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Archive for December, 2008

I’ve been away from MWL for a while now. I celebrated Christmas, began the instructional design of my spring 2009 classes, and actually got some much-needed rest. But as we approach the New Year, I feel like I should say something, anything, to mark the passage. Here goes…

Goodbye, good riddance.

We all know what 2008 was like. First, there was the dominating presidential election. The wars. The housing bubble bursting. The failing economy. The bailouts.

As interested as I am in politics, I even got sick of the presidential election. The election did bring closure to one thing, and that is the long, slow suicide of journalism.

Journalism is dead. It killed itself by cutting out its credibility. RIP New York Times, Washington Post, et al. Now what do I tell my highly ethical PR students about media relations, about building relationships with journalists? My PR students are steeped in the ethical and legal aspects of communication/public relations, including fairness and balance.  They get it.

The failing economy heightened the need for communicators/public relations practitioners to understand the relevant topics of finance, economics, and business management, with an emphasis on employee communication. I’ve been preaching this for decades, but I believe that this financial crisis finally drove home the message. 

I have seen a renewed effort by communicators/public relations practitioners to learn how to communicate about economic and financial issues in order to be more effective in representing their organizations with key publics. That makes me very happy indeed.

So much for 2008. There is more, of course, but let’s move on.

I love this time of the year. Out with the old, and in with the new. Rather than celebrate the New Year with noise and alcohol-induced reverie, I greet each New Year in quiet contemplation. I take a quick inventory of the year ending, then I think of all the promise the New Year holds.

I do not make a bold set of New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I refine those goals that I have already set for myself, namely, to transform and evolve into a higher and better being here and now, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That includes specifics of becoming a better communicator, teacher, friend, husband, father, grandfather, student, employee, and neighbor.

Onward and upward. I wish you the happiest and most prosperous of New Years. Thank you for reading MWL in 2008. I look forward to our dialogue in 2009.

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Word stir-fry, Christmas edition

I am convinced that the word “absolutely” has its own publicist. It’s everywhere all the time.

For example, take this Christmas selling season. Have you noticed how many things  are not advertised as merely “free”, but “absolutely free”?

The word “free” means costing nothing. Adding “absolutely” to it does not make it any more free of cost.

I can understand a promise of “buy one, get one free.” But would it entice me even more to hear, “buy one, get one absolutely free”?

I think not.

Blogs are great for providing a forum for people like me to prattle on about things like this. And guess what?

Blogs are FREE.

No, I am not going to say it.

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December graduates face a bleak job market. The economic downturn creates a hiring environment that is at best flat and at worst shrinking. Uncertainty abounds.

December graduates, like all working professionals, must demonstrate competence in their chosen profession to get and keep good jobs. For graduates, this means a high GPA, hands-on experience from internships, and some solid leadership training through relevant organizational memberships.

That’s what positions you for hiring consideration, but what  closes the deal? According to JobWeb, employers look for certain qualities above and beyond GPA, etc.  Employers rank the importance of those skills/qualities as follows:

  1. Communication skills
  2. Strong work ethic
  3. Teamwork skills (works well with others)
  4. Initiative
  5. Analytical skills
  6. Computer skills
  7. Flexibility/adaptability
  8. Interpersonal skills (relates well to others)
  9. Problem-solving skills
  10. Technical skills (JobWeb, 2008)

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The women of Theta Beta chapter of AOII brought early and well-received Christmas joy to many underprivileged children Wednesday night, December 3, at its annual Holiday for The Kids held in the University Union.

Each year, Theta Beta partners with an inner-city Baltimore school to provide the Christmas party and gifts for nominated children who meet a strict criteria of attitudinal and behavioral goals. It is an educational and enriching opportunity for all concerned. The kids who earn the right to participate are rewarded with a great dinner and stacks of practical and fun gifts in a night of friendship, music, and celebration in a safe and loving environment.

I was a first-time attendee at this year’s event. The sisters of AOII had just named me their Faculty Advisor, so I couldn’t wait to see them in action at this their major annual philanthropic event.

When I entered the huge conference room, happy kids were everywhere playing with new toys and trying on warm new coats and other clothing. The AOII sisters were resplendent in their black shirts with rich cardinal-colored “AOII” insignia. The room was warm with loving, caring attention to kids who otherwise might not have had any joy this Christmas.

“This is the happiest day of the year for us,” I was told repeatedly by AOII sisters. “We love doing this. We love working with the kids and seeing their happiness.”

To purchase the most appropriate and size-correct presents, AOIIs obtain a Christmas Wish List from each child who will attend.  Chapter members agree to kick in $20 each, but from conversations with many of the sisters and from the volume, variety, and quality of the gifts, AOII sisters spent much more than $20. In addition to each member’s personal generosity, their parents frequently kick in more money for this worthy cause. It is all for some special kids who otherwise would have to do without.

Toward the end of the night, a kids choir serenaded AOII with uplifting seasonal songs. It was a moving experience, touching the hearts of all in attendance. Joy in kids’ faces at Christmas is about as good as it gets.

Times have definitely changed. I was a fraternity member in undergraduate school. And while my SAE chapter did participate in community service projects, it was nowhere near the scope of what I see fraternities and sororities doing now in not only community service but philanthropy.

AOII is a good example of philanthropy. It supports the Arthritis Foundation and its Arthritis Research Fund; the Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Fund for sisters’ continued education; The Ruby Fund, which helps sisters in times of financial need and is called the “Heart of AOII”; and the Endowment Fund to support educational programming.

It’s an honor for me to be asked to serve as Faculty Advisor to such a fine group of people. From their spirit of service and desire to make a positive contribution to the world around them, these AOIIs clearly illustrate that there is so much more to the Greek experience than social life. These women exceed the expectation.

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