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I sometimes find myself amazed at just how some people approach public relations. Public relations or PR is all about one thing: enhancing a company’s reputation.
Consumers don’t expect companies or people to be perfect but they do expect them to own up to problems right away and offer a remedy, not excuses for what has gone wrong. Sure, the threat of legal action often looms large in slowing corporate responsiveness, but leniency can be received from the affected parties when a remedy and sincere apology are offered.
But it is often the little things that mess up PR or at least takes the wind out of its sails. Whether you consider yourself a journalist, writer or blogger, there are certain things you want to get from businesses when considering running their story or using it as a springboard for a fresh discussion.
Specifically, any one of the following points can spell the difference between a company winning or losing the PR battle:
Generalized Release — Sharing news via a press release is still an important way for getting the word out. So why do some companies send out their news without taking the time to address that information to an actual person and adding a personalized note? Never assume that your news will get read or shared if you’re too lazy to connect with key influencers. Anything less is considered spam.
Belittling the Competition — Competitiveness is to be admired, but it shouldn’t happen at the expense of putting down a competing product. Consumers are much more sophisticated than what you suppose and are looking for solid, factual information. If you have something to say about your competitor’s product offering, then do so by explaining how your product lasts longer or performs better under certain conditions. Brand loyal consumers don’t take kindly to having their favorite products bashed and won’t make the switch if you make them feel stupid for buying a competing product.
Say What?! — Clarity, brevity and common sense are attributes of any good news story. Your news wins if you make your points succinctly, but you’ll lose if you’re long winded, off topic or offer news that is not clearly defined.
As companies work to build up their reputation it makes sense to elicit feedback from a dispassionate third party first to see if a proposed PR campaign is strong. An idea hatched in the bowels of the corporate marketing department may make sense to the PR wonks, but do lasting damage if ill-conceived or presented without proper care.
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The idea for Promesa was born one afternoon in May 2023 when Mikael Jakobsson and Aziria Rodríguez Arce were playing a round of Puerto Rico, a highly rated, award-winning board game. The premise is that players act as colonial governors and slave owners on the US territory and island, and win points by running plantations, constructing buildings, and shipping goods to Spain. Jakobsson says Puerto Rico came from a 1990’s board game “renaissance” in Europe that popularized themes of exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination in the industry.
“It’s playing oppression. It’s like history fan fiction with all these games… You find an island and it’s yours” says Jakobsson, a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and research coordinator at the university’s Game Lab. “It’s a pretty shitty theme for a board game.”
To break the all-too-popular pattern, over the past two years, Jakobsson has been working with Puerto Rican graphic artist Rosa Colón Guerra to create Promesa, a new board game that more accurately reflects the reality of Puerto Rico’s history and people. The game is based on the real-life PROMESA act, which was established by the US government in 2023 in response to the island’s debt crisis, putting American lawmakers in charge of the country’s finances. To win, you must settle Puerto Rico’s bills and build up the country’s infrastructure, education, and social services.
[Related: Climate-related food shortages are driving more Puerto Ricans to farming]
With its unconventional premise and solutions-geared gameplay, Promesa stands out from other options already on the market. For one, it’s set in the present to familiarize players with the challenges Puerto Ricans are facing today. “When a game is set in the distant past, I think it’s to not upset anyone … We don’t have to worry about human suffering,” Jakobsson says. “But we need to see that Puerto Rico is still an actual territory.”
To see exactly how this reframing changes a board-game-playing experience, I played a round of Promesa in late August. I’m no board game expert, but I am competitive—and I wanted to see what Jakobsson’s idea of winning looked like.Navigating catastrophe
The artwork on Promesa is some of the most detailed and vibrant I’ve seen. Colón Guerra, currently a resident at MIT’s Visiting Artists program, traveled all over her home country to capture important local landscapes and ensure that the visuals reflected the people there. Somehow, she squeezed the 3,500-square-mile island down to a roughly 4-foot-square board. Lagoons, castles, and sea animals dot the edges as a waterfall and ruins hold court at the center. A dock, on the southwest corner, is painted like the Puerto Rican flag. If you recognize some of the landmarks, Jakobsson says this is by design: they wanted the depiction of Puerto Rico to feel familiar to those who know the island.
I’m sitting in the Game Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with fellow MIT students, Grace and Iris, for a trial run of Promesa. A pile of crystalline black gems is balanced precariously on a blue “raft’”: These gems represent the country’s debt, while the raft symbolizes the blue tarps that still cover many houses on the island after Hurricane Maria. Our mission is to work together to slowly push the raft off the island without spilling any gems—or else more obstacles will hinder us. Throughout the game, we must invest in education, social services, and infrastructure by adding gems from each of these categories (colored bright green, blue, and yellow) to the pile of debt gems on the raft. This reflects the cost of investing in these areas, and adds to the difficulty of moving the raft. At the same time, paying into education or infrastructure, for example, allows us to take certain actions, like get rid of debt gems or push the raft farther off the island, that help us reach the final goal.
Blue tarps have been used to cover roofs of houses, like this one in San Juan, damaged by Hurricane Maria. Ricardo Arduegno/AFP via Getty Images
“You three are now the lawmakers in charge of handling Puerto Rico’s debt crisis,” Jakobsson says to open the game. “Congratulations.”
We laugh nervously. “This game seems like it might be hard to win,” Grace says with a slight smile as she tips the gems onto the raft to launch us into more than a hundred years of colonial exploitation and economic burden. A few of the pieces fall off, and we exchange looks as Jakobsson places two red setback gems on the “catastrophe” scale. Once we hit five, disaster strikes. (The nature of the event isn’t specified, but Jakobsson alludes to some of the recent hurricanes and earthquakes that have damaged the island.) After the third catastrophe, the game is immediately over.
A few rounds later, we reach our first catastrophe and have to give up five of our hard-earned education and infrastructure gems. Without those, we’re not allowed to push the raft off the island anymore—we have to spend more on education and infrastructure and incur extra debt before Puerto Rico can progress.
“You’ve still got time,” Jakobsson says, when we let out slightly distressed groans. “But not a lot.”Win and lose together
From the start, Jakobsen says his idea was to show that the island’s debt can’t fully be paid off.
But it took several years of research for him and Arce, an MIT graduate student and consultant on the project, to reflect that nuance in the aims, rules, and construct of a board game. In the summer of 2023, Jakobsson received a grant from the university to travel to Puerto Rico, where they worked with scholars and colleagues to learn what residents were most concerned about, and how those core issues might effectively be designed into a game. After weeks of interviews and analysis, the team settled on the topic of the debt crisis.
Promesa went through many iterations, starting off with a card game structure and then changing formats completely. Eventually, the makers settled on the throughline of getting rid of the country’s debt on a raft, based on the images of the blue tarps they saw after Hurricane Maria. They wanted to send the raft floating, metaphorically, back to Washington, D.C. to “leave the debt where it belonged.” With that part established, the rest of the game came together more quickly.
Ultimately, the structure of the game differs from any that require players to best others to win. It’s a collaborative, cooperative game—you win and lose together.
“A lot of games are built around mechanics that perpetuate certain ideas of Western progress. It’s like, ‘might makes right.’ It’s not about ethics—it’s about having a powerful army, corporation, or whatever it is that makes you a winner,” Jakobsson says. “So we try to challenge some of those ideas.”Tabletop lessons
So why spend so much energy on conveying history through a board game that’s supposed to be fun? Wouldn’t this kind of effort be more meaningful in a book or documentary? Board games are a powerful medium, Jakobsson says, because we can engage with them in personal spaces where it can be hard for other political messages to reach. Even if players don’t become experts on Puerto Rico’s colonial past, portraying a different kind of history is important on its own.
“I think there is something about playing out an issue versus just reading or hearing about it that can grip you a little deeper, and maybe can be a little more memorable,” Jakobsson explains.
Artist Colón Guerra compressed the 3,500-square-mile island into a 4-foot-square map, complete with landmarks and sea creatures. Maria Parazo Rose
He adds that he doesn’t think that Euro-games, with their fixation on conquest, are designed to be intentionally harmful. After all, they can be fun to play. But they still have an impact on players’ views and actions in the real world. Games and other media, Jakobsson says, are cultural artifacts that shape our understanding of the people and places around us. “They are reflections of the society or the culture in which we create them. And culture, to some extent, reflects the games we play. So I think there’s a lot of learning going on in games.
[Related: Two-player games that won’t turn you and your friend into enemies]
At the moment, the team is printing a limited run of Promesa. They’ve faced challenges in production and distribution due to the pandemic and slowed-down supply chains, but in the future, they hope to crowdfund resources to support wider access to the game.
Jakobsson hopes that Promesa can nudge game designers in a different direction of storytelling and cultural engagement. Even though the board game industry is surging, explicitly anti-colonialist games like Promesa are still rare. More games that buck traditional trends of “exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination” will lead to more interesting directions, he says.
“The idea that games are just for fun and nothing else—that is already starting to be a little less common among younger players,” Jakobsson points out. Many of his students at MIT look for games that have more complex and mature themes about social issues. In his experience, “there’s nothing outlandish about a board game about a political debt crisis.”
Earlier this summer, Ravensburger, the parent company that owns the original Puerto Rico, announced that they would release another game this fall: Puerto Rico 1897. This new version, which marks the year the country achieved autonomy from Spain, moves away from colonial themes: The goal is now to be the most prosperous farmer on the island. But there is still no acknowledgement of the US takeover in 1898.Journey’s end
It’s the last move: Grace, Iris, and I have one chance to push the raft off the island. We draw our last gems (not red, thankfully), and add them to the perilously high stack. The edges of the silicon blue square resist the neoprene material of the board and, for some reason, my fingers are shaking. I hold my breath while pushing, and it seems to pay off—we successfully get the raft into the deep-blue waters of the Atlantic.
Jakobsson warned us it would be a tough journey, but after several rounds of luck, collaboration, and, notably, delicate pushing, we managed to resolve Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. After celebrating our win, Iris and Grace admit they hadn’t known about the PROMESA Act before playing. Iris says that, during each of her moves, she kept imagining what investing in infrastructure, education, and social services on the island might actually be like.
“Well,” Jakobsson says, “at least we did that.”
Correction (September 10, 2023): Mikael Jakobsson’s last name was misspelled in some references. They have now been corrected.
The newest sensation sweeping the Games is cupping, an ancient bloodletting practice originally used to purge chi. Nowadays, it’s typically extolled as a device to remove “stagnant blood, expel heat, treat high fever, loss of consciousness, convulsion, and pain.” There’s no scientific consensus as to how bursting capillaries with heated cups accomplishes this, but it can certainly have some medical effects … like possibly necrosis.
Coagulated blood from a cupping session. Wikimedia Commons
Nevertheless, the real heydey of Olympic quackery is long gone. For a while, from the 1904 Olympics’ Anthropology Days for “savage” races, on through the 1936 Games, which saw doubt that the black Jesse Owens could outpace the Aryan ideal, the principles underlying Olympics-related scientific theory was just eugenics pseudoscience.
As fascination with proper breeding waned, biomechanics started becoming the common denominator of Olympic progress. The high jump, alone, went through seven popular techniques before settling on the whimsically named Fosbury Flop in 1968, as the most efficient. External factors became more important, too. Running outfits evolved from three-quarter length combos to form-fitting duds. Carbon fiber bikes began popping up in the ’80s, alongside mens’ speedos–a far cry from the old baggy two-piece suits. Then, in ’92, Speedo debuted the s2000 suit that cut drag by 15 percent, which would later give rise to the 2008 LZR suit that would be banned for its effectiveness.
Michael Phelps and Australia’s Eamon Sullivan wore the now-banned LZR Racer swimsuit at the 2008 Olympics. Wikimedia Commons
Cupping may be making headlines, but by no means is it the extent of modern Olympic pseudoscience. Since 2008, the games have popularized kinesiology tape, which, somehow, “alleviates discomfort and facilitates lymphatic drainage” using slight lateral tension on the surface of your skin. Only, it doesn’t.
In addition to cupping, some Olympians are turning to acupuncture, which, although it has no evidence behind its use to treat disease, has been shown to reduce pain, (physical pain, at least)–regardless of where the needles are stuck. In other words, the placebo pain reduction of wanton needling is nearly as effective as precision pricking.
Then there’s the paleo diet, acclaimed by swimmer Amanda Beard, which comes with a good principle: “eat what we’re made to eat, and we’ll be healthier.” Except, hunter-gatherer diets came in lots of different types, with the general macronutrient split ranging from 19-35 percent for protein, 22–40 percent for carbohydrate, and 28–58 percent for fat. Not to mention things like widespread lactose tolerance show that our digestive systems have evolved alongside our diets.
Even icing sore muscles, a widely accepted practice, is often abused as an unscientific recovery panacea before going back into the game–though the Olympics are hardly the only culprit. Most evidence to date suggests that using it as a stopgap before returning to activity could potentially do more harm than good.
There’s more, to be sure, including Olympic endorsements of vitamins, which nutritionists generally contend are unnecessary for most Americans–and which decades of mortality rate tracking for at least 429,000 individuals has demonstrated are actually more likely to be counterproductive to health.
High-speed motion capture is helping Olympians swim better than ever. Graham Murdoch
Yet it’s hard to fault athletes. Through the last few games, more so than ever before, records have fallen thanks to small-scale engineering, from silica nanoparticle-loaded racquets to carbon nanofiber golf clubs, and Big Data analytics that digitize athletes, model their movements, catalog performances, and help formulate strategies.
When the best arrows in Olympians’ quivers are among science’s most abstract, jargonistic, and near-mystical, it’s not surprising they’d find pseudoscience indistinguishable–or perhaps even more plausible due to its seeming simplicity.
Photos by BU Athletics
Boston University’s athletic teams are scoring big where it matters most — off the field, in classrooms, earning diplomas.
According to the NCAA, which tracks graduation data of students on athletic scholarships at Division I institutions, BU’s Athletics Department earned an overall graduation success rate (GSR) of 94 percent for students intending to graduate in the classes 2003 to 2006. Women’s basketball, golf, rowing, soccer, tennis, and men’s and women’s swimming put up perfect scores.
Nationwide, the graduation rate for Division I students receiving athletic aid during the same period was 79 percent, although the national figure factors in sports such as fencing, gymnastics, bowling, skiing, and football, which BU doesn’t offer.
“It’s another indication of the quality of student-athlete we have here at BU,” says Michael Lynch, assistant vice president and director of athletics. “They’re focused on achievement in school as much as they are on the playing field, on the ice, on the tennis court. Our student-athletes graduated 4 percentage points better than the University’s general student population , which I’m really proud of.”
Terrier men’s basketball and crew, men’s and women’s cross country and track and field, women’s lacrosse, softball, and wrestling achieved GSR scores of at least 90 percent. Of BU’s 23 varsity sports, rates for 17 were reported, because cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field are compiled as one sport per gender. Women’s ice hockey did not become a varsity program until the 2005-2006 season.
Three BU teams earned GSR scores in the 80 percent range, including men’s ice hockey, at 82 percent, which Lynch says mirrors the national average. He points out that a few Terrier icemen leave school periodically to play professionally, therefore fewer graduate. Of 18 players on athletic scholarships during the period analyzed, two left for the NHL and one graduated beyond the study’s six-year time limitation.
“One good thing about ice hockey, and all our sports, is that when players leave without attaining their degree, we will encourage and help them come back,” Lynch says. “Throughout their career, Coach Jack Parker will keep in touch with them about completing their degrees. We’ve had guys come back after 10 or 11 years of pro hockey.”
Lynch is especially proud of men’s basketball. Nationally, graduation rates among men’s hoops and football players have been low, although those figures are slowly rising as a result of reforms. For all collegiate b-ball players who entered in 2002, 66 percent earned diplomas. For the entering class in 1995, the first year of data collection, that figure was 56 percent.
“While we don’t have football, our men’s basketball numbers have been fantastic, as well as our women’s basketball,” Lynch says. “A couple of years ago, we had perfect scores in men’s and women’s basketball, and the last couple of years they were in the high 90s.”
The NCAA’s GSR was developed to provide more accurate graduation data than that provided by the methodology mandated by the federal Student Right-to-Know Act, which calculates based solely on freshman matriculation, not including students who transfer in, not excluding those who transfer out.
The federal rate offers the only method to compare student-athletes with the general student body. According to those figures, 80 percent of the general Boston University student body matriculating between 1999 and 2002 graduated within a six-year time span, whereas 84 percent of all Terrier student-athletes earned degrees during the same period.
“We have a great support system in place,” Lynch says. “Our student-athlete support services group is top-notch, dedicated to making sure our athletes do what they need to do in the classroom. Our coaches follow up on student-athlete progress in the classroom and the community as well. How you do on the field is important, and we want to win, but we want to do it in a way that allows our students-athletes to achieve what they can in the classroom, too.”
Caleb Daniloff can be reached at [email protected].
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The Xbox Game Bar is a built-in feature of Windows 11 that lets you record and share clips of video games. However, there are a lot of other features this app holds and these are quite useful and handy for a normal user. It includes features like the ability to track CPU or GPU performance, a widget to communicate with Xbox buddies, and so on.How to open the Xbox game bar in Windows 11?
Press the Windows key and start typing the Xbox game bar in the search bar. Since the Xbox game bar comes pre-installed in Windows 11 PCs, the app appears immediately in the search results.Using the Widget Menu in Xbox Game bar
The Gallery tab shows you the screenshots and game clips recorded using the game bar.
Besides, you can also find other players and chat with them in the Looking for Group Tab. The remaining tabs in the Widget menu are Spotify, Xbox Achievements, Xbox Social, and Widget Store.Features of Xbox Game bar in Windows 11
As mentioned in the beginning, the Xbox game bar has several features apart from the screen, video, and audio capture. Here are some features of the Xbox Game Bar in Windows 11.
Recording gameplay using Xbox Game Bar
Changing audio inputs using Xbox Game Bar
Finding players on ‘Looking for Group’
Seeing tips when playing a game
Setting up the shortcut keys for the Xbox game bar
Using social media while playing games
Personalizing the Xbox Game bar
Let us look at some of these features in more detail.1] Recording gameplay using Xbox Game Bar
Follow the steps given below to record gameplay:
Launch the game/app
Open the Xbox Game Bar
Manage the widgets in the Game Bar overlay
Access the saved clip
Let us look at these steps in more detail.Launch the game/app:
You should first launch the game or the application that you wish to record.Open the Xbox Game Bar:
Once inside, select Windows + G for the Game Bar overlay.Manage the widgets in the Game Bar overlay:
The overlay appears in the foreground once you are inside the app. The overlay consists of several widgets.Start recording:
After the recording start, you will see another widget, Capture Status. This widget will display a timer that lets you know how long you are recording and remains on the screen after closing the Xbox Game Bar.Stop recording:
Once the recording is stopped, you will see a message, “Game clip recorded” on the screen.Access the saved clip:
The clip will be saved in the default directory. You can access the recordings from the Videos folder in the Captures section.2] Changing audio inputs using Xbox Game Bar
Under the AUDIO TO RECORD section, there are three options, namely Game, All, and None. To record audio, you can select Game or All as per your requirement. To disable the audio, select None.3] Finding players on the ‘Looking for Group’ tab 4] Seeing tips when playing a game
If you want to get tips while playing a game, you need to do the following setting.
Apart from this setting, you can also check out the version of the Xbox game bar and What’s News in this tab.5] Setting up the shortcut keys for the Xbox game bar
You can set up shortcut keys for the game bar for the functions like opening the game bar, taking a screenshot, and so on.6] Using social media while playing games
This is an interesting feature of the Xbox game bar in Windows 11. You can log into your various social media accounts through the game bar and use them while playing the games. For example, you can log into your Twitter account and share your screenshots immediately. You can also log into Spotify and listen to music while playing games.
You can log into various other social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn. YouTube and so on once you log into Xbox Game Bar.7] Personalizing the Xbox Game bar
You can personalize the Xbox Game bar for the features such as Theme (light, dark or current Windows theme), Widget Transparency, and so on.
The Xbox Game Bar which is a built-in feature in the Windows 11 toolbox lets you record and play videos as and when required. You need not use third-party apps for game recording anymore. Let us know if the above-mentioned instructions help. Do let us know in case of any suggestions.
Read: Windows 11 Gaming Settings – All you need to know.Do I need to enable the Xbox game bar in Windows 11?
No. Xbox Game Bar is an in-built app in Windows 11 machines. Hence, you would not require any installation. Simply press the Windows key and type the words Xbox game bar in the search window. You will see the app.Why is my Xbox game bar not working?
There could be several reasons if the Xbox game bar is not working on Windows machines. However, you can try updating Windows 11 for the latest updates and checking the game bar setting.
For this, go to Update & security (Windows Update on Win11), then select Check for updates.
You can also check your Game Bar settings. For this, press the Windows key, then choose Settings. Go to Gaming and then Xbox Game bar. Now, turn on the Record game clips, screenshots, and broadcast using the Game bar.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) affects about 30,000 Americans leaving them with a variety of symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal problems to the more recognized respiratory complications. The condition is caused by a mutation in the genetic makeup of individuals leaving them unable to control salt concentrations in the cell. This single alteration allows bacteria and fungi to grow freely in the lungs leading to recurring and/or chronic infections.
The dire consequences of hyphae formation has led researchers to figure out how yeast cells can go from harmless colonizers to potential killers. Most work has focused on polymicrobial interactions between bacteria and fungi through chemical communication, also known as quorum sensing. Yet, in 2011, research suggested the bacteria prevented hyphae formation through this route. By 2013, the relationship was proven to be testy rather than mutually beneficial.
The confounding results meant yeasts had to find another route to trigger hyphae formation. With the immune system and now bacteria out of the question, the only possible option was inside the fungal cell at the genetic level. But to determine which genes were responsible, a large-scale analysis had to be performed.
Last week, that study happened. A Canadian team of researchers unveiled the first global analysis of fungi in the cystic fibrosis lung in the hopes of determining the reason yeasts became pathogenic. What they found suggested the old adage of sacrifice in the name of greater gain is alive and well in the microbial world.
The group examined 111 sputum samples from 28 different CF patients. The samples were then analyzed to determine the variety of fungal species living in the lungs. Standard tests such as growth variability and susceptibility to antifungals were performed to examine whether any of the patients were outliers from the others in terms of their fungal population. When that was over, the examination for the trigger could begin.
The fungal species of choice was Candida albicans. It’s known to have a dual role in human ecology both as a bystander and also a hyphae-producing pathogen. Isolates were examined at the genetic level in the hopes of finding any type of mutation that could lead to virulence. While a variety of mutations were found, most were unique to the isolate. Yet, there was one change that seemed to be globally present and also could control the transition from cell to hyphae.
It’s called NRG1 and acts as a negative regulator of glucose-repressed genes. It was initially found in another yeast species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae although it is also found in Candida. The gene is responsible for keeping the cellular form of the yeast and prevention of hyphae. Lower expression allows the transition from harmless entity to growing pathogen.
When the researchers examined the extent of change to NRG1, they expected to see little change in the gene makeup. But in almost every case, the actual sequence was changed. The result was a complete loss of function; NRG1 was simply not working. This meant the fungal cells could transform into hyphae without any restrictions. As for those bacteria capable of controlling this switch, they were completely ineffective.
The results of this study are less than encouraging for CF patients. According to the authors, this loss of NRG1 is most likely due to the consistent pressures attempted to prevent hyphae formation. When all else fails, the gene is sacrificed so the transition can occur.
Moving forward, this study may allow for more rapid analysis of fungi in the lungs and gain an appreciation of the situation based on the status of the gene. If the mutation is found, public health officials will know this means trouble and can engage in an antifungal strategy to clear the invaders. Although this means more medications for patients, at least it will help to prevent both short term and lasting consequences that could affect quality of life and ultimately, life itself.
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