My Causerie

"All great change in America begins at the dinner table." ~ Ronald Reagan

Retirement: Same Book, Different Chapter! July 19, 2017

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 11:59 am

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What’s a six-letter word that means to withdraw from action; to withdraw from one’s position or occupation? Well, the latter is true, but I certainly won’t be withdrawing from action!

Since my daughter has finally made it Facebook official, I can also make my

Jonah, Jace, Josie and Baby J!

announcement official: I’m retiring from SIUE to accept a new position: full-time Grandma to my four grandchildren! You read that right…four grandchildren! Baby J is due to arrive Dec. 8. So as I said, I am certainly not withdrawing from action. On the contrary, I will be quite busy!

As much as I look forward to spending more time with these four adorable redheads (I’m guessing No. 4 will have red hair too), I will miss the interaction with you, my students, aka my other 2,000+ kids!

Many of you probably heard me say, “I was a mom long before I was ever a teacher!” That was always evident in my teaching philosophy. As a parent, two minutes past curfew suffered the same consequences for my daughters as 30 minutes past curfew. As one of my students, you knew that two minutes past an assignment deadline suffered the same consequences as 30 minutes past that deadline.

I always believed there were lessons to be learned that did not come from a textbook, but they were just as important. I never felt like I was doing you any favors by not teaching those lessons. They weren’t always easy for me to enforce or easy for you to accept, but I was confident that if you did in fact learn them, it would make you more successful in your careers.

But neither parenting nor teaching is just about lessons learned or rule enforcement. My teaching philosophy in and out of the classroom was to nurture your desire to grow as young professionals by modeling the value of commitment, high ethical standards, compassion toward others and a personal desire to always go “above and beyond” in all you were tasked to do. I made an effort to communicate that message at the beginning of every class. The work expected of you was no more than I expected of myself. If you were willing to put in the effort, you knew I would be right there in the trenches with you…and in the trenches we were…especially in those writing classes!

While in those trenches, I had the opportunity to have some powerful conversations with some of you. I laughed with you, cried with you…oh yes, and argued with you! It’s the life of a parent–whether it is with two or 2,000! I likened my role in and outside the classroom as that of the “parent” at the dinner table. I was not there to do all the talking. On the contrary, I was there to facilitate discussion from all members of the “family.”

And family is what many of you have become to me. I am thankful for Facebook as it will allow me to stay connected with you. I can continue to celebrate your successes and offer encouragement if you are facing adversity. So please know, my support does not end with my retirement. Once a parent, always a parent; once a teacher, always a teacher. I just view this as the ultimate “empty nest!”

I’ve enjoyed the past 15 years at SIUE as both a student and faculty member in the Applied Communication Studies Department. The friendships I have formed with colleagues and students have had a tremendous impact on my life, and I hope they will continue to be a part of my life going forward.

Now, as always…pull up a chair and let’s talk!


You Scream, I Scream, We all Scream for Ice Cream! July 13, 2017

Filed under: ACS 213 — mycauserie @ 7:00 am

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve never needed an actual reason to eat ice cream! When it comes to an all-time favorite summertime treat, ice cream is at the top of my list. OK, let’s be honest; I’ve ate it as a meal on several occasions! It’s dairy, which makes it a food group, right? So, finding out that July 16 is National Ice Cream Day just gives me one more excuse to enjoy a scoop…or two!

However, since we are talking about public relations campaigns this week in class, I thought it would be interesting to see just how many brands take advantage of this, or other “national holidays” to build relationships with their audiences.

I did a quick search and found several brands participating in National Ice Cream Day. PetsMart is even giving out dog-friendly ice cream samples! There are plenty of listings of participating ice cream shops, so no matter where you live, you can probably score some free ice cream deals this weekend!

Using these quirky national holidays/observances as a part of a strategic communications plan is nothing new. In 2015, Tostitos had some fun with National Chip and Dip Day! Over the years, brands have put together some creative campaigns for everything from “National Smile Day” to “Ask a Stupid Question Day” and everything in between! Without peeking, what are some organizations that you think could use National Smile Day or Ask a Stupid Question Day as a part of their public relations initiatives? If you were a part of the planning team, what creative ideas would you incorporate into the campaign?

Creativity has always been one of the selling points of the public relations industry. One way to nurture your creativity is by reading more. By the way, reading more will also strengthen your writing, which is another important skill for public relations professionals. Blogging is just one fun way to strengthen both your creativity and your writing…and yes, it’s also a required assignment!

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However, taking breaks is important too. So, when you are ready for a break from reading, writing and other homework tasks, visit your favorite ice cream shop and celebrate National Ice Cream Day with some free ice cream!

In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk.


PR Fireworks: Did you see any duds? July 6, 2017

Filed under: ACS 213 — mycauserie @ 7:00 am

Did you enjoy some backyard fireworks as part of your Independence Day celebration? We enjoyed a few with our kids and grandkids last night. Unfortunately, we had a couple of duds similar to this one…even our 4-year-old grandson was not impressed!

The same can be said of some brands who try to ignite their own fireworks with holiday campaigns. Several brands have hopped on the red, white and blue bandwagon successfully. Google joined the ranks this year with a doodle commemorating our country’s state parks. My husband and I took advantage of Lowe’s “Go Fourth” promotions along with their extra discount offered to all veterans!

Unfortunately, some brands’ attempts to show their patriotic spirit end up being duds like the chicken above. Last year, Budweiser’s  patriotic cans were a failed effort to attract millennials, and a more grievous blunder was made by American Apparel in 2014.

Blue Fountain Media shared a few tips with its post, “How to Integrate Holidays Into Your Social Strategy: Fourth of July Edition,” as did Sendible Insights in its post, “10 Ideas for Your Independence Day Campaign.” Bloggers also get into a patriotic spirit with themed posts. All offer great advice to brands that want to connect with their audiences while celebrating our country’s birthday!

What about you? Did you see any PR fireworks this year? Were any of them duds? Share your 4th of July highlights in the comments below.

Pull up a chair and let’s talk.


Only 2 days left in ABAM! June 29, 2017

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 7:00 am

This past month I’ve been busy with purple activities in support of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month and The Longest Day. We wore our purple shirts. We passed out END Alzheimer’s stickers, and we sold some yummy pies at our Pies for Pops bake sale on Father’s Day.

As many of you know, I have a personal reason for joining the fight against Alzheimer’s disease: my dad. He lost the fight against Alzheimer’s in 2013, but with more than 5 million Americans living with the disease, many of you probably know someone fighting the fight right now.

What you may not know is that researchers believe the first survivor of Alzheimer’s is out there…somewhere. That person might be 2 or 62, but with every research dollar raised, the cure gets closer. With every research dollar raised, the vision of  living in a world without Alzheimer’s gets closer.

We can’t get there without you. Please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association before the end of June in support of The Longest Day. You may make your donation in honor of someone you know currently living with the disease or maybe you want to honor a caregiver who cares for your loved one living with Alzheimer’s. Because for those living with the disease and for their caregivers, each and every day can seem like the longest day.

Every dollar donated lets them know that we are fighting the fight alongside them. They are worth fighting for. Our memories are worth fighting for. Our hope to END Alzheimer’s is worth fighting for.

We only have two days left in our Go Purple month, and we need a big push to reach our goal. Please share this urgent message with your friends, family and places of business. The generosity of family, friends and corporations across the country will help us reach our goal before the end of June. Will you help us get there?

Please donate today in support of the Alzheimer’s Association: The brains behind saving yours.


Questions and Answers for the Job Hunters April 12, 2017

Filed under: ACS 213,ACS 313 — mycauserie @ 7:00 am

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Spring is in the air and as commencement inches closer, seniors are working hard to land those first post-graduation jobs and begin their professional careers.

I often get a lot of requests to review resumes and writing samples, and I share a lot of the same advice I have heard from other professionals at conferences or through other professional development opportunities. Much of what I have shared with students pertains specifically to their writing, but I thought I would share a few other professional tips that came from a PRSSA conference a couple of years ago, but I think all are still pertinent today.

What do employers want?

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According to a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, leadership and being a team player top the list.

Positivity and confidence were also mentioned at the PRSSA conference.  They want you to be yourself, so make sure your “self” is  the person a company would be excited to add to their team.

Make sure you can demonstrate what makes you a good fit for the company; make your brand represent you! One suggestion to do this was to write down what makes you who you are. Identify your top skills. Then pick five of the most important ones. Then pick the top three you want a possible employer to walk away with from your interview.

Know what your goals are and how you are going to get there. For more tips, see the article on

What’s your digital footprint?

It is often suggested to Google yourself just to see what comes up; make sure it is positive. If it isn’t, what’s your game plan in addressing those issues should they come up during an interview? And start creating new content to strengthen your online presence.

One suggestion for professional social engagement included the following:

–Facebook: post two times a day

–Twitter: tweet 5-6 times a day

–LinkedIn: post two times a month

Although this is a general recommendation, keep in mind consistency and the content itself that you are creating or sharing is more important than the quantity. Be a part of conversations that are relevant to your industry.

Why is this important? Because networking is critical in today’s job market. A recent study found that 85 percent of all jobs are filled via networking. Although digital networking is a tremendous resource to professionals today, one professional who spoke with students as part of a PR professional panel reminded students that “people hire people.” Make sure you are taking advantage of face-to-face networking opportunities. Attend industry-related events, go to business-after-hours; in other words, get out there and meet people. Stay in touch with your connections too!

How do you prepare for interviews?

Be prepared for the standard questions…and the hard ones. There are a myriad of online resources to help you prepare for all types of questions including behavioral questions. This is where that advice to start your professional portfolio early in your college career comes in handy. You think you’ll remember every task, project and problem you faced…and overcame, but when you get busy your senior year, the previous three can become a blur. Keeping a running tally of these experiences can serve as a line on a resume or talking point to one of those “hard” questions. Make sure you review your files before each interview; you want to know your own story.

Research the company. Pour over the website, review LinkedIn profiles of those within the company. Be familiar with latest company successes and challenges. Your interviewer will be researching you; you should do the same. Make sure they know why you want this specific job and not just any job.

Send a thank you, preferably a hand-written card,  after every interview. If you do not get the job, consider emailing a thank you. Say thank you for the opportunity and ask if there is any advice he/she could share to help you in the future. Stay positive!

I hope these tips are helpful to our soon-to-be alumni. I look forward to seeing where each of them go in their professional careers…and I hope they come back to serve on one of my professional panels some day! 🙂

In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk.








Lessons learned are not always from a textbook March 20, 2017

Filed under: ACS 213,ACS 313 — mycauserie @ 2:30 pm
Image has been cropped.

Photo Credit: Biocat, BioRegió de Catalunya Flickr via Compfight cc Image has been cropped.

Attention all college students: the lessons you learn do not always come from a textbook.

In most college classes, professors have an attendance policy. My policy for an absence being excused or unexcused is not based on my judgment of your reason, but simply that you are professional in notifying me in advance that you will not be in class. I used to operate an in-home childcare business, but that’s no longer my job. I see no reason to babysit college students.

However, my attendance policy, along with how I conduct my classes and design assignments are created in such a way to help you strengthen your professionalism and your work ethic. Although having these innate qualities certainly makes it easier for you to succeed, I think they can be learned…sometimes the hard way, but  learned none-the-less.

Unfortunately, students don’t always listen to my words of wisdom. What? Say it’s not so! Oh, but it is so, which is why I bring in reinforcements. Whether it is through other professionals visiting the classroom or sharing outside resources such as this article, “5 traits employers really want younger workers to have,” they all strengthen my defense.

Although I disagree with the subhead of the above article, which says, “A new survey sheds light on the sought-after skills that can’t be learned in a classroom,” I do agree with the findings of the survey, which was conducted in 2016 by the Society for Human Resource Management.

According to the survey, dependability/reliability, integrity, respect, teamwork and customer focus are skills employers value most in younger employees. The structure of my classroom, course assignments and, like or not, my own strong work ethic, are all used to help you develop these skills. I encourage you to read the full article. In addition to discussing these so-called soft skills that are in high demand, the article also shares tips on how you can demonstrate these sought-after skills during an interview.

I also encourage you to not feel defeated if you have not yet mastered these skills because as I said, I do think they

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can be learned. There is so much more to learning than what comes from a textbook, and if you take the initiative, these soft skills can be developed and help you reach your professional goals.

Yep, no textbook rental fee required for these lessons! They are free for the taking, but it is up to you to take them. The job market is competitive–fiercely competitive. You have to bring your “A” game, and you know what? The game has already started. Are you playing to win?

Pull up a chair and let’s talk.



And the Oscar goes to… March 13, 2017

Filed under: ACS 313 — mycauserie @ 2:30 pm

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The Academy Awards on Feb. 26 had nine films vying for the top award of Best Picture. Whether your favorite film walked away with the Oscar or not, all the films offer great advice for public relations professionals. Take a look at this PR Daily post by Dee Donavanic, “9 PR lessons from ‘Best Picture’ Oscar nominees.” As Donavanic points out, as public relations professionals, “We help clients determine their message, decide which audiences we want to affect, use the appropriate channels and find the most effective ways to tell captivating stories.”

As you work on your feature story assignments, maybe you will glean some creative ideas from one of your favorite nominated films. Here’s a few of Donavanic’s PR takeaways that stood out to me.

  1. “Fences”–The PR takeaway: “In PR, if you have a strong message, you can similarly adapt it in order to reach audiences through a variety of channels—whether it’s through a blog post, YouTube video or other means.”The operative word here for students this semester is “adapt.” You have to understand that each piece of writing is different. If you are using the same message for your feature that you used for your news release, you want to make sure you understand the differences. When I was in the Army, I heard the adage “work smarter, not harder,” and that is certainly applicable to public relations writers. However, if you do not adapt your news release message to fit a feature-style piece of copy, it will not be effective, and that means you are working harder not smarter.
  2. “Hell or High Water”–The PR takeaway: “Be strategic.”Donavanic reminds PR professionals to always begin by identifying your goals. If you are sending out a news release about an upcoming fundraising gala, what’s your goal? You probably have a dollar amount in mind that you want to raise. To reach that goal, you are going to need people at your gala. That means your news release should give your audience all the information they need to answer your call to action.I think some of you failed to look at your goal before writing your news release because you left out key information such as where to purchase tickets, how much the tickets are or even where you are holding the event. If you have a call to action, always make sure you provide the necessary information so your intended audience can respond.
  3. “Hidden Figures”–PR takeaway: “Use your team.”I like this one…a lot! As Donavanic said, “People with different backgrounds can contribute different perspectives and lead you to a solution that you may not have thought of on your own.” If you are working on a campaign, don’t shy away from asking for help early in the planning stages. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Teamwork is essential in the public relations industry; learn to be a good team player.This can apply to your writing assignments also. Taking part in the revision process allows you to brainstorm ideas with others, which can make your copy more effective. If you have not been taking advantage of this process, you are, essentially, submitting a draft as your final copy. That probably doesn’t meet the “work smarter” criteria. Use your team.
  4. “Moonlight”–PR takeway: “Get up close and personal.”This hits the nail on the head for those of you still working on your feature stories. If you are using the same message as you did with your news release, this is where you dig deeper to find the backstory. Grab your audience’s attention, pull them into your story.Using the previous fundraising gala example,  the news release shares the basic information about the event with your audience, but your feature story needs to get personal. Tug at some heartstrings, paint a vivid picture for your audience–give them a reason to want to support your cause.
  5. “LaLa Land”–PR takeaway: “Persistence is the key to results.”This is a great one to end with for students because at this time of the year, you can start feeling worn down, but I want to encourage you to hang in there. It might mean starting early on writing assignments so you have time to submit one, two or even three drafts–be persistent. It might mean you are taking those baby steps toward landing your dream job by seeking out one, two or even three internships–be persistent. You will see a return on your investment, but you have to be persistent.

In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk.





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