PRSA Nebraska Ethics Minute – March 2015 by Jeremy Harris Lipschultz

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PRSA Nebraska Ethics Minute: Ethics and Trust
A closer look at some of the most serious media ethics issues of 2014 reveals that trust remains an important foundation. One only needs to consider Brian Williams’ current suspension from NBC News to see that the public expects high standards for accuracy and truth.
The site recently listed 10 top issues last year. Among the items, Rolling Stone’s lapses in reporting a 2012 alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia included ignoring fraternity and university statements to the contrary that were made available prior to publication. While an apology may be uncomfortable for a media organization, this and other recent cases show coming clean about mistakes is good public relations.
This goes to the issue of trust. As notes, trust is earned over a long period of demonstrating character: “We are trusted because of our way of being, not because of our polished exteriors or our expertly crafted communications.” As Omaha’s Warren Buffett likes to remind people: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Others connect trust to integrity, strong and fair relationships, leadership and teamwork. One of my favorite quotes on the Inc. list comes from the late Stephen R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”

Why Quality PR Promotes Ethics and Addresses Concerns

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PR News recently reported its five most-read stories from December. Third on the list was an article titled “5 of the worst PR scandals of 2014.”

Matthew Schwartz
@mpsjourno1 wrote that the “year had a robust number of meltdowns, PR debacles and downright embarrassing episodes among some of the globe’s most recognizable brands.”

Unlike our December showcase of amazing public relations at #PRSAGala this list is loaded with crisis communication and missed PR opportunities.

The Sony hacking story featured more of a journalism ethics problem in reporting email contents, as the media company was unable to frame the news from a privacy perspective.  The Ray Rice scandal is mostly a tale about viral video and domestic abuse.  There is no doubt that no amount of PR will overcome real issues facing the NFL.

When Microsoft’s CEO failed to recognize the tech industry has a problem with women and pay, PR came to the rescue with a well-timed backpedal and apology.

GM’s delayed recalls linked to at least 13 deaths turns out to be partially explained by failure of managerial and organizational communication.  No amount of PR can solve a cover-up.

Rounding out the PR News list is the Donald Sterling “fiasco.”  We talked about this at the professional development conference last year.  A surreptitious audio recording leaked to TMZ and an inability to align comments with 21st Century norms spelled doom for the former NBA L.A. Clippers owner.  Again, this story demonstrated more about what not to do.

On the other hand, PRSA remains one of the strongest professional advocates for how to help clients and remain true to ethical principles.  Unfortunately, our industry has a long way to go to overcome its own negative PR about public relations practices.  Our best hope is to remain focused on doing the daily work that produces positive results, informs stakeholders, influences public opinion and even wins awards.

PRSA Nebraska Ethics Minute, August 2014 – Twitter Is No Place For An Argument

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Actor Jason Biggs – best known for roles in American Pie and Orange Is the New Black (also the voice of Leonardo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) demonstrated an important lesson recently on Twitter.

After a jet was reported down in the Ukraine in mid-July, he tweeted: “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysian Airlines frequent flier miles?”


Obviously, this was no time for a bad joke re-tweeted nearly 500 times, and his Twitter followers told him in explicit terms. Beyond the profanity, one responded with this question: “You’d laugh if your kids died in a plane crash?”

Biggs compounded the problem by calling people “losers” for being angry, and then matched their profanity. In a final part of his public relations nightmare, Biggs wrote: “You don’t have to think it’s funny, or even be on my twitter page at all.”

Hours later, as news reported that the plane had been shot down, Biggs finally apologized in four tweets:

“1). Hey all- ok, so- I am deleting my previous tweets. People were offended, and that was not my intent. Sorry to those of you that were”

“2). This is obviously a horrible tragedy, and everyone-including myself- is sad and angry about it. Sending positive thoughts to the”

“3). victims and their families. P.S. No one is making me send these tweets- I simply understand that my comments might have come off”

“4). as insensitive and ill-timed. For that, I apologize.” (

The apology was re-tweeted more than 150 times, and was favored  about the same number as the original tweet. Biggs has had a low profile ever since, with only two more tweets in July. It’s a far cry from his more than 5,000 previous tweets to more than 467,000 followers.

MaverickPR asks Nebraska PRSA members to sponsor a YES backpack

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MaverickPR, the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s PRSSA chapter is seeking help from Nebraska PRSA to fill 100 backpacks with clothing and hygiene supplies to Youth Emergency Services (YES), a local nonprofit that serves homeless and at-risk youth.

For only $35, PRSA members or their companies can sponsor a backpack in the “Say YES: Give Back with a Pack” drive that runs throughout the month of November.

The UNO’s PRSSA chapter has purchased 100 backpacks through its own fundraising but needs more assistance to fill them with such items as packages of socks and underwear, gloves or mittens, body wash, soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, tooth brushes and first aid items. Checks should be made out to UNO-PRSSA and mailed in care of
Karen Weber, PRSSA faculty adviser at Room 140, Arts and Sciences Hall, University of Nebraska at Omaha, 6001 Dodge St., Omaha, NE 68182-0112.

For more than 35 years YES has served struggling youth, ages 12 to 21 in Omaha and Council Bluffs, by providing critically needed resources that empower them to become self-sufficient. YES served more than 800 homeless and at-risk youth in 2010-11 alone through shelter and advocacy programs.

Please contact Angela Eastep, PRSSA service director, for more information at

Shoo the Flu – Bailey Lauerman

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Imagine a well-known CEO on a mission to have every child in his community receive a flu shot. For free. In a matter of a month.

Now imagine the community is the populous San Francisco Bay Area, with literally hundreds of thousands of children of all socio-economic class.

So, how do you reach and influence parents to allow their children to receive a free flu shot? And how do you turn them into advocates, spreading the word, so that other parents follow suit? And how do you do it while remaining an anonymous donor?

First things first: find partners with the know-how to make it happen –one that can assist with the logistics of the program, and the other to produce creative, persuasive communication that delivers a credible argument to vaccinate in an approachable and relevant way.

For the logistics part, the donor contacted TotalWellness, a national corporate health and wellness provider, to assist with the implementation of the program. TotalWellness contacted Bailey Lauerman to help spread the word.

To make things even more interesting, Bailey Lauerman had only one week to develop, launch and promote the free flu shot program in a large metropolitan area with an equally large Spanish-speaking population. With no paid advertising and no on-the-ground support.

An area that’s already saturated with messaging in every nook and cranny.

Though it was an unusually tight deadline, Bailey Lauerman had the expertise to develop and execute a killer campaign that reached a fairly large audience through social and PR channels. One that delivered a message of education and entertainment, convincing each and every parent of the benefits of childhood flu vaccinations, while arming them with what they needed to spread the word in a non-preachy way.

In a short amount of time, our very talented and capable team developed:

  • A catchy name, Shoo the Flu, identity, flu characters, stickers and shareable social badges
  • A landing page to serve as the central hub for information that included a map of the Target Pharmacy® locations administering the shots, as well as flu myth busters and frequently asked questions –
  • Facebook and Google+ pages
  • Partnerships with key public schools and non-profits serving children
  • Information distribution channels through local and state health departments
  • Media buzz by pitching timely pieces as a national influenza story was breaking
  • Stories that caught the attention of influential bloggers, including “mommy bloggers” in both the pro- and anti-vaccine camps
  • Posters that were translated to Spanish in order to reach a wider demographic

Then, on the eve of the launch, the anonymous donor decided to be way less anonymous. We needed a communication strategy to attribute this grand community health gesture to Google CEO Larry Page and his wife, Lucy, through their Page Family Foundation. No problem.

The program launched without a hitch on December 1, 2012.

So how did it do? In the first week, Shoo The Flu was covered by some of the area’s most prominent newspapers and TV stations – San Francisco Chronicle; the local NPR affiliate, KQED-FM; Univision 14 KDTV-TV, a Hispanic-speaking television station.

It reached more than 31,000 Facebook users. Daily Shoo The Flu posts were shared on Google+ and Facebook, including one post shared by Larry Page on Google+.

In just a month, 1,500 flu shots were administered –that’s more than 20 times the normal amount of shots.

The campaign was so successful, the Pages decided to extend the free flu shots for another month.

By the end of the second month, a total of 4,865 shots were administered.

The campaign then went to exceed even more expectations by winning Best Social Media Campaign from Ragan’s 2013 PR Daily Awards, along with two honorable mentions for Best Cause-Related Campaign and Best Community Relations Campaign.

You have to admit, that’s some pretty good shooing of the flu.

PRSA Nebraska Awards $2,000 in Scholarships To Students at Nebraska and South Dakota Universities

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PRSA Nebraska, the Nebraska chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), is awarding $500 scholarships to four students at Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chartered affiliate chapters in Nebraska and South Dakota.

The $500 scholarships recipients are:
Kassaundra Hartley, Spalding, Neb., Creighton University
Benjamin Preston, Omaha, Neb., University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Megan Romero, Omaha, Neb., University of Nebraska Omaha
Britni Waller, Lincoln, Neb., University of South Dakota

“We are proud of these talented students who have decided to pursue a career in public relations and communications,” said Kellie Wostrel, APR, president of PRSA Nebraska. “These students have gone above and beyond to demonstrate their commitment to the public relations profession.”

PRSA Nebraska awards $2,000 annually — four $500 scholarships each — to PRSSA students. The students are juniors, seniors or graduate students who attend school full-time and are current members of PRSSA. Students who apply for the scholarship must plan to pursue a career in public relations or communications.  Faculty advisers at each university recommend candidates for approval by the PRSA Nebraska Board of Directors.

“We are fortunate to have strong PRSSA affiliates,” said Wostrel. “The PRSA Nebraska chapter prides itself in engaging our next generation of communicators through professional development and mentoring support. Our PRSSA students have the opportunity to learn more about the profession and network with other Midwest public relations professionals in the field.”

About PRSA Nebraska
PRSA Nebraska is an affiliate of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the nation’s largest community of public relations and communications professionals. More than 185 professionals are members of PRSA Nebraska and represent corporate, agency, nonprofit and government organizations throughout Nebraska. PRSA sets standards of excellence and uphold principles of ethics for the global public relations profession. More information is available at

A Refreshed Brand Can Build Consumer Confidence

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By Linyu Huang

With fast changes every day such as industry development, government regulation changes, corporation merge and acquisition, etc. updating brand is crucial to reengaging the current customers and attracting new ones. Sometimes branding just needs refreshing, while sometimes it needs a bit of a jolt. Even a strong brand must stay relevant to survive.

Kathy Broniecki, partner and chief strategy officer with Envoy and Andy Williams, director of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska shared their brand cases at the May PRSA Nebraska luncheon. Broniecki talked about the agency’s re-branding experience with Roberts Dairy and Hiland Dairy. Williams discussed the process of refreshing a 40-year-old brand, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, to meet the needs of and appeal to today’s health insurance consumer.
Why Change?
Broniecki’s agency Envoy has worked with Robert Dairy for more than 25 years. In 1981, Prairie Farms purchased Roberts Dairy and Hiland Dairy Two years ago, Hiland Dairy acquired Roberts Dairy. The two different brands of dairy operated in 11 state market areas with two different websites, consumer campaigns, and brand marketing budgets. In order to create a strong, unified brand across the Midwest and to save on product labeling and marketing costs, Roberts Dairy was renamed to Hiland Dairy.

In the case of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, the company had already built one of the most recognized and respected brands in the country. The challenge came when the health insurance industry changed with federal health care law. Blue Cross and Blue Shield had been primarily a business to business company insured through employers. A major shift occurred when more individuals began to buy their own health insurance. To meet consumers’ needs, Blue Cross Blue Shield adjusted its marks, logo, and market strategies to become a more direct consumer company.


How to Change?
In Broniecki’s case, the team changed the name on the logo but kept it looking similar to the previous one to be recognizable for customers. They also unified the websites and planned consumer campaign. The vital part is to reach the consumers and deliver the message. The key message is that the only change was the name on the package. The Hiland Dairy would continue to provide fresh hometown dairy with no antibiotics or artificial growth hormones, Broniecki explains. The team used traditional, digital and social media in creating an interactive campaign to deliver the message.

In Williams’ case, the team simplified the logo to a blue cross, a blue shield and capitalized Nebraska to show it as a brand for everyone in Nebraska not just for employees. “Nowadays, people don’t read, especially on the Internet, they scan,” Williams says. “We have to grasp their eyes in three seconds.” The team also adjusted the marketing strategy from general brand promotion to direct consumer promotion. Unlike Broniecki’s case, they applied the new logo directly without any advertisement because it was a small shift and the brand was already well known.


Employees Are the Ambassadors
In both Broniecki and Williams’ cases, they involved employees as part of the re-branding process. Employees are one of the most challenging parts of Broniecki’s case. “Long term employees really had a difficult time with it, Broniecki says. The team developed a PR plan for employees to accept the new name by telling them the change will not affect their job and would probably improve the work.

Williams worked with employees to test 10 different logos and educated them the re-branding reasons and processes. “They are the best ambassadors to reach their friends, families, people they know,” Williams says. “They need to present themselves differently after the change.”

Be a Storyteller Through Video

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By: Kate O’Dell

In a world of instant access and ‘live’ updates, PR professionals cannot ignore the obvious; video is quickly becoming one of the main sources of information for the public.

Pete Soby, director of photography and owner of sobyVision, does not identify himself as a photojournalist, but as a story teller. While writers tell a story with pen and paper, he does it with a video camera and an editing room, he said.  Soby, a former videographer for KETV and the Omaha World-Herald, has years of experience shooting, producing and editing video.

Kurt Goetzinger, owner of Omaha Television, started his business producing high-quality videos for companies.  He spoke to the group about the growing business of video communications. “It is an exciting time to be in communications,” he says. In 2010, 60 percent of people got their news from TV. Three years ago, 43 percent of people got their news from mobile devices. Since then, with phones getting ‘smarter’ those numbers are continuing to grow.

Equipment has gotten cheaper and producing videos is now within reach. “Online viewership has exceeded television,” says Andrew Rogers, producer at Omaha Television.

“As the saying goes, a picture can say a thousand words, but for most of us PR professionals, our strength lies in words,” says Kellie Wostrel , PRSA Nebraska presiden.  “So how do we corporate video into our PR tool kit when we may not be the best photographers?”

Some advice from Soby:

  • Shoot video the same as you look at life. Meaning, do not shoot video of only one perspective, static video. While shooting, do not be afraid to scan a room, ‘look’ at different things.
  • Keep it steady. While shooting video, you are your tripod. Control your breathing. Find a way to brace yourself. Soby has wrapped himself around a tree in order to ensure he is stable. “You make look goofy, but your shot will look sweet,” he said.
  • Pay attention to details when shooting CEOs and spokespersons. Hide the microphone. Basic, but important. CEOs are the face of your company. “Make them feel like a god, make them look like a god,” Soby says.
  • Always look for something very visual. Worst video, BOPSA, Bunch of People Standing Around. It doesn’t make impactful video.

“We get to see everything as it happens, it is a front row ticket to life,” Soby says. “Have fun, it is meant to be fun.”

Managing the Crisis: Steve Wolf and Bev Carlson Talk About Crisis Communication

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By Linyu Huang

Crisis Communication has long been a popular topic in the PR field, and it’s never been more important than in today’s fast developing information age.

“We now know particularly with social media, you have seconds to be ready. The old rules used to be that if you can respond something within an hour then you are on top of the game,” says Steve Wolf, vice president of Issues Management Services. “That’s not true anymore.”

Wolf and Bev Carlson, the director of public relations for Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska and immediate past president of PRSA Nebraska, shared their experience in managing the crisis at the April 2 PRSA Nebraska luncheon.

What is Crisis?
Wolf began his presentation with a Chinese word: “weiji”, which refers to crisis. In Chinese character, crisis is a word consisting of two symbols.   One stands for danger, the other stands for opportunity. Wolf interpreted it as something people anticipate could go wrong, but can probably turn into opportunities.

Crises can take many forms from natural disasters such as tornados and floods to emergency issues such as an Internet outage, shooting or terrorist attack. Carlson depicted crisis as “things keep you up at night.” Among her examples:

  • A tornado destroys office building.
  • A gunman takes an office hostage.
  • A hacker’s virus releases sensitive client information.
  • The sudden death of a CEO.
  • A massive social media attack.
  • An incidence of workplace violence.


Be prepared
Being prepared is a vital way to lead the information curve in a crisis instead of following it. Both Wolf and Carlson stress the importance of being prepared in a crisis. Wolf explains the public’s information needs for crisis are usually simple questions: What happened? What remains at risk? What are you doing about it? PR practitioners should always be prepared to answer these questions and build an operation plan for crisis ahead of time. Says Wolf: “96% of the types of questions you could be asked in a crisis situation, you can anticipate in advance.”

Being prepared also means promptly reacting to the incident. Don’t hesitate in responding to the media and the public. “Even if you don’t have all the answers, the fact you acknowledge you have an issue that you are contending with is the way to go,” Wolf says. Another wrong reaction would be ignoring rumors and blatant misinformation. Hesitation often leads to rumors. Failure to respond to rumors immediately might turn rumors into reality.

From an internal communication perspective, Carlson sees being prepared as recognizing, realizing, and relationship-building. Recognize what crisis really is and defuse potential issues before they blow up; realize that you may be the only one who sees the problem at first; build a relationship and gain trust from staffs at all levels of the organization.

“The most important thing that ever served me is the fact that my CEO all the way down to the person that mops the floors know they can come [to] talk to me and they can trust me,” Carlson says. “If you have an open door and people feel comfortable coming in…If you are the one they want to tell, that will immediately put you on the front line of knowing what’s going on within the organization.”

Risk Communication
Risk communication is one of the best tools Wolf encouraged PR practitioners to look into when dealing with crisis management. Wolf interpreted risk communication as a science-based approach that helps people communicate effectively in emotionally charged situations and emergencies. Risk communication encourages PR practitioners to be sensitive to how the public perceive the organization in crisis situations. The credibility that the organization built in ordinary circumstances may disappear in crisis circumstance.


Risk communication also advocates purposeful exchange of information about risk perceptions. Purposeful exchange means not only being out there spreading key messages, but also receiving information from the public and purposefully responding back to the audience.

A failed purposeful exchange is to hold the “we know best” attitude, which is trying to control the incident excluding the public. “This is why people get upset when you sit there and say we are in charge; we got everything under control there, and you don’t give them means to help them deal with your emergency response situation alone with you, “Wolf says. “That’s the probability of losing something.”

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