Robert Leaf, Missouri Honor Medal Recipient

In addition to being able to hear Margaret Wolf Freivogel speak on Monday, I was able to listen to Robert Leaf, another recipient of the Missouri Honor Medal, during my Cross Cultural Journalism course last Friday.

Just a bit of background information about Mr. Leaf can be found at http://journalism.missouri.edu/alumni/robert-leaf-52.html. If you don’t want to click the link and read for yourself, I can do a brief summary/paraphrasing of what that little article says (because I know it’s a pain to start reading a blog, click a link and read that information, and then go back to the blog). Leaf graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with his bachelors in advertising in 1952. Shortly after that, Leaf became the first trainee at Burson-Marsteller, the largest PR agency in the world, and eventually made his way up to be vice president where he helped expand the agency to four other countries.In 1997, Leaf left Burson-Marsteller to start up his own PR consulting agency.

I wonder what the lecture was about. Lol. Actually, I found the lecture to be relevant to what I’ve been learning in my cross cultural journalism class. Since Leaf had branched Burson-Marsteller out to different countries there was bound to be some cultural differences and therefore he was going to have at least a little trouble talking across the fault lines (geography, gender, generation, race, and class). The main point that Leaf kept driving home in his lecture was that perception management was forming today’s journalism, for all the different fields and not just PR. It doesn’t matter where you go, who you encounter, or what your story is…there are always going to be people that have their views on a subject and it’s our job as unbiased journalists to change their perceptions, or at least get them to see the other side of the issue.

With that being said, Leaf explained that there was four types of perceptions. The first of those being a positive perception where our job as journalists is to make sure the perception stays positive. The second being an unbiased perception, in which the journalist gets to create the perception. The last two perceptions were both negative but there was a slight difference with the results. The first of the negative perceptions is one in which the journalist finds out why the individual or audience has that perception and then is able to change it. The second negative perception is one where the journalist can try his or her best to modify the perception, but isn’t really successful.

I think the most helpful, and relevant thing that Leaf advised our class to do was to “do your research. You’ve got to decide who are your key audiences–who?–And what their present perceptions. Can you change them? How costly would it be? “

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