Tag Archives: public relations

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.

PR and Social Media News: Ragan and PR Daily

31 Mar

PR DailyA couple of my favorite sources for news and happenings in both public relations and social media are PR Daily, and Ragan Communications (PR Daily is part of Ragan). I’ve been following both sites for years, have attended a couple of Ragan events, and have even been quoted as a source in their reporting. I’ve found their coverage of the news cycle from a PR perspective to be consistently informative and entertaining. Ragan’s daily headlines is one of the few email newsletters I read daily, and in itself, it’s a study in crafting winning headlines with engaging graphics that make readers want to click through to your content.

Stories I’ve enjoyed there recently:

If you’re into PR, social media, – or grammar, online trends, and any of the communication-related other areas they cover – definitely give these sites a visit and consider signing up for the newsletters.

What do you think? Are you a Ragan.com or PR Daily consumer already? Or have you never heard of these sites? Do you have a personal or business interest in PR or social media? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Is There Really No Such Thing As Bad Press?

29 Jan

You know the saying, “there’s no such thing as bad press?” Only to a certain extent do I believe this. The phrase would be more accurate if tempered with two qualifiers:

Potentially, eventually.

Lady Gaga, Oscar Wilde

Lady Gaga, Oscar Wilde.
Both adept at capturing press attention.

This is because in the event of bad press, it can be manageable to varying degrees – but it always takes deliberate, meaningful effort, and it definitely takes time.

I absolutely don’t believe, “hey, there’s no such thing as bad press, so let’s just go for it all…” is wise PR strategy, unless the goal is simple notoriety along the lines of Paris Hilton or Lady Gaga. In these cases, I’m reminded of what could be the inspiration for this concept: Oscar Wilde’s quote, “There is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

The problem with the idea of no bad press is that with today’s A.D.D. news cycle and the everlasting searchability of the Internet, missteps can take an extraordinary effort to overcome, although it can be done. National Strategies Public Relations CEO Jennifer Vickery sums up the concept: “While there is such a thing as bad press, the main take away should be that good press can come out of it, provided the situation is handled properly.”

Proper handling would mean execution with transparency, honesty and consistency over an interval long enough to shift focus to the present and future more so than the past. In this way, and if done right, bad press can become a real opportunity and cataylst, not just in terms of spin, but also toward doing the right thing.

What do you think? Is there truly no such thing as bad press? What are some examples of bad press being handled properly? 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!

Tide Turns Tide with PR

7 Jun

Tide Turns Tables with PRI love it when fiction and real life intersect in clever, funny, or serendipitous ways. I especially like seeing that happen to the mutual benefit of everyone involved – including the public at large – in terms of culture jamming.

That’s what happened this week with Tide and The Onion. The publication ran a faux story on a product that doesn’t necessarily translate perfectly to social media releasing a “cool new viral video.” About… detergent? You get the joke.

Tide Turns Tables on The Onion

It just so happens that the actual company noticed this post and, in what must have been a Herculean effort of corporate teamwork, crafted a brilliant, self-aware response. And they even publicized it via a promoted tweet. Here’s the video and The Onion’s response.

I hope other corporations can enjoy and learn from this as an example of PR done right. Keep the funny videos coming, Tide.

What do you think? Was this the right move on Tide’s part? Have you heard of the story elsewhere, or does publicity like this actually amount to anything? Let us hear from you in the comments!

P.S. I really love embedding tweets. That’s awesome, Twitter.

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.

PR Through A Font? Believe It.

3 Apr

PR From a Font - not even close to technically accurate - for conceptual purposes onlyHere’s some good public relations for Chattanooga, Tennessee design firm Insigne Design, and for the importance of typography in branding.

Chatype for Chattanooga

A recent story from Marketplace sets the scene with a picture of the city’s renaissance, then gets right to the fontspeak, showing how some cities and their local businesses/governments are adopting unified custom fonts, seeing typography as a “sexy idea” with real potential.

Chattanooga Font

Click to read transcript &/or listen (10-second ad, then 4-minute audio):

Sexy Nerdspeak

Chattanooga Font

Image credit: Good.is

I like this story for so many reasons. It’s about typography and design; it’s about a clever concept for effective public relations from a branding perspective; and in the space of four minutes, reporter Blake Farmer brings all these concepts together in practical application. As I said earlier on Twitter, “From “nerdspeak” to “sexy idea” in four minutes? You guessed it; we’re talking about a font.” Gotta’ love that.

Jeremy Dooley, Jonathan Mansfield and D.J. Trishler, all featured in the story, saw through this brand of design work via Chatype and successfully raised funding to get the idea out there. Check out the full presentation on Kickstarter and enjoy D+J‘s video overview here of what goes into crafting an effective font.

Now What?

I have to wonder though, what comes next? Do the designers offer free installation on computers of local businesses? As a design studio promoting this font, living in the city it was designed for, do they now throw all other fonts out the window and use this one exclusively? Do they use this as a tool for new business by offering, say… 250 free business cards or free signs that use the font for local establishments, with an offer for reprints at a discount for incorporating the font into the branding? Imagine the PR a local business could stir up by saying, “Ladies & Gents, check out our new bathroom signs – more than meets the eye!”  How about some QR code magic? Here’s a sample I whipped up just now:

What the heck is a QR Code?

Maybe a bar or restaurant runs a contest for customers to “spot the font” somewhere on site. There are so many opportunities, and I hope exploring them brings good press, profits, and most of all — fun, for everyone involved.

What do you think? Do you get a sense of tone, feel or personality from a typeface? Or is this just about making something pretty for pretty’s sake? Do you see the return on investment in this from a public relations angle? Or does this type of coverage even amount to anything in the long run? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Stuff You May Have Missed: March 2012

1 Apr
Skulls, Bugs, Flowers, Cats

When I do a photo exhibition, it will probably be called this. For accuracy.

To make sure I stay on track with blogging, I’ve set myself the goal each month of writing at least one major post about each of the categories covered here at rsmithing.com. Early on, I didn’t even bother with categories, but as the amount of my posts grew, it made sense to, well, categorize them. Doing this in WordPress makes for an easy navigation menu, and that’s a blogging best practice: including navigation to give visitors a sense of what the heck your site is about.

I’ve done this successfully for three months now, and since you may be a follower, you might be interested in at least one of these posts (and if you aren’t following, consider signing up at left like all the cool kids are doing). Whether recent or from way back four or so weeks ago, your comments are very, very much appreciated, because, well, you rule for reading this.

Seriously: Thank You, from all of us at rsmithing.com (i.e. me and the cats). And now, the rundown:

Photography

Single Image Sundays: The Emerging Dog (Detail)
Single Image Sundays: Moth At The Door
Single Image Saturdays: Spring is Springing
Single Image Sundays: Skull Pendant

Social Media

How to Talk About Social Media In Business: 5 Points, Video Interview

PR

Homeless Hotspots? What Could Go Wrong?

Technology

Digital Ancestry: an iPad Forerunner

Music

iPhone Video Editing: The Black Keys Live

Writing

Blog Post Artwork

What do you think? Should I keep doing this every month, or have you already seen all the posts here? If so, which was your favorite? Want me to comment on a post of yours? Just share your link in the comments below or at the posts listed and let’s do this!
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