m about to have a degree in it. Now, I still don’t know specifically what topic I want to base my sustainable interest on, but that’s okay. If there’s anything I learned by going through these steps, it’s that not everyone is going to know their sustainable interest right away. The more you experience in life, the more apparent your sustainable interest will become.

Step Two: Determine your space

About 600 words ago, I mentioned that these steps could be applied to pretty much anything, like social media. But, what I should have said is this:

“..all four are applicable across different subject areas, especially social media.”

I think it’s safe to say most of us know the importance of social media when it comes to building your personal brand- at least if you’ve read my blogs you would. Social media gives you the opportunity to share who you are with the world. It’s probably one of the most powerful tools ever invented. That’s why finding the correct space for your sustainable interest is so important.

But as Schaefer explains, finding your space doesn’t just mean you should create a Twitter account or blog. Determining what your space is takes research, and a lot of it.  So, once again, Schaefer, that sweet man, gave us more steps to follow:

  1. Develop a unique tone or point of view
  2. Move to a social platform within your niche
  3. Dominate a content type
  4. Try a new content form
  5. Focus on frequency
  6. Find a unique demographic or geographic niche
  7. Connect with industry influencers
  8. Use curation as a niche

Unlike the exercises Schaefer gave us in the previous step, all of these steps are equally important. If you haven’t inferred yet, this process involves quite a bit of trial and error. Just like writing the introduction paragraph to this blog, the first step is always the most difficult. Developing a unique tone or point of view sounds really easy, but once you dive into it, you find out otherwise. This step is easy to underthink, but its just as easy to over think. I truly cannot explain the best way to do this better than Schaefer:

“It might be tempting to try to sound funnier / nerdier / hipper / snarkier than you are in real life, but that is likely to get exhausting. Your tone has to be a natural extension of your personality.”

Now, I’m not an expert on this topic by any means, but I am going to use myself as an example. Take this blog for instance. You come into this thinking that this is going to be formal because most book reviews are. But that’s just not who I am. If I tried to make this completely formal, I’d be exhausted writing it and that would come through while you’re reading it. Instead, I let my naturally conversational tone flow through my writing, which hopefully makes this blog more unique and enjoyable.

Now that we’ve got step one of determining your space taken care of, we can shift our focus back to social media. The rest of the steps focus on selecting the platform to display your sustainable interest based on your content type, your lifestyle and your niche. Let’s skip down to step, five. Now, when you want to focus on frequency, you have to consider your personality and your lifestyle, as well as your readers’. If you want to create a social media account as your main content type, you need to be able to post to it multiple times a day, or you will inevitably lose the interest of your audience. Maybe you think you can only create content weekly or monthly. There’s nothing wrong with that, you just have to shift your space. Maybe your space isn’t a traditional social media. It could be Apple Podcasts.

At this point in the book, Schaefer has me convince that he is a personal branding genius. “Why?” you ask. Well, let me tell you. Step eight is an absolute game-changer. According to Schaefer, you can obtain first-mover advantage without even creating original content. Honestly, if you’re not convinced to pick up the book and read it yourself at this point, the snippet I’m about to share should sway you. Schaefer talked about the story of Christopher Korody, who established first-mover advantage when his interest in drones peaked during a client project. Korody didn’t create any original content. Instead, he curated content about drones and posted it to his site daily. Now, he’s considered an expert in the industry. Talk about working smarter and not harder.

Step Three: Find your fuel

According to Schaefer, your content is your fuel. In step two, you found your space. But like I mentioned, there’s going to be a lot of trial and error. This is the step where you can cut back on that. Schaefer starts to talk more about how your lifestyle and personality can lead you to selecting the right content type. Unlike the last two umbrella steps, he breaks this part down into only three subsets:

  1. Find the open space
  2. Figure out what you love to do
  3. Match content and personality type

Personally, I find that the first two steps are pretty self-explanatory. That could just be because psychology and personality type peak my interest, but oh well. You’re going to learn something new. Schaefer categorize personalities into two types: introverts and extroverts. Introverts would create content that is “slow and cerebral,” while extroverts development content that more on the spot. Schaefer gives the examples of blogging, interviews and visual social media content for introverts. Similarly, he says introverts will gravitate towards “quiet” platforms. On the other hand, Schaefer says extroverts create content on Snapchat, live-streams and Twitter chats. The platforms used by extroverts tend to involve more active engagement with audiences.

Which content type would you gravitate towards?

Step Four: Create an actionable audience

I know I’ve said this more than once throughout this blog, but I love this topic. Networking and building a following is so enjoyable for me. Creating an actionable audience is about building relationships with those who are interested in your niche. Schaefer touches base on a number of strategies that you could use to create an audience.

But we aren’t just talking about people who care about what you say. The keyword here is “actionable.” You want your audience to care about what you say, and then do something about it. Now, this next point I’m about to make Schaefer and I agree on without argument. Engaging with your audience is the most important thing you can do to retain their attention.

“Engagement is the glue that connects you to your fans and drives them to that “inner circle.”

Schaefer says that when your audience is engaging with you and your content, you’re moving in the right direction. But how you, as Schaefer says, activate your audience? Wow, I’m glad you asked. Building a personal brand is just like public relations and communications. It’s all about building relationships. Networking with your audience is the key to your success. They want to know who you are and what drives you. Once you establish that relationship, they’re more likely to engage with you.

I hate to break it to you, though. Activating your audience isn’t the end. Schaefer thinks you can take your brand to the next level. So do I. After you successfully complete Schaefer’s four steps, the options are limitless. You could write a book, become a public speaker, or start a whole new career. The only thing that could hold you back is you.

I really do recommend giving this book a read. Unlike other personal branding books I’ve attempted to read, Schaefer adds case studies, exercises and commentary to keep you engaged. I’m better off having this knowledge under my belt, and you will be to.

Social media changed my life

As I prepared to write this blog, one question came to my mind:

What’s something you hate, but can’t live without?

Some people said food because they wanted to lose weight. Some said working because they just wanted to travel the world. But the overwhelming majority said social media. You see, a lot of millennials, and even some in generation X, love to complain about how much they despise social media and technology. Yet, none of them delete their accounts. The next question that comes to mind:

Why not delete your accounts if you hate social media so much?

When I asked my friends, family, coworkers and classmates this question, I received an array of responses. Some said it was entertaining. Others claimed they’d feel disconnected from their social circles. But one response in particular stuck out to me:

Social media helped shape them into the person they are now.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but think about it. We were born in the late 90s, and the social media boom began at one of the most crucial developmental stages of our lives. As teenagers, we were discovering who we were and who we would eventually want to become. We were heavily influenced by our peers and inevitably, by social media. Social media helped mold a lot of us into the people we are now

Now, I’m not going to sit here and give social media all the credit. My parents raised me well. I’m surrounded by people who love me and push me to be the best version of myself. But, social media played a major role in my confidence. As a kid and as a teenager, I was bullied. A lot. I wasn’t the stereotypical girly girl who loved to do my hair and try on makeup. I wasn’t interested in boys. I knew there was something different about me; something I was too scared to admit.

Let’s fast forward a few years to high school. Sophomore year, to be specific. In that year to two year gap between middle school and where we are now, I figured out what was different about me. I was a lesbian. Well, I am a lesbian. But because I had been bullied since the fifth grade, I didn’t really have the confidence to just walk up to someone and admit that.

Enter Instagram.

Social media gave me to confidence to tell the world who I really am. So, I decided to put a clip of the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen on Instagram. In that post, I explained to my friends, family and strangers that I was in love with a woman.  I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I hid behind a screen, and no, I’m not ashamed of that. I was terrified of the reaction people may have had. I didn’t want to be bullied for being who I truly was, so social media became my safe place. It became the place where I could confidently be who I am.

That post changed my life. I walked into the school the next day, completely terrified of what everyone would say. But I was greeted with love and kindness. That post and the reactions I received from it not only molded me into the confident woman that I am today, but it made me understand the value of voice.

Fast forward again to the present. I’m now a senior at IUPUI, majoring in public relations. I get asked two questions all the time:

1. What is public relations?

2. Why are you pursuing a career in it?

I could give those asking the textbook definition of PR, which I’m sure my professors would love. Instead, I tend to give a more simple and personal definition:

 

Public relations gives voice to those who need it.

Remember when I said that Instagram post from my sophomore year of high school taught me the importance of voice? Well, it did more than that. It cultivated my passion to tell the stories of others. That passion led me to this career path. Now, I get to spend the next forty to fifty years utilizing social media to tell the stories of others.

Article Review: Christianity is about more than just rules.

Picture this: You spend your life living in two separate worlds. In one life, you’re happily married to your partner of 22 years and raising a 12-year-old child. In the other, you provide guidance to kids attending a Catholic high school. But what happens when those two worlds collide?

Ask former Roncalli guidance counselor, Shelly Fitzgerald. The school administration and Archdiocese of Indianapolis gave her a choice: divorce your wife or resign.

I know what you’re probably thinking. That’s crazy, right? Who would agree with that? Personally, I didn’t think anyone would, but then I stumbled across an op-ed on Twitter written by IndyStar’s Gary Varvel.

Varvel openly admits that he believes Roncalli made the right move when they handed the ultimatum to Fitzgerald. I applaud him for saying what he believes, but do I think he’s wrong? Absolutely. I’ll address that in a moment though.

Varvel’s conviction is based around two key elements: the existence of a contract and labeling.  Varvel, who used to teach at a Christian high school, says both he and Fitzgerald signed contracts which bound them to uphold the behaviors and beliefs of the Church. So yeah, I agree she knew the consequences. One point to Varvel. But, his second argument was a stretch. Varvel claims more people aren’t coming out in support of Roncalli because they’re scared of being labeled as bigots.   

Well Gary, I think people aren’t supporting Roncalli for a much larger reason: Forcing Fitzgerald into an impossible decision was not the Christian thing to do.

Varvel argued that the Christian thing to do for the couple was gracefully part ways, citing the creation of the Lutheran church. But Fitzgerald didn’t go silently to prove a point. All denominations of Christianity, whether it’s Catholicism, Lutheran, Baptist, ect., are based on the teachings of Jesus. What church leaders should keep in mind, however, is that being a Christian is about more than rules. It’s about the lessons Jesus taught us while he walked among us: love, mercy, grace and kindness.

Varvel based his argument on a contract, providing readers with verses about settling disputes. I’ve decided to base my argument on what should matter: the actual teachings of Jesus Christ.

This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.” – Zechariah 7:9-10

It’s not my job, your job or anyone else’s job but God’s to give a guilty verdict. God tells us that the true justice is mercy and compassion. Not to force a resignation or divorce.

While it seems like the school administration and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis have lost sight of crucial teachings like the one in Zechariah, students and parents haven’t.

Roncalli Senior Elijah Mahan defended Fitzgerald to IndyStar shortly after the story initially broke.

“It’s a Catholic’s duty to respect, defend and build up one another no matter what their race, sexual orientation or social background is,” Mahan said.

Interesting… What do you think? Does the ultimatum Roncalli gave Fitzgerald sound anything like that?

Earlier this week, Fitzgerald, Mahan and a few other Roncalli students appeared on Ellen to share their stories. It so easy to see that Fitzgerald touch these kids’ hearts. One of them even called the guidance counselor’s office her “safe place” in the school. To show their support for Fitzgerald and the LGBT+ community, the students decided to start a foundation, named Shelly’s Voice. Shelly’s Voice will be focused on cultivating equality in the workplace, so that those in the LGBT+ community, like Shelly and like me, won’t have to huge hide parts of our lives.

In his article, Varvel mentioned he signed a contract when he was employed at a Christian high school which stated he had to exemplify the values written in the Bible. That’s fine. I don’t see anything wrong with that… as long as the contract holds employees accountable to all teachings of the bible, including the compassion, mercy, love… Oh, and divorce.

You could argue, “It wouldn’t be a divorce in the eyes of God because they shouldn’t have been married in the first place.” And I’m going to stop you right there. Same-sex marriage is legal. Churches will perform same-sex marriages. There are same-sex couples all around the world who spend their lives giving just as Christ did. So, let me make this very clear: a homosexual divorce is the same as a heterosexual one.

You know what I find really funny, though? Homosexuality is only mentioned specifically in six or seven of the Bible’s 31,173 verses. Yet, the church has been up in arms about hindering the rights of the LGBT community. You know how many verses there are about divorce? A lot more than six or seven.

So, in the eyes of the Catholic church at least, Fitzgerald was told to pick her sin: divorce or homosexuality.

What happened to the love, kindness, mercy and compassion that the majority of the Bible was devoted to? People like the Roncalli administration, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Varvel, who choose legalism over compassion, are not representing the Christian faith as described in the Bible. But people, like the students at Roncalli who choose to love unconditionally, embody the character and message of Christ.

The moment the Internet called an audible.

I like to think of the Internet as a football team. One with history, like the Packers or Cowboys. When the Internet was first established, it didn’t really have a lot of plays. Every down was a run up the middle or a pass down the sideline. Don’t get me wrong, the playbook didn’t suck. It revolutionized the game… of communications. But it was just text, and eventually email and pictures followed. But like any good football team, the Internet’s playbook grew as the team matured.

Before you know it, the Internet could kick field goals, run trick plays and even call audibles. Just picture it: The Internet is up against the defending champs, Television. Television has captured the attention of fans every single year. While the Internet has come close, the team hasn’t been able to pull off a win. But, this time might just be different. The Internet has a new play. It’s third and 11, and the Internet is down six. The quarterback comes under center and he yells, “YouTube!”

That one audible changed the entire playbook. The establishment of Youtube brought about a new era in digital media. Now, I could sit here and talk about how the first video on YouTube was really the game-changer. But it wasn’t. And no, it wasn’t the first music video posted to the site, either.

Saturday Night Live likes to call this play, “Lazy Sunday.” Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell spend almost three minutes rapping about the Chronicles of Narnia and cupcakes (which is really the only kind of rap I can get down with.) This ridiculous, pointless video racked up over 5 million views in 2005.

But as we’ve learned over the years, funny videos catch the world’s attention. “Lazy Sunday” is the first time people really embraced their newfound ability to watch videos anywhere their hearts desired (as long as there was Internet access, of course.) Now, we have a phrase for that phenomenon: it went viral.

People go to extraordinary lengths in hopes of producing a video that goes viral. Sometimes they even try to make a career out of it. Many times they fail, but sometimes, they don’t even have to try. But speaking of viral, do you know who else tries to make videos that catch the attention of the public?

Ding! Ding Ding! We have a winner!

Oh yes, advertisers want your attention, and they want it desperately. In 2007, Ray Bans created a video dubbed, “Sunglasses Catch.” At first glance, there isn’t anything special about this video. Its a minute and 37 seconds of two guys throwing sunglasses onto each other’s faces. Harmless, right? Wrong. That was the first time a company meddled in digital advertising.

Fast forward to the 2018 season, digital ads are everywhere. I can’t even imagine going to a website without seeing at least five of them. I’m an advertising minor, and in every single advertising class I’ve taken, we’ve spent at least two weeks covering digital media. “Sunglasses Catch” brought about a “lightbulb moment” for advertisers. Through web video, marketers and advertisers realized they could reach a broader audience without paying for a TV spot or print ad.  

As the Internet continues to grow and develop, its playbook is only going to get bigger. Yes, YouTube changed the game, but now the Internet has other options. YouTube forged the path for streaming services, like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. The rise of digital media and web video has only begun. Television is no longer the team to beat; it’s the Internet, and personally I think it will years down the road before any other team rises to the occasion.

Like the Cowboys and Packers, the Internet is building a dynasty. One where there is unlimited potential. One where the team has only scratched the surface of its digital media capabilities. One where the Internet is going to be raising Super Bowl banners for years and years to come.

Why isn’t Twitter taking a stand against hate speech?

Before I get too political, let me make one thing clear: I love Twitter. I use it every day. I check it when I wake up in the morning and right before I go to bed. It’s how I keep up with the news, my friends who are away at school and the latest trends. But, Twitter has a very big problem.

Last week, I mentioned that there is one very big downfall of social media: cyberbullying. Twitter, and specifically CEO Jack Dorsey, have chosen to ignore the problem rather than face it head on. Nearly a month ago, Karla Peterson, a contact reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune, published an article addressing Twitter’s lack of action regarding fake news and hate speech.

In Twitter’s defense, its hard to monitor 335 million active accounts. But Peterson’s statement to Dorsey focused on one account; an account that garnered national interest due to its sensational and false statements. That’s right. Peterson was talking about Alex Jones and his infamous “news” outlet InfoWars. Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify banned Jones and InfoWars. So, why would Dorsey not follow suit?

“If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints, we become a service that’s constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction,” Dorsey tweeted.

Peterson had no problem saying it and neither do I: Jack, you’re wrong. CEO’s of social media corporations are often referred to as guardians. They are the people who regulate who’s able to say what on the Internet, and they determined what falls under the protections of free speech. But where should they draw the line? Does hate speech fall under the protections of free speech? Do false information and conspiracy theories?

To answer these questions, let’s take a minute to refresh what we have learned about free speech from a legal and historical context. The First Amendment was adopted in 1791, but in the early 1900s, courts began to clarify what was and was not protected by freedom of speech. As of now, the constitution protects one’s right to refrain from speaking, to protest, to use certain offensive words or phrases in a political context, to donate money to a political movement, to advertise, and to participate in symbolic speech . However, the Constitution does not protect the right to incite action that may be harmful to others.

On the other hand, Twitter does not clearly define what is and isn’t considered hate speech on its platform. Twitter’s Hateful conduct policy focuses on three things: content, context and behavior. Users’ content can’t promote violence or attack or threaten someone else. But, the context in which content is evaluated is crucial. Tweets may seem offensive if they are viewed in isolation, but are meant to be part of a larger thread. In terms of behavior, its Twitter’s policy that abusive tweets have to tag specific users in order for it to fall under hateful conduct.

So do we all have a basic understanding of what freedom of speech constitutes now? Do we all understand Twitter’s policy on hate speech?  Cool. Moving on.

Jones has an avid and passionate following on social media. In fact, as Peterson mentioned, “his followers hounded the parents of a Sandy Hook victim so relentlessly, they had to move seven times in five years,” after Jones claimed the tragedy was a hoax conducted by crisis actors. Looking back at what we learned about free speech and Twitter’s Hateful Conduct Policy, should Jones be protected?

According to the Constitution, no, he absolutely isn’t. According to Dorsey, its not his job to worry about it.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen. CEO Jack Dorsey is pulling a classic CEO move: delegation. Rather than taking responsibility for false information Jones spews to 899 thousand followers, Dorsey delegates the responsibility to someone else.

“Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors,” Dorsey tweeted, “so it’s critical journalists document, validate and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.”

I think if Peterson and I had been in the same room while reading this tweet, we might have laughed until we cried. I agree. Journalists have a part to play in protecting free speech, but so do you Jack Dorsey. So does your company. In this day and age, it isn’t feasible for journalists to expose every right or left-winged conspiracy theorist who take snippets of correct information and develop an entirely false narrative. Donald Trump has declared war against the press. No one who follows Jones will believe anything a reporter from CNN, AP, NBC or ABC says. His followers will only believe the personal cheerleaders of President Trump: Fox News and InfoWars.

Since the public outlash, Dorsey had changed his tune… publicly, at least. But, it’s going to take a lot for him to convince me he’s willing to take a stand against hate speech.