Sunday, May 1, 2011

Managing Hats

While most of America had alarms set for the wee hours of the morning to watch the Royal Wedding, I proactively decided I would YouTube the footage much later in the day when I was awake enough to not confuse any of the guests for peacocks or swans.  I want to be at my absolute best before I start making fun of the Kentucky Derby style wedding hats.  I’m pretty sure a few of them winked at Kate as she walked by.

All joking aside, my attention was slightly more focused on Saturday’s White House Correspondence dinner.  With all of this “long-form birth certificate” drama, I was sure it would be mentioned at least several times by Seth Meyers, comedian on duty to roast Washington’s finest.  I never imaged the extent President Obama would go into playing along with the nonsense.  Check out this video played before President Obama’s speech; please pay attention to the first minute of the video:

OK, where do I begin?  From the pounding birth certificate to the Tron and Hulk Hogan shots, it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.  What started off as a few jokes about Donal Trump turned into a total Trump roast.  Even Seth Meyers spent a lot of time knocking down Donald and his mysteriously fashioned frock.

When I was watching the video, I kept thinking to myself, “How did I accidentally click on the wrong YouTube video.”  I’m still in shock they put a video collage together of things that are stereotypically American.  I can’t decide how I feel about it.  A part of me is laughing thinking it looks like something that could have come out of the offices of South Park, and another part of me is thinking, “Oh, come on now, be nice.”  It was with this internal conflict that I realized something.  The roles politicians have to play have totally changed.  Politicians have to balance their roles as policy makers and public figures.  I think helping control and maintain an image of a politician would be excruciatingly difficult.  You are constantly asking yourself, “What image does this action serve and will it hurt others images that we want to portray.”  Some of the hat’s these politicians have to wear are about as crazy as Kate and Williams’s wedding party hats.

The media has taught me a lot about what I want to do and what I don’t want to do as a PR professional.  With the new roles necessary of public officials in place, I know helping control those images would be tough!  I’m not sure if I would have been confident enough to give that video and some of those jokes the green light.

What I Learned From The Crooks And The Cheats!

I have always thought of myself as a pretty ethical person.  The decision to not cheat on a test isn’t one I have to think about for very long. For me, ethics has always meant doing what makes the most sense.  If someone acts ethically, he or she is also acting out of common sense. Before my ethics class started, I was very aware of the people in this world who don’t have any sort of internal ethics. When looking at different case studies, to me, it’s extremely clear to see if someone is acting ethically or not.  Unfortunately, many people in this world are crooks who don’t possess any sort of moral compass.  I’m not sure if I would consider this an ‘oh wow” moment but it certainly is depressing.  This ethics class discussed case, after case, after case, of people being idiots. I’m not going to lie, the existence of some of these idiots has made the job of a public relations professional pretty interesting and, at times, exciting.  Cleaning up people’s mess is simply the nature of the beast, but someone’s got to do it.  What I got out of talking about all these cheaters and crooks was anyone could be one.

Without a doubt, I’m going to walk away from this class with a different perspective of the leadership I work under in the professional world.  Just because someone is my boss doesn’t mean he or she knows how to act ethically. The issue that I have to tackle with as I start my professional career is to not be so trusting.  I say that I have a lot of personal ethics and can see what is right or wrong easily, however, if my boss is telling me to do something, it’s hard for me to even consider it as unethical.  I justify it by saying to myself, “Why would someone ask me to do something unethical?” 

This class has helped me put things into perspective and encourage me to use my own personal ethics rather than trusting in the ethics of my superiors. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What Is Front Page News?

As you may or may not know, I’m Cuban.  My parents were born and raised in Cuba and, like many Hispanic young girls, I had a quinceniera when I turned 15.  I know, it’s unbelievable and adorable.  You can only imagine how my family felt after hearing the news concerning Castro’s resignation.  Personally, I was excited and shocked.  This guy was the dictator for decades that forced my parents and grandparents out of the country.  He survived several assassination attempts and a few grassroots uprisings/revolutions completely unscathed.  All he had to do was put in his two weeks and, “Ta da!” there ends an unprecedented leadership unlike any other in history.  Pretty amazing stuff and, to me, totally newsworthy.

Well, not everyone felt that way.  I barely found the article online and after googling “Castro Resigns,” I had to scroll a little too far down to find an article about it.  Seriously news?  You’re really going to stiff arm Cuba like that?  Unfortunately, there are a lot of reforms associated with Castro’s resignation that make the future for Cuba appear pretty bleak.  Based on several articles I’ve read, it seems like there’s a lot of talk but little to no change.  However, the fact that Castro is no longer the dictator of Cuba is totally news to me. 

The topic of Castro resigning is very personal to me; it concerns my family and I have an invested interested in what is happening in Cuba.  It’s hard to look at the situation from an unbiased angle, but it’s also hard for me to believe this isn’t news worth covering.  This is one of those things that made me think about pitching to media about a client.  You may think you have the most interesting story and your event deserves the most coverage when it really doesn’t.  Castro resigning seems like big humongous news to me, but unfortunately, it’s not to others.  The simple reality of the situation is one that I’ve got to get used to in the PR world.  It made me pretty angry that, what I thought was a historic event, wasn’t on anyone’s front page. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nobody “Likes” Vegas

So this weekend I went to Las Vegas for my friend’s wedding.  As much as I hate attending destination wedding, I was willing to put aside my protesting and hop on a plane to sin city, just this once (I hope you caught the sarcasm, I love Vegas.)  As I’m walking down the strip debating if the shoes I decided to wear where such a great idea, I notice something.  Actually, I didn’t notice something.  No signs of social media.  No hotels where asking you to follow them on Facebook or Twitter.  None of the restaurants had any Foursquare deals like, “First check in gets you have off appetizers!”  This got me thinking a little about who is using social media.  What do people make of organizations who’s social media presence is, “meh.”

Before leaving for Vegas, I took $200 out of my bank account and told myself, “This is the most I can lose playing games without feeling absolutely terrible about myself.”  Mission accomplished, and at an amazing speed no less!  As proven by my hearty donation to the city’s casinos, I’m pretty confident Las Vegas is booming in the economic department.  Does that mean they don’t need anyone to “like” them from a social media perspective?

Plenty of corporate giants have graced us with their presence on Twitter and Facebook to connect with their consumers.  Why doesn’t Vegas want to connect with their market?

The experience of winning and losing money is so personal.  On my first trip to Vegas I won big at a craps table.  I remembered the exact outfit and table where I won. As soon as I arrived, I decided to wear the same outfit and go to the same table that treated me so well on my first visit and test my luck.  I wonder if there is a way to tap into that personal, and often very superstitious, experience and use it for social media purposes.

As if the city of Las Vegas needs any help with anything, they stole my money!  I just thought it was interesting that I had trouble finding any way to connect with them other than offering them my precious savings.  It does bring up the point that superstition has a lot to do with how people act.  How do we tap into this?  This is something I’ll be looking into.....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Target Channel Verses Target Market

I went to my parent’s house this weekend and my dad, knowing that I tend to be “hip” to social media, ran excitedly over to me to show me his new social media discovery.  He said, “Julie, have you seen these things called ‘QR Codes?‘ I bet you haven’t, they are brand new!”  Trying not to sound too snooty I replied back, “I sure have dad. I blogged about them in March.”  He starred back at me looking pretty disappointed and bowed his head.  Poor little fella.  I didn’t mean to rain on his parade, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t know what a QR code was. 

So, my dad just found out about QR codes, which is great, but how long has he seen them around without wanting to figure out what they were? 

This little exchange with my dad got me thinking more about social media and target markets.  As PR professionals, we have to be “hip” to the latest and greatest in social media technology.  However, what happens when a social media channel matches the goals and initiatives of a company’s campaign but doesn’t match their target market?

For instance, Foursquare, a location based social media platform, could be the perfect social media component for a transportation client.  What if the people who use that client aren’t social media users?

This is so depressing.  We all try so hard to be ahead of the curve and yet, still have to consider these people who don’t want to try something new.  In order to really incorporate something new to a target market, you end up not only promoting the company, but promoting the platform. 

When the social media platform is so perfect for the client and not perfect for their target market, what do you do?  In my opinion, which is still very green and new, I would abandon the use of the social media channel.

I know!  It sucks!  Here we all are tweeting our brains out trying to figure out what the next best thing is but in reality, if it doesn’t suit your target market, then why use it?  When something works really well for one client, it’s easy to assume it will work for another.  We have to remember this isn’t always the case.  We do public relations and our concern is the public and their needs.  Obviously our client’s needs are important to us but part of our job is knowing how those two entities can communicate. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Life According to Groupon: The Hungry/Bored Dichotomy

In my last blog, “Fair Weather (Business) Friends,” I talked about the controversy surrounding the Groupon Superbowl commercial.  When doing research for the blog, I came across a new concept for Groupon that sounds pretty interesting.  According to Groupon, people can either be hungry, or bored.

This month Groupon is launching a new phone application, Groupon Now, that gives people two choices: “I’m Hungry” or “I’m Bored.”  Depending on what you choose, it directs you to a nearby deal that fulfills the need of your choice.  Leave it to Groupon to narrow the vast array of human needs and emotions down to just two.  At first, I’m a little thrown off.  Bored? Hungry? My life boils down to a two need state dichotomy? 

Actually, the more I think about it, those two phrases are a little spot...  “I’m Hungry” obviously covers food and “I’m Bored” takes care of just about everything else.  Man I feel like such a waste of space.  Damn you Groupon!

With this new phone app, Groupon does what many other phone apps like Yelp and Places now do by showing you what is around your location.  The upper hand Groupon has on this is not only will it show you what is around, but also give you a sweet deal on it.

After writing my previous blog and learning a little bit about the Groupon CEO, Andrew Mason, the app has me a little skeptical.  The whole hungry/bored thing feels a little too “drink the Koolaide” to me.  This is Mason’s own way of describing the app:

“For merchants, the daily deal is like teeth whitening, and Groupon Now is like brushing your teeth. It can be an everyday thing to keep your business going.”

OK I see where you’re going with this but if there is anything I’ve learned from my years of collecting coupons and deals, there is always a catch.  Based on my personal experiences, the only time food coupons are good for are on a Monday or Tuesday at 2 p.m.  This isn’t exactly when the restaurant is hopping.

In order for merchants to want to participate with Groupon, they have to look at where they are in need the most and make that need more desirable.  With the increased acceptance of this phone app, it may alter the way people see going out to eat.  After a longer period of time, it may even alter when and what we eat. 

Personally, I don’t like where this is going.  Customers are going to start to feel entitled to discounts that simply don’t exist.  I’m going to try it out for a week and see what happens.  Hopefully, I wont go broke getting hundreds of deals on Thai food.

Fair Weather (Business) Friends

Oh Groupon, how I love your amazing deals but hate your media relations.  If you haven’t seen the Groupon commercial I’m about to discuss, please take a look:

This is an assigned topic for my ethics class, however, I’ve been following the Groupon Superbowl commercial controversy since it aired simply based on my own interest.  Personally, the commercial shocked me as soon as it aired.  Without missing a beat, I immediately tweeted my frustration. 

Now that the dust has settled, this is what we know:

  • The Crispin Porter & Bogusky (CP&B) agency was hired by Groupon to create an edgy and informative advertisement for Groupon
  • The contract designed for Crispin Porter & Bogusky was project based (meaning this contract naturally would end- Groupon didn’t fire them)

What I didn’t know:
  • After reading Groupon CEO: We Placed Too Much Trust in Agency for Super Bowl Ads, I found out CP&B also did Burger King’s “Whopper Virgins” advertisements which gave people who have never had a whopper a chance to try it.  The Thai villagers being one of those people.  This advertisement was surrounded with controversy simply because people thought they didn’t respect the hunger issues surrounding Thailand. 
  • CP&B also did the Hulu advertisements that, “highlighted the idea that TV rots your brain, making fun of Hulu.”
  • They ALSO did the Dominos Pizza commercials portraying the idea that the former recipe for pizza was bad. 
Are we seeing a trend here?  The agency is notorious for the skeptical, and, at times, controversial portrayals of the brand they are promoting.  They have found success using this method and, as the article details, the Groupon “ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon."

Now, knowing their reputation, Groupon hires CP&B and what do they do?  They throw them under the bus saying they placed too much trust in the agency "to be edgy, informative and entertaining.”  Groupon founder Andrew Mason goes on to say, “We turned off the part of our brain where we should have made our own decisions. We learned that you can't rely on anyone else to control and maintain your own brand."

Seriously guys?  This really grinds me gears!  Now that I’ve been interning at an advertising agency, I’ve come to realize MANY ideas get tossed in the trash even though they might be an agency favorite.  The client is always the ultimate decision-maker.  CP&B did what they do best, and Groupon, for some reason, didn’t have the hindsight to see this advertisement may not be the best representation for the brand.  That part of your brain Mason claims to have turned off should NEVER be turned off.

So once I think I’ve got this all figured out, I come across this article in Bloomberg Businessweek, “Groupon Chief Defends Marketing Approach” Huh?  What I didn’t know about Groupon is the founder, Mason, is quite the unique character.  The company sees Mason “as a serial prankster, dedicating office space to a fictitious character, hiring a performance artist to walk around the headquarters in a tutu and dreaming up a holiday called Grouponicus whose celebrants are barred from owning dogs.”

So how do we wrap this all up, put a bow on it, and conclude this mess?  In my opinion, Mason OK’ed the advertisement because it fit his personality.  What he didn’t realize was his personality may not completely mirror the personality of the brand.  If he needed an advertising agency to do commercials on the Mason persona, CP&B would have been a great choice.  To attribute the negative viewer reaction to “too much trust” in the agency is absolutely ridiculous.  Viewers are notorious for forgiving companies who immediately take responsibility for their actions.  All Groupon had to do was say, “We used poor judgement in selecting a commercial for Groupon, we sincerely apologize,” blah, blah, blah. 

Is this going to stop me from using Groupon? No way! I have a $15 massage voucher I’ve been meaning to cash in!  However, I did lose a respect for them as a marketing/advertising entity.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Moral Support in the PR World

As many of you may (or may not) know, our professor has been booked solid with radio gigs all week to talk about Twitter’s birthday.  Myself and a few others stayed up till the deep and dark hours of the night to listen to one of her radio appearances on the Colorado radio news station, @850koa.  You might be thinking, “Listening to a radio talk show to discuss social media at 2 am doesn’t sound like that much fun to me.”  Well, my answer to that is, “You had to be there.”

It may have been the lack of sleep talking, but the experience made me realize how much I enjoy my major and what it is we do.  Even though I was dead tired the next day, I was still buzzing thinking about the entire experience.  Here is how the night went down:

First, the host introduced Professor Bufkins (@Samjb) as a knowledgeable social media and public relations professor at University of North Texas’s Mayborn School of Journalism.  Then he went on to talk about what Twitter was and how people are using it.  As he was asking questions, I felt the strong skepticism he had toward Twitter but he did seem receptive to the things my professor had to say about it and its value to media and public relations.  After that, the phones calls started coming in.  You might be asking yourself, “What kinds of listeners are up at 2 am?”  Well, this is where the hilarious fun part of the night started for me.

I could potentially write an entire blog about the first caller, but for the sake of time, I’ll just say he isn’t the type of demographic that Twitter is missing out on right now.  Not only does he not have an email account, but he doesn’t have a computer.  Before he even got to his question, he immediately starts mouthing off about how Twitter is stupid and how it’s making us all “borgs.”  To fully understand what he was trying to say, I turned to Wikipedia for some sort of understanding of what “borg” meant and I found this definition, “The “Borg” are a fictional pseudo- race of cybernetic organisms depicted in the Star Trek universe.”  Need I say more about this guy?  I bring him up because during my professor's conversation with him, I was pretty nervous for her.  How do you approach people like that who don’t want to hear that message at all?  I began tweeting to her to 1. Make fun of this guy and 2. Give her something to say back to him.  She absolutely handled the situation all by herself, as I knew she would, but I really felt compelled to jump in and send her as much as I could think of to say to Mr. Borg.  When other people called in with real questions, I was a tweeting maniac trying to add my input about how to respond.  Again, it wasn’t because I didn’t think she could handle it, I simply felt compelled to.

What I didn’t realize is I was doing what many PR professionals do with their clients.  Many instances arise where your client will be on a phone interview and you will literally be sitting right next to him or her handing them notes with answers to questions them.  Instead of tweeting them possible answers, I would be next to them helping them out and supporting them.  Will they need it? Maybe not.  My support for them during their interviews is what will make me a good PR professional.

It’s certain times like this when you realize you picked the right major and you’re really going to love what you do when you get out of college.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Social Media is Only for Smart People

In the past, the first amendment of the constitution paved the way for powerful social movements.  Unfortunately, it’s also given way for total jerks to voice their opinion.  I came across this article yesterday titled, "Facebook Imbeciles Think Japan Tsunami Is Karmic Payback for Pearl Harbor."  So, if that statement doesn’t bother you then you should probably stop reading this blog... Still here? Well, I’m glad you feel the same way I do.
I try to keep an open mind when it comes to view points that are very different than mine but in this particular case, I find it almost impossible to see where these people are coming form.  In my opinion, when someone tries to compare one tragic event to another as a means to “make up” for past events, it is just absolutely ridiculous.  One tragedy doesn’t cancel out another.  No one is keeping score this way, except for maybe these numb skulls. 
After reading some of the posts these people put on Twitter and Facebook, it got me thinking about free speech.  Before Twitter, when we had a problem about a company, we could go to Yelp to talk about our customer service complaint.  What platform was utilized to complain about what was going on in the world?
When my dad had an opinion or disagreement about something going on in the world, he would write to the editorial section on the Dallas Morning News.  My mom, on the other hand, would complain to me or her friends.  Both of these interactions involve some planning.  Now, with almost no planning at all, I can type something on Twitter and send it out into the web without another thought about it.  I attribute some of the comments made by these people as impulsive and without any thorough consideration.  However, even after thinking things through, some people still feel the Japan Tsunami was payback for the Pearl Harbor attacks.  This bothers me and it makes me upset to see people think this way, but what makes me angrier is, with social media, I have to hear about it on a grander scale.  It isn’t just my crazy neighbor with the gnome collection in his front yard who tells me the tsunami was karmic payback, it’s all of these random people in twitterville.  
Unfortunately, I can’t limit social media use to just smart people and I can’t control people’s opinions but what I can do in this society is voice my own opinion.  As public relations practitioner, we have to be cognizant of the existence of these impulsive tweeters.  Knowing how to manage ridiculous tweets about your client is what I still need to learn.  

Sunday, March 6, 2011


It goes without saying social media has come a long way since the beginnings of Facebook.  Companies are constantly finding new ways to interact with their consumer.  If you’re lucky, you can personally address a company on Twitter and actually have a dialogue with them.  One new channel of interaction, QR codes (quick response code), are becoming more and more popular.  They’ve been around for a while but only recently am I seeing them fully incorporated into social media campaigns.  I think the technology is brilliant but what I want to know if how it can be useful to a public relations campaign.

If we’ve learned anything from people’s reactions to social media it’s that we like the share.  We see the online world as a giant community that we are constantly interacting with.  The QR code acts as another device to contribute to the community and share information.  Unlike sending a link on Twitter or Facebook, the interaction you have with a QR code is pretty intimate.  Not flowers and candy intimate, but it requires more of an interaction with it than simply pressing the left click on a mouse.  It’s truly an experience to take a picture of the QR code with your phone and watch it take you somewhere else.  Sharing information can be an extremely passive experience.  This is not the case with QR codes.  
The use of QR codes aren’t just for the technologically savvy.  Several websites provide QR code conversions for regular Joe’s like me.  Here is one I just whipped up using

This QR code links back to the main page of my blog.  Al I had to do was click “details” and it had the option to use the QR code right there.  The process couldn’t have been easier.  
The real questions is, how on earth do we incorporate this into a public relations campaign?  In my opinion, if your client is looking for some real proactive interaction with their customers, this is a great way to do that.  Events involving scavenger hunts or any event that requires step by step directions could utilize QR codes.  Right now, this method appears to be the dark horse in the social media race but don’t totally discount it just yet!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sesame Street Cracked the Code (of Ethics)

Sesame Street Cracked the Code (of Ethics)
Some people might consider my generation as jaded.  A lot of us are skeptics and are quick to question motives from any entity, whether it be the media, or even a friend.  When discussing professional codes of ethics, the first place my thoughts travel to is Sesame Street.  Doing good, being honest, and being yourself (which would be equated with independence in the professional world), are alive and well on that show.  Here is a video of their morals in action:

Wasn’t that lovely?  In reality, no company can be as squeaky clean as big bird but that doesn’t stop them from trying.  Companies and organizations make codes of ethics to give themselves a moral compass.  After analyzing the different codes of ethics in the advertising and public relations world, you can’t help but think, “Geez, is all of this necessary, can’t they just do right?”  In public relations and advertising, the answers aren’t always clear and distinctive yes’s and no’s.    Having an ethical road map can help guide a company in making those tough decisions.  Many organizations operate under a strict code of ethics but they aren’t without their differences.  Here are a few difference that I thought were worth discussing.
Honesty, a topic covered in many, if not all, codes of ethics, is positioned in many different ways.    After comparing the different public relations and advertising codes of ethics, what stood out to me the most was IABC’s word choice when describing honesty.  The word “refrain” was used when describing the act of avoiding unethical communicators.  In a code of ethics, I don’t believe in using words like “refrain,” and “avoid” because those words have a negative connotation.  Statements using those words are limiting and for a code of ethics, that shouldn’t be the case.  I believe a code of ethics shouldn’t be a like a list a rules hanging on a 5th graders classroom chalkboard.  A code of ethics should be a living document that adapts to different situations an organization faces.
Concerning honesty, IABC goes on to say,“be honest not only with others but also, and most importantly, with yourselves as individuals. Seek the truth and speak that truth first to yourself.”  I think they may have taken a chapter out of the Sesame Street song.  Many employees adhere to an organizational code of ethics and forget about their own.  What the organization may see as ethical, you may not.  It’s important to keep your own personal ethics intact when working in an organization. 
I was a little surprised to see independence wasn’t discussed by the Arthur Page Society, Council of PR Firms, Global Alliance, and the IABC.  Only NIRI and PRSA touch on independence.  What that tells me is some organizations are weary of instilling the idea of independence in their employees.  With the concept of independence comes autonomy and for some organizations, they feel that is dangerous. Some organizations don't trust their employees self morals and values.  I feel the issue of independence should always be addressed because people are unique and are their own person.
Free Flow of Information
I unwaveringly feel all codes of ethics should touch on the concept of free flow of information.  This issue is constantly dealt with in the media on a daily basis.  Companies and organizations have destroyed themselves by omitting information.  One thing that has been drilled into my brain about the media is that nothing is hidden forever.  Skeletons are found in every closet of the dishonest.  It’s only a matter of time before those secrets are revealed.
My Favorite Code (I bet you could guess)
Of all the codes of ethics, I believe in the PRSA code of ethics the most.  It may be because I have close to 30 copies of it laying around in my apartment, but I do believe it is the most comprehensive and all encompassing code of ethics out there for PR professionals.  The public relations field is constantly scrutinized for unethical behavior.  Quite frankly, it sucks.  Many people believe PRSA has the most comprehensive code of ethics because we need it the most.  I believe we have it for ourselves and for the public.  We say a lot in class, “If the public has a problem, you have a problem.”  In this case, we know we act by a code of ethics, with the PRSA code of ethics available to everyone, now the public knows too. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

If I use product placement, would you hold it against me?

Since I barely watch TV anymore (see last blog “Electronic English Teacher”) I decided to get on Youtube and check out some of the music videos from songs I’ve been hearing on the radio recently.  Britney Spears is notorious for making outrageous music videos for her songs and I knew she just released a single so I went to check out the video.  Her newest song “Hold it Against Me” answers the age old question, “If I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me?”  I’m pretty sure guys use that pick-up line in honky tonk bars, but I digress.  The one thing that made me cringe during the video (among other things) was the extremely obvious product placement.  Sony was glaring in my face along with Britney Spears’s new fragrance.  It made me think, how affective is product placement and is it something PR professionals should think about?
Here is the Britney Spears video

Here in another video I found that is hilarious but also fully endorses Ciroc liquor 

Let me start off by saying that Britney Spears is probably not the greatest spokesperson for products.  With her track record of rebellious destructive behavior, it would be difficult for a company to confidently let someone like her endorse their product.  For the sake of argument, let’s say the products in the video were being endorsed by someone a little more wholesome, like Taylor Swift.  I still think that a music video isn’t long enough to have a product placement strategy be affective.  In my opinion, if a three minute song spends 1 minute zooming in on a brand, the brand has lost all of it’s mojo.  At least with movies, you have time to develop a character that audiences can relate to or admire.  More than anything, I’ve noticed its not so much the brands people tend to mimic, it’s the behavior.  So what does this mean for PR professionals?
Our job descriptions are always growing and it’s getting difficult to figure out where our responsibilities end.  I’m not an advertiser, so I see the use of product placement in a very different way.  I think a good way to achieve the effectiveness that a product placement attempts at reaching from a public relations perspective would be to incorporate social media.  I think the PR version of product placement is a Webisode or a Youtube channel directed toward a specific audience concerning a topic related to your brand.  Having a continuous story line related to a brand could draw people in while also giving your client the spotlight. 

Check out the video and tell me what you think.  Did you mind seeing the product placement in the music video?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Potter Box is useful as long as you are ethical

Some ethical decision making processes occur without any painstaking practices.  These processes happen all the time.  You are taking a test and you choose to not glance over at another student’s scantron, or you turn in a paper and you choose to not plagiarize any content.  Decisions like this are extremely easy and are made without any additional thought... or are they?
Unfortunately, decisions to act ethically don’t always come second nature.  For instance, lets say the student taking the test will fail the class resulting in pushing his or her graduation back another semester.  For that student, choosing whether or not to cheat just became a little more difficult.
The Potter Box analysis can be an extremely useful tool when deciding how to treat various ethical dilemmas.  The 5 step process of the Potter Box is define the situation, determine loyalties, determine values, identify principles, and make a decision.  After you go through each step involved in the analysis, you may come to find what was once a difficult decision is now an easier decision to make.  Still, we face the problem of people who have trouble even recognizing a difficult ethical decision.  Some decisions may be acted upon without second thought but are also completely unethical.
Based on the case discussed in class, the female intern stands to lose a lot in the long-term by acting unethically.  As an intern, you are a sponge to your environment.  Your first internship can be an extremely important experience because here, you are relating what you do in class to what is actually being done in the real world.  It is easy to assume what people do outside of the classroom is automatically right.  How could they be wrong if what they are doing is working and profitable?  
If the intern had an issue with doing “whatever means necessary” to sell advertising, she could have gone through the 5 steps of the Potter Box to help her come to the right decision.  However, the only issue I have with the process is the decision to use it.  
People who are lacking personal ethics or intuition may not see their decisions as difficult even though they may be completely unethical.  For the intern, if she has no previous experience in the field or has never taken an ethics class, she may not have the personal ethics or gut feeling to know something doesn’t feel right.  I would only use this process if I had a feeling what I was about to do may be wrong or harmful to me, publics, or stakeholders in the situation.  
The Potter Box is an extremely useful tool however, I believe you need to have a solid foundation of personal ethics to make the decision to use it.

Electronic English Teacher

Let me start off by saying that I learned how to speak English by watching TV.  My mom and dad were both born and raised in Havana, Cuba.  Spanish was the first language I learned how to speak. When I turned four years old, my family bought a television.  Being the extremely impressionable toddler that I was (not to mention adorable, see picture below) the TV had stolen my attention away from my Barbies, who I presumed to be pretty upset about the whole ordeal.  I had a lot of trouble reading at first but knowing the sounds made the process a little easier.  When it came time for me to start elementary school, I had a respectable handle on English and I owe a lot of that to the tube.

Now, almost 20 years later, the only time I turn on the TV is if the show I want to watch isn’t available on Hulu.  When I finally do make it to the TV, the process of finding the remote and sitting through commercials can be painful.  This new development got me thinking: how do I receive news?  I don’t read newspapers and I don’t actively seek out the news.  When it comes to the news, TV and newspapers aren’t part of the equation.   
This revelation got me a little disappointed.  I consider myself to be an educated student of public relations.  I think I always have a relatively firm grasp of what is 
going on in the media and what is going on in the public relations field.  How on earth am I getting all this information without my electronic English teacher?  
In a recent tweet chat I participated in,we discussed how Gen-Y has issues focusing and reading a newspaper.  According to the other chat members, it simply isn’t part of Gen-Y’s lives.  To me, this isn’t such a terrible thing.  The perspective I think they’re missing is Twitter has forever changed the way we receive news.  In the past, if I didn’t catch in on the six o’clock news, I had no idea what was going on.  Now, all I do is read the news online.  I don’t consider “actively seeking out the news” as following a reporter or news station on Twitter, but a pretty passive act that gets me in the loop.  I hate it when people say Gen-Y doesn’t read.  We just don’t read the way people have become accustomed to.   Fine, our generation has video games, smart phones, and iPads, but we grew up with the all mighty and awesome internet.  We’re not reading books, we’re reading websites.  As PR practitioners we have to realize if we are trying to target Gen-Y, newspapers and PSA’s may not be a part of an effective plan. 
As a society, we have made amazing leaps in technology changing the way we interact and communicate with others.  I wonder what new medium will change the way we talk next.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eating Right For a New Attractive (Public) Figure

I’ve just recently started a new nutrition plan.  I’m hesitant to say, “diet” because I haven’t restricted my intake, but have simply replaced pizza with celery sticks.  It hasn’t been without its challenges.  The Super Bowl beer and pizza debacle of 2011 proved to be one of the hardest tests of will power, but I got through it unscathed (according to the scale).  Why do I bring this up?  I’ve come across many PR professionals and students who still don’t believe in social media.  I call them “PR dodos.”  The Dodo birds is extinct because of it inability to adapt, much like some of our PR friends.  Unfortunately for the dodo bird, their time has come and gone.  PR professionals, however, still have a chance to survive in the ever changing social media climate.  These PR dodos typically believe in old school one-way public relations.  In our profession “old school PR” doesn’t carry the same kind of legitimacy as the phrase “old school sneakers.”  Although, some of these PR dodos do see it that way.  PR dodos see their methods as traditional and the way things should be.  I obviously couldn’t disagree more.
So what does this have to do with my new nutrition plan?  Improvements in technology are a constant.  We can always count on advancements in phones, computers, TV's, you name it.  When we come across someone using a rotary phone and a black and white TV, what do we think?  I know what I think, “How on earth have you been doing this for so long?” or “What good can come from being left out of the loop?”  Their response, “I don’t want to change, I’m happy with the way things are.”  My suggestion to them is they need a new social media nutritional plan.  Continue receiving communication but instead of a rotary phone, use a cell phone.  Instead of waiting for the 6 o’clock news, look it up on the internet.  I replaced pizza with celery, PR dodos need to replace one-way communication with two way communication and not take the crash diet method by completely avoiding social media.  We see the person using antiquated technology as a means of receiving information the same way we see the PR practitioner on a crash diet from social media; doing the dodo bird.  
PR dodos who maintain the idea that traditional push PR practices work the best have been gorging on too many pizzas.  Social media is the celery stick they need for their nicer (public) figure.  People who refuse to use social media are like the people using the rotary phone; they are laughably outdated.  If you want to have any credibility as a public relations professional, you have to know the tools of the trade and how they advance and progress.  Moving with those advances will help you stay ahead of the game and maintain legitimacy among your colleagues and your friends.  Social media is an extremely communal activity.  Alienation can occur when purposely crash dieting from the use of any social media channels.  
What is all comes down to is this new way of thinking isn’t completely unachievable.  No crazy meal plans are necessary, just a hearty helping of nutritious social media.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Foursquare vs. Google Latitude

I just blogged about how much Foursquare has to offer and how other platforms are lagging in their efforts to compete with this type of location sharing interaction.  Well, lo and behold, here comes Google Latitude with the addition of checkins.  I’m a huge fan of Google and everything Google related; my phone is an android phone, I prefer to use Google Chrome for the internet, and I, of course, use gmail for my email.  When I saw this article’s title “Google Latitude Adds Checkins” I immediately thought, “You have my attention.” 
Much like Foursquare, Goggle Latitude now allows you to checkin to locations when you get there.  With this new addition, it also offers various ways to check in.  The traditional way to check in used on Foursquare, logging on and manual checking in, is an obvious option for the checkins on Google Latitude.  Additionally, the user can set notifications so upon arrival it will ask if you would like to check in.  If you’re like me, you’ll probably use the “automatic check in” setting so that you automatically check in as soon as you arrive at your location.  
Because this a Google product, I will probably implement it into my daily life however I was a little surprised they didn’t do anything to compete with the game aspect of Foursquare.  I really enjoy earning the various titles and reaping the benefits from stores actively participating in the medium.  From a navigational perspective, Google Latitude does trump Foursquare in that once you locate where your friend is, Google Latitude can give you turn by turn directions on how to get there by taking you right to Google Maps.   
I think Google Latitude has a lot to compete with.  As much as a I love Google, I think Foursquare has this medium down.  Google has a loyal fan base that will actively participate in this but I think they are going to have to come up with something more interactive to really engage their users.  
What does this mean to the PR world?  With each platform evolving and changing, PR professionals have to be cognizant of what is really working.  To suggest to a client to participate in social media on the wrong platform could be hazardous to your relationship with the client.  As much as I like Google, I would still suggest the sue of Foursquare as the location checkin application.   
After writing this, I can’t help but think about how much we have progressed in technology.  I’m sure parents are loving all the different ways they can track their children now.  When phones were finally equipped with cameras and we could send picture messages, my mother would make me take a picture of the place I said I would be at as soon as I got there and send the picture to her.  I feel bad for the kids now that have to deal with their tech savvy mom logging onto Google Latitude to see where their kids are.  Of course there is a great deal of value in platforms like this during emergency situations but if you are going over to Jenny’s house to spend the night it shouldn’t be a big deal!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Have you checked in to Foursquare?

Remember the time before Facebook?  From what I can remember, all of us would go to our Myspace pages (from our computer no less) and share pictures and messages.  One of the most important aspects about personalizing you page was picking the most appropriate song that represents your page the best.  Now it seems we have never-ending buffet of ways to communicate and share content with one another.  Facebook has changed the way we communicate with people forever.  From this point, all we can do is evolve; and we have.  We are constantly finding new ways to connect with one another.  Even video games have jumped on the bandwagon and have created games that allow users to create and share content.  The Playstation game Little Big Planet, allows players to build there own worlds and share them with other players online.  It seems every day we invent a new way to interact with one another.  One of the newer channels that I’m extremely interested in is Foursquare.  How effective is it and how can it be used in a public relations campaign?
FourSquare in a nutshell
For those of you who have been living under a rock, Foursquare is a service that allows people to check in when they arrive at a certain location.  By checking in, you can allow friends to see where you are, provide information about the location, and win awards for checking into certain locations the most times.  The coveted “mayor” title means you have checked in the most to a certain location.  It could also mean you will reap some sort of benefit from visiting that location the most.  The thing that has made this location enabled social media device so popular is the game aspect of it.  Even if you aren’t monetarily rewarded for checking in the most to a location, the title of mayor can be reward enough.  Loopt, Brightkite, Gowalla, and even Google Latitude have all tried to use location enabled software to connect people, but none of these programs have done it as well as Foursquare has.  
FourSquare as a tool 
Duct Tape Marketing wrote,  "7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Take a Look at Foursquare" A lot of these reasons why small businesses should adopt Foursquare are also reasons to pursue this route with your client.  I’ve gone through these tips and picked out two to highlight and interpret from a campaign standpoint.
Foursquare allows users to share their location on Twitter and Facebook.  If you are a public relations professional monitoring your client’s Twitter account using TweetDeck or HootSuite, you can see if someone shares their “check in,” on Twitter.  This is a perfect opportunity to engage this user.  To check into a location, the user doesn’t need to follow that location on Twitter.  Catching these “check ins” first hand can create a more personal experience for that user which may lead to him following you on Twitter.  
Another tip mentioned in the Duct Tape Marketing article is the use of automated CRM data.  This means clients can track how often a customers comes into the store.  Providing incentives for every tenth check in could provide you with a loyal customer.  It’s like have a digital loyalty card on your phone.  Not only will he be more likely to share his visits through social media channels, but he will also be more likely to write a tip about you location.  Incentives like this are great opportunities to pitch to bloggers providing tips about places to go in an area.  
Personally, I can’t wait to become the mayor of a Starbucks.  I’m absolutely going to be needing some free coffee!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A bird in the hand is not worth two in the bush: Ethically measuring value in PR

Since I decided I wanted to be a public relations practitioner, I’ve had many friends and family tell me that is was about lies and spin.  Unfortunately, there are still people who operate agencies who seem to have no code of ethics whatsoever and consequently perpetuate this inaccurate stereotype.  I went into this field because it is not a push medium.  Public relations involves interaction with people and reacting to what they have to say.  The two-way communication aspect of the work we do is what interests me the most.
The need for ethics in public relations is so crucial not only to combat the present stereotype of the profession, but also to help the profession grow.  Public relations practitioners will never be able to successfully roll out a campaign if their audience has zero trust in them.  Currently, you can find codes of ethics for the profession as well as a code of ethics unique to a particular agency.  Out of all the things we do in public relations, the one thing I have always had an issue with is measuring our value.
The advertising equivalency measurement is a measure of how much the value of an advertisement relates to the value of a public relations effort.  For instance, if a public relations practitioner secures a full page story to be placed on the cover of the Dallas Morning News, the value of this effort will be based off the value of a full page advertisement buried in the newspaper.  Advertisers can’t buy full page advertisements on the front page.  The value of having your client featured on the front page of a newspaper is insurmountable but using the advertising equivalency rate will never show that.
This measurement is extremely inaccurate and companies are slowly finding other ways to measure their value.  I imagine in my lifetime I will see a solution to this problem, but for companies that do not have the proper resources to manage tracking their public relations value in a realistic way, it’s all they have to work with.  This issue is not tackled in any code of ethics I have ever come across.  I think for out profession to grow as a trustworthy two-way communication medium, we must find alternatives to the advertising equivalency measurement.  When we are expressing our value to our clients, quarterly or yearly, I believe it is unethical to express it in this manner.  
What do you think?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Skimming Below the Surface

I have a fleeting attention span.  I constantly find myself quickly skimming through articles, but can you blame me?  Twitter has made it remarkably easy to get all the information I need in under 140 characters.  When I find myself having to read an article for school or work, I catch myself skimming.  If I’m lucky, you’ve made it this far and you’re still reading.  It got me thinking, how can PR professionals disseminate meaningful messages to target audiences without the fear of grazing eyes?  
I found the article, “Gaming the system with skim-proof content,” addressing this very issue.  I knew the article had to do with skimming so before I clicked on the link for the full article, I made myself extremely conscious of where my eyes went.  The first thing I did was scroll and stop at a picture.  Then I went back to the top of the page and read through the first paragraph.  I ended the ritual with a full scroll down to judge how long the article is.  
This tells me:
  1. I like pictures 
  2. I want to get an idea of what the article is going to cover 
  3. I care a lot about how much time I’m about to invest in this article.  
I’m immediately turned off because it is two pages.  The fact that I’m not happy about having to click to a second page may say a little something about me and my attention span, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who feels that way.
I buckled down and, without grazing, read the article.  With the use of eye tracking software, Nielsen Norman Group discovered a distinct “F” shape pattern in the eye’s movement.  What this amounts to is readers are focusing on (and often times only reading) the first paragraph and the bolded subtitles in the body of the content.  Your first paragraph it your “do or die” moment for the reader.  If you don’t have them there you have nothing.  This concept throws away any notion of romancing a topic before getting to the nitty gritty.  

Here is a picture of the "F" shape scan featured in the article
So here is what we know: Readers graze and we only have one chance to get their attention.  What do we do?  The fact that we have some concrete evidence of where our eyes land on web pages gives us some sort of jumping off point.  It doesn’t mean we shape our margins in the shape of an “F” and hope they read everything.  The article offers a few helpful tips in economizing the space on a webpage.  For me, reading your content, stepping back, and asking yourself, “Do I care about this?” and, “Would my friends care about this?” matters the most.  
HERE is the article.  Let me know what you do when you skim it (because I know you will skim though it).  Where did your eyes go?