My Causerie

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

Looking for a new PR? April 11, 2016

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

If you work in communications, you know PR refers to public relations. However, if you are a runner, PR has a different meaning: personal record.

Our daughters set personal records this weekend participating in the GO! St. Louis events. Jaimee participated in the 5K Saturday morning, and Jordan ran her first marathon Sunday morning. Seeing them strive for their own PR, I contemplated how to encourage a PR for students studying PR…that’s how the mind of an educator works!

As this semester winds down, I challenge students to take a look at their performance and determine what they can do to set a new personal record toward their goal as public relations professionals.

Since it was all about running this weekend with the Go! St. Louis events taking place, I came across this Huffington Post article that shares some life lessons learned from running. Here’s my teacher takeaways from the list.

Photo Credit: SweetOnVeg via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: SweetOnVeg via Compfight cc

1. You are stronger than you think. This can apply to your physical and mental strength. Attitude plays a big part in accomplishing any goal. The work may seem overwhelming; the hill may seem impossible, but if you tell yourself you can do it, and you actually keep “doing,” you will be at the top of that hill before you know it.

2. Every run is different. You can run the same loop at the same time two days in a row and feel like the queen of the world one day and the scum of the earth the next. It doesn’t say anything about you as a person — except that you’re normal. Same goes for writing. One day the creative juices are flowing and with “pen to paper,” the story comes to life, and then the next writing assignment just seems to scream, “You will never be a good writer!” You just have to keep up with the training–whether that is running or writing!

3. There is a fine line between being in pain and being injured. You have to learn where your line is and when to stop. Watching the marathon yesterday, I can tell you, I saw people running through pain! But sometimes, it does go beyond pain and runners are forced to stop. Depending on the injury, their training regiment may be altered for awhile, but I think the operative word here is stop – not quit. Runners still find ways to workout while recuperating from an injury; they don’t just quit all together. The same is true for writers. If you are suffering writing pains, you push yourself to keep writing–no pain, no gain. However, if your writing is bleeding out, it may be time to stop and seek professional help. Go to the writing center, get a writing tutor or sign up for a basic writing composition class. You don’t just quit; you find ways to build your writing strength.

4. Take rest days. Yes! We all love rest days, and so does your writing! Allowing your writing to rest before going back to it for editing, makes the revision process much more successful.

Photo Credit: photographerpandora via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: photographerpandora via Compfight cc

5. There’s something magical and indescribable about a comfortable pace and a good playlist. We all tend to do our best when we are in our zone. As writers, we each need to find our zone too. What works best for you? Complete silence? Music playing? Writing in the morning? Writing late at night? Find your own magic and put it to work for you.

6. The runner’s high is real, and once you’ve experienced it, there’s no turning back. For writers, getting that first piece of copy published is a high. It takes effort and time though. People just starting out running probably think of it as a daily drudgery too, but they push themselves to keep with it. Writers have to do the same.

7. It’s perfectly acceptable to skip happy hour because you were really looking forward to that evening (or tomorrow’s early-morning) run. OK, so this one might be a hard sell for me, so I’ll just say, it may need to be a professional decision on your part to skip happy hour if you know you have a writing assignment due! You may not be “really looking forward to it,” but it is due all the same. For some, a quick happy-hour stop with friends might do them good; for others, it might do them in. Know what works for you.

Posters I made for Jordan to encourage her at the halfway mark.

Posters I made for Jordan to encourage her at the halfway mark.


8. Sometimes cheering for a runner is even better than running. We feel good when we encourage others, and it can motivate us to try harder to stretch beyond our own limitations. Keep this in mind as you edit others’ writing.

9. Fancy gadgets and gear are fun, but they don’t make you a runner. Technology provides a lot of support for writers too, and they can certainly be helpful. Just remember, it is still your own hard work that gets you to your goal.

10. Running a “real race” is not a prerequisite to calling yourself a runner. But don’t be intimidated to try one. Yes, you are still in training, but don’t shy away from real-world writing opportunities either. I’ve only had a couple of students step out of their comfort zone this semester and try to get a piece of copy published. Don’t be intimidated to try.

11. Running is all about you. You determine your own goals. For some, that’s a marathon. For others, it’s making it around the block. As we all know, PR–public relations–allows for multiple career paths. Your PR–personal record–might be different from your peers. Determine your own goals and then work hard to achieve them.

sign12. Focusing on the horizon can make each step in front of you feel easier. For a first-time marathon runner, looking at the course map can almost seem ridiculously impossible! But if you break it down to each mile marker, it seems more do-able, and staying focused on the awesome sense of accomplishment ahead makes you keep going. The same is true for writing. Break the big tasks down into smaller chunks, and it will feel easier.

13. There are meditative powers in clearing your mind and focusing onIMG_6847 your breath or the sound of your feet. Or the sound of your fingers tapping away on your keyboard. Many people find writing to be a stress reliever. Some students say this about their weekly blogging; clear your mind and find your writing focus.

14. The best way to explore a new city or learn a new route is on foot. And the best way to learn to be a more creative writer is to write…and read…and write…and read. Learning by doing; a simple concept, but it works.

15. Running is a common denominator. Runners always have something to talk about together. That’s the advantage of joining interest groups; even for the more introverted person, you can easily hold a conversation while networking when you share a common bond. Joining PRSSA while in college and joining PRSA  after graduation, allows young professionals to build relationships with other like-minded people.

story16. Sometimes the only thing holding you back is your own mind. As a PR professional, you are a storyteller. As you go through your career, as you go through life, remember you have the power to write your own story. How will your story end?

Pull up a chair and let’s talk.


What’s your worth? April 3, 2016

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

I had an interesting discussion with students in my online class this past week. It was probably “sanitized” for my benefit, but even then, I sensed some frustration with the standards I’ve set for them.

I tried to emphasize that the work I put before them is no more, actually quite less, then what I put upon myself. I provide multiple learning opportunities, and doing so adds a lot of work on my part. It also adds absolutely nothing to my paycheck, but if students take advantage of these opportunities, they could definitely add to their own paychecks down the road.

Jace, Josie, Jonah

Easter Sunday: Jace, Josie, Jonah

Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings via Compfight cc

For a little encouragement, students should read this article about a PR pro’s worth in 2016.

All I can say is, “Wow, I have adorable grandchildren!” Because if it wasn’t for these three, I’d probably be working in public relations rather than teaching it!


But for students who want to enter the public relations field and work toward those six-figure salaries, listen up. You are going to have to learn to juggle several projects at a time, meet deadlines and write flawlessly. Successfully managing your college coursework on top of other responsibilities, whether that be an internship, job, family…or all of the aforementioned, is making you a more competitive candidate in an increasingly competitive job market. The reading, quizzes, practice exercises, blogging, writing, writing and more writing…well, consider it on-the-job training! And, you are not paying any extra fees for this training…you’re welcome!

The class is challenging; I do not deny it. College students’ schedules are challenging; I do not deny it. But I hope in the end, students realize it is solely for their benefit. OK…maybe a little for my benefit too. When I am looking for public relations professionals to serve on my class panels or speak at PRSSA meetings, I want them to be SIUE alumni!

So stay strong and finish the race! The semester is almost over. Work hard and you will move toward those six figures some day! In the meantime, know I am working just as hard…while I move toward six grandchildren some day! Smiley-06-junePull up a chair and let’s talk.


March 21, 2016

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

I watched “The Passion” hosted and narrated by Tyler Perry last Sunday; I thought it was good.  It was set in New Orleans and had several well-known celebrities playing key roles in the production. As the story of Jesus’ crucifixion played out live in this unique, contemporary re-telling , a crowd of people were also carrying a huge illuminated cross through the streets of New Orleans.

As I said, it was a unique, modern-day version of a story that has been told for more than 2,000 years, and the musical selections that accompanied the storytelling were certainly unique too. I found it captivating though. If I was to look at this storytelling  from a public relations perspective, I would say it’s good PR. Jesus is getting his message out. Isn’t that what he called his disciples to do? It’s good storytelling. Isn’t that what good PR pros do? I’d say Tyler Perry and the others did some good PR work for their “client!”

The show was a good way to end a good Sunday. I enjoyed church with my family…something I treasure, and it was extra special to see my FullSizeRender(2)grandson as he waved his palm branch as part of our Palm Sunday worship service. It’s a blessing to get to see my grandchildren starting their faith walk early in life. Plus, you get to hear so many wonderful young faith stories like the one my grandson recently shared with his mom.


“Yes, Jonah.”

“I’ve been praying to God that PaPa would finish the train table, but it’s just not working!”

Ahhh, out of the mouths of babes. Now surely this will motivate his PaPa to get that train table finished! Speaking of “out of the mouths of babes,” we also had another young Highland Hoper, Isaac Rieke, share his amazing voice with us during church. We’ve had several young people sharing their gifts the past several weeks, and I have been blessed by each one. I’m not sure, but I am guessing I must have stepped out of line when God was handing out talent! I have no musical talents, but music can really speak to me as a part of my worship experience, so I appreciate those who share their gifts.

If you do not have a place to celebrate the resurrection this Easter Sunday,  I invite you to join us at Highland Hope. Let me know if you need directions or a ride.

Pull up a chair and let’s talk.




Writing requires editing? Say it isn’t so! March 14, 2016

Filed under: ACS 213,ACS 313 — mycauserie @ 7:00 am
Photo Credit: riebschlager via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: riebschlager via Compfight cc

The concept of revision being a part of the writing process, especially for new writers, has been a seemingly difficult one to get across to students this semester. It’s not that I think the concept is difficult to understand, but I think time management has produced a “one-and-done” mentality when it comes to writing assignments.

There are several negative implications to adhering to such a mentality, but I think the biggest one is the impact it has on the learning process. When it comes to improving writing skills, there is more to just practicing; you have to incorporate the feedback and the revision process into your writing practice. Even if you write often, but you are still writing with incomplete sentences, disjointed paragraphs, poor grammar, poor spelling and a myriad of other writing ailments, then your practicing is all in vain.

Strong writing skills are obviously important for individuals looking to pursue a career in public relations, but professionals in all industries need to have strong writing skills if they want to be seen as credible. Several professionals reiterated the importance of strengthening writing skills at last month’s Career Development Day. Hearing young professionals describe the writing components they encountered during their job search interviews should make current students sit up and take notice.

And more importantly, although learning the AP style rules is important for public relations professionals, many in the role of hiring said candidates who make AP errors during an interview writing test are not necessarily weeded out as quickly as those who make multiple grammatical errors. Learning the AP Stylebook comes with practice, but not having a firm grasp of basic sentence syntax at this juncture in your career tends to raise red flags with prospective employers.

A recent Facebook post from two former ACS students not only attested to the fact that as public relations professionals you will consistently use your AP Stylebook as a writing resource, but they also firmly supported the importance of revisions…and revisions…and yes, more revisions!

“We were missing Stacey Howard today while we spent hours hunched over our AP books proofing (it was brutal).

Editing is a part of the writing process!

Editing is a part of the writing process!

Stacey, we hope you’re pleased that we’re still using them constantly and not offended that we STILL can’t remember if firsthand is hyphenated on our own. We are always happy to be your poster children! Although, if your 313 students knew how much time we spend editing and how many rounds of revisions we go through, we might scare them all away!”

Years ago a colleague who owns his own public relations firm told students that he never sends out a piece of copy without at least one other set of eyes looking it over. So you see, whether you are new to public relations or a seasoned professional, editing never goes away. The one-and-done writing concept is typically never going to be a good philosophy to live by, so no matter the reason as to why you detest the revision process, you need to learn to embrace it. And learning to embrace it now, may actually make the process less “brutal” in the years to come.

Just give it some thought. Pull up a chair and let’s talk.



Takeaways from Career Development Day March 7, 2016

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

FullSizeRender(4)The Career Development Day put on by PRSA St. Louis and hosted by the SIUE PRSSA Chapter, offered multiple professional development opportunities for current students, young professionals, seasoned professionals with years of experience and even educators in communication disciplines.

As mentioned last week, the morning keynote speaker was Danny Rubin. Rubin conducted an interactive writing workshop using one of the templates in his new book, “Wait, How Do I Write This Email?” Participants learned how to tell their own stories in their cover letters and professional bios incorporating Rubin’s advice of, “Don’t SAY you are creative and hard-working, tell the things you’ve done that SHOW you are creative and hard-working.”

A “Young Pros” panel gave participants a chance to ask questions and learn from those who “not so long ago” were sitting on the other side of the table.

Showing initiative, keeping up with trends and always taking time to talk with the speaker (hint to ACS 213 students) were some of the tips shared by these successful young professionals. They also emphasized some of the most important hard skills they have benefited from in their early careers. A few they mentioned included:

  1. Know how to write: This includes understanding search engine optimization
  2. Know Excel: Used a lot in collecting and reporting data.
  3. Know analytics: You need to know how to communicate ROI…and as asked at the conference, “What is ROI?” Return on Investment, and that is what your clients are going to want to see.

The luncheon keynote speaker was Angela LaRocca, brand manager at Unidev. She also serves on UMSL’s Digital Marketing Advisory Board and is a board member for the American Marketing Association’s St. Louis Chapter.


LaRocca shared her enthusiastic advice that she obviously lives by: Be fearless; be persistent; be creative and have fun…all while talking to people who are doing what you want to do. Maybe you’ll want to venture over to a Venture Cafe Gathering?

There was also a media panel with professionals sharing advice on the best way to pitch to the media. As we all know, there really isn’t a news cycle anymore. Therefore, the professionals emphasized the importance of being in the moment. Staying tuned in to what is happening around you, gives you opportunities to piggyback on a topic using your client’s story. Julie Flory, assistant vice chancellor for campus communications at Washington University, gave an example of how they pitched one of their professors as an expert to talk on the issue between iPhone privacy and the current demands of the FBI. The story got picked up by several media outlets including USA Today.

Geoff Goldman, director of media relations for Fox Sports Midwest, also encouraged participants to not be intimidated by the sports/entertainment industry. Goldman said the opportunities are there; candidates just need to bring their “A” game.

  1. Be a problem solver
  2. Bring in multiple skills
  3. Know the business side of the business

And Kenya Vaughn, web editor for and arts editor at St. Louis American Newspaper, said one of the best ways to break into the industry is to be a great intern. Don’t just do the bare minimum.

The Career Development Day wrapped up with professional roundtables. Participants had the opportunity for one-on-one conversations with several different industry professionals. I had the opportunity to talk with Abby Theban, who shared some great internship advice including the importance of knowing AP Style rules and how to write a news release. She said for her internship interview at FleishmanHillard, the writing test took place before she sat down for the actual interview. She also said poor grammar can quickly weed out candidates. So maybe brush up on your Schoolhouse Rock…”Lolly, lolly, lolly, get your adverbs here!”

Theban recently shared more tips in a PRSA St. Louis blog post. It’s advice you have heard before, but maybe hearing it from a

Photo Credit: jonisanowl via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: jonisanowl via Compfight cc

successful young professional will catch your attention more than hearing it from a professor or reading it in a textbook. Welcome to the real world.

Career Development Day was a tremendous success, and I was glad to see several SIUE students, in and outside the communication disciplines, take advantage of it. I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge the following PRSSA Chapter members for their contributions toward the success of this event.

Dylan Stanley: logistics coordinator

Desiree Bainbridge: blogger

McKenzi McClain: graphic designer

Simmonne Bolla: photographer

Thank you all for your willingness to step up and “do more than the bare minimum!”

Pull up a chair and let’s talk.






How to boost your writing health February 29, 2016

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

Professors proclaim it. Bloggers broadcast it. Students struggle with it. “Improve your writing skills” is probably said to college students

Photo Credit: jordanuhl7 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: jordanuhl7 via Compfight cc

and young professionals as much as “eat your vegetables” is said to 5-year-olds at the dinner table.

And there are as many writing tips out there for you to try as there are vegetables!

  1. 7 ways to improve your writing…right now
  2. 10 ways to improve your writing skills–quickly
  3. 16 Ways to improve your writing
  4. 25 free online courses to improve your writing skills

These free resources are endless; you just need to stop pushing them aside like broccoli at dinner time.

If you took advantage of Career Development Day, you met Danny Rubin, whose easy-to-follow writing templates might just make your writing more palatable…kind of like what cheese sauce does for broccoli!

Rubin gave participants a chance to practice some of his writing tips during an interactive workshop, and each person went home with a floating-3d-bookcopy of his new book, “Wait, How Do I Write This Email?” This book alone was worth the price of admission, but if you missed out on it, you can order it online. Trust me, you want this book…just like you want cheese sauce on that broccoli (probably more).

You should also add Rubin’s blog, “News to Live By” to your reading list because he also offers a lot of great writing advice such as “How to Catch the Most Mistakes When You Edit“–an excellent midterm read for public relations writing students!

Eating your vegetables makes your body healthier. Improving your writing makes your career prospects healthier. You just need to stop pushing your writing around your plate; it’s time to get serious about your professional health. Are you ready?

I’ll share more about Career Development Day later, but for now…pull up a chair and let’s talk.






Peering through knotholes February 22, 2016

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 7:00 am
Photo Credit: wundoroo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: wundoroo via Compfight cc

There is a tall board fence that separates my yard from my neighbor’s yard. The fence has two knotholes in it, one close to the bottom of the fence and one close to the top of the fence. If my neighbor peered into the bottom knothole, he might find my golden retriever peering back at him. If he would peek through the higher knothole, he would see the birdhouse we made from a hollowed gourd hanging on a post. The same backyard, but because of my neighbor’s point of view, he sees two totally different things.

This was the lead paragraph in a story I wrote in a literature class almost 15 years ago. The essay was an analysis of an author’s point of view and how it impacts what we “see” in a story.

Consider the book versus movie debate. What side of the fence are you on when it comes to reading the book or seeing the movie? We can argue which one is better…my vote is for the book…but no matter what side you take, books played out on the big screen give us another lesson in how an author’s point of view changes what we see. Have you ever read the book first only to go to the movie and walk out saying, “That is not how it ended in the book!” The same is true in life. The last chapter hasn’t been written, so we don’t know how the story will end.

Or are you like me and sometimes while reading a good book, in eager anticipation to find out how it ends, you skip to the back? Yep, I’ve done it! We don’t get to peek ahead to see the last chapter of our lives though, but our point of view still shapes the story. We all have our knotholes. For me, faith is my knothole. It allows me to see enough to trust the author.

Since Jan. 24, I have mourned the loss of three family members: a cousin, an uncle and an aunt. Loss is painful, but it is my point of view that allows me to move forward even with a broken heart; faith is my knothole. I certainly don’t pretend to know the answers when faced with such challenging times. I often have more questions than answers, but I do know my point of view shapes the story that I am “reading.”

What do you see when reading a story? It depends on the knothole you peer through. Each point of view is different and can give us hints of the author’s intentions. Without this knowledge and the realization that a different point of view can significantly alter the story, we may unintentionally miss out on what the author wanted to tell us.

What do you see through your knothole? Pull up a chair and let’s talk.



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