Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Path to Graduation

I will graduate from college in exactly 24 hours from this moment. To say that I feel overwhelmed and stressed is an understatement; however, I cannot deny that I feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and excitement as well! I am proud of myself. I will have a college degree and – as my dad likes to remind me often – a degree is something no one can ever take away from me. While it took me much longer to graduate than I anticipated, every obstacle I faced pushed me in the right direction.

I struggled for a long time trying to figure out my focus. At first, I loved the idea of sports marketing. Unfortunately, I realized that my high school marketing class did not depict an accurate representation of what my marketing classes in college would entail. After I barely survived BA 101- I quickly realized I needed to switch my focus.

In high school I also participated in our Child Services class. Every day, the students in the class worked in an adjacent preschool. We were assigned “buddies” throughout the term and worked with them one-on-one on their class assignments. I loved it! My buddy’s name was Payton. She had big, blue eyes and a smile that lit up the room. It was rewarding to know that I had a part in adding to her foundation of knowledge. After some consideration, I decided to switch my focus to education. By the third term of my sophomore year, I narrowed my education focus and began communication disorder and sciences classes with an intent to become a speech pathologist. Unfortunately, anatomy was not my strongest subject, and I was left feeling discouraged and hopeless once again.

Halfway through my junior year, I stumbled into J201: Media and Society. How I ended up there is still a mystery- I really don’t remember. On the first day of class, I felt a sense of relief- really for the first time in my entire college experience. I had a teacher who was full of life and expertise who made class enjoyable, unlike the other classes I had taken up to that point in time. The content of what we learned intrigued me more than anything. Photography, design, public speaking, event planning- every single subject gave me something to be excited about!

Writing was always one of my strongest skills, which is vital to this major, and journalism seemed a better fit for me in general. Once I finally hurdled through my pre-req classes, I reached my ultimate goal: the public relations sequence.

I love everything about my major including the tools we use regularly, the ability to think and produce creatively, and the preparation provided by the School of Journalism and Communications as we enter the real world. Although it took me a while to finish my pre-requisites, it was worth the hard work and determination it took to get here.

As I leave the University of Oregon, I take with me a set of skills and life experience that I don’t believe I could have received anywhere else. I am proud to be a Duck and grateful for what I have gained in the duration of my college experience here. 

Social Media Voguettes

Fashion relies on a visually driven industry and because of this, social media is a beneficiary tool to their business- as long as they use it correctly. I  find it astonishing that magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and Nylon have established its own brands when representing so many others within its pages. What makes one fashion magazine stand out from another? What I've observed so far is that while style is important, content is even more significant to the success of the publication.

Although I love magazines; as a college student I cannot afford to spend money on them, especially when I can find the same content displayed in a visually stimulating and engaging, online environment. Personally, I follow more than 50 fashion bloggers, Websites, and Youtube channels regularly. I also have 10 fashion apps on my iPhone and religiously follow fashionistas on Instagram for blogger style by influential women such as Gary Pepper Girl and Wendy's Lookbook.

While some may consider this a bit obsessive, I believe it is a necessity. Fashion changes at an alarming rate, so it is important to stay ahead of the game. I have found that many of my friends follow the same trends. We all love magazines but would rather access the same content for free online. This is a significant problem that many publications face today.

Just as the fashion seasons come and go, so must publication styles. The fashion industry shapes what the consumers want and how brands are represented to their targeted consumers. One of my favorite publications, Vogue, experiments with some intriguing social media strategies. While I do not agree with the all tactics Vogue uses, some of its efforts deserve an honorable mention.

Vogue's social media capabilities span far and wide. The Vogue brand has 22 magazines published all over the world and each publication seems to have created its own social media campaigns in an attempt to interact with their area-specific consumers. For example, Vogue India created an app called "Vogue 365," which Vogue proclaims: "is the ultimate fashion bible for Indian and international fashion and beauty." Vogue 365 sends users an editorial picture from one of their shoots every day.

Vogue.com also recently introduced the "lightbox" concept. A "lightbox" is similar to pin boards on the social networking site, Pinterest. A consumer's personal "lightbox" includes pictures of products, celebrities, and runway trends of their own liking.  "Lightboxes" allow consumers to share, discuss and explore new trends within the fashion industry with others in the Vogue community (a.k.a. "Voguettes") and creates discussions through its website. 

Vogue reaches outside of their own social media sites on the Conde Nast Style Society. Conde Nast Style Society is an online website in which women who read magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and Glamour all congregate to discuss fashion. They conduct surveys, polls and even send products to consumers for testing. This is a great site for fashion publications because the members are genuinely excited to be a part of this community. 

It is also a great tool for research for many reasons: Discovering customer interests, researching likes and dislikes, and viewing their competition. Vogue also understands the importance of fashion bloggers. Bloggers are key influencers in the fashion industry. The most popular bloggers have more than one million followers spanning over a wide variety of locations around the world. 

Recently, Miss Teen Vogue published an edition dedicated to nine social media savvy women. By publishing an edition featuring these women, they attracted a large mass of readership through the bloggers' millions of fans and simultaneously created an opportunity to advertise the bloggers' favorite fashion brand. 

You're probably wondering how this affects Vogue as a brand. As Vogue reaches consumers through social media, it gains an understanding of its consumer. Although its desire to sell brands and free advertising space may be the basis of these social media strategies and tactics, Vogue continues to contribute to the publications overall ability to represent themselves as a brand. Vogue strives to be seen as a place where fashionistas can come for inspiration. It wants and needs to find a way to drive their name as well as the brands within its pages. To stay ahead of the game, Vogue needs to continue to refine and enhance its social media efforts. 

Tweets in Crisis

From Charlie Sheen and Chris Brown to McDonald's and Kitchen Aid, 2012 was a year filled with negative publicity for public figures and corporations when it came to their social media usage. Most use Twitter as a direct way to communicate with fans and the general public. A simple tweet or two throughout the day to engage with your customers and keep your business buzzing appeals to many organizations. However, this simple 140-character tweet can attract controversy- quickly! For this reason, I believe it is extremely important to create a crisis management plan for social media accounts used by your corporation. 

Here are some of my favorite examples of corporations that need to (or already have, in light of their circumstances) create a crisis management plan for Twitter:

@KitchenAidUSA: "Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! 'She died 3 days b4 he became president???' Wow! #nbcpolitics." - Reportedly, this KitchenAid employee no longer works there. 

@NRA_Rifleman: "Good Morning, shooters! Happy Friday! Weekend plans?" - NRA tweeted this the day after the Aurora shootings, marking the beginning of a series of bad publicity stunts surrounding its opinion on gun violence. 

@Gap: All impacted by Hurricane #Sandy stay safe! We'll be doing lots of online shopping today. How about you?" -  

@Skip_Sullivan: One time I walked into McDonald's and could smell Type 2 Diabetes floating in the air and I threw up. #McDStories." McDonald's attempted to connect with their customers by creating the hashtag: #McDStories. Unfortunately, they received more negative stories, than positive. 

As seen from the previous cases, it is important to create a crisis management plan for all social media accounts used by your company, especially Twitter.

When used correctly, Twitter creates a savvy social media tool that not only reaches your own targeted audience, but also the ability to contact potential customers through retweets and replies, which can quickly accumulate to millions of people around the world. Tweets also appear beyond the Twittersphere as writers, columnists and bloggers write about tweets from corporations and public figures daily, which creates an opportunity to reach an even larger audience. As clever as this communication tool can be, it can also cause huge problems when companies and social media account managers do not critically assess tweets before posting them. When social media is not used correctly, it demonstrates that fact that the social media account managers either do not understand the impact social media has on their image and its publics, or that the corporation allows people to run the accounts who are not diligent enough at their job to represent the corporation on social media. 

While some social media mistakes may be like the aforementioned bad examples, social media does not always have to be negative when dealing with crises. To avoid the backlash of accidental tweets- implement a crisis management plan that will either prevent or handle these types of crises. 

Crisis management plans focused solely on Twitter and any other social media accounts can determine how to prevent, control, and react to crises and bad publicity. The plan should begin with an analysis of what could go wrong and examine the question of how to fix it. Like any other plan, you will start with an objective that will determine the purpose of the medium. 

For example, are you using it to evaluate consumer thoughts, advertise products, or reach new customers? It should also include strategies to determine who will use the accounts and how often. Finally, the tactics will address the steps you will take to implement those strategies. Within these strategies and tactics, your crisis management plan should provide general guidelines for those administering the accounts. These guidelines should include approrpriateness, timeliness, accurarcy and engagement. 

At the end of the day, if you do not understand the impact of social media, hire someone to help you. Most large corporations have a public relations team that can implement a crisis management plan for your social media accounts. Although we cannot always predict how consumers and fans will react to certain tweets, it never hurts to react before the backlash can begin. 

Ethical Fashion Blogging

The digital age allows millions of people across the world to share ‘expertise’ in their preferred profession via blogging. One of the most notable visual industries to capitalize on this ideal is the fashion industry. Hundreds of fashion bloggers around the world share their ‘professional’ advice and many accumulate hundreds, thousands, and in some cases, millions of followers. While I follow the fashion blogosphere often, I sometimes question the legitimacy of the professional content and wonder who blogs purely for money.

Blogging is similar to celebrity endorsements. If you represent a product it is ethically expected that you actually use the product and believe in its capabilities. Celebrities, however, are not always the most reliable sources when it comes to endorsements. For example, Alicia Keys recently became the Creative Art Director for BlackBerry who introduced a new version of their phone to compete with Apple and other competitors. Last month she accidentally tweeted from her iPhone, causing a case of bad PR for BlackBerry- who I’m sure is extremely unhappy with Keys. Kim Kardashian also recently had a more serious issue with endorsements. She took to her Twitter to ask her followers to join the fight for gun control after the Sandy Hook tragedy. Weeks later she posted a picture of a new gun in her possession that looked ‘glamorized.’ After coming under attack from many of her followers she deleted the post. Celebrity endorsements gone wrong occur all the time and damage the image of that representative. The same can happen to a blogger’s reputation.

Personally, I struggle to define what classifies a person as a ‘professional blogger.’ For one, I love blogging. I also love to follow new bloggers. On Bloglovin’ (a website that allows you to discover and follow your favorite blogs in one place), I currently follow more than 200 blogs. Some are written by professionals in the field while others are simply fashion enthusiasts who reach a large following. These bloggers often push product content to their followers. This is where advertising can become hazy. As a follower and someone who may buy products I find on blogs, I want to know the blogger actually believes in the product, good quality, and is worth the sale price. However, because the blogosphere does not exactly require you to provide your credentials or provide transparency about who you are, it becomes difficult to discern those who are actually qualified to write product reviews versus your average joe who simply uses blogging to try and make a buck.

On the flip side, bloggers have difficulty finding ways to incorporate products into their posts without seeming to advertise everything. In this case, bloggers walk a very fine line. Some bloggers make a living entirely off of their blogging income so they obviously need to push product content. In this situation, if a company sends you products to try or your company pays them to advertise a product there may be an immense amount of pressure to write a post that positively reviews that product. Where do bloggers draw the line? Do they risk losing their income, or do they risk their reputation? Is it ethical for them to push products they do not like because of an advertiser’s request?

Personally, I believe the only way to blog ethically and to maintain a positive reputation within the blogging community is to create guidelines for your blog. These guidelines must strive to provide fair, accurate, and honest information to the followers and consumers who will purchase the products they are introduced to via these websites. While this can prove difficult, it is not impossible. Chelsea Burcz, an Independent Fashion Blogger, wrote about ethics and blogging in her post, “Print vs. Blogging ” on iheartifb.com. The post depicts guidelines for how bloggers can keep their dignity in tact when it comes to advertising. In her interview with George Freeman, an expert with the First Amendment Law, he explained:

“Ethics really should be fairly standard across media, print or on-line, but, of course, different people/firms/media have different ethical standards. The more ethical they are and the more actual factual reporting bloggers do, the more their credibility will be enhanced. I think the key is that bloggers need to do on-the-ground reporting; those that do have strong reputations. Those that just opinionate on others people’s work, or worse, just repackage other journalists’ work will not be considered very legitimate. Mixing ads and content is not illegal, but is not very ethical either. That is, anything which gives the appearance that content is being affected by advertisers will be looked as suspect.”

With this statement in mind, one can observe the ethical difficulties bloggers face when creating content. As Burcz puts it, "The problem with fashion bloggers is that we are our own business... and sometimes business mixes with pleasure." Unless the blogger designs every item they are wearing and never accepts any jewelry, clothes, and products from friends or companies looking to promote, it proves difficult to run their business.

What do you think? Should bloggers create an ethical code? 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Welcome to my blog! My name is Kaileigh Cushing and I am a senior at the University of Oregon studying Public Relations.  As I enter the blogosphere, I will specifically use these posts to discuss my desired profession (Public Relations), in addition to my own personal interests. I will tackle topics such as crisis management, fashion PR, event planning and social media. My hope for this blog is to engage in open discussions amongst peers and professionals interested in the event planning and fashion industries. 

"You can never be overdressed or overeducated" - Oscar Wilde