Medill Name Change Inspires Mischief-Making

Me in my succinctly stated sweatshirt.

The journalism school where I studied at Northwestern University used to be known simply as the Medill School of Journalism. Often it has been referred to even more simply as “Medill.”

With only a period after it. Or so my increasingly tattered sweatshirt declares.

That piece of punctuation proclaimed, “No further explanation needed. If you don’t get it, then you’re just out of it.”

It has always struck me as a confident, borderline arrogant expression of self-edifying preeminence in the J-world.

Recently, however, the school’s name changed to The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

There’s a new “The” to start things off, a few commas to keep the flow going, 65 characters in all (almost halfway to maxing out a Tweet!) and nary an “and” in sight. It’s a rather windy name that has stirred some hand-wringing among alumni.

As for me, I refuse to wring my hands. I’ve opted to head straight toward mischief-making. With the creative genius of my wife backing me up, I have created T-shirt designs that poke fun at the new, exceedingly elongated name.

You can try these ones on for size: “Medill Blah Blah Blah” and “The Medill School of A Really, Really, Really Long Name That Won’t Fit On This Shi”

Check ’em out here on a Zazzle page we set up.

Truthfully, it’s all in good fun. I hold the institution and its faculty, staff and students in high regard. Almost all of Inside Edge PR’s associates over the years have been students or graduates of Medill.

And there’s also this matter of my own career path, moving from journalism to “public relations and media services” in 2005. That transition serves as a microcosm of the shifting business landscape that is part of what prompted Medill’s name change.

So I’d feel almost (but not quite) hypocritical if I railed against this new, somewhat clunky description of my esteemed Medill.

But c’mon, maestros of Medill (School of this, that & the other thing): you couldn’t spare an ampersand?

PR Tips: How to Build Rapport With Reporters

Among many other topics during last week’s workshop, “PR Secrets From a Media Insider,” one was on how to develop rapport with members of the media.

In a nutshell, here are some basic steps:

1. Pay attention to the reporter’s prior work.
2. Pay a (sincere) compliment.
3. Respectfully challenge a reporter’s work.
4. Offer a story suggestion that does not benefit you in the least.

The brief video below, from the PR Secrets workshop at the Carleton Hotel in Oak Park, Ill., touches on these points:

Timely PR Tips: How To Get Free Publicity

For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of sports writing has always been the vast array of cool action verbs that you can use in describing a game’s outcome.

Routed, pummelled, thrashed, drubbed, nipped, shocked, trounced, to name only a few.

In a similar vein, I suspect that journalists covering the economy these days may be finding solace, amid the overwhelmingly negative news, in being able to trot out numerous adjectives to spice up their stories.

Is the economy “beleagured” or “beset” or “in the doldrums” or “troubled” or “swooning” or “moribund”? Take your pick, and crack open the thesaurus to find other words that may be fitting.

No matter which pejorative word or phrase one uses to describe the economy, there’s a public relations antidote for those seeking to wage a marketing campaign in this (pick your pessimistic adjective) climate. It’s called “free publicity,” and it’s something that all publicists strive to attain for their clients (for whom the freebie, of course, is on top of their publicists’ fee).

A year ago, Geoff Williams, a freelance writer on assignment with Growing Wealth Magazine, included some of my pointers in a story exploring that very subject.

You can find the story on the Inside Edge PR website, on the Resources page and headlined Marketing On A Budget.

Alphabet Soup: Consume With Caution

We live in the USA–the United States of Acronymia.

What’s your initial reaction to that twist on our country’s name? LOL?

See, only two sentences into this post, and I’ve dropped two acronyms on you. Lost yet? (LOL is “laugh out loud,” by the way.)

One of the biggest enemies of clarity in communication is this overuse of acronyms. This comes to mind a day after Chicago’s WBBM 780 radio broadcast of the Chicago Marathon.

In my half-hour of listening, Josh Liss must have used the term “PR” at least 10 times in connection with various runners’ efforts. Not once did I hear him offer the words attached to each letter.

Serious runners certainly would know what he meant, but what proportion of the radio station’s listeners are casual fans (like me) and therefore may have been hazy on what “PR” stands for?

As I listened to the broadcast, I was scrubbing the bathtub and performing other cleaning tasks. In that moment, to me, PR meant “persisent rinsing.” I am also a publicist, so in that realm “PR” represents “public relations.”

Actually, what Liss meant was “personal record”: an individual’s best-ever marathon time. I suspected that was the case, then looked it up just now online to be sure.

If a true pro like Liss can fall prey to this tendency–I’ve heard him for years, and he’s usually an excellent communicator–then we all need to be vigilant about steering clear of exclusively using abbreviated jargon.

I’m not advocating an outright ban on alphabet soup, but every once in a while we ought to intersperse acronyms with their complete phrasing, particularly when we are speaking to an audience that may not be so familiar with the jargon.

Text messaging has spawned numerous acronyms, of course, such as the LOL noted above. You can see many more here.

And while we’re on the subject of the Chicago Marathon, if you know someone who ran–or even if you don’t–you can see how they fared. I see another Matthew Baron, a 37-year-old from Los Angeles, ran the 26.2 miles in about 5 hours.

Kudos, namesake! Even if that time was not your PR, I hope that you appreciate this little bit of PR.

Partnering With The Illinois Association of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine

One of my new clients this month is the Illinois Association of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (ILaaom). Until a few days ago, I had met only a few of the board members of the thriving, 150-member group.

Then, on Sunday, ILaaom invited me to address members and their guests (see photo on right) at their Asian Moon Festival celebration at Furama restaurant in Chicago.

With a national conference coming to Chicago in mid-October, board members (some of whom are pictured below) figured the time was right to bring me onboard and see what I could do to help promote awareness of the association, as well as their members.

As I told the roughly 75 who gathered for the Asian Moon Festival dinner, I look forward to helping the group as a whole, and members individually, because I know they have numerous stories of how they are improving patients’ quality of life. And by spreading the word about those stories, I am confident that more people will seek treatment and be glad that they did.

I’ve written features on acupuncturists’ good work in the past, have been treated with great results by one, and my mother and sister both have extensive, positive experiences with acupuncture–my mom so much so that she worked for an acupuncturist in Massachusetts for nearly a decade.
It’s always a bonus when you have such a positive first-hand experience with a client, and in the weeks and months to come, stay tuned for more good news about the Illinois Association of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine.