This week's guest post was written A. Larry Ross Communications. Kristin Cole, President, was very gracious to allow me to share their blog that was originally posted on their website on October 29, 2020.
ALR Communications is a public relations firm located in Carrollton, Texas, whose clients clients include LeTourneau University, Biola University, I Am Second, Compassion International, YouVersion Bible App, Thomas Nelson Publishing, and movie premiers, ministries, and many others.
Their purpose is not to manufacture an image for clients, but rather to establish and project their existing identity to a broadened group of target audiences.
I'm sharing this blog for students who might feel called to public relations, defined as "the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person" (Dictionary.com).
Edward Bernays is widely regarded as the founder of Public Relations, having pioneered the field in the 1920s. However, long before Bernays codified modern-day concepts that continue to define the profession, the Bible described many PR principles that remain valuable today. Just as the disciple Timothy described God’s Word as being “profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness,” it is also proven to be beneficial for guiding one’s PR approach and providing an understanding of its importance.
Sometimes, PR gets a bad rep due to often poorly handled PR scandals. But in many ways, PR is a biblical concept that no ministry leaders or influencers should have shame in seeking.
Here are a few ways we see aspects of public relations throughout the Bible.
Managing a Reputation
"A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold" (Proverbs 22:1).
One of the most important aspects of PR is reputation management. Some may believe that merely doing a good job and maintaining a good work ethic is enough of an effort to avoid public scrutiny, and while it should be, that isn’t always the case. Many organizations and individuals with outstanding images have found themselves in situations of trying to prove their integrity. In this Digital Age, where information can spread to millions online in a matter of minutes, unfortunately, all it takes is one person with an ill motive for a good reputation to go bad overnight without effective reputation management.
In the Scriptures, we see caution for Christians to only do good but to carefully avoid having even an “appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). It seems that even thousands of years ago, the writers of the Bible understood how critical it is to be above reproach both in deed and appearance.
"But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).
Just as it is not necessarily enough to have a good reputation without managing it, knowing why we do what we do may hold little value if we are not prepared to defend our actions should a crisis come. We have all seen debates or interviews on TV where those being questioned were not ready to defend their stance or succinctly answer a question and the public scrutiny that followed. Once again, the Bible provided wisdom for avoiding these situations long before PR became a lucrative career.
This is one of the many reasons why seeking help from PR professionals, even when not experiencing a crisis or executing a campaign, is wise. An effective PR team can provide wisdom in helping you to understand the key message points about your organization, ministry, product or brand that should be communicated to the public and how to do so effectively. Additionally, they can help identify potential weak or problematic points that could be called into question and the best tactics for defending each one with honesty and poise.
Scripture tells us that a wise man builds his house upon a rock, which can weather storms, while the foolish man seeks a quick fix, building his house on sand that disintegrates during a crisis (Matthew 7:24-27). In the same way, PR professionals can provide the wisdom needed to present a message or navigate a problem before the time of testing comes so that you are prepared like the man who built his house on the rock.
Being an Ambassador
"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us…” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
As public relations professionals, our job is to serve as a middleman between our clients and the public. Similarly, as Christians, our job is to be the intermediary between Christ and those who do not know Him. Consider Moses, who was appointed by God to be his spokesperson to the Israelites, and Jesus, who is the ultimate spokesman between God and His people.
Whether we realize it or not, every individual acts as an ambassador for what they believe in or represent. It is not a question of if you are sending a message, but what that message is. PR professionals are equipped to act as a communications ambassador for those who may lack skill or expertise in being an effective ambassador on their own.
As professional communicators and Christians, we can recognize the benefits of public relations and its principles as they relate to being better ministry leaders and influencers. We continue to learn through the evolution of PR today but can look to the Bible for guidance as well.
Could a career in public relations be your higher calling?
The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
The group of qualities that make a person, group, or thing different from others.
Who you are when no one is watching.
Each of the above sentences define character. Developing your character matters because it is becoming a part of the college admissions process.
As the high school senior class of 2021 begins to write character-based essays for their college applications, underclassmen should continue working on their character. This is more than a 280-character post or a 500-word essay. Who you are is the one character that counts.
Character is developed through everything you do (shovel, build, read, serve, mow, watch…) and every person (parents, coaches, teachers, telemarketers, janitors, CEOs…) you communicate with (post, debate, lead, email, phone…).
Character is developed through your online and offline interactions.
Character is developed through your setbacks, struggles, and suffering because “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
So, what are you? Who are you?
The Making Caring Common project, endorsed by over 50 college admissions deans, is seeking to “elevate ethical character, especially concern for others and the common good.”
Doing the right thing is not about building your reputation or résumé. Colleges are working to help potential students change their expectations from “look at what I’ve done” to “look at who I am.” You can’t develop character while you are applying for college. Essay readers will see a fraud within the first paragraph. You begin developing character when you are born, as you listen to the caring adults in your life, and as you apply what they teach you.
MIT Admissions Dean Stuart Schmill said that colleges are working hard to admit students who lead balanced lives, pursue interests with passion, and work with others. They are trying to move away from admitting students who are just checking the boxes.
Your application or resume introduces you to the reader. Think of it as a preview of the real you. In some colleges, two or more admissions officers independently review your application before sitting down to discuss it together.
Some colleges require students to interview with an alumni or admissions officer. They want to know if your application matches who you say you are. Let’s take it one step further. Would your academics, conduct report, relationships, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and essay reflect who you are if the admissions official invited you to dinner at her house?
Paul wrote that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Who you are will be impacted by the company you keep. So do you keep bad or good company. You reflect the values of those you hang around the most (online and offline) including Jesus Christ, your parents, youth leaders, YouTubers, TikToc’ers, teammates, and friends. Jesus said that “the tree is known by its fruit” with the tree representing each person (Matthew 12:33). “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad.”
Jon Mertz describes character as something “engraved within us.” The engraving isn’t always planned and clean. The word “character” comes from the Greek kharakter that means “engraved mark.” The character trace goes back to another definition of “to scrape or scratch.” For Mertz, the combination of engrave, scrape, and scratch fit well with what character really means. Here’s why:
David Brooks, author of The Road to Character, writes about people of character. He shared how we can take “the bad things that happen and turn them into a transcendent purpose” like Dorothy Day. From Bayard Rustin, he teaches us the “power of leading with self-restraint.”
Could you be someone Brooks writes about? Are you becoming a person of character or just a character? As prepare your college applications are you sharing who you are or who you want them to believe you are?
Brooks posed this question during his TedTalk, “Am I living for my résumé or my eulogy?”
Let me bring this home. Are you living your life to build your college application or are you living your life to build your character in the image of Jesus Christ?
Your profiles reflect what you profess.
Don’t overlook the power of your social media voice. Your words can bring life and health or crush someone’s spirit. And your negative, crushing posts can become viral…even on Snapchat.
The Chronicle of Higher Education shared that “an incoming Cornell University freshman and football player, Nate Panza, lost his spot on the team after his friend posted a Snapchat video of Panza using a racial slur (The Cornell Daily Sun).”
Paul urged Christians: "do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Ephesians 4:29).
This is more than purging your posts.
This is more than scrubbing your social commentary.
While Panza offered his sincere apologies for what was captured on camera, there are still consequences. "I am heartbroken I have hurt people; those I know and those I do not. I take full responsibility for my actions.”
Some people need a change of heart; you may just need to change how you promote yourself online.
College bound teenagers, gain an advantage for college admissions by professionalizing your social media profiles (especially LinkedIn)!
Social media reviews at the college level has become significantly more nuanced than the commonly shared vision of an admissions officer Googling the name of a prospective student. As the way colleges are utilizing social media evolves, so must the social media advice offered to college-bound students.
Social Assurity is offering my readers a 50% discount for the Social Media Strategies for College Admissions Success course ($250 off) with code BRETT2020 through August 31.
Looking forward to seeing you soar!
The World Wide Web will be 25 years old on March 12. The smartphone is 26. Facebook turned 14 on February 4. The iPhone is 11. While still young, social media becoming a preferred way to communicate, even when applying to college.
A 2017 PewResearchCenter survey reports that Americans have increased their engagement of social media - from 5 percent in 2005 to 69 percent today. Social networking sites like Facebook are used 3 times more than microblogs like Twitter and Instagram. Among the five platforms studied, 76% of users check Facebook every day (up 5 percent since 2015). Teenagers make up 61 percent of Tumblr users and growing. This is why social media is being used to recruit potential students.
ARE YOU A GOOD FIT FOR THEM?
College admissions officers are engaging potential students on social media. They are viewing your profiles. Christine Koening surveyed colleges within 150 miles of Chicago and learned that 89 percent of admissions officers viewed students' social media. When I posted a photo along with a caption saying I was visiting the University of Oklahoma campus, I received 6 retweets and 19 favorites before my tour ended. A few even reached out to say hello. Talk about engaged!
Some Ivy League colleges use social media to boost their applications. Colleges are posting more pictures and videos so students can imagine themselves on campus. They are answering questions relating to the social and emotional life on campus allowing students to make informed decisions.
ARE THEY A GOOD FIT FOR YOU?
When you are researching colleges on social media, don’t just focus on the strengths of the college. Each college is going to present itself at its best, just like you. Engage with them. Ask what makes them stand out. Find out how they are resolving their challenges. Savvy students need to discover the truth before committing 4-6 years of their life to a university. And if you are not able to connect and engage with people on the college you’re interested in, it may not be the right college for you.
Since social media is a way for teenagers to express themselves, potential employers and colleges will dedicate time to review your feeds, So you should be aware of a few things regarding your social footprint. Being comfortable on social media gives some a tendency to say and share things publicly that may have kept private otherwise. Admissions officers are measuring your application against your public thoughts. The University of Oklahoma will view your social media if you are being considered for a scholarship.
Admissions officers may question the judgment of potential students who takes the time to post disparaging remarks. In Natasha Singer's article, They Loved Your GPA Then They Saw Your Tweets, she reported that “30% of the admissions officers said they had discovered information online that had negatively affected an applicant’s prospects.”
Here are some steps you can take to improve your social media footprint:
A former student, who was applying for a master’s level program, asked me to write a letter of recommendation. Before I wrote what I knew about his character, I reviewed his social media presence. After a brief conversation with him about the content of this photos and posts, he quickly untagged himself from pictures of places he’d never visited. He was accepted.
Will you be accepted? What impression is your social media footprint leaving when it comes to college admissions? Contact me so I can help you prepare for college.
College planning philosophies will differ from high school guidance counselors to independent educational consultants. However, the goal remains the same. It’s not about graduating high school. It’s not about being accepted to college. It’s about coaching students through the college planning process to find a college or university where they can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years. This will result in a lifetime of opportunities including saved time and money (4 vs 6 year graduation), increased earning potential (2xs more than a high school diploma), and establishing a healthier lifestyle regardless of age, income, or demographics.
With that goal in mind, mastering Internet technology for college counseling is important. You should log every podcast, virtual tour, college search engine, scholarship search database, and more so you can guide your students with confidence. Here are some tips to become their digital filter.
Podcasts give you a way to listen to relevant career and college planning content on your time schedule. Listen to a few before recommending them to others. Don’t be afraid of social media, it doesn’t bite. As a college planner, take the time to teach students how to interact and behave with adults using various social media platforms. Videocasts and videos are great ways to learn more about a specific career or topic.
The career search is missing from so many plans and usually limited to what major a student is interested in studying. Help students use personality, learning style, and career assessments to understand who they are and what they like. Look for a college search engine that does not focus on the best marketing campaign, but one that shares the best matches for your student. Before taking campus tours, virtual tours will give students insight, spark excitement, and generate questions to ask on their actual tour.
Since paying for college is at the front of everyone’s mind,helping students find and use quality financial aid, scholarship, tutoring and test prep companies is important. Financial aid sites will include federal and state aid. While students shouldn’t pay for scholarship options, they may find more value in paying for the personal interaction for tutoring and test prep.
Read. Take notes. Read. This is great advice for a student entering college. It’s also great advice for every career and college consultant. Books share planning tips and great stories. Blogs share ongoing, relevant information based on every subject mentioned above. And don’t be afraid to share your own personal experiences either. Write a blog for your local audience.
Once you’ve become your student’s digital filter, you’ve reached your destination. Success!
The Internet will be 26 years old on March 12. The smartphone is 23. Facebook turned 11 on February 4. The iPhone is 8. While still young, social media becoming a preferred way to communicate, even in college planning.
A 2014 PewResearchCenter survey reports that Americans have increased their engagement of social media. Social networking sites like Facebook are used 2.5 times more than microblogs like Twitter and Instagram. Among the five platforms studied, 71% of users check Facebook every day. Another study showed that students are using social media several hours a week. We are becoming more comfortable interacting with people in virtual settings – from completing group projects to gaming to researching colleges.
Many college admissions officers are engaging potential students on social media. In the recent application season, six of the Ivy League colleges used social media to boost their applications. When I posted a photo along with a caption saying I visiting the University of Oklahoma campus, I received 6 retweets and 19 favorites before my tour ended. A few reached out to say hello.
Colleges are posting more pictures and videos so students can imagine themselves on campus. They are answering questions relating to the social and emotional life on campus allowing students to make better decisions.
But don’t just focus on the strengths of the college, especially if you are one of the first people in your family to attend college. Just like you are doing in your applications, each college is going to present itself at its best. Respond to their posts by asking about their struggles or setbacks. Savvy students need to discover the truth before committing 4-6 years of their life to a university. And if you are not able to connect and engage with people on the college you’re interested in, it may not be the right college for you.
With the increase in social media usage and potential employers and colleges reviewing feeds, you should be aware of a few things regarding your social footprint. Being comfortable on social media gives some a tendency to say and share things publically that may have kept private otherwise. Admissions officers are measuring your application against your public thoughts. The University of Oklahoma will view your social media if you are being considered for a scholarship.
Admissions officers may question the judgment of potential students who takes the time to post disparaging remarks. The article, They Loved Your GPA Then They Saw Your Tweets, reported that “30% of the admissions officers said they had discovered information online that had negatively affected an applicant’s prospects.” In 2012, the survey showed that 15% reviewed social media. While the majority of college admissions officers don’t have the time or resources to review social media posts, it could very well become the norm.
Finally, here are some steps you can take to improve your social media footprint:
So what impression is your social media footprint leaving when it comes to college admissions?
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.