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

blog, Past Assignments, pr writing

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.

Past Assignments

Dethroning the Welfare Queen

Over the course of the spring semester of 2016, I explored the effect of stigmas and stigma-derived stereotypes on those of low socioeconomic status, as well as what could be done to prevent or reduce said perceptions. This subject matter is something I have grown curious about over the course of the past couple months, as a result of my general interest in the sociological perspective, the community service hours I have done, and my following of the current presidential election. Negative perceptions of welfare recipients date as far back as the creation of the U.S. welfare state itself, and though immense amounts of information about the system have been made accessible via technological advances, many non-recipients remain unaware of the reality of impoverished peoples. This lack of knowledge prompted my  drafting of the attached paper which argues that United States welfare policy and statistical truths should be simplified and explained to the national public in order to begin extinguishing the false ideologies which have engulfed public perception.

Click here to read the full paper

Past Assignments, pr writing

Mock Press Release, Media Advisory & Media Statement

The following are links to three types of Public Relations documents, all of which were designed as practice in PR as well as creativity, with the only prompt being the original story of Red Riding Hood by the Brothers Grimm.

Press Release – Marissa Smith

Media Advisory – Marissa Smith

Media Statement – Marissa Smith

 

 

Past Assignments, pr writing

The Mind Trust Social Media Process

I worked with The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis organization dedicated to improving education in the community, to draft a document that would highlight the benefits of utilizing social media as a Public Relations tool.

Click the link below:

MindTrust Social Media Process – Marissa Smith

Supplemental Documents:

Document A

Document B

For more information on the organization:

The Mind Trust Website

Past Assignments

The Forgotten Streets: An Analysis on the Effects of Social Stratification in Indianapolis

12/9/15

Applied anthropologists and sociologists often study the uneven distribution of wealth and equality as it appears within different societies around the world, whether it be researching ancient civilizations or modern day cultures.  The hierarchy that results from this inequality amongst the peoples of a culture is a phenomenon known as social stratification, and is infallibly present in every organized population of human beings that has ever existed (Nanda; Warms, 2011, p. 240). Students of anthropology often read about such stratification and see how it applies to now-extinct societies or far away countries, but rarely does the American public stop to examine the inequality that runs rampant through their hometown. There is a deceptively blissful ignorance that results from learning about distant societies rather than discussing the effects of local injustices, and while most professors make it a point to use examples that adequately place the students in the shoes of sufferers, pupils all too often fail to absorb just how real the anthropological theories from their textbooks are. In order to receive a better understanding of social stratification, the real world effects of it, and how close-to-home such inequalities lie, I have chosen to take a closer look at the city of Indianapolis and how the rules of entitlement between certain neighborhoods are just as diverse as the city’s population itself.

Any person with a means of transportation can travel through the city of Indianapolis and see the variants in environmental quality amongst different regions. The city itself is notorious for its quick transitions from carefully groomed hotspots to seemingly forgotten streets, a notion which can be supported by a short drive down the length of Washington Street. That one street weaves through a desert of empty, dilapidated shopping plazas on the east side through the shiny sky-scrapers of downtown Indianapolis out to the west where it once again falls into shambles occupied only by used car dealerships and graffiti.

When comparing a map of Indianapolis that displays its varying median incomes to that of a map displaying crime, the restlessness of the city becomes blatantly apparent. The adults who inhabit the city’s many forgotten streets are well aware of the lack of opportunities provided to them, as well as the lack of funding the government chooses to send their way. It seems that the city is only willing to invest in a neighborhood and clean it up if there is a sizeable chance newcomers will flock there. The city, however, has little interest in taking care of an area that has no potential for being a hot spot, and thus generations of Indianapolis residents are in second place to the younger, wealthier demographic that is being drawn in. Take the area of Fountain Square for example, on the city’s southeast side. The cultural district outlined on maps and signs known as Fountain Square stretches along Virginia Avenue and Shelby Street, a quick drive through that area clearly showing it has recently blossomed into a hip area full of beatnik bars and high-priced housing.

The main strip is a kitschy mix of old architecture and fresh ideas which makes it great for attracting the minds and wallets of young adults. However, venture back a block or two from the main drag, and you’re very suddenly in the midst of a neighborhood that seems entirely untouched by the revenue of the nearby restaurants and shops. Narrow streets with cracked sidewalks are lined with dilapidated houses, telling the story of the real Fountain Square, a culturally diverse neighborhood that was deemed ‘an area of special need’ by the Department of Metropolitan Development Planning Division, and has not been majorly invested in by the government since the 1980s (Polis Center, 2010). This area is a prime example of the city’s dedication to drawing newcomers, something that is definitely beneficial for a portion of the local economy, which has unfortunately led to the neglect of long-time Indy residents. The median income for Fountain Square residents is $24,150, less than the median wage of the nation by $6,000, and considerably less than the whole of Indianapolis, the median of which comes in at around $41,000 (City Data). The average rent in the area is $579 a month, a figured heightened by the recently built apartment complexes along Virginia Avenue. For a resident with the neighborhoods average yearly salary, that amount of rent each month drops household income by nearly $7,000, leaving any single-parent families roughly $1,400 a month to cover any other expenses – which for a family is entirely unrealistic. The aforementioned new apartment complexes on the main strip can be rented for upwards of $900 a month (and that’s just for studio), which by comparison, is an unfathomable cost to local residents of the average salary. The differences in living costs from block to block is certainly drastic and discouraging for your average southeast side family.

Lack of funding to the area certainly has a negative effect on the students of local schools, the overall education system in Indiana itself infamous for clashing with the tight budgets and ideals of government officials. The Indianapolis Public School System is composed of 60 different facilities, responsible for students varying in grades from kindergarten through twelfth grade (IPS, 2015). This enormous web of education does not begin to include the additional charter schools in position around the city, put in place by organizations like The Mind Trust to attempt to cater to the thousands of students who do not prosper under the framework and budget of a traditional public school experience.

Like many residents, Steven Campbell, who works for the Mind Trust as the Vice President of Communications, has mixed feelings about the city’s effort to support childhood education. Having grown up in the city and spent the majority of his career as the main marketing representative for the city, he has done interviews with major news outlets such as CNN, USA Today, The New York Times, and was kind enough to lend me some of his time and share his thoughts on the effects of inequality on the city’s children. “You can always do more” he ventured to say, after I asked how he thought the government cares for its future adults. Having been a part of that government in the past, he was careful not to overstep any boundaries, but I could see that his words and concerns of the students were genuine. We had a friendly chat in his office, myself as a newcomer to the city, and himself as a man who grew up here. Campbell stated that he believed the kids were aware of the inequality, though jealousy likely did not occur until the middle school years, when the students have more experience and are able to make their own observations via the outside world and the internet. When prompted about the level of security at Indianapolis Public Schools, he shared that the schools do have police force specifically assigned to them, but as far as constant on-site security there is nothing more than your typical locked doors. “If you treat the kids like prisoners, they’re going to act like prisoners,” he went on to say, noting that though some of the school are in neighborhoods of elevated crime rates, it is important to let the students feel like kids rather than criminals. Overall, Campbell had a surprisingly positive view on the school systems and the city’s duties in protecting them, as a man who has experience in the field he understands how difficult it is to balance budgets and keep everyone happy. Anthropologically speaking, societies cannot exist without some level of stratification, which goes along with Campbell’s stance on the situation. Still, driving around the city, it is difficult to imagine any residents of the forgotten streets content with their lifestyle and lack of government funding just because human nature indicates that someone has to suffer.

Research certainly proves that certain sections of the city have suffered hits to educational attainment because of the stratification in place. In Marion county, a target area that excludes many of the wealthier suburbs that tend to be grouped with Indianapolis for research purposes, just over 90% of jobs provide salaries higher than $30,000 a year (Stats Indiana). This statistic alone sounds promising for Marion county residents, however, if you take into account the education level needed to obtain higher paying jobs, which is normally at least a Bachelor’s degree, very few people meet the qualifications. Only 27% of the county’s adults have a Bachelor’s degree, leading to a cause-and-effect sequence of most positions being awarded to those occupying the wealthier suburbs like Carmel and Fishers. Both of those cities lie within Hamilton county, an overall better funded and more educated sector, which boasts the majority of its population as holding a Bachelor’s degree at 55% (U.S. Census Bureau). Consequently, those with no college experience are scattered around the city at either food service, retail, or warehouse jobs, commuting an average of 22 minutes to work, while those who live on the fringes of the city are spending the 20 minutes time it takes to travel downtown to the higher paying jobs. Overall, a vast amount of gasoline, time, and labor is wasted due to lack of education for locals.

A few minutes’ research and a drive through the city is enough to shed light on the truth of Indianapolis, an urban setting which intermittently alternates between being pocked with neglected streets and decorated with polished homes. The government’s dedication to gussying up small portions of the city while seemingly forgetting about the blocks that really need reparation mirrors the actions of an aging pageant queen who aspires to wear so much make-up and such revealing clothing that no one will notice the increasing blemishes that come with passing years. Unfortunately, those who have not had to live with the consequences of fiscal inequality fall for such tricks, believing that the few neighborhoods and cultural districts that are regularly beautified are enough to keep everyone happy.  The resulting ignorance allows room for assumptions to be made about those who occupy the forgotten streets rather than questioning how such dilapidation occurred in the first place. Indianapolis is notorious for quickly transitioning from ‘bad neighborhoods’ to ‘up and coming’ locales, and all too often we tell ourselves that those areas that are cultivating new shops and freshly painted houses means residents have been retrieved from the fog of financial debt, when in reality neighborhoods that are up and coming are displacing long-time residents in favor of those with higher levels of education and deeper pockets. The government and the surrounding community needs to be held accountable for the stratification that runs rampant through certain streets, a notion which first begins not only with increasing education in poverty stricken areas, but also through teaching those who are better off of the existence of personal privilege and how to help level things out.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Campbell, S. (2015, September 15). The Mind Trust. (M. Smith, Interviewer)

Center, T. P. (2010). Fountain Square. Retrieved from The Polis Center: http://www.polis.iupui.edu/RUC/Neighborhoods/FountainSquare/FSNarrative.htm

IPS. (2015, October). Schools Directory. Retrieved from IPS.org: http://www.myips.org/schools

Nanda, S., & Warms, R. (2011). Cultural Anthropology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Stats Indiana. (2013, October). Marion County Statistics. Retrieved from Stats Indiana.

 

 

Past Assignments

Internet Vs. In Print

11/15/15

There is no question that the news industry has advanced tremendously over the past two-hundred years since newspapers became popular in the United States. What began as periodically-occurring newssheets in the 1700s has transformed into a persistent twenty-four hour news cycle that Benjamin Franklin would barely recognize. Technological changes have greatly altered the practices of our society, and the news process did not escape such drastic alterations, particularly with the addition of the internet to the list of informational sources. The World Wide Web left traditional media scrambling to catch up and, in order to compete with the internet, forced it to diversify narrower than ever before, while questioning how this new online format was supposed to bring in a profit.

The invention and development of the internet has spawned a niche market for almost everything one could think of, with an infinite number of websites and the ability to make a site for any chosen topic, no matter bizarre it may seem. Where previously new technology spurred small bouts of diversification throughout history, the internet nearly obliterates the need for mass communication due to its endless nooks and crannies. There is now an online resource for any type of news, and traditional news sources like newspapers have struggled to keep up with the online world. In the past, where it was common for towns to have one or two weekly papers, cities like Indianapolis now have a total of nine in circulation at any given time, most with a very specific audience in mind (USNPL, 2015). A great example of this diversification is the Indianapolis publication Nuvo Newsweekly, the self-described “alternative voice” of the city, with its writers offering up relentlessly honest articles on everything from liberal hatred of Republican political strategies to challenging whether or not Instagram photos should be considered art (Dolan, 2015). Nuvo is anything but an average newspaper, blatantly targeting the liberal Democratic sector of Indianapolis, and it does a fantastic job of competing with the stylishly biased sources of the internet, right down to the creative opinions its writers craft, closely mimicking that of a blog. Of course, even once traditional media found a way to match the infiniteness of the web, broadcasters and print publishers alike were still hemorrhaging profit in a way that closely matched the blood loss of a Tarantino movie.

The early 2000s caused such an urgency to get everything online that news stations conjured up websites faster than anyone could say the word ‘profit’, and as a result, the industry took a huge hit to the wallet they’re still attempting to make up for ten years later. In the short amount of time it took newspapers like the Indy Star to have a website up and running, the thought of a pay wall was all but forgotten, such was the fate of papers across the United States. Once the error had been realized, newspapers were once again frantic, this time rushing to build pay walls and keep people from accessing news for free. As we now know, the internet became so popular because it was difficult to charge people for accessing sites, (AOL’s ‘walled garden’ concept), and despite the addition of online subscriptions that limit the access of readers, it is always possible to find the news story one wants to read from a different, free source. Not only did the news industry lose money due to the ease of access for online information, it has been persistently pick-pocketed by the sudden scarcity of advertising available. Just as with news, advertising too went digital, taking with it the need for classified ads. The diversification of news also led to the divergence of commercials, with companies targeting only those news outlets that pertain to their primary market, and with the internet’s ability to track people’s favorite sites and searches, it functions as the ultimate form of micro-targeting. As a result, newspapers across the nation to teamed up with websites like www.monster.com, which boasts the nation’s largest newspaper partner recruitment network, to attempt to regain some lost profit from a lack of classifieds (Monster, 2015). This solution, while not the most productive for newspapers, is the best of the situation and makes up an adequate amount of profit in comparison to the lack of revenue companies would see without such compromises.

All in all, the industry has adapted, though somewhat haphazardly, to the immense technological changes that have swept over the United States in the past two-hundred years since newspapers became a consistent addition to everyday life. The news process, while it was unable to escape drastic alteration, will continue to live prosperously as long as its mediators remain educated on advances in society. The World Wide Web might have initially left traditional media scrambling to catch up, but after a decade of revolutionized relaying of information, it has become clear that though the industry will need to remain open to adaptation, it will always be a central part of modern society.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Dolan, S. (2015, September 23). Kicking and Screaming Til They Get Their Way. Nuvo Newsweekly, pp. 3-4.

Monster. (2015, May). Alliances and Partnerships. Retrieved from Monster.com: http://partner.monster.com/newspapers

USNPL. (2015). Indiana Newspapers. Retrieved from USNPL: http://www.usnpl.com/innews.php