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.”

UNO Holds “Big Biz in the Big O” PR Conference

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Members of Nebraska PRSA are invited to join students and learn more about such topics as digital media, branding and event planning  at “Big Biz in the Big O,” Regional Conference April 12-14,  at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Hosted by MaverickPR, the UNO Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, the conference also features sessions on agency PR, entrepreneurial PR and corporate social responsibility

The chapter has invited more than 100 students from universities in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and South Dakota. All events are held at Mammel Hall in the College of Business Administration on the south campus.

The conference opens Friday, April 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. with a “Viva la Omaha” social and presentation by Phil Gomes, senior vice president of Edelman Digital in Chicago,

Sessions begin on Saturday, April 13, at 9:30 a.m. One session features a panel of agency professionals from Swanson Russell, Bozell, Bailey Lauerman and Emspace Group.  Another session features branding presented by representatives from ConAgra Foods and Kiewit Corp. The event planning session includes presenters from the Omaha Sports Commission and Omaha Fashion Week.

The conference closes on Sunday, April 14, at 9:30 a.m. with portfolio do’s and don’ts, and a keynote speech on leadership by Dr. Tim McMahon, president of McMahon Marketing and a Creighton University associate professor, who teaches leadership, marketing and social media in the College of Business.

“Our team chose the theme, ‘Big Biz in the Big O’ because of Omaha’s wealth of public relations and communications professionals from major agencies and Fortune 500 companies,” said Karen Weber, UNO PRSSA faculty adviser. “Students and professionals can learn best practices from each other during the interactive sessions and through numerous networking opportunities at this conference.”

The cost to attend the three-day conference is only $35 for PRSA Nebraska members until the day of the conference. The registration fee includes the Friday night reception, continental breakfast on Saturday and Sunday and a box lunch on Saturday.

To register, visit or the UNO PRSSA regional conference page on Facebook. Checks should be mailed in care of Karen Weber, UNO PRSSA Faculty Adviser, Arts & Sciences Hall, Room 140, University of Nebraska at Omaha, 6001 Dodge Street, Omaha, NE 68182-0112

For more information, contact: Megan Romero, chapter president at (402) 880-9485 or e-mail

MaverickPR, the University of Nebraska at Omaha chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSSA), offers students interested in public relations opportunities in professional development and community and university service. One of the most active student organizations on campus, UNO PRSSA earned the F. H. Teahan National PRSSA Award for Outstanding Chapter in 2012 and 2009 and Outstanding University Service in 2010.

Media pros offer tips on pitching

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From left: Ann Pedersen, Cate Folson and Jim Reding

By Kate O’Dell

The most valuable tool a public relations professional can possess is a strong relationship with reporters and editors.  Building those relationships takes time and insight.  In order to better work with the media, it is best to understand what they are looking for from you as a PR professional.

Ann Pedersen, director of public relations for Lovgren Marketing group, was a journalist for 30 years.   When she changed career fields from TV news director to public relations director, her experience in news was a valuable asset.  She mediated a discussion with Cate Folsom, government editor at the Omaha World-Herald, and Jim Reding, director of assignments and planning at KETV Channel 7 at the October Nebraska PRSA luncheon.

During the panel, Folsom and Reding answered questions from Pedersen and from the luncheon guests.  The questions were broad from social media to pet peeves.  Below is a list of different statements made during this panel discussion.

What are reporters looking for?

“We are always looking for the human element in the story, if you can give that.” — Folsom

“The more local you are, the more interested we are.” — Folsom

“I would never turn down lists of ideas, but don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t all get picked up.” – Reding

“If I’m the only person who sees [the news release], we’re gonna miss it.” – Reding

“My dream news release says who, what, where and why.” — Reding

How should you treat reporters?

“First thing you should ask (when calling a newsroom) is: ‘Is now a good time?’” — Reding

When the media gets it wrong and reports something inaccurately, “Would you rather hear from your boss that you messed up or hear it yourself the first time?”Reding

When should you send a news release?

In a television newsroom, it doesn’t matter if you send the release months in advance.  They are working on things the day of most of the time, so be timely with your news release.

“If you come to the newsroom, you’re not going to be like, ‘Wow, I’m so impressed with how organized you are.’” – Reding

Deadlines for a newspaper are different, do not expect coverage if you send the release an hour before the event. — Folsom

What do reporters think of media kits?

“Information is excellent; trinkets are unnecessary.” – Folsom

How do reporters use social media?

“We live on Twitter, yet I’ve never Tweeted.” – Reding

While being adept and social media tools is important, Reding and Folsom both encourage PR professionals to focus on developing relationships with reporters and editors. Other tips centered on being accurate, factual and accessible.

Professionals Put Emphasis on Ethics

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September PRSA Nebraska Luncheon
By: Kristi Ashley

Two panelists at the September PRSA luncheon said being ethical means public relations professionals should be truthful and transparent.

“Ultimately, if you don’t have credibility, you don’t really have very much,” said Dr. Sherrie Wilson, associate professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Communication.

Matthew Ellis, vice president and general counsel of Woodman of the World, agreed.  Ethics is not black and white, but professionals must strive to be truthful and credible, he says.

Attendees discussed a case study in which a housing development was built on a former landfill with low levels of contaminants still present.  Assuming the role of the public relations director for the housing company, each person had to consider how to handle a boss who wants to keep this information from the public.

On one hand, being honest and respecting the public’s right to know are your responsibilities as a public relations professional.  And you should be concerned if there’s even a small chance someone could be harmed, Wilson says.  “But on the other hand, you have the economic concern of your company.”

Audience members chimed in, too, pointing out it is the public relations director’s job to anticipate what could happen and then plan what to say and do.  The media will likely find out anyway, and it is better to be straightforward.

A couple of actions to consider in this situation are to look for positives and find comparison projects to use as examples, according to the panelists.  Also, consider what you would want to know, as a citizen.

Public relations specialists must stress ethics.  “It’s so much a part of what we do in this profession,” Wilson says.

An excellent resource for any ethical concern is the PRSA Code of Ethics.  A few of the professional guidelines include:

  • Honesty: We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.
  • Disclosure of information: Build trust with the public by revealing all information needed for responsible decision making.
  • Enhancing the profession: Build respect and credibility with the public for the profession of public relations.

The code of ethics is available online at


Twelve Steps Closer to Necessity

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July Luncheon  7/10/12
Presenter: Bob Kula, Vice President of Corporate Communication at Kiewit Corporation
By Kate O’Dell

“Are you a nice to have or a need to have?” asked Bob Kula, vice president of corporate communication at Kiewit Corporation, at the July monthly luncheon.  This was the question that drove the presentation of “12 Steps: Rethinking the Traditional Communication Model.”

The scenario:  Your boss comes into your office on a typical day and gives you two minutes to explain why you are a valuable part of your company.  How is your work making the company gain financially?  Ideally, this answer should come to you readily, but are you prepared to answer that question? 

Kula’s 12 steps help define the reasons communications positions can be financially beneficial to the bottom line. 

“Communications breakdowns cause people and organizations to underperform each day,” Kula says. 

Kula presented different communication models that illustrated how easily communication within a company can get off track.  These representations showed the importance of a communications specialist. He also detailed which stages of communication between employees, managers and the product outcome, that an error can be made and ultimately affect the final product. By recognizing these spots of weak communication and having the ability to implement a system to remedy these mistakes, communications experts can prove their most value. 

Kula also warned of the importance of not falling into the typical daily grind of communications positions.   Although the daily tasks of your job must be tended to, it is important not to completely fill your time strictly writing memos, keeping calendars and other basic functions that can be the totality of the job. 

The expertise of how people communicate and make improvements to create more also adds to the value of the communications specialist.  Kula outlined the steps of good practice for a communications expert to fully approach company improvement.

The 12 steps presented:

  1. Take stock of your organization
  2. Go where the data tells you to go
  3. Define what it takes to be a leader
  4. Create your business case
  5. Build a communication structure that works
  6. Give people the score so they know what it takes to win
  7. Ensure what gets measured gets done
  8. Make sure your incentives are incenting
  9. Recognize to drive better performance
  10. Recruit people who fit well into your organization
  11. Give new employees the best chance to win
  12. Train to get results

If implemented well and actively evaluated, these steps can make a measurable difference in company performance.  In Kula’s examples, the breakdown of communication regarding safety incentives kept the company spending money on safety violations.  By evaluating the company policies and recognizing the lack of valuable incentives for employees in the safety policy, he was able to clue in the company on a fairly simple fix to their safety expenses.  By offering employees individual motivations to better adhere to the standards of safety, the company reported less accidents and ultimately saved money. 

This is of course just one example of several regarding how a lack of communication can cost an organization.

It is paramount to survival of the communications experts in companies during times of budget cuts and company audits that we are able to show our worth, Kula says.  As communications professionals, it is vital we continue to provide our employers with the facts about exactly what makes our positions valuable.

Gearing up for the Midwest District Conference

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Gearing up for the Midwest District Conference

By: Kellie Wostrel, APR

PRSA Chicago is partnering with 15 other Midwest PRSA chapters to offer two days of invaluable, educational sessions. The PRSA Midwest District conference, which will be held July 19-20, will feature some of the best PR professionals in our region. A full detailed agenda can be found online at

This is not only exciting for the Midwest District but also our Nebraska chapter. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure to meet with Abby Lovett, President-Elect of PRSA Chicago and Debra Bethard-Caplick, MBA, APR of PRSA Suburban Chicago. Both Abby and Debra have been heavily involved in leading and supporting the coordination of this inaugural event.

Abby talked with me about collaboration. She said that in addition to support from Chicago PR professionals, every chapter in the Midwest region is somehow playing a role in the event. According to Abby, this is truly a one-stop-shop for exciting professional programming (and with speakers representing Boeing, ComEd, Edelman Digital and GolinHarris, we tend to agree)! Midwest members were polled on what types of programming would be of most value to them in their career. The programming agenda definitely reflects the polling results. Session topics will include branding, digital, social media and crisis management.

Along with invaluable learning opportunities, the conference will be a chance for us Midwesterners to connect with our neighbors and enjoy some time in the windy city. Debra and the PRSA Suburban Chicago Chapter have been involved in organizing the Happy Hour event at the Hancock Towers (July 18th at 6 p.m.). Debra said that the Midwest District Conference is really an opportunity to experience a national conference on a regional level. The program offers a day and a half of engaging topics designed to inspire, challenge and educate…and all at a great price. Registration is only $200. The event will be held at the beautiful campus of Loyola University, School of Communications.

A big thank you Abby, Debra, PRSA Chicago, regional chapters and our Midwestern leaders who have pulled together to design an event that speaks to the value of our profession. And to our PRSA Nebraska members…we hope to see you in Chicago!

To learn more, log on to

Visual advertising reaches us on a primal level

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Presentation summary from the PRSA Nebraska May luncheon.

Guest speakers: Scott Rowe, Bozell. Kellie and Brian Smith, Rebel Interactive.

Visual advertising reaches us on a primal level

By Shawn Dobbs

Having an image to associate with a message is the best way to ensure that your target audience remembers you.  This is a lesson that companies are learning quickly as the social media machine keeps moving.  From Myspace to Facebook to Twitter, Flickr, and Pinterest, the appeal of image and branding is becoming apparent.  The image is how we identify the company.

“Any social media platform is just another communication tool,” says Brian Smith of Rebel Interactive.  Smith discussed the importance of communication and imagery in his talk to PRSA members at the May luncheon.

Pinterest is a visual communication tool used to share ideas.  Pinterest is unique because it is almost entirely based on pictures, or visual cues.  Users ‘pin’ pictures to their boards to show what they are doing, seeking, or interested in.  Pinterest gets attention because of our desire to stop and look at something unique- as Smith says, it “registers in the primal brain.”  We are much more likely to stop what we are doing to look at a picture than we are to stop and read an advertisement.

Like other social media tools, companies can use Pinterest both externally and internally by the company.  Externally, customers can communicate with the company by pinning their ideas for the company on their page.  Customers can make it known what they like and don’t like.  Internally, Pinterest can be used as an idea board.  The object we are branding is placed at the top, and the images associated with the object are pinned underneath.  This gives the object an identity.

Pinterest isn’t the only company trying to reach our primal brain.  Facebook’s new timeline presents great opportunities for imagery.  The addition of a cover photo that spreads over the entire page gives ample room to summarize, in a photo, what the page is about.  The profile picture appears with every post, comment, and like, stamping that image in our minds.

The timeline gives us a virtual time machine, where companies like Macy’s can mark events that happened in history, such as its founding in 1858.  Facebook timeline gives the ability to highlight posts and make them more prominent so they will stay at the top of the timeline longer.

We use images to communicate.  Pictures deliver a message in a way that words simply cannot.  They reach us on a primal, emotional level.  Pinterest and the Facebook timeline take advantage of this and offer insights on consumer thoughts on a level much deeper than a simple comment or tweet could achieve.

Advertising to today’s audience is more than ever about branding.  Successful branding reaches the audience on the same primal level that successful imagery does.  Brands such as Macy’s have been able to tap into their customers’ primal brain and understand what emotional messages resonate with them.

In the case of Macy’s, it is loyalty and tradition, which its Facebook timeline plays, showcases the company’s growth over the years.  When establishing a branding campaign, companies should learn from this example and turn their brand into an icon, something representative of an ideal, Smith explains.

Smith described Pinterest as “a way to show rather than tell what we are about.”  Remember that branding, like social media, is just another communication tool, and keep in mind that imagery is always more effective than wordage.  We believe the conclusions we draw based on our observations because they are our observations, which leads us to believe that they are our conclusions.  How do your tools of communication show the consumer who you are, rather than telling them what you believe you are?

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