In this course, we explored key strategies and tools used in Public Affairs campaigns to influence public policy and public opinion. 
We explored current thinking about “Public Affairs” as work at the intersection of communication strategies, policy processes and behavior change. 
We also focused on concepts surrounding social responsibility, citizen engagement, and the role of digital technologies in triggering advocacy and action. 
We discussed and examined the challenge created by political polarization in America, globalization of public affairs, and public affairs lessons learned during the pandemiC.

Writing a blog post on a topic that may be divisive was one of my favorite activities in the first half of the course. As an educator, I knew that I wanted to talk about grade inflation, learning, and the ultimate goal of education. Every day, I work with students highly influenced/affected by grade inflation. In many cases, the work produced does not align with previous grades awarded.

Before writing this post, I knew that I needed to appeal to the emotions of educators and parents, but I also needed to support my opinions with facts or proof points. Fortunately, there are studies and available data that show the rise of grades throughout the years. Research also showed schools that moved away from a traditional grading scale to better align with learning goals.

The aha moment in this activity came when we shared our blog posts on the discussion board. I wrote a blog post that seemingly sparked curiosity with my peers. This spark allowed for further conversations with ideas that opposed what I was promoting within my post. And, although these conversations did not change my mind, perhaps my peers left the discussion with new ideas to consider as they navigate their children's educational journey. In my opinion, learning is far more critical than arbitrary grades. Unless we can normalize the grading scale again, we will continue to struggle with high grades for subpar work.

Many public relations courses at UF have an element of Corporate Social Responsibility incorporated into the curriculum, so this topic and activity was not a new challenge. But ultimately, I enjoyed the activity much more than I expected.

As an Etsy seller, I was, admittedly, completely unaware of the social responsibility initiatives employed by the organization. This assignment forced me to dive deeply into the company website, watch videos with the CEO, and analyze other news articles. In the end, I found more profound respect for the company than I had before.

Despite being an e-commerce platform of worldwide sellers shipping everywhere, I learned that Etsy offsets all carbon emissions from each item shipped by Etsy sellers. Furthermore, it consistently meets or exceeds its goals to eventually hit zero carbon emissions in all operations, including offsetting sellers' emissions. If nothing else, this assignment made me a more loyal customer and improved the corporate reputation in my eyes.

In week 12, we examined how leaders embraced change during the COVID-19 pandemic. I chose to explore Brian Chesky's approach for his company, Airbnb. I found that this company, and its leaders, led Airbnb through the crisis by engaging in clear communication, striving for maximum credibility, and recognizing that uncertainty is inevitable. Chesky also communicated with openness, frankness, honesty, and empathy, and empowered people to act (Hyland-Wood et al., 2021). In other words, despite a challenging experience losing nearly 80% of its revenue in the first eight weeks of the pandemic, the organization made quick, solid decisions for its stakeholders to weather the storm. Just nine months later, it had a successful IPO – likely due to the decisions made at the onset of the pandemic.

What I liked about this assignment was the ability to dive deep into a real case study and see how well it aligned with the resources provided on embracing change. In some cases, I found that Chesky and Airbnb did more than recommended. I found myself inspired by the actions taken by this relatively young CEO. The interview (posted below) is fantastic, further humanizes the brand, and gives us insight into Chesky's authenticity. Many CEOs could take a page from Airbnb's approach to a massive layoff. In a public letter (shared below), Chesky shared the who, what, why, when, and how the layoffs would occur. But, the bulk of the letter celebrates all employees and details how Airbnb will continue to help despite the hardships faced.

This study was a great example of stakeholders-first thinking. In the end, it benefitted most of the company employees (including some that were laid off), and the company is continually revolutionizing the travel industry.


Hyland-Wood, B., Gardner, J., Leask, J., & Ecker, U. K. H. (2021). Toward effective government communication strategies in the era of COVID-19. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8(1).

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