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Positive PR

Bradley student Shelby Brown learns self-defense techniques at an event organized by Bradley public relations seniors. (Photo provided by Kris Parks, Kuk Sool Won of Pekin)

December 6, 2016

Bradley public relations seniors find creative ways to improve the Peoria metro area each year through a friendly final project competition. Through the Ebeling PR-ize, students build relationships with local businesses and nonprofits in effort to improve the lives of local residents.

Founded by retired McDonald’s communications executive Chuck Ebeling ’66, the senior capstone challenges students to address worthy causes in the community with help from local organizations.

“This takes every class we ever took and threw it into one project,” said Kayley Koter, of Des Plaines, Illinois. “It’s a big deal because this is real life. It affects real people.”

Fall 2016 capstones targeted safety and financial concerns. One group paired area martial arts school Kuk Sool Won with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Peoria to encourage and empower girls and young women. Another campaign paired Peoria education nonprofit Common Place with an area Mass Mutual office to promote financial basics. A third campaign promoted safe neighborhoods by passing out LED porch lights and hosting a block party with help from Ameren Illinois, Peoria Police Explorers and community advocacy organization South Side Community United for Change.

The experience pushed students outside their comfort zones as they took time to understand life and concerns of Peoria metro area residents.

“It’s good that we’re forced to get to know the city,” said Madeleine Koenig-Schappe, of Columbia, Missouri. “As we met people, we realized there were many important issues we could work on. Once we picked one, it was good to see the impact we could make, even though it was just a semester project.”

Students formed teams and functioned as full-service PR agencies for the semester. They followed the traditional PR campaign planning process from initial research to post-event analysis. Because of the small teams, students touched all elements of PR, with its marketing, advertising, event planning and business applications.

For many participants, the Ebeling competition was an introduction to nonprofit work. Though they may have volunteered for community service projects at Peoria-area organizations throughout their Bradley years, classroom and internship experiences focused on corporate PR.

As a result, the semester opened new career possibilities for people like Koter, whose group worked with Common Place.

“It was heartwarming and eye-opening to see the impact of organizations we worked with,” Koter said. “I hadn’t considered working in the nonprofit world before, but this is something I could see myself doing.”

The Ebeling PR-ize has recognized the top PR campaigns each since 2004. Previous winning teams include Hope Grandon ’11, whose competition success helped her land at the Denver Art Museum, where her team won a 2014 Silver Anvil — the top award from the Public Relations Society of America. Other past Ebeling campaigns included a voter drive and a community-building day of remembrance a year after a tornado devastated nearby Washington, Illinois.

“You’re going to have a hand up on many other graduates because of opportunity like this,” said Koenig-Schappe. “It’s really enriching to learn how to do a project in real time, with real people that produces real results.”


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By Chuck Ebeling

Copyright 2016 – All Rights Reserved

Sometimes it’s what you don’t see that matters.

The recent death of Gene Wilder reminded me of an incident of some years back involving his sometime partner-in-crime Mel Brooks.

The year was 1985, and McDonald’s was receiving more and more requests to have its restaurants and products appear in commercial films. Hollywood hadn’t yet really figured out how to exploit the full marketing potential in placing commercial locations and other recognizable branded items in films. Prop masters would pour over film scripts for potential commercial tie-ins, as they were responsible for identifying and stocking locations to be used for filming, preferably at little or no cost to the production. McDonald’s had recently retained a Hollywood firm named Unique Product Placement (UPP), to assist in identifying the best and most appropriate opportunities to place their brand. They were paid a handsome annual fee for reviewing scripts, identifying the good opportunities and coordinating between the studios and our company. They knew and worked closely with prop masters and set designers, and in fact, were made up of such former professionals. When they found a good match, they would contact us with their rationale, and send us the scripts where McDonald’s might fit in. This saved us time and money, and helped screen out the potential movie bombs and inappropriate applications from those with high potential exposure for our brand.

As head of corporate communications, I was responsible for managing the relationship with UPP, and coordinating with our own marketing and other operational departments in implementing such movie tie-ins. One day the phone rang, and it was an international call from Spain. It was our Spanish marketing manager, saying the set decorator for a new science fiction film being shot in a desert region of his country under the aegis of Brooksfilm, the production company controlled by Mel Brooks, had referenced a letter, apparently authorizing our Spanish subsidiary to allow its equipment and signage company to cooperate with the film company and loan them a full-sized McDonald’s restaurant outdoor sign. I asked why, and he said he had a copy of the letter from McDonald’s chief marketing officer written to Mel Brooks himself, agreeing to the sign loan. So I called our marketing chief and asked him about it. He said he vaguely remembered a brief call from Mel Brooks that he said he took because of Brook’s Hollywood fame. Brooks had told him he was executive producer of a science fiction movie set a thousand years in the future in a post-cataclysmic Earth and they wanted to use some McDonald’s signage. The story was something about a boy who found a mysterious orb called Bodhi, lost it, searched for it and at the end, the orb helped bring water back to a parched earth. Our guy agreed, saying Brooks suggested the film and scene in question would be creative, and knowing Brooks great reputation for comedy.

That call had apparently been some months back. I called UPP and asked if they had reviewed the project, and they said it was the first they had heard of it, but they would get hold of Brooksfilm and look over a script and get back to me with their thoughts. I put the guy in Spain on ice, though he seemed in a hurry, as they would be filming the scene involving the sign in a few days. UPP was back to me in a flash. They said they were shocked Brooks was backing such a bizarre film, and they described the scene involved as one of a gang of filthy futurists crossing a post-apocalyptic desert and setting up camp in what would in the film appear to be the ruins of an ancient McDonald’s, and include a vulture or some such motley bird landing on a tilted, falling down McDonald’s road sign, while rape and torture were portrayed amidst a bacchanal going on around campfires within this crude setting. I quickly called our marketing chief, and he said “get us out of this!” So I talked it over with UPP and our legal staff, and they agreed that we could refuse to cooperate with the film people in Spain on the grounds that the film had been miss-represented to our marketing chief. Thus, we turned down the request, to the great chagrin of the Spanish production company.

The film, Solarbabies, was released in 1986. Some had predicated it would become Mel Brooks’ “Star Wars.” It had cost $25 million to produce; a giant overrun, and Mel Brooks sold it to the U.S. distributor for just $14 million. The U.S. box office proceeds for the film were only $1.5 million. It has been widely critiqued as Mel Brooks’ worst film and one of the worst movies ever produced, with legendary film critic Gene Siskel crowning it “pure trash.”

Years later, I finally saw the segment of the final film that had been targeted for the demolished McDonald’s, and instead of the bird landing on a tattered Golden Arches sign, he landed on piece of tilted wood hung with rusty cans, amidst a despicable yet unidentified desert campsite. No Golden Arches. Indeed, sometimes it’s what you don’t see that matters. Disaster averted.

Cheetah Masai Mara '06

It’s been said that the real meaning behind photography is that it creates a “transfer of energy” across time and space. It is a way of capturing a bit of the dynamic content of the cosmos in a portable form. As in this photo of a cheetah that had spontaneously joined us on the hood of our Land Cruiser on the plains of the Massai Mara in Kenya several years ago.

And speaking of New Year’s resolutions, I’m reminded of the voyage mankind is taking, in this excerpt from the conclusion, of all things, of an essay I did called “French Fried, From Monticello to the Moon,” for the Chicago Literary Club.

“I’d like to take that long ladder of moon-bound French fries just one last step further into the future, as I wrap up this voyage through history. Albert Einstein thought that perhaps the greatest challenge facing mankind is to “widen our circle of compassion” across both time and space. Our ethnic and geopolitical squabbling might pale into insignificance if our compassionate circles were wide enough, he reasoned.

So let’s not longer worry whether the little fry is French, Belgium, American or Russian, but take it with us into the future, even into space, as a tasty treat for our frail band of wandering humanity, and continue to enjoy the good little things in life.

John Calvi, in a 1982 poem called “French Fries,” perhaps said it best, in his final stanza, when he wrote:
“Some think the army, the bombs and the guns
Will one day save all of our lives,
I don’t believe it — heat up your pans
Make peace, and lots of French fries.”

Happy New Year 2014!

My essay on fries can be found at http://www.chilit.org and then under, Roll of Members.

Insights From Chicago Agency Leaders.

Albert Einstein’s transcendent admonition to mankind to “widen our circle of compassion” across both time and space, was central to the context of my history of the global socializing role of the French fry, when I addressed the tuber topic before The Chicago Literary Club. Here’s an excerpt from my essay:

“By now, you’re probably about done in, as well. So, I’ll bring this “appreciation of the french fry” to a close. But, I realize I’ve left out, until now, one final dimension from the title of this essay, which again is — French Fried: From Monticello to the Moon. What’s this about french fries and outer space, you ask? Well, in 1995, NASA and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, created a new technology with the goal of feeding astronauts on long space voyages, with a view to eventually feeding future space colonies. In October of that year, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in outer space.

“It’s a funny thing, because one of my first assignments shortly after becoming a McDonald’s consultant, some 30 years ago, was to help associate McDonald’s image, as it approached its 30th anniversary, with the space age.

“One of the fun facts we worked up in support of the premise that McDonald’s menu might literally reach space one day, was to compute the number of McDonald’s french fries, strung end to end that it would take to reach the moon. To figure it out we sent for a box of fries and measured each one, then divided and determined the average length, and multiplied by the average mileage to the moon – a quarter million miles. If you’re curious, pick up a box of fries at McDonald’s, do the math, and see how close you get to 4.5 billion fries to the moon.

“I’d like to take that long ladder of moon-bound french fries just one last step farther into the future, as I wrap up this voyage through history. Albert Einstein thought that perhaps the greatest challenge facing mankind is to “widen our circle of compassion” across both time and space. Our ethnic and geopolitical squabbling might pale into insignificance if our compassionate circles were wide enough, he reasoned.

“So let’s no longer worry whether the little fry is French, Belgian, American or Russian, but take it with us into the future, even into space, as a tasty treat for our frail band of wandering humanity, and continue to enjoy the good little things in life.

“John Calvi, in a 1982 poem called “French Fries,” perhaps said it best, in his final stanza, when he wrote:

“Some think the army, the bombs and the guns
Will one day save all of our lives,
I don’t believe it – heat up your pans
Make peace, and lots of French fries.”

Here is a link to my complete essay: “French Fried: From Monticello to the Moon”

http://www.chilit.org/Papers%20by%20author/Ebeling%20–%20French%20Fried.htm

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And that there was a connection to Charles Lindbergh?

From today’s Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre, born in Paris (1905). This giant of existential thought was also a well-known prankster during his days at the École Normale. He and a friend dropped water balloons from the roof onto dinner guests in tuxedos, shouting, “Thus pissed Zarathustra!” He sometimes showed up naked to official functions, and he vomited on the feet of a school official. After Charles Lindbergh successfully flew across the Atlantic, Sartre and several of his friends announced to the media that Lindbergh would be receiving an honorary degree at the École Normale, then one of them impersonated Lindbergh and convinced the media that he was at the school. There was such an uproar when it turned out to be a hoax that the school’s president was forced to resign.

In 1964, Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, but he refused it. When he died in 1980, 50,000 people turned out on the streets of Paris to pay their respects.

He wrote: “I was there, standing in front of a window whose panes had a definite refraction index. But what feeble barriers! I suppose it is out of laziness that the world is the same day after day. Today it seemed to want to change. And then, anything, anything could happen.”

When you see talent, education and compassion come together in young people, the world seems like it has a chance. That was the feeling that several hundred students, faculty and friends at the Loyola University, Chicago School of Communications shared last night, when I had the honor of presenting the Ebeling PR-ize for excellence in cause-related communications to several outstanding student teams, for the 7th year.

The winning team, of the 11 groups competing for the 2013 PR-ize, created the campaign, “Make the Connection. Paint a Brighter Future” innovating social media and creative collateral materials and expanded outreach through art stores in support of an art therapy program that benefits inner city at-risk students.

Honorable mentions went to teams that developed communications campaigns to benefit Chicago Canine Rescue and a program to aid teachers and community organizations to integrate music into the curriculum.

Here are opening thoughts I shared with the students last night:

There are never enough opportunities to celebrate successes in life, and for all of us here tonight, this is one such opportunity. Mahatma Gandhi, if I may be so bold to invoke his name, said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”

This is an occasion when we celebrate what has been done for the community by several student groups, and what they have communicated to others to assist these not-for-profit organizations.  Thanks to their individual skills, their professional teamwork, and bolstered by the communications strategies and technologies they have studied here at Loyola, they have made a positive difference.

Today we also celebrate Earth Day, when we take notice of an environment that still sustains our lives, despite many challenges. It’s an environment that sustains our health and physical freedoms as human beings. Whether we are running in the race of our lives, or just cheering on others from the sidelines, we are one people on one earth, and to some extent, what affects each of us affects us all. The events of the past week certainly underline that.

So let me tie this together by observing that there are people watching and learning from what you think, what you say and what you do. The efforts of all the student teams here tonight point toward the reasons that we can remain hopeful.

And what do we think about their efforts? We think they and their results are terrific. So, to paraphrase Gandhi, what they have done and said, and what we all think about them, are in harmony, and we are happy about that. Very happy, indeed.

I just returned from the Lake Geneva premiere of the newest and 50th anniversary James Bond film, Skyfall. It was a large crowd of filmgoers, perhaps as many as 25, for a late afternoon showing here. The theater auditorium has a capacity of several hundred, but today’s turnout was as much as 25 times normal.

For regular James Bond fans, the film contains several surprises, some right at the end, involving Q, M, Miss Moneypenny, and even a classic Aston Martin of Bond film fame.

Don’t miss Skyfall. It does…

I recently obtained a new Fujifilm X10 compact camera. It is small enough to carry easily, unlike bulky DSLRs, yet seems to offer the potential to take high quality images under a wide range of conditions.

The little jewel comes with a detailed instruction manual that explains “what”  the multitude of controls do, but not “how” to use them together to take great photos.

I’ve looked online and found a few partial stabs at strategies for using the smart but complex features, but nowhere yet have I found an even partially complete and understandable guide to getting the most out of this technological marvel.

Help!

Just found the very guide I was looking for at Amazon.com, and downloaded it to my IPad. Cost just $9.99. It contains the coaching I was looking for. Well worth it. http://www.photographyblog.com/news/photographers_guide_to_the_fujifilm_x10/

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