Author Archives: themodernchris

About themodernchris

Portrait photographer, art lover, and communications student at Penn State University.

News Brief, Episode 1

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Thinking Out Loud

Challenge Entry – My Current Relationship

Nearly ten months ago on a warm sunny day I was in the midst of crisis management over SMS with a girl I had been talking to for roughly a week. Her Windstar had broken down on the side of the road for what turned out to be the last time. Despite her wishes against my coming to rescue her from this dire situation, I ventured out to pick her up. This turned out to be one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. Minutes later we were laying in a soccer field, and I asked her to be my girlfriend.


To this day she brings a joy and wonderment to my life that has never been equaled. No relationship is perfect and without its conflict, but never have I felt so loved. She keeps my restless mind in check, and we have strong mutual support for one another when times are difficult. She’s more than just a girlfriend; she’s a partner, confidant, and friend.

On that same day Sara and I began our relationship together, I met someone whose approval meant more to me than anyone else in Sara’s life. I met Audrina, her then six year old daughter. Despite my fears about how Drina would feel about me, from the moment we met we were able to connect with an astonishing ease. She now calls me “daddy,” and when Sara and I take our relationship to the next level, I plan to make her my daughter in the eyes of the law.

Twenty-one weeks ago our family grew once again, with the conception of Landon Douglas. Though the closest I can get to my son is via resting my hand on Sara’s belly, I can already feel my love for him growing every single day. The idea of bringing new life into the world could humble the most confident among us, but I’m as ready for the challenge as anyone could be. It’s a healthy mix of nervousness and excitement.

Our relationship is a wonderful one.

Dear Baby

Dear Baby,

Right now, you’re just about three months along. While it’s gotten better, you still make Mommy sick from time to time. You even rejected Honey Nut Cheerios the other morning! That’s okay though, because the hormones making Mommy sick are also helping you to have a comfy place to grow. The doctors gave her something to take to make it better, but she is still reminded of your presence by way of nausea from time to time. You’re growing, and I often dream about who you’ll be when you grow up. I look forward to knowing whether you’re a boy or a girl, and eventually being able to call you a name that isn’t baby. 

Your first photo. They wouldnt let me take it, sadly.

Right now you’re on stage. Mommy has worked very hard to be a part of a play, and you’re along for the ride. The play is called Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill. Mommy plays God during the apocalypse! Though she will probably always be too modest to admit it, she’s very talented and bright. There are many reasons why I fell in love with Mommy, but I won’t go into all of them right now. If you turn out to be a thespian when you grow up, I won’t be surprised at all. This is the second performance which you’ve been a part of, even if no one can see you (or hear you) for now. 

Right now you’re a lime, but soon you’ll be as big as a plum!

It’s going to be an adventure from here on out. The first few years are going to challenge me and Mommy, but the amount of love we have for you and for each other is immense. Your big sister Audrina also has so much love for you, and can’t wait to feed you and help you get dressed. I can’t wait to see you two interact with each other and bond. We’ve been doing a lot of bonding as well, even though you don’t know it. Every time I get the chance, I have my hands on Mommy’s tummy. It’s such a wonderful feeling, an immense one, but I know it’s nothing compared to how I’ll feel when I hold you for the first time. 

I know I’ll write you more letters, and maybe someday we can look back and read them together. I can’t wait to watch you grow. 

Love,

Daddy

A Message for the Future Me

As I start writing this, it’s March 13th, 2015. Tomorrow night I’ll turn 24 years old. At the moment, my college trajectory has me graduating in the Spring of 2016. After years of roller coaster schooling, I’ve finally landed upon what it is I’d like to do; public relations. I’ve gone through two different dreams –music and then psychology– to arrive here. Well, three if you count advertising, but that was a very brief stint. If it seems like I’ve been a little flaky with my fields of study, you wouldn’t be wrong. This time it’s different. The field of communications as a whole lets me dabble in a number of areas relating to my love for connecting with others and the visual arts. You could say I’ve found that elusive niche that we’re all searching for at one point or another. The remedy for that age-old question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” 

This is an open letter to my future self. As soon as I’m done writing this, I’m going to use a site called FutureMe.org to send a link to this post to the me of several years from now. It’ll be an experiment. I want to see if the reasons I decided to go into public relations are the same reasons I’m either still trying to get into the thick of it or doing everything I can to stay in it.

Public relations fascinates me for a few reasons. One of the main reasons I decided to pursue it was because I felt like I was already practicing it. My three years at Apple have taught me a lot about relating with the public. No other retail store I’ve ever been to emphasizes the human connection between a company and its clientele like they do. Granted, my function there is on a personal scale and not regional or global, but I still have the immense responsibility of being the face for that company. One person could relay a bad experience to a few of their friends, and the snowball begins to grow. In PR, the snowball is instead a torrent of icy disdain on a large scale, but Apple has successfully taught me how to be precise and courteous in my dealings with others.

Strategy is one of the main cogs that makes public relations function. I’m personally excited by challenging situations. From what it sounds like, PR is a frenzy of pitches, strategizing, and image meltdowns. Whether things are flowing smoothly or falling apart in front of me, I’m excited to be able to figure out the steps from chaos to harmony. Owning the process of rebuilding a tarnished brand or helping to build a brand to begin with sounds fun to me. I’m ready for both the sparkle in the eye of a client when things go well, or the yelling that ensues if things go poorly. Both give me a chance to refine, to throw away, and to start fresh.

I’m sure my future self would have a few things to say to this. I could say that above all else the human element of public relations is what makes it so alluring. My future self would probably warn me of this client or this reporter, shaking his head and wishing for a do-over. Or for me to bite the bullet and decide to go back to psychology. I’m optimistic that despite how crazy things will probably be starting out, that I’ll end up loving it. So future me, don’t shake your head too much while reading this. I’m at the start of a long road with no sense of what’s truly to come, and the map can only be read in reverse.

One More Reason to Polish That News Release

google-headquarters-sign

The stronghold of the Google machine.

According to an article on PR Daily, Google is now allowing company news releases to rise amongst the search listings on Google News. Before this unsettling change, the results were exclusively for hard news from certain curated news outlets.

I’ll be completely honest and say I hadn’t used this Google product before reading this news, but I will assert that this isn’t exactly positive. I always to my best to now let my PR aspirations color my view of things. So long as humans gathering the news and not sentient drones, news will always be subject to at least a bit of spin. It’s the human condition. However, journalism is still held up to a standard of objectivity by the industry and consumers of news, even if this standard is eroding.

At the same time, news releases are ideally supposed to be free of self-aggrandizing promotion, though this goal also seems to be forgotten. Since news releases are put out either by the company the release is about or the firm they’ve hired to write their stuff, these cannot be trusted to be as objective as something put out by a journalist. There’s nothing wrong with news releases and they serve a legitimate purpose.

Google should either nip this practice in the bud or label these “stories” appropriately. The legitimacy of content on the internet is already difficult for the average layperson to figure out at times, and this only makes things more confusing.

#SpeakCreepy

Smelly soap and shampoo company Dove is known for sappy advertisements and public relations endeavors designed to make women feel better about their outer appearance (with a little help from Dove products, of course). Whether this widespread crisis of looks is true or not, giving women a reason to feel good about themselves is typically a positive.

However, Dove’s recent #SpeakBeautiful campaign borders on being a little weird. Using what must be some kind of low self-esteem radar, Dove has recently been using its Twitter account to personally assure female users that they are in fact having a good hair day or that they are beautiful. Dove has been replying directly to Twitter users who complain about how they look with tweets aimed at boosting their confidence. On the surface this seems innocuous enough, but when you really think about it, it’s a bit bizarre.

As of late, it seems Dove has held back with directing unsolicited good vibes to random strangers. Before this change though, what Dove was doing was strange. These are not exclusively people who have mentioned their SpeakBeautiful hashtag. A robot of some kind on Dove’s end was scouring Twitter for those complaining about their looks. Though publicly posting any information on the internet should never be considered to be in any way private, this takes that notion too far.

Public relations is often about promoting your client’s product without bluntly promoting it. Much of advertising as shifted the same way. Dove is trying way too hard with this stunt, and being way too obvious. They’re a beauty company after all. The conflict of interest here is painfully clear. Taking advantage of women who are feeling aesthetically vulnerable in order to make them think of Dove when they’re making their shampoo purchase is wrong.

Making women feel beautiful doesn’t happen as a result of a Twitter robot calling out negative remarks about appearances. It comes from brothers, boyfriends, fathers, husbands, and friends making the women in our lives feel beautiful. Tell them they look wonderful, and you’ll do more good than Dove will ever be able to.

Adobe Wore the Dress Best

Since the dawn of the internet there have been feuds of ideologies online; republican versus democrat, this football team versus that, Ford versus Chevy. These sides all have entrenched followers and apologists, ready to strike whenever their views happen to be challenged. However, there is no battle of wits that comes close to the ocular warfare surrounding a picture of some dumb dress that circled the internet a few weeks ago. Everyone from CNN to the Wall Street Journal found the controversy worthy enough to cover. Relationships were ended and the world reeled with the mystery behind the dress.

As the trend seems to be in the world of Twitter-keeping, many brands jumped on the controversy with the usual drab jokes and puns, my personal least favorite being Olive Garden’s awful attempt at bringing people together by way of breadsticks:

Despite my personal feeling that this type of tweeting cringe-worthy more often than not, one company’s product is so beautifully appropriate in this discussion it made happy to see them comment on it. One of Adobe’s many followers, Hope Taylor, used the Adobe Color app to figure out what colors were actually in the dress.

Adobe’s tweet saw almost 18,000 retweets and about 10,000 favorites. For a company whose audience is as busy as they are specialized, this is great success. Their tweet is also successful because their response to the dress controversy is directly relevant to their audience. Many who use Adobe’s collection of software may not be aware of their surprisingly useful Adobe Color app (which picks out color palettes from whatever you point your phone camera toward). Additionally, they didn’t just woefully spew out the first lame pun that came to their mind. They took the time to engage with an actual consumer of their product, celebrating their use of the app to solve the mystery. Beyond that, being that the mystery was based solely on a debate of hues, Adobe’s expertise in the area was totally relevant to the controversy.

When a company picks up on trends and do it well, the result can be entertaining for us and impact them positively. However, not all trends and viral happenings need to be piggybacked, especially if the topic isn’t relevant to the product or service you’re promoting. It comes across as disingenuous and lame, not to mention painfully awkward if it’s really bad. Trends should be sifted through with a fine-toothed comb. Adobe did just that. They entertained their existing fans, and rose very successfully above the noise.