Tag Archives: pr

Corporatespeak Is Not Good Public Relations: A Revist to Best Buy

6 Sep
Best Buy at Forbes

A story at Forbes inspired my analysis of Best Buy from a general PR view.

I wrote this article a while back when Best Buy was at the precipice of failure (at least in a PR sense). But now their “Renew Blue” turnaround strategy looks to be gaining traction (again, at least in a PR sense). One thing is for certain: theirs will be an interesting case study.

Best Buy: A Look Back on a Christmas PR Blunder

From January 2012In PR and communications, negative news can sometimes have a positive side just by way of the delivery. And what an opportunity that can be: either to recast in a positive light, to minimize damage… or to make it worse.

We have more respect for clear, direct communication, especially when something goes wrong. Owning up, making things right, and letting people know about it is not only the right thing to do, but can also be a PR win, a point completely lost last month on Best Buy as it addressed customers about orders that they weren’t going to be getting… keep reading >>

Russell Brand On MSNBC: Unintentional PR Victor

28 Jun

Russell Brand Messiah Complex World Tour 2013My favorite public relations episode of the past few weeks is the awkwardly hilarious yet unexpectedly salient interview with Russell Brand on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. It’s resulted in some choice PR for Brand, probably wholly unintentionally. One of the hosts, Mika Brzezinski, even apologized later for the lack of professionalism that day — fully admitting not knowing whom she was interviewing.

I realize “Morning Joe” is not known for trenchant journalism, but I believe Brand was justified in calling these folks out in return for their snarkiness (among other derisive behavior). My favorite description of the whole affair is from Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post who sums it up nicely:

russell brand takedown

Reactions

I would liken the hosts to a kitten pouncing on what it assumes is a dazed snake and discovering it has latched onto the tail end of a dragon. It’s cringe-inducing. ‘You’re talking about me as if I’m not here and as if I’m an extraterrestrial,’ he observes. Never mock someone with a British accent.

Although there are some dissenting opinions, the reaction I’ve seen since has overwhelmingly sided with Brand, giving some unforseen PR juice to his Messiah Complex tour — and making for some pretty entertaining television.

Update: Read about the encounter from Brand, himself, in this article he wrote for The GuardianRussell Brand: what I made of Morning Joe and Question Time

What do you think? Was Brand out of line, or does that even matter? What would you have done in his shoes, or in those of the hosts? Let us hear from you in the comments.

American Apparel’s “Bored During the Storm?” Campaign: PR Stunt or Well-Intentioned Goof?

1 Nov
Really, American Apparel?

American Apparel Advertisement

It would seem obvious these days that capitalizing on catastrophe via social media is in poor taste. So why would an otherwise savvy brand like American Apparel appear to be doing exactly that?

Given the very poorly received efforts of Kenneth Cole during protests in Egypt, you would think other retailers would have a clue by now, right?

It’s one thing for a business somehow connected with a major upheaval to approach the line between altruism and marketing. And it’s certainly a fine line. Consider American Express’ Sandy-related communication efforts for its travel customers:

But it’s another thing entirely to risk the appearance of piggybacking on disaster for advertising’s sake. Sure, it gets some buzz, but is it worth all the backlash?

As reported by Huffington Post:

CEO Dov Charney did not express disappointment over American Apparel’s marketing team capitalizing on Hurricane Sandy. “I don’t think our marketing guys made a mistake. Part of what you want to do in these events is keep the wheels of commerce going,” he told Business Week. “People shopped on it. We generated tens of thousands of dollars from the sale, but we’ll probably lose a million dollars from this (storm) event at a minimum. We’re here to sell clothing. I’m sleeping well at night knowing this was not a serious matter.”

And here’s another take from American Apparel’s representatives, via Fashionista:

When reached for comment over email, an American Apparel spokesperson told us, “Of course we’d never mean to offend anyone and when we put the email out yesterday it came from a good place.”

So, is this really a big deal?

However in poor taste it may now seem in the wake of Sandy’s devastation, American Apparel’s approach was not in mean spirits, even though it’s easy to characterize it as such. The company has a history of corporate responsibility – along with a history of pushing the envelope through its marketing for PR purposes. And it serves them no purpose whatsoever to appear flippant or dismissive. Upon investigation, it’s clear they don’t wish anyone further misery from Hurricane Sandy, what with their acknowledging as much in the subsequent damage control. As reported by ABC News:

Ryan Holiday, spokesperson for American Apparel, responded to ABC News in an email:

“For us, this is about us working like crazy to get and keep our stores open. We’ve got employees who can’t work when stores are closed due to weather and the biggest Made in USA factory in the country that sits idle–we would never try to offend anyone or capitalize on a natural disaster, this was simply an effort to mitigate some of the effects of the storm on our business.”

Fair enough. So what next?

My advice for American Apparel right now:

  • Turn your affected stores into recharge-stations with power strips and free wi-fi for all so someone can tweet some good about you. Buy generators if necessary. It won’t cost much and ROI would be huge.
  • Give 20% off to ANYONE, nationwide, referencing the ad for the next week to capitalize on the viral nature of the campaign, requiring a tweet or Facebook post with hashtag #aacares or similar. Cost to you: minimal.
  • Donate 20% of profits for the next week to northeast U.S. chapters of the Red Cross. Yes, this will cost some cash, but there’s no arguing with a monetary statement.
  • Just  be proactive somehow to make this right. Or risk being one of the “don’ts” of social media. Better to be one of the “OK, we get it” stories instead.
What do you think? Is this a PR blunder or a marketing gimmick? Are you more or less inclined to shop American Apparel now? Do these suggestions make sense, or is there something you would recommend? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Virgin America Gets PR Right

12 Jul
Click for full-size

Unauthorized Bedtime Nonsense – Click for full size at Pinterest

Safety can be fun, even for big businesses like airlines.

I’ve written in the past about how refreshing it is to see a big company get public relations and customer communications right. In that case it was  Delta Airlines endorsing their mile runner superfans. I’m pleased to report another discovery of a similar company offering up some positivity and humor with their own messaging: Virgin America.

During a recent #PinChat on Twitter, the featured guest was Jill Okawa Fletcher, Virgin America’s Director of Social Media. Ms. Fletcher was sharing insights about Virgin’s use of Pinterest and I immediately referred her to my pin of Virgin Atlantic’s wacky insert card campaign (at right). We then had the following exchange:

And Ms. Fletcher then referred me to Virgin America’s easygoing in-flight safety video:

 

Corporate Wackiness Can be Entertaining

As you may know, I’m a big geeky fan of this type of thing, and true to its brand spirit, Virgin makes the most of an opportunity here with its captive audience. Yes, safety is important, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with it.

Coincidentally, back to Delta…. I first noticed this in Delta’s in-flight safety video, where an attendant’s shiny tooth actually goes “ding!” after demonstrating proper use of a seat as a floatation device. That’s so funny to me just because it’s very subtle and wacky in an otherwise fairly standard video. I’m such a fan that once on a Delta flight, I was ready with my phone to get a picture of the exact moment… voila:

Delta Airlines Safety Video - Ding!

My favorite part of Delta’s in-flight safety video. The guy’s smile literally sparkles. And makes a “ding” sound. Brilliant.

What do you think? Can you name any examples of companies having fun with their otherwise serious messaging? Does this influence your perception of the company or a brand? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Pulitzer Prize – NOT!

18 Apr

Is one of the bulwarks of writing using reverse psychology public relations?

I wouldn’t even have noticed this if it weren’t for the fact that it seems to be happening two years in a row. In these days of e-readers and scannable headlines taking attention away from traditional print media, the Pulitzer board (you know, the ones responsible for that prize) did not see fit yet again to issue an award in a major category.

Where's My Prize? Joseph Pulitzer Ponders.

Where’s My Prize? Joseph Pulitzer Ponders. Click for original photo by Pete Toscano*

Last year it was Breaking News (the category) with no prize, which resulted in several snarky tweets, including my own, pointing out the “breaking news” of there being no actual breaking news worthy of an award.

This year, despite having selected three works as potential winners, the board awarded no prize in the Fiction category. This has upset some publishers, but on the other hand has resulted in news coverage about guess what: the Pulitzer Prize.

No Prize = More Coverage?

Not only that, but the works nominated in the Fiction category are now all receiving publicity, rather than the case of simply one title appearing on the list that fewer people might pay attention to.

So how about that? The absence of the award brings attention to even more works. In the short-term, this is a good thing, but I can’t help thinking that it may devalue the overall impact of the prize. Because I’m sure there will be ample hyping of “Pulitzer Prize nominee” more so than in years past for these titles. Also, I agree that it sucks to be nominated when there’s no winner in the category at all. If not for the bonus PR and the glory of being noted in the blogosphere (obviously), it would seem rather anticlimactic.

The board has gotten away with this stunt for two years in a row, but what does that do to the credibility of a prize that’s become a metric across so many fields? In the meantime, here are the nominees – go check them out.

And here are some books I’ve read that, while not winning any Pulitzers, I’ve still found entertaining enough to hold my interest lately.

What do you think? Read any good books lately? Does this anti-tactic actually justify the means for more coverage, or do you think is this even a tactic at all? Let us hear from you in the comments!

*Photo licensed under Creative Commons.

Looking for a Job in PR? Know Your Social Media.

27 Jan

You gotta’ walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Click to view video

In this video, Mark Ragan talks with Weber Shandwick VP of Digital Communications, Jason Wellcome, about how social media is playing an important role in the hunt for Public Relations talent.

Social media is changing how résumés are viewed in the PR industry

Wellcome says, “this whole transition to social media and the earned side of the pie has bode well for communications and PR, but there’s still a lot PR folks have to consider in their businesses to optimize that change.” I’d say that applies doubly if not more so for job seekers — and not just in PR, but across industries.

As LinkedIn has all but made it their goal to be nothing less than a deathblow to the paper résumé, our digital selves become ever more relevant. As far as going totally paperless, I don’t think we’re there yet (and the Wall Street Journal agrees) but having your digital act together is mandatory. Even if you aren’t in the PR industry, you’re definitely in it for yourself if you’re looking to get hired — so be your own best representative.

As Wellcome says, “Everyone’s media now.” And if you claim to know more about “the space” than what your activity actually shows… you ain’t getting the job. Best part of what he says about PR candidates here:

Three things that make PR candidates stand out:

  • Passion
  • Curiosity
  • Not fearing the trial & error of finding out what works.

I say these are great qualities to have not just for PR, but in any industry.

What do you think? Do these apply to your field? Have you recently been on the job hunt, and did social media play a role ? Have you ever screened candidates’ social media presences when hiring, or been screened yourself (that you know of)? Let us hear from you in the comments!
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