Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is This PR? - My Starbucks Card

Starbucks has recently decided to combine two of its rewards programs into one: the My Starbucks card. Starbucks offers this card with the phrase: "Free drinks. Free syrups. Free soymilk. Free Wi-Fi. And best of all, free to join." It's not a new concept. Plenty of companies have these, even small businesses in the form of a punch card. Starbucks even had cards that were similar. The idea is that you register your card and put money on it to use at Starbucks. Then, after a certain amount of drinks purchased, you start to get free stuff. They have different levels. It's all explained in this article from The Coffee Guy (who incidentally gives a little more information about Starbucks in general). He seems to think it's a good idea. He says Starbucks is adapting and trying to help out its customers who come there often. As we know, many people buy coffee every day and Starbucks isn't cheap.
Is this a good PR tactic? I think it is. Some think this program will not create loyalty among patrons, but heck, Starbucks has plenty of people who are loyal. This is about rewarding those who are loyal. I think this says a lot about Starbucks. It is realizing its coffees can get expensive and it is offering benefits to those who still buy it. Is it enough to keep increase its customers? Only time will tell, but I think, overall, this program is a good thing and good PR.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Is This PR? - PETA

Ok so I don't want to become biased in my Is This PR? presentation but this one is about PETA, its controversial ads, and its responses to negative responses to these ads.
There are so many websites and blogs dedicated to anti-PETA rhetoric, like PETA Kills Animals and Anti-PETA (which is actually a website that contains links to other Anti-PETA websites/blogs). But the particular PR move from PETA that I am going to talk about has been written about by more than just PETA haters. Recently, they put up a billboard in Jacksonville, Fla. that depicted an overweight woman in a bikini with the words "Save the Whales" and "Lose the Blubber. Go Vegetarian." on it. This billboard has outraged people with its insensitivity to overweight people and to women. And there have been quite a few negative responses to the ad.

One of the most interesting things I found about this incident though is the lack of response from PETA and the responses I have been able to find have been insensitive and unapologetic themselves. Here's one from a woman who passed the billboard and felt personally offended - and the response from PETA she received. Here's another from Chattahbox that includes some quotes from the press release about the billboard (and here's the original press release). And, of course, here is one last article that directly mentions this ad while also talking about the power of social media to make this an even bigger issue than it would have been 20 years ago.

Overall, this is bad PR. PETA needs to learn how to make advertisements that don't offend the audience it is targeting. Also, a little humility in responses would help too. I know it's a radical group but this kind of PR won't get it anywhere.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Employee Relations - Diversity

I've always been a big fan of diversity. One of the reasons I chose Clemson is because I know we have a pretty diverse student body (at least more than other South Carolina universities). I also understand that diversity is important, not just in universities, but in companies and organizations too.
DiversityInc. even ranks companies and put out a list every year of the top 50 most diverse companies. Here's the list from 2008. This site has articles about everything, for employers, employees, and even people who are looking for a job (or just want to know where to shop).

Another website I found that really delves into the topic of diversity in the workplace is HR World's blog. They cover a lot of the hot topics today, like religion, gender, and sexual orientation. On this blog, I found an interesting article about English-only rules. I had not actually heard of them but it really affects diversity in the workplace. Here are the EEOC laws on English-only rules. I understand the laws pertaining to this but I don't think that it should be used as a discriminatory tool against those who do not speak English or who do not speak English fluently. As globalization increases, people have to realize that languages are going to overlap. It is already shown that knowing another language can increase your chances of getting a job or getting a promotion. While it is not necessary to have completely bi-lingual companies, if you want to attract certain consumers (and therefore, increase profits), you must accommodate language-wise.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is This PR? - McDonald's and service dogs

About a month ago, a disabled veteran, Luis Carlos Montalvan, filed a suit against McDonald's. His reasoning pertains to his service dog that inspired Al Franken's service dog program for disabled veterans. Allegedly, McDonald's refused to allow his dog inside the restaurant twice, even though after the first time, stickers were placed on the doors stating service dogs were allowed. Then, as he says, he went to McDonald's (but they were closed) to take pictures of the stickers and he was beaten with plastic trash can lids by unidentified employees.

This incident has caused more than just a lawsuit. A veterans organization also started a "small, but passionate" protest outside the 5th Avenue McDonald's, where the original incident took place. Whether it was small or not, I'm sure that a lot more people know about the incident. And people have strong opinions about the discrimination. The story is presented a little fuzzy so many people have doubts about the credibility of the events. Others are just outraged at the alleged mistreatment of a combat veteran.

Whether the story is true or not, McDonald's handled it badly. Besides the original written apology by the first McDonald's manager, there seems to not have been any other apology given to Montalvan. Quoted from the article from, this is all that I could find about official McDonald's comments: "A spokeswoman for McDonald's USA said the matter is under investigation and that the company could not comment further, other than to say that McDonald's takes pride in making its restaurants accessible to all customers, 'including those with service animals.'" Since according to the story, McDonald's did not make its restaurant accessible to all customers, this just makes McDonald's look even worse. McDonald's should not have waited for the situation to get to a lawsuit level. They should have handled it at the managerial level (and also, at the employee/worker level). Workers should have been trained better to deal with customers who have disabilities and other special needs, like service dogs. If the problem had been dealt with earlier (and better), the lawsuit may not have been filed and McDonald's could have avoided a lot of negativity.

Verdict? Bad PR.

Employee Relations - Let's be thankful

In light of the Thanksgiving spirit, I think I'll concentrate on the idea of being grateful (and showing it) in the context of employee relations of a company. I think this is a pretty big part of employee relations. Of course it applies to all types of PR but it is particularly effective with employees because it is part of what keeps them happy. According to this article by Warren & Hays LLC, 70% of employees are "very thankful" for their job. This is good, however, the other 30% have different ideas. They even give a few suggestions on how to improve employee relations, such as conducting workplace surveys where employees can give their opinions anonymously. I think this would be really effective because by making it anonymous, employees can give their true opinions about the company without worrying about jeopardizing their jobs.

I also found another article, this time from Biz Coach Tim, that emphasized the importance of saying thank you to employees. While a lot of this article can be applied to all relationships in life, I think some of the advice works really well for employee relations such as these four steps to show gratitude (which are incidentally from another blog post from Kevin Eikenberry):
  • See it – look for reasons to be thankful to your team
  • Say it - they won't know that you notice what they do unless you tell them
  • Write it - this is much more powerful than verbal thanks and longer lasting
  • Share it - formal recognition is the greatest motivator of all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Is This PR? - Miracle Whip v. Stephen Colbert

Recently, Stephen Colbert dissed Miracle Whip in a parody commercial on his show, The Colbert Report. Well, Miracle Whip responded, in a unique way. They bought all of the ad slots for the commercial breaks on the Thursday showing of The Colbert Report. In these ad slots, they showed their normal commercials but with modified voice-overs that talked directly to Colbert. Before the show, they also ran an open newspaper ad (that also appeared in several places on the Internet) that was addressed to Colbert and said that they "WILL NOT TONE IT DOWN." In an article from the Chicago Tribune, there is an overview of the "marketing opportunity" taken, complete with a quotation from spokeswoman for Kraft (manufacturer of Miracle Whip). This article also touches on the irony that in addition to producing Miracle Whip, Kraft is also one of the top manufacturers of mayonnaise.

So, PR? Definitely. Good PR? The ballot's still out on that one.

I have read several responses to the retaliation and the sentiments are mixed. There are two sides to the opinions on this PR tactic. On the one hand, this is a light-hearted approach where instead of getting angry at Colbert, Miracle Whip brought it back with humor. On the other hand, it is a campaign that it taking it too seriously. Contradicting, right?

Well I'll start off discussing the good. Even Comedy Central, the channel The Colbert Report appears on, said Miracle Whip's letter was "admittedly funny." It was. The letter, and following commercials, took Colbert's humor and turned it back around in a creative attempt to retaliate the "Colbert effect."

And then there's the bad. The main problem is people believe Miracle Whip is taking itself too seriously as a product. The commercial is trying too hard. You should give 110% right? Which in any other case besides PR would be true. In PR, however, you must strike a balance. This article from Warming Glow seems to think it's too intentional.

In the end though, I think that most of the people who did not like the commercials were people who did not like Miracle Whip in general. The humorous approach to something they could have turned nasty is Good PR.

Ethical Ice Cream (CSR in action)

When we were given the assignment to write a blog post about a company that uses corporate social responsibility, my immediate thought was one of my favorite ice cream companies, Ben & Jerry's. Ben & Jerry's has gotten a lot of attention on the subject matter of corporate social responsibility. They have an extensive mission statement that presents separate statements for social, product, and economic aspects.

I found several examples of their socially responsible practices in this article by an apparent B & J's enthusiast that include not using milk from cows that have been treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone which increases chances of infection (and therefore, pain) for the cows. They actually pay the farmers who raise the cows that they get their milk from NOT to use this hormone.

Another interesting example mentioned in this article is their ice cream flavor, American Pie. This ice cream flavor not only taste like an American classic, but is also part of a political media campaign of the company's. Here's an article from Junk Food blog that goes more in depth on the topic. Basically, the ice cream container features a pie chart that illustrates government spending. The purpose is to make people aware of the government's spending on things like nuclear weapons and the war. This is socially responsible, however, it may not be the best PR in general. As you can see from the comments on this post, some people feel that Ben & Jerry's is alienating half of Americans (conservatives). That said, I think it succeeded in informing people about the issue.

Another issue people have been criticizing Ben & Jerry's for is its recent acquisition by Unilever. As B & J's has always been pretty outspoken against corporations, this acquisition came as kind of a shock. Many consumers wondered if the company would still be able to continue all of its socially responsible actions. This blog post from Ideoblog seems to think Ben & Jerry's is still doing a good job. They are teaching their employees about CSR too.

In general, I believe Ben & Jerry's is doing a good job. I also think whoever does their PR is doing a good job too because the word is definitely out there about their socially responsible practices and stances.

Seriously, no company is perfect. As wonderful as it would be for every company to be socially responsible in every aspect, that's a perfect world and that does not exist. I believe that Ben & Jerry's puts in the effort in many aspects of its company and that is more than many other companies are doing.

Here is a quote I found while doing my search on more information for Ben & Jerry's. While it does not have to do with the company specifically, I think it illustrates the purpose (and importance) of CSR quite nicely:

"Money should never be separated from values. Detached from values it may indeed be the root of all evil. Linked effectively to social purpose it can be the root of opportunity."

--- Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor, Harvard Business School

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Role of a PR Practitioner in CSR

As I began to read about the use of public relations practices in corporate social responsibility, I realized not everyone has very high opinions about it. Like this article from The Guardian in the UK, Christian Aid did a study (of which the validity/reliability I am still not sure) that shows that many people think that corporations "preach" about CSR but do not follow through on it (on a side note, this article shows that many people do not think very highly about the PR profession in general).
This leads me to my first point about the role of the PR practitioner when dealing with CSR. PR practitioners must publicize their companies' CSR and then make sure it is enforced. I agree with the article in that companies should not say they are being socially responsible when they are not (i.e. LYING!).
As long as it is being enforced, PR practitioners have the responsibility to make sure their publics and stakeholders know about it. This is their responsibility to the company and stakeholders. PR practitioners need to present it "in the most neutral tone with no hypes nor exaggerations." This quotation is from an article from DT Communications Asia Pacific. They also emphasize the idea that it is not only a specific event, like a fundraiser, but should be seen as an ongoing process where there is no "final point." This article also gives three pretty interesting examples that I feel really exemplify the importance of good PR in social corporate responsibility.
Social corporate responsibility is primarily the responsibility of the company. However, PR plays a big role in this because PR practitioners are the ones responsible for getting a company's socially responsible messages and values to the public. This generates more business for the company which in turn can generate even more socially responsible practices.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Music in the Digital Age

With sharing music so easy nowadays, copyright lawsuits are becoming more and more common in the music industry. I was definitely one of those people who used Kazaa and Limewire, but I stopped after hearing about people (continuously) getting fined thousands of dollars for music that was worth less than half of the fines. And I understand where the music industry is coming from. People need to get paid, and not just musicians and CEO's of record companies. I'd bet that they would actually be some of the last to feel the cut from illegal downloading. Now, social media sites like YouTube are getting into trouble for allowing their users to use copyrighted music; it's the new battle in the music industry. The big case I'm talking about is the one between YouTube and Warner Music Group.

Warner Music Group has now been removing all of their musical content from YouTube. While this might be protecting their copyrighted material, it is alienating their consumers. YouTube is popular because you have the ability to find anything and everything on it. Taking content off because people are not paying for it, alienates everyone. And there's proof of this. YouTube users have been creating angry videos in response to Warner Music Group's decision to take down content containing their music. This is similar to the airline situation with Dave Carroll that I talked about in a previous post. The airline wronged him and he fought back using social media, specifically YouTube. This is creating a LOT of bad publicity for Warner Music Group. I bet their PR director is stressed.

The answer to these kinds of problems is Creative Commons. This organization provides free licenses to creators of material that allows these owners to choose what others can and cannot do with their original work. It allows people to make more creative works than they would under normal copyright laws. As a music fan (and a fan of music blogs), I think this is great. I love having music available to listen to all the time and I love with artists collaborate with one another or when some music enthusiast decides to make a remix or mash-up. It inspires creativity and, personally, I think it is great PR for a musician or band. I know this free PR is not needed for bigger, well-known bands, but for independent, lesser-known bands, it can get their names out there and make them big.

So what does this mean for PR? I think it means that record companies are going to have to seriously reconsider the regulations they put on their music. It should be the responsibility of the content owners (i.e. the musicians, I'm assuming) to decide the regulations and Creative Commons is the best way to do that. Record companies should look at the reaction to Warner Music Group and learn that strict regulations are not the best way to go even if they are the most protective of original content. Warner Music Group will need to rethink its policies and respond carefully to those angry videos protesting it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Disclosure and Ethics in PR

I think Dave Fleet's article about disclosure made some very good points. Yeah, for a lot of people, they don't know that someone else is doing the campaign and, subsequently, they don't care. But I believe that if people understood that a lot of the time PR agencies are creating the messages, they would care. With social media becoming one of the primary ways of communicating, more and more "average" people are becoming aware of issues that usually required some college courses or just an unhealthy affinity for a particular topic. Now, the "average" citizen can learn about issues like disclosure by reading just a few hundred words on a blog, like Dave Fleet's. I think one of the comments on this post really says it all:
John Carson said:

"I think if the campaign goes well, and everyone involved is a hero, then people don’t care about disclosure.

But, if the sh*t hits the fan, then people search for accountability and look back — ruefully — with hindsight about the disclosure issue.

By then, of course, it’s too late!"

That really sums it up for me. This emphasizes the importance of disclosure from the beginning. While, of course, everyone plans their PR strategies to go well but that is not how it always happens. If something goes wrong, which Murphy's Law teaches us that it always will, no disclosure means a much bigger mess than if you just tell the truth (i.e. not lie through omitting) from the beginning.

That said, as another commenter pointed out, giving disclosure on social media like Twitter where you have a limited space can be difficult. Paid tweets are becoming a big deal and the FTC is stepping in. One of the solutions that many PR practitioners are coming up with is some sort of indicator in the tweet that lets the reader know it's a paid or sponsored tweet. Stowe Boyd of suggests putting "AD" at the beginning of the tweet. Brian Carter of TweetROI takes it a step further and makes the distinction between a paid tweet and a sponsored tweet. Paid tweets, where the company dictates the content, would be indicated by "AD," while a sponsored tweet, where the company does not decide the content, would be indicated by "SP." There are even more elaborate idea such as color-coding and different fonts for different types of tweets. No matter which way will eventually win out, the main goal of all of these ideas is to provide disclosure and keep Twitter-marketing ethical.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Is this PR? - Levi's Go Forth campaign

I decided to start off my "Is this PR?" presentations with Levi's Go Forth campaign because 1. I, personally, think it is an awesome campaign and 2. I am writing an original criticism on it for another communication class!

Here is one of the print ads for the campaign.

To give a basic overview of the campaign, I'll start by explaining where the title "Go Forth" came from. As the narrative goes, it stands for Grayson Ozias IV, a family friend of Levi Strauss' nephew, who went exploring one day in the West (back when it was uncharted territory) and disappeared with $100,000. The company found his treasure (using wax cylinders he left behind). Now they are creating a virtual treasure hunt that ends with one person being able to do a real treasure hunt and find Ozias' fortune. "Go Forth" also connotes the freedom and revolution that Levi's is trying to create with this campaign. In addition to the "treasure hunt," they also have print advertisements and commercials which feature Walt Whitman poems like "America" and "Pioneers! O'Pioneers!" The entire campaign is trying to take people back to the pioneering age of America, when Levi's was started. Levi's uses other ideas like "The New Declaration" where they invite people to rewrite the Constitution or write their own.

As I stated before, I really like the campaign. However, among others, it has had mixed receptions. And I understand the thoughts of those who oppose it. There have been some blogs that think this campaign is beautiful yet ultimately will not reach its goal of selling jeans but rather alienate postmodern consumers. If you read the comments though, not everyone agrees with this. Others think the use of Walt Whitman poems is an interesting choice. Using poetry to promote a company is controversial because it is using art (something usually seen as not consumerist) to sell something; however, as others note, it's getting people to discover poetry and, really, Walt Whitman wrote reviews for his own poetry so it is kind of fitting that he would be used to promote jeans. I think Rick Mathieson does a good job at summing up the opposing views towards the campaign in his article. To answer some of the questions he poses, yes I do think this can "reset the brand" for today's generation. Just because it is obviously advertising jeans doesn't not mean it is trying to "brainwash" today's generation. It's true; people are pessimistic these days and, while they are not going to believe that buying jeans will change the world, the message Levi's could become associated with through this campaign, could.

In the end, I believe this campaign is good and I believe this campaign is PR. It is striking up conversations about Levi's and it is using social media to the fullest. The interactive element of this campaign puts it in this century, while the message brings back the past. This is a response to their recent financial failures to compete with designer brands, like Sevens and True Religion. Levi's listened to what their publics were saying and realized they could not compete in the same arena as designer brands so they decided to go an alternative route, back to their roots.

That said, I would love to hear other opinions about this campaign because, as I have seen, the views towards the Go Forth campaign have been quite varied.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Crisis Communications in action

To help myself better understand crisis communications and the most appropriate methods to use (and how to figure out which are the most appropriate methods), I decided to look up a few examples of crisis communications in action. Of course, as I found out when researching for my previous blog post, being prepared seems to be one of the most crucial aspects of good crisis communications. What about if you are not prepared?

Lo and behold, I found an article talking about just that. While it is specifically discussing European firms, I think some of these things apply to American firms too (and actually, I don't mind the European aspect; I hope to work for an international organization). The exact statistics given in this article are that "although 60% of the business decision makers polled have experienced a crisis and more than half of these have experienced one in the past year, only 53 percent currently have a crisis plan in place." Now, I have learned from my statistics class to be skeptical of the veracity of statistics, for illustrative sake, I'll take these as is. This survey was led by Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations and communications consultancy (that description is word-for-word from the article except for the word "leading" which I remember is one of those means-nothing words). Basically the article discusses the consequences of not having a crisis plan ready, one of the more detrimental being that companies without a crisis plan usually have longer recovery period (they cite 9 months, rather than 7). Some other consequences they discuss:
  • bigger loss of revenue and layoffs
  • falling share prices
  • loss of corporate reputation
  • loss of media and/or public trust
  • law suits by individuals or groups
All of these I believe are quite true and quite important. They even give an example of this by mentioning British Airways.
...which leads me to the blog post I found specifically talking about why airlines usually have such bad PR.
As noted in the blog post, airline PR practitioners must have one of the most difficult and stressful PR jobs ever. When people are flying, they want a perfect, uneventful trip which seems to rarely happen. This article specifically talks about United Airways. The event discussed was about a Canadian musician, Dave Carroll, who flew United and subsequently had his expensive guitar broken by the baggage handlers. When he received no sympathy from United employees, not only did he blog about it, he even wrote a song and made a video (posted in this article). This has got to be a nightmare for United; musicians are obviously not the ones to cross. United suffered. However, these types of situations are not left just United Airways. All airlines are notorious for losing luggage, delayed flights, bad customer service, and, apparently, breaking customers' personal possessions. It seems to be unavoidable, so the only way an airline can keep its customers happy is with good customer service and good communications, largely the responsibility of public relations practitioners. It also discusses airline attempts (and fails) to use social media to help with customer service and complaints. I think this is partially due to the fact that many problems with airlines are seen as very serious and many people might expect something more formal than social media which is still seen sometimes as young and solely for entertainment. However, if airlines could figure out how to use social media to their advantage, it could be incredibly beneficial (that said, they may just have to wait it out for social media to obtain a more serious reputation).

Crisis Communication - thoughts on the exercises

Ok so personally I find crisis communication to be difficult and a little terrifying. As much as I, and probably others, would love for public relations to be all campaigns and accepting awards, it's not. I can see this as being where public relations jobs get stressful. The exercises given by Professor Vargas really woke me up to this crucial type of communication for public relations practitioners. I really thought hard about my answers, yet I am still unsure of them. I hope this kind of thing becomes easier with practice.
So I decided to do a little more research on the subject (even using my new-found blog search source, blogpulse!).

"Like the good Boy Scout – a good motto for the crisis manager is 'Be Prepared'."

This is the last line in a blog post of Mike Love's about crisis management/communications. While I'm not sure what kind of actual experience Love has (though the first paragraph of the post seems to suggest a lot), I feel that his advice given in the post is very well said and quite correct. He reminds us that crises happen anywhere and at any time, so being prepared is essential. He mentioned several things like keeping copies of the crisis plan in other places, having alternate office spaces, and having alternate ways to communicate with the necessary people. Another idea that I really liked of Love's is his thought that the "Communicator" sometimes has to be the Devil's Advocate. I think this is true. The "Communicator", or what I am assigning to be the public relations practitioner, needs to be able to find the faults in the company/organization to be able to fix them and/or respond to outside accusations of these faults. If you don't think there is a problem, it won't get fixed.

Crises cannot usually be handled solely by the PR director of a company. Often, the company is too big, there are too many publics, and/or the situation is too much to handle for one person. Therein lies the importance of a crisis communications team, all of whom need to be trained in whatever their role in the team is. In an article written by PR Ideas, the role of the team members is discussed. The tips given in this article are interesting and are very pertinent for crisis communications. Basically, it reinforces what I have been reading in all of these articles and in the slideshow presentation from class.

Also, in my search on the blogosphere, I found an event that pertains exactly to what we are learning that's actually going on at this very point. Here's the link for the Social Media for Crisis Communications in Government.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chapter 11 - Cyber-Relations in the Digital Age

This has got to be one of the most interesting chapters for me to read thus far. It's funny how interested I am in social media and digital media because I'm really not that into it personally. I can't seem to keep up with more than networking site at a time and despite serving as webmaster for my sorority's website for an entire year, I still don't really know how to work HTML and other web site jargon. That said, I get excited to understand more about these types of media and the influence they have on society (and PR!).
One of the first terms the book recognizes is Web 2.0., stating in the last sentence of the section that "the reality of Web 2.0 comes down to this: It is all about you". To expand on this, when I saw this youtube video about web 2.0, made by Dr. Michael Wesch of Kansas State University, I absolutely loved it and the way it conveyed the unique relationship between the internet and its users. Here's Dr. Wesch's reaction to the explosion of hits his video received in just the first few days it was released (on youtube).
Another term this chapter talks about is convergence of media. This is another concept I find really interesting. Media converge more and more in the 21st century to form a more homogeneous channel, yet the messages sent on this channel are more and more diverse.
One of the more shocking things I read in this chapter is the "Social Ramifications" section. I never realized all of the consequences of social and digital media. I think the one consequence mentioned in this chapter that surprised me the most was the "mergers of media companies". I realized that several conglomerates owned a lot of the media companies; I learned about that in mass communication theory. The point that hit the hardest was the "loss of journalistic independence". I now better understand the potential loss for independent thought being published.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Week 6 - PR 2.0 & Storytelling

This week we read articles and blog posts about "PR 2.0" and storytelling used in PR.

PR 2.0 refers to the revolution that PR has experienced. With things like social media and the need to have a plan for PR campaigns, public relations is becoming more integrated with marketing, as discussed on the discussion board this week. Having goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics separate and defining them well is key to a good PR campaign. It is important to know the difference between each of these parts of a PR plan and how exactly to arrive at them. The first blog post we read, Outputs, Outtakes, Outcomes…Oh, my!, explained this very clearly. It is also better to have some sort of measurable unit to make "success" easier to "measure." This comes in during the objectives part of a PR plan. Having a measurable unit also helps the company succeed by having something more concrete to aim for.

In the Public Relations Princess blog, the author mentions what she believes is the "PR student's online bible," so of course I decided I should check it out. This took me to a blog by a PR professor at George Southern called Public Relations Matters. It's a pretty interesting blog basically covering whatever this professor is covering in her class (and sometimes a little extra). And, of course, the most recent post just happens to be about Facebook and Twitter.

Like comments on blogs, having customer feedback is a great PR approach to websites. Things like reviews give a personal touch to the ratings of a company which increases the credibility and trust in a company. It also allows companies to hear what customers really think (though usually it is only strongly opinionated, good or bad, that reply), making it a cheap and relatively effective way for companies to hear how to improve their goods or services and for potential customers to hear about the goods or services. Stories, however, are even better. In many ways they can be more effective than reviews because stories are more likely to stick in your mind. Stories can also turn into something big. This is seen with the Jared campaign for Subway. Subway took one story about a guy who lost weight eating its sandwiches and turned it into a huge years-long campaign. The website alone includes his story, his statistics, the diet he followed, press releases, and "friends of Jared," or other people who were inspired by Jared to lose weight with Subway sandwiches. I personally am not even sure if I had even heard of Subway (or at least, considered it a viable choice for fast food) before this campaign. So, as personal experience goes, I'd say it was pretty effective.

I also found the part about a company as a community very interesting---and completely true. I know, and I'm sure everyone has felt this way before, that when I feel as if I am part of a group, I will work harder to improve the group. An example that fits me personally is Clemson University. People who feel they are part of the "Clemson Family" are more likely to want to improve the university and are more likely to stick around and finish all four years here. It's why there are so many campaigns, like One Clemson, aimed toward freshmen and transfers so they feel as if they belong at Clemson. A university without programs like these would probably not have as high of a retention rate. "Family" spirit is essential in other types of organizations too.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chapter 9

Chapter 9 discusses the different tactics public relations practitioners use. This chapter was very thorough in covering the basics for the several different traditional publics. The examples they gave at the end of the chapter were particularly interesting to me. Even though both of these campaigns happened relevantly recently, I do not remember either. That said, I was not the most observant teenager. After reading about them, I am really surprised I did not hear about them at all.
I also never realized how many different ways there are to communicate with a particular public. I also never realized how difficult it is to get a news release published and am now glad that I took a journalism class to improve my writing skills. Reading about the different tactics reminds me that there are so many ways to reach a certain public, you can always find the right one.
The three types of channels are special events, controlled media, and uncontrolled media. Each of these channels are important to understand for good public relations tactics. The idea of "pseudoevent" is very interesting and I think that I agree with the book when they say that whether or not it's a "real" event or just a publicity stunt, if it makes the news, who cares?
In the book, the authors mention the PR firm Edelman when discussing social media news releases. I decided to go to this site to see what the difference was between these and traditional news releases. This site is pretty great because not only to they have several social media news releases on their site, they also have the traditional news release so comparing the two was easy. It's obvious to me now the difference. While the examples on this website did not contain any videos, they were obviously shorter, giving only the most important information of the news story.
As someone who wants to get into nonprofit organizations, I found the section on public service announcements, the only section that specifically mentioned nonprofits, pretty interesting. I decided to go onto the Ad Council website and see what it was all about. When reading about them, I came across some of their most famous slogans, some that I never realized they came up with like "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk." The amount of famous slogans they have coined is truly impressive as many of these (including the one above) have been reused in society and other ad campaigns countless times. While this organization focuses on just one aspect of public relations, it is still impressive.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 discusses the different ways and strategies of public relations planning. The three types of public relations plans discussed in the book are ad hoc plans, standing plans, and contingency plans. Understanding the different types and purposes of PR plans is very important for a pracititioner because it sets the information for the details of the plan.

I found a blog post on that discusses twelve steps to a successful PR campaign. I found it to be really interesting because it combines information that has been covered in the past few chapters we've read. Here are the twelve steps that this blogger thinks are important:
1. Research
2. Situation Analysis
3. Objectives
4. Identifying Publics
5. Identifying Stakeholders
6. Key Messages
7. Strategy
8. Tactics
9. Timescale
10. Budget
11. Crisis Issues and Management Place
12. Evaluation
Also many of the responses, from PR practitioners, agreed with these twelve steps. I also agree. He gives a pretty good breakdown of all of the different steps, including strategy and tactics, two important topics for this chapter. While in many situations that PR practitioners have to deal with, there is not enough time to do all of these steps fully. This checklist is convenient to look at and I think I would find it particularly helpful when starting out in the PR business when you don't want to forget something important, yet it's not completely ingrained in your mind.

I also found this article about PR planning specifically for non-profit organizations which is particularly interesting to me because I have seriously considered working for one and truly enjoyed my internship when I did. This article does the same type of stuff as the blog post before but in greater detail and accommodating for a non-profit organization. This article also gives an example communications plan for a hospital. Seeing a communications plan written out as if for an actual organization really helps solidify the information and the importance of each step in the plan. These articles take the basic four elements of the written plan mentioned in the book and adds more details and elements to truly fill out the plan. That said, noting that the book only had four (goal, objectives, strategies, and tactics) shows that you do not always have to include every step and you should choose the most important elements for your situation when you are planning.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 of our book discusses the research (and subsequent evaluation) that public relations practitioners do to improve the methods they use and the relationships they maintain. I was definitely able to understand this chapter, especially the section that dealt with surveys and statistics, because I am also taking a statistics class this semester.
I also find the gray box on issues management very relevant because it seems like such an important management technique. Thinking about the example they gave about the U.S. cattle industry was really good because I actually remember when this happen and remember that it was handled very well. I never really realized the PR factor of this because, at the time, that's not at all what I was thinking about.
The Institute for Public Relations is an institute solely for public relations research. It seriously has research on nearly every aspect and type of public relations, from employee relations to international relations to reputation and trust. They even have articles about PR measurement and evaluation, something that was talked about a lot during this chapter. It's an issue because PR is something that is so difficult to measure accurately and the same every time.
I also decided to look up my own example of public relations research. What I found is a blog that posted a survey about which public relations agencies are best with social media and are developing the most beneficial social programs. She really goes into what the survey is about and, something I find important and interesting about this article, the demographics of the respondents. It almost seems that that part of the survey was just as important as the actual answers. This emphasizes that knowing exactly who your information is coming from is important and that diversifying it is also important.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 is about the publics public relations practitioners deal with during their workday. A public is considered any group whose members have a common interest or common values in a particular situation. That definition is copied straight from the book because I think it really covers it well and I can't think of a way to say it better.
I never thought of the different ways you can categorize publics so I was pretty surprised to find out there were so many. The publics involved in an organization are constantly changing. As our world becomes more diverse and more connected, the potential publics for an organization are becoming more numerous. I never thought about how the gay/lesbian community is a public that really has just emerged, or rather has just emerged as a potentially important factor. As it is becoming more acceptable, companies and organizations have to accommodate this community. A few decades back, the Hispanic community was probably not as prominent as they are now. Now, it is necessary for many organizations to have their consumer material translated into Spanish. Signs are in Spanish; instructions are in Spanish. This brings up the language factor. I'm sure it is much more crucial now for a PR practitioner to know another language. The different cultures of our world are colliding and we have to accommodate for that too. I am particularly interested in the multicultural aspect of PR (partially how I am hoping to use my minor in French). An article from PRSA about the importance of multiculturalism really made the issue clear when Virginia L. Kreimeyer, APR, said, "You have to look at the ethnicity and diversity from more than one standpoint. You have to be sensitive to what those cultures are, how members of the group perceive themselves and how other groups within the country perceive them." This same article discusses the sometimes overwhelming ethnocentrism that PR activities are "plagued by," meaning the tendency to see everything from the view of white, Christian, upper-middle class people.
Switching gears a bit, I also found an article about public relations on Facebook, on the pr-squared blog, that while is essentially an article about the social media revolution and the ridiculous success of Facebook, it also discusses publics. It talks about the demographic information of Facebook users that has changed from just college students to all ages (including the fastest-growing demographic of +35). The Facebook situation also reminds me of the example used in this chapter about Kablooie popcorn and reaching the teenagers on the internet. As Facebook has around 300 million users, of course companies and organizations want to get on the action and reap the benefits of having that many people in one "location." But as the article says, it's more difficult that it seems. Companies don't want to bring more business to Facebook (because seriously, they have plenty); they want to bring business to their own websites. The article suggest low-cost approach coupled with some advertising, widgets, and the like. And I agree. With the ever-changing world of Facebook (and really, the next big thing could come around any time), it's best to not spend too much money.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of our book discusses the history of public relations. I found it interesting that the book starts out the history talking about propaganda (and of course, with bad connotations and all) and publicity, two things I do not, or rather do not want to, consider public relations. Of course, the book does not say that it is public relations, just the predecessors of PR. Somewhat ironically, I was able to find a PR blog, called PR-Bridge, that discusses this very thing. This blog post talks about how we need to rethink PR history, something I found of great interest since I had just finished reading about PR history (even better, the blog talks about how history of PR is always covered in just one chapter of introductory courses; wow, hit the nail on the head). That said, when he refers to the "only favorable book-length history of the field" he is talking about a book by Scott Cutlip, a PR historian who is quoted and referred to often in our book. While the blog post doesn't delve into PR history itself, it makes some interesting points about how this PR history is created and how a new and better one should be created.

Once I read the Case Study on the March of Dimes which talked about FDR's efforts to raise money and awareness for those with disabilities, I wondered why he was not mentioned before in the chapter. I think an example of great public relations is FDR's fireside chats. These radio broadcasts given by FDR instilled confidence in and informed the public about what was going on. In the perilous time he was president, this was particularly important. Now, pretty much all presidents give some type of "fireside chat," or just a speech to the nation (President Obama takes it to the next level of technology by having his available on YouTube).

One of the most recent speeches given by President Obama and broadcast on YouTube is his speech to students. I know that I enjoyed his speech and do not take it in a bad way but I know that it started a lot of controversy so I decided to look up a little more about that. What I found were a lot of news articles that discussed the parents' views. Obviously, many parents did not approve. An article from the New York Times discussed extensively opinions about it but I think the opinions featured were a little biased. President Obama could have learned from PR history and the problems that arise often from speeches. Among all of the political disputes and divisions, a speech directed at children, even if it was with good intentions, is of course going to result in outrage and issues.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chapter 2

I really enjoyed reading this chapter because I wanted to know more about the different job duties there would be in a public relations job. After reading that, I realized that my internship I did last fall exposed me to a lot of public relations duties for a non-profit organization (it was at the Foundation for the Oconee Medical Center). At first, I didn't even want that internship because I have no desire to work in health communications but actually it was a lot of public relations and I ended up enjoying it. Now I realize that it is more helpful than I thought. It especially showed me the types of job I will probably be doing at the entry level.
I find the concept of boundary spanning to be really interesting. The idea that PR practitioners act for the good of their relationships to the public expands the definition of public relations and helps explain the importance of a PR practitioner's job. The book then goes on to point out that there are multiple relationships and multiple publics transforming the job to "intersection manager."
The other part of this blog post is to search for PR jobs and see the actual job skills that employers want. The first place I looked was PR Week US in the jobs section.
Here's one of the more thorough descriptions I found for a director of public relations for Columbia College Chicago: link
It seemed to combine many of the attributes mentioned in other ads. Many companies require good communication skills, experience with press releases, and several mentioned working with the blogging/social media community. I also saw words/phrases like "high-energy" used to describe the wanted job applicant. Many of the jobs I saw posted on this site required a lot of experience, usually 10+. So I searched for entry level jobs on CollegeGrad Jobs. The jobs posted on here seemed to be much more varied when I searched for PR jobs. Many were called "account managers" or had something to do with sales. It was interesting to look at the types of jobs I will be getting in a couple of years to start off my career.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chapter 13

I found Chapter 13 to be really interesting because it elaborated on what the first chapter said about the difference between marketing, advertising, and public relations. I decided to look further into this subject and found this little example that I believe really helps:

"If you are having a difficult time distinguishing between the three, here's a good rule to follow: Imagine you see a potential customer you would like to get to know.

Marketing is when you strike up a conversation and, during the conversation, you explain how he or she needs a great company to do his or her finishing work and your company is the right one for the job.

Advertising is when you go up to the person and confidently talk about how fantastic your company is, how it is the greatest finishing company on Earth and perfectly equipped to make his or her every finishing dream come true.

Public relations is when the prospective customer comes up to you and says admiringly, "I've heard how wonderful your company is, and I'd really like to get to know more about it."

This was found in an article on Here's the link for this particular article:

I thought this article did a good job of summing up much of what Chapter 13 said. As the worlds of advertising, marketing, and public relations melt together, knowing something about all of them to emphasize one of them is a necessity. Mass media is no longer the most effective way to reach a large audience. Companies are starting to focus on individuals instead of the crowd, which leads to the proliferation of integrated marketing communications (IMC). I found the five differences between IMC and mass marketing (focus on individual consumers, use of databases, use of a variety of approaches to send a message, use of consumer-preferred media, and favoring of interactive media) to be very helpful in understanding it. I found the discussion of database marketing to be interesting because while I have been exposed to them basically my entire life, I never realized how much they can make an impact and the effort that goes into creating them.

I really enjoy the focus on integrated marketing communications that is in this chapter. Before this class, I had never heard of this approach but now I believe that it is an effective approach to the communication field. The four P's of the marketing mix (and the subsequent four C's of consumer-driven IMC) make a lot of sense. I tend to like tips like these to remember important aspects of approaches. The detail the chapter goes into really explains it.

While I basically understand integrated marketing communications, I looked up real companies that use this approach to understand how it works in the real world. The company of Flesch, Pritchard, & Peebler explained it well on their services page. Understanding the different projects that go into IMC helps determine the directions I can go into in my career. Also, the occasion real-life example doesn't hurt either.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thoughts on Chapter 1

Chapter 1 of our textbook covers the many definitions of public relations. I really like that they explain clearly why public relations is not just publicity and should not have such a negative connotation. This chapter also covers the Hunt-Grunig Models of Public Relations, which shows the many different methods of PR that practitioners can take. I agree with the majority in the survey; I would emphasize the two-way symmetrical model also.
I like that the book chooses to define advertising, marketing, and public relations side-by-side because I was a little unclear about the difference. Public relations rely on values more than other branches because that is a lot of what practitioners deal with. They deal with the public (and others who interact with the company) and present the values of the company and how it is following them.
The four-step process that is used in public relations is a necessary cycle. I agree with the book when the authors state that the process is not linear. Each step can be repeated and they do not always go in the traditional order. The idea that values affect each step and are the basis of the entire process is an interesting one to consider because it may not always come to mind first.
In general, I agree with the book and find it has explained the current, always changing definition of public relations.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Introduction and My Definition of PR

Alright, so for the introduction: My name is Laura. I am a communication studies major (with a French minor) and a junior. I don't know exactly what I want to do with my degree yet but I figure that I have a couple more years to figure it out. On a side note unrelated to school, I love to travel and look up new music in my free time.

Alright, part deux of my first post, my definition of public relations:
I found this to be difficult. I always hear about public relations and read about public relations but I have never been very clear on a concise definition (one of the main reasons I wanted to take this class). After reading the first chapter of our book, I think I will go with a relatively direct and literal interpretation of the field. Public relations is based on mediating an organization's relationship with its public.
Now, I am one of those people who learned from the start of the negative connotations of public relations. Before getting into this major and taking classes that covered, at least partially, public relations, the usual example of public relations that came to my mind was celebrities who have their publicists turning their mistakes into something better instead of trying to live with the consequences. Now, and especially after reading this first chapter, I know that this is not the only form of public relations and is really not a good example of the field at all.
My definition of public relations, however, is incomplete because this field is so broad, covering so many jobs and overlapping with other industries. It is marketing but with more focus on the relationship to the public, rather than the actual product. The product or service does have an effect but the focus is on the audience and their perception of the organization itself, rather than an individual product or service.
My definition needs work. I hope in this class I can learn a more complete and accurate definition of this field.