Archive for the ‘Collective Soul Blog’ Category

Christian PR and the “Spiral of Silence”

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photo credit via Flickr by Alex Proimos

For better or worse, social media has created an increasingly interconnected world, one in which the barrier between our “real” lives and online personas has all but disappeared. Given the Internet’s oft-lauded status as a place where ideas can be freely exchanged, one would assume that the near-seamless integration of virtual and real on social media would correlate to greater diversity of opinion and belief in our face-to-face relationships as well.

To the contrary, recent Pew Research Center findings reveal that regular users of social media are actually far less likely to share their opinions in-person with others, especially if they perceive those views to run counter to popular opinion (http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/08/26/social-media-and-the-spiral-of-silence/).

To contextualize their research into this “spiral of silence,” Pew asked respondents whether or not broad-sweeping government surveillance of Americans’ email and phone Meta data, as revealed in 2013 by former NSA employee Edward Snowden, reflected a good or bad policy?

Beyond finding that Americans were divided in their opinions, Pew also discovered a deeply compelling trend: individuals who frequently used social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, were less likely to share their opinions on those platforms. Furthermore, those same respondents also reported as less likely to express their opinions in face-to-face discussions, including gatherings with family, friends and co-workers.

The conclusions of this study line up with previous research into human social behavior: “when people decide whether to speak out about an issue, they rely on reference groups — friendships and community ties — to weigh their opinion relative to their peers.”

Just as individuals today have much wider access to their peers’ social lives, they also have increased access to others’ opinions and beliefs. However, this may have the effect of reinforcing the perception that one’s views do not align with those of one’s social network. Individuals naturally self-censor when they feel their opinion is in the minority —  if they have a strong sense that their friends, family and extended networks disagree with them, they may keep their thoughts to themselves out of fear of rejection.

In the context of public relations, these findings reveal a unique challenge. A general PR principal follows that, in order to generate the greatest impact, a story must try to appeal to the lowest common denominator of public interest.  If social media exacerbates humans’ natural tendency to self-censor in order to maintain relationships, then viewpoints that run counter to the mainstream become increasingly foreign.

Similar to the findings generated by the political question on which the Pew study was based, topics of religion can be equally polarizing. During more than three decades regularly interfacing at the intersection of faith and culture, my Agency colleagues and I have found that the Christian worldview often collides with or is challenging for mainstream media to understand or embrace.

As followers of Jesus, it can be tempting to retreat to “safe harbor” silos and circles that validate our opinions and beliefs. However, to do so means our message becomes increasingly irrelevant. The “sweet spot” occurs in finding common ground where our minority views converge with those of the mainstream.

That doesn’t mean diluting the truth of the Gospel, but rather reframing the conversation around it in such a way that anyone — no matter what he or she believes — can find power and meaning in the context of their own life experience.

After all, Jesus Himself would always meet people where they were and where they were at, while challenging them to seek deeper meaning and understanding – beyond information, to transformation.

Tweet that.

That’s My King!

Recently, I was sitting in Small Group at church and our leader asked us, “Who is Jesus to you?”

We could all give “Sunday School” answers, but what he was really asking was “Who is Jesus in your life? What role does He play in your daily activities and thought process? Does he have a role at all?”

This question and the conversation that followed really got me thinking about the way I treat Jesus in my day-to-day life. For many of us the answer to the question, “Who do you believe Jesus is?” is dramatically different than, “How do you treat Jesus?”

I wonder sometimes if Christians have gotten too familiar with Jesus, to the point that we take Him for granted. Jesus has become a central figure in popular culture, appearing in books, movies and music. The fact that so much attention is given to Jesus is amazing. It opens countless doors to begin conversations about Him with others, but sometimes has the adverse effect of causing us to think of Jesus as just a character on a movie screen. We become so familiar with Him, we don’t ever stop to think “Who is Jesus to me?”  We get excited about movies that tell His story, then don’t every give Him a passing thought as we hurry through our busy lives.

As I pondered this, I was reminded of an iconic sermon by Dr. S.M. Lockridge. If you haven’t heard these words take a moment to watch:

Do we treat Jesus as if we believe those words? Or, do we reduce Him to a mere character who has no impact on our lives?

Who is Jesus to you?

The State Fair of Texas: Fried and True

Capture2Hello y’all! I say “y’all” because today my girlfriend, Amy, and I went to the Texas State Fair. I thought I would write a quick review of the food for those that are interested.

Before I begin the review, what is it that is so magical about the State Fair of Texas? Is it the food? Is it Dallas? I am honestly not sure, but even for me someone that is not what I call a “mega-Texan,” there is just something about the State Fair of Texas that makes you proud to be a part of the Lone Star State–something bigger than yourself. From a PR and marketing stand point, this kind of brand equity is something that an organization should strive to provide for its constituents.

When I think about something that brings Texans together, I automatically think food. So for my fellow Texans, enjoy. And for those readers reading from a different location, hurry up and book your flight! The State Fair of Texas ends October 19th!

Something to note: Everything will be scaled from 1-6. One Texas flag being the lowest and 6 Texas flags being the highest–of course the six flags represent the six flags over Texas!

1. Chicken-Fried Bacon: Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM

Okay, so there is a reason there is no picture here. I honestly devoured all six strips before Amy could take one. I know what you are thinking, “What makes this so special? How can you even mess fried bacon up? Of course it is good!” But here is the thing, this is probably sacrilegious but, you know that famous hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness? In that song, there is a line that goes, “morning by morning new mercies I see.” Y’all, that is fried bacon. It doesn’t matter how many times (number to remain undisclosed) I have eaten it; it never ceases to amaze me. Seriously, you have to try the Chicken-Fried Bacon.

2. Crazy Tornado Potatoes: Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM 

These are a fair staple for me. They are pretty hard to mess up but so good. I love them with ketchup and ranch, and they can be found throughout the park. Tried and true.

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3. Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich: Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM 

This was what Amy went to the fair to eat. I’ll admit, I was skeptical, but after all, it is deep-fried so I couldn’t help but sneak a little bite. And I am so glad I did. This was very reminiscent of one of my all time favorites: the Monte Cristo. Lightly battered and golden-fried with a banana inside. Definitely worth the trip.

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4. Frozen Arnold Palmer: Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM 

We got this frozen Arnold Palmer at the hottest part of our day, and it was very refreshing. Note that it is very sweet. I prefer things to be a little on the sour side, so I could have gone for more lemon and less sweet tea flavoring. But if anyone is in the Midway section by the Texas Star and needs a pick-me-up, go give it a try. Please note that this is a non-alcoholic beverage.

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5. Fried Sweet Texas: Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM 

This dessert is hard to describe. Imagine buttermilk pie, pecan pie and peach cobbler (three classic Texas desserts). Combine them, batter them, drop them in hot oil, and dust them in cinnamon sugar, and you have a pretty good fried pastry. Pair it with Blue Bell’s Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, and you have Fried Sweet Texas. The name doesn’t lie. It’s fried. It’s sweet. And it is definitely Texas. However, it should be noted that the Blue Bell Ice Cream was my favorite part–that stuff just never lets any Texan down.

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6. Fried Breakfast for Dinner: Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM

Let me start by saying this should have been called fried-burrito because that’s all it was and not a very good one at that. This was the biggest rip-off at the fair. We paid 14 tickets for half of a small burrito. I know that is only 7 dollars but in the ticket world… that’s a ride on a roller coaster! This was by far the least favorite thing I had.

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7. Chicken Fried Meatloaf: Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM

Amy said it best, “I wouldn’t say ‘OH MY GOSH. YOU HAVE TO TRY THE FRIED MEATLOAF’ to anyone.” And I think that sums it up. It had a great flavor, but we only got two bite-sized pieces. I thought the fried part could have been crispier. I mean this is the State Fair of Texas…. no excuses for an un-crispy fry.

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8. Deep Fried Texas Bluebonnet: Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 10.37.27 PM

All Texans feel a very extreme attachment to the bluebonnet, so they better be really glad that they didn’t mess this up. And trust me, when I first heard fried bluebonnet, even I cringed. How dare they pick a Texas Bluebonnet!! But rest-assured, Lady Bird Johnson is still face-up in her grave. No Texas Bluebonnets were harmed in the making of this incredible dessert.

The Deep Fried Texas Bluebonnet is hard to explain, but I will give it my best shot. It is essentially a blueberry muffin with a vanilla cream inside, fried golden. Then they add fresh whipped cream on top with a blueberry sauce. Y’all, it’s so good. If I go back to the fair, this is the first thing I would have again. So good.

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Hope you enjoyed reading and found this beneficial. A couple of other things we saw and wanted to try but didn’t were fried loaded baked potato, fried biscuits and gravy, fried mashed potatoes and fried butter. Let us know what some of your favorite State Fair foods were! We would love to hear what you thought!