Whenever I participate in an event for students aspiring to work in public relations, I try to publish a helpful blog post for them to check out. Today, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide‘s Bellevue (Seattle area) office is hosting an agency tour of students from Allen Hall Public Relations, my alma mater’s student-run public relations agency, and I’m lucky enough to speak on a panel of University of Oregon graduates to answer their questions.
After much deliberation on what kind of blog post to write, I’ve decided to raid my blogging history and Twitter favorites to compile a round-up post of tweets and posts that I think are especially helpful for students.
Some of these blog posts and tweets are quite old. I promise I’ve read through them and only included ones that, in my opinion, are still 100 percent true today.
Tweets by others:
“If you don’t figure out what you want to become, someone else will define it for you.” goo.gl/n0ZPI
— Justin Tsang (@justinjtsang) November 8, 2011
— arikhanson (@arikhanson) June 12, 2012
— Lori McNee(@lorimcneeartist) June 14, 2012
— Pat Rhoads (@patmrhoads) January 29, 2013
— Derek Belt (@derekbelt) January 26, 2013
Blog posts by me:
- 2008 Student vs. 2011 Professional: The PR Industry and 2008 Student vs. 2011 Professional: PR Agency Job Duties - Note: I’m happy to report that entry-level public relations hiring is better than when I wrote those posts. Some agencies now have a shortage of good intern candidates. Everything else about those posts are still true today.
- Student Interviews Me About PR and China
- How to Survive the Undergraduate to Post-Graduate Transition
- Tips for Students on Finding Post-Grad Jobs Abroad – Part 1: Before You Leave
- Tips for Students on Finding Post-Grad Jobs Abroad – Part 2: Visa Advice
- Tips for Students on Finding Post-Grad Jobs Abroad – Part 3: Once You’re There
- NGO Public Relations in Uganda – Interview with Jessica Lomelin
- UO PR Grads Who Now…Teach English in Korea
Students and aspiring public relations professionals, let me know if you have any questions about working at Waggener Edstrom Wordwide in the comments or by emailing me at beth dot evans 4 at gmail dot com.
I came across something on Twitter last night that made me go “Wow!” It was this 4-minute video interview between Emily Chang of Bloomberg West and Dr. Kai-Fu Lee. Dr. Lee is a venture capitalist for Chinese mobile app developers with an impressive Google-Apple-Microsoft resume and was recently named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people of 2013: How Will Social Media Change China?
In my opinion, commentary on Chinese Internet censorship falls into three themes:
- The morals and human rights of freedom of speech/information
- Assertions that freedom of access to information strengthens national economies
- Can U.S.-based websites that are popular everywhere but China get uncensored, and if so, will Chinese people even use them?
In the the video, Emily and Dr. Lee insightfully and accurately address all of the above themes in just over four minutes.
The only thing I would add is something that is always missing from media coverage on censorship in China: People outside China think that the government universally bars everyone from visiting certain websites, but actually you can access all the same sites as in the United States if you are privileged enough, meaning you have the money to pay for a VPN that makes your computer think it’s based outside China and the personal connections to find out which VPNs are the best to use at any given time. It’s more of a pain than using the Internet in the U.S., but it’s possible. Some businesses, such as global public relations agencies, pay for VPNs for their China offices’ computers so their workers can have unlimited website access.
Here is Emily and Dr. Lee’s full interview, which includes the segment above plus Dr. Lee’s thoughts on Apple and Google in China and China’s smartphone market: Kai-Fu Lee on China’s Mobile Market, Innovation.
At Social Media Club Seattle, Leaders at Amazon, Microsoft, REI, City of Seattle, PwC Talk 2012-2013
Tuesday night I attended a packed Social Media Club Seattle event where a super-smart panel of people who lead social media efforts at major Seattle-headquartered companies talked about both broad trends and companies’ activities for social media in 2012 and 2013.
- Moderator: Dustin Johnson, Managing Director at the impressive part of PwC formerly known as Ant’s Eye View
- John Yurcisin, Director of Social Media at Amazon
- Sabra Schneider, Director of Online Communications at the City of Seattle
- Lourdes Orive, Director of Community and Online Support at Microsoft
- Lulu Gephart Manager of Online Engagement at REI
You can view all tweets from the event at the #smcsea Twitter hashtag and another blog post on the event, by Kelsey Kaufman: Social Media Club of Seattle: Trends for 2013 (And What They Mean for Digital Marketing).
My top takeaways:
Connecting social to ROI in 2012 and 2013
- In 2012, there was heavy pressure to connect social media work to business impact and in 2013 there will be even more.
- Some brands are cutting the number of social media sites they use or are more hesitant to add new ones.
- Hopefully 2013 marks the end of “shiny object syndrome” where brands add the Pinterest or Vine of the day just because it’s new and cool. (This relates to a good point I heard at Seattle Interactive Conference 2011: Make sure you’re using the sites you’re already on very effectively before you add new ones.)
Community management: Leveraging community to lighten your workload
- Microsoft’s MVP (Most Valuable Professional) customer advocate program has extended online to customer support. If a big brand you work with has a need for more third-party online advocacy, existing customer advocate programs are a good place to start.
- Brands should establish what their audience wants and what motivates them, then tell the audience what the brand wants, and use this information to establish and maintain a non-monetary exchange (aka gamification.) Establishing what both parties want is difficult.
- REI has launched a crowd-sourced photo project leveraging the rise in photo-sharing and checking in on social media titled the REI 1440 Project.
Reaching non-English-speaking and niche audiences
- The City of Seattle hosts informal meetings with Seattle’s cultural media to ask them the best way to communicate with the communities they represent. For example, they ask if the City of Seattle should translate materials or give the reporters materials in English for them to translate themselves.
- REI has social media communities for each of its geographic markets where it has stores. Store employees run the accounts. Note: I know Nordstrom killed store-specific activity to consolidate to one account on each site. I wonder if REI has seen success in this that Nordstrom didn’t.
Data and measurement
- Defining and measuring success for social media support is much more difficult than with traditional support due to the wider variety of reasons that people use social media for support. With traditional phone and email support, customers usually have one question that they are seeking an immediate answer to, whereas with social media support, customers could be looking to continue a previous conversation, complain or other reasons.
- Amazon and REI are prioritizing development and successful of their own social platforms in 2013. They didn’t elaborate on why; my guess is so they can own customer data.
- Amazon and REI rely heavily on measurement and audience data to drive strategy:
- Impressive for REI given that its social media team is only 4 people. REI is weighing options for buying a paid measurement tool so they can get comprehensive information on where people talk about them online.
- Amazon values experimentation via small tweaks in social media and measuring the impact., much like Wetpaint does.
Photo of January 29, 2013 attendees taken from a Facebook photo album by Social Media Club Seattle
Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft 40 hours a week via my job at Waggener Edstrom, but I don’t use my personal blog or social media profiles for work purposes. My boss tells me that I can blog about whatever I want within the boundaries of common sense.
Since about 2009, I’ve been on a fairly constant quest to prioritize one area I’m truly passionate about and makes me employable so I can center my online personal brand around it. After all, people tend to be most effective at developing an online reputation as being qualified if they talk about one thing all the time. My struggle with this is I have so many seemingly unrelated curiosities, which I develop more and more of the longer I work in public relations:
- public relations
- social media (which I maintain public relations professionals should know as much about as media relations)
- communications measurement
- business-to-business communications
- how to manage companies and teams
- cloud and mobile computing (which are connected)
- increasingly, LGBT rights
- various pop culture, usually involving LGBT celebrities
So what do all of these have in common? When people ask me why I like Beijing so much, the answer is very obvious to me: “I like Beijing because it feels like you are in the middle of something very important that is changing very quickly.” I realized that I could say the same about any of the other topics listed above. All my professional interests are:
- changing quickly
- misunderstood or under-appreciated
“Important” is a subjective term. In this context, I mean something that currently affects large numbers of people, creates a lot of financial opportunity, will become part of history textbooks decades in the future, or some combination of those factors.
In terms of the under-appreciated or misunderstood aspect, this could be why I took American Sign Language as my high school language and why I’m drawn to an industry with such a bad reputation among the general public as public relations. The main reason I was interested in traveling to China as a child, before I ever anticipated I would work there for two years, is that China is the world’s most populous country and has an amazing history, but in school we learned mostly about the U.S. and Western Europe. There is a lot of ignorance within the U.S. about what China is really like and vice versa, likely as a result of China and the U.S. not having even basic diplomatic relations until President Nixon visited Beijing in 1976.
So, there you have it. I will blog and tweet and do whatever else online (on websites I use for professional interests) about things that are important, changing quickly, and misunderstood or under-appreciated. I think for the sake of simplicity now, though, I’ll call the topics China, public relations, and a little bit of high tech. :)
Anyone working in mass media, whether as a journalist, advertiser or public relations professional, is aware that volume and speed of content is king nowadays, and goes hand-in-hand with an increase in part-time and volunteer information providers, such as bloggers, vloggers and article contributors. In Two GeekWire weeks, three entrepreneurial lessons, a blogger who stepped in while the co-founders were on vacation said he created 41 posts in 40 hours.
This demand for volume and speed can lead to inaccurate reporting, and last week we saw a textbook case with the X-Surface news cycle (see Random Gamer Punks Major Blogs on XBox Rumors.) To demonstrate how easy it was to become a credible, anonymous source to gaming blogs, a gamer emailed several blogs from a Gmail account with entirely bogus information, claiming to be a Microsoft employee (see the visuals for this on Tumblr). It appeared on a Pocket-lint.com, then was eventually picked up by outlets as widely read as VentureBeat and CNET, citing Pocket-lint.com as the source of the news.
It’s easy to get annoyed at these outlets, but really it reflects the reality of today’s media environment and the pressure that individual information providers are under.
What does this mean to public relations professionals? We need to:
- Make accurate information crazy easy to find and understand. This includes both making it easy to find on official websites and making the websites easy to find through social media and SEO. This also means that we need to post the information wherever our audiences are, especially where target reporters are. It’s okay to push text out on social media instead of trying to drive people to websites, if that’s in line with our audiences’ behavior.
- Choose who we break high-interest stories with very carefully and provide them with information that is crazy easy to understand. It can sometimes be more effective to give an exclusive story to an outlet that other outlets repurpose news from than to broadcast a news release or host a press conference or call.
- Plan for news leaks of real stories and have information that is crazy easy to find and understand ready to publish if news breaks. If news breaks early on a true story that we were planning to announce at a later date, the worst thing we can do is let outlets run with it and refuse to acknowledge it until our planned announcement date, when it’s not news any longer. For all news that we think might leak, we should decide at the beginning of the announcement planning process what information we will share in the event of a news leak, with whom, and with what sources and delivery method.
On Friday, my employer found out that we won the PR News Platinum PR Award in Public Affairs for our work on the launch of Washington United for Marriage. The award was global in scale and the competition fierce; most of the other finalists were national campaigns by global public relations firms. Needless to say, the mood was quite jovial.
I’m very fortunate to have been part of the award-winning team. I’ve thought since the 2008 United States presidential campaign that public relations work for political causes could be interesting but that I would have to either start as a volunteer canvasser and work my way into public relations or work my way up to the CEO of a major public relations agency then switch over to politics. Instead, I spent about a year in business-to-business public relations – mostly media relations – for technology companies, and 3.5 years blogging and managing social media strategically for myself outside of work. Then, at the age of 25, in November 2011, I inserted myself into the Washington United for Marriage launch team and had a hand in day-to-day social media management; news release editing and distribution; and coverage tracking. In addition to being personally rewarding, the experience also was great for my professional development; it was heaviest news cycle and had more broadcast and general interest elements than any campaign I’ve ever been a part of. It was the most enjoyable part of my career so far, including college.
What I did wasn’t what I would consider public affairs in the sense that my job duties were similar to those of most junior-ish public relations professionals; although, because the point of the launch was to influence elected officials’ votes, in that sense it was public affairs. My goal in joining the team was never to get into public affairs, but rather to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, just a tad after my return from two years in Beijing, to put my professional skills toward the political issue I care about most, LGBTQ rights, in my home state.
This launch fared as well as it could in other national awards without winning. It earned honorable mentions from the Ragan’s PR Daily Awards in Grand Prize PR Campaign of the Year and Best ‘Traditional Still Works’ PR Campaign and was a finalist in the Holmes Report Gold SABRE Award for Local/State Public Affairs.
Here is the rest of the Nyhus Communications team who worked on it: Roger Nyhus, Jennifer Morris, Joseph Vandenorth, Jonathan Misola and Quinn Majeski. Maggie Humphreys joined Nyhus 2 months following the launch and has been volunteering quite a bit throughout the campaign on phone banking. Big shout-out, too, to all of our clients and partners outside of Nyhus during launch, whom were essential to our success.
Let’s hope that Washington state votes on the right side of history in November to uphold civil marriage for same-sex couples in my home state. It would be the first time in U.S. history that same-sex marriage wins at the ballot box. I’m currently trying to figure out ways to help sway votes without spending a lot of money; one is participating in the Seattle Times’ #IDo74 campaign and another is going to a fundraiser on Capitol Hill this weekend.
I had a brief discussion with a co-worker immediately after President Obama announced today that he supports same-sex marriage. The gist of our conversation was that not only were we elated with what this means for world history but extremely impressed by the public relations planning that we think went into the announcement.
Based on my past experience on the public relations side of a political news cycle, here is my best shot at deconstructing the planning:
1. Barack Obama has always supported same-sex marriage, but went “back in the closet” about it after he decided to run for national office. Check out: “Obama’s Views on Gay Marriage ‘Evolving’” in the New York Times in June 2011.
May 10 UPDATE: Apparently, my second guess was right and Obama/his campaign staff decided to announce his support for same-sex marriage after Vice President Biden talked about it on Meet the Press. The original plan was to announce his support right before the Democratic National Convention in September. (Source: The Advocate – News Roundup: The Day After) Kudos to his campaign staff for accomplishing everything in steps 2 and 3 in between steps 4 and 5 outlined below.
2. Either President Obama decided that he was willing to risk losing re-election over supporting same-sex marriage or his campaign staff concluded through analysis that it would be advantageous for him to support it. Campaign staff planned to announce his support for same-sex marriage the day after the North Carolina vote on the matter via an exclusive interview with a national TV news outlet. Why not a news conference? My guess is that an interview decreases the period of time between when you tell any media you have something to say and when the public knows a prediction of what you’re going to say. A news conference requires more lead time to invite reporters and implies you have a major announcement to make.
3. At some point between step 2 and step 5, his campaign staff did the following:
- Decided which TV news reporter to pitch the exclusive interview to.
- Wrote detailed talking points or an exact script for his answer to the question on his stance and prepared President Obama on it. This contained carefully crafted key messages directly tied to research on what language best satisfies people who are undecided on marriage equality.
- Created a plan, list or both for who would receive personal calls on the news immediately after it broke.
- Came up with a plan for how to staff the crazy heavy news cycle; may have communicated this to staff, depending on how many people were allowed to be in the know.
- Drafted and approved all written and visual content to distribute publicly, including a blog post, “President Obama Supports Same Sex Marriage,” with blanks to fill in for the news outlet.
4. Campaign staff kickstarted a news cycle on same-sex marriage as it relates to the presidential election through planning a comment from Vice President Biden on Meet the Press.
5. Campaign staff pitched and negotiated an exclusive interview with ABC News, including timing of when the various segments would run. I wouldn’t be surprised if staff pitched the interview no longer than a few hours in advance as well as if ABC News and campaign staff didn’t negotiate the questions ahead of time.
6. The interview rolled out as planned and the whole world broke into a crazy news cycle.
Note: Notice how the White House did not issue a news/press release? You don’t need one if you line up an exclusive story on a hot topic then push it out via social media.
This is only my personal opinion on what happened and I could be totally wrong. On the off-chance that President Obama changed his public stance on same-sex marriage as a direct result of pressure from advocates following Vice President Biden’s interview or that Vice President Biden jumped the gun on an opinion that was supposed to be under wraps until after the election, then steps 2 and 3 would have all taken place in a scramble between steps 4 and 5. The reason I doubt either is that Barack Obama has never been spontaneous in how he presents himself, and Robert Gibbs won the public relations professional of the year award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for his work on Obama for President in 2008.
What are your thoughts on the public relations behind Obama’s announcement? I’ve been looking for commentary from major public relations blogs but haven’t found any, yet.
An article in Inc. today, Toss Out Your Social Media Metrics, is based on social media philosophies from Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out (HARO). The title, while attention-grabbing, is a tad misleading because at first glance, it sounds like an opinion that social media metrics don’t matter. However, instead, Peter makes a point I’ve always wholeheartedly agreed with, which is that you can absolutely measure social media results, but you should do so in a way that directly ties to your business objectives, instead of choosing arbitrary numbers to track.
In my opinion, the argument over whether there is ROI to social media comes down to the argument of whether there is ROI to public relations. If you can say that there is ROI to landing an article in a hard-copy trade magazine, then you can certainly argue that there is a ROI to tweets or YouTube videos that reach tens of thousands of people in your business’ target audience. In fact, I would argue that web analytics and public, detailed information on the profiles of whoever interacts with you online makes it even easier to measure success of online-only efforts than success of traditional public relations.
In order to be as effective as possible in justifying time and money spent on social media, I recommend you always operate with the following considerations in mind:
1. Tie your social media strategy and measurement to something other than social media.
Why are you ultimately using social media? Recruitment? Sales? Getting a piece of legislation passed? You cannot justify the return on investment of social media without first establishing what the return looks like. If someone says we are using it to “raise awareness,” why are we raising awareness? If you can’t get this information out of whoever you are reporting to, then establish it yourself by observing what sort of activities and audiences top management have consistently made a priority.
2. Always start with the strategy, not the end technology.
If someone goes to you asking for you for advice on social media measurement tools, ask them what they are trying to measure. There are a lot of great tools out there, but they all excel at measuring different things. You therefore need to know what you’re measuring before you pick a tool.
3. Measure how much time and money goes into social media, if you don’t already.
A great point that came up at the Seattle Interactive Conference this past November was, “Can you really complain about lack of ROI when you didn’t put any I in?” Show the relationship of return to investment, and compare it to ROI on activities that the company is already doing outside of social media. Did you reach 40,000 people with one tweet that took 10 seconds to write and 40,000 people with a magazine article that took 10 hours to write? Tie results to amount of time or money spent in a compelling way.
4. Provide context to your measurement.
Reporting out on your success or areas for improvement for social media is not necessarily helpful to your colleagues or clients unless they have an idea of what you were trying to accomplish from the beginning. If you say, “We got 10 great job applicants for one position as a direct result of strategically using LinkedIn,” make sure people know that you set out to use social media to help with recruiting.
[image courtesy of Flickr user aussiegall]
Inaugural Seattle Interactive Conference: Highlights from Yelp, Shauna Causey, KING-TV and more [imported from Seattle Guanxi]
The hashtag from the conference is #SIC2011, if you want to view all tweets.
Sean presented the core of Ant’s Eye View’s consulting philosophy: the five levels of social engagement for companies as a whole. He said too many companies treat social engagement like an on/off button: “Are we on Twitter?” The takeaway everyone tweeted is that social engagement requires organizational change to get everyone in the company on board, and he provided advice to convince management that social engagement is important. He also mentioned that companies cannot simply have social media policies and nothing else; they need to incorporate education into their social engagement journeys.
Tweets from the session: #sic2011 + @redpantsmeme
Transformation of News Media Panel:
Will Hunsinger (@billykid) of Evri – moderator
Mark Briggs (@markbriggs) of KING-TV
John Cook (@johncook) of GeekWire
Mike Davidson (@mikeindustries) of Newsvine
Curt Woodward (@curtwoodward) of Xconomy
This was, of course, an excellent panel. Beth liked how panelists brought up how online community has changed the timeline of interviewing versus publishing articles. It used to be that for feature articles, journalists would do all their interviewing up front then be done with the story as soon as it published. Now, John Cook prefers to get a story done with as much information as he can get quickly, then write follow-up posts based on reader comments and breaking information. There were also a couple of really good points made about revenue for news sites. Curt Woodward brought up that Craig’s List killed classified ad revenue for newspapers forever. Mike Davidson believes that news sites can generate revenue by bundling the cost to view articles with real-life goods, such as through Groupon-type deals.
Tweets from the session: #sic2011 + @lomcovak
This session probably had the most active tweet stream of both days. You can view GeekWire’s post on it here: Highlights: Sir Mix-A-Lot, Pearl Jam, Death Cab, KEXP and music in the digital age.
Welcome to Seattle Guanxi’s first video interview. We hope to do many more of them. Our first is with Larry Johnson, a prominent Seattle-based writer who worked as a journalist in China in the 1980s and was part of a lot of firsts at the time. I meant to only interview him for about three minutes, but he had so many good things to say that the interview lasted nearly nine minutes. Video is below as well as a full text transcript, if you prefer to read instead of watch.
Beth: I am here today with Larry Johnson who has some really good work experience in China in journalism. Larry, first of all, can you tell us your background and give us your spiel about yourself?
Larry: Sure. I was a journalist in California and I got an offer to work with a magazine in China called “China Reconstructs,” and it was a one-year contract, and my wife and I both actually got an offer to do that. We went. This was way back in 1987, and we were there from ’87 to ’88.
Beth: I know this is a really loaded question, but what were kind of your strongest impressions of China at the time that you’d like to share?
Larry: Well, the most stark contrast between China and the United States at the time was that it was very regulated, authoritarian. We, for example, we were the first journalists working for this magazine, it’s called China Reconstructs, that we didn’t have a socialist background or a communist background. We were the first just regular journalists hired by the magazine. But, one of the things they did was they kept really tight control over you, and they watched you at all times, and the people where you lived, there was a hotel called the Friendship Hotel where we stayed, and the maids, everybody there, cleaners, they were all reporting to the government: what you did, where you went, who your friends were, especially who your Chinese friends were. So it was a pretty authoritarian atmosphere.
Beth: So did you get to travel in China at all for your work?
Larry: We did. We traveled all over. And this was another first. They allowed us to go as reporters and photographers for the magazine to Tibet, for example, which was pretty unusual to get to go to Tibet at that time. And also, we went to some of the Special Economic Zones they were setting up, starting in the ’80s, to bring in investment from overseas. We went to Fujian province, and that was pretty exciting. It was a thriving industrial area, bringing in factories from Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong. So, we traveled and wrote and took photos for the magazine quite a bit.
Beth: At that time, and in China, how did you get your story ideas and find people to interview?
Larry: Well, it wasn’t hard coming up with story ideas, because China was one of the main topics for magazines and newspapers all over the world. In fact, before we left, we set up a little news service of our own, where we sent stories back to about half a dozen big newspapers across the country. And they would suggest ideas, and in our everyday work for the magazine, we’d come across story ideas that were great. It was a great environment for journalists at that time.
Beth: So did you work at all with people who would be seen as PR people, or was that kind of nonexistent at the time?
Larry: It was funny. They were all rolled into one. Journalists in China were seen as PR people, basically, at that time. One of the funny stories for when I was working for the magazine was one of the stories I did for them, they assigned me to go out and do a story on an old China hand, someone who had been in the country for years, from overseas, and helped them get established in various fields. This was a very successful businessman. So I went out, and I interviewed him at his hotel, took photos, came back, wrote the story up, sent it to my editors, and they immediately came over and said, “Wait a minute, you have your byline on this story. You should have his byline.” So, it was like, “What? I’m a journalist. I just interviewed this guy. And you want his byline on the story?” You know, and I’d done PR before, so if they’d said, “This is going to be a PR assignment,” I would have understood it, but I was really kind of shocked and offended that they were treating me as a journalist as a PR person for this guy. And it eventually ran, despite my protests, under his name.
Beth: I also wanted to ask you if you’re familiar with the term “guanxi.”
Larry: Oh, of course.
Beth: How do you define guanxi, because it’s one of the words in our blog title?
Larry: Well, guanxi at the time, just basically bribes, and still is. I mean, I haven’t been to China in years, but I understand that guanxi is still, kind of an everyday thing. For dealing with, especially, government officials, you want to take them presents. That’s another nice name for it. You give them presents, and you’ll get what you want. When we traveled, and we traveled quite a bit, we would hire someone to get our tickets for us because they knew how to work with guanxi. We didn’t. We’re used to going up, getting in line, paying our fare, and getting on. Well if you do that, at the time we were there, you would never get a ticket to a plane or train, or you wouldn’t get into hotels or anything. So we’d hired someone, they’d give them a little extra, so they could give to the officials some present, in this case, money, and you’d get a really nice ticket, better than most people.
Beth: One thing that’s kind of famous about Chinese journalism is the blur between advertising and editorial content, and bribing journalists and things like that. Did you ever get bribed yourself as a journalist or was it different because you were a foreigner?
Larry: I think it was different because I was a foreigner. No one ever offered me bribes. They knew I was working for the Chinese magazine as a quote: “foreign expert,” and so I was never approached, never offered anything. Actually I went to a travel fair. A bunch of travel agents in China. They suggested that I do things like come to their area of the country and write a story about it, and they would pay certain fees, you know. But they do that in this country, too, they offer to pay your plane travel or train ticket or whatever to do a story on it. So it didn’t seem any different than what I was used to in the United States. But I know, my colleagues, they were offered money and talked about it a little bit, and we talked about the differences between journalism in this country and the way it was done in many other countries overseas at the time.
Beth: So I see that you have copies of magazines with you. Would you like to show them to the camera?
Larry: I do. This is a copy of the magazine when we were working for it in 1987. It was called “China Reconstructs,” and it was founded by Madame Sun Yat-sen, originally. And then in 1998 or 9, maybe 1989, they changed their name to make it sound more modern. “Reconstructs” sounded like the old communist idea, so they changed it to this, and it became a little more modern. More use of color, a little bit better magazine. It’s still basically a PR magazine for the country. I would not call it a journalism magazine. It’s more finding good things about the country to write about, good things, good people, and putting on a good face to the world.
Beth: This has been really great. Do you have any final thoughts that you’d like to share?
Larry: Well, I think, I would just encourage people to do things kinds of things, to go somewhere overseas, especially in countries where journalism, public relations and public affairs work is considerably different than what we have in the United States, just to get the difference and kind of understand how other people operate.
Beth: Lastly, how can we find you online?
- I'm a young, American public relations professional in Seattle who graduated from the University of Oregon 11 days before moving to Beijing for two years. I blog about public relations, China, and where they intersect. Disclaimer: Companies that help pay my bills include Microsoft, HTC and T-Mobile, but anything I put online under my name is my own.
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