Everyday PR

Aflac Makes Lemonade Out of Lemons

It’s not often that a positive situation can be made of a negative, but Aflac has done just that.  Shortly after Gilbert Gottfried, longtime voice for the well-branded duck, was fired for offensive comments on Twitter regarding the tragedies in Japan, the company announced public auditions for a new voice.  The gig apparently pays six figures for a few days of work a year.  What was Gottfried thinking or was he thinking?

Anyway, Aflac took advantage of social media channels to promote the auditions, which have taken on a life of their own via YouTube and radio stations across the country.  Three virtual Cups of Joe to Aflac for sticking to its principles, promptly sending out a positive message about the way it does business, and making viral lemonade out of lemons.

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

Pick a Mission and Stick to It

For the love of stars and stripes, pick a mission and stick to it.  Depending on the White House official speaking, we’re either handing off a baton of military action to European coalition leaders as previously discussed or we’re out to decimate Gaddafi to prevent loss of Libyan civilians. 

Santa AND the Nativity Scene? Major Disconnect.

In the past 72 hours, the following inconsistencies regarding this country’s mission in Libya differed as follows:
*     Per General Ham, the guy leading the U.S. effort in Libya, the mission is “not to support opposition forces,” or to remove Gaddafi but later added that the coalition will not support rebels if they take offensive action against Gaddafi regime, only if they are attacked. 

*     Attorney General Holder says Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy as a leader and must go

*     Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mullen said the goal “isn’t about seeing Gaddafi go.”  

*     Defense Secretary Gates said the plan was to turn the mission over to the coalition in “a matter of days“.

*     President Obama said the military goal was to protect civilians but his administration’s goal was to force Gaddafi from power, but that the two items weren’t necessarily part of the same mission. So the bombs for protecting civilians, but the sanctions are for regime change. In the same mission, right?

*     At this point, no agreement has been made to accept a baton of military action, which means we may continue to run around the track of missiles, air strikes and embargoes until somebody grabs the baton from us.  Volunteers seem scare right now.

If such contradictory missions and mixed messages were coming out of a publicly traded company, the stock would be in roller coaster mode.  If such confusion existed within a household, how would the children know what to do and what not to do?  Similar to our annual Holiday Season when people  display Santa and his reindeer hovering by the Nativity Scene, there’s a tangible disconnect to what you’re trying to do and what you’re trying to say.

Experience as a public relations practitioner tells me that mixed missions and messages don’t work.  Target audiences lack clarity, employees decrease productivity because of uncertainty, key stakeholders become emotional, and media magnify the confusion. 

To our administration: get on the same page, please.  Most of us are probably less concerned about which page, but pick one. 

On the other hand, maybe mixed missions is the strategy….what do you think?

Another WH Turnaround

I was all ready to award this week’s virtual Cup of Joe Award to President Obama for his pragmatic stance regarding Libya, particularly his concern about the global perception that America too often meddles in the affairs of other countries.  Then yesterday’s 10-0 vote by the U.N. Security Council to establish a no-fly zone over the small North African country prompted that honor to fly right out the window.

Granted, civilian survival in Libya is an hourly challenge. Yes, Qaddafi’s dictatorship exemplifies unspeakable horrors. Sadly, countless innocent victims will continue to lose their lives.  But why does America have to get involved in the civil unrest of other countries when history indicates such involvement is enormously expensive with little results to show?  And why are we so consistently inconsistent, as in where were we when Rwanda was spilling human blood faster than the dirt literally could absorb? 

President Obama had an opportunity to send a worldwide message that we take a purposeful and protective approach to international involvement - even setting a precedent on a going forward basis.  If nothing else, take a look at China’s consistent stance on such issues.  Regretfully, only one virtual Cup of Joe to the White House for its dangerous indecisiveness. 

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

QR Codes Are Making Things Easier

QR (Quick Response) codes are quickly becoming more commonplace as yet another communications vehicle among many industries. Not to to be confused with a social media tool, QR codes are being used within the public relations profession on both the agency and the client side.   

According to a recent issue of Marketing Briefs for Printers, the top three reasons to take QR codes seriously are:

  1. They are a natural fit for today’s mobile culture.
  2. Right now, people are willing to try them out to see what they’ll do. Others are watching — and copying.  Usage is growing by peer influence alone.
  3. QR codes are becoming more practical. Advertisers and marketers are using them in smart, helpful ways that take users to places and allow them to use them in ways that actually help them make better decisions and make their lives easier. 

Some examples recently submitted to EveryDayPR regarding the use of QR codes include:

*     From Heather Ripley of CAPBrandMarketing in Sarasota, the agency partnered with The Patterson Foundation (TPF), who joined the Arthritis Foundation Florida Chapter (AFFC) to raise funds.  In addition to matching donations, TPF donated $10 for every person who “liked” AFFC’s facebook fan page, up to $50,000. At the local run/walk event, the agency and the TPF teams wore t-shirts with a QR code printed on the back. Participants could snap a photo of the QR code that would take them directly to the Facebook fan page so they could “like” it and get another $10 donated while at the event. Good thinking for a good cause.

*     From Toni Antonetti of PRChicago – “I’ve been a fan of QR codes since Microsoft pioneered them a few years ago under the name ‘Microsoft Tag.’  I tried adding them to postcards — no use to speak of — since it was a few years ago, I think it was a bit ahead of the curve.”  The point is that she was at least on the curve.

*   From Brenda Jones Barwick, APR, of Oklahoma City’s Jones Public Relations - “We recently put a QR image on the back of our business cards.  We find that most people find it interesting and are curious about it, which provides an opportunity to talk about Jones Public Relations and establishes us as tech-savvy, mobile-savvy and overall, social network savvy.”  A conversation starter?  Yes, indeed.

All of which is to say that it’s not about novelty – it’s about making things easy.

How are QR codes making things easier for you?

Powerful search tools for survivors

The weekend’s horrific natural disasters remind us of how fast news travels, thanks to technology.  And thanks to tools like Google’s People Finder, search options have a whole new meaning. Read more.

Cool Use of Social Media for Hot Topic

Kudos to the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago for its creative use of social media to promote awareness of the devastation caused by house fires.  Called “Every 80 Seconds“, the video illustrates how fire can permanently destroy in minutes memories that were created over years.  Aptly timed during March as American Red Cross month, the campaign focuses on fundraising for victims of disasters, as well as points out Chicago’s impressive volunteer relief efforts in the aftermath of a fire.

The campaign has fueled interest from others outside the Windy City thanks to the video itself and fellow bloggers.  Those efforts certainly can’t hurt their awareness objectives, and in today’s world of viral communications, these are flames they’re probably glad they started.

Three virtual Cups of Joe to the creative team behind the Every 80 Seconds campaign.  Let’s hope it spreads far and wide. 

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

People: A Prerequisite to Social Media

Warriors. Celebrators. Storytellers. These are words Southwest Airlines emerging media specialist Christi McNeill recently used to describe company employees.  Employees -  as in people.  Employees  -  as in human beings.  Employees - as in original thinkers and doers. Employees – as in the species with the most complex emotional systems on earth.

Christi is one of a total of 20-member communications team for the airline best known for its reliability, profitability and personality.  She is one of only five of that team who managed the company’s social media programs.  Some of the statistics she recently cited included:

*   The most popular Southwest YouTube video is a time-lapsed segment on the painting of Florida One, one of 13 specialty jets.

*   Southwest Airlines Facebook page has 1.3 million fans.  The page is managed by two people.

*   The company has 1 million followers on Twitter.  To put into perspective, Home Depot has 25,000, and Lady Gaga has the most with 5.7 million.

*   The company has 30 different bloggers from pilots to baggage handlers to flight attendants who contribute to the Nuts about Southwest blog.

When asked about her biggest responsibility, Christi replied that it was listening.  And only people can listen. Computers can’t listen. Social media tools can’t listen.  Software programs can’t listen.  Gadgets can’t listen.

As a 2006 social media adopter, Southwest Airlines has a strong online presence.  But to be successful, it takes people to listen, to write, to respond, to serve, to problem solve and to think. 

The point?  As a fan of Southwest and a public relations professional whose job entails all of those skills, I find it refreshing to know that even a mega, multi-million corporation understands those fundamentals as well.

How about you?

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What were Billboard Writers Thinking?

Older and wiser public relations professionals can’t be everywhere.  I’m confident we’re weren’t represented during brainstorming sessions for Hacienda, a chain of Mexican restaurants in Indiana, that chose a “to die for” punchline for billboards promoting their “better than a cult Kool-Aid”.  Seriously? How many people were in that brainstorming session? And where were the “taste police” on the part of the billboard company? Was anybody involved old enough to remember the 1978 mass suicide via cyanide-laced Kool-Aid instigated by cult leader Jim Jones? 

On the upside, Hacienda removed the billboards after lots of complaints.  I wonder how the situation affected restaurant sales, particularly after the story grew a few legs here and there.  I wonder how the billboards affected the restaurant’s brand equity.  I wonder if anybody learned anything from this.  Most of all, I wonder if there should be an old PR pro involved in general strategic planning and messaging to share the wisdom and institutional knowledge that only come from experience.  Of course, there should be. You know how to reach me and my colleagues across the country.  In the meantime, one virtual Cup of Joe to Hacienda for removing the billboards, but more importantly to wash down the bad taste left in the mouths of many.

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

What Public Relations Isn’t

Based on my recent post defining what public relations is, let me also tell you what public releations isn’t.

*     It’s not a logo.

*     It’s not a website.

*     It’s not a media story.

*     It’s not spin.

*     It’s not a verb, as in “we need to PR our way out of this.”

*     It’s not a noun, as in “we need some PR.”

*     It’s not advertising.

*     It’s not marketing.

*     It’s not selling.

*     It’s not customer service.

*     It’s not fabricated.

*     It’s not a special event.

*     It’s not schmoozing.

*     It’s not crisis management.

*     It’s not being seen and heard at social/civic events.

*     It’s not social media involvement.

*     It’s not writing.

*     And it’s not about liking to work with people.

What can you add?

Susan Hart

Susan Hart, APR, is an independent public relations consultant with 25+ years of experience. Beginning as a journalist, she represents clients in health care, financial, technology and real estate. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America, she serves as Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee for her local PRSA Chapter.

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