Watoto Children’s Choir

For the past two months I’ve had the privilege to run the public relations account of the Watoto Children’s Choir from Uganda. Recently, the Watoto story was placed in the Plain Dealer and a photographer from the paper took some wonderful photos of the children. Read the story and take a look at the photos here.


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Elizabeth Chenoweth: A Picture of Medical Success

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Passionate, poised and professional. Those are the three words that came to mind when speaking to Elizabeth Chenoweth, president and co-founder of Southeastern University’s Pre-Health Service Organization (PHSO). Chenoweth created the organization in the fall of the 2008 and got if off the ground running in the spring of the following year with her best friend, Christa Abott, and her now-boyfriend, David Zipprer. All three were undergraduate pre-medical students at the time, with Abott and Zipprer now in medical school, and Chenoweth now a few weeks away from receiving her diploma from Southeastern.

Of the birth of the organization, Chenoweth said, “Well, our department [pre-med] is kind of young in its development, so I always had the idea to mentor underclassmen, but the actual idea for PHSO started when we realized we needed a pre-professional organization. We wanted to be able to mentor and have a club that gave a forum to talk about MCATS, interviews for medical schools and what medical schools and pharmacy schools actually wanted.”

Chenoweth also spoke of exactly how PHSO prepares pre-med students for the professional medical world. She said, “The biggest thing is accountability. All of us have big dreams and aspirations but few of us have someone other than our moms and teachers saying,  ‘Remember that dream you had to go to medical school? Well, it’s still a reality and here’s what you have to do each semester to get closer to that dream becoming a reality.’”

The amount of work it takes to be a part of PHSO may surprise some, considering that every member is already dealing with the stresses of biology and chemistry classes that come along with being a pre-med student. Each member is required to complete 30 hours of community service every semester, of which many come from one clinic the members are able to pick on their own. However, they usually find their clinics on a list that the officers create after contacting local medical associations. Chenoweth added, “You need to be really good at networking in any profession and it’s something I’ve been blessed with the ability to do. It’s nice to use it to get people started with their projects.”

On how PHSO has changed her personal medical point of view, Chenoweth said, “Both in the way I interact with my peers and the way I interact with people [patients]. People have backgrounds and sensitivities they don’t share with you. I’ve worked with the homeless, low-income people and even people on the high end of things and there are different ways to communicate. People are not always as informed as you think they are.”

Chenoweth expanded on this subject by talking about a health fair PHSO put on in Miami over spring break. “We were teaching the women how to check their breasts for breast cancer and it was so overwhelming to me to realize that people didn’t know such a basic thing that can prevent cancer from being fatal in so many cases. I’ve learned to approach everyone with caution and without assumptions to the best of my ability, and to communicate beyond what our past is.”

PHSO members [left to right] Elizabeth Chenoweth (President), Nataliya Okhota, Robert Rivas, Taylor Johnson, Beth Vaughan, and Matthew Madison pose for the camera during their spring break missions trip to Miami, Fla. The organization partnered with three different clinics in the area, volunteering in soup kitchens for the homeless and putting on health fairs to educate the community. “We aim to educate and expose our members to real-world experience through working with the diverse culture found in Miami,” said Chenoweth. Photo by Dr. Jeremy Day-Storms.

PHSO members Elizabeth Chenoweth (President), Nataliya Okhota, Robert Rivas, Taylor Johnson, Beth Vaughan, and Matthew Madison pose for the camera during their spring break missions trip to Miami, Fla. The organization partnered with three different clinics in the area, volunteering in soup kitchens for the homeless and putting on health fairs to educate the community. “We aim to educate and expose our members to real-world experience through working with the diverse culture found in Miami,” said Chenoweth. Photo by Dr. Jeremy Day-Storms.

This led her to discuss when she knew she wanted to become a doctor. Chenoweth’s desire to be a pre-med student started to develop her sophomore year when she volunteered with Good Shepherd Hospice, a service for people who have six months or less to live. The patient that had the most impact on her was a mute woman who was unable to move. Chenoweth would sing hymns to her, she described her as a “good Polk County Baptist citizen who loved the hymns,” and her favorite was “Amazing Grace.”

Due to the patient’s love of hymns, Chenoweth would sing to her every week during her visiting hours. She remembers one day in particular and described it:  “At the end of my song it just hit me, she started moving her hands and I realized that that was her response to my song and she was clapping, and in that moment I knew that I had done something for someone else that meant more than what words could communicate. That feeling was unreal and whenever I get stressed out about things in school I just think about that time that I was able to do something very intimate for somebody and what brought us together was that the person was sick.”

After talking about her motivation, Chenoweth moved on to her inspiration throughout her undergraduate years. She stressed the fact that committing your life to something as competitive and at times, discouraging, as medicine requires a solid support system. She credits both her parents and Dr. Sonya Danofft from Johns Hopkins medical school with filling that role for her. She said her mom is her “cheerleader,” and Dr. Danofft gave her an example of “the doctor [she] wants to be—someone who comes alongside someone in a rough spot and helps that person work to a better solution while staying on their level.”

So what are Chenoweth’s future plans for life post-graduation? First, she’ll be taking an internship doing research on malaria for the National Institute for Health (NIH) in Washington D.C. After that, she’ll be going to medical school at one of the many programs she plans on applying to, including Harvard, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Baylor, Northwestern, the University of Miami, the University of North Carolina and the University of South Florida.

One thing is for certain, with the passion Chenoweth shows when speaking about her organization, the poise she shows when discussing her future and the professionalism she shows when interacting with her patients and peers, she will have no trouble with her pursuit of a career in medicine.

The Pre-Health Service Organization was founded in 2010 by pre-med students at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla. The organization is dedicated to equipping students with the tools they need to enter the professional word of medicine, as well as contributing as much as possible to the local community. PHSO is fully led by students and has and will continue to make a mark both at the University and in the city of Lakeland. For more information contact Elizabeth Chenoweth at emchenoweth@seu.edu or visit their blog.

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How PR Pros & Journalists Drive Each Other Nuts

Here’s a SlideShare presentation my class put together about the different ways that PR professionals and Journalists get on each other’s last nerve:

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Blogging–You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere!

Are you new to blogging? Do you sit and read blog after blog, but have doubts about starting one of your own?

Well stop doubting and sign up today! Especially if you’re a Public Relations student!

From laverrue's Flickr photostream

Here’s a list of my ten tips for a student blogger:

1. Eat, Sleep & Breathe AP Style–If you want PR professionals to read your blog and actually see it as a valuable asset to the PR community, make sure you speak their language! Read my post about the importance of AP Style here.

2. Tweet Your Heart Out–In addition to blogging, Twitter is one of the greatest ways to network with other PR students and professionals. Make yourself an account, start following some important people and tweet the links to your blog posts so that others can read what you have to say. Check out Barbara Nixon’s post, A College Student’s Guide to Getting Started With Twitter (start following her on Twitter while you’re at it!).

3. Write About Things That Interest You–If you write about things that you personally don’t find interesting, your readers will be able to notice. When you write about things that you find boring, your posts will come across as just that! Even when keeping it professional, you can add in personal posts every once in awhile.

4. Don’t Get Too Personal–Even though in number three I say you can make personal posts, that doesn’t mean you should go blogging away your feelings. The word “personal” in a PR student blog means write about events or opportunities that are of personal interest to you. Go to an interesting concert or want to share a YouTube video? Go ahead. Want to talk about how your roommate makes your life miserable? Make a separate blog and make it private.

5. Comments Away-In order to make connections with other PR professionals via blogging, you’ll need to start commenting on different blogs or articles on the web. Ragan’s PR Daily is a great place to start. Check out a list of my blog comments here.

6. Attract Readers With Shiny Things:  Pictures & Video–If someone goes to your blog and sees strictly chunks of text in every post, they will not stick around for long. Today, people thrive on images and videos and they are much less likely to read your blog if you are without both of them.

7. Long Paragraphs Are a No-No–When writing blog posts, make sure you keep your paragraphs short and use bullet points and lists as often as possible. When a post is broken down into sections it’s a lot less intimidating to a reader, especially those just searching the internet for a quick read.

8. Use Widgets, but Not Too Many–Widgets can be very handy little things on your blog, allowing people to quickly search for a particular post or see what kind of categories your writing falls under. However, too many widgets can make your page look cluttered and take longer to load. For a beginner, I would suggest these widgets; search, categories (list or cloud) and a calendar that shows which dates you have made blog posts.

9. NEVER Copyright!–Probably the most important thing to remember when blogging is that you must absolutely under no circumstances steal someone else’s ideas and write them as your own. Don’t think that your blog is unimportant and no one will ever know, because they most likely will and sometimes they’ll try to get you busted for it. If you want to share another blogger’s idea with your readers, simply link to their page. This is also important when using images–you can find images free of copyright on Compfight, just search for the image you want under the “creative commons” tab (make sure to still give credit to the photographer).

10. Find Your Voice–Although you’ll need to be professional on your blog, that doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be someone you’re not. Make sure you find your own way of writing to the public and don’t lose your personality in doing that. Read Rachel LaFlam’s post on finding your own blog voice here.

I hope these tips inspire you to start blogging and give you success!

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The Value of Podcasts for PR Students

From Fey Ilyas' Flickr photostream

If you read my blog in the fall of last year, you may remember when I wrote about The Creative Career, a podcast by Allie Osmar. If not, let me fill you in:  Osmar generally writes about the changes involved in the transition from being a student to being a professional in the communications world. She also gives tips on how to prepare for that professional world of communication arts, one that is changing every day. She accomplishes both of these things by interviewing successful professionals in the communications field and by posting podcasts online of her interviews.

This week I listened to a few of her podcasts and the one that I enjoyed the most has to be her interview with Elizabeth Wargele, co-author of “The Career Within You:  How to Find the Perfect Job For Your Personality.” In the book she, “discusses the nine personality types based on differing personal motivations—and how discovering your own personality type can help you find the career that’s right for you (or work with others in the career you already have).” In the interview, Wargele encourages high school and college students to read the book to help “get to know [themselves] and find [their] true selves.” She discusses three of the nine personality types–the perfectionist, the helper, the romantic, the adventurer or the observer. The personality types are determined by the motivation of the person. Are you moralistic (perfectionist), eager to help (helper), artistic, an explorer (adventurer) or do you like to watch and learn (observer)? She encourages recent grads to “stay with [yourself] and don’t let someone sway you to do something you don’t want to do.”

After listening to PR and communications oriented podcasts, I have to say that I think they are an incredibly valuable resource for PR students. Obviously, any interviews with successful business people, communications people or PR professionals will help students by giving them a picture of success and how to get there. Also, it’s a unique opportunity to be able to actually listen to an interview, as opposed to reading an article in which a journalist may have changed around an interview or put a different spin on the professional’s words. I see podcasts as another way to learn, which students can never get enough of.


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Should Jay-Z Be Fined?

From nrtphotos' Flickr photostream

This past weekend after the University of Kentucky’s win over the University of North Carolina to advance to the final four in the Men’s NCAA College Basketball tournament, the wildcats were greeted by a surprise guest on their way into the locker room–Jay-Z. The problem with this? Jay-Z is part-owner of the New Jersey Nets and Kentucky has a few players that may be lottery picks in this year’s NBA draft. The question is, should Jay-Z be fined as part-owner of the Nets for fraternizing with the players? The act in itself looks generally innocent, although you have to wonder what Jay-Z’s intentions were, considering the fact that he is not a known die-hard Kentucky fan.

Check out the footage here.


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5 Steps to Creating Blog Voice

Here’s a guest blog post from my friend and fellow classmate, Rachel LaFlam. You can visit her Public Relations blog, “Mid-day Coffee Break,” here.

All the blogging tips out there say to create voice in your blog. But what does that even mean? And how can you begin to create voice? ‘Voice’ is the tone and pace of your writing that allows your audience to connect with you on a personal level and brings consistency. So how do you create voice?

1. Picture Your Audience

It might sound silly, but if you want your blog to sound friendly, then picture a good friend and imagine you are writing to them. This will help your overall tone throughout your writing.

2. Opinions

My English professor said to me once, “All writing is an argument”

If you are a human being, you have the ability to think what you want. Include your opinion in your blog! You might be afraid at first in case your readers disagree, but guess what? It is OKAY to disagree! This will just give them more incentive to comment if they disagree!

3. Humor

People do what they do for a feeling. You want them to feel good while reading your blog, right? Laughter and humor is a great way to ensure they continue returning. So find your niche. Whether it is sarcasm, bluntness, subtleness, puns, etc.

3. Watch Your Mood

Make sure you are in a positive mood when you are writing. Because if you aren’t, no matter how hard you try, it will come out. If you are forced to write while you aren’t in the best mood, don’t publish your work right away. Save it and go back to review.

4. Create A Style Guide

Creating a set of rules for yourself for grammar, spelling, and expression can help you become consistent with your blog’s voice.

5. Have fun!

If you are enjoying your writing and passionate about what you are writing about, it will come through and others will become passionate about what you have to say also.

Be quirky, be passionate, be intelligent. But mainly, be yourself.



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