Why Disney should make a Different Princess

All Disney Princesses

In the last decade or so Disney has done its best to bring diversity to its leading ladies. But there is one thing these princesses all have in common. They define beauty as flawless. But beauty isn’t flawless. As humans, we are full of flaws and imperfections in our skin. Disney has the ability to affect how a young girl perceives herself and if they don’t act on that chance they aren’t practicing good corporate citizenship.

Two major “image” changing articles about Disney have come out in the last week. The first one is from Jewel Moore, a young lady who launched a petition on change.org to have Disney create a plus-size princess. As of Feb. 7th the petition has 26 thousand supporters. Moore writes in the petition “It’s extremely difficult to find a positive representation of plus-size females in the media. If Disney could make a plus-size female protagonist who was as bright, amazing, and memorable as their others, it would do a world of good for those plus-size girls out there who are bombarded with images that make them feel ugly for not fitting the skinny standard.”

New princess has larger body then pervious Disney princessesI believe this is a wonderful idea! Creating a character that supports a positive plus-size (or atomically correct size) role model would be very powerful for young girls who suffer from body image. According to Health Research Fund, 80 percent of women say that all forms of media make them feel insecure. 42 percent of girls from first through third grade want to be thinner, while 81 percent of 10 year-olds are afraid of being fat. Body image is fussed over at every age in a girls life. Having a princess who is brave, daring, intelligent and just slightly over her BMI would mean the world to girls. A unofficial image surfaced on Pinterest and Tumbler shortly after the petition gained national media attention.

The other princess change making the rounds on the internet is Alexsandro Palombo’s disabled Disney Princess. It calls into questions the meaning of beauty. Is a princess still a princess if she is missing an arm, or is in a wheal chair? The answer is yes. Yes – You are still jaw-dropping beautiful if you are paralyzed or an amputee.

Disney Disabled princess

When Disney said anyone can be a princess, did they mean it? If they do, I hope to see a leading lady who falls under a nontraditional idea of beauty.

To Disney’s credit, they participate in “Let’s Move” and “World Wide Day of Play” which encourage kids to lead healthy and active lives. Then many Disney or ABCfamily shows address disabilities in at least one episode per season. A very well rounded list of Disney CSR can be viewed here. In fact The Walt Disney Company, Microsoft, BMW and Google all tied for first place in Reputation Institute CSR of 2013. But if the past is any indicator Disney won’t drastically change its image of a princess.

bald princesses

In early 2010 this image surfaced on Facebook from a family who’s daughter was undergoing chemotherapy treatment and asked Barbie to make a bald doll.

What these three examples are asking for is a different standard of beauty from characters that are influential on young girls body image. After all each of these girls are beautiful, and they need to be labeled as beautiful.

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Even the Federal Reserve needs PR

“I hate the FED. They’re so stupid. They think they can do whatever they want. I would like to see them work minimum wage jobs and try to support a family,” my friend said during lunch last week.  We had been kicking around predictions for the job market when we graduate in June. I had expressed interest to work for the government, at a state level, when she spewed out a sentence that caused my brain to explode.

Cartoon by Don Addis / Quick Take

As a journalism student I am very accustom to my peers not knowing anything about the United States Government, or any entity partially associated with government.
In my first year of college, I was surprised people didn’t know all 50 states and their capitols. Or even how the three branches of government work at a basic level. Now that I have spent four years at college it doesn’t surprise me that the average 20 year-old doesn’t have a clue about anything remotely related to government.

I guess what bothered me the most was my friend (who is very smart in her respected field of study)  disqualified a life-sustaining function of our nation while inadvertently displaying a shocking ignorance of the subject.  But this problem isn’t just limited to my friend,  some people don’t understand the function of the Federal Reserve. This could be clearly seen during the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent bailouts of big-name companies. Some Americans believed the Federal Reserve was trying to help the rich and not the poor.

Before this blog post continues I want to give a very brief overview of the Federal Reserve’s function – at a very basic level.

1. The United States Federal Reserve serves interdependently from the United States Government. History has show that the more independent a central bank is, the lower a the inflation rate. This is because if the central bank doesn’t have interdependency from the government, the government could pressure the bank to print more money.  Tax revenue the government collects by printing “new” money without a new new technology is called seigniorage. Seigniorage gives the appearance that a country’s GDP is rising when in reality the GDP is inflated.

2. Money amounts in the United Sates economy are influenced by monetary or fiscal policies. Congress controls fiscal policies which entails increasing or decrease government spending and increasing or decreasing taxes. Monetary policies are controlled by the Federal Reserve. Monetary policies are increasing or decreasing the money supply (how much paper money is allowed to float around and how many government bonds are for sale). Monetary policy also targets the interest rate. Currently the long-term interest rate target is 2 percent. However a shorter target is between 0 and 0.25 percent. The Federal Reserve will continue to decrease the money supply until unemployment falls below 6.5 percent aka when there isn’t involuntary unemployment.

3. The Federal Reserve is the lender of last resort. It insures that people will still have money in the bank even if the bank “goes bankrupt”. Banks and credit unions are required to hold a percentage of your money and not lend it out. At the end of the day they must have enough money for everyone to be able to withdraw some money. If they don’t, they need an overnight loan from another bank. Banks can always borrow from the Federal Reserve but most don’t because it has become a public indicator that a bank is in financial trouble.

4. See illustration

Is your brain about to explode? My friend looked green after I carefully explained the function of the Federal Reserve. Our interaction got me thinking about image management and I was awestruck at the idea that the Federal Reserve needed public relations.

Fortunately there is a woman already doing pr for the FED. Her name is Michelle Smith and she is the Fed’s chief of staff and runs the office of public affairs. She helped the Federal Reserve become open to the media and reassure Americans the Fed was trying to help the working class. Smith encouraged the Fed chairman Ben Bernake to speak with reporters and be available for inquiries. (Bernake stepped down as the Fed Chairman on January 31, 2014 and was succeeded by Jenet Yellen on February 1).

“A professor of economics, Bernanke was easily made nervous in public. It didn’t help that on at least one occasion, he had moved markets with an unintentional statement. As a matter of policy, he thought the Fed should be more transparent about its intentions and speak to the public in clearer language, but he chafed at the idea that the Fed chairman was seen as synonymous with the institution.”

Smith helped coordinate the Fed’s efforts to become transparent during the financial crisis. This included making the Federal Reserve functions clear and understandable. The hope was that if Americans could understand the math and theory behind the bailout then they wouldn’t be as angry as the mass media was portraying. In addition, being available for news conferences and “dumbing down” press releases the Fed hoped to educated the mass media about economics so that the media could effectively disseminate information to their audiences.

“It became clear after the crisis broke out that the Fed was under attack for favoring Wall Street instead of Main Street. [Smith] was particularly helpful in thinking about how the chairman [Bernanke] could be used used more effectively to counter this argument” – Former Vice Chairman Donald Kohn

Smith advised  Bernake to appear on “60 Minutes” after which he took questions at the National Press Club and appeared on “PBS NewsHour“. To see a full list of appearances and speeches in 2009 click here.

Bernake also toured colleges and gave lectures.

All of this effort has been to make the Federal Reserve more transparent. So how is this corporate social responsibility (the topic of my blog)? I am glad you asked! Corporate social responsibility has many parts, but here we see an organization, a government organization, recognize their brand image needs polishing so they can be known for doing good. The Fed took steps to repair loyalty to its consumers, (which by the way, consumers don’t have any power over the Federal Reserve) all in the name of image building. I say the Federal Reserve is definitely practicing good CSR and I can’t wait to see how Yellen will continue CSR for the Fed.

Unilerver

As a college student living in Eugene Ore., I am bombarded with messages reminding me that every health and beauty product I own is giving me cancer and is polluting the environment. As a result I have unwillingly starting reading the ingredient information on anything I pick up at the market. I don’t know what I am looking for when I read the back label, but I figure I should get points for trying. I flunked out of high school chemistry and I haven’t been back to make amends. So as long as the product doesn’t say “may cause death or cancer” I figure I am in the clear.

In my quest to read labels I found that almost everything I own has a ‘U’ symbol on it. I decided to look up and found the Unilever brand just as they were kicking off their “project sunlight”.

Project Sunlight is a sustainable living plan that adds onto what people are doing on an individual level. It covers a multitude of CSR programs like sustainable living, hunger, clean water and education- but it is operating on a global level.

The saying “children are the future” has been around for decades. Unilever took this old idea and made it new by adding faces of children and families around the globe to drive home the fact that we all live on the same planet. Their research found “Some 9 out of 10 parents say children’s natural optimism inspires them to make the world a better place while 7 out of 10 say they want to live in a greener way for their children’s future”. This means the fundamental force behind this campaign is to make today brighter for our children tomorrow. Unilever is partnering with existing organizations; Save the Children, UNICEF and the World Food Programme to help bring “sunlight” to children around the world.

Let me take a the rest of this post to talk about how Unilever is promoting Project Sunlight through traditional (and new) public relations channels.

Unilever poject sunlightFacebook
In every PR class we always talk about developing original, sharable content. Unilever has knocked this ball out of the park. First the high-quality photos using sunlight as the overarching subject matter are breathtaking. Evey image has “project Sunlight” and the Unilever company logo, so when people share the photo or download it the source doesn’t get lost. Also the photos are the right size for the Facebook timeline feature, meaning photos in posts aren’t larger than 403 x 403 pixels square. Larger photos will be moved the the center of the page and allow empty space on either side. The Unilever posts are utilize one hastag,  #BrightFuture, and a link to a page or article about what they are doing with project Sunlight.

Twitter
Unilever utilizes hastag’s, shortened links, images and retweets to keep connected with thier followers. Whenever a big event is happening they have someone Tweeting live. Unilever uses Twitter to tweet out relevant news articles that don’t directly involve them, but are about sustainable living.

YouTube
Few businesses take the time to pay for a YouTube account. I encourage readers to take a look at how a well this page has been assembled.

Overall project Sunlight is a brilliant demonstration of corporate social responsibility and the public relations tactics they are using to disseminated their campaign is something I look forward to watching over the next year.

SeaWorld (Finally) Responds to ‘Blackfish’

I grew up near Newport Oregon, where I visited a male orca named Keiko several times a year. Keiko was best known for his movie role Free Willy in 1993 (Which I have never seen and don’t want to see). I remember playing with the giant orca, by running the length of the underwater viewing glass and having him chase me back and forth.

I remember Keiko had a bent dorsal fin. The tour guides insisted that he lived the first half of his life in a dangerously small pool, and was only able to swim in one direction. I believed them. I also believed that Keiko was receiving great care.

After watching Blackfish, I shudder to think what goes on behind the curtain at any orca housing facility. Blackfish followed the story of another famous male orca named Tilikum. I encourage you to watch the drama-documentary with a box of facial tissue nearby. In summary Tilikum can be linked to three killings, each of which surrounds accusations of cover-up.

Dawn with Tilikum

In 2010 Tilikum killed one of his experienced trainers, Dawn Brancheau, by pulling her underwater after a show. Initial eye-witness reports said that Brancheau was pulled in by her hair.
Later other reports surfaced that she was pulled in by her arm.

While the drama-documentary is mostly following the story of Tilikum, Blackfish puts a bright spotlight on SeaWord’s practices. SeaWorld is where Brancheau was killed and where Tilikum resides today.

Blackfish was released in January 2013. It has taken SeaWorld 12 months to publicly respond to the drama-documentary. You can read SeaWorld’s “The Truth about Blackfish” here.

I agree with many points SeaWorld makes about the continuity of Blackfish. Footage from recent performances was used to supplement the narration of former SeaWorld employees. As far as exhibiting corporate social responsibility, SeaWorld has a long way to go.

SeaWorld’s function is tri-fold

1. Education and Research

2. Conservation

3. Entertainment

These three functions fall under the larger umbrellas of corporate social responsibility; society, environment and economy.

But there are ethical (and moral) dilemmas surrounding each function. Starting with society’s education and research. Animal advocates don’t want to see orca’s being encouraged to adapt to human contact and conditioning. Also using animals for work or experimentation isn’t okay for many animal advocates. Both of these are taking place at SeaWorld, on a daily basis. Therefore, SeaWorld fails the first part of corporate social responsibility.

Second, the environmental conservation of orca’s. The current facilities the animals at SeaWorld live in are not mimicking of their natural habitat. This means that their pools are made from concrete and aren’t deep enough to simulate the ocean. Breeding animals for show purposes but labeling it as “conservation” is also a huge concern among animal advocates.

Third, using the orca’s as entertainment to make a profit. This is the essence of SeaWorld. Entertainment. Using large animals to perform tricks to rake in the dollars. The trainers are “performers” and the pool is the “stage”. The performers are paid and get to go home to their families while the orca’s are compensated with dead frozen fish soup and are penned up for the night.

From Seaworldofhurt.com

From Seaworldofhurt.com

SeaWorld offers daily performances because it bottom line is about dollars, not the care of the animals. If they did care about their animals, they would release the older whales into a open-sea pen and rely on donations to fund their research.

Since Blackfish premiered last year (January 2013), an angry public has taken to Twitter, Facebook and other social media to put pressure on Sea World sponsors to discontinue their partnership. Major corporations like Southwest Airlines continue to partner with SeaWorld. However several musical artists, including the Barenaked Ladies and Willie Nelson have cancelled their scheduled performances and encourage people to not attend SeaWorld.

SeaWorld is stepping up their public relations attempts by releasing videos of people featured in Blackfish, who talk about how they were made to look bad in the drama-documentary. About every five days @SeaWorld will Tweet out something about “don’t listen to activist hype” or “learn the truth”. Despite the negative attention, SeaWorld reported that it made record profits in 2013.

Center for Disease Control Tackles Zombies

zombies_bigAre you prepared for the impending zombie apocalypse? If you don’t participate in zombie costume play, then chances are you aren’t equipped for the “Day of Judgment” from the undead. So grab your tinfoil hat and listen up.  (Or is tinfoil for alien invasions?)

Good news! The United States Center for Disease Control has created the guide “Preparedness 101” which contains everything you need in case of a zombie apocalypse.

Wait… What? Why is the Center for Disease Control worried about zombies?

It turns out people are more likely to pay attention to zombie preparedness plans than plain-old emergency preparedness. Bestselling books have already been written on the subject like The Zombie Survival Guide and Zompoc: How to Survive and Zombie Apocalypse. These books are filled with humorous commentary laced with important public health and welfare information.

The Center for Disease Control began its “Preparedness 101” in 2011 to educate the public about natural disasters. The response by the public was very positive. Within three days the Twitter @CDCemergancy had over 1.2 million followers and today it has 1.5 million followers.

The boost in Twitter followers allowed the CDC to effectively disseminate information of new threats or impending natural disasters to people’s mobile devices.

So what defines this campaign as corporate social responsibility?

Namely, the “Preparedness 101”, goes above and beyond the call to protect American people.  Despite the fact that the Center for Disease Control is a government agency and their mission is to serve and protect the American public, (thus being obligated to partake in corporate social responsibility), we can still label their efforts and success as socially responsible.

Let’s take a closer look at what the CDC did. The Center for Disease Control saw a problem: American’s were not prepared for natural disasters or emergencies. CDC solved this by creating and engaging campaign that educated viewers about the steps to take before and after a crisis occurs. The campaign was successful because it promoted the health and welfare of all Americans without discrimination. It is further used under the CDC blog Public Health Matters where stories are collected about how the “Preparedness 101” has changed the way Americans view emergency safety.

CDC Zombie Nation: Teaching Preparedness though a Zombie Outbreak

Even though there isn’t going to be a zombie outbreak anytime soon, the information and plan of action for the zombies can be transferred to other emergencies that Americans may face. In this way the campaign made people aware of potential dangers and educated them about steps to take, possibly saving lives in years to come. Which is a benchmark for any corporate social responsibility campaign. The CDC is using its new following on social media to continue to educating the public for the good. This campaign also helped teach people about the resources the CDC provides and what they do for the country.

This campaign is a model for other government agencies to connect with the media savvy generation. The CDC was able to engage, inform and persuade people to make a plan and be prepared.

In the interest of full disclosure, there was some public backlash centering around how the CDC did not recommend any weapons or artillery to defend oneslef, so you may view the YouTube video below.

Blog topic

The topic I will peruse this term is discovering the rationale behind corporate social responsibility (CRS). This will include finding out what CRS issues a majority of companies adhere too, and if these self-imposed regulations are driven by consumer demand, economic write offs or true altruistic behavior (altruistic: doing good because it is good). I also want to understand the boundaries companies choose when they consider consumer demands to practice corporate socially responsible. Furthermore I am going to say clear of the topic of environmentally social responsibility because of the greenwashing epidemic.

Corporate-Social-Responsibility-and-Your-Bottom-Line_image5-450x318

A word cloud consisting of 50 words relating to corporate social responsibility and moral business practices. Image from http://wefta.net/web/corporations/

 

I am going to listen and learn from corporations whom already have a reputation for good corporate social responsibility (CSR). I will also watch companies whom don’t practice CSR and observe how their market is impacted.

I am about to graduate from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, focusing in public relations. I also have a minor in Economics.
I have completed six internships in college, each of which has accelerated my career in public relations. As a Journalism student, I am interested in web design, video production, photography, storytelling and creating content that people want to share. As an Economic student I am interested creating strategies to modify people’s transitive behavior and expand into new markets.

Recently, I have become fascinated by how organizations choices are affected by consumers. There is a mob of voices using social media and traditional media to effect practices. For example, irritated customers can post to a company’s Facebook page in all capital letters, and the company has a choice to publicly respond to allegations. Another example is how boycotts can start on Twitter and spread like wildfire. I am intrigued by how organizations respond to the voice of the mob.