Monthly Archives: September 2011

Dart’s Year of Trouble

Throughout my time inDallas, DART, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, has expanded and created many great alternatives for people without a car (I was one of these people until recently.) They have even partnered with Denton County Transit Authority to provide connections for individuals commuting betweenDentonandDallas. I can still remember when the first rail station opened. There was one located a few blocks from my house. My grandmother thought it was a sign of progress, as I do now. However, DART needs to do a better job communicating with the public about issue when they arise.
Over the course of the past year DART has had more PR related problems and seems to never learn its lesson. As the institution grows, its issues with the public’s perception seem to as well. The problems that continue to plague the company are all avoidable; Too bad Dart’s relationship with its public is not up to par! As I stated in a previous blog about ethical behavior, if the public has trust in a company or brand than mishaps are less devastating; but because DART continues to “flub” without communicating with the citizens of Dallas properly there is no room left for error in the consumer’s mind. The instances that DART does public address issue they go about it the wrong way. Earlier this year during the NBA Finals, Dart had a train full of passengers stalled for over an hour, with no explanation, the passengers de-boarded the train and began walking through the underground tunnel to the exit. Apparently this action was done against the direction of the train operator, however with no just cause given for the delay the passengers felt that matters had to be taken into their own hands. Afterwards, the company released a statement condemning the passengers’ behavior. Instead of apologizing and compensating the customers for such a hassle, DART chastised them. This was a terrible move and as a result the company got tons of terrible press!
In 2009, after the highly-anticipated opening of the rail toFairPark and during the Texas/OU football weekend, the institution was unprepared for the number of riders and had to transport travelers by shuttle. DART was only prepared to carry about 25,000 passengers when 60,000 actually showed up. The stranded sports fans were needless to say less than pleased. Ultimately it was a grand disaster. The following year however, DART did do a much better job accommodating the large crowd. They dedicated more buses to the event and also dedicated a traffic lane specifically for the event.
Over the summer as I commuted home from my internship, the train I was on (a red line train headed towardsPlano) stopped suddenly in the underground area between City place station and Mockingbird station. After a 30 minute delay, with no message from the driver informing us of what was going on. We began to move and within 2 minutes we were out of the tunnel at the Mockingbird station. At this point however, the train was evacuated and the platform was full of pissed off passengers. DART did not acknowledge the problem, nor did they apologize for the delay. Fortunately for me my mom came and picked me up from Mockingbird station, but for those passengers who had worked a long hard day and were forced to wait 


This week DART stated that they would be laying off about 35 full-time workers even though they were going forward with plans to create/expand the orange line to Irving. They also announced at the same time that they were purchasing several new smaller buses. Many citizens could not understand how the company could afford these new projects but were firing more employees, especially when the economy is so unstable.




Classical Ethics and Modern Advertising and PR

As the realms of public relations and advertising become more digitally based the idea of having a set standard for ethics within those industries seems to be what many in the public would like to see. Currently, the perception of modern public relations and advertising practice is that the industries are amoral and that their intent is to deceive and mislead.

Due to the fact that so many motives can be hidden behind a great Ad campaign or PR platform and the public’s involvement in these forms of communication has been growing, so grows their demand for transparency. The consumer now wants to know if that blogs that endorses Wal-Mart is getting paid or the mom who pushes a certain brand is being compensated. Corporate transparency is becoming an unspoken expectation in today’s communications world. This ideal is one of the reasons that PR and advertising are moving towards a more ethically open environment.

One of the many ethical theories that modern advertising professionals apply is Egoism. Egoism states that an act is moral if and only if it best promotes the long-term self-interest. Many advertising agencies practice egoism by creating controversial campaigns that benefit the brand or client in the long haul. The idea that enlightened self-interest is the basis for many actions within the advertising world might seem like a stretch at first, but once you think it over you can find many examples of egoism in advertising. One example would be the Groupon fiasco after the Super Bowl ads were aired. Although the campaign was tasteless and offensive to many, the brand was discussed in classrooms around the world; Twitter was filled with commentary about the incident; and articles were written in every major newspaper in the country. It got people talking and inevitability the company saw growth, which was the end goal.

Aristotle developed the golden mean theory or virtue-based ethics. With this theory the fact that something is ethical does not necessarily mean that it is the “right” thing to do. In public relations and advertising, virtue based ethics aims to establish equally beneficial relationships between the client and the organization. This approach applies heavily to the world of public relations. Because PR is about relationship building between a client and the public, trust and transparency are required. Although public relations professionals have gotten a bad wrap over the years as “spin-doctors” or liars, public relations professional attempt to maintain their clients’ image while maintaining a sense of open dialogue with the public. Virtue based ethics allows for PR professionals to do this.

Although the approaches of these two strategic fields are different, the end goal is the same: provide the maximum amount of return on investment for the client. With advertising obviously this involves money, however with public relations this return has to do with the public’s view of the organization/company. Proceeding ethically is important for any company or organization specifically those who are in industries that’s success or validity depend on it, such as non-profit charities.

There are so many ethical theories out there that look at the reasonings behind people or organizations’ actions. New ones are being developed daily. In an industry that’s main purpose is to communication a message, whether an advertisement meant to encourage the consumer to purchase a product or a public relations tactic that aims to create a relationship between client and its publics; the main purpose of these industries is to communicate. It is imperative to the future success of these fields that the public feels a sense of trust.

Target aims for the high-end client…on a budget.

Target has to be one of the most brilliant companies in our marketplace. Since re-branding and re-positioning themselves after Wal-Mart burst on the scene, Target has consistently made solid choices that have paid off whereas many of their competitors have failed miserably. This past week, the Target website crashed due to the overwhelming response from the latest partnership with Missoni. Although the site’s failure can be viewed as a negative from a PR standpoint, from a business perspective, they must be doing something right!

Target began their designer collaborations in March of 2009 with their initial partnership with the late Alexander McQueen. Other noted collaborations include William Rast (a brand whose team of designers include Justin Timberlake), Converse, and Jean Paul Gaultier; all of which experienced tremendous success. This October Target will continue their tradition with new partnerships. This initiative is a push for the holiday season and will focus on designers of accessories. Albertus Swanepoel, a South African hat designer who has designer for some of the industry’s most noted names, such as Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang. Target will also pair with Dana Kellin, A L.A-based high-end jewelry designer, this holiday season. This program is one of the many ways Target has set itself apart from the crowd. Target, oftentimes referred to as “Tarjay”, states on their website that one of their core concerns is design. This central value has been integrated into many aspects of the company. Many of the product lines Target carries, including house wares and food products, are off-the-cuff. They are products that you can not get at other places. For example, Target was one of the only, if not the only retailer carrying a line of ‘True Blood’ inspired merchandise. These items were highly coveted as the shows popularity remains through the roof.

Some of their competitors have not been so lucky. Kmart, whose success was legendary through the 1990s is relatively obsolete in this decade. After the launch of Wal-Mart and it’s raging success, Kmart fell between the cracks and now from a public perspective is seen as a “cheap low rent” store. Even their partnership with domestic goddess Martha Steward did not yield an increase in traffic and sales. Target’s main competitor is Wal-Mart. Obviously, Wal-Mart leads the pack when it comes to discount stores. However, there are many consumers who would rather pay the often-times less than a dollar difference in price for the perceived better service, atmosphere and quality that Target offers. Researchers have found that the marketing team at Target has strategically laid out many of their stores in a way that will create a certain feeling in shoppers while in the store. From the wattage of the light bulbs to the brightness of the tiled floor, Target aims to maintain their loyal customer base.

Target continues to generate buzz around affordable products with luxurious quality. This has allowed the brand to position itself in such a way that they no are no longer seen as a discount store.

African-American Women in America

The discussion in class this week was about the role of women in society and the way women are viewed. To communicate this concept and to tie race into the whole thing, we saw a video about African-American women in particular. The video depicted a group of children identified basic character traits based on race using two dolls. The saddest part of this video was when the child was asked which doll was bad and she picked up the black doll and then immediately she was asked “which doll looks like you?” After slight hesitance the child picked up the black doll. This led to a dialogue about African-American women in American society and the gender roles placed on them. There was a lot of conversation in class; however there were several things I did not get to communicate. Honestly, as an African-American women myself, and a southern one at that, I have dealt with a lot of the issues discussed in class. It seemed that many of the non-black students could not understand some of the issues and in my opinion, they never will because being black is an experience; and being a black woman is DEFINIETLY an experience. Many of the ideals that are “public generalization” revolve around concepts or stereotypes that were formed during the slavery era. The idea that lighter skin is a positive attribute or that black women must straighten (perm) their hair in order to fit into society is also a concept that has roots (no pun intended) in slavery. For black people it has been an unwritten rule or notion that the more European or white you look the better. This came from the idea of house slaves and field slaves. In many cases the slave owners fathered children with slaves and often times would move them into the house. This began the battle of light-skinned versus dark skinned within the black community. Although there is a growing population of African-American women who are choosing to “go natural” and not chemically process their hair, there are still seen as an alternative group from the socially accepted norm of straightened hair. Another concept tied to black women and their appearance is the concept of “good hair.” What is “good hair?” Hair that is easily managed, that responds to water by lying down, and that doesn’t get “nappy.” In my family I am the only member who still has a perm. And many days everyone in my family’s hair looks much better than mine. One of my sister’s shirts reads “Happy being Nappy.” Good hair is healthy hair. I feel that one of the most beautiful things about the African-American people is the various shades we have; from deep mocha to caramel to high-yellow or even dirty-red. Black people are very complex and beautiful people whose history continues to influence us today, within our race as well as in society in general. It should not be forgotten that slavery was only a few generations ago. My grandmother’s grandparents were slaves. The social implications of that type of inequality are still ever presence and I would not expect them not to be since my mother dealt with segregation and one generation ago I would not even be allowed in the class or on this campus. They say time heals all wounds…let’s give this wound more time.

Need for Ethics in PR and Business

As the field of Public Relations changes the demand for transparency from corporations grows. With the internet dominating the way in which this generation communicates, guidelines should be in place for correct, acceptable and ethical behavior online. Many people now get their news or information from personalized sites, whether that be blogs, news feeds from across the globe or traditional media outlets. This shift in the way in which Americans consume media and information has affected the PR and the business world completely different.

The goals or objectives for public relations and business are obviously different. From a business stand point, your return on profit is your bottom line and therefore the need for ethics and an ethical code is clear; on the other hand, a public relations practitioner deals with the relationship between a company and its publics. Ethics is apart of the PR practice. It should be ingrained in PR practitioners’ daily actions.

One inquiry that could be raised when considering ethics in media would be the differentiation between being “ethical” and censorship. This past week, a hip-hop artist, Soulja Boy, release a song via Twitter and his blog in which he insulted the United States Army. The song was release less than a week before the anniversary of 9/11. From an artists’ stand point, Soulja has the right to say what he wants, however I wonder what his PR people and record label had to say about this insensitive gesture. If this was a song he produced and recorded on his own time and with his own money, do the “suits” behind him at his record label have a right to interject? One could argue that if it is affecting his marketability or him as a brand than yes. Do celebrities and artists give up the right to free speech and expressing their political views once they sign on the dotted line? Or is that the price they pay for the fame and wealth?

Another great example of ethical behavior in the media is the pulling of a highly rated show, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, after the untimely suicide of one of the cast member’s husbands. The suicide is reportedly a direct result of the show and its portrayal of the man. After the incident, many news outlets and blogs were asking the question “will the show go on?” The premiere of the show was highly anticipated and was scheduled for a month or so after the tragedy. Needless to say, BRAVO is a corporation about the bottom line, and therefore the show goes on. This is such an ethical dilemma to someone like me, I now question if I should continue to watch the show. However, one should also consider the role Taylor, the actual housewife, who lost her husband, played in the decision to continue the show. She is now without a husband, and from the looks of season one, in debt with no source of income, barring the show. Therefore, I wonder, what would a newly-single mother accustomed to living a certain lifestyle do when faced with this hand of cards? Is she immoral or unethical for continuing to participate in a show that was ultimately the catalyst for her husband’s death?

There is no question that every specification in the world of media and communications should have an ethical code and guidelines by which to follow. The online world of blogs and the continuum of information available leaves the window of immorality and corruption wide open.

JCPenney Crisis

For the past ten years graphic tees have been a staple in most tween, teens, and young adults closets. The college-aged students often shop at novelty shops like Spencer’s to purchase “adult- content” shirts or shirts that may be deemed offensive. However, most manufactures know better than to market and sell obscene or offensive material to tweens and teens, except JCPenney. This past week the company was bogged down with tweets, emails and phone calls about a young girls shirt that read “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me.”  The obviously sexist shirt was immediately pulled off of the website and a statement was issued from the company to ABC news. In the statement, JCPenney apologized by saying  “We’re reaching out to our customers who are unhappy to apologize and to let them know that the T-shirt is no longer available.” The apology, which is drawing criticism itself, did not address the issue at hand, the inappropriate content. This apology read more like  “I’m sorry if you were offended.” With such a blatant PR crisis, one must ask, why didn’t someone stop them before it came to this? It is clear that JCPenney had not completed market research on their clients or else they would have known that the young girls (aged 7-16) are not the ones with the purchasing power, rather the parents, mothers in most cases. Most mothers would not advocate the idea of passing work off because their daughter is “too pretty.” After reading this story I began to wonder. Retail makes up such a large percentage of our economy and trillions of dollars are spent on merchandise manufactured from these departments and national chain retail stores. That means that there were hundreds of millions of articles of clothing produced annually. Should PR professionals review all the merchandise before it is approved for production? Or should the corporations and manufacturers have common sense not to produce such tasteless garments?  JCPenney has always seemed to position itself as a family store; one that has more of a “laid-back relaxing at home with the family” feel than a Fashion-Forward Macy’s or Southern Luxury Dillard’s. Going forward the PR professionals in charge of JCPenney should keep a closer eye on the merchandise that is released.

Moreover, what message does this send about the company as a whole and the values this company emulates within? The implications of this one little shirt speak to so many other ideals, which could be false, but if the public at large loses faith in a company and the values of that company the dollars they look to lose in the future could damage the company tremendously. One must wonder, during such a heavy shopping season, back-to-school, how will JCPenney fair for the rest of the season or the quarter for that matter? And how do the parents/kids who purchased this shirt feel? Will they return the shirt and ask for their money back? And why is it okay for a 20-something year old to wear a shirt that reads “Future Trophy Wife?” Do we unjustly assume that tweens and teens are not smart enough to differentiate the meanings of shirts from reality? Either way, the shirt was tasteless and never should have been on the market to begin with. Good luck recovering JCP… I used to love your Christmas catalogue as a kid!

Racial Sterotypes in the Media

After the discussion held in class this week and last week I can clearly see that race relations is an idea and topic that many in this class are not too familiar with. Up until this current semester I was an African-American studies major and I have taken many classes across several disciplines that dissect race, its historical implications and the current effects that history has today. I believe that many students in our generation, specifically those who do not live in the South, have a harder time understanding what it is like to live in communities where race is such an important aspect of daily life. The film we watched in class gave a glimpse into the stereotypes we hold against each other. After the film the question was asked: “Is the media a reflection of our views or does it shape our views?” I feel that the answer is not as cut and dry. I believe that the stereotypes that we hold come from many different influences, family, peers, society at large (which includes the media) and our personal background. The racially slanted views many Americans hold, I believe are based on historically implications. The concepts that were used centuries ago to ensure that the blacks who were freed from slavery would not have equal rights were the root of many of these stereotypes that we still deal with today. One for example, would be the idea that black men are over-sexed and violent. This notion was created to demonize African-American men and often times convict them for crimes against white women that they never committed. The idea was to paint a picture of African-Americans as sub-human. The media continues to support these stereotypes but the stories they choose to air, the light in which they paint minorities, and the lack of coverage positive stories receive. One the flip side, the media is also guilty of omitting serious stories involving minorities that should be covered. For example, in early 2011 a 16-year old African-American girl went missing from Baltimore, Maryland while visiting family. This story never saw Good Morning America, The today show, or any other national media outlet. Instead the word was spread through the black community through local community newspapers throughout the country and African-American run blogs. This is a prime example of the media’s lack of concern for people of color.