Tag Archives: public relations

The Deer Creek Watershed Alliance Campaign to Promote Rainscaping in the St. Louis Missouri Metro Area

Here is my final paper for Strategic Communication Applications. It’s been graded now, but since class is over and I got a score that pleases me I didn’t make any changes here. As you’ll see, I refer to myself in the third person in this paper. That is because I decided to write it as if was an impartial observer. Enjoy!

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Mary Bufe
PBRL 5380: Strategic Communication Applications
16 October 2020

This analysis will examine how public relations campaigns have encouraged the installation of rainscaping and rain gardens in St. Louis County and what were the results when citizens attempted to enact what the campaigns recommended. Rainscaping is a landscaping technique that utilizes green infrastructure including directing excess stormwater runoff into planted bioretention areas, known as rain gardens (Buranen). Some residents of St. Louis County have received cooperation from the county while installing their rainscaping features, while we know of one St. Louis County couple, Tom Winkelmann and Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann, who experienced persecution and harassment from St. Louis County for using the same recommended techniques.

Organization’s history and background

Deer Creek Watershed is an area of St. Louis County that is a sub-watershed of the River Des Peres Watershed. The River Des Peres Watershed is large and complex with portions in both St. Louis City and St. Louis County (EcoWorks Unlimited 6). In 2008, citizens who lived in the Deer Creek Watershed approached Missouri Botanical Garden to explore ways of mitigating destructive water runoff activity in their locality. Missouri Botanical Garden formed an alliance for the purpose of exploring plant-based solutions to stormwater runoff problems with these citizens, along with “Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, Washington University, East-West Gateway Council of Governments, American Society of Civil Engineers, Great Rivers Greenway, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Stream Teams, River des Peres Watershed Coalition, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis County, local garden clubs” and 21 local municipalities (EcoWorks Unlimited 6, 9).

St. Louis County entered into an agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency from 2003-2013 (Sutin) to reduce storm water runoff and pollution, problems that rainscaping helps to fight. Combined sewer overflows, sanitary and stormwater, have been plaguing the St. Louis metro area for years, causing damage and pollution in the area and downstream. As a result the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is required by the EPA and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment to fix the problem in 23 years. The clock started in 2011 (Buranen).

St. Louis County and the Metropolitan Sewer District, hereafter known in this document as STLCO and MSD, have constituencies that overlap. Besides being fellow members of the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, aka DCWA, these two organizations are logical allies in the fight against stormwater pollution and flooding.

Demonstration projects along with testing and water quality monitoring were performed by alliance members in parts of the affected watershed in order to successfully prove the effectiveness of rainscaping techniques (EcoWorks Unlimited 23-25, Winkelmann “Aquatic Macro Invertebrates…”, Buranen). Since the majority of land within the target watershed is privately owned, it was necessary to enroll citizens in the alliance’s goals and projects (EcoWorks Unlimited 19, 22).

Organization’s Mission, Vision and Brand

In its own words, the mission of DCWA is “facilitating a community-wide effort for over 10 years to protect and improve water quality through plant-based solutions” (The Deer Creek Alliance).

After its inception, DCWA recommended the following public relations efforts to enlist citizen involvement (EcoWorks Unlimited 22).

  1. Rainscaping demonstration projects in schools.
  2. Workshops for area professionals.
  3. Annual public engagement projects led by citizens.
  4. Building a contact list of citizens in the watershed through tables at festivals, networking, presentations utilizing PowerPoint, and media campaigns.
  5. Cultivating the contact list with email newsletters, the web site, and public meetings.
  6. Helping cities communicate about pilot projects, incentives and barrier removal mechanisms.

In 2014, when the Deer Creek Watershed Management Plan Summary was finalized, St. Louis County resident Carolyn Hasenfratz, now known as Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann, was single and living within the Deer Creek Watershed in a condominium in Brentwood. Already an avid gardener, she obtained a permit to garden around her condo unit right after her 2004 move in. Keenly interested in sustainable and eco-friendly gardening, she constantly updated her knowledge and practices with every bit of information she could glean from “green” gatherings and gardening resources. A frequent attendee at events such as Earth Day and the Sustainable Living Expo, she was aware of Project Clear, Operation Clean Stream and other alliance member activities through some of the table promotions mentioned by the DCWA(Winkelmann “Photo of Patches”). Observing water runoff problems around her condo unit, Winkelmann experimented with, to the extent allowed by the condo association guidelines, small scale stormwater control techniques (Winkelmann “Garden Maintenance in…”).

In 2016, Winkelmann successfully completed training and was certified in the St. Louis Master Gardener program, a membership she has retained until the present time (Winkelmann “Mass Communication Final…”). Master Gardener activities include yearly minimum time commitments for volunteer work and continuing education, and consequently brought Winkelmann into closer involvement with Project Clear and the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, as she personally participated in several of their outreach efforts and projects.

Missouri Stream Teams – Winkelmann became a volunteer at the Litzinger Road Ecology Center immediately after certification as a Master Gardener. LREC is a Missouri Botanical Garden facility and is located right on Deer Creek. Volunteers from Missouri Stream Teams, another DCWA partner organization, conducted a demonstration of surveying macro-invertebrates which is one of their methods of testing the effectiveness of rainscaping techniques (Winkelmann “Aquatic Macro Invertebrates…”). She has volunteered for several years in Operation Clean Stream events, an ongoing cleanup effort of trash along area waterways (Winkelmann “Operation Clean Stream…”).

Workshops for area professionals – Winkelmann attended a session on green controls for stormwater runoff at Missouri Botanical Garden to learn more about rainscaping (Winkelmann “Photo of Handouts”).

Presentations utilizing PowerPoint – After attending a presentation on Project Clear by an MSD representative, Winkelmann wrote an article for her employer’s newsletter to help disseminate the information to customers (Winkelmann “MSD’s Project Clear…”). MSD has been promoting a long-term campaign called Project Clear, the “planning, design and construction of MSD’s initiative to improve water quality and alleviate many wastewater concerns in the St. Louis region” (Winkelmann “MSD’s Project Clear…”). Project Clear utilizes a three-part classification system to organize projects. The category “Get the Rain Out” is the portion that addresses remedies in which individual citizens and property owners can engage (MSD Project Clear “MSD Project Clear Initiative”). The premise of “Get the Rain Out” is that if we reduce the amount of rainwater that goes into the stormwater management systems at peak times, disasters can be averted and the water quality for our region and those downstream from us will improve. The aforementioned practice of rainscaping is one of the two main initiatives in the “Get the Rain Out” category (MSD Project Clear “Rainscaping”). A prominent incentive touted for rainscaping is monetary grants to property owners who install rainscaping features. (MSD Project Clear “MSD Project Clear Initiative”).

Problem Statement

Carolyn Hasenfratz married Tom Winkelmann in 2018 and moved into the husband’s home in Affton. The couple started installing rainscaping features shortly after becoming engaged since the property had severe existing drainage problems. According to Winkelmann’s blog, the next-door neighbor made false claims to St. Louis County about the effect of the Winkelmann’s rainscaping on her property, resulting in a year of entanglements with the St. Louis County Department of Public Works. The husband, who is the registered property owner, was forced to appear in court under pain of arrest (Winkelmann “Drainage Problems Are…”). After the charges were dismissed in court in July 2019, Winkelmann’s blog reports that harassment of the couple by the St. Louis County Department of Public works resumed in January 2020 and persisted until the end of April 2020 when the couple contacted the County Executive’s office and provided video documentation of the alleged harassment (Winkelmann “St. Louis County…”). The current position of the St. Louis County Department of Public Works is that the rainscaping employed by the Winkelmanns is acceptable and no explanation was offered to explain their previous opposition.

Since St. Louis County is a member of the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, to have part of the organization undermining the alliance’s goals is confusing and could discourage other St. Louis County residents from adopting rainscaping techniques. The attitude of the St. Louis County Department of Public Works shown to this couple indicates that at least some of the inspectors and supervisor of inspectors are or were either uninformed about rainscaping, hostile to it, or both. Here is a quote from the supervisor of inspectors to Mrs. Winkelmann that seems to indicate skepticism about rainscaping as a concept, and mockery toward the homeowners for employing it. “Should a complaint come in about a public nuisance created by the ditches you’ve dug in your husband’s yard we will be required by law to re-issue the NOV and seek compliance. If you want to create a “rain garden” at some time in the future, and the necessary changes involved with that process are in violation of County ordinances, you will need to seek a special use permit or a zoning variance” (Winkelmann “Drainage Problems Are”). It’s less than precise to judge attitudes solely from written communication, but this supervisor refused to speak to the Winkelmanns on the phone or to visit the site in person despite repeated invitations, so this kind of communication is all the evidence of the department’s attitudes available.

Who is involved or affected? How are they involved or affected and why is this a concern to the organization and its publics?

Events in recent history have made it clear that flooding in St. Louis County is still a serious problem. For example, the River Des Peres flooded in 2019 and 2020, causing pollution and property destruction in South St. Louis (Hignett, Lincoln, Wicentowski). A South St. Louis resident estimated the amount of water in his neighborhood to be equivalent to the historic flood of 1993. 2019 and 2020 are eight and nine years into the 23-year agreement between MSD, the EPA, and Missouri Coalition for the Environment. The 1993 and 2019 flood events that the resident compared are very different in scale in terms of the effects on the entire metro area, so this one event may not mean that MSD is losing the battle and is going to miss their deadline. However, these recent floods could be regarded as evidence that there is still a lot of work to be done.

If the St. Louis County Department of Public Works is going to persecute people who try to be part of the solution, they will discourage property owners from adopting rainscaping techniques and we will all pay the price in higher sewer bills, flood destruction and deteriorated water quality. All subscribers to MSD are affected because of the cost, and every person who lives downstream from the St. Louis metro area is affected by decreased water quality – all the way to the Gulf of Mexico where there is a dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi that varies in size every year (“Mississippi River…”). This has implications for the health of drinking water downstream, the health of fishing in the Gulf, property loss, decreased tourism, land erosion and possibly other destructive effects (“Mississippi River…”).

Mrs. Winkelmann personally spent over 43.6 hours of labor defending the rainscaping she and her husband installed, representing an economic loss because she is partially self-employed and that is time that she could have spent earning money instead (Winkelmann “St. Louis County…”). The couple spent approximately $300 on security cameras to obtain evidence to stop the harassment, and since they don’t live in in the area that offers rebates to homeowners who install rainscaping, all of the property upgrades have been performed at their own personal expense (Winkelmann “St. Louis County…”).

MSD and the other members of the DCWA have invested huge amounts of money and labor into trying to convince the public to install rainscaping features on their own property (Buranen). MSD subscribers have partially paid for this advocacy with their sewer bills and will be paying for many more years. Many people do not have the resources, time, or the interest to fight St. Louis County and could be intimidated out of acting in an environmentally responsible way just because it’s easier and cheaper and keeps them out of court, not because they are indifferent the environment and our fellow Americans downriver.

Anyone who contributes resources to the following partial list of organizations, either voluntarily or through taxation, is potentially having some of their money that was spent on sponsoring the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance wasted: Great Rivers Greenway, Missouri Department of Conservation, US EPA Region 7, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Botanical Garden, Washington University, East-West Gateway Council of Governments, American Society of Civil Engineers, Missouri Stream Teams, River des Peres Watershed Coalition, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis County, allied local garden clubs and the 21 affected local municipalities (The Deer Creek Alliance, EcoWorks Unlimited 6, 9). Most of the money for the cost-share grants is derived from private property taxes (Chen).

Continued Advocacy and Outreach by Alliance Members

DCWA members continue to work on the organization’s goals of mitigating pollution, habitat loss and flood damage with the help of plants. The Alliance “Take Action” web page calls for the following activities (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Take Action”):

The Rainscaping Cost-Share Program – funded by the “Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation, and US EPA Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (subgrant number G19-NPS-11), under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act”, the cost-share program continues with large and small cost-share grants available, to help out individual homeowners, businesses and institutions (MSD Project Clear “Rainscaping”).

Education – online resources to teach property owners how to rainscape (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Rainscaping”, “Rain Gardens”).

Water pollution prevention tips (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Reduce Water Pollution”, Winkelmann “Online photo album…”).

Guidelines on conducting a citizen led creek cleanup (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Lead a Creek Cleanup”).

News of volunteer activities and opportunities from the Green Keepers, Great Rivers Missouri Master Naturalists, Missouri Stream Teams, Open Space Council and St. Louis Master Gardeners (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Webster Groves Green Keepers”). Some of the organizations listed here are official alliance members while others are assumed by this analyst to be allies as their goals and projects often overlap.

Invasive Honeysuckle removal (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Root Docking Invasive Honeysuckle”, Winkelmann “Tips for Removing…”).

News about continuing education opportunities (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Learning Opportunities”).

Project Clear outreach and educational exhibits in an annex at the new St. Louis Aquarium (Winkelmann “Online photo album…”). In this area visitors can get brochures about Project Clear, play interactive games, use an interactive and educational kiosk, view a demonstration rain garden and engage in other activities that educate about water quality and water conservation.

Evaluation

One result that is easy to see is that The Deer Creek Watershed Alliance did an excellent job getting the word out about the cost-share grants for rainscaping. This analyst found news articles about the availability of the grants from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Giegerich, Schuessler), Kirkwood, MO Patch (Greenbaum), St. Louis Public Radio (Chen) and the St. Louis American (“MSD accepting applications…”).

Have property owners been taking advantage of the grants? “In the model [first] round, there were only eight applications. The second [following year] round had sixty-six applications” reported an official in 2018 (Buranen). Two of Project Clear’s pilot rainscaping projects, Old North and Cortex, have been well-received by the public and the educational signage has been observed to attract attention and interest (Buranen). Interest in rain gardens has increased throughout the area even by those, like the Winkelmanns, who are not located in the grant award area (Buranen). For example, an alternate funding source provided the large rain gardens on the Webster University campus in Webster Groves (Buranen). The Deer Creek Watershed Alliance published an infographic in 2018, claiming credit for 364 rainscaping project installations among many other educational and environmental achievements during its first 10 years (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Achievements”).

Negative reactions

Since neither the St. Louis County Department of Public Works or the County Executive’s office would provide an explanation to the Winkelmanns about the initial resistance to their rainscaping (Winkelmann “St. Louis County…”), this analyst can only speculate about what the problem might have been. In a search for negative reactions in the St. Louis area to the idea of rainscaping, excepting the reports in the Winkelmann blog, only one example was found by this analyst. Here are a couple of selections from a letter to the editor, published by the St Louis Post-Dispatch in 2013 (Niehaus).

“New gardens may rain dollars” (Jan. 6) reports that homeowners in 14 communities may receive up to $2,000 if they “rainscape” their yards to retain run-off into the Deer Creek watershed.”

Mr. Niehaus put the word “rainscape” in quotes in a mocking way, similar to John L. Geiler, Assistant Chief Residential Inspector of St. Louis County Public Works, who mocked the Winkelmanns “rain garden” in his email without having first accepted an invitation to come to look at it (Winkelmann “Drainage Problems Are…”).

“Funny, I don’t recall voting on a measure that would pass along thousands of dollars to needy homeowners in Ladue, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Frontenac, Kirkwood, Warson Woods, etc.”

From that sentence and the rest of the published letter, it is apparent that there is a lot of information that this citizen did not know. For example, rain gardens put in along Deer Creek reduce flooding and pollution in places like South St. Louis and everywhere downstream from that, including many communities not as affluent as the places he mentioned. Nevertheless, appearing to divert taxpayer money to the benefit of wealthy citizens is not a good impression to create, and it would be helpful for the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance to continue to also promote the rain garden projects in other less advantaged parts of the metro area to raise their profile. With prevalent citizen apathy to government activities (Broom and Sha 362) and a dearth of reporters to create original news coverage (Grieco), a lot of misinformation that gets out into the public remains uncorrected and unexamined.

It’s more surprising that some St. Louis County government employees, who work for an organization that is a Deer Creek Watershed member, seem to be little better informed six to seven years later (Winkelmann “Drainage Problems Are…”, “St. Louis County…”). We know that there are many barriers to successful communication between citizens and government as well as branches of government with each other (Broom and Sha 356-366). In addition to lack of interest by citizens and a shortage of reporters, the scale of the task is overwhelming and there are bureaucratic layers, mistrust, and actors with varying agendas to overcome.

Despite all these challenges, the sources I have found in preparing this analysis seem to indicate that the rainscaping movement in the St. Louis area is not dying out, but rather is gaining momentum. Since the Winkelmanns have been left alone by the Department of Public Works since April 2020 (Winkelmann “St. Louis County…”), at least one more of St. Louis County’s internal publics, the Department of Public Works, seems to have been brought further into co-orientation with the other Deer Creek Watershed Alliance members. That is good news, because as evidenced by recent floods, the need for more green infrastructure in our area has not abated.

Works Cited

Allen, Michael. “The Harnessed Channel: How the River Des Peres Became a Sewer.” Preservation Research Office, 2010, preservationresearch.com/infrastructure/the-harnessed-channel-how-the-river-des-peres-became-a-sewer/. Accessed 16 October 2020.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Buranen, Margaret. “Tackling Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and Flooding Issues in St. Louis.” Endeavor Business Media, 2018, www.stormh2o.com/green-infrastructure/article/13034725/tackling-combined-sewer-overflows-csos-and-flooding-issues-in-st-louis. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Chen, Eli. “Curious Louis: How is St. Louis managing stormwater runoff?.” St. Louis Public Radio, 2017, news.stlpublicradio.org/health-science-environment/2017-01-11/curious-louis-how-is-st-louis-managing-stormwater-runoff. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org. Accessed 18 September 2020.

—. “Achievements”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2018, www.deercreekalliance.org/achievements. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Take Action”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/involved. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “The Deer Creek Alliance”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/. Accessed 18 September 2020.

—. “Rainscaping”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/rainscaping. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Reduce Water Pollution”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/pollution. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Lead a Creek Cleanup”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/cleanup. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Webster Groves Green Keepers”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/wg_green_keepers. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Root Docking Invasive Honeysuckle”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/root_docking_honeysuckle. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Learning Opportunities”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/learn. Accessed 15 October 2020.

EcoWorks Unlimited for the Missouri Botanical Garden. “Deer Creek Watershet Management Plan Summary”, 2014, d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/deercreekalliance/pages/48/attachments/original/1526495599/Plan_Summary_20141030_WebVersion.pdf. Accessed 13 October 2020.

Giegerich, Steve. “St. Louis County residents could get money for rainscaping.” STLtoday.com, 2013, www.stltoday.com/news/local/st-louis-county-residents-could-get-money-for-rainscaping/article_f7412a5d-5699-56c5-884b-e4a1f66db66e.html. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Gilberg, Cindy. “Rain Gardens Contribute to Clean Water.” The Healthy Planet, 2011, thehealthyplanet.com/2011/05/rain-gardens-contribute-to-clean-water/. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Greenbaum, Kurt. “Want Your Kirkwood Yard to Look Like This?” Patch Media, 2013, patch.com/missouri/kirkwood/want-your-kirkwood-yard-to-look-like-this. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Grieco, Elizabeth. “U.S. newspapers have shed half of their newsroom employees since 2008.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/20/u-s-newsroom-employment-has-dropped-by-a-quarter-since-2008/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Hignett, Katherine. “Viral Video Shows Mississippi River Flooding at St. Louis as River Approaches Historic Levels.” Newsweek, 2019, www.newsweek.com/mississippi-river-flooding-video-crest-1443300. Accessed 16 October 2020.

Lincoln, Ashli. “Residents still allowed to live in condemned apartment complex in University City” KMOV | News 4 St. Louis, 2020, www.kmov.com/news/residents-still-allowed-to-live-in-condemned-apartment-complex-in-university-city/article_d7e46c52-038f-11eb-9a9c-dfdf78456667.html. Accessed 16 October 2020.

“Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2020, www.epa.gov/ms-htf. Accessed 15 October 2020.

“MSD accepting applications for rainscaping grants through October 31.” St. Louis American, 2018, www.stlamerican.com/news/local_news/msd-accepting-applications-for-rainscaping-grants-through-october-31/article_846e81d0-9978-11e8-a837-fba7498d138f.html. Accessed 15 October 2020.

MSD Project Clear. “Small Grants Program”. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, 2020, msdprojectclear.org/what-we-do/rainscaping/small-grants/, Accessed 14 October 2020.

—. “Rainscaping.” Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, 2020, msdprojectclear.org/what-we-do/rainscaping/. Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. “MSD Project Clear Initiative.” Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, 2020, msdprojectclear.org/about/project-clear-initiative/. Accessed 13 October 2020.

Niehaus, Craig. “Sustainability siphons money and water.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2013, www.stltoday.com/opinion/mailbag/sustainability-siphons-money-and-water/article_0722da06-d6f2-5b67-b662-0395a41fa1f1.html. Accessed 16 October 2020.

Pringle, Travis. “Rainy Day Garden Party.” Patch Media, 2011, patch.com/missouri/universitycity/rainy-day-garden-party. Accessed 15 October 2020.

“Rain Gardens.” East-West Gateway Council of Governments, 2020, www.onestl.org/toolkit/list/practice/rain-gardens. Accessed 14 October 2020.

Rose, Angie. “A History of River des Peres.” Angieranderson, 2011, angieranderson.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/13/. Accessed 16 October 2020.

Schuessler. “Creve Coeur OKs incentives for eco-friendly landscaping.” STLtoday.com, 2012, www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/creve-coeur-oks-incentives-for-eco-friendly-landscaping/article_79beefd5-e848-53f9-92cc-d4024621bab0.html. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Sutin, Phil. “MSD promotes rain gardens, other methods to slow, clean storm water.” Publisher, copyright date, www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/msd-promotes-rain-gardens-other-methods-to-slow-clean-storm/article_629b10d2-ca5c-53fd-88ed-82e41c24136f.html. Accessed 18 September 2020.

Wicentowski, Danny. “The River Des Peres Is Eating South St. Louis.” Riverfront Times, 2019, www.riverfronttimes.com/newsblog/2019/06/06/the-river-des-peres-is-eating-south-st-louis. Accessed 16 October 2020.

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Garden Maintenance in Wet Weather.” Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2015, schnarrsblog.com/garden-maintenance-in-wet-weather/. Accessed 14 October 2020.

—. “Aquatic Macro Invertebrates at Litzinger Road Ecology Center”. Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/aquatic-macro-invertebrates-at-litzinger-road-ecology-center/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. Photo of Patches. Facebook, 21 June 2017. www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10213641471095335&set=a.4010664309257. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “MSD’s Project Clear and Our Local Water Issues”. Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/msds-project-clear-and-our-local-water-issues/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. “Tips for Removing Invasive Honeysuckle”. Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/tips-removing-invasive-honeysuckle/, Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Drainage Problems Are Bringing Tom and Me To Court”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/drainage-problems-are-bringing-tom-and-i-to-court/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. “Mass Communication Final Paper”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/mass-communication-final-paper/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. “Operation Clean Stream 2019 on the Meramec River”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/operation-clean-stream-2019-on-the-meramec-river/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. “St. Louis County Harassing Us Again.” Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2020, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/st-louis-county-harassing-us-again/. Accessed 18 September 2020.

—. “Barriers to Government and Citizen Communication”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2020, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/barriers-to-government-and-citizen-communication/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. Online photo album with captions. Facebook, 27 September 2020, 10:55 AM, www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10224249615372312&type=3. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. Photo of Handouts. Facebook,15 October 2020, 6:12 PM, www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10224390520054841&set=a.10223930154825998. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Barriers to Government and Citizen Communication

The first part of this post is a homework assignment for Strategic Communications Applications class in which I summarize the barriers to government and citizen communication as stated in our textbook, “Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations”. The second section is my own commentary which includes a lot of my opinion, speculation, and things I’d like the opportunity to delve into further to either prove or disprove. What do you think? Is your government a help to your life, a deadweight on your progress, or a mixture of both?

In our textbook are listed many challenges to successful two-way communication between citizens and government (Broom and Sha 356-366).

1. The government is large and complex with many bureaucratic layers that are difficult and time consuming to navigate.

2. Citizens expectations of what services government should provide keep expanding.

3. There is suspicion about the ethics of the entire profession of public relations and the governments that employ them.

4. Actual incidents of government misinformation have occurred, intentional or just not thorough enough, interpreted as lies or spin, such as in the Iraq war buildup.

5. There is a lot of citizen apathy.

6. There is often hostility of legislators to the public relations profession for budget and other reasons, sometimes causing practitioners to choose other areas of expertise.

7. A lack of journalists to cover government activity thoroughly.

8. When it comes to distributing information, government and media often have different agendas.

9. The job of informing the public is too large for anyone to do well.

10. Unlike a business with a more limited scope, a government has to attempt to please everyone rather than cater to one public in particular.

Works Cited

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

My Further Commentary

Here are some factors I’ve considered that the book did not mention, based partly on my own opinion, perceptions and experiences. I’ll put in any links and citations I can find as I go, exploring ideas that I can bolster with other sources.

A. Some members of government agencies represent their departments poorly and abuse their power over citizens, building mistrust. This apparently is what happened to my husband and I when we started putting in a rain garden to help cope with excess storm water. I documented all that in these two blog posts of mine and my final project for this course, Strategic Communications Applications, will partly be an attempt to analyze and find motivation for these actions against us.

B. News media is no longer the watchdog over government that it once was, due to more activist news coverage (Broom and Sha 365), or was perceived to have been. There is more than one reason for this in my opinion.

    • 1. Because traditional “old media” institutions are losing revenue to other channels, they are concentrating more on their social media channels. News on social media tends to be less informative, more opinion based, less accurate, and posted by journalists who are less constrained by ethics or standards than in the past (“The Impact of…”). Much content is only created to get views and clicks in order to sell ads and does not need to have much substance or even be true in order to meet the goals of the media organizations who publish it (Johnstone).
    • 2. Investigative journalism about government takes a lot of time and money to produce, and available money and staff are more limited (Grieco). Journalists can get stories with less time and effort by just repeating statements from sources without confirming or investigating (Johnstone).
        “Journalists wanted information to be easily available, yet resented the men and women who made it available. By the mid twentieth century, journalists were dependent on PR practitioners for a large percentage of the stories appearing in newspapers. But admitting their dependence would shatter cherished ideals. Journalists were proud of their ability to uncover stories, verify details, and expose sham. Thus, they were unlikely to admit their dependence, lack of skepticism, failure to verify, and failure to expose every sham.” – Delorme and Fedler, 2003. (Broom and Sha, 226)
    • 3. The attention span of the average person in our country is going down and there is less demand for in-depth stories with enough information to truly be informed (Lords).
    • 4. Issues related to the size and function of government are politicized. The personal philosophy of journalists and companies that employ them is more likely to follow their political interests rather than the well-being of citizens than in the past (“The Impact of…”).
    • 5. The media has less and less credibility with citizens because of selective reporting, staging and manipulating events in order to have a story that they want to be able to report, un-named sources that may or may not even exist and outright fabrication (“The Impact of…”, Johnstone). There are bi-partisan examples of this to be found. I’ll post one example each from two different political sides here for examination.

      The Pew Research Center measures the public’s attitudes toward both media and government and finds that news coverage about government is evaluated and consumed very differently according to political affiliation (Jurkowitz, et al).

    • 6. Many media institutions and personalities engage in “gaslighting”, similar to what is often done to the victim in abusive domestic relationships. Media, both entertainment and what is presented as “news” is permeated with attempts to make a lot of people who have done nothing wrong and have accurate and reasonable perceptions of reality to feel ridiculed and ostracized (Battaglio). If this is continued, the “Spiral of Silence” theory posits that certain ideas disappear from public discourse over time (Baran and Davis 268). Our form of government is based on the premise that people should be free to discuss issues in order to make the most rational choice, but there are many forces trying to restrict certain information from being discussed in public (Bufkin, Farrah, Gordon, OyperG, Poulakidakos, Sherr).

      For example in 2013 I was literally holding in my hand a letter from my insurance company saying that my insurance was cancelled when an “entertainment” podcast I was listening to was ridiculing people who claimed that their insurance was cancelled, claiming we were liars trying to fool people. This was a podcast that I had a paid subscription to. I sent a scan of my rejection letter to the podcast host along with a cancellation of my subscription to the podcast. The host’s response was to call me stupid and say I was making it up. That’s an example of gaslighting and DARVO, Deny Attack Reverse Victim Offender, a tactic that abusive domestic partners and other abusers use to keep their victims under coercive control (Harsey, Zurbriggen and Freyd, 644). While the majority of media outlets were trying to deny that there were cancellations happening, a web site with Twitter account was set up for people to send pictures of their cancellation letters for publication (Fennell). Twitter shut that account down, then reinstated it later after public outrage (Fennell). Since I did see my letter on that web site and Twitter account and it was unaltered from what I sent them, I judged the things they were posting to be credible unless I was presented with information indicating otherwise. So even in a society where there is supposed to be freedom of speech and the government has limited ability to censor if the constitution is followed, corporations can take political stances and if they don’t want certain things known they can do a lot to censor information that isn’t in their interests (OyperG, Fennell, Bufkin). If we rely for information on a corporation that is in the business of news or providing a communication platform, we can’t assume without investigating that we are getting true or complete information about any issue. While media corporations sometimes have an agenda that is in opposition to a government (Broom and Sha 365), at other times they can be complicit (Woodruff). Citizens must investigate for themselves to try to determine the truth to the best of their ability, and many do not have the time or interest and so remain poorly informed (Broom and Sha 356-366, Poulakidakos 373).

TO BE CONTINUED…

Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Battaglio, Stephen, “Hallmark Channel isn’t winning Emmys, but red states love it.” Los Angeles Times, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-hallmark-red-state-20170914-story.html. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Bufkin, Ellie, “Twitter Users Appalled by Bias and Censorship Plan Boycott.” Townhall.com/Salem Media, 2020, https://townhall.com/tipsheet/elliebufkin/2020/06/24/conservatives-appalled-by-bias-and-censorship-plan-twitter-boycott-n2571231. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Farrah, Kristen. “Republicans fear prejudice on campus.” Webster Journal, 2019, websterjournal.com/…/republicans-fear-prejudice-on…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Fennell, “Twitter Suspends (Then Reinstates) Account Critical of Obamacare.” IndustryDive, 2013, www.socialmediatoday.com/content/twitter-suspends-then-reinstates-account-critical-obamacare. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Gearhart, Sherice, and Weiwu Zhang. “Same Spiral, Different Day? Testing the Spiral of Silence across Issue Types.” Communication Research, vol. 45, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 34-54. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0093650215616456. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Gordon, Sherri. “How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook.” Dotdash, 2019, www.verywellmind.com/how-to-handle-political-bullying…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Grieco, Elizabeth. “U.S. newspapers have shed half of their newsroom employees since 2008.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/20/u-s-newsroom-employment-has-dropped-by-a-quarter-since-2008/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Hasenfratz, Carolyn. “MSD’s Project Clear and Our Local Water Issues.” Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/msds-project-clear-and-our-local-water-issues/. Accessed 15 October 2019.

Johnstone, Caitlin. “‘Confirmed’ Is a Meaningless Word In MSM News Reporting.” Consortiumnews, 2020, consortiumnews.com/2020/09/27/confirmed-is-a-meaningless-word-in-msm-news-reporting/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Jurkowitz, Mark et al. “U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.journalism.org/2020/01/24/u-s-media-polarization-and-the-2020-election-a-nation-divided/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Kim, Mihee. “Facebook’s Spiral of Silence and Participation: The Role of Political Expression on Facebook and Partisan Strength in Political Participation.” CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, vol. 19, no. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 696-702. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0137. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Lords, Shannon, “As Attention Spans Get Shorter, Content Gets Even Shorter – What Would Ken Burns Do?” Advertising Week, 2020, https://www.advertisingweek360.com/attention-spans-get-shorter-content-gets-shorter-ken-burns/. Accessed 10 October 2020.

Madrigal, Alexis C. “What Facebook Did to American Democracy And why it was so hard to see it coming.” The Atlantic, 2017, www.theatlantic.com/…/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

OyperG, “NBC Goes Mask Off – Reveals Twitter Censorship Methods After Devastating Hack.” Bitcoin Warrior, 2020, bitcoinwarrior.net/2020/07/nbc-goes-mask-off-reveals-twitter-censorship-methods-after-devastating-hack/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

Poulakidakos, Stamatis, et al. “Post-Truth, Propaganda and the Transformation of the Spiral of Silence.” International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, vol. 14, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 367-382. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1386/macp.14.3.367_1. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Sarah J. Harsey, Eileen L. Zurbriggen & Jennifer J. Freyd (2017) Perpetrator Responses to Victim Confrontation: DARVO and Victim Self-Blame, Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 26:6, 644-663, DOI: 10.1080/10926771.2017.1320777. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Sherr, Ian. “How Facebook censors your posts (FAQ).” CNET, 2016, www.cnet.com/news/how-zuckerberg-facebook-censors-korryn-gaines-philando-castile-dallas-police-your-posts-faq/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

Silverblatt, Art et al. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Fourth Edition. Praeger, 2014.

Swift, Art. “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low.” Gallup, Inc. 2016, https://news.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx. Accessed 24 September 2019.

“Taliban Denies CBS Claim of Endorsing Trump Reelection.” Tasnim News Agency, 2020, www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2020/10/11/2367327/taliban-denies-cbs-claim-of-endorsing-trump-reelection. Accessed 11 October 2020.

“The Impact Of Social Media On News and Journalism.” New York Film Academy, 2014, www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/social-media-in-journalism/. Accessed 10 October 2020.

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Drainage Problems Are Bringing Tom and Me To Court.” Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/drainage-problems-are-bringing-tom-and-i-to-court/. Accessed 15 October 2019.

Woodruff, Betsy. “Democrat Rep: Insurance Cancellation Letters Should Have Just Said Things Are Getting Better.” National Review, 2013, www.nationalreview.com/corner/democrat-rep-insurance-cancellation-letters-should-have-just-said-things-are-getting/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

I also put some resources I’ve collected as I work on my degree on this Pinterest board:

https://www.pinterest.com/chasenfratz/media-analysis/

Corporate Social Responsibility and Irresponsibility

Here is some more of my homework for Strategic Comminications class at Webster University. The topic of Corporate Social Responsibility is one that we have addressed several times. Here is one of my writing assignments followed by some of my online discussion posts offered as food for thought.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Irresponsibility

“Cuties” is a film recently added to the network Netflix that director Maïmouna Doucouré claims is “social commentary against the sexualization of young children” (Sandler). Enough people were either offended by the topic of the film or the marketing of the film to organize petitions, boycotts and the hashtag campaign #CancelNetflix (Sandler). Netflix did in fact experience a higher number of cancellations than usual in September 2020 as a result of what some interpret as the normalization of pedophilia and child porn (Sandler). In the long term, will the reputation of Netflix be harmed permanently?

Findings in the paper “Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility and Corporate Hypocrisy: Warmth, Motive and the Protective Value of Corporate Social Responsibility” suggest that the negative backlash against Netflix will be short-lived (Chen 486–524). Sometimes the same firms engage in acts that are perceived as both Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Social Irresponsibility (CSI) (Chen 486-487).

Netflix believes that showing the film “Cuties” is an act of CSR because it exposes and criticizes the sexualization of children, even though enough former viewers to create a noticeable spike in cancellations believes they have displayed CSI instead (Sandler). Netflix formerly employed actor Kevin Spacey to star in their original series “House of Cards” which was very popular and profitable for Netflix (Czarnecki). Netflix lost millions by firing Spacey to demonstrate support for the #metoo movement, but gained a great deal of good will from the public in return (Czarnecki).

It seems logical to assume that it is important to try to avoid the appearance of corporate hypocrisy – the difference between the perception of the values a firm vs. it’s actions. Is Netflix going to be judged as engaging in corporate hypocrisy, and therefore suffer in reputation? According to authors Chen et al in “Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility and Corporate Hypocrisy: Warmth, Motive and the Protective Value of Corporate Social Responsibility”, hypocrisy does not always do harm to firms (Chen 487-490).

One factor that insulates a corporation against negative effects on its reputation is the perception of warmth (Chen 490). By accepting a significant financial loss to mitigate the “House of Cards” scandal (Czarnecki), Netflix raised their perception of corporate warmth to a great degree by promoting others interests above its own (Chen 490). In addition Netflix is “… a company that’s reinvented itself from being a tech-based internet-content-delivery machine to a creator of world-class content. Those two things combined have translated into an unprecedented reputational gain” (Czarnecki). Is there a rational reason for people to feel warm emotions toward a provider of entertainment as opposed to some other product or service? A paper by Eduard Sioe-Hao Tan suggests why that might indeed be the case (Tan 45). “A lay person’s understanding of what it means to entertain somebody involves being amusing or giving pleasure, activities associated with being a good host to a guest.” The entertainer may be considered responsible for voluntarily rendering a personal service to the viewer (Tan 45).

The perception of competence is another attitude that can mitigate CSI in the minds of stakeholders (Chen 490). Amazon is a company that is considered very competent but lacks the emotional connection enjoyed by it’s book-selling rival Barnes & Noble which connected with shoppers emotions by associating physical bookstores with nostalgic values (Czarnecki). Now that Amazon has evolved beyond just a delivery system of entertainment and is also in competition with Netflix as a producer of original entertainment content, the battle over viewer’s emotions will be interesting to observe. At a time when the spotlight is on racial injustice to a greater degree than is normal, Amazon and Netflix both made donations to organizations working toward racial equality (Hessekiel). Amazon donated 10 million, and Netflix donated 1 million. The amounts could reflect the resources available to each company for such expenditures, the awareness by Amazon that it needs to buy moral credits more than Netflix does, or perhaps some combination of the two. In that light, what is the meaning of WalMart donating 100 million?

Speaking of morality credits, another strategy that a firm can use to protect itself against harm to its reputation is to express aspirational messages of what it would like to do, or about the kind of society it would like to promote. The message of having certain values will give the corporation moral credits even if its behavior doesn’t always back up what it preaches (Chen 487-490). Whether a corporation’s behavior is always consistent or not, a strong investment in CSR does seem to have a protective effect on any future transgressions, intentional or accidental (Chen 517-518).

Works Cited

Chen, Zhifeng, et al. “Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility and Corporate Hypocrisy: Warmth, Motive and the Protective Value of Corporate Social Responsibility.” Business Ethics Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 4, Oct. 2020, pp. 486–524. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1017/beq.2019.50. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Czarnecki, Sean, “Netflix tops the list for best corporate reputation.” PR Week, 2019, www.prweek.com/article/1580994/netflix-tops-list-best-corporate-reputation. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Hessekiel, David. “Companies Taking A Public Stand In The Wake Of George Floyd’s Death.” Forbes, 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/davidhessekiel/2020/06/04/companies-taking-a-public-stand-in-the-wake-of-george-floyds-death/#4e3e52d47214. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Sandler, Rachel. “Netflix Sees Spike In Cancellations Over ‘Cuties’ Backlash, Analytics Firm Says.” Forbes.Com, Sept. 2020, p. N.PAG. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=145929254&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Tan, EduardSioe-Hao. “Entertainment Is Emotion: The Functional Architecture of the Entertainment Experience.” Media Psychology, vol. 11, no. 1, Feb. 2008, pp. 28–51. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/15213260701853161. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Some of my comments on Corporate Social Responsibility and Facebook

“My view of Facebook is that they are mainly supplying a platform for people to use as they want, with spaces for advertising. Of course there are some extreme things that get banned. Sometimes I think the bans are fair and sometimes I don’t. One thing I have noticed is that they put a voting badge in the interface so you can quickly check your status or register. Let me try it right now…

Ok I noticed they spelled my name wrong on the paper I got back from the election board, so I’m going to have to look it up under the misspelled name. The voting button leads to a voting information page hosted by Facebook which has links to the usual stuff that any web page that is put up for public information would have – how to register, what are the requirements, what are the deadlines, etc. Kind of similar to what a lot of information sites put up about COVID-19 or any other important issue. It’s good for democracy (I know we have a democratic republic) for as many people to vote as possible who are eligible, so that is an example of CSR.

Another feature I like about Facebook is that you can do searches on advertising regardless of whether it’s an ad that would be shown to you normally, and see who paid for it. That helps a lot with transparency.

It’s my opinion that Facebook is not inherently good or bad, like with most things it’s what you do with it that makes your life better or worse. The people at the top running it can be good or bad and the decisions they make do affect people. I think there is potential for abuse and with any platform or any media we have to be informed about how it works and insist on transparency to keep it in check. I am very interested in media literacy and how it can help protect us. I agree with people who say that too much use is not that healthy, and I think that about TV and a lot of other things too. There are a lot of things that can be a good tool used mindfully and purposefully, including food, something which I’m using more mindfully lately with beneficial effect. As we keep learning in this field of study, we all think we are better at determining how to use media than other people, which means other people think they know better than us how to use it safely. I do worry about us serving media rather than media serving us.”

grocery_pickup_093020

“Speaking of voting, got these in my Walmart grocery pickup bag last night. It’s been awhile since I got a free sample. I like free samples and I like the voter registration encouragement. I tried texting the number and it works. When you get to the page on your mobile device, it gives you English and Spanish options. The data comes from https://www.ballotready.org/ and the card is branded with WalMart and the Consumer Action network. The Consumer Action Network is here – https://www.consumeractionnetwork.org/.

I looked at the web page for the Consumer Action Network and the issues they are involved with currently seem to mostly be based on beer and liquor sales and how to make it easier for consumers to buy beer and liquor. What do you think led to this particular partnership?

https://phone2action.com/  is involved in the technical part of the process.

I like getting the freebie of the reusable cleaning cloth. It’s good promotion for the product and always fun to try out a free product sample. Is the product good for the environment? There is enough info on the package to research it.

I was unable to get the QR code to work. It might be printed too small to work with my phone.

I’ve been uploading a lot of images to Facebook to move them from my phone to a computer for editing. With my technology setup at the moment it’s a fast way to do it and sometimes gets a discussion going in my feed. So I put my commentary that I’m writing here with the photo in Facebook. Since I was either mentioning voting in my text, or the image had to do with voting, an algorithm popped up in Facebook with a link to the voting information center that they put together. So – both Facebook and Walmart and a lot of people are very invested in voting. I could not detect any political partisanship in either campaign. I’ve always thought that everyone who could vote, should. And try to participate in civic duties and civic activities whenever possible. The government chapter we read in our textbook has some things to say related to this.”

“Also interesting is the choice of graphic on the voting drive card. It sends a specific message to people who know the origin of that type of image, and there are things in it that would resonate with people just because of the elements it contains even if they don’t know the history.”

 

Social Media at the Time of the American Revolution

No I’m not talking about the revolution that is being attempted in the US right now, I’m talking about the 1770s. Here is another history themed homework assignment that I enjoyed writing. What social media tools would I recommend if I could go back in time and be a consultant to Samuel Adams and friends?

“Samuel Adams and fellow revolutionaries used many techniques to achieve support for the United States Revolutionary War. With the use of “pen, platform, pulpit, staged events, symbols, news tips, and political organization”, these revolutionaries used events, manufactured if necessary, to appeal to and engage the senses of their hoped-for compatriots in the fight for independence from England (Broom and Sha 75). In the imaginary world of this assignment, I’m a time-traveling public relations consultant with the power to bring today’s social media tools to Sam Adams and the revolutionaries to help them win their campaign.

I’m going to recommend to Samuel Adams that he should add social media to the tools he is already using to make communication over long distances easier, cheaper, and less risky, with the potential to reach many more publics than presently. Some of the acts described below were considered by the British administration of the time to be treasonous and potentially punishable by death (Thernstrom 137), so the network and devices that Adams and his followers use will have to be secure from British spying.

Pen
The pamphlet “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine was a powerful piece of writing in favor of revolution that had a circulation of more than 100,000 copies throughout the colonies (Broom and Sha 76). Paine argued for independence with some fiery language, but the pragmatic argument that the colonies needed to be independent to form alliances with other nations in order to get assistance in fighting the British forces was considered the most persuasive (Thernstrom 143).

Thomas Paine and other eloquent and persuasive writers of their time would benefit from having their own blogs to publicize their content and collect subscribers so that the contact information can be shared with members of the revolutionary movement who are planning events and protests. Since readings of Common Sense were popular in taverns and coffee houses of the time (Thernstrom 143), audio and video presentations of this material that are shareable on social media will increase the reach tremendously. Most colonists at this time were not literate (Bitter 21), but would be able to consume videos and podcasts with the right receiving equipment.

Platform
A platform is easier to remember and rally around if it’s short and resonates with the public. “Taxation without representation is tyranny” is the well known slogan that describes the platform of the revolutionaries (Broom and Sha 76).

A graphic with a unifying image, such as the Liberty Tree, with this slogan should be prepared to use on social media outlets as a profile picture, header graphic, avatar image and any other identifying graphics that you need to reinforce your brand on social media platforms.

Pulpit
The British parliament passed the Quebec Act of 1774 which opened some additional areas of North America up to colonial American settlers, but with French law presiding and Catholic churches enjoying advantages over Protestant churches. Protestants were the majority of colonists and anti-Catholic feeling added more resentment against the British imperial government (Thernstrom 139). A further religious-based rift between Britain and America was widened by the Great Awakening, a renewal of Christian fervor in the colonies that made the old country seem more decadent and therefore less desirable to the colonists in comparison (Thernstrom 145).

Christian and Biblical references can be inserted when appropriate into communications to keep emphasizing the perceived moral superiority of the new society that is being created. Revolution-minded colonists did not shy away from including Biblical allegories and passages on items such as flags and needlework (“Religion and the…”), and such images could be adopted into memes or other sharable graphics. Ministers played a great role in propagating the idea of revolution against the British as a righteous cause (“Religion and the…”), and therefore making sermons available as shareable audio and video presentations could be very advantageous.

Staged Events
A provocative event can capture the attention of many members of the public who were otherwise indifferent (Broom and Sha 76). The Boston Tea Party was an event that could be considered staged. In all the other colonies except Massachusetts, ships carrying British Tea turned back when confronted by colonists who opposed the tea act because they had been persuaded by colonial tea wholesalers that it was dangerous for future liberty to grant a tea monopoly to the English East India tea company (Thernstrom 138). The Massachusetts Governor did not want to back down so he ordered all ships in Boston Harbor to remain until they unloaded all their cargo. In response, Samuel Adams and 150 followers dressed as Native Americans boarded the ships and unloaded 90,000 pounds of British tea into the harbor. This property destruction did not meet with universal approval even from colonists who opposed the tea act, but many lost sympathy for the home country when the British government reduced liberties in Massachusetts to the point where the colonial charter of 1691 was virtually null and void (Thernstrom 138-139). By provoking a harsh response from the British, Samuel Adams and friends re-ignited a lot of the anti-British sentiment in the other colonies that had risen during earlier unpopular tactics of the British but had temporarily quieted after most of the offending acts had been repealed or were left un-enforced (Thernstrom 138-139).

I recommend that Adams and followers should not publicize pictures of tea being destroyed, but instead try to propagate stories of British oppression throughout social media. Video footage of colonists trying to exercise some of their previously held rights, such as assembly, but being confronted by British officials and troops could be very effective and can be uploaded to YouTube, embedded on blogs, and more.

Political Organization
The Sons of Liberty and Committees of Correspondence were both formed in Boston to bring about the actions that the revolutionaries public relations efforts had inspired (Broom and Sha 76). The Massachusetts Committee on Correspondence urged the other colonies to limit importation of British luxury goods as a protest against the Sugar Act which they saw as an example of unfair taxation but received only limited support at that time (Thernstrom 131).

Social media is terrific for boycotts – a multimedia campaign with hashtags such as #boycottbritain or #boycottbritishgoods could be very effective as the colonists power to boycott has caused economic damage to Britain on more than one occasion (Thernstrom 132, 137).

Symbols
The Liberty Tree is an an example of a symbol that the revolutionaries adopted to identify their movement and get potential recruits emotionally involved (Broom and Sha 76). The original Liberty Tree was an elm located in Boston. Under its branches, critics of the British government met and launched a protest, inflamed by the Stamp Act, which they believed ushered in an unwelcome era of taxation without representation. The Stamp Act required revenue-raising stamps to be sold by the imperial government and be placed by the colonists on any printed matter. In addition, since violators of the Stamp Act were not to be tried in colonial courts but rather British admirality courts which heretofore had restricted themselves to navigation related cases, the colonists revolted in order not to set a precedence for trials without a jury (Thernstrom 131-132).

The “Sons of Liberty”, who led protests against the Stamp Act throughout the colonies created effigies of stamp officials and subjected the effigies to various indignities including symbolic hanging from the Liberty Tree. Using other methods to intimidate would-be stamp officials into resigning, such as property damage and marches, the “Sons of Liberty” wanted to keep the protests mostly symbolic but were sometimes joined by sailors and workers who had patronized the local taverns and were primed to engage in some burning and looting. The pressures from these acts of civil disobedience and property destruction were enough to make the Stamp Act unenforceable by the British (Thernstrom 132).

The Stamp Act was able to unify the colonies in their outrage more than the previous Sugar Act had been, although more widening of rifts between the British government and the colonists would be required to get the protest leaders more interested in revolution (Thernstrom 133-134). A popular manifestation of opposition to the Stamp Act was a skull and crossbones placed on papers where the hated taxation stamp should have gone. Many newspapers throughout the colonies used similar imagery (“A Pledge to…”), displaying how a symbol can spread socially even with non-electronic technology available. The skull and crossbones could be an even more popular image with electronic help to go along with hash tags such as #thefatalstamp.

News Tips
The Boston Massacre is one example of the revolutionaries’ ability to get their side of the story out first in order to promote their interpretation of events (Broom and Sha 76). Many colonists were persuaded to see the killings as deliberate acts of tyranny by Samuel Adams and the colonial press (Thernstrom 137).

Citizen journalists allied with the revolutionary cause are encouraged to take pictures and video of the massacre and send to as many social media channels and media outlets as possible, along with personal accounts and reports, to make sure our take on the event is prominent in the public discourse and disseminated as quickly as possible.”

Works Cited

“A Pledge to Violate the Stamp Act.” NCpedia, 2020, www.ncpedia.org/anchor/pledge-violate-stamp-act. Accessed 21 September 2020.

Bitter, John. “Which Came First – Journalism or Public Relations.” Public Relations Quarterly, Fall 1987, pp. 21-22. Accessed 20 August 2020.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

“Religion and the Founding of the American Republic.” Library of Congress, 2020, https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel03.html. Accessed 21 September 2020.

Thernstrom, Stephan. A History of the American People: Volume One: To 1877. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

Blasts From The Past

When I worked for Webinar Resources, I wrote a lot of blog and newsletter articles. I’m going through some of them for an assignment I’m doing in my Strategic Communications class. Here is a Wayback Machine link to some of the articles I wrote between 2009 and 2012. Enjoy!

Webinar Resources Blog on the Wayback Machine

Webinar Resources Newsletter Archive

Here is how my homework turned out.

“In the article “Why Traditional Marketing Trumps Social Media, And What To Do About It” author Kimberly E. Stone makes the case that social media should be used to reinforce what traditional marketing is doing, but not take over or take the lead from traditional channels.

She believes the best uses for social media in the present day are:

  • Gaining intelligence
  • Interacting with customers
  • Managing crises

It would be interesting to review how I thought social media should be used back when the company I was working for was heavily into business blogging and I was writing blog and newsletter articles about how and why to use social media. I found articles I wrote on our old blog from 2009-2012 on the Wayback Machine. Here is the link I used to view my old articles.

https://web.archive.org/web/20120910054954/http://blog.webinarresources.com/blog/customer-acquisition-2

What did I think social media was good for during that time?

  • Making it easy for customers to share your content
    Videos
    Applications designed to build subscriber lists
  • Making shareable archives
  • Broadcasting
  • Listening
    What are customers currently interested in
    Is anyone talking about us in a negative way
  • Cutting the cost of distributing your content
  • Customer relations
  • Community building
  • Creative expression
  • Collaboration
  • Leveraging the investment in content by repurposing in different channels
  • Manage reputation

My list is much more broad, but although I worded some things differently my list mostly includes everything that is in the author’s list. I did say in one of my articles that I learned in a webinar put on by Compendium Blogware that an organization has to get their “SEO, Social, Content, Email Marketing and PR people to communicate with each other”. A PR practitioner can play a role in facilitating communication within an organization as well as between the organization and its publics (Broom and Sha 189). So I do agree with the author’s premise, that social media should augment traditional channels but not replace them.

While I was writing these articles I was mostly writing for small companies. I touted the benefits of social media partly for the lower price point of entry over some traditional marketing channels. That did not mean I favored not using the older channels if there is a budget for it.  Whatever is new is always exciting, but it doesn’t mean you have to jump on every new thing if it doesn’t fit. The goals of all the channels that are used should be to present a consistent experience in keeping with the organizations brand and objectives. All channels are not appropriate for all audiences, so it isn’t necessarily good to use every one that is available. Also, during Marketing 5000 class I learned there is at least one older channel that is coming back into favor if used in an updated way – the catalog. To choose the right mix means keeping up to date on the trends as popularity waxes and wanes for certain channels.”

Works Cited

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Stone, Kimberly E. “Why Traditional Marketing Trumps Social Media, And What To Do About It.” Forbes, Sep 18, 2012. Accessed 15 September 2020.

The Federalist Papers and Public Relations

Here is what I wrote for one of my assignments for my Strategic Communications class. I’m posting it here because I needed a history refresher to write this and some of you out there might enjoy one too. The question put to us was, “Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay engineered “history’s finest public relations job” to gain national acceptance of the U.S. Constitution. Based on your reading of Chapter 4, describe the organized effort they undertook to urge ratification of the Constitution. How did their approach differ from those of the nation’s first publicity agencies, and now in contemporary times?”

Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers to make the case to ratify a new constitution featuring a stronger, more centralized Federal government to replace the Articles of Confederation (Thernstrom 174-177). Federalists had appropriated the title “Federalist” and labeled their opponents “Antifederalists” because it sounded better than to call themselves “Nationalists” even though Nationalist was a more accurate term (Thernstrom 175). The climate in which Hamilton, Madison and Jay wrote these articles was one in which 88 out of 100 newspapers in the colonies were Federalist-owned and did not print opposing views (Thernstrom 176). Hamilton sponsored a paper called the Gazette of the United States in order to insure the promotion of his ideas (Bitter 22). Even though he did not necessarily agree with which form Federalism should take, fellow Federalist Madison also used his influence to install a poet sympathetic with his own views as editor of a rival newspaper called The National Gazette (Bitter 22). Even with much press influence in place the Federalists came very close to failing to win ratification as the fear of replacing one type of tyranny with another was well-entrenched, especially among more rural populations (Thernstrom 175-176).

At the time the Federalist Papers were written, newspapers were generally published for specific audiences and not for a mass audience. The majority of Americans were not literate then so what newspapers there were mostly served specific interests (Bitter 21). The Federalist Papers were similar to the era’s papers in that they represented the interests of a group that was very influential but not what we think of today as “the masses” (Bitter 21). Only people who were very involved in politics were much concerned about which form the new government should take (Thernstrom 178).

John Jay, although he only wrote 5 out of 85 Federalist Papers, wrote some of the most influential. He was able to write persuasively by drawing on his personal experience as Foreign Secretary of the national government (Ferguson 223-224). After expressing some of his frustrations, Jay switched to more rational language that was also in contrast to the more fiery tones of Hamilton who wrote “Federalist No. 1” (Ferguson 225). Jay expressed his arguments in language that was beautiful on it’s own merit while conscious of trying to convince the reader of the rightness of his cause by insisting that the more aesthetically pleasing idea is the right idea (Ferguson 227-235).

When more organized public relations firms came into being in the early 1900s, they were responding to the needs of organizations seeking to counter the new phenomenon of mass media. More of the population was literate at this time and newspapers aimed at a mass audience were engaged in a lot of muckraking to advocate for and appeal to a more popular audience (Bitter 21).

The public relations profession further matured as the 20th century progressed, with specialization, increased recognition and milestones obtained by women and minorities. The pace of change accelerated at times of national crisis (Broom and Sha 91-101). Right before the 20th century ended, the internet started to see wide adoption and changed the way we all consume and produce information. Almost everyone now has some kind of a “press” in their possession, so we don’t have to sponsor a newspaper to get our opinions “printed”. However the amount of influence we can bring to bear and the way we use language are still important in determining how effective we are at communicating and persuading so most of the strategies that the Federalist Papers writers used are still relevant in my opinion.

Works Cited

Bitter, John. “Which Came First – Journalism or Public Relations.” Public Relations Quarterly, Fall 1987, pp. 21-22. Accessed 20 August 2020.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Ferguson, Robert A. “The Forgotten Publius: John Jay and the Aesthetics of Ratification.” Early American Literature, vol. 34, 1999, pp. 223–240. Accessed 20 August 2020.

Thernstrom, Stephan. A History of the American People: Volume One: To 1877. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

Me at the National Constitution Center in 2009
Me at the National Constitution Center in 2009 hanging out with Ben and Alex.

Here is a follow up comment from me.

A lot of what I remember about the Enlightenment era has more to do with Art History than History class, since I took more art history being an art major. I’m going to get out my art history books and refresh my memory on that time period. I didn’t have much time to review this material at the time but I did go on a business trip to Philadelphia in 2009 and I traveled a day early so I could see Independence Hall and some other things. Walking the area around it, I took a lot of pictures of the classical style architecture and statuary of the day and tried to imagine what it was like back then.

Here is my Facebook album of pics from the time. It’s set to Public for viewing.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1134477966396&type=3

What is the Difference Between Public Relations and Marketing?

I’m enrolled in Strategic Communications class at Webster University for the Fall 1 Session.  For one of my assignments, I was asked to answer some questions and then engage in discussions on the topic. Here is my answer plus some of my subsequent remarks.

Define “public relations” and “marketing” and explain why these functions often are confused.

According to Broom and Sha, public relations is a function of management that organizations use to build and maintain relationships with the public to the benefit of all stakeholders (Broom and Sha 2).

In marketing, organizations study what consumers want and need and strive to provide attractive and useful offerings in exchange for something of value (Broom and Sha 5).

In your answer, point out the major difference that distinguishes these functions.

The major difference between marketing and public relations is that in the former, there is an exchange between the involved parties of goods, services, money, or some other consideration that has value (Broom and Sha 5).

Contrast publicity with advertising. In your answer, address issues related to message control, expense and relationship to marketing.

Publicity is something that an organization might cultivate, or it could happen to them involuntarily due to some kind of unforseen issue or circumstance. Publicity professionals can use their knowledge to tailor their publicity submissions while targeting the right recipients so that the information is used in a way that is favorable to the organizations goals. They can’t compel or control how the information is used however (Broom and Sha 7). Some publicity can be had for free, while other publicity might involve expenses such as labor to research and prepare the strategy and content or mailing printed information.

Some of the same skills that publicists use are used by advertisers and in some organizations the same people people might perform both functions. Organizations are not necessarily consistent in how titles and functions are used and the public can be influenced by the portrayals of both types of jobs by portrayals in the media which are not always accurate (Broom and Sha 7).

In advertising, the organization is paying for the exposure which gives them control over where the message is placed, the timing and the content (Broom and Sha 10).

Works Cited:

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

I took this picture early in the summer because I figured it would come in handy in marketing classes. One of the times that I used the Wal-Mart grocery pickup service, I got this surprise free bag with my order with free samples in it. Is this marketing or PR? Can they be doing both at the same time?

The book  (Broom and Sha) mentions that some efforts at PR are looked at with suspicion because it looks like the organization is trying to gain while appearing to be doing good, or some people already dislike and distrust the brand. There was a very different reaction among people depending on political affiliation with the stimulus checks, for example.

Wal-Mart is a brand that some people have strong reactions to. Wal-Mart gave me this bag of goodies when I had already used their services for awhile and it was a surprise. This was given out when a lot of brands were giving out some freebies to help out with COVID care and also get a little promotion.

For example at Schnarr’s, some companies gave us free hand sanitizer with their name on it to use for the store. Before masks were available at a reasonable price, I had a large stash that a client had given me for crafts, so I had plenty to share for awhile. If a customer came in the store really needing one to tide them over, I gave them one from my stash in a ziploc bag that I had packed after making sure my hands were clean. This is something I would have done whether or not it was good PR for the store and no one asked me to do it, but the store was my main exposure to other people at the time and it was something immediate I could do to help. I gave some plus some gloves to an old friend who works at a radio station. I didn’t give them to him because he works at a radio station, rather it was because he has health issues that make him very vulnerable and he was understandably  scared. I did not ask him to mention me or Schnarr’s (where he started buying stuff without being asked) on the air. I don’t know if he did or not, I didn’t ask. For me it was not a quid-pro-quo situation, but I was not at all displeased to get a new customer at the store.

The front and back of the thank you card in the Wal-Mart goody bag
The front and back of the thank you card in the Wal-Mart goody bag

The Wal-Mart bag doesn’t really have anything useful for COVID, but it was something that brightened my day. I loved some of the free samples and others I gave away. I have not re-ordered any of the free sample products but if someone wanted to Wal-Mart made it easy to re-order. I might re-order the deodorant if they have a non-spray version. It smells wonderful. Other than brightening my day and being good for health in that sense, this bag seems more marketing than PR. I think it’s effective because it thanks people for trying the service, and gives them incentives to try it again and at the same time makes it easy and convenient with the bar codes and QR codes. They knew they were probably getting a lot more new customers because they were one of the first to have pickup services and it was fully in place and working well before the pandemic so they didn’t have to put it together in a hurry.

fronts and backs of seed packets

Here is another example of something I’m giving away. Like a lot of gardeners, I tend to have more seeds than I need of some plants and I save some to trade and give away. A few years ago, I designed and printed out some of these little seed packet templates to fill with seeds and give away at Schnarr’s Hardware along with candy and other goodies like safety lights as “treats” on Halloween.

After the COVID-19 pandemic started, some friends and customers asked me if they should be concerned about food security and if so what to do about it. I didn’t really know the answers, but I know that when people are out of work that there is less money to go around and people who are poor will struggle more than usual to get their basic needs met. It’s not a new idea for people who find it difficult to afford food or live in “food deserts” that lack  stores to buy healthy food to engage in community gardening as a way to supplement the food supply. I gave some plants to someone who was trying to get a community garden started in his neighborhood.

Schnarr’s customers are mostly not of the group that needs to worry about meeting  basic needs, but there are a lot of customers that engage in gardening and might want some extra seeds to grow themselves, give away or trade. Also with possibly more kids being home schooled there might be more interest in home gardening so that kids can learn about plant biology and other related topics. I decided to reprint some of my little seed trading envelopes and package up some of my extra seeds for free giveaways as I harvest them.

Schnarr’s sells garden seeds, so is it a good idea to give some away? Mindful of not wanting to hurt sales I put small quantities in the packets, 4-10 seeds in each depending on the size of the seed. Someone who is not sure about trying a new plant or is casual about gardening in general might get inspired to do more if they try a free sample. That could bring us more sales in the long run of garden supplies. I put the Schnarr’s blog address on it so that people can read the large amounts of gardening information that I have contributed there. I think the information I put there will benefit those who want to learn more about gardening, but of course more readers also means more exposure for the blog. Those are a couple of ways that I think this giveaway can help Schnarr’s a tiny bit.

More importantly, how does this small action help the community? With the increased demand on gardening supplies in general that we have seen since the pandemic began, we are sold out of some seeds so even if someone wanted to buy a larger package of seeds from us, with some varieties they will have to wait. Some of my plants are species we wouldn’t carry anyway, so customers get the chance to try some new things. I also am convinced that since growing serious amounts of food is not easy, the more people who know how to do it the better off we are as a society. Added to that are the benefits to overall health of getting outdoors, interacting with nature and engaging in exercise. There has never been a better time to garden, if one is able, with the extra stress many of us are under – horticulture has therapeutic uses for mental and physical health.

I also put some of these seed packets in the little goody envelopes that I put in orders from my online store. I give a few to friends and fellow Master Gardener volunteers from time to time but since I’m not seeing those groups of people as often as I normally do, I need someone to give some of the seeds too!

What do you think, am I doing PR, marketing, or both?

Production Elements and Messages in The Television Series “The Crown”

WARNING: Contains spoilers for Season 3 Episodes 2 and 3! Yes I know the show is about historic events but some of them are obscure enough that some audience members might not be aware of them before watching… Also there are some liberties taken with history here and there to make a better story. Private conversations are dramatized on screen for which there are no records. This goes for every historical drama that I have ever taken the time to analyze, so I think it’s important to use them as entertainment and to generate interest in a historical topic that you want to learn more about, but be cautious about using them as sources of facts. Actual documentaries can be manipulated quite a bit as well. Both forms can be marvelous entertainment however. As a visual artist, I think practically every shot in The Crown is a work of art and the period costumes and sets alone are worth the time to watch. For example it’s kind of disappointing to find out that in real life Princess Margaret wore a pink dress with a modest neckline to the White House and not a low-cut bright red and white floral, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. Enjoy!

Following is a paper I turned in yesterday for Media and Culture class, before grading.


Production Elements and Messages in The Television Series The Crown

The Netflix historical drama series The Crown tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign against a backdrop of historical events and personal relationships (The Crown). Reviewers consistently praise the high quality of the production (The Crown). I watched two back-to-back episodes of the current third season which featured stories of increasing seriousness and emotional impact to explore how production elements help to tell each story.

Editing

In S3 Ep2 “Margaretology”, editing greatly helps the narrative by beginning the episode with a flashback of the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret as young girls. They discuss how younger sister Margaret, though by law she cannot be Queen because she is not the first born, actually wants to do the job, has more confidence in her natural ability, and might actually be better at being Queen. They decide to find out if they can switch places. Next is a scene from the show’s present day in which Margaret and her husband discuss her life as it is contrasted with how it should have been. Then the opening credits begin. Later in the episode, Elizabeth decides that she needs Margaret’s help with diplomacy with the United States and Margaret has success in charming President Johnson at a White House dinner. Margaret asks Elizabeth to give her more duties. Although the Queen is tempted, she is persuaded by her husband Philip that it’s safer for the monarchy and the country to keep things the way they are. The episode ends with flashbacks to the child Margaret intercut with the present day Margaret at similar dressing tables, looking devastated, showing that her feelings of not being able to achieve what she viewed as her potential are old hurts that won’t go away (Margaretology).

“Aberfan”, S3 Ep3, is a much more serious episode. Instead of dealing with the disappointment of one character whose personality is sometimes abrasive and not always easy to empathize with (Margaretology), “Aberfan” tells the story of a horrific 1966 mining disaster that killed 144 people, including 116 children (Blakemore). Before the opening credits, there are scenes of the Welsh town Aberfan in the rain (Aberfan). The camera slowly rises over the rooftops to show a view of dark hills surmounted by a mining operation that dwarfs the community. Next there are more scenes of the village, showing children at the end of a school day, being dismissed, walking home and going about their normal evening activities with their families. Considerable screen time is spent on the children and this sustained coverage lets us know their importance (Silverblatt et al. 169). We are also shown a canary in a cage in one of the mining families’ homes. The canary could symbolize many things. The little bird’s sweet chirping recalls the chatter and singing of the innocent children. It has little control over its own fate because it is in a cage, possibly bringing to one’s mind a symbolic cage of being born into a way of life built on dangerous labor with limited opportunity to escape. Canaries also remind us that mining is a hazardous profession due to their traditional use in detecting deadly underground gases (Eschner).

It’s not only raining in Wales, it’s also raining at Buckingham Palace, where Queen Elizabeth II is looking over her planner and writing the heading “Friday” as she plans her next day. This is not the only instance in which the disaster occurring on a Friday is emphasized (Aberfan). The Christian faith of the people of the village and of the Monarch is prominent throughout the episode, and Christian viewers watching would be aware that Friday is the most somber day in the Christian week because by scripture and tradition Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday (Aglialoro). Before the teacher dismisses the children, he asks what tomorrow is. The first answer is Friday. The answer the teacher is looking for is that it is also the day when they are going to have an assembly for which they need to practice a song (Aberfan).

On the Friday morning, the tension keeps building when scenes of the disaster beginning to manifest are cross-cut with classroom scenes (Aberfan). Cross-cutting is a technique that shows events happening in different locations are occurring at the same time (Silverblatt et al. 171).

More than once during the episode we are shown the Queen’s arrangement of family photos in her sitting room, and she and the Prime Minister are each seen gazing at family photos as they contemplate events. Perhaps we are meant to remind ourselves that families are a near-universal part of human existence no matter what our life circumstances are. Even if we feel safe and secure in an imposing palace or a modest but cozy cottage, our loved ones can be taken from us at any time in ways we never expected (Aberfan).

Color and Lighting

Margaret is consistently shown wearing livelier and more colorful fashions than her more conservative older sister in the “Margaretology” episode. As Margaret arrives at the White House, the facade of the building is well lit with warm light in contrast to gray Buckingham Palace, suggesting that the older, struggling country might find the hope and help it seeks from the prosperous younger nation. The light could also symbolize Margaret coming out into her natural if not traditional place in the spotlight at last (Margaretology). In a scene where Margaret asks the Queen for more public duties, the sisters are both wearing green as Elizabeth and Margaret get little digs in at each other about what they envy about each others’ lives (Margaretology), an example of exploiting associations that different colors have in our culture (Silverblatt et al. 171).

When Prime Minister Harold Wilson visits the Queen to tell her about her sister’s lively if not outrageous performance at the White House dinner, using humorously understated phrases such as “less than discreet” and “a little off-color”, they are in the Queen’s sitting room which as usual is softly lit with a color palette of muted grays and pastels. The Queen is expecting to hear bad news during this private conversation with her Prime Minister and the subdued atmosphere fits his hesitance and embarrassment as well as her reluctance to hear the inevitable. Gray tones can signify discomfort (Silverblatt et al. 172) and dim lighting can indicate something hidden (Silverblatt et al. 176). While Margaret is proud of her turn in the spotlight, the Queen and Prime Minister would prefer not to bring her behavior out into the open. The sitting room scenes are intercut with incidents from the previous evening’s dinner that had been relayed to the Prime Minister through the British Ambassador. The dinner party scenes are full of bright flowers in warm tones that complement Margaret’s coral-red and white-flowered dress as she wins over the first couple and their guests who follow the President’s lead in appreciating Margaret’s cruder type of charm. Margaret is even verbally compared to a color film as opposed to one in black and white as her husband reads to her a newspaper account of their earlier, socially successful visit to San Francisco (Margaretology).

In the episode “Aberfan”, at the beginning before the credits we see a wide view of the village with the coal tips and mining operations in the background. It’s early morning and the light from one of the cottages near the foot of the dark mass that threatens the town shines through the windows. The house looks like a nostalgic little model in a holiday display or toy train layout. Since this dwelling is close to the base of the coal tip, it’s possible that it represents one of the homes that got destroyed in the disaster. The light could symbolize the life that is about to be snuffed out like a little candle flame, consistent with several possible meanings of light including life and innocence (Silverblatt et al. 176). Later in the episode candles are prominent as lighting for emergency use, in the mortuary and in the chapel (Aberfan).

Lighting is used in dramatic ways throughout the whole episode. The dark hills and rainy, gray weather combine with the dimly lit interiors of the humble buildings in the village to create a suitably somber mood, appropriate for grief, mourning and death (Silverblatt et al. 176). Light is used constantly throughout the whole episode to enhance and what the viewer is seeing and feeling. Vehicle headlights, lamps, flashlights, spotlights, flashbulbs, the sun and beams of light all play a part in the composition of scenes. Prime Minister Wilson looks shocked at several points in the episode and flash bulbs going off in his face emphasize his distress even more (Aberfan).

At the end of the devastating funeral service for dozens of children, some beams of light barely get though the gray sky as the mourners sing a hymn. This light could represent several things. It could be the mourners comforted slightly by the thought of the children’s souls being lifted up to God. It could be comfort from God or the funeral assemblage or both, however feeble, giving a tiny bit of hope to the community that they can live through this catastrophe. During the funeral scene, we are shown close-ups of Philips face. Perhaps the light is Philip’s thoughts as he becomes enlightened on how best to advise the Queen on how to help the community heal.

Shapes and Connotative Images

There are occasions in the “Aberfan” episode where Elizabeth is contemplating what actions she should take while she is shown backlit in profile. This technique is perhaps intended to bring to mind the iconic image of the monarch on coins and stamps as she decides how to live up to the duty that her idealized image represents. Shape and light are again used together in the Aberfan cemetery. The graves of the children are arranged in a cross shape. We also see a cross in focus behind the Queen’s head when she prays alone in a chapel (Aberfan). Both the profile and the cross could also be considered connotative images that bring up associations in the intended audience (Silverblatt et al. 189).

Scale and Relative Position

Scale is used effectively in “Margaretology” when Margaret sees by her sister’s attitude that the answer to her request to have more of a public role is no. There is a picnic taking place on a hill in front of a castle. Margaret’s position as well as the camera’s is downhill from the picnic, suggesting she is dominated by the institutions that control all their lives and is forever subordinate to her sister. In a flashback when the young Margaret is being scolded for daring to ask courtier Alan Lascelles (Alan Lascelles) if she and her sister could change places, Lascelles is shot from approximately her eye level so he looks exceedingly stern and intimidating while the young Margaret is comparatively powerless (Margaretology).

In “Aberfan”, the ominous mountain of coal is repeatedly shown looming over the village and the people, emphasizing their vulnerability (Aberfan).

Angles and Movement

In the beginning stages of the Aberfan disaster, the tension is enhanced by diagonal shots of ore cart tracks, lift cables and structures. The mountainside itself forms a diagonal angle as the coal slurry starts to slip down and toward the town (Aberfan). Diagonal lines and movement are associated with the triangle shape which is more active and unstable than squares and 90 degree angles (Silverblatt et al. 178-179).

Sound Elements

In the pivotal, wordless slow-motion scene where Margaret experiences profound disappointment in “Margaretology”, even though there is a festive picnic in progress, all that can be heard in the soundtrack is wistful music and the faint sound of blowing leaves. Elizabeth and Philip walk past her, leaving her behind in actuality as well as symbolically (Margaretology). The combination of unnatural movement and unnatural sound help give focus to what the character is experiencing internally (Silverblatt et al. 184, 198).

“Aberfan” begins ominously with the sounds of rain, thunder and threatening mechanical noises. The noises continue subtly through a scene of children in a classroom. There are sequences of children practicing singing for a school assembly. The purity and sweetness of those sounds is in contrast to the menace that looms over them, accompanied by poignant background music. It’s significant that the children are practicing a song containing the lyrics “All things bright and beautiful”, reminding us that they are pre-eminent among the bright and beautiful things that are about to be lost (Aberfan).

In the palace, the Queen is shown writing in her planner while thunder is in the background, suggesting that she will somehow be affected by what is about to happen even in her solid, imposing residence (Aberfan).

When the Prime Minister speaks to the bereaved community, the sounds of cameras are conspicuously loud. We also hear prominent shutter clicks when the Queen dabs her eye with a tissue, reminding us that we are witnessing an important moment. The Queen was moved by Philip’s account of the mourner’s singing instead of using their anger and grief as fuel for a disturbance. She listens to a recording of the hymn at the end of the episode and finally is able to shed a tear (Aberfan).

Manifest and Latent Messages

In these two episodes of The Crown, most of the concepts are examples of manifest messages, clear and obvious to the viewer (Silverblatt et al. 11). I did find a couple of possible latent messages, that is meanings that are hinted at or unintentional (Silverblatt et al. 11). In “Margaretology”, it’s not stated out loud by anyone that Princess Margaret might have hit it off with President Johnson mainly because their personalities were similar and it’s likely she would not be able to repeat her diplomatic success in other situations with more genteel people (Updergrove). If one was not already familiar with Johnson’s reputation, some hints were given earlier by showing Johnson doing things like having a meeting while urinating and making crude remarks. The viewer can connect the dots and add to the clearly stated reasons why the Queen and her consort are hesitant to take more chances (Margaretology).

As the Queen exits an Aberfan home where she has expressed personal condolences to selected representatives of the community, she is photographed dabbing at her eye with a tissue. Near the end of the episode the Queen confesses to Prime Minister Wilson that she was not really crying and feels “deficient” because she is not able to cry at sad events like others do. The manifest message is that the Queen feels shame that her photographed suggestion of crying was not real and that the mourners deserved better. In preceding parts of the episode, there are many discussions among various players about how to manage public outrage over the disaster for the benefit of one political party or another, the Coal Board, the Monarchy, or the establishment in general. Since both the Prime Minister and the Queen are portrayed as at least somewhat principled and not solely acting in self-interest, a possible latent message is that the Queen felt obligated to fake the scene in order to create photographs that would both comfort the bereaved and help protect institutions that she is charged with preserving (Aberfan).

The creators of The Crown take already compelling subject matter and increase the emotional impact of this drama series considerably by indulging in careful and thoughtful detail in the production.

Works Cited

“Aberfan.” The Crown, written by Peter Morgan, directed by Benjamin Caron, Netflix, 2019.

Aglialoro, Todd. “Three Benefits to Abstaining from Meat on Fridays-Even After Lent.” Catholic Answers, 2019, www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/three-benefits-to-abstaining-from-meat-on-fridays-even-after-lent. Accessed 3 December 2019.

“Alan Lascelles.” Everipedia International, 2019, everipedia.org/wiki/lang_en/Alan_Lascelles. Accessed 3 December 2019.

Blakemore, Erin. “How the 1966 Aberfan Mine Disaster Became Elizabeth II’s Biggest Regret.” Maven, 2019, www.history.com/news/elizabeth-ii-aberfan-mine-disaster-wales. Accessed 3 December 2019.

Eschner, Kat. “The Story of the Real Canary in the Coal Mine.” Smithsonian.com, 2016, www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/story-real-canary-coal-mine-180961570/. Accessed 3 December 2019.

“Margaretology.” The Crown, written by Peter Morgan, directed by Benjamin Caron, Netflix, 2019.

Silverblatt, Art et al. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Fourth Edition. Praeger, 2014.

“The Crown.” IMDb.com, Inc., 1990-2019, www.imdb.com/title/tt4786824/. Accessed 3 December 2019.

Updergrove, Mark. “Cruel to Be Kind: LBJ Behind the Scenes.” The Alcalde, 2012, alcalde.texasexes.org/2012/02/cruel-to-be-kind-lbj-behind-the-scenes/. Accessed 3 December 2019.


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