Author Archive

Thank Goodness for Public Relations

August 6, 2015

Hand to God

Even if you’re not a Broadway fan, there is some news that PR pros need to talk about.  If you haven’t heard, a desperate phone-out-of-battery audience member at a performance of the Broadway Play, Hand to God jumped on stage with his charger in hand.  The anxious theater goer was scanning the theater ready to plug his phone into a visible outlet. Before he could realize that the outlet was fake and simply a part of the set, security intervened and led him back to his seat as to not disrupt the rest of the audience.  Sounds like no big deal right? However, the entire incident only lasted seconds, but the reaction lasted weeks.

The audience member not only delayed the play and interrupted the entire performance, but he also added to the never-ending observation of how attached people are to their phones. Because of this, people were eager to tweet, post and share their opinion about society’s dependence on technology, causing a reaction from Hand to God’s publicity team.

As in any unexpected situation, the reactions go viral immediately- especially in a world where social media runs untamed. The need for thoughtful PR has increased as silly incidents like this one have become more frequent and more viral. The lesson for brands is that they can’t always control the incidents that will spark chatter on social media, but they can control their reactions- especially by using PR.

What’s more, it is exciting to see the story lines and headlines that can result from an unexpected situation. For example, this incident drew attention to the play’s craftsmanship of the set design (due to the realistic outlet). That discussion was a great way to lead to positive attention from the media.

With their own initiatives, the play’s publicity team were able to control the reactions that yielded the most results. They created a hashtag, #Chargergate, created their own video, and even forgave the audience member when he came forward and apologized on camera– right in front of the theater itself. They took advantage of this interruption, and turned it into a full-fledged PR campaign.  And to boot, the buzz encouraged people to ask how they could buy tickets to see the show!

As a PR Account Coordinator, it was interesting to me to watch this event unfold and watch the conversations in the media develop.  I believe that PR pros can make a reactive campaign that works by controlling the conversation on social media  and using the attention to reach overall marketing goals. I give Hand to God’s PR team a standing ovation- they did everything right, and used great responsive PR techniques to boost their brand.

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“You are Entering Journalism and Public Relations in the Middle of a Storm”

May 21, 2015

It is officially graduation season! Guaranteed during this wonderful time of decorated caps and gowns and the passing of diplomas, is the abundance of commencement speeches attempting to give graduates words of wisdom. I do not intend to stray from this tradition here, and there is specific advice for graduates who have earned their degree in Public Relations or expect to continue their future in the communications field.

There is something unique and exciting about continuing down the path of press releases, media lists and connecting with the general public. Which is why if you are going to listen to any commencement speech besides your own, listen to Jorge Ramos, news anchor, author and TIME 100 honoree, and his commencement speech at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Jorge Ramos speaks directly to those who have a passion for the Communications field and gives graduates a future to look forward to in the ever changing, whirlwind of a career that is Public Relations. As Ramos explains, wealth is not guaranteed, the new rule is “digital first,” and you are about to begin “living the equivalent of climate change, with the fundamentals of the business melting like icebergs in the summer, being flooded by social media and looking outside the window with anxiety and uncertainty.” With all of this in mind, he assures us that we can still succeed.

One piece of advice from Ramos: “You are in the business of telling the truth, in the business of speaking truth to power. You are in a business in which credibility and trust are the most important things…Always push for the truth to be shared. The secrets are never secrets.” Lying, stretching the truth and spinning–none of these devices are in a Public Relations tool kit for a reason, and they never should be. In today’s world of constant communication, a Public Relations professional can only rely on one’s integrality. “Your integrity and reputation is your only career-long capital.”

There is also a comforting revelation within Ramos’ words. “If hell is doing over and over again things that you hate to do, journalism and public relations is exactly the opposite of that. No day has ever been the same for me in decades. And that is paradise.” No matter how hectic this career path may become, you will love how thrilling it can be, and I can absolutely attest to that.

View Jorge Ramos’ commencement speech in its entirety below, and to all of the graduates of 2015 with a degree in Communications, I leave you with this one last parting thought from Ramos–“So take a stand, be present, be bold, ask tough questions, tell the truth and, please, enjoy the ride. This is the most marvelous profession in the world because the world is your newsroom.”

Does Thanksgiving Need a PR firm??

November 21, 2014

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving-thanksgiving-2927689-375-479With Thanksgiving around the corner, consumers are bombarded with holiday music at every turn.  From the radio to department stores, it seems like we were just saying “trick or treat” but now we’re screaming, “Jingle Bells” on our morning commutes .

Not that getting into the holiday spirit early is a bad thing, but since when did it become acceptable to forget about Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving seems to get lost in the shuffle due to the lack of big commercialization, flashy window displays, and a lack of magical figures like Santa Claus providing gifts and treats all month long.

Now more than ever, people are focusing less and less on Thanksgiving and more on the holidays with big purchasing potential. With corporations and businesses opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, poor Thanksgiving is primarily known as the beginning of Christmas.  It begs the question: does Thanksgiving have a Public Relations problem?

When we thought Macy’s was only responsible for the Thanksgiving Day parade, they pivoted their strategy and are opening their doors on Thanksgiving to encourage holiday shopping. The department store that has always upheld one of our biggest holiday traditions will open at 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving–two hours earlier than last year and just around the same time Americans begin to digest their turkey dinners. Other stores opening along with Macy’s include Best Buy, JC Penney, Toys R US, Target, Sears, and many others.

On the other hand, Thanksgiving-friendly businesses pledged to keep their doors closed–and the public is responding nicely. BJ’s distributed a press release announcing their decision of “…bucking the retail trend of putting sales on Thanksgiving above family time.” Similarly, BuzzFeed released an article listing the confirmed stores who pledge to stay closed in an effort to keep Thanksgiving as a family holiday.

With the pressure surrounding this decision, retailers and businesses have been placed in an awkward PR light. According to Macy’s Spokeswoman Holly Thomas, in 2013 its flagship Herald Square store broke its record with about 15,000 people waiting for the doors to open Thanksgiving Day. A survey by consulting firm Accenture has found that 45% of Americans do plan to shop and put their Thanksgiving dinners aside.  Allowing consumers to get a jump on their holiday shopping could serve as a last hope for some business like JC Penney, which has struggled in recent to keep revenue up.

Even with revenue at the center of the debate, it’s still difficult to ignore the outcry of Americans who want businesses to close their doors in order for employees to have a day with family and friends. As public relations professionals, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Thanksgiving is losing steam and taking a back seat to the heavier hitting holidays.  Thanksgiving used to have a great PR message: we had turkey, stuffing, pilgrims, and Football. We had A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and drunk relatives passed out in the arm chair.  It’s important Thanksgiving revitalizes these all-American themes – without them, Christmas will be here as soon as they leaves turn red and the temperature drops below 50.

No matter which side of the “holiday-shopping-on-Thanksgiving” debate you stand on, businesses are receiving attention for their decision—which could end up working in turkey day’s favor.  People are fighting for the Holiday in one way or another, even if traditions are changing.

Whether you decide to spend it at home enjoying a turkey dinner, braving the crowds, or even working at one of the many open stores we hope you at least enjoy it with friends and family – which is exactly what Thanksgiving promotes all on its own.  No flashy window displays required.


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