A small fish in a big pond: Entering the World of Work


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It seems as though we all devote the first 22 years of our lives in preparation to dive into our careers. We set our goals and expectations for ourselves as students and work relentlessly to achieve them, making them the focus.

At some point in my college career I actually processed the fact that in a few short years I would be working and pursuing the field that I have studied and worked towards for so long. Another key realization I had about this transition came with my visit to this year’s Career Carnival in October.

I consider myself a diligent student, but I don’t think it was until this fall that I recognized the bigger picture. School and good grades are not the end goal, but simply the beginning and the starting point on a journey into a very big world.

While the resources across the University of Central Arkansas are remarkable helpful in preparing students for a successful future, including career services, I was completely overwhelmed by this experience. This rush of so many emotions had nothing to do with the work of career services, but everything to do with my recognition of the vast amount of opportunities that surrounded me.

I recognized so many important qualities that potential employers look for. I like to pride myself on someone who not only values relationships, but quality ones. After having brief conversations with various companies at their booths, I recognized just how vital it is to make those brief encounters and first impressions meaningful.

A lot like walking in to a public relations scenario, you must be prepared with key messages and communicate them thoroughly and intentionally. While a PR professional will prepare these messages for countless scenarios, it is completely different to have to do it about yourself.

Because of my experience at this career fair, I realized how important it was to sharpen my networking skills and led me to a networking workshop held through another campus department.

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I am merely one face in a crowd of people. Pinpointing how to stand out and how to be remembered is a skill that will take a lifetime to perfect, but through the opportunities granted to me by this university I feel a little bit more prepared to dive right in and find my fit.


SeaWorld finds themselves in deep water

One of the major conversations PR professionals are having in relations to communication initiatives is the idea of being present at the conversation table when handling a crisis.

Responses to crisis are a main indicator of how the public will continue to view a certain organization.

If an organization owns up to its wrongdoings, then the public may lose trust, but are likely to see the organization as admirable. Denying accusations altogether tends to dig a company into a hole that no amount of positive publicity can get them out of.

One organization in particular that has faced some extremely negative feedback after recent events is SeaWorld. In 2010 an orca trainer was killed during a training session, which sparked major media coverage.

Following the death of Dawn Brancheau, countless reports and investigations were launched into SeaWorld’s training and safety protocol.

Dawn Brancheau with orca Shamu before fatal training accident, from ABC News
Dawn Brancheau with orca Shamu before fatal training accident, from ABC News

The major trigger for the SeaWorld publicity crisis was the release of the documentary ‘Blackfish’ which provides viewers with accounts from former trainers on their experiences with the organization accompanied by video footage of the whales used in the popularized shows.

'Blackfish' documentary media image found on Google Images
‘Blackfish’ documentary media image found on Google Images

The depiction of mistreatment of the animals along with negative testimonials from former employees and trainers who worked closely with those who experienced extreme harm due to a lack of safety guidelines sparked major controversy regarding the organization.

SeaWorld’s response was less than adequate. The choice to launch a social media campaign including “69 reasons why you should not believe ‘Blackfish’” pointed out a lack of integrity within the organization while relying on denial alone.

Detailed video evidence as well as negative claims from those who worked extremely close to the source requires pretty detailed feedback from SeaWorld, not simply a top ten list for why they should still be trusted.

Not only did they provide a weak counterargument to such serious claims, but after deciding to cancel their main attraction show they then decided to change their minds and revamp and reopen the show. The lack of stability does not help the case of SeaWorld.

Where is the counter evidence? Why should we believe SeaWorld? They surely gave us no concrete reason to believe so.

Addressing this case points out just how vital the basics of public relations are: establishing a simple framework for what to communicate and sticking through it with every message that is released.

Key messages have been emphasized to us time and time again. Whether it is through a news conference or in objectives for a campaign, the overarching goals for what is to be accomplished is meant to be the guiding word for all that are involved.

When an initial message is sent out in a crisis and then completely turned into something else, the organization looks untrustworthy and inconsistent. Trying to turn a crisis around and into the light requires dedication to the cause, and that is something SeaWorld has not shown.

The media often portrays public relations professionals as dishonest, manipulative, and ingenuine.

If there is anything I have learned through my time studying public relations it would be that I hope I am able to work and lead a career of integrity and respect.

Being faced with crisis, much like SeaWorld has been for the past five years, can turn an organization on their head and they are left facing a fork in the road: own up and correct your actions or hide and sweep it under the rug.

Formulating concrete and honest key messages and maintaining that message throughout a crisis or campaign is one of the most basic yet important pieces of information we have gathered throughout our courses.

SeaWorld was faced with a crisis. They were faced with a tough decision and because they chose to avoid the accusations and push forward as if there was nothing to address left them with even more to analyze and discuss.

Public relations is about strategy and choosing the wrong one could leave you up the creek without a paddle. If I were SeaWorld, I think I would recognize that it was time to acknowledge the past and right the wrongs. Then, and only then, with they be able to recover and move forward.

A Place to Always Call Home

Alumni festivities, student celebration and a Bear football win on the stripes made for yet another successful homecoming weekend at the University of Central Arkansas.

Past and present students along with families and local supporters come together annually to celebrate the university with an array of gatherings and events. The displays of school pride accompanied by the fellowship of the community and those who travel to be a part of it make for the perfect image of the UCA family.

Local media outlets across central Arkansas continually cover the weekend’s events and draw positive attention to the university, each demonstrating a different angle and focus.

The Echo is a UCA specific newspaper publication that is circulated weekly on campus to keep students engaged and up to date on campus events and information. Being that this publication is distributed exclusively on campus, the focus of each story tends to be set on reaching primarily current students.

In their coverage of Homecoming 2015 The Echo focused on a big moment for nearly all students, the announcement of the Homecoming Queen.

A heartfelt photo of the 2015 elected queen, Courtney Barrentine, and her father at the moment her name was announced along with kind words from Barrentine and other members of the court portrayed the university and a welcoming family with a place for everyone.

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Courtney Barrentine, UCA Homecoming Queen 2015, is announced   and crowned at Saturday’s game : The UCA Echo

UCA recently underwent some troubling publicity with an incident that occurred at the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority house in which the chapter was investigated for hazing. The university handled the situation accordingly and no punishment was given to the sorority and its members.

While this issue gained quite a bit of negative attention, having an Alpha Sigma Tau crowned as homecoming queen along with having a tremendous amount of support from the other members on court shows how unified this university is and how supported all of the women who were nominated and elected to represent the student body on court are.

501 Life Magazine executed a homecoming story from a very different vantage point. This publication reaches a much broader audience that focuses mainly on the adults in the central Arkansas area. While most all of the festivities the occur throughout the homecoming weekend are for attendees of all ages, 501 Life focused on one in particular that most adults could relate to.

Rick Springfield performed at UCA’s Reynolds Performance Hall as a part of the the university’s Public Appearances department’s contribution to the festivities. Being a Grammy winning artist whose success spanned throughout the ’80s, Springfield was the perfect draw to alumni coming in to visit.

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Rick Springfield UCA performance : 501 Life Magazine

UCA is a competitive university in the state of Arkansas, but could tend to be overlooked by the larger University of Arkansas. Having an artist of this caliber come to perform on campus is a perfect example of the growth and development that UCA has undergone over the past few years and continues to strive for.

Parents play a major role in deciding where their student will attend college and by seeing that UCA has events to offer such as Springfield’s performance is only a small display of the resources the university possesses to ensure their child’s collegiate success.

While KARK also covered the story of Springfield coming to campus, no other central Arkansas television news networks broadcasted homecoming topics. However, UCA’s in-house video marketing did a great job of formulating  promotional commercial for Homecoming 2015 as a video on the UCA Youtube account.

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Screenshot from UCA Homecoming 2015 commercial

Two details that were absolutely deserving of attention were the display of diversity throughout the video as well as the heart touching song that accompanied the footage. YouTube is one platform of media that is completely accessible to an audience of every age. Because they made the reel into a commercial, this was meant to promote the events of the weekend as well as show what UCA has to offer.

Throughout the video students from all across campus, from different departments and organizations, were shown enjoying what Homecoming Week had to offer. Not only were the students on display, but plenty of families, children, and alumni were shown enjoying themselves as well.

From a PR standpoint it would be disappointing to not have much televised media coverage of our homecoming events, but I would be proud to put out this commercial that truly embodies the family atmosphere and diverse community that is the University of Central Arkansas that would make any potential student want to be a part of it as well as any alumni proud to have been.

From a PR standpoint, I would attest that all three of the stories discussed present a positive image of UCA. Each of these three news stories regarding UCA Homecoming 2015 reach a different audience in a different way, but all maintain that the university is thriving and growing and is the place to be for all new students and any from the past who look forward to coming home every year.