FB/Instagram Fighting Fake News

Facebook and Instagram launched a new feature to stop the spread of fake news on their platforms.  It can be challenging to figure out what is real and what is fake in today’s digital world.

Instagram hired outside firms last May to ensure content posted on its platform is trustworthy. Facebook, which owns Instagram, originally started a similar program in December 2016. Facebook partnered with 25 bipartisan check fact organizations in 14 countries, as of June 2018 according to an internal FB blog post. 

Facebook now covers posts distributing fake news with a grey screen with text pointing out that the post “False Information Checked by Independent Fact Checkers.” Readers can then choose from one of two buttons – to “See Why” or “See Photo.”

False information post notice on Facebook. It tells readers that the post is fake news and allows them to click to an article explaining why the post is fake.
Image source: Facebook

When readers click on the “See Why” button a pop up box appears telling readers that the story has been fact checked and determined to be fake news. Clicking on the “Lead Stories:” takes the reader to an article written by the independent fact-checker where the writer explains why the post is false.

Fact check clarification. Readers are directed to this pop up when they click on "See Why" on the false information post.
Image source: Facebook

  1. These fact checkers use machine learning software to determine if a post is correct of false. The software bases its calculations on previous articles reviewed by the fact checkers.
  2. A rating and reference article are given to each article to explain why the rating was given.
  3. The posts a person sees on Facebook and Instagram rely on an algorithm system. If a post is determined to be false its ranking is lowered to limit the number of people who see the post. If a person attempts to share that post a message pops up to tell them there is more information regarding the story and show the fact-checkers article directly below the affected post.
  4. Any account or website who continues to post original false information will have their account reach dramatically reduced. The account will also not be able to run any advertising.

People with bad intentions can always build new websites and create new accounts to get around the rules.  So, while this method not a full-proof way to stop the spread of misinformation on Facebook and Instagram it is a start.

Leadership Traits: Do You Have What It Takes ?

Role model. Courage. Tenacity. These are three qualities I believe best define a leader.

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-MA, who recently released a video announcing that she is battling alopecia, embodies all these traits. Alopecia is an auto-immune disease in which the immune system mistakes the normal cells in your body as foreign invaders and attacks these cells, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF).

Role Model – Nearly 7 million people battle alopecia annually, the NAAF stated.  Pressley standing up to highlight this matter shows others they are not alone.  People draw strength from others when they see that they are not alone in tackling health problems. Being a role model also makes Pressley the target of online trolls who might consider her weird for being bald. Coming out as a role model Pressley is serving as an inspiration to people across the globe to declare bald is beautiful.

Courage – Rocking a bald head is considered sexy for some men. It is really rare to see a woman without her hair. Personally, as a woman, I would feel “naked” without my hair. Rep. Pressley acknowledges in her video that she was a little nervous about revealing this matter. She demonstrated great courage to reveal this deeply personal health concern she is battling. She could have kept wearing wigs to keep this medical issue a secret. Instead she showed courage by speaking out on this issue.

Tenacity – This is tied to courage. Pressley is not hiding behind wigs anymore. She is stepping out and tackling this matter directly. She shows other people that no matter what your job title is everyone faces struggles, but those difficulties do not have to keep you from achieving greatness.

I personally can not imagine what it is like to lose your hair and be completely bald. I would be devastated. The fact that Rep. Pressley had the courage and tenacity to be a role model with her struggles shows the world her inner strength. It also shows that Rep. Pressley is amazingly beautiful inside and out.

Video courtesy of The Root

When A Race To The Top Hits Rock Bottom

When tragedy occurs, people around the world turn to well-known news organizations to help people make sense of what is happening.  Being accurate is the hallmark of the media industry. 

Or it was at one time.

It seems so long ago now – but media professionals and the industry as a whole actually took pride in delivering accurate information. 

Now media outlets – both big and small, are so quick to race to issue “breaking news.” Making sure they have the latest scoop. It is all a mad dash to rack up the views, the likes, and the shares across multiple digital platforms. The sales department then increases its advertising fees. This coincides with the media outlet’s management seeing more dollars flow into their bottom line.

This weekend the pressure to be the first to announce a deadly helicopter crash in suburban LA came at a huge moral cost. Nine people’s lives, including Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, were tragically cut short in that crash on Sunday. TMZ, the tabloid news organization, was the first one to break the news that Kobe had perished in the crash. I saw the tweet TMZ posted. I didn’t believe it.  I consider them to be a modern-day National Enquirer, so I thought this has to be fake.  Members of Kobe’s family also apparently learned from TMZ that two of their family members died in the crash, the Los Angeles Sheriff Department pointed out at a press conference.  NEVER EVER should a family learn that there loved one has died from a news outlet. Especially a media outlet that makes its money from highlighting the worst aspects of celebrity life in a trashy and sensational manner.

A short time later other reputable news agencies – CNN, LA Times, ESPN, and other outlets reported that Kobe and eight other people died in that helicopter crash.  Media professionals have a huge responsibility to get the facts straight from the beginning. The public needs to know the truth.


Denzel Washington explained it precisely when he explained our society has access totoo much information.”  (Video courtesy of The Washington Post)

Competition is good, even healthy if you are playing a sport or trying to win an intellectual challenge. It pushes you to be your best. Journalists need to be our best too. The best at being accurate and not just sensationalizing information.

Don’t lose hope. We are human, so we can improve. We have to make a conscious effort to ensure we put accuracy before anything else.  As journalists and public relations professionals we need to push our colleagues, bosses, and the industry to do better. People will trust the media again if we give them a reason to. We now have to prove we are worthy of that trust.

WFAA Sportscaster Dale Hansen said it best, “I rather be right than first.

Courtesy of WFAA



Our Nation’s

Forgotten Heroes

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Losing someone you love is one of the hardest things you will ever experience. Knowing their life has been cut short as a result of them being exposed to deadly toxins during their military service makes their death even harder to bear. Vietnam War Veterans never received their ticker-tape parade or even a “Thank You for your service” message when they returned home from jungles of Southeast Asia. As the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran, I witnessed first-hand the agony my dad experienced after surviving the war. Looking back, I can see how he suffered from undiagnosed survivors’ guilt and PTSD. Although, no one in my family realized it at the time.

My dad was one of more than 3 million military personnel served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam WarMore than 58,000 of them never came home. Each one is a man, woman, friend, son, daughter, brother, sister, nephew, niece, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, uncle, and aunt who never returned alive to their loved ones.

The names of 58,268 men and eight women are engraved in the polished black granite of the Vietnam Memorial Wall highlighting those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during their military service. My dad, Carl D. Long, considered himself lucky. After his tour in Vietnam, he came home safe and sound. Or so we all thought.

In late May 2013, my dad who served in the 169th Engineering Battalion from 1970 – 1971, was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoma. It manifested with him suffering from night sweats, dark circular dime to quarter-sized lesions on his back, and a loss of balance. This cancer attacked his lymph nodes before spreading to the rest of his body. Doctors concluded his cancer was a direct result of him being exposed to the Agent Orange toxin during his stint in the U.S. Army. My dad’s name and an estimated two million other Vietnam Veterans developed life-altering illnesses leading to long-term health conditions significantly decreasing their quality of life and then die from service-related diseases. My dad’s name and his comrades who battle health illnesses due to Agent Orange on our American shores will never have their names engraved on the Vietnam Wall. When Congress agreed to allow the Wall to be constructed it was stipulated that only the names of the military personnel who died during the War would be added to the Wall. It’s a hard truth to accept that your loved one’s name will not be displayed on the Wall, even though they died due to a military service-related injury.

In Memory pin

In Memory pin – Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
Photo by Sherry Long

There is an organization which produces a special annual memorial service to honor the lives of the millions of military personnel who are slowly dying on American shores daily after their service in Southeast Asia. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund believes all Vietnam veterans should be remembered for their service. Each year the VWMF produces a patriotic, solemn, and heart-tugging In Memory memorial service on Father’s Day weekend. My dad was inducted into the In Memory Memorial Service Hall in 2015. My family did not know what to expect. Despite the heaviness in our hearts as we traveled to our nation’s capital, it turned out to be a great trip. When we checked into our ritzy hotel we were treated like the family of a five-star general or top-ranking American diplomat, when in reality, my dad was a lowly SP4 in the Army. The VWMF coordinates with a local hotel to block a group of rooms for attendees’ families at a discounted rate. With memorial service families staying in one hotel this allowed us the opportunity to share stories of our military heroes with each other. My mom, brother, and I did not know any of the other In Memory families before arriving in D.C. Yet, over a short weekend, we heard stories from other families as we each talked about our military heroes. So, on that day we became part of a larger family. A family of In Memory honorees.

Mementos left at Vietnam Wall

Families of In Memory inductees are presented with Memorial plaques of their hero to leave at the Wall.
Photo by Sherry Long

 On Saturday morning we were whisked away from the hotel to the Vietnam Wall Memorial abroad commercial tour buses for the In Memory program. It was a beautiful day. Hundreds of people came to the event to pay tribute to the 165 honorees during the memorial’s 17th annual event. It was so peaceful even as people’s voices choked up with pain and tears flowed freely as family members lovingly read their loved ones’ names, military branch, and dates of service. The family of every honoree veteran has two memorial plaques – one plaque for them to take home and one to lay at the Memorial.

NPS picking up mementos leave at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

NPS picking up mementos left at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
Photo by Sherry Long

Every night the plaques and other mementos are picked up from the Memorial grounds by the National Park Museum to preserve the items, which are planned to be used for future displays to ensure no veteran’s service is ever forgotten.

The part of the In Memory program which brings me the most peace is knowing the names of every veteran whose name is on the Wall and every past In Memory recipient are read every year during the memorial ceremony. Under the canopy of a large plush tree with a clear view of the Wall volunteers read the names of each Vietnam veteran who died as a result of their military service during the war or after they returned home. Every year my dad’s name is read. Carl D. Long, US Army, 1970-1971. It means he has not been forgotten. His service to his country he loved so much is finally being honored and remembered.

Fathers Day Vietnam Wall

Fathers Day Roses at Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Photo by Sherry Long

Having my dad’s name on the In Memory rolls is an absolute honor. Being able to pay tribute to my dad on Father’s Day that year along with thousands of his comrades made my heart overfill with joy. The In Memory program was a celebration of patriotism as red, white and blue were everywhere you turned. On Father’s Day red, yellow and white with red tips roses stretched for as far as you could see. On Sunday, Father’s Day, my family attended the Father’s Day Remembrance Ceremony. It was a deeply sentimental tribute to fathers. After a brief speech, attendees were encouraged to write a personal message when picking up a red, yellow or white with red tip long stem rose to place on the Wall. Red roses are for those killed in action. The yellow roses are for those missing in action. The white rose with a red tip is in honor of the In Memory veterans.

Father’s Day 2015 was extra special for me. My dad was not just being remembered for his military service, but also being honored for being a daddy. A wonderful daddy who had the patience of a saint to put up with my feisty, sometimes drama queen self, while always telling me to keep reaching for the stars.  Nothing will ever bring my dad or any of the other service members back. Even on my darkest days when my heartaches for my dad I am comforted to know that his sacrifice and service are not forgotten.

That HE will not be forgotten.

That NO Vietnam Veteran will ever be forgotten.

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Here is more information regarding the In Memory Program. For questions, please contact the VVMF at vvmf@vvmf.org.

Learning From The Pros

Networking.   Courtesy of Ed2Go.com

Networking      Courtesy of Ed2Go.com

As students we take countless courses to prepare us for our future careers in public relations. Sitting in class we learn a lot about the technical and practical skills to improve our web design, craft content to engage audiences on social media and websites. All these skills are important tools for us to be successful post-graduation.

Now as I and thousands of others get ready to walk across the stage it’s time to land a professional job.

Three public relations professionals, each with more than a decade of professional experience, offered insight into what industry leaders are looking for in new hires during a recent luncheon hosted by the Dallas chapter of the Public Relations Society of America during the chapter’s 2016 annual Pro-Am Professional PR Job Shadowing program.

According to these public relations leaders, new graduates should:

Accept Change – Nothing every stays the same. With technology constantly changing at a rapid rate it is imperative that professionals in our industry stay updated on the best ways to engage members of the intended target audiences.  We show our value to our clients during times of crisis.

Be Innovative –   Students and young industry professionals need to volunteer for additional assignments, even if they must work late into the evening, weekends and holidays. This makes you indispensable. Being willing to assist in solving issues also demonstrates leadership.

Relationship Building Savvy –  It’s not uncommon for relations professionals to build partnerships with media representatives, corporate partners, high-profile spokespeople and donors.  Knowing how to properly interact with these individuals can result in the needs of stakeholders being properly met.

Excellent Communication Prowess –  Communication is key in our industry. Whether it’s a written article or public speaking people in our industry must be able to deliver the appropriate message.  Some  young adults communicate, using emojis and slang. That will work on some advertising campaigns. It is not acceptable for professional communications to members of the media and various stakeholders.

Thank you to panelists – March of Dimes Communications Director Carmen Branch, President/CEO of Public Affairs for Hill + Knowlton Strategies James Fuller and Corporate Communications Consultant Jane Koenecke for taking the time to share their valuable insights and tips of the public relations industry.

Snapchat Usage among International Leaders


Source:  Burson-Marsteller study

Source: Burson-Marsteller study


Millennials are often portrayed as being the least likely generation to be involved in politics.

Global government leaders know this all too well.

Since millennials were the first generation born into the digital revolution they are constantly on their mobile devices. Snapchat is one of the hottest apps among young millennials, aged 13 to 24 years old.  So, America and other government leaders from around the world are using Snapchat to engage this key voting population.

A study by public relations firm Burson-Marsteller highlights how some of the world’s most powerful leaders and governments are interacting with young people.  The Burston-Marsteller study highlights 16 world leaders and government officials using this popular app.

The study found:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom was the first international government entity or leader to adopt the social media powerhouse.  Its account opened on Sept. 17, 2015 just prior to a Rugby World Cup party.  U.S. President Barack Obama is the first American president to embrace social media. So, it’s no surprise that the White House created a Snapchat account in early January 2016. It was originally created to give people insights into the 2016 State of the Union address.  Later the White House used Snapchat to accent the 2016 Easter Roll festivities featuring President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama on the White House lawn with participants.


Source:  Burson-Marsteller study

Source: Burson-Marsteller study


The United Nations, Irish government, European Parliament, Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, along with leaders from Holland and Iceland began using Snapchat in recent months.

These worldwide government titans are not only on the hottest social media platform, but their receiving terrific engagement feedback. For instance, the UK Foreign Office boosts a 60% engagement rate and 90% completion rate of people watching the entire snapchat clip.

Sounds like they are hitting their target audience. So why isn’t your brand using Snapchat?

Get to Snappin’.


App connects special needs families to local resources

Learning that your child suffers from a chronic medical condition or is a special needs individual can be tough.

Learning that your child suffers from a chronic medical condition or is a special needs individual can be tough. It can be even harder to find medical service providers specializing in working with special needs individuals.

Carestarter, a firm based in Austin, believes parents and children should be empowered to make the best healthcare decisions for their own family. Carestarter developed a mobile app in conjunction with their website to allow people to connect with medical professionals in their area which specialize in particular medical chronic conditions and special needs individuals. The app allows people to find resources in their local areas on their own, rather than just being referred by their doctor.  The app was recently launched in five Texas regions – Austin, Dallas, Houston, Waco and Central Texas. Carestarter will anticipates expanding to other cities across the country soon.

The free app is available for download for Android and iPhones.

Source: CareStarter SXSW launch

The app uses a person’s zip code to find providers, from five to 100 miles away,  which partner with Carestarter. Once downloaded the app requests some demographical information and the name of the child’s insurance provider.

People can look up six categories – education, family, medical, nutrition, recreation, and therapy. People can bookmark providers to their own “lists” to make it easier to find at a later time.

Category selections

Source: CareStarter app


How Social Media Stress Affects Us Based On Gender

Social media stress is real. Yes, it’s not just you. Other people do get stressed out regarding things happening in their friends and family members’ lives after reading updates on social media accounts. How much the stress affects us depends on our gender and other aspects of people’s communication levels, according to a recent study.

A joint research study with more than 1,800 participants conducted by the Pew Research Center and graduate students at Rutgers University studied social media users self-rated anxiety levels across the top five social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Participants were asked how often a series of 12 life-changing events appeared on their timelines and to rank their anxiety levels based on a perceived stress scaleThis scale is often used by psychologists to measure a person’s stress level.

Researchers deemed the increased stress levels as the “cost of caring,” noting “that stress is contagious.” The study found that surprisingly, frequently using digital technology does not cause higher stress.  It’s rather what is posted that can cause psychological distress.

The study was very interesting because it showed social stress affects us largely based on our gender and the level of connections we have with others in our social networks. The study found that Pinterest, followed closely by Instagram and Twitter contained the most stressful posts. It is not explained why Pinterest and Instagram ranked so high. I guess it is because people might be posting infographics regarding job hunting and interviewing tip on Pinterest and Instagram. For the past couple of years Twitter has been a go-to platform for social activists, so I see how that can cause stress.

Image source: Pew Research Center

Image source: Pew Research Center


Women tend to be more stressed about instances posted online than men as they appear to be more aware of events upsetting their close friends and family.  Women with fewer years of education and not living with a partner also experienced higher levels of stress after seeing distressful postings.  Women who used more than one social media platform, text messaging and emails with friends and family were less likely to feel stressed as those who only use one platform.

Men were alerted to other people’s stresses as a result of social media postings. Yet, interestingly, the study found it added less stress to the male participants’ lives.  Men tended to be more affected by stress if the men surveyed participated in email and text messaging with large groups of people.

If you encounter someone very stressed out online send them a quick message of encouragement. That can make a huge impact in someone’s life just knowing there are other people who are praying for them and sending good thoughts their way. Remember you cannot solve everyone’s problems. You could make someone smile though.

Millennials use of social media based on political party affiliations

Millennials are engulfed by digital media from birth.  It would be reasonable to think that this generation would all use social media on an equal basis to learn more about the 2016 U.S. Presidential candidates and election topics, whether people identify as Democrat or Republican.

Pew Research

Source: Pew Research

A recent Pew Research Study conducted in English and Spanish from online systems show there is actually a strong divide between people who identify as Republican and Democrats and how they get their information regarding the 2016 Presidential election.

Of millennials who planned on voting or caucusing in their states, 74% of Democrats were likely to look to social media to educate themselves on the candidates running to be America’s next commander in chief. That’s a significant margin over the 50 percent of Republicans, planning on participating in primary season events, who seek out information on various social media platforms.

Facebook is the leader in social media platforms and it appears to be the most popular spot for Millennials to gain their information. Nearly 40 percent of people under 33 years old looked to Facebook for information regarding the race. That a more than four-to-one margin over people seeking information on Twitter or YouTube. Democrats again turned to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube significantly more than their Republican counterparts.

With several more weeks before the Democrat and Republican national conventions, it will be interesting to analyze how Millennials react to the conventions and later general election season on social media networks.


App creation is no longer a luxury for brands

Looking to connect and better engage with audiences in 2016?

Your brand might want to look into developing an app, especially if you are seeking to engage young millennials. Mobile app usage among Americans is growing at a faster rate than people using a desktop computer or internet browser on their cell phones.

ComScore tracks online metrics for corporate clients across multiple digital and social media platforms – TV, smartphones, tablets, desktops and gaming. ComScore conducted a study analyzing online digital usage during a two-year period, which included behavioral measurement analysis and a survey of more than 1,084 smartphone users.

More people spent time online using an app than ever before, according to ComScore’s 2015 U.S. Mobile App ReportThe study found users spent more than 778,900 minutes online using apps on their smartphone or tablet in 2015 – that’s a 90 percent increase from 409,800 in 2013. Desktop usage also grew – yet at only 16 percent. That’s less than five times slower than the growth of mobile apps.

Apps fastest growing online source

Cutline: Mobile apps growth of time spent online. Courtesy of ComScore 2015 U.S. Mobile App Report.

The study further showed that people aged 18 to 24 are using apps most frequently on their cell phones. App usage among older adults is on the upswing as well on tablet devices.

These figures demonstrate just how important it is for a brand to develop apps. Digital apps can be used across a variety of industries – corporate, nonprofit and educational institutions.

CVS, Zappos and Starbucks all use apps to further engage with their customers.  The American Red Cross, the American-based division of an international non-governmental organization, has a series of apps downloadable for free to provide people tips for everything from First Aid to tornado and flood preparedness. Many apps, sometimes by private firms, are developed specifically for university students.  Mochila developed such an app for the University of North Texas.

There are online courses available to help brands take their digital footprint to the next level by developing their own apps. DiyGenius offers online courses on developing apps for Android and iPhone/iPad to increase your firm’s engagement.