Public Relations… a New Pathway

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Original drawing by Hugh MacLeod @gapingvoid

The end of the program is coming soon, so this is a good opportunity to think about the PR courses I have taken and what I want to do next with what I now know. When I registered for this program, I knew a little bit about Public Relations, although I didn’t know how interesting I would find it. After taking these PR courses, I like what I have learned. I enjoy the analytical thinking that is required, and I have a much better understanding of the kinds of research required and how to apply that research.

For example, I discovered new ways of approaching a case study for the assignments. I was amazed how first ideas for developing a PR plan changed as I did more and more research, and how I could develop a strategy from a point of view completely different from the one I started with.  I learned the importance that the role of storytelling plays in a plan and how stories can be the medium to communicate the message; stories touch people and can open the door for two-way communication.

Nancy Duarte, in her book Persuasive Presentations, talks about ways to inspire action, engage the audience, sell your ideas, and create something the audience will always remember. I believe these concepts can be transferred to PR because we need to reach our audience and engage them with our messages. This is a big challenge for any PR practitioner. Duarte says,

“…Stories have the power to win customers, align colleagues, and motivate employees. They’re the most compelling platform we have for managing imaginations. Those who master this art form can gain great influence and an enduring legacy….”

Another aspect of PR I learned is how important it is to be aware of current and global events, and how some of these events can impact the organization where we work. This realization will help me form my own opinions so that I can communicate, for example, with city councils or legislators in meaningful ways. Also, to be part of this global community and understand issues and events that affect other cultures will help me see different viewpoints outside my own world.

I also learned the importance of the sincere apology, particularly when a crisis comes up. Through different examples, we saw the effects that an apology can have on public opinion. BP CEO Tony Hayward said during BP spill crisis, “We’re sorry for the massive disruption it’s caused their lives. There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.” It sounds as if Hayward is much more concerned about his own life than the lives of all the animals and people the oil spill impacted. This is not an effective apology. When Maple Leaf CEO claimed responsibility for the listeria outbreak and took action immediately without blaming anybody, we saw how beneficial an effective apology can be.

I’m excited about what is coming next. Before these courses, I never thought that PR could be so fascinating – a pathway I would be interested in following. Now, I look forward to the opportunity to apply all this new knowledge in the real world and build my own PR story.

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“Blending Experiences”

Last week in our PR class, we analyzed different type of campaigns. The one that captured my attention was the Will It Blend? campaign from Blendtec®, because the idea was original and simple.

Blendtec® is a small company based in Utah that manufactures family and commercial blenders. In 2006, the company was selling its high-quality commercial blenders for $400.00. However, but the brand was not attracting the attention of the general public. This lack of recognition showed in the company’s sales.

One day, George Wright, the marketing director, saw Tom Dick, the company’s CEO, blending a variety of items, such as marbles, metals, papers, to test the quality of the blenders. This gave Wright an idea for a new marketing campaign. He decided to videotape Tom Dick’s  experiments and share them with customers. With a budget of only $50.00, a series of videos titled “Will It Blend?” were created. The idea of the campaign was to demonstrate the unique power and durability of Blendtec® blenders. At first, the videos were uploaded to the Blendtec® website. Later, they became available on YouTube. Since then, the videos have been viewed over 100 million times, and blender sales have increased by over 700%.

Seth Godin defines brand as “…the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”

I think Blendtec® created both a story and memories. When I saw the videos the first time, I saw a man having a lot of fun. The setting of the video reminded me of the old style of cartoons. The idea that you can have fun while you are cooking is also shown on those videos. As Blendtec® says, “Blendtec incessantly seeks out ways to make customers’ blending experiences better.”

The way that the company developed its campaign and capitalized on the success of “Will It Blend?” is amazing. Through social media — YouTube channel, blog, Facebook page, Pinterest — it has created two-way communication. First, it invites its employees participate in the campaign by sharing the videos with family and friends. Second, customers are invited to participate by sending recipes or ideas of things that can be blended. Third, the company answers all Facebook comments, making customers feel that they have a voice. The company continues to get revenue to further the campaign through speaking engagements and by the co-branding of promotional clips (as they did with Ed-FM).

Today, Blendtec® is a recognized name and face that has created memories.  When someone mentions the name of the company or brand, people think of Tom Dick in his white lab coat blending a bunch of weird items. Blendtec® has successfully spread the word.

Occupy Wall Street Movement

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Declaration Flow Chart — Creator Rachel Schragis

This week we are discussing the Occupy Wall Street movement . To understand what this movement is about, we need to know the idea behind it. Here is the statement from the website:

“The NYC General Assembly is composed of dozens of groups working together to organize and set the vision for the #occupywallstreet movement. New York City General Assemblies are an open, participatory and horizontally organized process through which we are building the capacity to constitute ourselves in public as autonomous collective forces within and against the constant crises of our times.”

The following video explains how this movement works:

People are disappointed with government and politicians, and tired of the injustice of the actual society. People feel that leaders are not representing them and are, therefore, failing them. This movement is about participation. In which leaders from within emerge naturally. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) states:

“Occupy Wall Street is structured on anarchist organizing principles. This means there are no formal leaders and no formal hierarchy. Rather, the movement is full of people who lead by example. We are leader-full, and this makes us strong. Instead of picking leaders, which you would then have to follow, leaders emerge organically. These people become leaders because others choose to follow them.”

When I read that OWS was the topic of the week, the first question I had was: how could this movement move forward without a leader? I found two interesting articles that answered my question and gave me a better understanding of this movement. “When No One’s in Charge,” written by Andrea Ovans (Harvard Business Review), analyzes this trend of leaderless movements. Also, she gives examples of “participatory democracy — in which everyone comes together in person to discuss problems and forge solutions through civilized debate.”

The other article, “The Future of the Occupy Movement,” written by Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, provides an analysis of the lessons of OWS. According to Lobel, these lessons are:

  1. Presenting a Narrative, World View or Declaration — Not Specific Demands
  2. Political Independence
  3. Non-Violence, Creativity, Experimentation, and Inclusiveness
  4. Visible, Not Transitory Presence
  5. Creating Alternative Models of What a Democratic Egalitarian Society Might Look Like

When Lobel talks about the future of the movement, he refers to Noam Chomsky’s speech at the Occupy Boston:

“The Occupy outposts are trying to create cooperative communities that just might be the basis for the kinds of lasting organizations necessary to overcome the barriers ahead and the backlash that’s already coming.”

Both articles bring up the idea of working together, building communities, and participation through different models such as co-ops. If we look over these models, all of them have leaders that guide the organizations. From the video, we can see that some of them are natural leaders that people follow.

I think the OWS is sending the message that people have a voice and are entitled to express themselves and share ideas and actions. There are websites with links to different experiences in the United States and elsewhere around the world that shows that some change is happening.

People are starting to become involved in and take care of their future. I believe the OWS movement did succeed. Before these big demonstrations, many people did not publically question what they had or did not have.

I don’t agree with everything Joe Nocera said in his article Two Days in September.” For example, unlike Nocera, I think that when people begin to talk to each other and share  their problems, the seed for something larger has been planted. However, I do agree with him that this movement will need a leader.

Hopefully, OWS can evolve in a way in which more people will feel that expressing their ideas and participating can make a difference. When that happens, new leaders will certainly emerge.

If you want to know more about OWS, here are some interesting links:

Insight: Can Occupy Wall Street survive? by Chris Francescani

#OCCUPYTOGETHER 

Occupy protests around the world: full list visualized by The Guardian

Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now by Naomi Klein

PRE-OCCUPIED: The origins and future of Occupy Wall Street by Mattathias Schwartz

What Business Should Do about Occupy Wall Street by S. Sivakumar

Case Study and Issues in PR — Blog’s Comments

Comment week 3 

Link to the article  http://soydanbay.com/2011/09/21/you-and-me-the-brand-relationship-theory/#more-640

You and Me: The Brand Relationship Theory Posted by Soydanbay

Comment posted on July 16, 2013

As a PR student, I had to write an assignment analyzing different types of campaigns. The campaign that captured my attention was “Will It Blend?” from Blendtec®, because the idea was original and simple. I think some of the ideas you wrote in this article apply to Blendtec® – the company established emotional bonds with its customers. It also built two-way communications with its customers by inviting them to sending recipes. What attracted most of my attention, however, was the way the CEO could have fun with the company’s product and could show that to customers. You talked about relationships being “a two-way street,” and I think this is the challenge that brands today have to be successful at. Blendtec® clearly is.

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Comment week 2

Link to the article

http://spinsucks.com/communication/starting-a-public-relations-firm-the-business-side-of-things/

Starting a Public Relations Firm: The Business Side of Things by Gini Dietrich | June 27, 2013

Thank you for this article! As a PR student, this story shows me that it is not easy to start a company, but it is possible. My dream is to find a mentor from whom I can learn, for example, how to handle a crisis or how to reach the audience. With a mentor, I would have the opportunity to improve my skills and learn new ones, gain valuable knowledge, and further my professional development on a one-on-one basis. This year, I have discovered how interesting PR is and how much I enjoy analyzing different PR scenarios.

I hope to find a job in PR, because I’m not the kind of person who can begin my own firm without having experience. In the meantime, I’ll remember what I need to know to protect myself. Thanks again.

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Comment week 1

Link to the article

http://www.deirdrebreakenridge.com/2013/07/how-to-work-with-your-best-six-friends-in-a-crisis/

How to work with your Best Six Friends in a Crisis. A Guest Post by Jane Jordan-Meier

As a PR student, I’ve found it useful to go back to the basics – as you wrote – and remember the six best friends in a crisis. In PR, the process is the same for each project, but each project has new challenges. The mantra “Who needs to know What, When, Where, Why, and How?” is the always same, but the answers are completely different in each project. This makes PR interesting and challenging.

After reading your article, I wanted to know more about how Johnson & Johnson handled the Tylenol crisis. From this case, I learned how important is to have open communication and the importance of maintaining communication with the different audiences during a crisis. It is interesting to see how many big companies fail to manage a crisis effecively because they are not able to apologize (for example, BP after the oil spill). Thanks for this article.

Comment posted on July 2nd, 2013

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The Power to Persuade

Last week, the focus of the Case Study and Issues in PR class was to understand public opinion and persuasion. To go deeper in this understanding, we need to think the following questions.

What has made you change your opinion of a public figure, organization or brand. 

Persuasion involves engaging people’s emotions, and stories can do that. Any company can use storytelling to persuade its stakeholders or customers. I read an interesting article, Storytelling That Moves People, written by Robert McKee and Bronwyn Fryer (Harvard Business Review), about the importance of storytelling and how to communicate ideas using this tool instead of a boring PowerPoint presentation. The authors suggested, “There are two ways to persuade people. The first is by using conventional rhetoric, which is what most executives are trained in. It’s an intellectual process, and in the business world it usually consists of a PowerPoint slide presentation in which you say, ‘Here is our company’s biggest challenge, and here is what we need to do to prosper.’ The other way to persuade people—and ultimately a much more powerful way—is by uniting an idea with an emotion. The best way to do that is by telling a compelling story. In a story, you not only weave a lot of information into the telling but you also arouse your listener’s emotions and energy.”

The Body Shop was created as a green alternative to mainstream cosmetics. Founder Anita Roddick built The Body Shop around opposition to animal testing of products, using natural ingredients, and supporting local farmers around the world. She created a story around the brand, which people bought and supported. I was one of them. When L’Oreal bought The Body Shop, I felt betrayed. I did not understand how a company with strong values could be sold to a company that is known for the opposite values. Something did not match. I felt that the story behind The Body Shop was a lie. I have the option to not betray my values, so I’m not a Body Shop customer anymore.

What factors have influenced your decision to do or not do something? 

After the factory disaster in Bangladesh, there has been a lot of discussion about companies are handling globalization – that is, what do they do in countries where corruption is common and law enforcement policies are different from those in North America?. Many companies have said that they do not have ties to the collapsed factories and, therefore feel no responsibility to what happens in countries such as Bangladesh. I believe that all companies are responsible. All businesses have values, and those values need to be transferred to any and all markets.

Gap Inc. is one of many companies that produces its products in Bangladesh but did not sign the Bangladesh Factory Safety Accord. This accord commits the brands to work with local stakeholders to guarantee the safety of workers. Gap said it “…was ready to sign on to the agreement, but first wanted a change in the way disputes are resolved in the courts.” Gap Inc. states the following on its website: “Working with Integrity: Our Code of Business Conduct, available in nine languages, promotes a responsible and ethical work environment for all Gap Inc. employees.” I shop at the Gap; however, I am concerned by the fact that what the company says appears to be different with what it does. I have not decided if I will continue shopping at The Gap. I like Gap clothes, but I need more information before making any decision.

What has made you think differently about an issue? 

In 1999, Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said created the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which is a youth orchestra for young musicians from Middle East, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Spain.

The objective is to promote understanding between the people and “demonstrates that bridges can be built to encourage people to listen to one another. Based on this notion of equality, cooperation and justice for all, the Orchestra represents an alternative model to the current situation in the Middle East.” Daniel Barenboim said, “Music can connect people and give the possibility to listen each other.”

This experience is showing us that other way is possible and how listening, art and dialogue can make a difference.