GFW PRSA August Webinar: 2020 Media Panel presented by GFW PRSA

Virtual media panel with journalists from KERA, the Star-Telegram and local TV affiliates.

About this Event

Brought back by popular review! This year we are offering a virtual media panel with journalists from KERA, the Star-Telegram, Fort Worth Business Press and local TV affiliates.

Hear about how some of the most respected DFW journalists have covered and coped with the COVID-19 epidemic, and the impact on staffing, assignments and the news outlet’s business overall. Learn about the preferences and pet peeves of journalists when working with PR professionals.

WEBINAR: 2020 Media Panel presented by GFW PRSA

FEATURED GUESTS

    • Chris Connelly, KERA
    • Robert Francis, Business Press
    • Yona Gavino, NBC5
    • Luke Ranker, Star-Telegram
    • Teresa Woodard, WFAA

Moderator: Gigi Westerman, APR, Fellow PRSA

Bonus! Bring a pitch-in-development and get feedback on the spot!

DATE & TIME

    • Wed., Aug. 5, 2020
    • 11:30 a.m.
    • Cost $5 (This helps cover our Zoom costs.)

After registering, an Outlook calendar notice with the Zoom link will be emailed to you.

GFW PRSA July Virtual Program – Unheard: Black Lives and the Fight for Justice

Mark your calendars! Join us for our next GFW PRSA Virtual Program on Friday, July 31!

Across the globe, protesters took to the streets after George Floyd died while in custody of Minneapolis police. People of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds marched to seek justice for Floyd and to support Black Lives Matter, a movement started in 2013 to “build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” The protests have awakened the consciousness of the nation, calling for an overhaul of the criminal justice system at all levels of government and a dismantling of systemic racism and white supremacy.

In addition to calling for systemic change, white Americans have been challenged to listen to African Americans and learn more about the racial injustices people of color face both at an individual and a societal level. At our June program, which happens to fall on Juneteenth, we will hear from the co-hosts of Blackbelt Voices, a podcast that “propagates the richness of Black Southern culture by telling the stories of Black folks down South.”

Through first-person narratives and in-depth conversations, hosts Adena J. White, Kara Wilkins and Katrina Dupins share the experiences of Black Southerners living in, loving, and reconciling with the region they call home. During this program, Adena, Kara and Katrina – all professional communicators –  will talk about how Blackbelt Voices came to be, the importance of media representation, and adapting messages to resonate with different audiences.

Featured Guests:

• Adena J. White, APR is an accredited public relations professional with more than a decade of experience in strategic communication and storytelling. She is the director of communications for the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce and the 2019 president of the Arkansas Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is currently the secretary of the PRSA Southwest District.

A strong believer in the power of storytelling for social change, Adena founded Blackbelt Media LLC in 2017, which produces the Blackbelt Voices podcast. The podcast propagates the richness of Black Southern culture by telling stories from and about Black folks down South.

Adena obtained a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and journalism with an emphasis in public relations from Arkansas Tech University. She later completed a master’s degree in applied communication studies from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

• Kara Wilkins is a solutions-focused communications and community engagement consultant, with an extensive background in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. She has over a decade of experience working with diverse communities to create innovative solutions to improve health and human equity.

Prior to her role as owner and principal consultant at KWilkins Consulting Group, Kara worked at the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation, Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, where she honed her skills in communications, outreach, public policy, development, and advocacy/government relations.

• Katrina Dupins is a professional communicator who writes features about people whose circumstances tend to change their perspective on life.

Katrina joined UAMS in 2013 as media relations manager. Before going to UAMS, she spent seven years at KATV Channel 7 where she worked in several positions, including video editor, production assistant and field producer. Katrina earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Arkansas Tech University.

She spends free mornings jogging or scoping out the best places to enjoy a quiet sunrise. She enjoys cooking, gardening and photography.

Something Clicked

Over the years, seat belt PR campaigns have helped save thousands of lives–despite our objections.

Written by: Jeff Rodriguez, Historian

This month’s column has some loose ends. For one, our research team has had a hard time confirming some specific dates. And two, our topic is seat belts–loose ones, to be exact.

Up until recently, Americans had a very uneasy relationship with seat belts. In the U.S., belts were introduced 1949; unfortunately traffic fatalities were already a concern. In 1959, one government official called it “the epidemic on the highways.”

But the innovation had more than a few skeptics. As one journalist reported, “Among the arguments put forth against seat belts was that they could cause internal injuries; that they prevented easy escapes from cars submerged in water; and that devices frequently failed.” The reporter added that, although researchers refuted these beliefs, “opposition remained fierce.”

Seat belts also were bad for business. In 1956, Ford’s advertising focused on their seat belts and other new safety features, while Chevy’s ads focused on power.  Chevy sales squashed the Blue Oval that year, prompting Henry Ford II to note that while their company was selling safety, “Chevrolet is selling cars.”

By 1963, 23 states had laws requiring carmakers to put seatbelts in the driver’s seat, and in 1968, federal legislation was passed. The catch is, while the government was requiring car makers to install the seat belts, there was no law requiring people to actually wear them.

During the decade, the National Safety Council tried to nudge Americans along with their “Buckle Up for Safety” PR campaign; the jingles were quite cute and still worth listening to.

The real struggle began in December 1984, when New York became the first state to require the use of seat belts. Notably, Texas was not far behind, passing its law in September 1985–before Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.  (To be fair, Arkansas did not really have a need for the law at that time, as most of the state’s vehicles were on cinder blocks.)

Opposition remained fierce. A radio personality gathered 45,000 signatures calling for a referendum, and some people cut the belts out. A national columnist compared a seat belt law to being fined for leaving the skin on your chicken, while an editorial writer railed, “In this country, saving freedom is more important than trying to regulate lives through legislation.” And no, I did not steal that line from my Twitter feed.

A regional survey confirmed the resistance, with many drivers finding seat belts to be “ineffective, inconvenient, and uncomfortable.” (Notably, the report also found that belt opposition was more likely “among persons who reported that they drove after marijuana use, or heavy drinking, or both.”)

Enter Vince and Larry, the crash test dummies. This PR campaign was introduced some time in 1985 (another loose end). The duo wrapped their serious message in clever humor and the tagline, “You could learn a lot from a dummy.” The campaign ran until 1999, winning numerous awards. More important, Vince and Larry are credited with dramatically increasing seat belt usage. In 2010, the costumes were (carefully) moved to the Smithsonian.

Accelerate to May 2002, when “Click It or Ticket” went nationwide. This PR campaign also made an impact: By 2008, seat belt usage had increased to 83 percent.

Today, the only state without a seat belt law is New Hampshire, whose state motto, fittingly, is “Live Free or Die.” The National Highway Something Something reports that from 2013-17, seat belts saved approximately 69,000 lives; their current slogan is, “Wear your belt every time—no matter how uncomfortable it feels or how far you’re going.” (Incidentally, if you want to see just how wimpy American PR campaigns really are, search for New Zealand seatbelt safety campaign.)

In June, the government concluded a month-long traffic safety radio campaign that ran in 13 states, including Texas. Chances are, you didn’t hear the ads—or perhaps you just didn’t notice them. After all, seat belts now are just so routine.

And what was once considered a radical affront to our liberty has become a norm most people not only tolerate but desire. But it has been a long road. As one journalist noted, seat belt acceptance required “public service campaigns, legal enforcement, and even regular reminders from our cars themselves.”

So take it from Vince and Larry: Skilled and dedicated PR professionals have repeatedly shown they can influence our thinking and save lives—if we will let them.

Minority Report

When President Kennedy found himself in a deep hole, he started digging.

Written by: Jeff Rodriguez, Historian

This month, we take a break from the stress and controversy of the pandemic to talk about something lighter, like um, racial inequality. While it has been a topic of much discussion in recent weeks, it was also a bit of an issue in 1963.

That year, civil rights activists were holding sit-ins and marches, and MLK Jr. was arrested, prompting him to write his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In May, protestors were met with fire hoses and police dogs, and the hotel where King had been staying was bombed. And that’s just some of the stuff we know about.

It was a time of great turmoil, as well one that called for decisive leadership, and President Kennedy was eager to provide it – if only he could decide how. To his defense, it was a little complicated.

Blacks, who had overwhelmingly voted for Kennedy in 1960, were frustrated with his seemingly timid efforts to further civil rights. At the same time, those timid efforts were costing him support among whites in the North, who were beginning to wonder if the President had forgotten about their concerns. And you can imagine how many whites in the south felt.

To top it off, Kennedy was also keenly worried about how the civil rights struggle reflected on the U.S. globally, especially in contrast to the Soviet state. It’s not easy to sell democracy abroad when the cops are clubbing citizens back home. As Kennedy told one Senator, “Events are making our problems.”

And looming on the horizon was the 1964 election. As one historian summarized, Kennedy’s task was to “somehow generate a big turnout from white and black liberals outside the South, while not alienating too many white Democrats inside the South. Along the way, he had to avoid appearing to give in to southern segregationists, or seeming to take orders from civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr.”

All righty then. But what to do? Vice President Johnson had previously suggested the President highlight the military service of blacks by appearing on television with an interracial honor guard. Legislation was another option, but as Kennedy had once privately lamented, “What law can you pass to do anything about [local] police power?”

But all the vacillating came to an end on June 11. That day, Alabama Governor George Wallace had briefly prevented two black students from integrating the university. The gesture was purely symbolic, but – at least in the eyes of the locals – a brilliant PR move. After “winning” that showdown, Kennedy decided it was time for the government to make a major statement on civil rights. That night.

The nationally televised speech Kennedy gave that evening was written in about two hours, and was still being worked on minutes before air time. It also was too short, prompting Kennedy to make some of his remarks extemporaneously. Even with his additional comments, the speech lasted less than 14 minutes.

But it worked. “JFK Asks Nation to End Race Curbs; Two Negroes Enrolled at Alabama U,’ declared the Washington Post. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called the speech “one of the major achievements of the civil rights struggle,” and Newsweek called it “the politics of courage.”

Of course, others were less overwhelmed. The Wall Street Journal’s understated headline read, “Kennedy Outlines Civil Rights Bill, Asks Public Help,” and ran the article inside. And Time magazine quipped that Kennedy had asked, “not what a Kennedy Administration could do for the Negroes, but what the Negroes could do for John F. Kennedy on Election Day.”

And some were not impressed at all. Georgia Sen. Richard Russell Jr., for example, complained that a civil rights bill would transform the U.S. into a “socialistic or communist state.” Russell would later go on to filibuster the civil rights legislation and help write “The Southern Manifesto.” As punishment for these outrageous acts, Congress named one of the DC Senate buildings in his honor.

But at least Kennedy’s remarks resonated with the black community. NAACP leader Roy Wilkins recalled, “For the first time in years, real change seemed to be at hand.” And that King guy said, “That white man not only stepped up to the plate, he hit it over the fence!”

In fact, Kennedy’s speech prompted the activists to revise their own tactics. Previously they had planned to march on Washington to pressure Kennedy; now they decided to put pressure on Congress.

Kennedy submitted his civil rights bill to Congress the next week. Ahead lay a difficult road: There would be much more violence, and Kennedy himself would be assassinated in November. LBJ was able to usher the bill through the following July, but the political cost was steep: All the Southerners who voted Democratic that year later met up to celebrate. At a Krispy Kreme.

While Kennedy did not live to see the passing of his legislation, his speech is widely considered to be a brilliant strategy. You can read a transcript here.

PR pros might disagree on racial issues, but there is one thing we should all be able to agree on: The right message, delivered at the right time, by the right person, and in the right way, can truly make a profound impact.

“Recognizing the call of history,” one historian wrote, “Kennedy made an abrupt turn and accepted the mantle of moral leadership King had urged upon him.” Another historian simply describes June 10 and 11, 1963, as “the 48 Hours that changed history.” But I’ll let JFK have the last word:

“The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities. … One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. … And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free. … Now the time has come for this nation to fulfill its promise.”

GFW PRSA June Virtual Program

Mark your calendars! Join us for our next GFW PRSA Digital Luncheon on Wednesday, June 3!

Our upcoming virtual meeting, “Digital Communications: What’s In Your Toolbox?” will feature a panel discussion on best practices, lessons learned, and 2020 trends related to ever-evolving software applications to help today’s digital communicators succeed.

Click here to register!

Bonus: The PRSA Digital Communications Committee will make an exciting announcement.