Teachers vs Oklahoma Government

Photo courtesy of KWCH12

For the past nine school days, teachers across Oklahoma have been at the state capitol protesting for higher wages and more funding for education. The marches are being orchestrated mostly by the Oklahoma Education Association(OEA). It is easy to see the distinction between the key messages of each opposing group when reading the news originating from either side. The message from the teachers and concerned citizens is clear: it is time for Oklahoma to prioritize education. The response from the state, however, is not as clear.

POLITICO details the general key messages from the teachers quite well. The teachers are asking not only for higher wages, but a dramatic increase in education funding, funding that has been slashed more than any other state in the last decade. In the recent days of the strike, teachers have shifted the focus more towards increasing general funding.

The stark contrast in key messages becomes clear when reading a FOX25 News article which details how the teacher walk-out is supposedly costing the state “thousands” every day. These costs are later detailed to be janitorial and maintenance costs of the capitol grounds, and an estimate for cost for security which the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety refused to endorse. These responses follow the theme of ad hominid attacks the state has had in response to the walk-out, as Gov. Mary Fallin had earlier equated the teachers to teenagers wanting a new car.

The teachers and citizens have had the more effective message, having remained mostly uniformed and peaceful. Supporters of the movement have stormed social media, used creative forms of striking, and argued with logic. The state has been silent, or too quick to attack.

If I were a public relations agent for the side of the teachers, I would suggest that they more heavily emphasize that the walk-out is more about increasing funding for their students than wanting raises. While Oklahoma teachers are certainly underpaid, the funding per-student in Oklahoma has dropped more than 20% in the last six years.

Chart courtesy of OKPolicy.Org

In an event which captures the eyes of the nation, the last response a government entity ought to have for its people is one of mockery. The state ought to accept responsibility for the lack of funding, rather than making excuses and attempting to flip the situation.

 

 

It Might Be Too Good To Be True

Social Media Sites Can Facilitate the Spread of False Information– Image courtesy of NPR

We live in a time when the President of the United States can instantly deliver a message to almost 50 million viewers using Twitter, news agencies race each other to see who can break news faster, regardless of the validity, and false claims can go viral and wreak havoc in a matter of minutes. This haphazardness of news and information has led to an era in which it is some how not that strange for public leaders to be arguing about the subjectivity of facts.

This is why it was a relief to read about a team of astronomers from Arizona State University and MIT which spent two years double-checking data which would indicate a huge scientific discovery. It was shocking to me that the team’s immediate reaction was not excitement, but skepticism.

Skepticism, in my opinion, ought to be anyone’s first reaction to news, especially news which is surprising or currently breaking. Because of platforms like social media, where information is reproduced and spread at lightning-fast rates, a dangerous climate has formed of click-bait articles and misleading titles. It has even recently been discovered that on Twitter, false news spreads faster than true news.

Because of this, it is paramount to the success of the modern public relations professional to fact-check and research before relaying information to the public. Ironically, in this day and age, the back lash for being exposed for spreading false information tends to be extremely harsh.

As the team of researchers proved with its extensive fact-checking, true news can still be exciting. When thinking ahead to how I might ensure my client is informative as well as entertaining, there are a few strategies that come to mind. One of them is to lower the frequency of news, as conserving news releases may preserve the luster and excitement of the news itself. Furthermore, there are tactics that I can adopt such as using info graphics and social media tools to remain compelling.

While public relations professionals need to respond quickly, the truth is more important than a race for ‘shares’ and ‘likes’.

Lady Doritos? Right Next to My Pink Pens and Girly Beer

Controversial Lady Doritos, Image Obtained from The Daily Beast

The time around the Superbowl seems to be riddled with PR and advertising news, whether they are scandals or stories of success. This year, one of the stories that stood out from the rest was the accidental announcement of a brand new “Lady Doritos” line, intended to solve the issues that women supposedly have with eating chips: the loud crunch, dust on the fingers, and how to fit the snack in a purse.

I had heard of the scandal before this assignment, and my first thought, as a PR major, was, “Who on Earth let this CEO talk about this product?” In the various PR classes I’ve taken, we have learned that one of the biggest aspects of being a PR agent is advising the leaders of the company you work for, specifically to avoid crisis situations such as these. Either the CEO hadn’t been given a briefing before the interview, ignored the advise of her PR agents, or a PR agent failed to do their job. In today’s political and social climate, it is surprising to me that any large organization would think that a gendered-food product would receive anything but back lash. I do not think that the company had a good idea of their prospective audience, for this reason.

A Washington Post article, written about the issue on Feb. 5 of this year, describes how even if PepsiCo conducted research which indicates that women prefer quieter and cleaner snacks, those preferences are based on sexist societal gender norms which allow men more freedom, even the freedom to eat a messy snack in a messy way, and I have to agree.

If I were working for Pepsi, I would publicly address the issue on popular social media feeds to insure the public that the product isn’t real. In today’s world, issues hardly ever get slipped under the rug; an apology is needed if a company wants to avoid permanent damage.

When asked if any companies have ever correctly done gendered products, I have to revert back to the thinking done in the Washington Post article which describes how differences in product choice, correlated with gender, most likely arise due to socially constructed gender norms, and not due to actual biological preferences. Due to this, aside from clothing, I would argue that no company has ever done gendered products “right.” Products that are marketed toward a specific gender inherently must use gender norms in that marketing.

 

 

My Bathroom as a Design Study

There are many aspects of design which companies use to market products, including variations of color, typography, balance, minimalism and use of space, proportion, and many more. For Public Relations Publications, I was asked to look in the world around me for examples of objects, ads, designs and other things which illustrate the many concepts of design.

Being that my collection of beauty products is nearly the size of a small shop, I wanted to turn to my bathroom to look for examples of design that I am exposed to every day. The products I chose to analyze all cater to very specific audiences, and that is apparent in the design of the product containers. It was also interesting to me to compare the theme of designs with the cost of the item.

The first product I decided to analyze was an instant tanning spray made by L’Oréal. The most obvious design element being used is the color of this bottle, a metallic bronze. When looking at the section of tanning products in a local drug store, they all tend to follow a general theme of brown and bronze colors. To a consumer, these products are immediately distinguishable as tanning products, even from afar. It is worth noting that the name brands, such as L’Oréal, tend to have fancier packaging, being metallic and abstractly shaped, whereas the off brand products were simple, tan squeeze bottles.

This product is a floral-scented body wash from Bath & Bodyworks. I think that this bottle is a great example of a couple of design elements, including typography and dominance. Coupled with the blue and orange color scheme, the bottle literally screams beach at possible consumers. The large text creates an overwhelming beach feeling, making it appealing during winter months when shoppers are eager for warm vibes.

Furthermore, the designs on the bottle are textured, with the fish being slightly raised, and the background font shining a metallic gold.

This Burt’s Bees lotion serves as a good example of unity, when all of the design elements come together to create a whole image before the eyes are drawn to specific elements. At first glance, the bottle is light and inviting, in tune with the product being sold, which is a lotion marketed as having revitalizing properties to dry and damaged skin. Burt’s Bees used a combination of warm letters, a yellow background with a radiating design, and the clean center to create the overall appeal. 

This conditioner is marketed to a different audience than most of my other beauty products. Rather than a product intended to enhance general beauty, this product is for those who are frequently exposed to chlorine and want to protect their hair from the drying effects.

It uses color design elements to create a simple, clean look. It avoids design elements which indicate gender, and leans towards a practical use. The bottle achieves this clean look by using a lot of minimalist elements and negative space. The main things that take up space are the sans serif font and the illustration of the swimmer. To me, this appeals to a wide variety of consumers. 

For the last product, I chose a bottle which I personally believe fails in many aspects. The typography down the bottle is inconsistent, with three fonts being used for no obvious purpose. The logo symbol, which is supposed to make the brand pop, is a small, hard to read font, especially when placed on top of the dark background. The various light colors, used on the dark background, create no sense of balance, especially when placed next to the distracting pink floral shape in the left corner.

Overall, this bottle fails to use design elements in a way which would create balance and help send the message. The message of the bottle isn’t immediately clear, as one has to read closely to figure out the the product is a natural conditioner made for curly hair.

You Know What They Say… Fonts are a Gateway to the Soul

One of the most compelling things I have learned as a public relations major is the subconscious effects that design elements can have on the audience one is attempting to reach. I had no idea the depth of thought which goes into choosing which fonts to use, how to design a layout, or even when choosing color schemes.

Design directly influences the way that an audience absorbs the information put in front of them.  Typography, defined by Business Dictionary as the “study of the design of typefaces, and the way in which the type is laid out on a page to best achieve the desired visual effect and to best convey the meaning of the reading matter,” is a large aspect of design. Those creating publications must decide which fonts to use, the spacing between letters, and font size, and many other things, all focused on finding the best way to display content.

In Public Relations Publications, students were given the opportunity to play a couple of online typography games to practice various typography skills. The first game I decided to play was ‘Type Connection‘, a game that turns the fonts into eligible bachelors.

The First Step of the Game: Choosing a Main CHARACTER

With this game, I ended up creating a successful ‘date’ between Adobe Garamond Pro, a strong and serious font, and Maple, a font which tends to bring warmth and comfort to the table. Together, the two make a great combination to show off information in an inviting way, such as on an upscale restaurant menu.

This game helped me realize the depth of analysis that goes into typography, as the matches went down to the minute details of things like the transition from line into foot serifs.

The next game I decided to play was ‘Kern Type‘, the kerning game which teaches players how to properly space letters for legibility.

The Kern Game Teaches Players to Properly Space Letters

After adjusting the spacing of letters, I was to compare my work with that of a professional typographer. Needless to say, I didn’t do too well my first couple of tries, a testament to the difficulty of spacing. I was surprised at just how specific the letter spacing needs to be. Often times, I knew that the word didn’t look right, but lacked the skills to adjust accurately. When playing this game, I played alongside a friend of mine who is a design major, and was horridly outpaced.

The last game I decided to play was ‘Type War‘, a relatively simple game, compared to the others, which challenges players to visually determine what font is shown on the screen.

The Type War Game Challenges Players to Identify the Font Shown on the Screen

Type War was the hardest game for me, but it gave me a great opportunity to become more familiar with the various fonts. I began to notice some patterns in the fonts, such as some fonts having serifs, and others not, a helpful distinction.

Overall, playing these various typing games gave me a chance to become familiar with a couple key aspects of typography.

 

Professional Portrait

Taken in Oct. 2017, Lincoln, Oregon. Photographer: Sarah Smallwood

My name is Sarah Smallwood. I am a Norman, Oklahoma native currently attending college at the University of Oklahoma. I am pursuing a degree in public relations with a minor in environmental studies.

Being a junior in college, I have narrowed down my future goals to include working as a public relations agent for an organization working with the environment, either in marine conservation or outdoor gear and clothing. My hobbies include photography, video-gaming, and a multitude of outdoor activities.

My passion for the environment and conservation is what drives most of the fundamental decisions I make. I believe that climate change is simultaneously one of the largest threats to society, while also the most overlooked. I want to advance the cause of conservation and wildlife advocacy by managing the relationship between the public and wild-life related entities, whether that is a conservation firm or a clothing company which sells hiking and camping gear.

As a public relations major, I am expected to combine effective writing and communication skills with research and strategic thinking. In a world that increasingly relies on personal devices for sources of content, the area of design is becoming vital to public relations specialists. Currently, I am a novice to design and all that it entails, still learning how to use an advanced camera and editing tools.

I look forward to attempting to master various design tools and techniques, and learning how to apply these to my career goals.