PR Connection: Kate Plus 8… Entertaining America or Exploiting this Family?

June 30, 2010 at 2:22 am (PRCA 3330 PR Connections)

Kate Gosselin and her sextuplets on their sixth birthday          Back in April 2007, Jon and Kate Gosselin embarked on a life-changing television series (Jon and Kate Plus Eight) about living their lives together along with their eight children. For those who are not familiar with the family, it started off with Jon and Kate Gosselin, who’s desire to start a family was impaired by infertility when they discovered that Kate suffered from polycystic ovary syndrome. The couple then underwent fertility treatment and welcomed their first set of multiples, Cara and Madelyn in October 2000. The sextuplets; Alexis, Hannah, Leah, Aeden, Colin, and Joel; were born in May 2004.

          Jon and Kate Gosselin finalized their divorce in December 2009 after a ten year marriage and eight children together. In my opinion, the almost overnight fame and overexposure of the family in the media had much to do with this separation. Kate underwent a drastic transformation from the time the show originally aired to the present time. She was originally portrayed as a mother of eight who’s life revolved around taking care of her big family. Before we knew it, she was appearing in the tabloids then she was on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars in April 2010.

          TLC now hosts a show called Kate Plus Eight, which first aired in June 2010, that portrays Kate as a single reality TV star mom and her daily routine with her twins and sextuplets. Not only has the idea of the show adapted to her single life, but her looks have completely transformed as well. I don’t think there’s any way that a woman who has carried eight children could look as young and fresh as Kate Gosselin without plastic surgery and professional help from nutritionists and personal trainers.

          While watching the first episode of Kate Plus Eight I found it extremely difficult to form my opinion on what to think about this woman’s decision to raise her children in the spotlight in the manner in which she chose to. On the one hand, her failed marriage may have been a direct result of the overexposure of her family in the media and who knows what will become of the children as a result of being brought up under the constant watch of the media. On the other hand this family has been on television and in the media since the sextuplets were born and they have millions of devoted fans who love to follow along with the family on the TV series.

          So now the questions in my mind are.. Did the PR representatives for the Gosselins make a mistake in drawing too much attention to the issues in this family and making their lives too public? Are they responsible for the overexposure or was the family so eager to take full advantage of their fifteen minutes (plus a little more) of fame? Was it Kate or her PR rep’s idea for her to transform her image so drastically? Or was it a result of her newly single lifestyle?

          Honestly, at first I thought that TLC picking up the series Kate Plus Eight (dropping the ‘Jon’ aspect) was a mistake. But after watching the first episode and seeing how the children had formed a bond with the camera crew I might have to change my mind. After all, there are obviously millions of Americans who liked Jon and Kate Plus Eight enough for Kate to appear on Dancing with the Stars and then come back with her own reality TV series. Plus its a great way to rake in the much needed money required to provide a comfortable lifestyle for a family of nine. Only time will tell if the children will be able to handle life in the spotlight as they grow up.


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June 30, 2010 at 1:17 am (PRCA 3330 Topic of the Week)

          During week four we completed one week of Twitter in which we set up a Twitter account and sent at least twenty tweets along with responding to at least five tweets that our classmates posted and then blog about our experience for our fifth topic of the week. I have had some prior experience with Twitter before this week but I still learned a lot during my time during this activity.

      I found myself thinking of random things that I wanted to Tweet throughout my day but by the time I got to my computer, I would forget half of them. In order to solve this problem I chose the option to be able to send Tweets from my cell phone. I do not have internet access on my phone; pretty much all it does is make calls, send texts, and take pictures. I can’t even send or recieve picture messages because of the lack of internet access on my cell phone so I was very suprised that I was able send Tweets through the same device. The Tweets are sent through texts messages not the internet so that is how I was able to have such easy mobile access to Twitter.

          On any other week I would send Tweets randomly as I pleased but this week we were required to complete a certain amount of Tweets so I had to think about it a lot more often. I tried to Tweet about things that were more interesting than something like, “I had this for lunch today” and it was actually harder than I thought it would be. Normally I will send a Tweet here and there and not even think about the level of professionalism that it reflects back on me. This week however I tried to Tweet about something that caught my interest or any interesting facts that I may have come across.

          I think that Twitter is the future in social networking and it is very important for a public relations professional to be familiar with how to use this website. Twitter makes it easy to keep in touch with other people and follow along with things that they feel are important enough to share with the world.

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June 30, 2010 at 12:47 am (PRCA 3330 Topic of the Week)

          For week four’s topic of the week we completed a NewsU  The Lead Lab course. I am very glad to have this experience because I intend to use the knowledge I gained in writing news releases and maintaining the attention of my audience when I embark on a professional career in the public relations field.  I found this course to be very educational and extremely easy to navigate through.

          A public relations writer must know how to write leads that are entertaining and spark the interest of  the audience. This course discusses the two different types of leads, direct and delayed leads, and the importance of choosing the right one and applying it to your writing. Direct leads are up-front in their presentation of news and state all the facts right away. Delayed leads tell a story and unfold the news as they go.

          Both direct and delayed leads are general categories that contain even more types of specific leads. A summary lead is a type of direct lead that answers the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? An analysis lead is very neutral and allows the reader to understand the story from the perspective they choose.

          An anecdotal lead is a type of delayed lead that illustrates the complete story. Another type of delayed lead is an emblem lead, which uses one event to elaborate on a larger problem. A significant detail lead  is a type of delayed lead that adds in depth detail to a story in order to provide for a better understanding of the general idea. The final type of delayed lead is called a round-up lead and it combines all of the other types of delayed leads to exhibit a trend.

          This course was very helpful to me as a public relations writer because it stressed the importance of having an interesting lead that maintains the interest of and informs the audience. There are many types of leads and it is also important for a PR writer to know when it is appropriate to use each different one.

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Chapter 6 Reading Notes

June 30, 2010 at 12:13 am (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          Chapter 6 in our  Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques textbook deals with preparing fact sheets, advisories, media kits, and pitches. All of these are examples of basic publicity tools that are regularly prepared and distributed to encourage and facilitate media coverage.

          Fact sheets are one-page background sheets about an event, a product, or even the organization. These may be distributed with a news release or they can even be a part of a media kit. A fact sheet for an upcoming event, for example, may contain headings specifying:

  • The name of the event
  • Its sponsor
  • The location
  • The date and time
  • The purpose of the event
  • The expected attendance
  • A list of any prominent people attending
  • Any unusual aspects of the event that make it newsworthy

          A media kit, which is sometimes referred to as a press kit, can contain a vast array of materials including news releases, fact sheets, and even photographs and are often assembled to introduce new products or services and major events. Many organizations find it more cost-effective to distribute this information via CD’s, e-mail, and online newsrooms. Electronic press kits (EPK’s/e-kits) are more versatile than tradistional printed media kits because they can include multiple pieces of information in a variety of formats. 

          Media advisories are used to let assignment editors know about a newsworthy event or an interview of opportunity that could lend itself to photo or video coverage. Making a pitch consists of writing effective memos and e-mails that will persuade reporters and editors to cover your product, service, or event.

          The chapter wraps up in discussing a proper follow up for your pitch. I think this is very important for a public relations writer to be familiar with because it is essential for developing a professional relationship with clients. Following up on a pitch that you have made to an organization shows them that you have a genuine interest in developing news with this organization.

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Chapter 5 Reading Notes

June 29, 2010 at 11:42 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          Chapter 5 of our Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques textbook deals with writing news releases. The first part of the chapter discusses the importance of news releases/press releases in publicity programs. I was extremely suprised to find out that between 55 and 95 percent of all news releases sent to media outlets are never used. I was not suprised to read that there is a massive competition for the attention of reporters and editors.

          News releases are so effective because they create awareness about ideas, situations, services, and products. They are also cost effective; according to the text, almost any organization can create and distribute news releases at nominal cost compared to the cost of advertising.

          There is also much to do when planning a news release. The creator of the news release must consider the selection of paper, word processing, and the style to be followed when writing. It is important for a public relations writer to complete a planning worksheet before writing anything. The planning worksheet should answer these basic questions:

  1. What is the subject of the message? What is the specific focus of this release?
  2. Who is this message designed to reach?
  3. What is in it for this particular audience? What are the potential benefits and rewards?
  4. What goal is the organization pursuing? What is the organization’s purpose?
  5. What do you want to achieve with the news release?
  6. What key messages should this news release highlight? How can they be tailored to the format of a specific publication and its readers?

          There are also many different types of news releases including announcements, spot announcements, reaction releases, bad news, and local news. It is also important for a public relations writer to remember the basic parts of a traditional news release. The first page of a news release is usually printed on an organization’s letterhead, followed by contacts, a headline, a dateline, the lead, the body of the text, and a description of the organization.

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PR Connection

June 12, 2010 at 8:25 pm (PRCA 3330 PR Connections)

          Many of you may already know about the on going rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, but for those who aren’t familiar they are basically two teams with incredible talent striving to achieve the same goal: winning the 2010 NBA championship. I came across this website that I found to be pretty interesting because the homepage features pictures of both the Boston Garden and the Staples Center and you can click on either one to be sent to another page containing more information about the specific team.

          Being a Boston native myself, I was naturally drawn to the photo of the Boston (or should I say the TD Banknorth) Garden. Once you stray from the homepage and explore the content about each team, you can view statistics and a few other interesting features such as ranking the great players throughout the history of the teams, team statistics, and even a photo gallery for both the Celtics and the Lakers.

          No one knows who will win this year’s NBA Finals but we can all be sure that both teams will put on a great show. The first few games of the series have been full of action, suprises, and excitement but there can only be one winner so only time will tell who has the talent to bring home the trophy. I think it is very interesting that Paul Pierce #34, the small forward/shooting guard for the Celtics, grew up in Inglewood, California (a suburb of Los Angeles) and despised the Celtics as a kid. He is very open in interviews about his childhood dislike for the Celtics and I wonder how his PR representatives are handling the press that results from those comments. Obviously it is not taking a huge toll on Pierce as a player or a teammate and I have not heard too much media criticism from it so I’m guessing his publicist does a very good job of maintaining his image.

     Even though this is not a picture of the current Boston-LA rivalry, I think that this photo of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson sums it up. They both want to bring victory to their teams but remain professional and dedicated to the sport.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson

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Chapter 4 Reading Notes

June 12, 2010 at 6:36 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          Chapter 4 in  Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques covered how to find and make news. Public relations programs seek to provide information to the media in hopes that it will be published or broadcasted to their target audience. The book defines the resulting coverage of this information as publicity and the pr writer who creates and places these stories in the media is commonly referred to as a  publicist. In order to be an effective publicist, these three things are important to remember:

  1.  Be thoroughly familiar with traditional journalistic news values.
  2. Know where to find news and how to select the angle that will be most interesting to journalists as well as the public.
  3. Come up with creative publicity tactics that effectively break through a forest of competing messages to be a good problem solver.

          I am still on the fence when it comes to what career I would like to embark upon, but becoming a publicist sounds so interesting to me and this chapter really opened my eyes to what that job entails. Publicists do have a few obstacles to overcome when generating news and coverage in the media. These can include media gatekeepers, the incredibly shrinking news hole, the fact that traditional mass media is now fragmented (which means that it is no longer possible to reach the larger public through a single medium), and information overload. Overcoming these obstacles can be difficult but the text suggests several steps that can be taken to make your efforts more effective:

  • Understanding news values
  • Targeting the right media with your information
  • Thinking continuously about the interests of the readers or listeners
  • Keeping in mind the objectives of the client or employer
  • Exercising creativity in thinking about how to present information that will meet the requirements of media gatekeepers

          This chapter also covers the basics of what makes news; this consists of timeliness, prominence, proximity, significance, unusualness, human interest, conflict, and newsness. Chapter 4 also tells us that there are two main sources from which to find news, one of which is internal news sources which includes familiarizing yourself with the organization you represent by examining important papers, periodicals, clipping files, and other published material. The other is external news sorces which could be any newspaper you read, event you attend, or website you regularly visit and they can give ideas on how to get your organization into the news. News events can be used to create publicity it is extremely important for a PR professional to read, listen to, and watch the news for events and situations that may affect your organization.

          Creating news, as discussed in chapter 4, starts off with brainstorming sessions that encourage everyone to express any idea that comes to mind. Special events, contests, polls and surveys, top 10 lists, product demonstrations, stunts, rallies and protests, personal appearances, and awards are the ways to create news that are listed in the text. Without publicity it would be almost impossible for public relations programs to exist and it is important for any PR writer to be familiar with what makes a story newsworthy in order to gain attractive attention to your organization.

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Chapter 3 Reading Notes

June 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          The third chapter in Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques, entitled Avoiding Legal Hassles, covered many useful topics for a PR writer including a sampling of legal problems, various areas of the law such as: libel and defamation, invasion of privacy, copyright and trademark laws, dealing with regulatory and other federal agencies, and working with lawyers. It is extremely important for a PR professional to be familiar with these areas of the law because much of our writing involves promoting an event or organization and we must be sure not to misuse any information such as names, events, etc.

          A PR writer must be sure to avoid defamation and libel suits by properly using the names, likeness, words, pictures, or even cartoons of another person and making sure that in doing so their reputation is not harmed. According to the text:

“Truth is the traditional defense against libel charges, but opinions also have a degree of legal protection under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects the freedom of speech. This legal concept is known as fair comment privilege.”

          Invasion of privacy is also discussed in chapter 3; there are at least five areas where PR writers and staff are vulnerable to litigation involving the invasion of employees’ privacy:

  1. Employee newsletters
  2. Photo releases
  3. Product publicity and advertising
  4. Media inquiries about employees
  5. Employee blogs and virtual communities

          It is extremely important for a PR writer to be familiar with copyright laws in order to avoid lawsuits. There are two specific perspectives where knowledge of copyright law comes into play: knowing what organizational materials should be copyrighted, and how to correctly utilize the copyrighted materials of others.

          Public Relations writers should also avoid misappropriating the personality of another; this is a trademark infringement that can result from using well-known entertainers, professional athletes, and other public figures in an organization’s publicity and advertising materials without permission. Also, PR professionals should know when it is appropriate to contact a lawyer regarding specialized questions about libel, trademarks, copyright, government regulation, invasion of privacy, and any other legal matters they may come across.

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Chapter 2 Reading Notes

June 12, 2010 at 5:13 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          Chapter 2 in Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques was all about becoming a persuasive writer. This chapter was especially interesting to me because I took a class called Persuasion (COMS 3337) last spring that coverd many of the concepts I learned in chapter 2 and I would recommend it as a communication studies elective to anyone in our major. Persuasion is something that has been on this earth as long as humans have; according to the text:

 “it was formalized as a concept more than 2,000 years ago by the Greeks, who made rhetoric, the art of using language effectively and persuasively, part of their educational system. Aristotle was the first to set down the ideas of ethos, logos, and pathos, which translate roughly as ‘source credibility,’ ‘logical argument,’ and ’emotional appeal,’ respectively”

          Chapter 2 was a great overview of the basics of communication which include a sender, a message, a channel, and a reciever. I believe that communication is such an important part of PR and I like knowing how the process works so that I can be more effective when communicating with my audience in my professional future. This chapter also covers a few theories of communication that are most applicable to public relations writers. One theory is the Media Uses and Gratification Theory, which states that the communication process is interactive. The Cognitive Dissonance Theory which essentially says that people will not believe a message contrary to their predispositions unless the communicator can introduce information that causes them to question their beliefs. The Framing Theory is used to describe how journalists and editors select certain facts, themes, and even words to “frame” a story in order to generate maximum interest and understanding among readers and viewers. This theory applies to public relations because over half of the content found in today’s mass media is supplied by public relations sources. The Diffusion and Adoption Theory states that there are five steps in the process of acquiring new ideas; these five steps include awareness, interest, trial, evaluation, and adoption. The Heirarchy of Needs Theory is based on the work of Abraham Maslow, who listed basic human needs on a scale from basic survival to more complex needs: physiological, safety, social, ego, and self-actualization needs are the ones he listed, in order.

          This chapter also mentioned key factors in persuasive writing, some of which include:  audience analysis, source credibility, appeal to self interest, clarity of the message, semantics, suggestions for action, and a few others that also play a vital role in delivering a written persuasive message. Persuasion and Propaganda were also mentioned and along with the ethics of persuasion and being called a ‘spin doctor’ is exactly the best thing for a PR writer. This chapter has taught me so much about being a persuasive PR writer and how to remain ethically sound in doing so!

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Chapter 1 Reading Notes

June 12, 2010 at 4:39 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          The first chapter, entitled Getting Organized for Writing, of Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques contains so much useful information for PR writers. I learned how the Public Relations field is constantly being updated and going through changes with the times. Chapter 1 stressed how important it is for a PR professional to stay on top of current events in order to be an effective communication technician. This chapter also taught me that writing is only one component of public relations, which is composed of four main parts:

  1. Research
  2. Planning
  3. Communication
  4. Evaluation

          According to the text, “public relations writing is part of the communication component, which only occurs after research has been conducted and extensive planning to formulate the goals and objectives of a campaign have taken place.” Planning is a crucial part of public relations because it involves selecting an appropriate audience to be reached and figuring out the key messages to be delivered to that audience. Planning also helps PR professionals select the strategies to ensure the overall sucess of the campaign or program.

          This chapter also stressed how important it is for PR professionals to have computers. Technology in our world is changing with each day and it is vital for PR professionals to keep up with the growing industry. It is also very important to make sure to avoid errors in writing including spelling errors, poor sentence structure, jargon, wrong words, redundancies, too many numbers, hype, stereotypes, and politically incorrect language.

          Chapter 1 also taught me that along with the primary audience, there are also several others that will pay attention to your writing so it is important to remain professional in everything you do. This chapter helped me understand so much about selecting audiences and making sure my PR writing will be effective in communicating and accomplishing my goals.

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