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Selfie, Hashtag Among Top Words And Phrases of 2013



As the year draws to a close, I just want to take this opportunity to say how much I’ve enjoyed our social media course. When I signed up for this course, I thought we would just be learning how to use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks more efficiently. I never imagined learning all the ways to communicate internally or the eight ways to enhance a social media plan. I also enjoyed reading everyone’s blogs this semester. It was wonderful to share our interests and ideas with one another.

Since this is my last blog post for the semester, I thought it would be fun to share with you the top words and phrases of 2013. I recently read that Oxford declared its word of the year is “selfie ” – that’s right, selfie. According to, the word was first used in an Australian chatroom in 2002 to describe an undignified scene. At first I was in disbelief that this is the word that defines our entire year. But at the same time, it’s interesting to think about how social media is so influential that a word like “selfie” or “hashtag” becomes part of our every day terminology. As much as “selfie” was used, it is not the only word to make the top words of this year. Here is Global Language Monitor’s  Top 10 Words, Phrases, and Names of 2013:

Top words:
1. 404
2. Fail
3. Hashtag
4. @Pontifex
5. The optic
6. Surveillance
7. Drones
8. Deficit
9. Sequestration
10. Emancipate

Top phrases:
1. Toxic politics
2. Federal shutdown
3. Global warming/climate change
4. Federal deficit
5. Tread lightly
6. Boston Strong
7. Marathon bombing
8. Chemical weapons
9. All time high
10. Rogue nukes

Top names:
1. Pope Francis
2. ObamaCare
3. NSA
4. Ed Snowden
5. Kate Middleton
6. IRS
7. Ted Cruz
8. Chris Christie
9. Tea Party
10. Marathon bombers


Hallmark Controversy: Removing The Word “Gay” From Christmas Carol


Hallmark, a world-renown greeting card company, released a new 2013 Keepsake ornament. The ornament is a Christmas sweater with an altered version of the lyrics to the Christmas carol, “Deck the Halls,” printed across it. Instead of the words, “Don we now our gay apparel,” the ornament reads, “Don we now our fun apparel.” I must admit, I shook my head when I first learned about this. 



A Hallmark Christmas ornament featuring a sweater with the words ”Don we now our fun apparel” is seen in an undated handout picture from Hallmark.



Hallmark’s spokeswoman Kristin Ernestine told The Huffington Post, “When the lyrics to ‘Deck the Halls’ were translated from Gaelic and published in English back in the 1800s, the word ‘gay’ meant festive or merry. Today it has multiple meanings … the trend of wearing festively decorated Christmas sweaters to parties is all about fun, and this ornament is intended to play into that, so the planning team decided to say what we meant: ‘fun.’ That’s the spirit we intended and the spirit in which we hope ornament buyers will take it.” 

Despite this, the change in lyrics offended many people. In a world where everything needs to be politically correct, I think we sometimes get carried away. In this case, the company drew attention to itself by changing the word from “gay” to “fun.” When the song was written, the word “gay” did mean festive or merry or happy. No one was offended by that word in the song and was, honestly, unnecessary. If Hallmark was so worried about creating a controversy, it could have just picked a different song. There are plenty of Christmas songs it could have chosen that are less controversial: “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow,” “Feliz Navidad.” 

What do you think? Was the change necessary? Do we sometimes get carried away when trying not to offend people? For the full article, click here

Thoughts over a cup of Starbucks coffee

I was discussing this topic with an old professor the other day. It’s amazing how companies are not just selling a brand – they’re selling a lifestyle. When you hold up a Starbucks cup and a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee, people are more apt to choose Starbucks. There’s a language associated with the lifestyle. Servers are called baristas; instead of ordering a small, medium or large, we order a tall, vente or grande. Nike does the same – selling an athletic lifestyle. Even Apple, with its ad, “The Crazy Ones.” It sells to, and connects with, the misfits.

Why Relying On Spell Check Alone Isn’t Enough


We’ve all been there. We sit behind a desk for hours, feverishly typing our thoughts. Four stressful hours and five cups of coffee later, we’re convinced we’ve written the “perfect” paper. We press the “send” button with a sense of accomplishment as the assignment is delivered to our professor/client/boss’ inbox. But soon we realize our perfect paper is far from that. The paper is soiled with spelling errors. We wonder, “How can I have spelling mistakes? I used spell check!”

There’s no rule saying you can’t use spell check. I actually think running spell check is important when you’re typing up a document. But it definitely should not be your only means of proofreading what you write.

Spell check will let you know if there is a group of letters that doesn’t form a word. For instance, if I type junp instead of jump, spell check with catch it. However, it will not recognize that a word is spelled wrong if it is used in the wrong context. If I type, “I red Tina Fey’s book,” instead of “I read Tina Fey’s book,” spell check won’t recognize the error because it’s spelled correctly.  As PR professionals, we cannot afford to let any grammatical errors creep in to our work. Publishing something with typos can hurt your credibility. If a journalist reads your mistake, he/she is likely to say, “What a bozo! There’s no way I’m using this,” and click “delete.” If your readers see it, they may say, “Why should I trust them if they can’t even spell?” Your client certainly won’t be happy.

Lately I’ve been noticing errors more often when I’m reading something or even when I’m watching the news. I’m surprised to find typos – even whole sentences misconstrued – almost every time I read the Staten Island Advance. I’ll also find spelling mistakes on ads in the nail salon. Please, don’t take a chance on losing credibility. Check your work.

For some of us, editing and re-editing can be daunting. Still, spell check is not the best tool to check for errors. The only surefire way to be error-free is to proofread your work. I find it better to print out a hard copy of my work and read it over, making changes with a red pencil. I’ll even hand it to my father or a friend and ask them to proofread it. Use a method that is right for you.

How do you proofread your work? Do you use spell check? What are some of your spelling nightmares?

Light the Night: A Walk to End Blood Cancer

Light the Night 13


If you’re new to New York and what the city that never sleeps has to offer, you may not have heard about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Light the Night” walk this weekend at the Midland Beach Promenade on Staten Island.

Each year, participants walk the boardwalk after sunset carrying red, white and gold illuminated balloons – red for patients currently battling blood cancer, white for survivors and gold for those who’ve lost the fight. Last Saturday, about 2,500 people gathered to honor loved ones who have suffered or are suffering from blood cancer. It really is a great excuse to go out on the weekend. There’s always live entertainment from local bands, DJs, dance groups and school cheerleaders as well as dinner and snacks. Not only was it a beautiful night to walk along the boardwalk admiring the balloons lighting up the night sky, it was also reason to do good for the community.

They also hold a touching ceremony in remembrance of those who passed. Although I’ve been participating for a long time, this was the first year I went to the ceremony. They recited a poem titled, “Remember Me,” followed by a moment of silence. Then we took turns signing a banner for our loved ones.

For the past six years, I have led Team Knighttour in honor of my friend who lost his life to leukemia at the age of 15. Having started this team in high school, I have always found fundraising to be very difficult. The more people I got involved, and the more I shared our story and homepage on Facebook and Twitter, the more money my team raised. Makes sense, right? Normally this would be the case. But this year I was very surprised with the overwhelming support my team received. With only a day left, we not only broke our team goal of $300, but raised $510.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society set a goal of raising $275,000 by December 15 on Staten Island, and has currently reached $200,000. Knighttour continues to receive donations from people and have made $550. Team Knighttour now ranks 68 out of 221 on the Team Leader Board for Staten Island. If you’d like to learn more about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, visit For Team Knighttour, visit

Public Relations: A Misunderstood Profession


The results of a poll conducted by LinkedIn show that PR  is ranked No. 7 out of 10 jobs on the list of most confusing professions. Social media manager ranked No. 3. The professional networking site surveyed about 8,000 parents worldwide. Nearly 42% of these people who have children working in PR management said they could not describe what it is their son or daughter does for a living; for kids in social media management jobs, about 59%. To read the full article, click here.

While it may not come as a shock to some, it opened my eyes to how misunderstood our profession really is, part of the reason being that people simply don’t know what it is we do or understand the value. LinkedIn suggested a solution to this problem: make November 7 “Bring Your Parents to Work Day.” As clever as a reversal of “Bring Your Kids to Work Day” sounds, I feel like there should be a better way to raise awareness (PR professionals of the world, UNITE!). All kidding aside – maybe we should start by explaining what public relations is. Often times PR is broken down to handling the media and gaining publicity for a client to make them look good. It’s so much more than that. It’s a craft.

PRSA describes public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and their publics.” For more information on the PRSA and its definition of PR, click here. PR is all about an exchange of information. It’s about engaging and keeping an open dialogue with a client or company’s stakeholders (employees, customers, the media, investors, activists, etc). This builds trust and credibility which raises the client’s reputation. As students, we learn that reputation is key. A damaged reputation is very hard to fix once that trust is broken. That’s why to be a successful PR person, it’s important to have a code of ethics to set boundaries and protect reputation. It’s also good to be adaptable, trustworthy and be able to write.

Ethical or Not? A Red Lobster Waitress Gets Suspended After Posting Photo of Receipt with Racial Slur



Trying to decide the topic for my first blog post this week was a little challenging. As I searched for inspiration, my mind couldn’t help but wander to an article I read this weekend on PR Daily. It is a topic I plan on discussing in my Ethics class this week.

A Red Lobster in Franklin, Tenn. suspended a server for posting a photo of a customer’s receipt with a racial slur on Facebook this week. According to the article, the customer wrote “none” on the receipt’s line for tip and the n-word on the line for total. The waitress, who is black, showed a picture of the receipt to her father, who later posted it to Facebook. In the original image, the customer’s name is easy to make out. The waitress was suspended without pay. A Red Lobster spokesman said the suspension was “standard procedure” for employees who break company policy by doing things like posting pictures of customers’ receipts on social media networks. He also said the customer’s use of a racial slur was “completely disgusting,“ that it has no place in the restaurant or anywhere else and they plan to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible.

What we don’t know is how long she was suspended for or if her suspension was really much of a suspension at all. In the article, the spokesman states that her suspension hasn’t actually caused her to miss any days of work and she’s scheduled to work a normal schedule next week. The only way I could see her not actually missing any days of work is if she was only suspended on the days she has off.

Should the company have suspended the waitress for violating company policy? Or should she have be given a less harsh punishment? The server could have argued that she didn’t know the company policy, though I don’t think that would have made much of a difference. While I feel sorry she was subject to such ignorance, the bottom line is she violated Red Lobster’s policy and her/her father’s actions could potentially put the company at risk of being sued by the customer.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments! To read the full story, visit PR Daily.