Starbucks VP Speech at Newhouse

On Friday, James Olson, Vice President, Global Public Relations for Starbucks Coffee Company, came to campus to present his talk, “Enlightened Leadership: How to Turn a Company into a Movement”.

It was a story about how the company, according to media reports, was in dire straits in October 2008. The stock was tumbling so Howard Schultz came back to take charge.

The company held a giant meeting of store managers in New Orleans to try to reboot Starbucks’ brand identity and increase employee morale.

He showed a video about the national training event that ended with the message “People started coming back to the stores and we showed up again.”

The company at the same time introduced a new mission statement: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit: one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time.”

The company’s sales and stock price improved and crisis was averted.

Olson then discussed Howard Schultz’ campaign to pressure other corporate CEOs to not give contributions to political campaigns until Congress made progress in helping improve the economy. One hundred and forty CEOs signed on but it was largely a failed exercise. Schultz then wanted to help bring jobs back to the US and Starbucks started the Jobs for USA campaign to get people to donate to an organization that finances small businesses that couldn’t get loans from banks. It raised $50 million in donations and helped create thousands of jobs.

He then showed a video of American Mug & Stein which Create Jobs for USA helped to reinvigorate which led to many jobs being saved in the US.

He ended with a video about the company’s investment in a Leadership Lab to help make its front-line employees into brand evangelists.

Overall it was a pretty compelling talk. As a teenager I worked at the company for about nine months as a Barista at a very busy location (that’s the point, isn’t it?) so I knew about the company. His presentation was successful, by measure of crowd applause and reaction on Twitter in turning a roomful of people who may have just been dependent on coffee into people who were convinced in the worth of the company and some who said they wanted to work there because of his presentation.

Newsworthiness and Implications for PR

Last September, NPR wrote about the Occupy Wall St. protests that were happening in New York City. People got upset. They complained to the NPR Ombudsman.

The executive editor for news, Dick Meyer, responded by saying “The recent protests on Wall Street did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption or an especially clear objective.

The ombudman said he doesn’t weigh in on daily news judgements unless a decision is “totally egregious or part of a long term trend”, and he said the decision not to write about the Occupy protests was neither.

So, if Occupy Wall St. in September 2011 wasn’t newsworthy, then what is?

Today’s assignment for PRL 614 (PR Writing for the Web is to examine a day or two of top news on:,,,, HuffingtonPost,,,, and, write about what the featured stores indicate about newsworthiness in today’s media climate, and write about what the implications of the current trends in newsworthiness are for today’s public relations professional.

If PR Theory has taught me anything is it to begin with key concepts and try to define them. While there isn’t quite one all-encompassing definition of newsworthiness, there are a few important characteristics of it.

Brad Phillips, president of Phillips Media Relations and a former journalist with ABC’s Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN’s Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang, wrote about 11 Things that Journalists Consider Newsworthy. Let’s begin with them.

1. Conflict: Reporters are professional storytellers, and good stories have conflict. If you disagree with a competitor’s approach, for example, you’re more likely to receive coverage than if you agree.

2. Local: Most news organizations cover a specific geographic range. A newspaper in Iowa may report on a local charity event, but is unlikely to report on a new condo development in Florida.

3. Incident: Anything that goes wrong has the potential to become newsworthy, such as an industrial explosion, a car crash, or a school shooting.

4. Extremes or superlatives: Reporters love extremes or superlatives: the first, the last, the best, the worst, the biggest, the smallest. If your story contains one, highlighting it will usually make it more newsworthy.

5. New: It’s no coincidence that the word “news” contains the word “new.” News stories have to answer the question, “why now?” Stories that don’t are considered “old news” and usually receive little coverage.

6. Timely and Relevant: Timely stories, often about an upcoming event, are often considered newsworthy, as are stories relevant to the news organization’s specialty. A Boston-area real estate journal will consider a story about next week’s annual gathering of local real estate pros newsworthy, but the Boston Globe probably won’t.

7. Scandal: The Congressman who hides money in his freezer, the hedge fund manager who rips off his clients, and the music mogul who murders his companion are almost guaranteed to be deemed newsworthy.

8. David vs. Goliath: In many stories, there is a “big guy” and a “little guy.” Since the media often view their role as being the protector of the exploited, the little guy usually receives more sympathetic coverage.

9. Incompetence: The corporate executive, politician, or celebrity who can’t seem to get it right will almost always draw the critical eye of the press.

10. Surprising: Stories with an unexpected hook are candy to reporters. If your study discovers that fried foods have previously undiscovered health benefits, you can bet the media will lavish your work with coverage. That story, incidentally, would also make me very happy.

11. Hypocrisy: I saved my favorite for last. Say you’re an anti-gay rights politician who gets caught with a gay lover. Or the president of an animal shelter who’s caught abusing animals. There are few stories as delicious to reporters as powerful people betraying their own publicly-stated positions – and they’re almost guaranteed to remain in the headlines for days or weeks.

So if we start with the assumption that Brad is right and the more of these attributes there are to a story the more “newsworthy” it is, when we can move another what the implications are for PR.

First, the headlines

Biden is in ‘denial’ about Libya, Romney says

Romney seizes on Biden’s remark on Libya attack

White House moves to insulate Biden, Obama on Libya security question

Libya Attack Gains Steam as Issue in Race for President


Clearly, remarks from the debate triumph, and Biden’s remarks on Libya can be seen by some as incorporating the Conflict, Incident, Timely and Relevant, Scandal, Incompetence, and Hypocrisy sections.

What’s further evident is that no stories on the top on any of the above front pages currently have any stories that one could quickly assume originated with a pitch from a media relations person.

However, partway down the Washington Post page you see a review for Argo with the headline “Affleck’s ‘Argo’ is a nail-biting political thriller with a Hollywood twist“. This film, regarding how State Department employees were sheltered in the Canadian Embassy and then taken out of the country clearly is timely in that it relates to current tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Overall the stories indicate that Brad Phillips is right and that those are aspects of a story that makes it newsworthy and that news organization publish and feature stories like those.

What it means for media relations professionals is that they ought to write their releases and pitches in a way that makes them newsworthy. Organizations need to be careful when piggybacking on current events to ensure they are not being insensitive or inappropriate like Kenneth Cole was when the made light of the violence in Egypt in February of 2011.

[PR Theory] Power and Public Relations

Sage Handbook of Public Relations
Sage Handbook of Public Relations

Sage Handbook of Public Relations, the main textbook for PRL 605: Public Relations Theory at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

As I noted in my last post I’m well into the fall semester at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications M.S. in Public Relations program at Syracuse University.

Here’s the syllabus:

Last week I presented to the class on ideas about power as they relate to the field and practice of Public Relations. The content is based on chapters 12 and 13 from the Sage Handbook of Public Relations.

Preparing my presentation made me realize just how complex and varied research in the field can be.

Here is the presentation. I’m going to be working with theory in class until December, being tested on it again in May in the comprehensive exam, and it’ll come up in the field I’m sure. With that in mind feel free to comment or criticize.

But you got cookie, so share it maybe?

So it turns out that given the workload oppressive heat (it’s only 77°F back where I went to college in Sackville, New Brunswick) I may not be able to be as contemplative and report as much on this program as I would have liked but I will still be sharing a few things every now and then.

What I’d like to share with you right now is a video I saw on a friend’s Facebook page and then again in class when it was played by Professor Cookie Caloia (who is loved by the entire GRA 617 class not least of which is because she has given us cookies every time she has lectured so far). I’m not as embarrassed as I should be to admit I’ve seen it about five times now. It’s very fitting for this moment as many of us were tired enough from all the work to laugh at Cookie Monster but at the same time signifies just how exciting and kooky this whole process is. Without further adieu, “Share It Maybe” by Cookie Monster:


Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (in a nutshell)

Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, was first published in 1936. The key advice, in a nutshell is below. After reading the book, I can say most of it seems very relevant in 2012. However I think people are less likely to respond as positively to this and they may have 70 years ago what do you think?

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.

2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.

3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

1. Become genuinely interested in other people.

2. Smile

3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language

4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.

6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Win People to Your Way of Thinking

1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.

2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “you’re wrong”.

3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.

4. Begin in a friendly way

5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.

6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.

7. Let the other person feel that the idea is her or her’s.

8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view

9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires

10. Appeal to the nobler.

11. Dramatize your ideas

12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a leader

1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.

2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.

3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.

4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.

5. Let the other person save face.

6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.

8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.

9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

On Twitter, @Replies Are Different Than Mentions

@CondeNastCorp Knows the difference between @replies and mentions

So apparently I’m not the first person to notice this, but on Twitter, there’s a difference between @replies and mentions. It’s a simple concept but many seem to be unaware.

Here’s a very recent post from @PRNews which describes itself as “The public relations professional’s resource for ideas, strategies and tools to maximize communications and social media efforts”. In order to maximize your social media effort, you may want to allow everybody to see posts you want everybody to see.

@PR News Twitter Mistake

@PR News Twitter Mistake

The above post clearly isn’t meant as a message just for @BrianSolis or something only for people who follow @PRNews and @BrianSolis. (If you follow @BrianSolis, you should already know the definition of engagement).

If you don’t believe me visit the official Twitter Help Center article “What are @Replies and Mentions?”, which clearly states “People will only see others’ @replies in their Home timeline if they are following both the sender and recipient of the reply” (bold in original).

Twitter @Replies and Mentions

If you’re having a conversation with just one person, use an @reply (starting your post with @BrianSolis). Only he and people who follow both you and @BrianSolis will see it in their feed.

If you want all of your followers see a post referencing another account, use anything but “@name” to start your post. Most start with “[email protected]” when they are referencing another Twitter account.

For example when @CondeNastCorp wanted to let all of its followers know that @Selfmagazine was showing a significant increase in ad pages, it began the post with [email protected]” to ensure all of its followers, not only those following both it and @Selfmagazine, would see it.

@CondeNastCorp Knows the difference between @replies and mentions

@CondeNastCorp Knows the difference between @replies and mentions

There’s even a great > 2 minute video explaining it. Please, take two minutes out of your day in order to maximize your reach on Twitter.


Side note: Yes, I realize it would be silly for a PR pro to not follow @BrianSolis, the above post is for sample only.

Keeping in touch

Hey everyone. I just wanted to write a bit of a post for everybody at Mount Allison (and everywhere else) on how to keep in touch with me now that I’ve moved back to Boston. If we knew each other I’m sure we’re already friends on Facebook (Geoff Campbell). Anybody can subscribe to me there but I’ve decided to accept friend requests only from people I actually know. Anybody can follow me on Twitter (Geoff Campbell) and connect with me on LinkedIn (Geoff Campbell). You can subscribe to this blog via FeedBurner. You can also check out my old blog (Geoff Campbell at Mount Allison University).

If you want to contact me directly, use this form.


Yesterday I graduated with a B.A. Honours in International Relations at Mount Allison University. Today, I travelled from there back home to Boston. It’s tough leaving a place I’ve called home for longer than anywhere else since I a little boy. It was an incredible experience. I learned, read, and wrote more than I thought possible and I matured and improved as a person by an incredible amount.

Most important of all were the friendships I made. I really can’t explain in words how much I appreciated meeting and really getting to know some amazing people. I miss you all already.

Right now I’ve got to catch up on sleep from my last weekend as an undergraduate student but I’ll leave you with a song. I can’t think of anything more fitting than Changes by Bowie so here it is:


Goodbye Mount Allison University

I’m leaving Mount Allison University and Sackville, NB today. I don’t know if/when I’ll ever be back. I’ve called this place home for 1356 days now. That seems like an insane number. Four years of laughs, stress, exciting nights, restless nights, days in the sun, days in the library. At times it’s been incredible to be here but other times it’s been incredibly frustrating. In the end though, I’m glad I came here because I wouldn’t trade all of the experiences I’ve had here for anything. That includes the times I didn’t have fun or when, honestly, I screwed up miserably. It’s an overused phrase but everything really has been a learning experience. I think I’m a much different person now than when I was eighteen and that’s a really good thing. During my four years I’ve learned a lot about myself, about human nature, and about what I want to do with my life. I happened to learn a little bit in the classroom as well but experiences with students outside of class have been much more valuable.Right now I’m on my way back home to Boston. Home, to Boston. It took me a while but now it doesn’t sound odd. Soon enough my new home will be in Syracuse, New York. I know, for better or worse, it will be an entirely different experience than Mount Allison. For instance, the population of Sackville in 2011 was 5,558 people. In 2010, Syracuse was home to 145,170 people. Mount Allison has about 2,500 students. Syracuse University has 20,407, including 6,206 post-graduates. For better or worse I’ll probably never live in a town as small as Sackville again.

Take care everybody. If I write here again it may not be for a while. If you want to keep up with what I’m doing follow me @GeoffBCampbell.

Now I have to go but I’ll leave you with a song. So Long and Thanks for all the Fish.

Finished Work at Mount Allison University

Geoff Campbell's going away gifts
My co-workers are pretty awesome.

This afternoon I finished up my last day of work at the Marketing and Communications Office at Mount Allison University. I finished the video “Why Consider Mount Allison University” as my last project. If I’m able to end up somewhere with co-workers half as supportive, funny, and generally great to be around I’ll consider myself lucky.

For my part I did a extensive research of best practices on using social media for higher education and worked to integrate them into Mount Allison’s ongoing communication strategy.

For this field metrics are important but on a personal level it wasn’t the success of any project I worked on but the genuine support of my direct and indirect supervisors.

Geoff Campbell - Mount Allison University Recommendations

If I am ever fortunate enough to be able to pay it forward I will because my time there ultimately convinced me to pursue a career in communications.

Thanks to everybody who made my year working there a great one.