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News, Public Relations, Social Media,

Extraordinarily Tone Deaf Twitter “Promo” from Vanderbilt Football

As a social media strategist or manager, it doesn’t take deep institutional memory of controversy or even a particularly sensitive ear to be a decent human being with some common sense.

Yet, here we are with another case study of common sense in short supply:

Vanderbilt University’s football twitter account has been hyping the 2015 season and today tweeted the above “promo.” Even if the team had a squeaky clean record, the language is cringe-inducing. The volume of the conversation on ending sexual violence on college campuses has increased nationwide and schools, departments, administrators and communication teams have to be listening.

However, Vanderbilt Football doesn’t have a squeaky clean record. Two of its football players were convicted of rape in January of this year.

So when the promo tweet went out, the reaction from social media was swift.

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Three minutes later it was deleted. Then the standard apology.

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Well, I think we all assumed you didn’t mean it to be about sexual assault…

Why do organizations of all shapes and sizes seem to not be able to see past the end of their noses and make mistakes like this?

My theory? No one is empowered to speak up and say, “that’s a bad idea.” Groupthink is a powerful force and if an individual feels like they’re in the minority, it can be hard to go against the flow and disrupt the perceived cohesiveness of the group.

Organizations have to foster a culture where the discussion about content includes asking and answering to, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

What does that take?

  • Creating a team that’s diverse and brings a variety of perspectives to the table. You can imagine a locker room talk scenario in the Vanderbilt social media team where this idea came up. As football “insiders,” they knew what they meant and didn’t have to explain it to each other. (Honestly, I’m not sure what they meant in a football context.)
  • Building time into the content approval process to think it through and consider the worst case scenario. I’ve been part of many teams where you’re moving so fast that it’s hard to find time to stop and think and it’s easy to make mistakes. That’s dangerous.
  • Leadership that’s committed to all of the above.

And, of course, a society that doesn’t condone and tolerate rape culture would be great, too.

News, Social Media,

Strangers Kissing: Smart or Sleazy?

People don’t like to feel like they’ve been tricked. They don’t like to be drawn into a story and then learn that story is somehow a calculated concoction designed to get them to buy stuff. However, people also don’t like ads. They don’t trust most ads. They ignore them, change the channel, etc.

So should we get mad when an “ad” doesn’t say it’s an ad – doesn’t have a product name prominently displayed, but draws you in and makes you smile, get a little nervous butterfly stomach flutter and leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy because we didn’t know that we were being “sold.”


New Awning, Same Hat(s)

Occasionally on this blog, I share updates about life & work. Some of these big milestones aren’t PR related, per se, but definitely part of life. And, in my book, it’s valuable for me to share this process as much as it is to share the ins and outs of PR work. I’m turning a pretty big page this week & onto a new-ish life chapter. I’m very excited & wanted to share here. 

I am fortunate to have been able to grow my business in this community over the last 10 years. Through ebbs and flows, I’ve always been able to forge relationships with amazing organizations that have strong values and a solid commitment to our community. Together we’ve been able to do great work.

I’m equally, if not more, fortunate to have the opportunity to extend my capacity by joining a team of outstanding communications professionals. Led by Dana Turell (previously with CAWOOD, a local marketing agency) we are forming the Turell Group, a marketing, public relations and digital strategy agency.

Closing Verve Northwest Communications is a little bitter sweet. It’s been my “baby” for more than a decade… but I’m finding it more and more difficult to balance the business management side of the business with the ability to do what I love. I’ve known for some time that I need to make a change. I was waiting for the right change at the right time. This is it.

Doing great work has to be my priority. Whether it’s in the classroom or in my professional work. I love what I do. And I’m exceedingly grateful to be able to do it. Now I can focus more on the “doing” and less on the administration.

The Turell Group launches officially next week. We’re still working out the kinks of client agreements and office space and setting up new computers.

For all intents-and-purposes, little will change quantitatively; I’ll continue to teach at the University of Oregon and also serve as a client counselor & strategist. I’ll just be working under a different awning & have a rock star team behind me. Look for more news soon!

Plus, our offices have a killer view… (see photo above).

News, Professional Advice, Public Relations, Social Media, Uncategorized,

What Applebee’s Should’ve Done: Armchair Quarterbacking a Social Media Crisis

The armchair quarterbacking as to how Applebee’s should’ve handled their total social media meltdown last week has begun. “They should’ve…”, “If they were smart, they’d…”, “Oh, you never do that!…”

First of all, if you’re not up-to-speed on the disaster that Applebee’s created, this is an excellent recap. You should read it.

As in most cases like this, the variables are hard to track and you’ll find speculation and rumors galore (not to mention rantings and rationalizations). So, for the sake of my argument, let’s start with a basic assumption: the server violated company policy by posting the image of the customer’s receipt.

With that in mind, here’s what I see as the problems with Applebee’s responses:

  • Firing people has a greater chance of making you look like a big, stinky jerk than not firing someone. This is especially true when the “facts” are in question and the violation is something that a lot of us have done (or can certainly understand why one would do so).
  • Not having a crisis plan with a social media component is stupid. Of course, not having either a crisis plan or a social media plan to start with is also stupid. Considering the shallow, promotional blather on the Applebee’s Facebook Page prior to this incident, I’m guessing it had neither.
  • The Applebee’s response on Facebook – from the contrite posts to the verbose comments to the time stamp of the responses (3 am? Drunk Facebooking anyone? This was an unfair comment based on time stamps reflecting time zone differences.) – violated social media management 101. But when you have no strategy and you don’t know how to talk to people, that’s what happens.

Awesome photo by Decoded Science, which has a nice recap, too. 

So, what should Applebee’s have done?

  • Not fired the server. I’m sure the company panicked, was trying to “set an example” and any number of knee jerk responses. Likely the action was taken by the franchisee and not the company (indicating the franchisee experience with social media and access to it is totally divorced from the corporate presence), adding a layer of complexity. But not firing the server would’ve saved a lot of headache. 
  • Issued an update early (as early as possible!) that said something like, “We value our relationships with our employees and our guests. We wouldn’t be here without them. We feel compelled to share our view on the photo shared by one of our servers. At Applebee’s, we’re committed to doing the right thing for everyone involved. We have apologized to the guest. In addition, we will immediately begin social media training with all our employees across every Applebee’s franchise, starting with the one in St. Louis where this occurred. We want our employees to be smart about risks not only to our business, but to their customers and to themselves. We also want employees who are empowered to share.”
  • Created a social media policy, which could be shared on social media channels.
  • Been transparent, authentic and, yes, human, in all its interactions.
  • Followed up with social  media training and demonstrated the company’s commitment in tangible, visible ways. Like maybe sharing photos featuring and taken by employees?

By responding quickly and framing of the discussion, rather than letting it get completely out of control, Applebee’s gets to come out looking like the good guy instead of the big, stinky jerk. By treating everyone involved – the server, the guest, the Facebook fans – like people, the conversation would’ve stayed civil and “on topic.”

Taking a longer-term view, Applebee’s clearly had no social media policy that was relevant to employees, had very little strategy in place (how many photos of food & promotional nonsense can you post?) and does not appear to have a crisis communications plan that included social media.

As with most things like this, there were a lot of things Applebee’s should’ve been doing well in advance of any incident occurring to build goodwill and provide a culture in which something like this wouldn’t have happened (because employees understood their role) or if it did the company could’ve activated a plan to minimize damage and maintain relationships.

Come sit in the armchair with me and do a little quarterbacking. What would your advice to Applebee’s be?

News, Public Relations,

Being Professional: The “Hot Mic” Edition

ESPN writes a check – a big one – for the right to broadcast the Rose Bowl.

Heather Cox was ESPN repoter the on-the-field reporter entitled to the (always riveting…insert eye roll…) post-game interview.

Some dude with the Rose Bowl (possibly part of the Rose Bowl’s PR team) was attempting to usher Standford’s Coach Shaw to the trophy presentation and, apparently, wasn’t aware of the post-game interview expectation.

The interview, part one, was a mess. Coach Shaw was being pulled in several directions. Cox looked like an amateur trying to control the situation and get her god d*mn interview (“Can we finish here…?”). Then as Shaw was pulled away, Cox’s mic was still on as she exclaimed, “Are you kidding me?!” It wasn’t clear who Cox was talking to – Coach Shaw? (rude) Herself? (understandable, I suppose) Her production team? The Rose Bowl dude? The American people?

Brent Musberger was left trying to explain, and cover for, Cox’s actions and attitude.

I appreciate that Cox was trying to do her job in a frustrating and chaotic situation. I appreciate that the Rose Bowl dude was not doing his job.

However, people don’t like to watch sausage being made. The viewer doesn’t care if there was a miscommunication (and honestly, probably doesn’t care if there’s a postgame interview). And, while pretty amusing, Cox’s outburst turned her interview into the story. In PR and Journalism, we don’t want to BE the story.

The interview, part two, reminded everyone of how boring post-game interviews are.

See the video at Bleacher Report.

What do you think?

News, Social Media,

Managing Social Media Summer Workshop

This summer, I’m co-teaching a workshop in the CIS department about managing social media. See below for course description & more info on how to register. 

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest… social media tools are a ton of fun, but also have the ability to make or break your reputation. Even as a student, you have to think about what you’re putting out there on the Internet – after all, someday you want to be gainfully employed, right?

Managing Social Media (CIS 199) is a one-credit workshop that will help you understand the ins and outs of all the major social media platforms and how to use them effectively. We’re not going to tell you to stop being yourself or to self-censor to the point of being boring online, but we can help you figure out how to be smart about what you share and help you create a plan for yourself.

Through guest speakers, hands-on practice and lively discussion, you’ll leave this workshop better prepared to manage your own social media channels.

CIS 199

CRN: 42382

June 25 – July 8

Mon-Thur 11 – 12:20

About Kelli Matthews

About Nargus Oskui

Future of PR, News,

Portland Portfolio Reviewers Needed!

Are you a communications professional? Have at least a couple of years of experience under your belt? Want to hang out with our super smart undergrads for a day giving them your expert advice and helping guide their path toward a fruitful career?

Join us as a portfolio reviewer for our Winter term portfolio reviews, scheduled at the Turnbull Center on Friday, March 9th from 9am-5pm.

We need reviewers who can commit to either a morning shift (9-noon), and afternoon shift (1-5) or the whole live long day. Lunch will be provided.

If you’re not familiar with the reviews, here’s the scoop:

The PR Portfolio Reviews are designed to serve as a trial for about-to-graduate Public Relations Majors from the University of Oregon embarking on the search for their first professional job. These students have the opportunity to present key projects and receive valuable feedback from PR professionals on their class work, capstone course client work, internships and professional projects. Reviewers provide an evaluation on individual presentation styles, comments on the portfolio and offer ideas for improvement.

Each reviewer will participate on a panel with two or three professional peers. Each panel will, in turn, see one student per hour over the course of the review process.

Review appointments are 50 minutes long (with 10 minutes of flex time between each appointment). Students provide their panel with a 5 to 10 minute opportunity to review the portfolio, then students will present their portfolio for about 20 minutes. Following the presentation, students leave the room and the reviewers have an opportunity to discuss feedback they would like to give. Students return to the conference room and have the chance to engage with reviewers to learn how they can improve the presentation, the portfolio or both. Reviewers complete an evaluation form during the course of the review.

Thanks for considering! Email me at:

My Pick, News,

Following my Heart, Sharing My Philosophy

Today I formally accepted a full-time instructor position at the University of Oregon in the School of Journalism and Communication. What, you say? You thought I already did that? Not quite. For the last six years, I’ve been an adjunct instructor. Full time, yes, but not permanent.

Tactically, the position won’t be much different. Philosophically, it’s a world away. But accepting this position is really putting a stake in the ground – this is who I am and where my priorities lie. I will still do consulting and speaking and Verve lives on. But this position marks an important milestone for me and one that I’m pretty excited about.

Thanks to many, many people who have supported me, trusted me, pushed me, challenged me and helped me get here.

As part of the application process, I revised and updated my teaching philosophy (thank you, The Professor is In for all your feedback!). I thought I’d share it with you here. I’d love to hear what you think! If you’re an educator, what is your philosophy? If you’re a student (or former student), what do you expect from your teachers?


I didn’t plan on being an educator. I had a whole world to save, and those world-saving-type jobs wanted a job candidate with an advanced degree. So, I applied to the SOJC’s graduate program and began Fall 2002 with a schedule full of classes and a GTF in J202: Information Gathering.

The teaching bug bit quickly, and it bit hard. I relished the time I spent in the discussion sections with the students helping them navigate the labor-intensive requirements of the course. I was honored and a bit terrified when Dr. Van Leuven and Dr. Steeves sat down with me after my master’s defense to tell me that the school wanted me to start teaching the very next month.

Some of what fuels my philosophy and my approach comes naturally. My personality is well suited to be part educator, part therapist and part cheerleader. But ultimately, the desire to create capable, talented, strategic young professionals drives my course content and the work the students do to fulfill course objectives.

I’m quite serious about this work and my mission. Today’s students must be better and know more than previous cohorts. The rules are changing, and it will be their job to stay on the cutting edge of communications. I push them hard; I have high expectations. I know what they are capable of (even though at times they don’t), and I stretch them to reach their potential.

Whether it’s navigating the chaos of twitter and learning how to manage it for the sake of creating conversations or wrapping their heads around an international crisis communications issue and creating a strategic plan, I am committed to finding new ways to engage students in my classroom. I love to try new things. I work to understand my students and my clear vision of course objectives enables me to try innovative approaches to find the best path.

I have seven “be-attitudes” that I share with every student on the first day of every class that encapsulate my philosophy and what I hope every student will take away from my classes.

  1. Be Curious: Read, ask questions, find out everything you can about your chosen profession. In public relations that means reading the industry blogs, paying attention to industry news, talking to local professionals in your community and being an avid consumer of media.
  2. Be Engaged: Beyond curiosity, engage your mind. What are the greater implications of what you’re reading, listening to or talking about?
  3. Be Empathetic: To succeed in public relations, you must be able to put yourself in another’s shoes. Practice now! How did your teammate come to that conclusion? If you were a member of a particular target audience, how would a company or organization reach you? As a client, how often would you want a report and what information would be important?
  4. Be Active: Active involvement in pre-professional organizations is an excellent way to be involved on your campus and in your community and make connections for your future at the same time. At the University of Oregon, public relations students are involved in PRSSA and Allen Hall Public Relations, the student-run public relations agency. Start your own blog, make connections via social networks like Facebook or Twitter. Find a new site like Google +,, LinkedIn or Instagram.
  5. Be Responsible: Your actions, your education and, yes, your grade are your responsibility. Your instructors (hopefully) provide the direction and the tools. But if you’re serious about your education and your future career, personal responsibility is essential. If you need help, get it. If you have a question, ask.
  6. Be Confident: As you mature into a young professional, trust your instincts and your ability to find a great internship, offer counsel to your brother’s friend’s start-up company and generally do good work. The balance, of course, is to be confident and humble. Know when you are in over your head and get help.
  7. Be Passionate!: The beautiful thing about choosing a career in public relations is that you can find the industry that makes you passionate about communicating. Maybe it’s performing arts? Or high-tech? For me, it’s nonprofit work and social change. Find your passion and shout it from the rooftops!

I might not be ridding the world of evil, but my reward is seeing students develop into thoughtful, ethical, engaged and empathetic professionals. Education has given me a way to contribute a better world through empowering my students.

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My Pick, News,

#UOregon at SXSW (with your vote!)

Not one, not two, not even three… but FOUR great panels are up for your vote on the South by Southwest Interactive Panel Picker for the 2012 festival. Click on the “vote for my idea” button at the end of each description to vote. You’ll have to register on the SXSW site, but it takes just a minute. Thanks!

1. Just Because It’s Legal, Doesn’t Make it Right

Me, along with Kami Huyse, Todd Defren, Joe Chernov and Arik Hansen.

You never know who you are dealing with online. Agencies, evangelists and free agents are everywhere you turn, but sometimes you have no idea that a person has been paid in money or perks to represent a brand. The FTC stepped in to make some rules, but there is still plenty of gray area. Is it okay to skirt full transparency? Is full transparency even possible with Facebook Likes, Google +1s and new platforms like Quora? As a marketer, how far is too far? This panel will explore the ins and outs of online promotion and what we are required to do, as well as the ethics around the gray zones

Vote for My SXSW Idea!


2. Change Demands Acts of Courage

Deb Morrison with Edward Boches, Colleen DeCourcy, Scott Bedbury and UO President Richard Lariviere (so cool).

What must we do to flourish during times of change and upheaval? Simply said, we must act with courage. Our mission: bring compelling leadership from education, innovation, technology and brand thinking together for a discussion on courageous acts committed in the name of transformation. Let’s talk about the economy, about realities in education and business, about remaining optimistic and visionary during wicked times. Not your normal motivational chat. And not your normal panel: four amazing thinkers prepared to deliver the roadmap for where we must go and how we act along the way.

Vote for My SXSW Idea!



3. Where Goes the Neighborhood: Local Meets Global

Kim Sheehan with Daniel Greene, Jeremiah McPherson and Luke Kintigh

The Future of Interactive Marketing is Near: in 2011, 40% of marketers have increased geographically targeted advertising. For small businesses this investment has stronger returns and higher response rates than other marketing channels due to mobile migration. In the next four years, an estimated 70% of mobile ads will be local. The democratization of the digital landscape allows the local business an opportunity to compete with global brands. However, many local marketers have yet to capitalize on digital tactics (especially mobile marketing) to build brand awareness. Local businesses find coupon and daily-deal programs unprofitable. They have problems converting check-ins to long-term success. And, global brands ignore the local market, missing opportunities to create brand loyalists at a grassroots level. This session will explore what Local and Global can learn from each other to better engage with their ‘ambassadors’ using digital media. We will focus on bringing successful global tactics to the local level. AND, we will challenge global marketers to think local as a means to better connect with target audiences at a neighborhood level.

Vote for My SXSW Idea!



4. Communicating Across Lines of Difference

Rita Radostitz with Mia Tuan

As the world around us becomes increasingly diverse, the ability to communication across salient social identities (i.e., race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) becomes critical. In this session, Dr. Mia Tuan, a sociologist and Rita Radostitz, a communications director, will talk about how they strive to successfully communicate with audiences that may or may not share their social identities. The session will discuss why it is an essential skill today to be an effective multicultural communicator, and the role that diversity plays in developing critical thinking. We will also talk about the ways we have successfully navigated building trust with diverse colleagues and audiences as well as the costs of successfully doing so.

Vote for My SXSW Idea!



I know we all hope you’ll take a minute to vote for us! And if you have a panel you’d like us to know about, leave it in the comments. See you in Austin!











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