Is facebook making you sad?

June 28, 2014-  A few short months ago, the social media site Facebook conducted an experiment on its users. The company was trying to determine if the consumer’s mood could be swayed by the posts they read on their news feed; the only problem was they tried doing so without the users consent.  Facebook intentionally “tweaked” over 700,000 users news feeds to either show only happy or sad posts, then track how the user posted that day.

After concluding the experiment, Facebook determined that by filtering a user’s news feed they could influence the mood of the user. This proved that the experiment had negative effects on the users, unknown to them.  By doing this it goes against the laws, regulations and ethical standards of focus groups and experimental research.  This raises a lot of questions as to how ethical an experiment like this could be.  In Facebooks user agreement form they state that “in addition to helping people see and find things that you do and share, we may use the information we receive about you … for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.”.  In the agreement it states that Facebook holds the right to use any data they collect to conduct research, but should it be legal for the company to decide what shows up on the users news feed?  Facebook determined that by including the previous lines in their user agreement it would count as an informed consent and allowed for them to use any information posted on the site in whatever form they see fit.

Many feel that Facebook failed to show transparency to their key publics and that by doing this it would decrease popularity on the site.  From the perspective of a PR professional, was it ethical for Facebook to handle their study in this manner?  If you were a PR professional working for Facebook, how would you handle this situation when questioned by the media?

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Kanye West calls out the Disabled

While in Sydney on Friday, Kanye West brought his own concert to a standstill.  The concert was paused because West demanded that every person in the audience stands up for his song.  It is common for performers to engage the audience by asking them to clap or stomp to the beat of the music, but very rarely does an artist completely stop the performance until their demands are met.

Kanye is quoted saying “I’ve decided, I can’t do this song, I can’t do the rest of this show until everybody stands up.  No, seriously—I won’t go on with the show unless y’all stand up.”  After taking several minutes to scan the audience for anyone not standing, West noticed two people who had refused to stand up.  West continued to hassle the two concert goers saying “This was the longest I’ve had to wait to do a song.  It’s unbelievable”.

Sources say that as the crowd begins to yell and curse at the two, one of the men took off his prosthetic limb and waved it for Kanye to see.  Kanye then sent someone to investigate why the second concert goer refused to stand.  After confirming the second person was in a wheelchair West clarified that “if you’re using a wheelchair, then its fine… only if he’s in a wheelchair.  Kanye West then began his song “The Good Life” and was met with countless negative comments on Twitter following the concert.

Many felt that this action drew attention to all the disabled concert goers and publically humiliated them.  Is this fair to treat ones fans in such an unethical manner?

As a PR professional and if Kanye West was your client, how would you react?  Do you feel Kanye acted inappropriately? How would you defend an artist in an unethical situation? Video from Sydney Concert

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9/11 Responders with Cancer Denied Coverage



There are nearly 3,000 cases of cancer among firefighters, police officers, contractors and civilians who responded to the attacks on 9/11 or were or live nearby. A growing number of people are being diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer and are being denied coverage by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. According to the NIOSH, the minimum time period to prove the link between the diagnosis and the exposure of the toxins at ground zero is four years. So if someone is diagnosed before the four years, they are denied coverage.

Michael Branahan, a first-responder was diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer at the age of 44, three months and five months after 9/11 and was denied coverage. “I’m going to die knowing I got my cancer from 9/11. I don’t care what NIOSH says” Branahan said.

“Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, says that oropharyngeal cancer in this population, absent risk factors like drinking, smoking or a human papillomavirus infection, is unusual.”

John Meyers, a New York City police officer and also a first-responder was diagnosed with the same cancer less than four years after 9/11. During his long shifts he recalled eating meals on site and not wearing a mask. “We were ingesting whole buildings.”

Noah Kushlefsky, a partner at the Kreindler & Kreindler law firm in New York, which is representing thousands of 9/11 responders, including Meyers stated that after reviewing more cases and seeing the latency for cancer was spelled out, it became  “an inescapable fact that the latency period has to be wrong.”

Kushlefsky, along with other colleagues represents more than 7,500 people exposed to toxins while working at ground zero. Thirty-nine of those have been diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer. About a quarter of that group was denied coverage because of the four-year latency period. In a statement, the institute stated that as new scientific information becomes available, it could modify minimum latencies for certain cancers.

You are the head of the public relations department for NIOSH. How do you handle this situation? Do you still deny coverage to those diagnosed? Or do you stand your ground because four years is a pretty generous amount of time?

The number is growing of people who are diagnosed with this rare cancer due to the toxins from ground zero. There are very few explanations for the number of people diagnosed, so why are so many people being denied? It doesn’t seem right to deny the coverage of someone who has served our country so bravely because they were diagnosed too early. I believe it’s going against many principles that we derive from not only our personal values and ideals, but our professional ones as well.


Read the full article here>


Press Release from the NIOSH posted yesterday:

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 2.01.28 PM

**Click to enlarge**


Trojan Teams Up With MTV, AGAIN


 The Trojan condom brand and MTV extend their partnership with a new campaign, “It’s Your (Sex) Life.” The campaign was created internally by MTV and will be aired on other MTV channels such as VH1, BET, MTV2, Comedy Central and a few others. The goal of the campaign is to promote being safe while engaging in sexual activities and is targeted towards the millennial generation, who are the ones who view MTV the most. 

The main part of the campaign is a series of three commercials which tell a story about the relationship between a young man and a young woman. The first commercial shows the relationship moving out of the “friend-zone” and into another “zone.” The second shows the woman discussing the new “zone” with her friends. The third shows the young man and young woman discussing the new “zones” in their relationship. After every commercial, an announcer says, “No matter what zone you’re in, use a condom every time.” 

Other subjects of the campaign include pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS and condom use. Bruce Weiss, vice president of marketing for the Trojan brand said that if the campaign is a success, he would like to “see other versions” of the commercial, with a same-sex couple. 

A survey done by MTV shows that the millennials do enjoy the commercials and think they are extremely conversational and fun, but what about the rest of the population that watches MTV and other sibling channels? 

Talking about sex and everything affiliated is always an extremely touchy subject. Whether it was 50 years ago or today, this subject needs to be approached delicately. Do you think that MTV did the right thing by extending the partnership with Trojan?

As far as Weiss’ vision goes, do you think society would be ready for a same-sex Trojan commercial? If you were working for Trojan in the PR or marketing department, how would you deal with all of the negative feedback from airing the commercials? (the three commercials for MTV and the same-sex commercial). 

You can read the full article here> 


Atlanta Hawks Owner’s Racist Email Discovered


Atlanta Hawks owner, Bruce Levenson


In June of this year, Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin mentioned a racial comment said by general manager Danny Ferry during a conference call that led to an investigation which included interviewing 19 people and 24,000 pieces of evidence. It was said during a separate interview that Ferry had been punished for his actions but they didn’t go into detail. During the investigation, an email was found, which was sent in 2012 from Hawks owner Bruce Levenson to Ferry. 

“Bruce was confronted with this email from 2012, and he decided that instead of fighting it … he thought it was best for the city, for the team, for his family, to walk away.”

The email focused on the ethnicity of the fans and cheerleaders. Complaining that there were too many black cheerleaders and that the black fans were scaring away all the white ones. He also wrote that 70% of the audience was black, stadium bars were 90% black, the cheerleaders were black, there were few fathers and sons at the games and the music played during the game was hip-hop and post-game activities were rap or gospel acts. 

You can read the full email here>

“These are young men who wear our city’s name and our logo on their chest. They play for a team, and they are supposed to be supported by their ownership. And ownership failed in supporting them” Koonin said. 

Levenson announced Sunday that he will be selling his controlling stake in the team after an “email two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive.” 

View the news story by CNN here> 

As PR professionals, how would you deal with this situation if you were working for the Atlanta Hawks? You can’t have your fans upset, or they won’t attend games and your profits will plummet. 

How would you deal with the same situation if you were hired by Levenson to mend his personal image? 

Do you think this situation was handled properly? Would you have done something different? 


State Department on ISIS


In the recent weeks of conflict that has been gripping Syria and Iraq. A new terrorist group has seized power. This group is called, “ISIS” the arabic translation is, “Islamic State.” After the United States began pulling forces out of Iraq and gave the Iraqi military full control of the country is when ISIS began its bloody campaign.

Since ISIS seems to have formed from the crumbled structure of the al-queda terrorist organization little is known about the group. However, ISIS has made they intentions clear they want to establish an Islamic caliphate, or state, stretching across the middle-east.
ISIS has begun imposing Sharia (Martial law) law in the towns it controls. Boys and girls must be separated at school; women must wear the niqab or full veil in public. Sharia courts often dispense brutal justice. Such as crucifixions, public executions, decapitations and severing limbs. Music is also banned and the fast is enforced during the Islamic holiday of Ramadan. Sharia law covers both religious and non-religious aspects of life. As of now, ISIS controls a territory in Iraq and Syria that is bigger than the neighboring country of Jordan.

Another trait of ISIS that has been startling to many government officials is the groups ability to recruit new members. Not only has ISIS been recruiting new members in the middle-east but also in highly developed, first world countries (Including the U.S.). Three Americans have been found dead along side ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria respectively. The State Department has labeled this form of terrorism as, “home grown.” To help combat home grown terrorism the State Department has started a campaign called, “Think Again, Turn Away.” Most recently, the campaign has released an edited version of an ISIS recruiting video that mocks the group. This video shows what the group is actually doing. I have posted the video below. However, the video is graphic and for a lack of better words, upsetting.

Lets say we’re PR representatives for the State Department. Do you think it was a good idea for them to release this video? Do you think this could have any implications on the publics of the U.S.? What are your general thoughts on this situation and how the U.S. government has been communicating with not only the publics of the U.S. but also the rest of the world?

Ketchum’s Role In Ukraine

Violence Escalates As Kiev Protests Continue
For those of you seniors who are currently in a job search for a PR position in America. None is more tantalizing than that of a job at Ketchum. Ketchum is one of the nation’s leading PR firms originally founded in Pittsburgh, Ketchum has since moved it’s headquarters to New York City. Currently, Ketchum represents a multitude of fortune 500 companies and operates in 4 continents. Ketchum has won more silver anvils, PR agency of the year awards and campaign of the year awards (among many others) then anyone else in the business. To butcher Dreamwork’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy quote, “Ketchum is kind of a big deal.”

Now at this point, i’m sure many of you might be wondering, “what does Ketchum have to do with Ukraine?” Or “Whats Ukraine?” Well, in 2006 a very high profile client had hired Ketchum for advice on public relations. This client, is none other than the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Now for those of you who haven’t been following the current situation in Ukraine; let me try to simplify it for you.

Ukraine, after the collapse of the Soviet Union actually did quite well for itself, it introduced a new currency, had a sturdy infrastructure and was experiencing steady economic growth. However, that all changed in 2004 with the Orange Revolution. After the revolution, Viktor Yanukovych was in power. Yanukovych began to then shy away from relations with the European Union and began to have stringer ties with Russia. This lasted until earlier this year with the Euromaidan Revolution (2014 Ukrainian Revolution) where “the predominantly Russian-speaking east, a large portion of the population opposed the Euromaidan protests, instead supporting the Yanukovych government.Over time, Euromaidan came to describe a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine,the scope of which evolved to include calls for the resignation of President Yanukovych and his government (Wikipedia).”

During the Euromaidan Revolution reports began to flood in that the Crimea Peninsula of Ukraine was being invaded by Russian forces. At this time the centralized government of the Crimea Reigon voted to annex itself from Ukraine and join the Russian federation. However, it is still unclear whether or not these troops that entered Crimea are Russian or where commanded by the Russian Government to invade. While all of this going on the new Ukrainian government is sending troops to fight those who have taken up arms in Crimea. Also in the mix are those in support of the idea to become part of the Russian federation and those who don’t like either side. Pretty simple right? Now the idea of Russian troops in Ukraine is still a little confusing. Russia has denied any involvement with the Ukrainian crisis. Whereas, many Ukrainians are pointing the finger directly at Russia. So it is unclear if Russia actually has any involvement in Ukraine at the moment.

Below these paragraphs I have attached another documentary style news broadcast from VICE News. You will probably see VICE in a lot of my posts for two reasons. Many of the major news broadcasting stations have a slight political lean. VICE, however, is on the front lines and gives viewpoints from places and people you’ve never heard of. Since the video has a run time of about 15 minutes, some notable parts are 7:30, 9:00, and 10:00 until the end.

Now imagine you worked for Ketchum and their employee the Russian Federation who now has a strained relationship in the United States. How would you advise Russia to act? Not only to shed some light on their interests and goals to the publics of Europe and the U.S. But how would you as a Ketchum employee improve relations with the public in your home country (the U.S.) since you’re working for a long time adversary?


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