On rare occasions do I travel back in time to relive a memory from my childhood. Generally a scent, sight, or feeling has the ability to launch a recollection of memories from moments past. An occurring and paramount feeling throughout my childhood that has stayed with me in my life today is the feeling of happiness. When I was a little girl my mom asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and my response to her was, “I want to be happy.” Although my definition of being happy was different in the past, today my interpretation of being happy is looking up and at the bright side. I believe it can also be referred to as positivity. The official definition of the word positivity according to dictionary.com is, “the state or character of being positive.” The definition of the word positive is, “explicitly stated, stipulated, or expressed.” Associated with the word positive is the word optimism. Optimism is defined as, “a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome,” (dictionary.com). By being positive and optimistic, one has the ability to turn any situation into something great; whether its always working harder to win a softball game, or striving to get an A+ on your next math test, being positive helps you stay determined and encouraged to reach your goals. Positivity is also important to public relations (PR). PR people maintain the reputation of businesses and products through building relationships with the community around them. Remaining positive not only benefits the field of public relations, but it also benefits your daily life and overall well being. For several years, the affects of positivity have been tested in many case studies and have been a key topic of research. Studies exhibit the success and advantages that positivity has on one's mental and physical health as well. Throughout different aspects of life, positivity and optimism can take you far.
What is Public Relations? The formal practice of what today is considered to be “ modern public relations” dates back to 18th century London and is tied to an individual named Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire. Cavendish understood the necessity for PR and the art of persuasion through political symbols and party propaganda (Intro To Public Relations). Another timeless statement of PR is by Don Bates and he says, “The age of public relations as a profession evolved in the 20th Century, mainly in the United States, but its foundation can be followed throughout the age of man.” Since there are so many definitions of PR, it is debatable on where and when the practice has its origin rooted. In fact, it can be taken back to Jesus' time. This could be shown in the messages passed through cities, Jesus' disciples making people fishers of men, and in the reputation of many biblical characters. PR presents a subject to its audience in a positive manner so that the audience will react to it positively. One example of how PR has gone back to date is in the Federalist Papers. The Federalist Papers are a collection of 85 different articles that advocated for the ratification of the Constitution. They outlined how the new government would function and why this form of authority would benefit the Unites States of America the most. This is an example of how several passionate cabinet members fabricated their ideas into a positive form to represent their goals and visions to the best of their ability to persuade others why the U.S. Constitution should be ratified. PR isn't only done by famous individuals or celebrities, but people like you and I create PR everyday.
Though PR may seem like a tedious series of events that preeminent corporations and leading enterprises may take to attain goals, PR is an action that a majority of people make frequently while being incognizant of the idea. For example, when first introduced to someone, one is presumably going to act on their best behavior so that a good impression is left. Another form of lifestyle PR is in the classroom when giving a presentation. When a presentation is given, the presenter will more likely than not present their material in a professional and positive way. Today we are in the midst of an incredible amount of technological advances, and more pieces of technology are becoming more available to us on a daily basis. A popular application on many tech models is a form of social media, which many people have. Instagram for example is a picture uploading app where you can edit and caption pictures or videos. Most “Instagrammer's” (the name avid Instagram posters acquire) have a certain theme for their account and edit pictures to correlate and appear organized, in fact, most pictures uploaded to Instagram aren't the original picture. Pictures are edited to look nicer before the world sees them, and this is an exact form of Social Media PR. Everything is not what it seems to be online, and like how PR tends to look on the bright side of situations, Instagram takes the “prettier” sides of content. Not to be mistaken with false advertising, PR represents a subject to its audience in a positive manner so that the audience will react to it positively. Regardless of it's start, PR has been around for a while, and over time, it has grown immensely.
The first formal definitions of PR emphasized publicity and propaganda, while more modern definitions introduce the ideas of engagement and establishing client relationships. According to the Public Relations Society of America, public relations is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Others may consider PR to be the, “Art of Persuasion,” since Aristotle's modes of persuasion (ethos, pathos, and logos) are used when trying to advertise a subject. The people involved in PR are storytellers and create content to advance their business, product, or themselves. A public relations apprentice should be able to analyze an enterprise, find out its positive and successful moments, and translate those occasions into an opportunity for greater prosperity. However in more desperate times where there is a lack of positive feedback, a PR person will meticulously alleviate the harm done by developing a confident and positive response. This is an example of crisis communication. Delicate situations in the midst of crises are trials that test the adaptability of a successful PR individual.
A select number of people realize how “solid” good public relations actually is (Richard D. Pace). Practically a majority of people assume that positive PR is just looking on the bright side of a business, product, or person, and while that may be partially true, it is only a small star out of the whole galaxy. There is so much more than what meets the eye that are crucial elements to creating successful and great public relations. So how does one generate successful PR? First, one will have to focus on their goal. Goals can range from making good profit to gaining more followers on social media. By understanding this goal, the creation of a plan of attack becomes specific and targeted to tailor the needs to achieve it. Quite often, the attention of the community and audience must be caught. The most popular way to capture their attention is by leaving a positive impact on them. To begin, reminisce the times you've heard of a company doing something good, like a random act of kindness or donating money to an animal shelter. Do those actions make you smile? Does it make you think of that company in a good way? These different subjects, whether they're businesses or individuals, want people to look at them with high regards, so they immerse themselves into doing “morally good” things. We start to associate these good actions with good subjects, and in most cases this philosophy of achieving success resulting from positivity can make great success.
Undeniably, any acclaimed business or hardworking individual would want and consider their publicity to be successful, but why are the components of good PR important? Today, the public opinion is crucial to the level of success a business, product, or individual can reach. A business can be set for failure if it isn't accepted by it's audience; this is a motivation for a dazzling reputation, essential for long term success. According to Barbara Findlay Schenck, author of Small Business Marketing Kit For Dummies, some ways that a subject can benefit from positive PR are: better media relations, effective issue and crisis management, government relations, industry relations, company relations, and even employee relations. Even qualified PR firm, Parker Public Relations states that, “publicity builds your identity and improves your competitiveness.” In today's competitive market, lasting impressions and reputations can be a subjects biggest resource and asset. The more recognizable your subject's name is, the more distinguished it will be and set you a part from other competitors out there. Consequently product, service, or even five star advertising doesn't characterize success, exemplary public relations and strong publicity are what keep audiences engaged, supportive, and willing to make your subject bloom.
Positive PR is crucial to any subject, but especially when crises occur. The word “crisis” is defined as, “a condition of instability or danger, as in social economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change,” on dictionary.com. W. Timothy Coombs from the Institute for Public Relations discloses that crisis' can create three specific threats to your subject: public safety, financial loss, and reputation loss. In order to repair what damage has been done in the midst of communicational turmoil, it is important to identify the problem in order to establish a strategic plan to attack it. This is where positivity comes in. Maintaining positivity reassures your audience that everything is under control and that your subject will emerge victorious and stronger than it was before. Psychologist John Gottman studied married couples and discovered that for every negative interaction, five positive interactions are needed to make up for it. In a similar manner for every negative event your subject experiences, it is going to take time to regain the trust of your audience. In short, finding the light in the midst of a dark situation is the first step to finding your solution, but as long as you maintain the source of light, the storm will start to clear.
Not only is positivity beneficial to PR, it is also beneficial to ourselves. Sherrie Bourg Carter (Psy. D) says that the mind and body benefits from optimism. Psychologist Martin Seligman, also known as the “Father of Positive Psychology,” states that optimists do better in school, work, extracurricular activities, and have better overall health (Psychology Today). Mental Health America (MHA) conducted a case study where the results states that people who are pessimistic had a nearly 20% higher risk of dying over a 30 year time period than their peers who are more optimistic. From these psychology mentors, one can see the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and how beneficial it can be. Even neuroscientists have found that people with a more cheerful disposition have higher levels of activity in their left prefrontal cortex (PFC). Happy thoughts support brain development and the reinforcement of new synapses in your PFC as well. Psychology and Cognitive Science Professor, Richard Boyatzis, from Case Western Reserve University researched that simply three exercises can engage one's parasympathetic nervous system (the function that takes responsibility for relaxation and lowering of the heart rate) and result in optimism and improved relationships. Boyatzis explored the process of how strong neurological evidence supporting the idea that using our parasympathetic systems can spark compassion and creativity. If you find yourself or your business looking half empty, then there are several ways that you can change your mindset to look at the glass half full.
More times than not, our self talk is negative. This negativity can spread to every aspect of our lives. We'll expect the worst of situations, turn conversations into depression sessions, and ultimately set up a self fulfilling prophecy (Psychology Today). Phrases like, “You reap what you sow,” represent the power of our thoughts. According to Gregory L. Jantz Ph.D., “Many studies confirm the correlation between positive thinking and success.” In a study by the University of California, Riverside, results in an experiment concluded that, “happy people” are more satisfied with their jobs and report having greater independence in the workplace. They receive more support from their work community as well as perform better than less happy acquaintances. Additionally, optimistic individuals are more likely to be physically healthier and live longer. This evidence actually dates back to 427 BC as stated in a quote by Greek Philosopher Plato. He says, “He who is of calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden.” Aside from having a promising affect on one's mental health, maintaining a positive attitude can also give your body many physical advantages.
Suzanne Segerstrom, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky completed a study that investigated the connection between optimism and immunity. Her studies concluded that when a student displayed positivity, he or she demonstrated a greater cell-mediated immunity. On the contrary, pessimists showed a greater vulnerability to a weaker immune system. Another health benefit that derives from optimism is lower cholesterol. Although factors like nutrition and exercise play a crucial part of wellness, simply being positive can lower your cholesterol as well. In a study from the Harvard School of Public Health from The American Journal of Cardiology, researchers and analysts observed that middle age participants who scored optimistic on a test have high levels of “good” cholesterol. Along the lines of cardiological health is heart disease. As the leading cause of death in America, Hilary A Tindle of the American Heart Association found that optimists were less likely than pessimists to develop coronary heart disease. Another study found that individuals with higher levels of optimism had a 73% lower risk of heart failure than those who have higher levels of pessimism. It is also noted that research has found that optimism may cause people to preserve healthy lifestyles, which may also attribute to the huge difference in health. In addition to healthy hearts and steady cholesterol levels, positivity can slow aging. As researched by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, approximately 80% of pessimistic adults ages 60 and over have experienced functional problems as well as mobility issues than their counterparts. By sustaining an optimistic attitude, one has a greater opportunity to live longer with the benefit of delayed aging. A small change in outlook can pay a big price in health. There are many ways that you can change your mindset, and Psychology Today has several tips on how you can achieve that goal.
What steps can we take to foster a more positive outlook on life? How can one transform their thoughts? Psychology Today has devised five broad steps that one can execute to make a thoughtful impact on one's approach to life. The first is to practice gratitude. Practicing thankfulness can cause a drastic shift in perspective and can remind you to keep even the smallest blessings at the front of your mind. Step two is to think two steps forward. Despite the desire to want to be positive all the time, we are human and are perfectly imperfect so unfortunately, unconditional optimism is impossible to achieve. With that being said, we are going to encounter negative thoughts, so whenever we do come face to face with discouragement, we can only tackle it by taking two steps forward: by countering each negative thought with two positive gratitudes or observations. The third step is to smile. One simple action can change the way you feel inside. Even when one may not have anything to smile about, it is hard to be negative, upset, or mad when you have a smile on your face. Step four is to “ditch the crabs.” An old wives tale says that if you put a crab inside of a bucket, it can easily escape. If you put a second crab into that same bucket, neither of them will escape. If one starts to escape, the other will pull it back down. In a similar manner, one should defer from surrounding themselves with negative people who will bring you down, but immerse yourself in a pool of positive people who will build you up. Lastly, step five is to do something kind. An act of kindness can provide a great new point of view and fill you with optimism. In a world full of chaos, it is easy to get absorbed by misery but when we act differently and for the better cause we can make a great change.
PR has the ability to flip a reputation from bad to good and vice versa, and doing either of those two is somewhat easy to do. However, it is even harder to maintain a good reputation. How do you keep people intrigued by your subject? How do you convince them to continually support and invest in it? How do you continue to grow as a business, corporation, or individual? How does PR maintain success? The answer to all of those is through optimism. By being optimistic, one focuses and highlights the good things in life despite the darkness that may surround it. It will not only benefit the people around you, but it will also affect you and the world of PR.
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