Past Assignments

What Happens to the Umbilical Cord After it’s Cut?

The following text is an example of a backgrounder I was assigned to write in a Public Relations Writing course. The proposed client was the National Cord Blood Program, and I was tasked with writing the copy for a brochure with a Flesch Readability Level between sixth and seventh grade (the current reading level for the general American public). My source for the copy was the NCBP website: http://www.nationalcordbloodprogram.org.


The Answer is Up to You!

Congratulations, you’re going to have a baby! Choosing what happens to your umbilical cord is probably not one of the first things that comes to mind when you think about parenthood, but it is an important one. As a mother, you have the option to have the cord disposed of after you have the baby, or to donate it to a cord blood bank such as the National Cord Blood Program.

What is the National Cord Blood Program?

The New York Blood Center started the National Cord Blood Program (NCBP) in 1992 to help people who required a bone marrow transplant for treatment but could not find any matching donors. Today, NCBP has banked the most units of cord blood of any non-profit public bank. The program has collected over 60,000 units of blood and given over 5,300 units to people in need of transplants.

NCBP is set on giving the best possible cord blood to its patients. This mission is supported by NCBP being the first cord blood bank to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The program has staff on-hand at hospitals around the U.S. Once the cord blood is collected, it is frozen and stored until it is needed by a patient. Staff in the lab hand-pick each unit for the person in need and it is shipped to the hospital of the patient seeking a transplant.

Why Cord Blood?

Umbilical cord blood, called cord blood for short, has proven to be a good choice for many medical uses for a few different reasons. First, it is easy to collect and store. After your baby is delivered it no longer needs the cord. In the past, this tissue and blood was thrown away, but we now know it can be stored and used for its stem cells.

Secondly, the stem cells found in cord blood make red and white blood cells the same way that stem cells from bone marrow do. Using these stem cells for transplants is becoming more common. This is really important for patients who suffer from diseases related to their blood, immune system or genetics. Once the cells are given to the patient they will begin replacing the diseased cells and making healthy new blood cells. So far, cord blood has been proven to help fight over 80 different illnesses.

FAQs

Q: Will donating affect me or my baby?

A: No. Cord blood is only collected once the cord is cut and your baby is delivered.

Q: Does it cost any money to donate?

A: No. The National Cord Blood Program is entirely free for the donor.

Q: How do I become a donor?

A: You may plan to have your baby at one of the NCBP hospitals (a list can be found at www.nationalcordbloodprogam.org). If there is not a NCBP site near you, talk to your doctor about giving your cord blood.

Q: What will my cord blood be used for?

A: The blood and stem cells will be stored until NCBP finds a patient that matches with you. That person will be given the blood and stem cells so that their body can start making healthy new blood cells. So far, cord blood has helped people with over 80 different diseases.

Q: What happens to the cord blood if I choose not to donate?

A: Your hospital will dispose of any blood and tissue after the baby is delivered if you choose not to have it donated.

For more information, visit: www.nationalcordbloodprogram.org

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Three Things to Understand in Order to Connect with Millennials

Who are millennials, and what makes them different than previous generations?

Since this age group first emerged as consumers, companies began devoting enormous amounts of time and money into the search for definitive answers to those questions. Such an investment is not without its value, a Goldman Sachs infographic supports, as the millennial generation, which consists roughly of people born between 1980 and 2000, is the largest in U.S. history. Though varied, the answers found throughout the course of this research have certainly proven beneficial for advertising purposes, but what do the generalized behaviors of the millennial generation mean to organizations who are not attempting to sell a product, but rather to persuade these young people to feel a certain way? Just as advertising agencies must adjust their strategies in order to better reach this target audience, public relations specialists must also understand the best ways to communicate with millennials.

How They Think:

The first thing to understand about millennials is how they view themselves and the world around them. To view the thoughts, values and beliefs of young people on an individual basis, one would most likely look to social media sites such as Twitter. However, as anyone who has researched a certain demographic has experienced, it becomes much more difficult to pinpoint common values of a group of people on a large scale. When patterns do present themselves, it is very important to recognize them.

A common attitude amongst millennials has proven to be an overall skepticism of the American political, judicial and economical systems. Data gathered by Karen Foster from the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley University provides a discussion on millennials’ views from such a standpoint.  While voices in the media often depict this generation as apathetic, Foster’s data argues that they are actually just “disenchanted” by the United States systems and policies. They have witnessed, via the tribulation of their parents and grandparents, that throwing yourself into a job doesn’t always mean you can rely on keeping it and that just because you place your vote doesn’t mean the elected official is going to make the changes you desire.

That is not to say millennials do not have beliefs that directly correlate to certain political or social issues, in fact, as we saw with the Bernie Sanders ‘revolution’ this past year, there is a wild desire for change when prompted by the right voice (which somehow ended up being an elderly man from Brooklyn). In comparison to their predecessors, says Foster, millennials “self-identify” as being more tolerant of “different opinions, sexualities, ethnicities and cultures,” a notion that could eventually lead to wave of change amongst the societal norms that have been in place for decades, if millennials so choose to voice these views.

How They Take in Information:

Naturally, if you want to get a message across to any group of people, you’re going to need a basic understanding of how they learn and absorb information. The first step in doing so is choosing the right medium for communication. “Managing for Dummies” author Peter Economy advises that for millennials it is best to address them where they “already spend the most time–on their mobile devices.”

As far as the format and content of your messaging, Economy and Jayson DeMers of Forbes magazine agree that whatever you are trying to convey you should do so quickly. As DeMers writes, millennials are accustomed to having devices with answers to almost any question at their fingertips. As a professor once said to me, “[the millennial generation] has no excuse for not knowing something.”  This means that you must hit them “with fast, thorough information” in order to get their attention, DeMers concludes. The pace of your message isn’t just about the way you present content either – millennials are more likely to use a site or application that loads “quickly and easily” on their devices.

How They Work:

Amongst other unique qualities, millennials have a different approach when it comes to the work force. With the entrance of this generation into all fields, innovation in the way businesses are managed is a must. Dixie Gillaspie, a contributor for Entrepreneur magazine, writes that millennials are responsible for changing the way businesses operate, in part because they value “life over work-life balance.” Millennials tend to be passionate about enriching their lives rather than heightening their position on a corporate ladder.

This dedication to a fulfilled life, writes Dian Schaffhauser for Campus Technology, means that young people have placed a “premium on their time,” and prefer not to hold face-to-face meetings unless they are absolutely necessary. I mean, who doesn’t love the idea of staying at home in your pajamas for work? They like to work in the “most efficient way possible,” rather than committing themselves to sit at a desk for set number of hours each week, a notion that is a step away form Generation X’s stress on the work-life balance and goes so far as to directly oppose the strictly ‘loyal’ work ethic of Baby Boomers. As Gillaspie puts it, it is a generation that “believes in efficiency… for maximum impact.” Forbes magazine’s Kate Taylor cites data in her article “Why Millennials Are Ending The 9 To 5” that says nearly half of young people prefer flexibility at their job over a larger paycheck. Again, they would rather have less time in the office and more time spent experiencing the world outside of it.

Millennials are not afraid to leave a position that does not value such preferences either – the desire for flexibility has lead to an increase in freelancing and self-employment, with “60% of millennials leaving their job in under three years,” in search for opportunities that better suit their needs as employees.

What This Means to the Communications Field:

In summary, millennials:

  • Are skeptical of the United States economic and political systems
  • Identify as tolerant of differing opinions, cultures, ethnicities and sexualities
  • Communicate via mobile devices
  • Favor fast-paced messaging
  • Value a life of experiences over careers

But what do all these things mean to public relations professionals?

Taken together, we can deduce that millennials are selective – their computer-based skills allow them to use the internet as a tool for shopping around. This means if you’re selling a product, it better be the best out there – at least according to reviews written by millennial peers – and the same goes for representing an organization. You better prove that your client is the best at what they do, that they do it with integrity and that they believe in social responsibility.

Additionally, you’ve got a very short amount of time to get that message across. Millennials are -unsurprisingly – busy. With society’s push towards requiring a college education for entry level jobs, they have been tasked with balancing university workloads with paying positions, while also pursuing the type of fulfilled life that they can be proud of. They have also been raised in an era where the incessantly staccato messages of social media and the internet rule, which means they’re accustomed to getting their information quickly.

Designing a communications plan around these stipulations may seem daunting, but once you’re armed with a basic understanding of the way millennials think, learn and work, effective communications strategies are not far behind.

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Do at least this one thing your advisors tell you to do:

Get involved. 

When you’re first exposed to a college campus, there’s a few phrases that all the mentors/tour guides/advisors repeat so often that it makes you want to scream. One of those is the inevitable spiel about how fantastic “getting involved in campus” can be. I certainly spent the vast majority of my first few months at college  rolling my eyes at said spiel.

How did they expect me to join clubs when I was already struggling with managing my time between homesickness and homework? There are some people who are designed for jumping right into “the college experience,” but I was not one of them. College was an enormous change for me for a long list of reasons, and in the very beginning I couldn’t find the energy to do much other than sit around re-watching my favorite television show from beginning to end (shout out to my girlfriend for putting up with me during those mopey months).

I am still not the type of person who is extremely active socially – I’m an introvert at heart. But I will say, and what I would advise to any other college students who are rolling their eyes at the get involved spiel is this: it is the beginning of my sophomore year, I am actively involved in two campus programs, and have seen an enormous positive change within myself partially as a result of this involvement.

Due to both the nature of the programs and to the social environment of them, I am more aware. I am more aware of injustices, aware of privileges, aware of exclusive language, aware of my community’s values, aware of support, aware of resources, and aware of myself. 

It is extremely important to me that I take the time to make this post, not only because it contains advice I hope others will follow, but because I am so thankful to be a part of the programs I am. I am grateful to have found a group of people with which I feel safe when vulnerable and with which I feel challenged intellectually. Thankful that said programs are facilitated by amazing, genuine people, not just faceless advisors I’ve only communicated with via email. I am thankful in a multitude of ways – and it’s only September – and every college student deserves to have that same feeling that I’ve been having for the past couple weeks.

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Did you actually have a bad day?

privilege_ladders

(Image courtesy of Salon.com)

Nothing has made me as grateful to have the life that I do as the negative experiences I’ve had lately. This may sound odd at first, but there’s nothing that gets me thinking about how good I have it as when I have a ‘bad’ day. This is due to the fact that the things that constitute a bad day for me are laughably minuscule, and I am well aware of that. So you had to park far away from your destination, so the line was long at Starbucks, so the building needs to crank up the A/C a little more – those are all ‘bad’ things from the perspective of an extremely privileged person.

That privilege is not something to be ashamed of. I have struggled to be vulnerable in a space with others because the triviality of my problems makes it feel inappropriate to share them. The resulting resistance to open up with those around you is, firstly, unfair to those who have shared something personal, and secondly, reinforces a feeling of shame surrounding your privilege, which is far from the best way to handle it. So if you’re not supposed to feel ashamed about it, then what’s a better response?

Be aware of it.

That’s it. That’s the first step to not be a total jerk to everyone around you. If you feel uncomfortable sharing something about yourself because you feel that it will make you sound privileged, first realize that if you’re having such thoughts that’s a luxury in itself and you probably are privleged. Secondly, try to think deeper about yourself. In the particular experience I am speaking of, I realized hours later there were several things I could have shared with my peers that were not nearly as superficial as my initial thoughts. Someone else in the same situation might have a similar problem. How often in our busy lives do we have time to stop and consider the deepest reasons as to why we are the way we are? Unfortunately, self-reflection can easily get pushed aside.

If you’ve taken the time to reflect on the foundation of who you are, and are still unsure of how to communicate the answers to someone else without sounding like a spoiled brat –  use that awareness. Teach yourself how to use mindful language, so that the next time your instinct is to complain about the line at Starbucks you have the foresight to take a step back, take a deep breath, and just be thankful that the worst thing that happened to you today is that you had to wait ten minutes for your latte.

Next time you have a bad morning/day/afternoon/night, allow yourself a second to be thankful that the experiences that made it ‘bad’ were hardly bad at all.