Posted by: rachelyangl | October 21, 2019

Communicating And Listening To Our Brains

October 12thmarked the 21stanniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, whose murder became one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in American history. The high-profile felony has since spawned an activist movement by the youngster’s parents, who founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

In seemingly a blink of an eye, activists around the world have been fighting against prejudice and bias for decades. Till this day, the effort to push for equality continues in tune with the times. The rationale is that everyone should be valued for what they are capable of, and not who they are. For many, the stigma against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex exists partly because of an automatic association with negative attitudes that takes place in the brain, also known as implicit bias. These evaluations happen outside one’s conscious awareness- often are deep social values and beliefs that have embedded within one’s upbringing. 

Unfortunately, the intrapersonal predetermination will affect the way someone perceives messages and in turn behaves- which will attribute to how something appeals to the audience. As communicators, we must understand this cognitive process when trying to make an influence. However, researchers argued there may be a way around implicit bias by identifying vulnerable decision points, a notion that explains situations in which increased disproportionality will tend to occur.

While defending for minorities and discrimination plays a significant role in shaping our future, strategists must identify one’s vulnerability, as well as take into account the effects of stereotypes, prejudice and bias when drafting communication methods. 

Posted by: peninsular | October 18, 2019

The Future Is Female?

This morning, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir set their space suits to battery mode and ventured outside the International Space Station orbiting the earth. The historic first all-woman space walk offers a unique opportunity for the organization to use messaging to promote its work and inspire a new generation of young girls to pursue STEM careers. 

Except this occasion comes on the heels of last spring’s aborted spacewalk when two female astronauts learned at the last minute that there was only one suit on board configured to fit a woman. Despite NASA’s intentional efforts to be inclusive, unintended and implicit associations about the types of bodies that need a spacesuit spread into the planning process, turning it into a NASA failure.  

That’s why it’s so important for strategic communicators to bring awareness of implicit associations and biases to our processes. To communicate succinctly and powerfully, implicit associations can serve as shorthand for the messages we want our audiences to understand. We all know Energizer batteries last a long time thanks to a 20-year-old ad campaign associating the brand with the active and fecund bunny. However, these associations are rarely so benign. Stereotypical and negative associations can easily infect our messaging and strategic planning. Even when we’re trying to challenge these biases, just as NASA was when it first planned the all-woman spacewalk, organizations communicate beliefs through processes and outcomes as well.

Posted by: Hanna Neuschwander | October 15, 2019

How does a change mission affect the way we view strategic communications?

Whether we are talking about the companies we work for or the governments we are citizens of, organizations channel a significant portion of human activity. Collectively, organizations are responsible for some of the most egregious harms we face (climate change, mass extinction, rape used as a weapon of war, etc.); but they are also at the nexus of efforts of redress. By their nature, organizations organize and in so doing, channel effort, intelligence, and shared values toward their aims.

For a modern organization seeking to instigate changes at levels ranging from individual behavior to how an entire sector (public or private) functions, strategic communication is non-optional. It is “an essential lever for changing the way people think, feel, act and behave” (Omidyar Group, 2018).

Traditional definitions of “strategic communication” are informative, but given the stakes, change-oriented communications must be more than just “narrowly defined around specific managerial problems, such as improving organizational performance [or] selling more products” (García, 2012). Nor is it enough for them to simply “maintain a healthy reputation for the communication entity in the public sphere” (Holtzhausen and Zerfass, 2015), or to be merely successful (e.g., generate buzz).

Omidyar (2018) draws on recent shifts in the development/philanthropic sectors toward the rigorous use of theory of change and logic models to add the requirement that change-oriented strategic communications be “performed with an end output and outcome that tangibly connects to the mission, program goals and objectives” (2018).

When the goal is change, “good intentions are not enough” (Ferris, 2016).



Ferris, J. M. 2016. “Is This a New Golden Age of Philanthropy? An Assessment of the Changing Landscape.” Voluntary Sector Review 7 (3): 315–24.

García, C. 2012. “Using Strategic Communication for Nation-Building in Contemporary Spain: The Basque Case.” International Journal of Strategic Communication 6 (3): 212–31. doi:10.1080/1553118x.2012.678523.

Holtzhausen, D. R., & Zerfass, A. (2015a). Strategic communication: Opportunities and challenges of the research area. In D. R. Holtzhausen & A. Zerfass (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of strategic communication (pp. 3–17). New York, NY: Routledge.

Omidyar Group. 2018. Fine Tuning: The Art and Science of Integrating Strategic Communications [white paper]. Washington, DC: Author.

Posted by: Alex Peery | November 27, 2017

What does the future look like for visual journalism?

Nicole Smith Dahmen makes the case that a visual restorative narrative can be a sustaining value for the future of visual journalism. She posits that this narrative-style is able to go beyond the scope of what can be provided by the person on the street. While compelling, it seems unrealistic that this style will be successful in the current social news climate.

The main reason for this exists by looking at the margin. Visual reporting is costly, typically for the in-depth nature of the work described in Dahmen’s study. The study cites the Chicago Sun-Times sacking of their entire 28-person photography staff. There is no doubt that photojournalist will produce stronger photographs than the average, untrained journalist. Newspapers don’t always have the luxury of large payrolls. Beyond this, the instant access to social media and others such public platforms makes it so much easier to outsource visual elements to the public.

The hurricane in Puerto Rico, including the ongoing recovery, are an excellent example. Consider this well known photo by Alejandro Garcia Padilla, former Governor of Puerto Rico:


(source in link above)

The photograph is newsworthy and covers an ongoing story of disaster recovery. It was also posted for free and widely picked up by many news outlets. It is hard to see where photojournalists will be able to overcome the access to free content that technology provides.

There is a new genre of journalism in town, and it’s been termed the “restorative narrative.”  After reading Images of Resilience: The case for Visual Restorative Narrative by Nicole Smith Dahmen, I think that visual storytelling has the potential of being very impactful when it comes to social change.  Dahmen comments that “journalism has a responsibility not just to report the news but also to contribute to civic engagement for an informed populace and functioning democracy (94).”  For those segments of the population with a lower socioeconomic status who may not be inclined to read the news on a regular basis, learning of current events through visual storytelling may be the key to engage those groups of people.  Or bring light to issues that may not have been heard otherwise.

One concern that Dahmen has of the “restorative narrative” is that it has “the potential to intrude on private moments and to exploit subjects (102).”  There a fine line between sharing a powerful, intimate story and exploiting someone for personal gain which should be discussed further.  I also have to ask, will these images actually cause people to act or will society move on to the next big news story?

Posted by: alexandrapdxblog | November 27, 2017

Social Change Communication: Reciprocal Journalism

Lewis, Holton, and Coddington focus on how social media (specifically Twitter and Facebook) facilitates reciprocal forms of journalism. News organizations strive for high engagement of their audiences, yet are reluctant to allow them fully in the creating of content. Reciprocal journalism encourages community members to “like” posts on Facebook, retweet links from news sources, and tag locations and people in the community. That on its own is a public invitation for reciprocation.

The authors break reciprocity into three components: direct, indirect and sustained. Direct reciprocity is most easily achieved with journalists exchanging posts with followers one-on-one. Indirect journalism encourages discussion around various hashtags, and involves the community as a whole. Lastly, sustained reciprocity can expect longterm exchanges on community pages shared by audiences that are involved in the same community or share common interests. Having a sustained engagement allows readers to be actively involved with news content, and encourages more conversation and participation.

Journalists have accepted the way social media has changed journalism, and recognize that while Facebook is not a media source, it is a space that reaches a large population, and a way to bring more voices into the conversation.


Posted by: fnanbe | November 27, 2017

Hashtag Activism: More Than Just Slacktivism Organizing

In the article entitled ‘Media Ecology and Hashtag Activism: Kaleidoscope’, the authors explore the world of hashtag activism and the negative and positive effects of this media ecology. The author approached this perspective of Hashtag activism through the unique metaphorical lens of a Kaleidoscope.

Hashtag Activism is Digital solidarity. The usage of hashtags on platforms like Instagram and Twitter allow people across the world to communicate about important social and political issues and sometimes respond beyond the virtual world by organizing movements. Without Hashtags Activism, movement like #BlackLivesMatter would have remained an idea in Oakland, California and wouldn’t have transpired into the movement it is today. The article made mention of the ‘Die-ins’ in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. I remember vividly exploring this hashtag on Instagram and the photos of demonstrations that accompanied it. I was powerful so I decided to participate on my college campus.

In section entitled ‘Kaleidoscope Turn: Beautiful and Interesting’, the authors reflect on popular hashtags of the past couple of year, many of which were a distant memory to me. As I thought back on my engagement with some of these hashtags, I remember being emotional and provoked by the issue – I ‘shared’ and participated in conversations. But for some hashtag movements, that was the extent of my participation; a share and a few dozen ‘likes’. The article says that being ‘superficially’ involved helps the reputation of the movement. If this is the case, is slacktivism actually activism or are there levels to becoming an activist?

Posted by: kaylagee91 | November 27, 2017

Dahmen’s case is well meaning, but nothing new

‘Images of Resilience: The Case for Visual Restorative Narrative’ is well meaning, but nothing new. Nicole Dahmen’s piece starts off by recounting the life-altering experiences of people who were photographed in the midst of tragedy and how in some cases, the circulation of those images caused a great deal of pain and humiliation.

Dahmen contemplates whether or not photojournalism can also, “convey the story behind the immediacy of the horrific event? Can they capture and convey recovery, resilience, and restoration?” (94). She proceeds to make the case for restorative narrative, a newer genre of photojournalism or ‘visual journalism’ (Santana & Russial, 2013, p.81) that aims to tell stories through long term photographic reporting that builds trust with impacted subjects. Dahmen notes that duty of journalists from a traditional point of view is to report the facts rather than advocate, but contends that the responsibilities of photojournalists are too changing with the times (95).

One can’t help but wonder whether the underlying agenda is to conserve the practice of photojournalism or to tell restorative narratives in a responsible way. Can it be both?

As a woman of color, I’m wary of stories centered around tragedy. People of color embody a richness that transcends tragedy and there are counter-stories that deserve a space in public discourse. Why not use image power to tell stories about people of color who are empowered so that we can begin to change the narrative? Aiming to elicit empathy for the purpose of baiting donors is paternalistic and short sighted. It’s time to do things differently.




Posted by: Tony Hernandez | November 27, 2017

Hashtag activism & a Burnside Bridge die-in

Burnside die in

#DontShootPDX protester hold a die-in on the Burnside Bridge on September 2016.

Reading “Media ecology and hashtag activism: #Kaleidoscope” brought me back to first-hand observations of local protests with national hashtags.

While covering a march in September 2016, I remember the unusual silence on the Burnside Bridge as protesters lay on the span for 4.5 minutes, representing the 4.5 hours Michael Brown lay dead on the street after a police shooting.

The die-in on the Burnside drew a lot of local attention, but those local voices were part of 1,000s nationwide who spoke up against police violence to black communities.

Heather Crandall and Carolyn Cunningham, our reading’s authors, point out that die-ins related to Brown’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement were fueled by hashtags, such as #Ferguson #BlackLivesMatter and from my observations #DontShootPDX, a hashtag that remains active today (click here to take a look).

Crandall and Cunningham point out that social justice movements and statements, like #BlackLivesMatter, allow activists the opportunity to “reclaim public spaces that have been used for racists or violent means.”

In Political Violence @ a glance, Oliver Kaplan for Denver Dioulouges writes that die-ins have been around since the 1960s and 1970s. Their power comes from quick mobilization of people with few resources needed, while still having an “outsized effect on public attention,” he wrote.

I remember that die-in during that September afternoon disrupted traffic for longer than 4.5 minutes on the Burnside. Images were shown on the news, and importantly, dozens of people were sharing their own images on social media, including myself.

Posted by: lucaspisano | November 27, 2017

Restorative Narrative

There are countless ways to tell stories. As strategic communicators, it’s our job to make sure the method we choose to convey our stories will have the longest lasting impressions. In this week’s readings, we read: Images of Resilience: The Case for Visual Restorative Narrative by Nicole Smith Dahmen, this article brought up an interesting genre of storytelling – restorative narratives. Restorative narratives is media coverage that intends to explore the stories beyond the immediacy of the tragic event, and focuses on the individuals or communities and how they are moving from a place of disperse to a place of resilience.

The article examines several famous pictures taken during moments of tragedy in the world, one specific one was during the Vietnam War. In this picture we see a naked nine year old girl screaming in pain because the skin on her back has been scorched off by napalm.



“Photojournalism can certainly be a sustained endeavor that shows meaningful progression. Images can most definitely capture resilience and forge a human connection. In fact, the preamble to the code of ethics of the National Press Photographers Association speaks to the value of images as restorative narrative.”

Through restorative narratives we are able to take a more profound look into the journeys of people or communities who are cast into the national spotlight in the wake of tragedies. When we get a story from their perspectives, we find a story of resilience, one that is gripping and sheds new light on a story we thought we knew.

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