Berenstain discusses family values apparent in ‘The Berenstain Bears’

By: Carolyn VanBrocklin

“The Berenstain Bears” series has chronicled the “foibles, worries and joys of family life” since 1962,said David Cooper, Dean of the School of Education as he introduced Michael Berenstain, son of Stanand Jan Berenstain.

Berenstain explained how his own family’s daily life influenced the fictional stories in a lecturesponsored and organized by the School of Education.

The Berenstain Bear family. Image from Atomic Popcorn.

But first, why bears?

“Bears are the traditional staple of childrens’ books,” said Berenstain.

In literature, bears in books range from large and lumbering to cute and cuddly. The Berenstain bearsare somewhere in between, a stand-in for people, he said.

This allowed the Berenstains to address family subjects, themes and values.

“It was never my family’s intention to take on the role of do-it-yourself family counselors,” Berestainsaid. “But now we’re stuck with it.”

Readers like the books because they teach valuable lessons and there is appeal in how these lessons arepresented, he said.

Many readers assume there is a connection between the Berenstain bears and the Berenstain family,Berenstain said. When people ask him if he inspired the character Brother Bear, he replies that he hasan older brother, so that must make him Sister Bear.

But Mama Bear’s gentle wisdom and Papa Bear’s bumbling father-figure were drawn from Berenstain’sparents, he said.

Stan and Jan Berenstain came from working-class family backgrounds and shared a love of art. Theymet on their first day of drawing class in college and after getting married, Stan Berenstain envisionedthe two of them working together on cartoons.

The early “Berenstain Bears” books were usually full of wild and funny adventures; Papa Bear andBrother Bear go hunting for honey and must run from a swarm of bees. They encounter a toothed seacreature while scuba diving and “they get into traffic accidents,” said Berenstain while showing a pictureof the Bear family falling off a multi-rider bike.

“The Berenstain Bears” evolved after the arrival of Sister Bear, which opened the way to many value-driven stories.

The bears learned not to eat too much junk-food, went to camp and dealt with issues concerning familyand friendship. All of these stories and lessons were inspired by everyday family life.

Berenstain’s presentation coupled images of his children playing soccer, selling lemonade and playing
doctor with similar illustrations from the books.

His mother influenced his artistic inclinations and today he helps her write and illustrate new BerenstainBears books.

“My parents set a remarkable example of how to be full-time Creators, with a capital C,” Berenstainsaid.

Today, the Berenstains have published over 300 books and sold more than 260 million copies, but familyis still the center of their enterprise. Berenstain said he cannot pick a favorite book, that they all madehim nostalgic for his childhood.

The audience echoed Berestain’s nostalgia.

“Oh, I remember that one!” whispered the audience members at every image from one of “The Berenstain Bears” books.

Originally published on The Pendulum.


Self-Marketing and the Job Search

This post also appears on the Elon University PRSSA blog, where I function as the editor and vice president

By: Carolyn VanBrocklin

The number one rule of social media marketing is to be aware of how you present yourself, and to be aware that you should always be professional.  Forty five percent of employers use social media to screen potential candidates.  Employers tend to disregard potential candidates for several reasons, including:

  • Lies about qualifications
  • Poor communication skills
  • Discriminatory comments
  • Inappropriate pictures
  • Bad-mouthing previous employer, co-workers or clients
  • Sharing confidential information

They hire people after such screenings for:

  • A profile show professional qualifications
  • Solid communications skills
  • Appearing well-rounded
  • A good feel for personality and fit
  • Creativity
  • Conveying a professional image
  • Good references from other people

Students should be aware of who they are professionally and communicate who they are meaningfully.   This practice will give you a good online presence and leave no room for potential reasons to be passed over for an inappropriate online presence.

It is essential that students market themselves strategically through the various online resources at hand.  The most important part is presenting a professional image.  Take the time to compose a six-word memoir that sums up you and your professional image.   You could even use this as your Twitter bio.

Listed are a few sites where students can build an online portfolio that showcases their skills.  It is important to be in control of your online presence.  In particular, make sure you have a consistent brand across all platforms (especially with the same username.  Check if it is available at  Some sites include:

Playing their way through college: The music educator

By: Carolyn VanBrocklin

The life of an Elon music education major is demanding, time-consuming and undeniably one of the most interesting and involved majors the university offers.

Senior music education major Casey Collins plays in the Fire of the Carolinas marching band (Image by Corey Groom)

“Each year music education students add on to a growing curriculum of musical and educational studies. We have the difficult task of balancing two focuses: that of a musician, and that of an educator,” said senior Casey Collins.

Students take 150 hours total.  This is possible because they are allowed to take up to 23 hours a semester.  In comparison, other majors take 18 hours a semester.

“The most difficult aspect of being a music education major is managing time and stress levels. We take about 20 credits per semester which is quite a bit more than the average Elon student, and have to balance performances, practice time, and educational observations in local Alamance classrooms on top of basic student life,” Collins said.  “It is very easy to get overwhelmed, but the work will be worth it when we get to teach music every day.”

The high number of semester hours comes from classes the sheer amount of ensembles in which most students are involved.  Senior Kaitlyn Fay is a member of the Jazz Ensemble, the Fire of the Carolinas marching band, among others.

“In a perfect world I’d be able to do all the ensembles I want and find time to practice my parts for them. Alas, this is not a perfect world, so what ends up being compromised is the practice time, unfortunately. The important thing is that I am in ensembles that I truly care about and want to be in, so I make the effort to be there and know the music,” Fay said.

Music education majors take both music classes and education classes, but these have been tailored towards the music side of the major.

However, students involved in the program say it is rewarding.

“This really is a major that is focused on where we will be in the next 5, 10, 15+ years of our lives.  We get to be creative as musicians and educators in writing fun and effective lessons and learning how to take our own music education to benefit and teach the many students we will encounter in the years to come,” Fay said.  The prospect of that rewarding notion of having changed a student’s life in some way is both motivating and the simple reason why anyone chooses to become a music education major.

For more information on Elon University’s music education major, please visit their website.

Listen to music education major Nathaniel Hodges discuss his experiences in the music education program (audio by Carolyn VanBrocklin):

Elon University presents ‘Children of Eden’

Performers in "Children of Eden." (Image from the Pendulum, by Brian Allenby)

The Pendulum – Elon University’s performing arts department presents “Children of Eden” for the final time this afternoon at 2 p.m.

The show, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and written by John Caird, is loosely based on the Bible’s book of Genesis.  It tells the story of Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and Noah and the Flood.

A story of love, anger, guilt and consequences, it explores the relationship between parents and children.

“Children of Eden” is directed by Catherine McNeela with choreography by Linda Sabo and music direction by Nathanial Beversluis.

McCrary Theatre, Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.  Admission is $12 or with an Elon ID.

Read more:

Turn Social Media Strategy Into a Career

This post also appears on the Elon University PRSSA blog, where I function as the editor and vice president.

Chapter President Lianna Catino and Vice President Carolyn VanBrocklin are in Washington, DC for the 2010 PRSSA National Conference.

By: Carolyn VanBrocklin

Alan Kelly, CEO and founder ofPlaymaker Systems, LLC was the opening session speaker at the PRSSA National Conference 2010.  Kelly, the PRSSA National President from 1980 discussed his views on strategy and its place in the public relations campaign, particularly social media.

Kelly’s speech revolved around the idea that public relations practitioners are playmakers, individuals whose stock in trade is to call, run, decode and counter competitive moves in the marketplace.

This is particularly important when working in social media.  Social media strategists did not have a place in the job market until very recently and now they must be competitive.  Otherwise, such jobs will be outsourced or automated.

To illustrate his point, Kelly gave examples of bland, not engaging tweets from major global companies.  FromCisco to PlayStationToyotato Apple (“iPod nano All About Music”) the social media messages consisted of informational announcements – nothing that draws in the reader.

If this is strategy, Kelly said, he is worried for us.

Influence Strategists

Careers in social media will be safeguarded if professionals embrace strategy.  There are some individuals (think pundits likeStephen Colbert or politicians like Sarah Palin) who are influence strategists, but until recently no one knows how they do it.

A scientific method for strategy

Unlike the sciences, there is no formula, no periodic table of elements in defining public relations strategy, no notation system.

Instead, “we have principles, best practices, laws and rules.” Kelly said.  But this is still not good enough.

Kelly created The Standard Table of Influence Strategies to break down public relations into strategies, the irreducible unit of PR.

“They can be found, they can be defines, organaized, used, called our periodic table of elements,” Kelly said.

The table systemizes communications strategy for influence strategists, those who manage reputation, trust, authenticity, etc. for a company.

This system allows PR practitioners to understand strategies, to use it like a periodic table to break down content.

Within this table there are three modes of operation.  “You’re always going to be assessing, conditioning and engaging,” Kelly said.

A bridge between strategy and tactic

The stratagems outlined in The Standard Table of Influence Strategies are the simplest lowest form of strategy life.  They are the bridge between strategy and tactic.

Overall, Kelly’s main message was that social media interactions must be richer in content.  “If you’re not strategic, you’re about to be out of the job. If you start to think about yourself as a communications strategist in the new media, it’s a great advantage,” he said.

Social media strategists must create discussion, conversation and arguments to engage their audiences.

Follow @elonprssa on Twitter for updates throughout the weekend and check our blog at the end of the day for recaps of the sessions.

RLF Professionals Discuss Engaging Followers with Social Media

This post also appears on the Elon University PRSSA blog, where I function as the editor and vice president.

By: Carolyn VanBrocklin

On Tuesday, October 11, public relations professionals Ken Luck and AK Wilkinson of RLF Communications in Greensboro, NC spoke to the Elon University PRSSA Chapter about social media and its importance in the communications industry.

In particular, they focused on the importance of measuring followers on Facebook and Twitter.  The clients public relations firms represent like having a concrete idea of how many people are engaged on such sites.  It is also a good indicator of the success of various public relations efforts.

Here are some tips for measuring Facebook followers:

  • Look at page views
  • Track the number of followers
  • Look at the interactions per post (likes, comments, shares)

Wilkinson described Facebook ads as an effective way to reach out to a page’s target audience.  Such ads are customizable, reaching out to a broad or specific audience based on designated criteria.

Engaging followers

While tracking followers is important, there also needs to be dialogue between the organization and visitors to the page. Engaging followers keeps current ones interested and committed and generates buzz to bring in new followers.

Shout-outs draw in contributors to the organization and make connections across social media.  Mention key influencers to give depth on a personal level beyond a mission statement or description.

Another suggested method of creating dialogue between followers is to have a specific theme on certain days.  Done regularly, they become something that people expect and look forward to.  Contests generate interest for an organization and give followers a reward for their involvement.

Tweeple on Twitter

As of now, there are no analytics for Twitter like there are for Facebook.  Public relations practitioners must track the number of followers and the change in number in a weekly, monthly or yearly increment.

Engage followers by @ replying to queries and comments and re-tweeting users whose input is valuable to the organization.

Of course, social media may not be the answer for every public relations campaign.  Sometimes simple media relations will bring in interested individuals and create enough buzz for an organization or event.

In general, the best social media practice is to keep followers interested and coming back.   Engaging followers is one part and varied, valuable content is the other.

To view RLF’s presentation on Social Marketing & Measurement click here.

Follow and engage with Elon PRSSA on Facebook andTwitter.


Elon University drumline performs with Carmine Appice’s SLAMM!

By: Carolyn VanBrocklin

The drumline from Elon’s marching band performed Thursday evening with Carmine Appice’s SLAMM!, a music group that’s been described as STOMP on steroids.

SLAMM! performs at Elon University (Photo by Carolyn VanBrocklin)

Video by Carolyn VanBrocklin

Other links: