I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a brief internship at MP&F this month as part of the Winterim program that my high school, Harpeth Hall, holds each year. While I had a lot of fun doing projects and sitting in meetings for different clients, I think my favorite part about being at MP&F was what I learned about public relations as a whole. I’ve always thought I wanted to do engineering, but now I realize that PR has some of the same qualities that I like about engineering. For example, it is project based, and you get to see a product through from start to finish.

I’ve always wanted a career where I will be able to get to see my work come to life. In engineering this could be constructing a bridge or building a prosthetic limb, and in PR it could be writing a news release or designing an annual report.

I’ve always wanted a dynamic job that is different from day to day. Because engineering and PR are both in project settings, you are completing many different aspects of an assignment and working on assignments for many different clients. Each day is different as you move through different steps of the project and move from project to project. PR also combines the intellectual and the creative like engineering does. In engineering, you get to use math and science to create something new and unique. In PR, you use writing, communications and marketing skills and extreme time management while channeling your creativity to come up with exciting and interesting campaigns.

I still have no idea what the future holds for me, but being at MP&F has shown me that my life can go in many different directions. I have always thought that engineering is the only path for me, but now I know that I have many different options. I no longer feel the intense pressure to succeed in engineering even if I get to college and discover I don’t like it. Being at MP&F has given me confidence that I can succeed in many different fields, be it engineering, PR, or one of the many other exciting careers out there.

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by Pam Schmidt

So … the family Christmas letter. You know, the ones that tell us Suzie is a star on the soccer team (again), that Billy is the most brilliant baby ever born, and this year the family travels included going to fabulous places like Paris, Spain and blah, blah, blah.

A lot of people make fun of these letters. I actually like to receive and read them. Did you know more than one-third of Tennesseans think people do not tell the truth in those letters? (More on that below.) Have I ever sent one? Not per se. On the inside of our 2008 Christmas card, I mustered up one line for each family member and called it my version of the family Christmas letter. Brevity. It’s an art.

The 2008 Schmidt Family Christmas card and an abbreviated family Christmas letter.

With young kids, both of whom have crazy hair, it’s really all I can do to get a halfway decent picture for a card. And I’ve certainly made light of (or perhaps made fun of) the effort many of us go through for that once-a-year chance to give our friends and family a hard-copy glimpse into our lives. For me, for now, the photos are all I can do. Can’t quite get to a full-on letter.

The 2007 Schmidt Family Christmas Card ... again, sometimes the photos are just all the holiday cheer we can stand to share.

So back to those letters. According to a scientific statewide Holiday Survey conducted by my employer, McNeely Pigott & Fox, along with The Parker Group, 35 percent of Tennesseans think people are not telling the truth in those letters. And get this – 7 percent of people say those letters make their own lives seem inferior. Hold it right there. Do you really want to read that, while Suzie is a star on the soccer team, she’s also something of a brat? Of course you don’t.

Everyone has a story to tell. Some tell it with a letter, some with a card and others even a tweet. At this time of year, most people are trying to spread holiday cheer in those letters, and they are choosing to share the good parts of their story. If you ask me, truthfully, I’d say those are the right parts.

By Eric Ward

The 2010 MP&F Holiday survey revealed recently that Tennesseans would rather talk sports with their families during the holidays instead of the always-interesting topics of politics and religion.

John Calipari is one leader the entire family is behind.

No surprise here. My Kentucky-based family consists of Democrats and Republicans, Obama-haters and Obama-lovers; but we can all agree that when the month of March rolls around, we need John Calipari’s leadership ability more than that of any president. We have daily church-goers and we have some who haven’t been in years. But we can all agree that Mike Krzyzewski is the devil. And even our blue-collar and white-collar workers agree – orange is the ugliest color in the rainbow.

In fact, the topics of religion and politics are nearly forbidden near the turkey or the Christmas tree during my family’s holiday season. That is, unless you can make a statement that is unanimously agreed-upon. For example:

Tennessee orange and Bruce Pearl are unanimously unpopular in my household.

“The economy is garbage.”

Perfect. We all agree.

But make any political or religious statement that takes a position, and you can consider the party over.

“Obama needs to extend the Bush tax-cuts or the economy will get even worse.”

Boom. The fireworks commence

Combative uncle’s face slowly turns beet-red. Perpetually supportive aunt praises, “Amen.” Rhodes-scholar cousin’s ears perk at the perfect opportunity to unleash his nationally recognized knowledge. Babies cry, rolls catch on fire and Grandma, well … Grandma didn’t hear a thing so she’s OK.

Granted, this is a made-up (and exaggerated) scenario. But I can only imagine how political debate could quickly go from civil to divisive at one of my family gatherings. Therefore, like the sports-minded 39 percent of Tennesseans, my family has chosen sports as a topic we can all enjoy together during a time when enjoying one another is of utmost importance.

So whether it’s sports, politics, religion, the latest episode of the “Dancing with the Stars” or basket-weaving, try to find a topic to discuss during the holidays that doesn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers. It’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Reputation management

August 26, 2010

By Mark McNeely

On August 22 this year, The New York Times published a lengthy article in its Sunday business section highlighting the public relations gaffes fueled by the “fiascos” at BP, Toyota and Goldman Sachs recently.

According to the article by Times reporter Peter S. Goodman, “The calamities have served up a lifetime supply of case studies to be mined for lessons on best practices, as well as pitfalls to avoid when disaster arrives.

“As conventional wisdom has it, the three companies at the center of these fiascos worsened their problems by failing to heed established protocol: When the story is bad, disclose it immediately – awful parts included – lest you be forced to backtrack and slide into the death spiral of lost credibility.

“Exhibit A in the lesson book on forthright crisis management is the mass recall of Tylenol in 1982, after the deaths of seven people who ingested tainted painkillers. Johnson & Johnson acknowledged that some of its product had been poisoned and pulled bottles off store shelves.

“In the view of many who are paid to extract corporations from terrible situations, Toyota, BP and Goldman exacerbated their woes by either declining to fess up promptly, casting blame elsewhere, or striking adversarial postures with the public, the government and the news media,” Goodman’s opus states.

But, according to an article by J.R. Hipple of Hipple Reputation Management in Atlanta in the August e-newsletter of the Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors Academy, “What Goodman doesn’t really address in the in-depth article is the underlying cause and solution to corporate misdeeds: ethical leadership and the responsibility of the C-Suite to manage corporate culture.”

“According to Rushworth Kidder, best-selling author and president of the Global Institute for Ethics, the only way out of this ethical mess is for leaders to build a culture of integrity in their organizations. Through Kidder’s work with CEOs around the world, he has determined that the foundation of any ethical culture requires leaders to have the courage to be:

HONEST

RESPONSIBLE

RESPECTFUL

FAIR

COMPASSIONATE

No arguments against that here. But wouldn’t it be nice if things were that easy? Sometimes the easiest things are the hardest: Admit mistakes, apologize and move on if your organization or its people are truly to blame. If system improvements are required, make improvements. But make them real, and not superficial shields against public acrimony.