About Me

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Dallas, TX
My name is Kristin Mitchell, I am a upcoming senior at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX majoring in Communications Studies.

Monday, May 2, 2011


It seems as though in life, nothing feels more satisfying than winning. The overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when we win a good grade, a contest, or the approval of someone we admire through our efforts. Michelle Prince, the author of Winning in Life Now, makes a living explaining the importance of being happy with the life you've chosen and being successful at what you love.

On March 18, Prince, a Texas Chi Omega alumni, visited the chapter at SMU and spoke of just that. How do yo decide in college, high school, or even post graduation what your calling is? According to Prince, most people deny their calling because it comes so naturally to them, often assuming these skills are common or unordinary.

Prince's dream was to write a book and after years of telling herself that she could never finis it and that no one could possibly care about what she had to say, she accomplished her goal with tremendous success. With a best seller under her belt, Prince spends her time coaching others to accomplish these goals and win in life.

Prince fondly remembers the day she decided she wanted to become a motivational speaker. Her parents gave her a ticket to a Zig Ziglar seminar during the summer before her first semester at college and by the end of the seminar, the 18 year old Prince marched right up to the world-renowned figure and told him, "I'm going to work for you someday." Her declaration came true after graduation when she became Ziglar's personal assistant and friend.

If her story weren't inspirational enough, Prince's ability to hold a room and engage others with the truthful words she has to offer is inspirational. Motivation is a powerful tool and can be useful in any career.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Powerful Imagery

It's almost amusing how often university courses overlap, providing a multifaceted account on an event or concept. In my Comparative Politics class we examine the institutional and political structures that drive events in varying countries. Recently we've analyzed the path that Germany took prior to WW1 and WW2 in its struggle to modernize and number of prerequisites German citizens undertook before succumbing to Adolf Hitler's hypnosis. Around the same time I was unraveling these series of events, I had the opportunity of hearing Agi Geva, a unbelievable Holocaust survivor speak of the same events through the eyes of someone labeled an enemy of her own state.

According to Geva, until March 19, 1944, "We were still very happy, not even dreaming of what would come." Just as President Hindenburg could not fathom the threat that Hitler presented as Chancellor, even those whose trust in the government remained shaky would not believe under they and their families were placed in some of the most desolate and dangerous places ever to exist.

Bravery and resolution characterized Geva and her family, careful not to appear to be together thereby running a greater risk of being torn apart; she, her sisters and her mother faced the surrounding threats together. Meanwhile, in the motherland, German Aryan citizens were forced to brainwash their consciences into believing in these unfathomable crimes. Professors and local police were replaced with Nazi supporters and parents watched as their children's worlds revolve around the Third Reich and its values.

"Everything was gray," Geva recounted as she remembered her experience entering Auschwitz. Stripped, shaved, tatooed and virtually naked, she and the remaining victims were deprived of every liberal value: their dignity, equality, and freedom to pursue happiness. Humility and devastation was all that remained, and for what purpose? To unite the German people after a massive economic recession following a devastating loss in the first world war? Or to satisfy one power-hungry man's need to control the lives of millions of innocent people.

Living in absolute uncertainty, Geva and her family were forced to cooperate with whatever was assigned by the Nazis that guarded them. never knowing if one day they would be free or if Germany would actually win the war and this would remain a reality forever. Waiting for foreign soldiers to rescue them, unable to keep account of which countries were even fighting for their freedom. Trips to and from Auschwitz to work on a number of projects eventually led to Geva and her group's escape and rescue. Although devoid of all human rights, she could not surrender her dignity. Geva remembered, "We were so dirty, so thin, so weak, so ugly, no hair. I didn't even recognize myself so I bought lip stick. I thought it could help."

One year after her nightmare began, Geva and her family resumed life. Freedom should not be decided by someone who sits in a large building in the capital of a country pointing fingers at who should live or die. Freedom is an innate human right that should be protected by one's government, never to be at risk. Listening to Geva's story makes me swell with gratitude and humility. Had any one of us been in her shoes, who is to say we could have handled these events or more importantly their memories.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Be Relevant, Be Professional...

Are two of the most beneficial pearls of wisdom anyone embarking into the professional world should string on their learning necklace. Katherine Bradford, Vice President of NOVO1 and SMU advisory board member, stressed with caution, "Be repetitive, be consistent, and be relevant." According to her, twittering play-by-plays such as meal times, daily errand updates, and useless thoughts are a few of the many things that should not appear in your digital footprint. If your future employer were to look you up on any social media site including Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, they most definitely don't want to find a list of things you ate for breakfast with uploaded photos to accompany them... unless of course you are applying to work in the culinary arts.

Bradford lives a cautious digital life, applying the golden rule by asking herself if she'd want her friends, her future employers and then her mother to see her posts if they Googled her. She says, "If you even think it's inappropriate, take it down." Something I think has become more obvious over the years of developing social media that Bradford stressed, is the rule that "when you are communicating with someone in the business world, remember your English classes and use them." Often employers are contacted with emails that included phrases like "lol" and smiley faces. Even the most forgiving employers have a difficult time ignoring those faux pas.

One challenge that our generation faces is the fact that our original use of social media sites varies greatly from what the professional world expects of us. The transition from informal contact between friends to a professional networking tool often presents a gray area, however according to Bradford, the importance of maintaining your digital footprint trumps the want to share embarrassing pictures with friends.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Blog About Blogging.

The brand that Exxon Mobil emulates is often perceived as a big-name oil conglomerate out to make money.. oh and there was that big oil spill in the 70's. You could say the first half is true, with the company being one of if not the top companies in the business, but as for its reputation when it comes to safety and maintaining the environment, Exxon Mobile doesn't get near enough credit.

While many companies invest greatly into marketing and advertising campaigns as their business strategy, according to Matt Gobush, ironically the democratic corporate communications manager for the company, claims this strategy isn't worth it. Regardless of who has the flashiest ad, people will buy gas at the most convenience or cheapest station - or in my case, whichever one looks like it has the cleanest bathroom.

So what is a company to do? Their communications strategies focus on environmental safety mechanisms and contributing to communities in which they operate. The company also works to develop chemicals and products that can prevent or lessen the impact of an oil disaster such as the BP oil spill - whose clean up crews utilized many of Exxon Mobil's developments. Clearly, Gobush and his team need to establish a conversation with consumers in attempt to make these efforts known, the challenge being, how does a large, corporate company like Exxon Mobil create a blog or social media site without diminishing its professionalism?

The point of a blog is to engage your audience while enhancing your company's image, not damage it. The trick to having a successful company blog is balance. There are blogs such as the National Geographic blog called Inside NGC that is informational but doesn't offer viewers any personality or proof that there are actual humans running the show there. Blogs need more than fuzzy animals and informational paragraphs to boost ratings. And then there's the Best Western blog titled, You Must Be Trippin'. This blog's most recent post covers highlights that readers can expect to see in the upcoming NASCAR season... I'm sorry, how does this relate to family-friendly hotel rooms? There may exist some 6th degree that links these two unlikely subjects, but it would be beneficial if the authors at Best Western pointed it out.

At least we know Exxon Mobil's site is sensitive to its environment, quickly changing the proposed title from "Platforms" to "Perspectives" once BP's oil platform caught fire and sunk into the Gulf. As for the blog's content, they balance the professional aspect of displaying copy in a formal layout but gear the information toward topics that are interesting to their audiences such as energy policies and establishing more AP classes in schools - one of the company's biggest philanthropic efforts.

Find the blog here and join the conversation!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Behind the Curtain of my Double Life.

In lieu of communications  class this week, I was servicing my alter ago [or major, that is] by performing in the SMU Meadows Dance Spring Hope Show. With rehearsal stemming from the begining of January almost every night of the week including a sprinkling of Saturday mornings, its pretty obvious to the university and the surrounding community that this show is a pretty big deal... at least the dancers hope so.

The program consisted of 5 pieces: Prayers, choreographed by Jessica Lang, Vigland's Garden by SMU faculty member, Christopher Dolder, Letters to Camille by SMU faculty member, Jean Paul Comelin, No Contact, by SMU student, Jamal White-Jackson and two special performances of Martha Graham's Panorama.

Having danced and thus performed for a great majority of my life [going on 15 years], one might assume the thrill, nausea, disappointment, and euphoria of rehearsing and performing a piece in front of a large group of people would diminish over time... it doesn't. I've never met a dancer [unless they are in their thrid straight year of a 36-show run of the Nutcracker] that doesn't feel the rush of urgency and slight panic of "wait, what are the steps?!" before they go on stage.

The feeling of unity that encompasses dancers who perform in a show, however, add in an injury that forces the casts of various pieces to rearrange choreography in the midst of the run and the feeling of unity transforms into a crisis-managing support group. On Saturday morning each dancer received an email announcing an emergency warm up and rehearsal schedule to change formations and casting to cover one of our own.

Regardless of the complications, the Spring Hope Show was ultimately a success, and nothing seems more rewarding than feeling of accomplishment after a long and tiresome run. Read the SMU Daily Campus review here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Invasive Marketing?

We all know the implications of an increase in seemingly tailored marketing. Advertisements are geared toward consumer interests and the prevalence of smart phones make shoppers sitting ducks for marketing sharp-shooters. Rob Martin, the principle and managing director (or "strategist") at MM2 Public Relations, identified two main factors as to why the consumer-marketer relationship has become more of a two-way communication model resembling a typical teenager-parent relationship:

1. The shift in media influence (from print to radio to TV to internet to smart phones)

2. Consumer interactivity (consumers are dictating the way things are going)

Integrated marketing, or the combination of PR, marketing and advertising, utilizes mediums to reach its audiences. Depending on the primary target, these ways of reaching people can vary. However, according to Martin, 1/3 of Americans own smart phones and 40% of non-wners want to buy them in the near future. "The smartphone has changed everything and this be the most influential medium there is," he said, "the smartphone is becoming the water-cooler of the future."

So now that we have the ability to personalize messages sent to consumers and track them down in a mall to alert them that there is a sale taking place in a store near their location that they visit "x" number of times  and purchase an average of "x" items from its online store per month, how personal is too personal? When does integrated marketing become invasive marketing?

When creepiness outweighs convenience and individual privacy is at risk, companies must be considering just how much permission they have to essentially stalk consumers. Daily email and catalog deliveries have evolved into direct conversation through Facebook and Twitter or push notifications of special offers as well as which of your friends have purchased the same item. Community seems to have gone digital. Communicating face to face with others appears to be a part of the past while many rely on social  interactions with strangers on the internet. At some point in the near future there must be a digression from this intensely invasive strategy during which companies and their integrated marketing teams must reevaluate principles of privacy.

Friday, March 11, 2011

And the Homework Never Stops...

Apparently, not much changes after you graduate with four years of homework and a communications degree under your belt. The evident fact that homework never seems to stop became clear after Michael Lake, head of the Dallas Burson-Marstellar office, walked us through a presentation he and his team pitched to one of their latest big clients. Slide after slide of this impressive power point was filled with research and statistics from which campaign slogan would resonate better with different audiences to a table that shows which political affiliation is more opposed to online gambling and why.

According to Lake, extensive research like this is paid for by the client after the account has been landed, however Burson-Marstellar often does a small amount of research even before they meet the client for the first time in hopes of teaching them something about their field or industry they hadn't realized. "We've learned that clients love data," Lake said, "and we try to do some unique research so we can show the client something they've never seen before." Having the upper hand in an informational presentation is how this company became one of the best. 

So what kind of things go into this research? You might assume that it is very surface level and similar to a marketing focus group where a handful of people eat cookies to determine if they're good or bad. And to be honest, this may be the approach other PR firms take, but at BM? Not a chance. The 20+ slide research Lake presented to us was so thorough that no tactic, audience, potential procedure, website feature, or opinion was left unanalyzed. 

The intensity of this procedure may seem a bit over the top, however in a business where one not only has to promote or increase awareness about a product or campaign, but must change the opinions of others, the research helps Lake and his team completely understand his audiences and what they react to. In the process of developing this campaign, Lake presented both a negative and positive approach in an attempt to determine through research which would resonate better with his target audiences. As it turns out, different audiences reacted differently to each approach. With this information, Lake now knows how to address certain groups of people when promoting his campaign depending on either their political affiliation, demographic, age, etc. Talk about strategic communication. 

Whether you are promoting a new brand of toothpaste or attempting to change public opinion on a controversial issue, the importance of doing your homework never diminishes. Just as a future employer is more inclined to hire an interviewee that researched his/her company, large clients that are about to spend significant amounts of money want to be assured that the PR firm they are potentially hiring can provide a service that their own in-house team can't.