Tough Act to Follow

Editor’s Note: This is the first of at least a few posts inspired by a class I’m taking on the Beatles. More details below.

Fred Kaps. Frank Gorshin. Tessie O’Shea. Wells and the Four Fays.

What do all of these people have in common?

They had the misfortune of performing on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. Just like these four people:

This term, I’m taking a class called “The Beatles and Their Times,” and it is the greatest class ever (hyperbolic but truthful). I wish it was four hours long instead of two. I read the textbooks for fun. (The books are here and here. Both are great; the former is indispensable if you’re a Beatles die-hard.)

Today, we watched a few clips from that February 1964 episode; the first of the band’s several Ed Sullivan Show appearances through the years. Of course, it’s always a treat to watch them: Observing each Beatle’s unique stage presence, laughing at the insane reactions of female audience members, realizing halfway through the song that you’re sort of singing out loud and your seat neighbors would probably like you to stop.

We also watched Wells and the Four Fays’ indescribably strange acrobatics routine (it started with a woman in a gorilla-esque costume and ended with a guy and girl doing a hybrid boxing-gymnastics bit, if that gives you an idea). As if that wouldn’t have been ridiculous enough on its own, they performed right after the Beatles’ final song of the night; talk about a tough act to follow.

Thinking that would make an entertaining blog post – hey, look at these poor people who had to perform after the Beatles! – I spent more time than I care to admit searching for their routine online (in class, we watched from a DVD set of the full Ed Sullivan Show episodes on which the Beatles performed). With no luck, I realized that was the story: Performing on the Ed Sullivan Show was a big deal, but they leave behind no evidence for today’s average American to consume.

I wonder what went through their heads when they heard the Beatles would play. Were they mad about being thrown from the limelight? Or were they excited by the potential for a larger audience?

What really gets me, though, is how many people watched. Sixty percent of the nation’s television audience! 60! I don’t see 60% of Americans ever watching the same thing at once these days; people even DVR the Super Bowl. As weird as that Wells and the Four Fays routine was, it would have survived in some small way had it been performed today, likely in the form of a mocking Twitter hashtag and a few YouTube clips.

I feel a little sorry for the acts whose performances so paled in comparison to the Beatles that they only survive as footnotes in stories about the Beatles. Mostly, though (here comes the fangirl!), all this thinking about TV ratings and YouTube just has me appreciating the Fab Four even more. We may have more choices as far as entertainment today, but it’s really about the quantity-or-quality debate. It can be fun to watch everyone get their fifteen seconds fame, but it’s a blast to watch people who got fifteen minutes (and then some) while truly deserving it.

Pondering Life’s Big Questions. Or, My Last Night in NYC.

An email with this subject line just popped into my inbox: “Check in for your flight to Portland.”

That means my return flight from NYC to PDX is less than 24 hours away.

What?

When I booked the flight back in April, just leaving for New York in June seemed lightyears away. And now it’s August? What the heck?

Editor’s Note: I really don’t analyze my emotions as much as the next few paragraphs might suggest. Bear with me for one post that’s more on the “reflective” side.

But my final day in the city has arrived. And I’m not sure how to feel about it. Last year, I was legitimately homesick and ready to be back in Oregon. This year, it’s different; I’m excited because I’ll be reunited with family and friends (and Oregon football), but I’m also bummed because I’m worried that a lot of the growth I experienced this summer – personally and professionally – might be stunted once I’m back in my true comfort zone.

It’s not as though I can’t grow during the school year. I’ll be involved in a lot of different internships and activities that will undoubtedly challenge me, and I truly can’t wait for it all to begin. As much as I loved the city this summer, there were times I wished I was at home, where the pressure to be doing something all the time is lifted. But when you’re in New York for an extended period of time, you can’t imagine being anywhere else. What’s the point of living in another city when everything happens here?

Sure, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I’ve pondered the question. I think part of my nervousness stems from knowing that I only have one more year of school (and fun and wearing sweats all day and being home, if I do relocate after graduation) left before I’m tossed into the real world, and I’m scared that I won’t make the most of it.

But amidst all these larger-than-life questions, there’s real work to be done. When I get home, it’ll be time to roll up my sleeves and start preparing for the year at Allen Hall Public Relations, the student-run public relations agency at the University of Oregon, where I’ll be Firm Director. I’ve also started working with Baseball Prospectus as one of their social media interns, and my mom has informed me that I must deep-clean my room and my car before I head back to Eugene. It might not be New York, but all of the aforementioned tasks (except maybe cleaning the car) make for an exciting agenda upon my return.

Guess it’s time to print my boarding pass.

Ohhhhh, We’re Halfway There…

….ohhhh, livin’ on a prayer!

Okay, that was lame, but it fit so perfectly. It has hit me that my time in New York is halfway over.

Time flies when you’re in the big city, so without being too sappy or cynical, here are the five main lessons I’ve learned, about the city, the public relations industry, and myself since I’ve been in New York:

  1. It’s okay to do things alone. For some reason, I have this idea in my head that if I’m not doing something with other people (running errands, having lunch, seeing a show), I am a friendless loser. You’re in a city of eight million people and you’re alone? That can’t be right – that’s what the voices say. Sometimes, I’ve forced myself to do things alone because my other option, the option that would involve being around people, would put me in situations I wouldn’t want to be in. New York can be lonely, but I am learning that it’s better to go solo than do something contrary to your values.
  2. New York really is the coolest city on earth. Granted, I have not been to every city on earth, but I’m pretty sure New York is the coolest. It is amazing/awesome/thrilling/enormous/challenging/busy, and if you’re lonely or sad or upset, you’re still in New York and that’s enough. The mix of people, cultures, buildings and industries here really does make it the place to be. I’m not saying it’s the place to be forever, but I am grateful for the chance to see it as more than a tourist.

    Not even the best New York skyline picture, but still amazing...how do you compete with that?

  3. PR jobs are not the same as PR classes. Let me qualify this by saying that my internship is not a real job and that I haven’t taken every PR class my school offers. But, the working world is totally different from college. You don’t do public relations in the real world by consulting a theory in your textbook – you do it by understanding the task at hand and what you want to accomplish in that unique situation. That’s not to say that college is worthless, but it’s really only worth it if you understand how to apply it to real-world tasks, situations and strategies.
  4. You have to be fearless. Recently, I had coffee with a PR industry veteran who works at Rodale. She dispensed a lot of valuable advice, the best piece of which was to be fearless. Whether it’s picking up the phone to call a reporter even though you’re terrified of talking on the phone (that’s me, at times), or asking to meet with a professional to talk about their work. Work through your weaknesses and become stronger and better at your work in the process.
  5. Learn from and be grateful for everything that happens to you. (Warning: this one’s a little sappy.) Be grateful that you’re scrubbing the toilet, because even though it’s a toilet, it’s in the coolest city on earth. Be grateful that you get to talk to your little sister on Skype, because it’s not everyone who gets to hear about his or her sister playing Louis Armstrong in a summer camp play. Be grateful that you get to talk with a lady from the Bronx on the subway, even if you’re packed in on the train like sardines. Be grateful that you are where you are, because you’re there for a reason.

Even though the last lesson was a little sappy, it’s still true. I think I’ve learned more about myself in the last month than I did in the previous nineteen years (more or less).

Thanks for reading over these past few weeks – feel free to drop a comment and say “hi!” Here’s to the next five weeks!

Building a Better Blog

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the 3% curve in my Human Physiology class that bumped my grade up from a B+ to an A-. Yes!

Finals are over and it’s nice to be relaxing at home. With a relatively commitment-free week ahead, I decided I’d take the time to spruce up my blog.

I know nothing has changed yet, but that’s what this post is about. Right now, I’m using plain old WordPress.com, but I’d like to move beyond that. Seems like a lot of talk has surfaced lately regarding personal branding and SEO, and while I want to be ahead of the game on those fronts, I also want to create a blog that is consistently updated with valuable content and discussion.

Rather than dive in without a plan, I set forth three goals for my blog:

1)    That it’s a place where people can get smarter through conversation with others. I’m a student of public relations, journalism and new/social media. I have thoughts, ideas and questions and I definitely don’t know it all. My blog won’t become the center of the PR world but it can be a place where creative new ideas can be introduced and discussed.

2)    That I create an online “home” for myself. While I want to spark thought, discussion and action, I also want my blog to be a place where people can learn about me, what I do and what’s important to me.

3)    That it motivates people to act. A lot of times I’ll read a post, say “Oh, that was insightful,” and then move on. I know there’s a lot of content out there, but I want to motivate people to act on this content: to do something, be it in public relations, social media, their community, etc. I want to be walking what my blog is talking.

That said, I need to create a blog that will allow me to do all of those things. Have you made the switch from a WordPress.com blog to another host, like WordPress.org? Have you bought your own domain name? Played with HTML? If you have, I’d truly appreciate your advice regarding how to go about that process, as inexpensively, reliably and easily as possible. Feel free to leave a comment with any tips or resources, or send me a tweet or an e-mail: paige (dot) landsem (at) gmail (dot) com.

Voicing a Frustration

Okay, University of Oregon.  Now that I am well adjusted to the school routine for this year, it’s time to write a blog post.  To you.

Please revamp the student football ticket distribution system.

Is it too much to ask to divide the distribution up by class, like you did last year?  This season, we all log on at once, each of us dutifully sitting at the computer once 6 pm rolls around.  All 16,000 or so of us.  Last year was much simpler: freshmen at 10, sophomores at noon, and so on…

Now, some of us who actually appreciate football and understand the importance of this game will be left at home.  Many who have no idea what “quarterback” even means will be sitting in the bleachers.  This is not to say that every student who did get a ticket cares nothing about football: quite the opposite.  But many of us who really do care have been to far fewer games this year than we did last year.  Something’s up.

I don’t want to sound extremely bitter.  I’m not too bitter.  Just frustrated: who thought having the entire student body log on to get tickets at the same time would be a good idea?  Who thought the server could handle that?  Who thought the seniors would be happy about losing their final opportunity to see a huge Pac-10 rival?

Life isn’t fair, and I understand that.  But, I wish you would consider changing the system: even people who did manage to get tickets still think something needs to happen.

I’m not here to offer you grand solutions to your problem (my mom suggested tying the opportunity to receive tickets to your GPA).  But, I am here to let you know that a lot of students are upset.  I’m one of them.

We’ll still be cheering for the Ducks this Saturday.  We’ll still stand outside on Saturday morning and wait to see Lee Corso don the Duck head.  But we won’t be happy about it.  We won’t be feeling appreciated as fans.  We won’t be eager to try and get tickets the next time; if the server has stopped working the last two times, why am I to believe its even worth it to try again?  If the University doesn’t want dedicated fans in the stands, why should I be a fan?

That’s all I have to say.  It’s not much, but maybe it will get the UO thinking: how do we put the most dedicated fans in the stands?  I’m probably not going to be fan of the year, but I’ll always tell stories about I got to see the Ducks crush the Trojans on Halloween.  I’ll be grateful to have been a Duck.

Frustrations aside, I’m still pretty excited about the fact that ESPN’s College GameDay is going to be at Autzen on Saturday.  I’ll be the one waving the sign that says something to the effect of “Change the Ticket System.”  Hopefully I’ll come up with something cleverer than that before Saturday.

The plan now is to camp out on Friday night in order ensure a semi-decent spot to view GameDay (ESPN will let me watch quality entertainment without the hassle of an online ticket distributor), but I’m sure I’ll wimp out later this week.  If all goes as planned, I’ll be seeing a scene similar to this one on Saturday:

May we be as loud about changing our ticket distribution policy as we are about winning a football game.

Excited about Life

Eugene!  Public relations!  Friends!  My Chicago Cubs wall sign finally on display!

This is how I feel right now.  Regardless of the fact that the last couple weeks have been ridiculously busy with school preparation, last-minute errands, moving, settling into a new room and meeting new housemates (all of which has kept me from blogging), I think life is just great right now.

Of course, the good feelings will probably lessen some when classes start and schedules start to fill.

But now?  I’m excited about life.

I blogged earlier about the fresh start that comes with September, and my fresh start has truly begun.  I’m in a new room with new décor and new people.  Everything is new.

Another new thing is my enthusiasm for my major, public relations.  I honestly didn’t know a whole lot about public relations until today, when I attended a social media discussion in Portland today.  A few friends who are heavily involved with UO’s student-run PR firm were invited to attend the discussion, which was put on by a Portland PR firm.  They invited me to tag along, and I learned TONS.  Those were capital letters for a reason.

I’m so excited to learn more about how PR is done and what happens in the industry.  It’s constantly changing and seems like an innovative industry with a lot of different career possibilities.  I love using and learning about social media, and this discussion really opened my eyes to how social media fits into public relations.  The girls I drove with were all PR majors and were all extremely happy with their choice to pursue public relations.  They were confident, skilled, and thrilled to be representing UO and their student-run firm.

Hopefully, I can be a part of that firm this year.  Next week I’ll begin the application process, so I’m a bit nervous but still excited about the possibilities that PR offers.  It’s just a great time to be excited about life.

What are you excited about in the coming year?  Your major?  Your school?  Your friends?  Your location?  Tell me!  Also, if anyone out there works in PR or is a PR student, I’d love to hear from you.  I have so much to learn and would love to know any tips or stories you have to share to a PR student.

Coming posts will be less about me and all the cool things in my life and more about what others are doing.  That’s much more important in the grand scheme of things, but this was a “preface post” to the rest of the year.  Here we go!

Mess of Me

Recently, my family has been making fun of me for my frequent use of Twitter.  They do not understand the power and influence of Twitter; by reading the tweets of people I follow, I get a sense of what interesting and obscure things are happening in the world, I gain insight into the lives of other people, I receive updates on my favorite sports teams, etc.  They’ll come around, but for now they just think I’m weird.

And while I do check Twitter several times a day on my laptop and from my phone, I would not call myself “obsessed.”  Except for now.  Maybe.

Switchfoot, my favorite band of all time, is releasing a new album in November.  It’s called “Hello Hurricane,” and the first single is “Mess of Me.”  Switchfoot (which has a twitter account and uses it frequently) is hiding copies of the single all around the world and tweeting about their locations.  The idea is that whoever finds it will subsequently hide more copies.

Take it from lead singer Jon Foreman:

#messofme (our new tune), is hidden all around the globe. If you find one, burn it and hide it somewhere else! enjoy, jon

29 minutes ago from web

However, the single has yet to reach Portland, where I am.  Or if it has, I have no knowledge of it.  They’ve updated several times today with the location of copies of the single.  A couple of sample tweets:

Logan, UT #messofme will be on a bench outside the card/ticket office inside the tsc @ USU in about 45 min.10 minutes ago from web

Boca Raton, FL #messofme At the Publix on Palmetto Park Rd and Oriole Country Rd. Go in and ask for Rachel!1 minute ago from web

Pretty cool, huh?  I think so.  I think it’s a pretty great way to spread the news about a new album and maintain a strong, loyal fanbase online.  More and more musicians (and not just musicians; people in general) are using Twitter in unique ways.  If you have any examples, I’d be interested to see who it was and how they used Twitter.  It seems like something new and amazing comes along every day.

Hopefully they’ll send a copy Portland’s way, but even if they don’t, they gave me a pretty good reason to spend some time on Twitter.

Oh, and speaking of musicians and Twitter, I found one of my all-time favorite tweets last night.  It came from John Mayer:

I used to be the little engine that could. Now I’m the big engine that better. #adulthood

Sigh.  So true.  The end of summer is upon us, and so are reminders of how I have to find a job, think about algebra, and make sure I’m taking all the right classes.  Goodbye, summer…hello, responsibility.

But in November…Hello Hurricane!

Check out Switchfoot’s twitter feed here and John Mayer’s here.