Monthly Archives: February 2009

Narrowing the Focus


Each week as I stare at my computer screen and think of a topic for my latest blog post, I have a moment of doubt. Will my post be good, funny, interesting, or relevant? A million ideas are running through my head at any given time, so it’s so hard for me to pick just one idea and blog about it.

Luckily, the other day, I was thrilled to come across PR and social media pro Chris Brogan’s blog post titled, “Build Blog Posts Like Building Blocks.” His advice was invaluable. I loved this quote:

“One such way to think of your blogging is by considering each post a building block to something larger, instead of just loose pages of thought.”

Suddenly, a light went on in my brain. My blog will be more focused, centered and (hopefully) useful to readers if each post builds from the previous one, or at least builds from a recent post.

To make sure this idea was foolproof, I racked my brain and listed the blogs that I visit most often. I noticed that my favorite blogs have a distinct and clear focus and many of the posts are connected. Here is a brief sampling of some of the blogs I read on a consistent basis. Notice that many of the posts are like building blocks, building upon the previous one.

Public Relations

PRos in Training: Written by my PR teacher Kelli Matthews. It offers tons of useful information on PR and social media that is useful for students, PR newbies and PR professionals.

if i knew all the words: From University of Oregon graduate, Staci Stringer. As a new PR professional, she gives great advice about the “real world” and her experience in PR.

PR Squared: Written by Todd Defren, a principal at SHIFT Communications and author of the must-read guide on social media, “Brink.”


The Theater Loop: Provides wonderful reviews and updates from Chicago’s lively theatre scene.

Portland Center Stage: A native Portlander, I’m always curious to see what’s showing at Portland Center Stage.


go fug yourself: Posts the latest celebrity fashion faux pas and red carpet catastrophes.

TMZ: Full of celebrity and entertainment news.

Looking at some of my favorite blogs prompted me to take a closer look at my personal blog and my potential audience. I realized I needed to make some changes. First I knew I had to ditch the old blog title and customize it to reflect the theme of my blog. I scrolled through my latest posts and saw that many of them were PR and entertainment related. A friend and fellow University of Oregon journalism student Regin Daniels helped me to come up with my new blog title, “A Play on Words.” My goal for this blog is to take Brogan’s advice to heart and write posts that can potentially build off of each other.

How do you focus your blog? Do you approach it from a specific angle? Do you write your posts with a specific audience/demographic in mind? As a blogging newbie, I welcome any thoughts, ideas or comments on this topic. Thanks for stopping by!


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The 81st Annual Academy Awards Lights up the Internet

81st_pittb_joliea_01The red carpet, the movie stars, the acceptance speeches, the glitz and the glam. Ah, I love the Academy Awards. I have watched the Oscars wide-eyed and slightly envious for as long as I can remember. Someday, if my ideal life pans out, I’ll watch the show sitting in the audience at the Kodak Theatre in L.A. But in the meantime, like millions of other viewers, I have gotten my Oscar fix from the live television broadcast on ABC. This year, however, it was different. I not only watched the event on TV, but I also tuned into the event via the Internet.

The 2009 Oscars were covered on blogs, Twitter feeds and countless other websites. Here is a list of some of my favorite sites from Sunday night:


Twitter: I typed “#oscars” and found countless updates. People were twittering like crazy on this site. There was commentary on winners/losers, dresses and the overall event.

Celebuzz: This site provided amazing red carpet pictures with great zooming capabilities.

The Official Oscars Message Board: From Ben Stiller’s impersonation of Joaquin Phoenix to Hugh Jackman’s opening musical number, this message board offered funny commentary throughout the show.

Perez Hilton: Never one to disappoint on the celebrity gossip front, Perez Hilton has some excellent photos and quips from Oscar night.

I think this year’s coverage on the Academy Awards really proved that the Internet and social media tools are playing a huge role in the way people share information, opinions, pictures and ideas. Using Twitter I could read what other people thought about the event; looking at celebuzz I could see Oscar pictures that I would have otherwise not seen until I purchased the latest People magazine or US Weekly; and reading posts on blogs and message boards gave me new insight and quite a few laughs. Already, I can’t wait for next year’s show. I predict that the Internet will play an even larger role, and I can’t wait to be involved in the discussion!


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Chris Brown: Quick Dance Moves, Slow Response Time

chris-and-rihanna“Chris is a walking dead man,” said Jay-Z. The statement is referring to the recent domestic violence case involving pop singer Rihanna and R&B singer Chris Brown. Reportedly, Brown and Rihanna got into an argument on Feb. 8 that turned physical, leaving Rihanna bruised and bleeding. According to ABC News, Brown turned himself into Los Angeles authorities Sunday night for allegedly assaulting a woman (who is believed to be Rihanna). I think from a PR standpoint, Rihanna will emerge from this situation on top. As for Brown, he better act quickly to save his public image before it’s too late…or is it?

Brown’s first mistake was waiting too long to issue a public statement. While he remained silent, others did the talking for him. There were statements made on Facebook and various blogs—some under the pen name of Chris Brown. Many celebrities made statements about the incident, most of which were in support of Rihanna. The Press Association posted this statement from Kanye West, “She has the potential to be the greatest artist of all time and, in that sense, I feel like that’s my baby sis and I would do any and everything to help her in any situation.”

Because Brown waited so long to issue a public statement, it prompted some people to become skeptical of the situation, and many dismissed Brown as guilty, including some of his sponsors. While both Rihanna and Brown have millions of dollars at stake in terms of endorsements, Brown is the only one suffering losses. Wrigley’s Doublemint chewing gum has dropped him from its ad campaign and his “Got Milk” ad is scheduled to end this week.

When Brown finally issued a public statement, it was extremely vague and disappointing. It didn’t mention a word about the alleged altercation. Come on, Chris! MTV News posted his statement on their site:

“Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired. I am seeking the counseling of my pastor, my mother and other loved ones and I am committed, with God’s help, to emerging a better person.

“Much of what has been speculated or reported on blogs and/or reported in the media is wrong,” the statement continues. “While I would like to be able to talk about this more, until the legal issues are resolved, this is all I can say except that I have not written any messages or made any posts to Facebook, on blogs or any place else. Those posts or writings under my name are frauds.”

Some may argue that Rihanna’s PR camp should issue a statement as well, but her fans, fellow famous pals and the media seem to be behind her all the way. She is seen as the victim in this situation, and people want to see Rihanna emerge stronger than ever. At the NBA All-Star slam-dunk contest last Sunday, Rihanna’s hit song “Umbrella” blasted over the arena’s sound system. Many in the sell-out crowed promptly cheered when the song came on.

This situation provides a valuable lesson in terms of PR and one’s public image: The only way to quite the rumor mill is to issue a public statement that is direct and honest as soon as possible. Time is valuable in situations where one’s public image is at stake, and it seems Chris Brown is learning this lesson the hard way.


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Button Magazine Breaks into Portland’s Hipster Scene


I just landed the opportunity to work with an amazing client through my new internship with Allen Hall Public Relations (AHPR), the student-run PR agency at the University of Oregon: Button Magazine. My account team and I had the chance to pour over the magazine’s press kit before Button magazine’s launch on March 30, 2009. Here are some of the highlights:


Button magazine will inform, answer to, and entertain the unique, twenty-something Portland hipster demographic. Button promises to provide exclusive articles on music, fashion, and sex/relationships, accurate facts, a well-balanced tone, and original photography from various local contributors and sources.


Portland, Oregon is a booming metropolis, and while it has always had its native hipsters—currently, the scene is bigger than ever. Twenty-somethings are flooding the scene in search of indie bands, fashionable moccasins, and Vespa dealers. Portland is a highly innovative city in the nation in terms of music, fashion, art, character and community. Button magazine will inform, answer to, and entertain one of the largest populations in Portland.


Fashion. With Portlander Leann Marshall winning season five of Bravo’s Project Runway, Portland fashion is making a name for itself on a national level. The many boutiques that line the streets of Portland’s popular districts offer one-of-a-kind frocks and the latest trends.

Music. has named Portland one of the “Top Ten Alternative/ Indie Music Cities in the World,” and now it has recently become a great debate of whether or not Portland has overtaken Seattle as the indie rock music “Mecca of America.”

Sex. Portlanders are known to embrace feeling good in their own skin. Moreover, between the ages of 18 and 31, hormones are still raging. Men and women at this age are serial daters and relationship regulars. Bars are used more as a flirting fishpond than an actual drinking hangout. Portlanders are sexy, sassy, single and ready to mingle.


Brittany McGrath is a Portland native and University of Oregon graduate. She has previously worked for Lucky magazine in New York City, Surface magazine in San Francisco, Intentionally Urban and Wend magazines in Portland, Oregon, and Flux magazine at the University of Oregon.

Button magazine is a bi-monthly publication and will be available in print and online. I will be posting more information about Button magazine as the first issue nears publication.

Twitter account coming soon!


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Goodbye Gossip Magazines, Hello Twitter Accounts!

twitter-logoYou know when you learn a new word? The kind of word that you never noticed, and then one day you learn its definition, and the word seems to be ubiquitous? (Confession: “ubiquitous” was one of those words for me). This is how I feel about Twitter. Twitter is a “micro blogging” service that lets you say whatever you want in no more than 140 characters. Until recently, I was in the dark about Twitter. Now, I can’t seem to escape it. Twitter users are increasing everyday, and some of them are quite famous.


The other day I came across a post from E!Online, which complained that celebrities were using Twitter to “clog our homepage.”

While I agree that excessive, pointless updates are irritating, there is a simple solution: stop following the offender. I think Twitter is a great tool for celebrities because it lets them control their image. While gossip magazines are on the constant hunt for celebrities’ perfect photos or statements, Twitter is one step ahead. Twitter gives celebrities the opportunity to post their perfect photo or their perfect statement.

I predict that in the future more high-profile people will use Twitter as a form of personal PR. It’s an easy way to let people know what you are doing and what interests you. There are no frills and certainly no rambling phrases. Twitter forces communication to be concentrated, to the point, and brief, which are three elements I look for in a gossip magazine.

As I have started to pull more and more of my news from Twitter posts, I have neglected other news sites, such as CNN and Newser. This is because they have Twitter pages! I used to scan the latest gossip magazines for celebrity updates, but now I can get them from Twitter, and the updates are directly from the person (well, most of the time).

Here is list of some famous Twitter users that I found amusing:

Lance Armstrong

Jimmy Fallon

Britney Spears

Rainn Wilson

Demi Moore

MC Hammer
He really is too legit to quit. MC Hammer has made an impressive comeback using social media tools. Check out this blog post titled, “How MC Hammer went from caricature to human being-the social media story.”

Questions: Who are you following on Twitter? Have you found your favorite stars? Do you like the way they use Twitter?


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Be PRepared

pen-on-paperFor me, it’s a recurring nightmare: I show up in class unprepared and the professor calls on me. My face burns red, my mouth goes dry and my hands begin to tremble. Although I despise this nightmare, I am also grateful for it, because it motivates me to finish my assignments before class. I also dread the awkward silence that falls upon a class when the professor asks a question and no one responds. It’s the kind of silence that is deafening, loud with racing minds and fidgeting fingers.

I recently read a post by Leo Bottary (a PR professional for over 25 years) that reminded me of the importance of preparation. His story highlights the value of preparation in the workplace. As a senior in college, about to interview for jobs, his story is insightful and motivating.

Background: In his early twenties, Bottary worked for an agency that was one of seven other agencies interviewing for a prospective client. Before the interview, Bottary and four of his fellow employees complied 500 pages of research on the company and the industry. Their research made them an instant stand-out at the interview and ultimately landed Bottary’s agency a seven figure account.

Although it seems like common sense to know a bit about the company you are working with, Bottary’s success story proves that going the extra mile in terms of researching the client pays off (literally).

Best piece of advice:

By asking questions that are above the basic and beyond the obvious, you’ll save time, impress your client, and leave the meeting with the kind of insights that will help you craft truly outstanding PR recommendations.” -Leo Bottary

Three blog posts that focus on tips/advice for young PR professionals:

1. Six Suggestions to the Young PR Professional

From Rick Liebling, the Global Director, Client Management, for Taylor, a PR agency with offices in NY, LA, London, Chicago and Charlotte.

2. What I Want PR and Marketing Professionals to Know

From Chris Brogan, President of New Marketing Labs and a 10 year veteran of using social media. He has 41,030 followers on Twitter!!!

3. Wait! That’s Not Me (As Seen on Google)

From University of Oregon PR student, Amanda Ip. Gives tips on how to provide a digital footprint that’s really you.

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Who Wouldn’t Want a Second Brain?


Web 2.0 applicatons were completely foreign to me until a few weeks ago, when I had to research a web 2.0 application as part of a class assignment. After browsing “The Complete Web 2.0 Sites Directory” for nearly an hour and a half, I discovered Secondbrain.


The purpose of Secondbrain is to import content from all your favorite services to one place. You can browse and search all of your content, organize your content and keep track of your content in a single library. You can also find people through content, and content through people.

People who have a wide variety of social media accounts, i.e., wordpress, blogger, Google Docs, flickr, etc. would be most interested in this application.

Pros of Secondbrain:

  • Follow people with similar interests and browse their content
  • Save other people’s content to your library
  • The list of icons under the users’ profile pictures allows quick and easy access to their social media sites

Cons of Secondbrain:

  • The overall design is cluttered and not the easiest to navigate
  • People might be hesitant to upload their content because the site is not extremely well-known
  • Some profiles have too much extraneous information to sift through

This application could be used in a PR context because it is an easy way to showcase all the different social media platforms that you use. You could send a link to potential employers and let them track all of your content on one website. This application could also be helpful in terms of sharing content with fellow employees.

Overall, I think this application is well on its way to becoming a useful tool for avid social media users. The design lay-out needs some work in terms of organization, but the way users can organize their personal content is very user-friendly. I looked at the CEO Lars Teigan’s Secondbrain page to see how he manages his content on the site. He has by far the most “followers” and a large library full of content. For me, this helped to legitimize his site to see him taking advantage of all the benefits Secondbrain has to offer. I think the key to making this application useful is to register more users and motivate them to share their content with other users.

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