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Archive for Publicity

Our Hearts with Manchester

There’s not really much that can be said in the wake of these moments. Words alone are insufficient to effectively capture the horror, the immense grief, the stomach-turning feeling that it’s happened again.

Manchester didn’t deserve this. Nobody deserves this.

22 innocent people lost their lives last night, many of them children, simply enjoying an Ariana Grande concert with friends and family. Nearly 60 others were injured as an explosion tore through the crowd leaving the Manchester Arena. Authorities confirmed early on that they were investigating this as a terror attack.

In the same, sickening vein as the 2015 Bataclan attack in Paris, a coward targeted a concert where young people were merely trying to have a good time.

Also eerily similar to an attack that hits close to home, the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting, which occurred nearly a year ago.

I witnessed first-hand how Orlandoans banded together in the immediate aftermath of Pulse; how a community stricken with anger and sorrow channeled those emotions to positively assist friends, neighbors, and strangers alike. I have no doubt that Manchester will do the same.

Our thoughts are with the United Kingdom, with Manchester, and with those who have lost loved ones in this horrific, craven attack.

Hack Attack

Unless you’re living completely off the grid, you were most likely paranoid about the security of your computer over the weekend—and with good reason. The WannaCry hack affected hundreds of thousands of computers in over 150 countries, with costs estimating $4 billion. A ransomware virus that spread like wildfire, the hack illuminated the importance of safeguarding your hardware and avoiding suspect emails.

Ransomware is an incredibly nefarious type of computer virus. Users, many of whom clicked an email link which downloads the virus, find their files encrypted—access to them lost—and a message demanding payment to release the files.

If payment is not remitted, the program increases the cost of release and then threatens to begin deleting files until it is received. The WannaCry ransomware hack appears to be the most dangerous—and successful—of these types of viruses so far, and reinforced the necessity of keeping your operating system updated with the latest security patches.

In this particular situation, the initial infection tool was stolen from the NSA, which allowed hackers to take advantage of vulnerabilities in Windows XP software. Microsoft had released an update that rectified the weakness—but many large companies simply failed to install it.

As a result, the ransomware virus disrupted the ability of Britain’s National Health Service to conduct its work, shut down operations in France’s Renault factories, and infected the computers at FedEx. Businesses, government entities, and individuals are still reeling from this cyberattack—one which was accidentally stopped by a 22-year old who triggered a virtual “kill switch” in the code.

Authorities have already warned that the ransomware virus could immediately return after some tweaks to the coding, so use today’s blog as a reminder to update and protect your systems.

Wisconsin Schools Try a Social Media Blackout

Deriding social media as an entity that has adverse effects on people and society is a well-established narrative. There’s the anecdotes about couples out to dinner and glued to their phones. Cautionary tales that detail the depths of Facebook addiction. Antisocial Media crusaders who speak on the negative impact that social media can have on social skills and interaction when you trade life for likes.

It’s no secret that social media can be a massive source of distraction; but now the state of Wisconsin is attempting to show some facts and figures and to how distracting it can be.

Four public schools in Madison, Wisconsin have announced a pilot program that will study the impact that social media has on students. Students at two high schools and middle schools will be unable to access campus Wi-Fi when attempting to use certain social media apps, such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram.

The aim is to ascertain data to compare to other schools without the social media blackout in place, and truly see the correlation between unfettered internet access to school performance.

For most of us, the concept of Facebook in physics class is a foreign one. Text messaging was a new—and expensive—feature for those in my age bracket, so cell phones didn’t provide as much of a distractive element in school as they now do. Personally, I could not fathom trying to study geometry postulates and theorems when I’ve been tagged in a post and my notifications are lighting up. It’s a new aspect of the learning environment that has proven challenging for teachers and students alike.

Results of the study will be available by the end of 2017’s school year. It will be intriguing to see what they show.

Fyre Festival: Burn it Down

“But it seemed like such a good idea.”

That’s how most public relations catastrophes begin—seemingly good ideas gone awry. It’s the same line of thinking that recently led Pepsi, and United Airlines, down the path to PR disaster. Those massive crises took place in the same week.

This week? It’s Ja Rule and his brainchild, Fyre Festival.

Ja Rule, who dominated late 90’s and early-2000’s radio with his pop-friendly hip-hop, is most recently known for having his career virtually dismantled by an ill-advised conflict with Eminem and a stint in prison.

Ja Rule’s inauspicious return to the limelight was the aforementioned Fyre Festival, a two-weekend music festival in the Bahamas, which promised to be an extremely high-end affair. Replete with beachside villas, all-inclusive meal and drink packages, and all-around luxury accommodations as opposed to the general “roughing it” of traditional music festivals; instead, festivalgoers found themselves in hell on earth.

For the outlandish price that ranged from $4,000 – $250,000, attendees expecting to glam it up in the Bahamas were greeted with ramshackle tents, cheese sandwiches, and a dart-board’s layout of restroom accommodations. The festival grounds were reportedly teeming with trash and roving packs of feral dogs.

So much for living it up.

The festival was promptly canceled amid all of the chaos. Making matters worse, Miami International Airport began canceling flights to the small island of Exumas due to fears of overcrowding, stranding those unfortunate souls who had already landed. Condemned to squalor, lacking food, water, and shelter, attendees took to social media for help.

It was like Castaway for the uber-rich.

Ja Rule and festival organizers have promised full refunds in light of the events—those refund requests were written in pen on computer paper. He’s also indicated that Fyre Festival would be back next year; it will not. There’s no recovering from this one.

What a year so far for public relations disasters.

Facebook Spaces Highlights F8 Conference

As I detailed last week, Facebook’s annual F8 conference would bring some news regarding its software and interface plans heading into the future.

Facebook delivered.

Highlighting the conference was the introduction of Facebook Spaces, a marriage between augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), video chat, and 360-degree camera technology. Combined with an Oculus Rift VR headset, Facebook is planning to create a virtual meeting space, where your avatar meets in an online space with your friends. You can overlay photos and graphics into this new interface, adding new, fun dynamics to a traditional video chat.

This thing really is wild, and once again marks Facebook’s dominance when it comes to social media product development.

Of course, there are caveats. The Oculus Rift VR hardware will set you back about $600, which is more than most casual Facebook users are willing to shell out for an innovative new feature. Most of the Facebook user-base is presumably satisfied with scrolling their timelines, connecting with their friends, and updating their statuses the old-fashioned way.

Regardless of how popular Facebook Spaces proves to be, it’s just another sign of the company’s commitment to constant evolution.