Episode 15 | Brandstanding 101 With Luke Capizzo

Feb 27, 2023

Description: Today we are going back to school with Dr. Luke Capizzo, Professor and Researcher at the Missouri School of Journalism. In this episode Kerri and Luke discuss the concept of brandstanding, how brands can respond to cultural events in an authentic way and so much more!


Packing cubes

Baggu bags + Reusable Kind Bag

Luke’s Email + LinkedIn

Dorina Holtzhausen (Dean, College of Fine Arts & Communication, Lamar University: Public Relations as Activism (2013)

Nneka Logan (Associate Professor, Virginia Tech) The Starbucks Race Together Initiative

Kimberley Crenshaw (Professor, UCLA School of Law & Columbia Law School): Ted Talk—The Urgency of Intersectionality

PRSA: Public Relations Society of America

APR: Accreditation in Public Relations (through PRSA)

Institute for Public Relations

Arthur Page Center

PR Journal

Jim Macnamara (Professor, University of Technology—Sydney) Journal of Public Relations Research

Katie Place (Professor, Quinnipiac University) Journal of Public Relations Research

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Carla Harris TED Talk

Esther’s Baggu


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Email us at hello@flourishcreative.co

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Kerri: Hello and welcome to the Flourish and Friends podcast. I’m your host, Kerri, and I’m here with my friend and collaborator, Esther. 

Esther: Hey friends. 

Kerri: Our goal for this podcast is to create an avenue for our Flourish community to gather around important conversations that lead to more growth and more flourishing.

Esther: Yeah, nothing is really off the table because how we lead our lives spills into how we lead at work, and overall, our brand reflects that, especially as creatives. 

Kerri: I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Luke Capizzo, professor and researcher at the Missouri School of Journalism. We talked about brand standing and how brands can respond to cultural events in an authentic way, it was an amazing conversation and I’m excited to share it with you all today. But first, let’s start with some fun things that are sparking joy in our lives.


Esther: All right, Kerri, let’s start with you. What’s something that’s sparking joy right now? 

Kerri: So I just got back from a wonderful trip to the beach in Florida to visit family, and it was an awesome time. It was very warm, which was nice. And so I was thinking, oh, what would be a good travel essential to share with our community?

And for me, packing cubes, if you haven’t used them, are a game changer. Have you used these, Esther? 

Esther: No. I haven’t. 

Kerri: Okay, add to cart immediately because it’s basically a way to have, I kind of like to think of it as having like a little drawer inside your suitcase when you’re living out of a suitcase. It keeps things organized so you can put like all your socks together and all of your like shirts together and it just helps because we had been.

We didn’t stay in one spot when we were in Florida, so especially when you have to kind of pack and repack and move places. Mm-hmm, it’s really helpful and it just keeps everything so neat and organized. So I highly recommend. 

Esther: Do the cubes like zip up or are they open cubes? 

Kerri: They zip up. So we’ll link in the show notes, but the kind I got it is kind of mesh on the top and it has a zipper and it comes on a bunch of different sizes. So they have like the large size, they’re really the smaller size and I use all the sizes. I can’t travel without them now because they’re just so good.

It’s so good. Especially when my suitcase was very full. I tend to over pack cuz I’d rather have something than not have it. And it is just, it’s really great. 

Esther: That’s awesome. 

Kerri: How about you Esther? What’s sparking joy for you this week? 

Esther: Well, I guess kind of similarly on packing things, but not exactly. So in Australia, we have to either buy a bag at a store or bring your own. So it’s kind of just a cultural thing here. So we’ve started collecting reusable bags and there’s two bags that we use, almost every day. And they pack down really nicely. So I thought I’d highlight them because they’re just fun to look at and they’re made from recycled bottles and yeah, they’re just super nice.

But I usually pack my purse with a lot of different things, when I go out. And Two bags that I always pack in. There’s a smaller bottle size bag from Bagu.

It’s really fun. My friend gave it to us before we moved but I use it for way more than bottles. I’ll use it for, like, if we go to the shop and only buy a couple items. It packs down to maybe the size of a pack of gum. And then the second one we got at an art museum. It’s a bit more on the pricey side cuz it was like an artist design but that one’s a lot bigger.

It’s probably like a full tote size, if you can think of like what you would get at like a clothing store. So that’s really good for if we’re, yeah, out shopping and we are gathering a few things, but that packs down to. Um, Maybe like a small notebook. So these are really handy for me and I’m sure that they’re getting more popular these days, but yeah, I’ll, I’ll show you some pictures of what they look like cuz they’re just fun and colorful.

Kerri: So, does Australia not have plastic bags anymore? Like, you know, those groceries are like Walmart bags or target bags. 

Esther: Yeah. So it depends. The bigger stores, I think well, even like. Big W and our grocery store, you can get those, but they, you have to pay like 15 cents. That’s pretty normal. So they encourage you to just bring them.

I mean, there’s people here that will just keep buying them and that’s just wasteful. But yeah, most everyone you see walking to the shop, We’ll have bags with them. And so if you’re going to the grocery store, you’ll have your grocery bags. And then just fill those in but yeah, most places, even like clothing stores, will ask you if you want a bag. If you say yes, they’ll add like 15 cents or whatever. 

Kerri: I love that they’re incentivizing more sustainability.

And Yeah. It, I know a lot of, I dunno if it’s states or cities are trying to get rid of plastic bags here in America, but they’re just all over the place. It’s, it’s wild. They’re like, even when we were just last week on the beach, like just plastic bags blowing in the wind. Blowing in the wind, yeah.

Blowing away like in the ocean. Like we’re picking it up as we could, but it’s just, it’s sad cuz it’s like that bag’s gonna live forever. So love that it’s sustainable and I’m excited to see your fun designed ones too.

Well grab a cup of coffee or a cup of tea and get ready for our conversation with Dr. Luke Capizzo.


Kerri: Hi, friends. Today I’m so excited to be joined by Dr. Luke Capizzo. Luke is a former agency and in-house PR practitioner and current strategic communication researcher and educator in the Missouri School of Journalism.

His research and teaching focuses on harnessing the PR profession and organizational communication function for social good through listening, community stakeholder issue engagement, DEI, and dialogue. Luke, welcome to the podcast. I’m so grateful you’re here with us.

Luke: I am grateful to be here. It should be an exciting conversation.

Kerri: So we’re chatting today around like PR, communication, social good, DEI. These are all things that I’m very passionate about and you have a research background in this area, but you also are, have a practitioner background in this area. So I’m really excited about just the wealth of knowledge and experience that you bring. To, to the table and to this topic.

To get us kicked off. There was a time, a really long time when organizations, businesses, brands, weren’t really expected to be or interested in engaging in social issues or any sort of dialogue or advocacy. It just wasn’t on their radar. What changed?

Luke: There are a few things , you know, I don’t, I don’t think we can, we can attribute everything to just one factor. But if we think about the, you know, the history of PR where it’s often about corporations advocating for themselves, right? And that’s kind of the, the traditional model. And what has emerged, I think over the last decade, is that you’ve seen this interesting new space where, as you mentioned, corporations and all, all kinds of organizations really have been, driven toward getting more involved.

Social, environmental, issues that are beyond their normal purview or purpose. And I think some of that has to do with just the, the engagement of societal actors in this day and age, right? People are more aware of a lot of issues and they’re putting more responsibility on organizations to take care right, of their own stakeholders, their own employees, their own communities, at a higher level than ever before.

Which again, is not a new phenomenon, but I think the particularly interesting thing that I’ve seen is in relation to polarizing social issues, right? Issues where in the past, corporations that are trying to sell products to everybody would’ve just stayed silent, right? We, we’ve all seen so many examples over the last few years where corporations in particular, but all kinds of , of large organizations are stepping up to.

And I think social media has something to do with that, right? The fact that we have brands needing to have these very human voices in new ways. , but you’ve also just seen, I think the recognition that these issues are increasingly important and that. Big organizations and corporations can have a positive role.

And so I think that there is a lot of potential good that can come out of this if we can harness a lot of that organizational power and organizational resources toward making useful societal change. And PR is a big part of that.

Kerri: In your research, you use the term brand standing. Could you define that term for, for us?

Luke: Sure. the, the shortest version is any kind of organization can take a stance publicly on, , some kind of polarizing societal issue. Again, that’s outside of their, their traditional purview or purpose, right? So Planned Parenthood coming out with a stance on abortion is not , not newsworthy, it’s not brand.

but Planned Parenthood talking about racial justice, that might be right. of course, corporations doing the same thing. My colleague Jeanette Ione, who’s gonna be starting at the University of Tennessee next fall, and I are developing a, a paper that looks specifically at brand standing as a concept because we want to remind nonprofits that they can do this work.

It’s not just corporate social advocacy, which is a term that’s been around for a few more minutes, to talk about these things. But big nonprofits are really important societal actors in the same way. So that’s definitely something that we wanna give them some, structure and, direction in order to take those stances as well, cuz they can be just as, as powerful and impactful.

Kerri: Absolutely. I think organizations and leaders are increasingly understanding that role that they play and that they can have power with whatever brand or movement, whether it’s a nonprofit or a corporation, can have, even if they’re a small brand too. A lot of small brands are creating change too. 

I feel like there’s this often, this spectrum. of organizations who, when they’re thinking about. Addressing a social issue that’s not related to, to their purview. , they’re, some are ready, they’re all in, they’re, they get it. they wanna be active and have a voice, but other leaders are, have a lot of fear or they’re maybe in the middle, they care, but they’re worried about their reputation. Can you talk about that and maybe what is, what is the role like a company’s values in guiding this decision making?

Luke: It’s an incredibly important question and perspective, right? The, on the one hand. I think organizations always need to act within the scope of their own history and values and stakeholders, right? And so organizations probably shouldn’t be doing things that go completely against what all of their current stakeholders believe, right?

That, and I don’t think we would do that most of the time. it’s also important to remember that organizational values exist in the context of societal values and societal values. and organizations that survive for decades or centuries do so because they shift along, along with those societal or community values.

So I, we wanna. Think about values not as chiseled into stone, but as a sort of ongoing negotiation, that every organization should be involved in for themselves. and that PR plays a really important role in listening in reminding organizational leaders that, oh yeah, we’re seeing a shift over here. We should really think about how, whether that changes any of our core values or if it changes the way that we express those core values.

Jump in, particularly with a polarizing issue so as not to alienate folks, right?

That it’s, it’s this organizational leader’s stance. We believe in it to a certain degree, but we understand and respect others who don’t. Right? That can be a nice way to wade into that type of an issue, but not every leader, , you know, people lead differently and they should. , and so not every leader is the same.

And that’s not necessarily their strength. So I think organizations always need to approach the, you know, issue by issue and understand where they can be the most impactful and do the most. , and pick and choose a little bit, right? Not every organization should be involved in every issue. And the last piece that you mentioned that’s super crucial is that organizations do need to get their own ducks in a row first, right?

So it’s important to, you know, if we’re talking about an issue like, , like racial justice in 2020, I think it was a great example of this. Yes. It’s wonderful that so many different, big and small brands came out and said that racial justice was so central and important to them. And, and it’s okay that not every brand that did that was at a perfect level of racial equality within their organization, right?

But it’s important to acknowledge what some of those limitations are. Be very public about what the plan is to make those improvements. , and not just say, oh yeah, black Lives Matter, great, we’re done. Right? But what resources can we put toward actually improving, this, you know, the, the ways that our organization touches this issue with employees, with vendors and suppliers, with the way we communicate, with our engagement with the community, right?

All of these different touchpoints. And where, what areas can we improve tangibly over the next, say, six months? And how are we gonna tell you that we, right? Like that is the kind of commitment that I wish more organizations would move toward. But I think we saw some,, you know, at least a few, really good examples.

And a lot of organizations are at least thinking in a direction toward racial equity and racial justice that they hadn’t done before. And so I think that, on the whole, that’s a good thing. But we as PR folks can do more to harness that energy in productive ways.

Kerri: I am so glad that you brought that up. I think 2020 was definitely a watershed moment and this opportunity that was really positive in a lot of ways, like you said, for it to be an opportunity for people who may not have spoken out or, or leaders who might not have considered it before, really understanding that we can have a voice on this.

And, you know, here, almost three years later, we, we do know and can see, you know, some, some organizations really committed and did the things you talked about, but a lot of them didn’t do do it so much.

And it, it can seem very hollow. And I’m curious, like you, you talk, you’re, you’re so passionate and I am too about, you know, PR and brand’s role in this. How can people who are in the practitioner’s seats help organizations do this? Authentically, is it, is it buy, it’s probably a, a bunch of different things, you know, buy-in, , being able to persuade your leaders. I mean, and, but we also know, like, you can’t, if, if the leader at the top is not committed, it’s really, really hard to get those resources in order to do that.

But we wanna be doing and communicating authentic things and not just, You know, diversity washing our join our team page. So what are your thoughts on that?

Luke: That’s such an important question I, I think a lot about, there’s a, a PR scholar she’s actually from South Africa originally, based in Texas these days, named Dorina Holtz Haen, who wrote, some, you know, some great pieces over the last 20 years about PR practitioners, even in very sort of traditional corporate roles, can think about themselves as activists and the degree to which they can practice, a sort of activism in their day-to-day work.

Right? And part of that comes from picking your battles, right? Understanding your power and the spaces and times at which you can have the greatest impact. , and like, like you said, there was this kind of, I, I, I think really powerful moment. in 2020 when these corporations said, oh crap, we need to do something about racial justice and Black Lives Matter.

And looked to PR right to lay the, you know, to say what that was going to be. , and we don’t always have that moment, but I think that there are, again, with any organization, Recurring natural opportunities where leaders look to us for direction and guidance more so than they did a couple of years ago.

I think that that’s true and I think we have to seize those moments, right? And take advantage of every opportunity that we can, help organizations understand how much power they have around these kinds of issues, even if it’s just sort of within their own walls and within their own employees.

That still might be tens of thousands of people’s lives, right? That can be made better. and to what degree their, the way that they engage with these issues can improve the broader societal conversations around them. Which again, I, I, I don’t think we should undersell the importance of those kinds of, of conversations, the role that organizations can have in them.

So, We can think about it at an individual level, right? That the PR person should sort of feel that power , grab it when they have it, step up and make their. that this is the right thing to do. I think part of that argument for us is to think about the role of pr, not in a short-term sort of sales-oriented sense, , for a lot of organizations, but in a long-term sense of how do we continue to maintain the favorable brand of this organization in this society over the next 10, 20, 30 years, right?

And I think that we win a lot more arguments if we are in the context of we’re not gonna make everyone happy right now, right? But we’re gonna have a stronger position relative to. , the communities that we’re a part of, if we engage genuinely and authentically with them, listen and understand their issues and take stances that reflect those over the long term.

And I think smart leaders get that, if, if things are framed in those terms, right? doesn’t necessarily mean we’re gonna sell more hamburgers tomorrow, it might, but it, it’s not always going to. So I think in ensuring that, Framing that larger conversation, I think gives public relations a better strategic chance at being involved in, in how those conversations go.

And then I think a lot of the authenticity, as you mentioned, is in the follow through, right? Once you’re making the statement, it’s ensuring that there’s a plan. To execute that there are resources behind it that things are actually,, implemented in the way that they say that they’re gonna be implemented.

And that we’re not just doing that as a company by ourselves, but maybe we’re thinking about who all of those external and internal stakeholders are, who are gonna be most affected, and making them an important part of those conversations to ensure that their perspectives are integrated into what needs to be.

Kerri: Mic drop I feel like that’s a galvanizing call for, for, for everyone to understand. I’m just gonna like, say back some, some key things that were

so important that you said, you know, we have individual power, but how are we having a strategic approach? How are we using our role to really influence in an authentic and genuine way? And we can’t say these things that are, are not, backed up either. You know, are we going to be okay with releasing statements if, if we don’t really have a strategy? So it’s having that strategic approach that actually is genuine and really, really getting other leaders around too.

Where within organizations can we partner and be collaborative? HR with different departments and, and service, service program delivery, those places where, when we’re communicating, we’re communicating from the inside out and, and, and externally too, like you said, with, with partners and vendors and everything. 

Luke: Yeah. no, it’s so well said, right? The, just like we would counsel one of our clients in the midst of a crisis, right? You don’t build those relationships at that moment. You build the relationships before, right? You, You, do good work from a PR function perspective for years, , and you earn the right to be a part of those conversations in the first place, right?

So I don’t want to, you know, gloss over that. . there is certainly there, there are reasons why PR people aren’t in the room. , and so I, you know, I tell my students every day, right? We become good writers, we become good strategic thinkers so that we can help organizations get to the places that they want to go, and that allows us the, the, , the seat at the table, right to, to be, to have the power that we need, in these moments to help organizations, I think have their, their best societal impact.

Kerri: Absolutely. It’s all about relationships and that trust, and we know that likewise with communicating with our audience and stakeholders, I think again, since 2020, it’s more than ever people and audiences and can kind of sniff out and understand if something is being truly genuine and authentic. 

Or if it’s not and there is, I think a, a good thing in many ways. I think in a lot of ways too, it can create a lot of fear in practitioners’ minds in terms of, am I going to do it wrong? And I always try to reframe it into, we’re gonna do it wrong sometimes, but we have to be humble enough to say that we aren’t. a hundred percent there on that journey, you know?

And to be able to actually communicate that to our people and not pretend like we’re up on this pedestal and we figured out racial justice, like, you know, and, and, and this issue and that issue and that issue.

Because that is just false words. And maybe sometimes leaders wanna feel like they’ve figured it out, but that’s just not, that’s not true.

And people are audiences. You see the reactions when it’s not genuine both. And think of how harmful it is for the internal employees who also know, like, you guys are putting out these statements, but I’m sitting here in this department and there are no resources.

Luke: Well, one of my favorite examples, and this goes back a couple years, but a sort of genuine, ongoing commitment, even when it doesn’t always work, is Starbucks race together, if you remember this one, right where they were using, gosh, I’m gonna mess up the year. It’s probably 2015, somewhere in there.

They were sort of interrupting people’s mourn routines to tell them about racial justice, which on its face is, is sort of a wonderful thing that I I’m fully behind. That particular initiative got a lot of backlash, right? That customers didn’t like it, employees didn’t like it. It seemed like the wrong time in the wrong place for what they were trying to achieve.

But I think what, what it demonstrated and what Starbucks has done subsequently is to not say, oh yeah, we’re not gonna touch that issue anymore. But to lean in even further and say, well, this wasn’t necessarily our, our, our most, you know, shining approach in terms of how to do this, but when they had issues, our, I believe in Philadelphia. There were two black men who were kicked out of a Starbucks, , that they, you know, they were, they thought they were loitering and they were just waiting for a meeting to start. They closed every store and put employees through a training process, which again, how many companies are gonna take that financial hit?

That demonstrates a deep, deep commitment to that issue. Starbucks is not perfect right across all fronts, but I, I, I think that on that one, They’ve clearly demonstrated a commitment, over time and, and that’s really all we can ask of a lot of these corporations. They’re not going to solve a, you know, a global issue that’s been around for most of human history on their own.

But can they make some inroads within their own spaces, with their resources? Absolutely.

Kerri: Absolutely. And I think being able to see backlash too as a, and it sounds cheesy, but like as a assigned people care, people still people wanna express. They wanna see a better, whatever it is, better brand, a better company, a better nonprofit, a better company they work for and how can we listen and not, not saying that, you know, we’re gonna take every suggestion that comes our way, but even just having that listening loop in the relationship can, can solve a lot of things and can, can not just solve things, but can build bridges. 

And I think. There’s a lot of power there, and I think that gets missed, especially with smaller organizations. I work with a lot of, you know, small to mid-size nonprofits, different small businesses, and, you may not have a resource to have a full team, you know, to, to do that. And then that’s okay.

There can be simple, simple ways, simple ways to do that. And I think, yeah, it’s just an opportunity again, to build those relationships. I’m curious because you are teaching the next generation, and I know that when I was in training, this was not talked about. I don’t know if at all, but definitely not enough.

And I just see cultural competency, all, all of these things that we’re talking about is such a core part of anyone who’s. Say that they do anything related to a brand coming into the, you know, this part of the 21st century.

What are the things that you’re talking with your students about to help equip them for this career? That’ll be, you know, decades long. Things are going to shift, you know, the platforms are gonna change. We don’t know what it’s gonna look like, and, you know, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. What are the things that you’re talking with them about and what are things that they’re, they’re curious about in your courses?

Luke: So one place where I try to start is to find a way to work intersectionality at a very, , you know, sort of 101 level into nearly every course that I teach, especially for the undergraduates. because I think it gives them a lens through which they can better see and understand how a lot of these issues work functionally, you know, in different places in society.

And especially I think for young people who may come from more homogenous communities or backgrounds or they, you know, they just haven’t traveled much, they haven’t seen the world yet, and that’s okay. most people don’t by 19 or 20. Right? And so to give them and so, a toolbox to start seeing folks whose experiences are different from their own.

 Which I think at, at one level is like one of the core skills that we teach, right at the center of this kind of PR writing. It’s like, how do you write for someone who’s not you? It’s very different than the kind of writing that you learn in an English class from that perspective, right? You’re really thinking about where is the audience member that I’m writing for and how can I reach them in different ways? 

And so I, I, I think it’s a really natural extension of that process. So that’s, that’s baseline right. To get folks thinking in that way. And, and, and I should say too, you know, you never wanna gloss over the incredible work that Kim Crenshaw, Kimberly Crenshaw and others have done to develop that theory and to make it clearly tied to inequality.

Right. And the ways in which inequality can be cumulative and harmful. , and, and that privilege matters, right? And so I, I try not to make it. I, I don’t go quite as hard as I possibly could into that on the first, you know, moments I bring up the theory, but I, I have them either watch or read something from Kimberly Crenshaw, for example, every time I bring it up.

And I do ensure that I’m, I’m circling back to that. And so I like to do it earlier in the semester because there are always examples that come up naturally in class where we can say, oh, could we see why this works out in a certain way? Because, oh, race and gender together, look, guess what? , right? And so, and I hope that that means something coming from a white dude as well, right?

Like I, I, I hope that that might speak to several folks in the class who may not see that as clearly coming from someone else. So I think we have to remember who we are as instructors and teachers as well, and what particular role we can play in their learning process from that perspective.

The sort of next level with all of this is taking a look at how it can, and, and I, it, you know, diversity, equity, and inclusion broadly, how it plays into. PR specific process. Right. And so in a campaign context, for example, how do we think about de and I and the diversity of stakeholders involved when we’re doing campaign research, when we’re coming up with our goals and objectives for a campaign, when we’re coming up with our obje, our strategies and tactics, when we’re executing the campaign, when we’re reflecting on and learning from that campaign at the end when we’re, we’re finalizing our results, how do we think about DEI at every step in that process?

It’s not something that we just do at the beginning and the end, right? It has to be, it has, there has to be a way to check in on that wherever we are. And then how do we ensure that we’re getting diversity in terms of the perspectives that are, you know, in, in those discussions and meetings. Right. 

Not a problem that you can solve instantaneously, but it comes back to the imperative to diversify the profession a bit more, right? To bring more folks in. And if you’re in an organization that has a lot of people from a certain background or perspective, how do you bring others into those conversations, right? So you can get their perspectives not in a product focus group, testing mindset, but from the beginning, right, to understand what they actually need before you make something to just see if they like it or not.

Right. So I think it’s all about moving. The earlier in the process is, is one way that I think about it.

Kerri: Thank you for sharing all that. I think there’s so many good learnings for practitioners like myself and, and people who are further into their career to even continue learning and, and just some fundamentals that you shared there I am. I’m curious for folks who are practitioners, do you have any resources or ways that we can stay on top of, there is a lot of research being done in this area? How, how can folks stay engaged and, continuing to learn about a lot of the things that you do with your research?

Luke: Obviously, you know, PRSA is a great organization. I’m an APR as well as a PhD, right? And I was an APR first and it really opened a lot of, you know, doors for me in terms of understanding what the profession can be. Beyond just doing media relations and other kinds of tactical work. So, one thing that I’d love to do, this is a bit of a sidebar over the long term, is to figure out ways where we can integrate even more in terms of DEI into the APR process, right?

But that’s a, that’s a longer term goal. What we can do right now, I think continuing to look for all of those opportunities to learn. And so I, you know, I’m, I’m someone who’s gonna sign up for every free webinar that I can. Through P R S A, though, another great one is the Institute for Public Relations or IPR.

And they’re wonderful because they do a lot of translational work. So they’ll take both PR research as well as kind of broader social science, sometimes psychology research, and in their newsletter and blog, will translate that into really useful tactics and takeaways for practitioners. Obviously not all of that is DEI centered, but a lot of it is these days. So I think IPR is probably the, the best resource to do that.

Arthur Page Center, which is different than the Arthur Page Society, Arthur Page Center also does quite a bit of work, both in terms of funding, DEI and other pro-social PR research, as well as doing work in public relations ethics.

And again, if a practitioner is really, really interested and excited about this, I would be happy to talk to anyone and give them more direction and, and focus. Right. There’s, it’s, it can be a hard world to navigate, that transition from what’s gonna be useful. I, in terms of applying academic and scholarly research, into the professional side, and that’s still an ongoing battle, but there are quite a few of us who are trying to do work on that front.

Last resource I’ll mention is, PR Journal, public Relations Journal, which is part of the Institute for Public Relations IPR network. It’s still pretty heavy duty research, but it’s designed to be more accessible, than most scholarly peer reviewed research. It’s designed to be more applied and it’s all open access. So any practitioner can go in there and see the great work that’s being done. And so it’s a lot of top researchers doing things that are more applicable to the day-to-day work of PR practitioners.

Kerri: Thank you for sharing those resources. I’m excited to dive into those. And I’m curious, what are some things that you’re researching right now that you’re excited about?

Luke: I use the term listening a bunch of times, right? I’m doing, several projects right now. It’s on the brain for me, around a theory called organizational Listen. and, and two, two folks. Jim McNamara and Katie Place.

Katie’s at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Jim’s in Australia, I think at University of Technology, Sydney have really led the charge on this for the last couple years. And the, the basic premise is we do a lot of work in PR education and PR practice. That’s about speaking, and we do a lot less to train practitioners and to prioritize listening and information gathering in thoughtful ways.

And so there are a bunch of different areas where we can do more as scholars to kind of build out some different frameworks and directions to help practitioners do more of this work. And to, to build an infrastructure for helping organizations to listen better, and have PR lead that charge. So that’s, that’s a, I think, a really, really interesting new area.

And I see, you know, every time I read a new article in that space, I think about three more things that I could have been doing as a practitioner, right. That I didn’t do, , during my career. So that’s, that’s one area that I’m, I’m trying to spend some more time on.

I’ve done some work around how we can sort of think about issues and crises and I, I think there’s traditionally sort of a divide in our work between like the management of a crisis in the moment where things are really, really terrible. And again, those opportunities where people look to PR for help. And we have a lot of power to, to guide where the organization’s going and how it responds.

That can often be disconnected. What we’re really doing the other 98% of the time, which is the day-to-day work of, you know, communicating on behalf of the organization and listening on behalf of the organization. And so how do we find ways to more closely connect the sort of issues management?

Environmental scanning, functions with the kind of responsiveness that we particularly see as being important regarding these fast moving, polarizing social issues that we talked about at the beginning. Right. So I think, There’s a lot of work to be done and this is, you know, it’s, it’s fairly theoretical where I am right now.

Sometimes my work is going off into the woods for a little bit and coming up with some ways to kind of understand or see certain topics that I think in the long term are gonna be helpful again, to create some guidance. Some new lenses for practitioners to be able to see and engage with a particular situation in a more productive way.

So I’m, I’m in the woods right now, but I hope to be back, with more to say about that over the next couple years, as, as these projects sort of weaved their way through the publication process. So..

Kerri: Oh, I’m so grateful that we have people in the woods like you who are just going away, hacking and, and figuring it out. And you can come back with our, your, research and all the insights that you’ve gathered because it’s really important and yeah.

I’m just, I think this is, I, it feels very, like we’re, we’re just beginning, like it’s, it’s begun, but it’s like, I know there’s over in the next several decades and into the future, it’s gonna be even more, learnings that come, even different frameworks and better ways to go about doing it and strengthening the role of communicators within organizations too. For sure. So, thanks for the work that you’re doing. 

Luke: No, I, I really appreciate that. You know, for me, I, I just hope that practitioners are able to see their work beyond. that tactical stuff, right? To realize their own power and to, I think for all of us collectively to rethink what we can be as a profession and the value that we can bring to society.

If we don’t do that, no one else is going to, right? No one’s asking pr for, for what we think about a certain thing. But we know the power that we have, we know the perspective that we have, and we know the importance of communication, particularly around these crucial issues and in these crucial moments.

Right. So, so I think working together to help harness that. Is a, a great step toward making organizations more societally beneficial and productive. I know a lot of students who are, you know, ready to, and, and I am empowered by, by that knowledge and a lot of practitioners who, who can be as well, so that’s my, that’s my charge, right?

When, when I try to send folks out into the world to do this work. And there’s so many, so many smart people that I know who are PR practitioners, right? I think it just attracts people who are both really curious and people who care. And again, tho that’s a, that’s a potent combination. so I wanna make sure everyone’s living up to their potential too, to do this work in practice.

Kerri: I love it. Thank you so much, Luke. This has been absolutely phenomenal. How can our listeners support you? Stay in touch with you? We can certainly link to relevant research on the show notes, but yeah, how can we, how can we stay in touch with you?

Luke: I, I think LinkedIn’s always the easiest. but I’m, I’m easy to find via the University of Missouri School of Journalism, website or, you know, or all of the, the social media channels. you know, I, I tend to use. Twitter for this reason as well. So all of those channels my last name, C A P I Z Z O L, at twitter, at missouri.edu, at gmail.

And I’m the least I can do, as I said, is to always be willing to connect with practitioners who are interested in learning more about the research side. , and the other thing that I’m always happy to share, a lot of our articles and our work is, is paywall. if you ever are interested in an academic article, email the author and we will happily send it to you. Never pay for that kind of knowledge, right? So,

Kerri: This is a great tip. 

Luke: Yes, the, the, the companies that publish those have too much money. Anyway, ask us, and the authors will always share our work with you and, and you’ll, you will always make an academics day by asking for something like that. You’re not never imposing. So let us, and, and again, I, I think from my perspective as someone who was in practice, what’s meaningful for me are what questions do people have?

Like what are the biggest challenges and issues that you’re facing as practitioners today? Right. My, my experience is a few years old at this point, and so, the more that we can hear from and learn from those who are on the front lines doing the work, the better questions. You know, the, the more we can sharpen the direction of our research to do things that we know are gonna be impactful for you all.

Kerri: Amazing. Well, thank you again so much, Luke. I truly appreciate your time. Thanks for all of your rich knowledge and wisdom that you’ve brought here. I really appreciate it.

Luke: Oh, this has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you. And, and, it’s so great to see, you know, folks who are doing this work from a practitioner perspective and continuing to share these important discussions about the, I think, the bigger questions of PR that are so important. So thank you. 


Kerri: I’m so happy Luke said yes to coming on the show. I think we underestimate the work of researchers and professors and the role they play in shaping tomorrow.

All right. Moving on to our bookmark section. I’d love to hear what you are reading or watching or listening to Esther. 

Esther: Yeah. So I wanted to bring a bookmark to round out the end of Black History Month, another book that really impacts me. 

Something that I’m still thinking about and reflect on.

To this day, it’s you might have heard it, it hit the New York Times of a Seller List. But it’s called Between the World and Me by Tona Hesi Coates. And I just learned that there’s like, been an adoption. a video production of it, reading the words of his book. I think they produced it in 2020.

So that, that’d be an interesting, like, follow up to the book for me to watch that. But the book itself I found, I listened to the book and it was read by the author, so it was just like, , you could feel the emotion in his words in such a, a much deeper way than if I was reading it and I’m using my own voice.

Right? That’s kind of like the benefit sometimes of audio books is that you can get out of your own head voice and into like someone else’s voice. So I really enjoyed listening to it specifically, but. Yeah, it’s just deeply raw. It’s from the perspective of a father riding to his son and how growing up in America, the realities of it.

And just you can feel the deep anguish and pain of. The fact of him, you know, raising a young boy, a young black boy in just a hostile environment, and he goes into more of like a memoir of his life and his growing up. And yeah, the, the book is definitely not uplifting or hopeful.

It doesn’t end and tie it up with a bow or I, I think that was kind of more shocking for me being just a hopeful person. I was like, oh, this sits of. Weird in my stomach. But I think it’s, it’s an important read because it stirs in us that same longing for, you know, our world to look different and be different for the next generation.

So I would highly, highly recommend between the world and Me by a ton of Hesi Coates. Have you heard of it or read it? I’ve heard of 

it, but I haven’t read it yet. So I’m gonna, I like that you plugged the audio version because I don’t often listen to audiobooks, but it sounds like this would be a really good one to be able to hear him narrate.

And I love just your summary of it and kind of perspective on it, because I think we are, you know, generally like, we like to have hopeful things in in our lives. Yeah. But I think that can almost sometimes create. Barrier from experiencing like uncomfort. Yeah. Cause everything in our world, it can be so comfortable.

So to be able to like step into someone else’s story and have it be hard is really challenging, but also really important. 

Mm-hmm. and really good. Yeah, exactly. What about you? What’s a, a bookmark for you? 

Kerri: Well, I wanted to highlight one of my favorite leaders. 

Carla Harris, and I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at the Central Exchange Leadership Summit a few years ago, and she was probably the best speaker I’ve ever heard in person.

Wow. So I will link one of her TED talks where she, she talks. Some similar things that she did in the talk that I saw in person, because she’s written books and she, a little bit about her story is she’s a black woman executive who was on Wall Street. She’s just overall a super inspiring woman. 

She’s also a gospel singer who’s like sung at Carnegie Mellon and just, you know, very well-rounded human being and she shares just her different pearls of wisdom and.

In this video, in this talk, which is based on one of her books, she talks a lot about being your authentic self and showing up as your authentic self in spaces, and using that as a way to nurture trust with in relationships, because trust is everything. Something else she shared that I really appreciated was that perception is the co-pilot to reality. So understanding this as leaders ourselves, whether we’re an employee or owning our business or collaborating with people.

Knowing that we have the ability to help others understand us as as a person. And so she kind of encouraged, like, think of three adjectives that you want people to, to describe about you when you’re not in the room, because decisions happen when you’re not in the room. You know, promotions are decided or.

Just different decisions are happening. And so being able to have consistent behavior around those adjectives, and I think that so closely ties with the concept of values, which we’re very big on here at Flourish, and also ties into our definition of what we really believe a brand is. So as a leader, knowing that we have reality and perception of.

Same thing with brands. Like we believe a brand is really both who we are as a brand, but also aligned with how we’re perceived in the world in that mm-hmm. , we can have values and like create our create our brand centered around those values. So I thought that kind of just woven and synced with some of the things we think about and strive for here at Flourish.

But overall, yeah, watch this video of Carla if you ever need a pump up or just like a inspiring, motivating speech. Because she actually has amazing. Experience and joy and passion for helping others achieve and. be way they want to in the workplace. So 

yeah, I’m excited to check that out. She sounds amazing and probably very like charismatic by the way you describe her. Oh yeah. 

Kerri: Very, very. That’s awesome. Her whole, one of her big phrases is to own our power, which is really important. We, we get to own our power. 


Kerri: Thanks for joining us today. Be sure to check out flourish creative.co/podcast to see the show notes and all the links from what we chatted about with Luke today. 

Esther: Yeah, we’d love to hear from you. You can send us a note at hello@flourishcreative.co or tag us on Instagram. We’re at Flourish Creative Co. And feel free to leave a review wherever you’re listening. This helps new friends discover our podcast community. 

Kerri: Until next time. Live well and flourish.



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