Dr. M. C. Porter, APR – Opus Magnum
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Dr. M. C. Porter, APR

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

Corporate Messaging in Every Cookie

JanetandPhil / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

In a recent discussion in my Strategic Writing course, we considered a company called Mondelēz International.  Actually, we started by looking at a snack-sized package of Oreo cookies.  The point of the dialogue was to consider what “corporate” messaging  means to a copywriter in the marketing department asked to develop material geared to sell snack-packs.

Now, you may not have heard of Mondelēz International, but if you took the time to click through on the link above, many of the brands featured in the animation will prove familiar.  And there in the midst is Oreo, a product that still bears the Nabisco logo on the package (which ends up being a brand between other brands). Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Six Ethical Ideals for PR

ethics1The  Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) designates September as ethics month and Mike Porter, APR, Director of the Master of Business Communication Program here at the University of St. Thomas has written a post for the Minnesota PRSA blog on the topic.

We often think in terms of communication ethics being central to crises – in particular the disclosure of information and details for the safety of one of many stakeholder groups.  However, as the Ethics Officer for Minnesota Public Relations Society of America, I suggest that such transparency is no less important when considering how messages are deployed about a firm or its product and service offerings in an increasingly complex promotional environment online.

Read the rest of Porter’s post and learn the Six Ideals to Maintain as PR Professionals on the MN PRSA Perspectives Blog.

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

T-shirts and Tattoos

A committed UST fan.

A committed UST fan.

The license plate frame on my car reads “Alumni” at the top and “University of St. Thomas” at the bottom.  The metal looks a bit shabby, since it previously adorned at least two other cars, but the purple letters seem to be surviving.  I’m proud to hold a couple of degrees from UST and own a fair number of items emblazoned with its name and logos.  However, the limit of my brand loyalty falls short of a purple shield tattoo.

It’s fascinating how we manage loyalty to the brands in our lives.  For instance, while I purchase and eat exclusively Skippy® Superchunk peanut butter, there are no t-shirts or other memorabilia in the house to affirm this bias.  Further, this post represents the only public or private admission of this behavior.  So, even though absolutely loyal to the brand in use, I am a pretty crappy customer on the referral side.  My kids don’t even eat the stuff.

Even though we all have some unshakable brand affinities, other brand connections seem to be more chameleon-like.  Personally, the colors change on the alumni front, depending on the company being kept.  When chatting with undergrad friends, the Beaver hat figuratively comes out (Just making sure you don’t think I actually have a rodent for my head.).  Most of the time, I’m a Tommy.  Not a traditional Tommy perhaps, because the diplomas aren’t undergrad, but a card carrying graduate school Tommy.  It helps to believe in the quality of education here, but the affinity also contributes to defining me in the context of the business community, in the same way the Harley-Davidson eagle on my leather vest distinguishes me from a sport-bike rider.  Not good or bad, just decidedly different. Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

Simple tips for networking at the Alphabet Bash


On August 22, the Alphabet Bash will turn the Aria into a temporary Mecca for the movers, shakers and wanna-bes of the Twin Cities message machines. The evening, while formatted as a loosely scripted mix and mingle, takes a tremendous amount of organization and planning, particularly coordinating the efforts of the dozens of associations and sponsors now involved. The “Bash” always promises and delivers great food, a fun atmosphere and, most assuredly, the best networking on the professional marketing communication community calendar.

I’m not just touting the event because the UST Opus College of Business is one of the two primary sponsors. We are engaged because this event brings together local business communication professionals from multiple disciplines on one night. It’s imperative that we are there, and should be for anyone interested in building a network of like-minded professionals – for fun and profit!

For those who don’t feel like they know many people, and worry about meeting new folks, here are a couple of tips. Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

Guerrilla Marketing or Event Hijacking

Al_HikesAZ / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

This week a pro-gun group informed the media and area law enforcement that its members would be out in force at community events organized by another organization, pushing the limits of the state carry laws.

This is a classic guerrilla marketing and communication tactic – to co-opt the activities or space of others, without permission, to carry out some level of promotion for your own agenda.  Of course, there are degrees of this behavior. It is certainly common, and potentially legal, for a marketer to appear on a public walkway offering product samples. The co-opting begins when that walkway is adjacent or central to a public event, such as the Uptown Art Fair or neighborhood gathering as noted in the article above. When done unobtrusively, such activity is effectively harmless.

On the other end of that spectrum, for a guerrilla group to invade another’s event with the intention of overshadowing the efforts of the actual organizers represents unfair play. Plus, in cases such as the one cited, the invasion has real potential to escalate tensions and impact safety. Since the interlopers have not participated in arranging the event, how can they know whether their activities present real danger or not? They can’t. Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

The first time, all over again

The annual Dean’s Reception celebrates student completion of the various graduate programs in the Opus College of Business as a more intimate prelude to the public commencement ceremony.  I have attended a number of these in the last few years.  From a communication standpoint, these events represent some important, but sometimes forgotten tenants of the craft.

First, while these parties exist primarily to celebrate with our students, the format ensures that this opportunity to engage them with the university for the long term is not lost.  Even though the centerpiece of the evening will always remain the dean’s speech, the plates are served with encouragement from alumni relations to remain active on campus.  This moment represents a critical time in the school’s relationship with these stakeholders, as they convert from students to alumni.  Recognizing the transition of an audience is all too often obscured by the activities of the day.  Strategic communication planning should always consider the evolution of customer experience and relationship with the organization and what it offers them. Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, social media, UST MBC

Write ‘em up!

There’s a policy adage that proclaims the world is run by those who show up.  In a social media influenced world, it is becoming more about those who “write it up,” regardless of the truth.

Recently an “admirer” of Joel Olsteen from Minneapolis admitted to creating an elaborate Internet persona of the evangelist only to make false claims on his behalf, some of which were published in legitimate media before being debunked.  One wonders if the editors at the duped media bothered to apply even a gut test of the claims before running the stories.

The ease with which some social media platforms allow anyone to develop content under assumed identity leads to the potential for great abuse – whether in the name of admiration or something more sinister.  Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

Who owns you?


During the last month, people in my household were treated as property by service providers a couple of times, based on the assumption by corporations managing service businesses that all current customers “belong” to the business.

Case in point, the hair stylist my wife has followed from salon to salon since 1998, Sheila.  Just before my wife’s last scheduled appointment at a major department store salon, a receptionist called to confirm her appointment with another stylist.  Upon inquiry, the salon contact refused to explain how to find Sheila.  Upon finding Sheila through other means, we learned that the salon also refused to provide any list of the customers that had followed her to the salon, as “those customers belong to us.”  Really?  My wife would beg to differ. Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

Would you like context with that?

This commentary is by Dr. Michael Porter, Director of the UST MBC Program.

On February 14, I was taken aback while watching the press conference announcing the new president of the University of St. Thomas, Dr. Julie Sullivan.  Not by anything she or the other participants said or did, but by a question from a reporter.  He asked: “How will your role as wife and mother influence, if at all, your presidency?  Will it flavor that at all or change it?”  I immediately wondered if he would have asked a question about fatherhood of a male layperson.

A number of people watching the event via simulcast in Minneapolis expressed similar concerns, as we had no idea at the time who asked the question because the person was off camera. Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

Complicated Complicity

A number of years ago I participated in a conversation facilitated by researchers at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., regarding the complicity of municipal police officers during Nazi rule and occupation of Europe.  The parties involved were law enforcement officers studying in a police leadership master’s program and doctoral candidates in leadership and policy.   Based on review of detailed information from the museum research staff, the group frankly considered the behavior of ordinary citizens who found themselves swept away from their ordinary behavior by a tide of unspeakable actions.  Everyone in the room acknowledged that a range of action represented “complicity,” from actively supporting the fascist agenda to merely turning a blind eye.  In between, a great deal of discussion hovered around the ethics of “doing the job” as directed: following orders, or the status quo, as justification of the actions.  The group of leadership-oriented students did not find satisfaction in these excuses, yet acknowledged limited ability to completely contextualize the actions of individuals immersed in a culture so far beyond our own experience.

In the present day, there are those associated with the media who rationalize overtly questionable activities with justifications similar to those of the police we discussed.  Paparazzi engage in stalking behavior made legal only by the public nature of the individuals they hound.  While for some, the compliment of a throng of photographers may be welcome, in exercising their “right” to report and photograph the off-stage life of famous people, the more rabid of these “reporters” have led directly or indirectly to damage beyond exposure to public scrutiny – even to the death of their prey.  Continue Reading