Staying Undercover to Avoid Destruction by the Public Eye

I know my topic is not about public relations, but I do think that journalists need to know the purpose of public relations; as it will help with their articles.  There are many reasons why public relations is important.  One reason is that public relations professionals help define a company’s image and how it is influenced by its publics.  PR includes both internal and external communications.  This details how an organization communicates with its employees and publics outside the organization – including stakeholders. 

Today in my Principles of Public Relations class we watched an episode of Undercover Boss.  The show premiered on CBS in 2010 and has been shown on other networks.  It involves an upper level executive going into the organization’s stores or other centers and taking on the roles of entry-level workers.  The employees believe they are being filmed for a documentary about entry-level workers but in reality they are featured on the TV show. 

In the episode we watched, the CEO of Yankee Candle visited several stores and a distribution center.   He placed on a disguise and took on roles of sales associate, packer, maintenance, and stocker.  While on the show, he conversed and met with several employees with different personalities.  One of the guys saw through his disguise when the CEO somehow knew how to perfectly make the wax mold candles.  He went on to call the guy out, in a sense.  At the conclusion of the episode, the CEO revealed his true identity and met with each employee individually.  He offered them promotions and various stipends to support their personal struggles.  The show proves to be an effective way to showcase what public relations actually entails. 

This show’s concept actually does play a large role in how employees and journalists should utilize social media sites.  For one thing, these employees did not know they were being filmed, so their comments on the show were aired and they had no control over this.  But, social media allows us to have control over what we do post, but not what others may post about us.  Being informed about effective ways to utilize social media to compose your personal “brand” is vital to promoting a successful you. 

One thing I have seen people do on social media sites is post too much of their personal views on touchy subjects including religion, politics, gay rights, etc.  You name it, basically.  I have seen individuals post very radical political views with strong language that may negatively impact other readers/consumers.  As a member of the public eye; I include both journalists AND public relations practitioners in this category – it is extremely important to paint an honest yet neutral picture as to not offend anyone.  Journalists especially need to realize the implications of posting personal views on the internet because they can be interpreted as you placing bombast toward your employer, which can deceive the public. 

A way that journalists can stay neutral on social media sites includes posting thoughtful topics on actual news – not op-ed, unless you are an op-ed columnist.  If you agree with a certain political candidate but disagree with another, remain neutral by putting your ideas beside you.  Do not negatively place a candidate in false light or post your endorsement of another candidate, because your posts can instantly make you less credible as a journalist.  They can also shed a negative light on your employer for allowing your personal views to interfere with the goals of your company, which is to promote news topics of ALL candidates and events. 

This is just one way you as a journalist can make yourself appreciated by many.  The “don’t ask, don’t tell” thing can I guess apply, but just be careful about what you say on the internet.  Also, “when in doubt, don’t put it out.”   I think there is a lot I could say about politics and religion but I choose not to put it out there in fear of retaliation and not securing future employment. 

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~ by Alexandra J. Gresick on April 3, 2012.

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