Monthly Archives: October 2011

CSR: More than meets the eye

by Hope Peterson

I usually pick out cereal according to which brightly colored, sugar-packed, questionably nutritious snack looks the most appetizing. Like many others, I don’t normally make my decisions based on what kind of corporate social responsibility (CSR) the brand I am contemplating has engaged in.

Is this because we, as consumers, don’t care about CSR? Or is it because CSR is already combined with public relations in consumers’ minds — a part of the total packaging we perceive?

According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development CSR is defined by a business’s “continual commitment . . . to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.”

Wouldn’t that make CSR crucial to all public relations firms that need relationships to build communication?

In a Holmes Report article, Paul Holmes suggests that CSR is actually an integral part of public relations, that you can’t have one with out the other. This proves how important CSR is, even though it might not be recognized by consumers.

Holmes said, “An organization can’t have good PR without good CSR.” He explained if a company does not have good relationships, then its foundation won’t be solid or reliable. And to build those relationships with consumers, companies have to behave responsibly and ethically to gain trust.

This symbiotic relationship explains why companies that are not interested in “saving the trees” still valueCSR in their everyday business operations and, similarly, in their goals and mission statements. According to the Holmes Report, capitalists are even interested in CSR because it leads to happy employees, loyal customers and less strict regulators; CSR benefits the money-driven as well as the environment-lovers.

And the reason for these dual beneficiaries of CSR could be because CSR and public relations are often synonymous. Ogilvy Public Relations World Wide (http://www.ogilvypr.com/en/content/corporate-social-responsibility-more/) said CSR is the “ongoing process of aligning corporate behavior with stakeholder expectations.”

Ogilvy developed an eight-step process for CSR that even further supports the theory that CSR and PR are woven together.

The first two steps are conducted through the planning process and include “identification” and “prioritization/classification.” These steps involve research and gathering data pertaining to the issue or the company.

The next two steps are “monitoring” and “preparation,” both dealing with preparing specifically for the issue researched in the previous steps.

The next steps are “action to influence” and “issue/crisis response.” These two steps involve taking action to solve the problem at hand.

The last two steps are “evaluation” and “reclassification.” These steps force professionals to look over their work and make sure that the issue was handled correctly so that future situations will be solved more efficiently.

When choosing a public relations strategy, professionals often follow a similar multi-step process: researching the situation, forming a plan related to the specific target audience, using their research to carry out a plan through structured tactics and finally evaluating the plan’s success.

CSR is much more than just the pink cups companies use to promote breast cancer or the recycling symbol they place on bags; it is the continual relationships the companies are building.

For example, Nike has implemented its CSR plan, the Environmental Apparel Design Tool, that aims to decrease the use of scarce natural resources. Nike engages in multiple small campaigns, initiatives and ads to promote its overall mission but, ultimately, its goal is to build relationships with customers who value its same environmental interests. Nike uses CSR to gain consumers and build target audiences for its campaigns.

Although CSR is often only equated with environmental promotions, would effective public relations be possible without a successful CSR plan? The relationship building public relations relies on might be lost without a little undercover help from CSR.

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Banking on good PR

by Alex Reichenbach

If you’ve been watching the news for the last few weeks, you’re probably familiar with the complaints Bank of America has been receiving. On September 29, Bank of America publicly announced its plan to charge customers a $5 monthly fee for those who use debit cards to make purchases.

The bank faced backlash from customers only a day after the announcement was made.

According to a Washington Post article, “the debit card change has sparked fury on the Web and cable channels. Consumers complained on message boards and in the social media, vowing to take their business elsewhere.”

It’s no surprise customers are going to be outraged with this additional cost in the current economy. The last thing people want is another fee to worry about. The result of a TIME Moneyland poll indicates about 75 percent of customers plan on switching banks if Bank of America follows through with the charge.

When a crisis like this occurs, it is the public relations practitioner’s job to find a way to turn the negative publicity into an opportunity for the business. One of Bank of America’s initial attempts at recovery was seen in an October 18 Bloomberg Businessweek article.

In the article, Brian T. Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, stated that the reason for the charge was to build consumer relationships.

“The company’s new $5 monthly fee for debit cards may attract business by encouraging customers to use more services so they can avoid the charge,” Moynihan said.

By enforcing the monthly charge, Bank of America hopes to build stronger relationships by providing various other services to clients. Moynihan could have easily dwelled on the fact that his so-called “loyal” customers were turning on him, but because of successful public relations tactics, that was not the case. Instead, he publicized the new opportunities that will result from this monthly fee, in hopes that it will change the negative feelings of the bank’s customers.

Bank of America is not the first bank to enforce this monthly fee.

According to a USA Today article, “SunTrust began charging a $5 debit card fee on its basic checking accounts this summer. Regions Financial, based in Birmingham, Ala., plans to start charging a $4 fee next month. Chase and Wells Fargo are also testing $3 monthly debit card fees in select markets.”

So why is it such a big deal if Bank of America decides to join in on this current trend? This announcement sparked much more commotion because, according to the USA Today article, Bank of America is the largest U.S. bank as measured by deposits.

The customers of Bank of America also tend to rely more on their debit cards rather than their credit cards, compared to other banks.

According to a TechNewsWorld article published on October 25, this reliance will drastically change if the monthly charge is put into effect in early 2012: “Thirty percent of U.S. consumers would leave their bank over debit card fees and another 43 percent would move to paying with cash or credit.”

It has been about a month since the initial announcement and public relations practitioners continue to deal with backlash from Bank of America customers.

Moynihan’s explanation in the Washington Post article was a successful first step in the recovery process. But how are public relations practitioners going to turn this crisis around once the charge is put into effect in a few months?

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PR is not the place for a broken watch

by Amber Parker

Whether you are backstage at a Britney Spears concert, working on a press release from the White House or planning a consumer extravaganza at an agency, you will always have to be conscious of time. Timing is important in most careers, but poor planning on the part of a public relations practitioner could be as detrimental as a doctor who shows up late for surgery. It could mean the difference between the life and death of a company.

Do not miss a deadline

The quickest way to disappoint a new employer, or worse, a client, is by missing a deadline. The only thing you have in common with your co-workers is that 12 p.m. means 12 p.m. no matter how you slice it. In college, late assignments usually mean a percentage reduction from your grade but in the cut-throat world of PR, a missed deadline could mean your livelihood.

You may be thinking, “Do they expect me to be perfect right out of college?” The answer is no, but promptness and accuracy are prized qualities in this field, so learn them quickly. Not to mention that there is always an intern or new hire who will succeed in the areas that you are lacking. Don’t minor in the majors — learn time management now.

Environmental scanning

Professors have pushed me to read the news since my first communications class and now, as a senior, I scan at least three different sources daily as a part of my morning routine. As a practitioner, scanning helps to keep you up to date on any changes that might affect your client directly or indirectly. Accurate forecasting can help give you and your agency a cutting edge.

I assume that everyone who has a degree in public relations took journalism courses in college. You may have thought it was pointless at the time but I hope that one thing you took away is a clear understanding of news values.

Public relations practitioners have to be conscious of their relationships with journalists and try to ensure they are providing the best information to the right person within the most feasible time frame. A story about breast cancer in March, for example, is less appealing than one in October because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

If you respect punctuality and planning as virtues, you can buckle up and prepare for a successful career in PR.

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HILEAF at its best

by Emily Diab

Throughout my academic career, I’ve been constantly harassed by the phantoms of my own mind in creating the most creative, and sometimes downright stupid acronyms, in hopes that my college mind could cram just one more list for just one more exam. We’ve all done it. And it works! But we usually forget about the silly series of letters a few weeks later, and the ever-so-important test question never comes up again.

As the end of my long road of intense study habits draws near, I still remember one of those creative (this time NOT downright stupid) acronyms. With the help of my just as study-crazed classmates and our teaching-crazed professors, we have somehow managed to engrave the six letters of this special acronym in our minds.

HILEAF.
Honesty, Independence, Loyalty, Expertise, Advocacy, Fairness.

If you have ever taken a public relations course, dated a public relations nerd like me or have been surrounded by a building full of communications freaks like my classmates, you’ve heard of HILEAF. And if there was ever an acronym that I can’t forget if I tried, HILEAF is it – and a good one to hang on to at that.

Because HILEAF has stuck with me as a special charm to my world of accessories, I want to share a little dry, tough-love advice on how to understand HILEAF, why to follow it and how it will get you where you want to go.

Honesty

We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public. –PRSA Code of Ethics

We all learned this one early in life, when you stole the cookie from the cookie jar, lied to mommy about it and then pouted in the corner for time-out, all with chocolate spread around your mouth. You lied. You got caught. Don’t do it again. Real world punishment is much worse than staring at a blank wall.

Independence

We provide objective counsel to those we represent. We are accountable for our actions. –PRSA Code of Ethics

They drill it into our brains on every syllabus I’ve seen since I’ve entered the University system. We read it, sometimes ignore it and hope to get through the class without the need to copy and paste. I wish luck to the people who still think that it’s possible to get through life depending on other’s work. Don’t copy. Don’t paste. Don’t depend on others to carry you through. Do your own work. What happens when you show up for work on the first day in the real world and the keyboard is missing Control+C?

Loyalty

We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest. –PRSA Code of Ethics

Just like man’s best friend, we have learned to stay true to the ones we love. Or in the work world, we will stay true to the ones who pay us. Represent wisely. Serve the public. Be an honorable delegate. It will pay off, literally and figuratively. Just as we need cash to stay alive, we need a good friend or coworker to have our backs. But you must have their backs first.

Expertise

We acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience. We advance the profession through continued professional development, research and education. We build mutual understanding, credibility and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences. –PRSA Code of Ethics

It’s a scary world out there. People are better than you and are fighting for the same life you dream for. Achieve excellence every single day. Stand out among the best. Do everything you can to be specialized in every subject you can handle. Maintain expert status and the scary world of professionalism will be a little bit lighter.

Advocacy

We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts, and viewpoints to aid informed public debate. –PRSA Code of Ethics

A business thrives on support from its employees and partners. Intelligence and common sense make a great pair when representing your company. Luckily, your intelligence probably got you the job, but now its time to turn on the common sense. Represent wisely. Don’t be stupid. Think about what you’re doing at all times, and keep your job fresh on your mind.

Fairness

We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the general public. We respect all opinions and support the right of free expression. –PRSA Code of Ethics

Life’s not fair. But we should be doing everything we can to make it that way. Pay it forward and do what youshould, not just what you have to. Remember the Golden Rule and apply it at all times, even if you don’t feel like it. Suck it up and make your environment the best place it can be. After all, you’re working there too.

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Fierce in pink: “A Crucial Catch” initiative

by Hope Peterson

Sunday night you are sitting down on the couch about to watch the Falcons and Panthers play some ’ball but instead of focusing on if your team wins the coin toss, your eyes are drawn to the 250-lb. men with black-striped, intimidating faces wearing . . . pink.

Yes, you read me right. A pink tint fills the screen on ESPN channels as some of the country’s fiercest athletes support breast cancer awareness. NFL players are now “pretty in pink.”

An article on the American Cancer Society website explains the beginnings of its partnership with the NFL. In 2009, the NFL supported the American Cancer Society in its campaign to gain funds to improve access to breast cancer screening.

Families of NFL players, including Redskins guard Derrick Dockery and Tanya Snyder, wife of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, attended the campaign along side the society. Tanya Snyder with Arizona Cardinals player Larry Fitzgerald soon became the face for what is now known as “A Crucial Catch” campaign.

According to a New York Times article, Snyder and Fitzgerald began by passing out pink gloves, wristbands and cleats for NFL players to wear during October games. Goal-post legs are also wrapped in pink.

Snyder said one of her daughters would push “pink ribbons onto reluctant men by telling them, ‘Real men wear pink.’” It was straight from the mouth of a child to an NFL player.

Now, as October begins Breast Cancer Awareness month, the NFL has kicked off its third annual “A Crucial Catch” campaign. The campaign aims to remind women who are 40 and older to schedule regular mammograms to promote the importance of annual screenings to fight breast cancer.

The goal of the American Cancer Society is to “save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early.”

“Throughout October, NFL games will feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel, on-field pink ribbon stencils, special game balls and pink coins – all to help raise awareness for this important campaign,” the NFL said in its description of the “A Crucial Catch” initiative.

Even though the color pink is associated with femininity, what better way to show women their support than for men’s heroes to broadcast a bold color they are proud to wear. These men who love their wives, moms, sisters, daughters, aunts, cousins, nieces, girlfriends and friends brave up and don the pink, proving to women everywhere that “thinking pink” can be powerful.

While pink has been the universal color for breast cancer awareness since the June 1990 Susan G. Komen walk, pink had yet to publicly cross that gender bridge until recent campaigns like “A Crucial Catch.”

However, professionals aren’t the only ones repping the pink. The NFL is asking coaches and players of all ages across the country to help campaign “A Crucial Catch.”

And, it has “caught” on very quickly. On Friday nights and Saturday mornings, high school and middle school football fields across the nation are filled with teenage boys in pink apparel. Now doesn’t that say something if a teenage boy will wear a “girl’s” color, just to tell his mom he cares?

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Disney roars again

by Jaley Cranford, editor

As I walked into “The Lion King 3D” at 9:30 p.m., I assumed that anyone who wanted to see the animated flick was fast asleep in their Cinderella or Batman pajamas. I was wrong. A theater full of people in their twenties awaited me.

Disney has long been known as an innovator of entertainment and it appears that the animation giant has done it again. After the film generated more than $357.8 million in 1994, Disney decided to rerelease the classic cartoon hit.

Disney is marketing 3D in a brand new way. Not only are new movie-goers welcoming Simba into their homes, but nostalgia drags twenty-somethings into a theater for a cartoon lion and his singing friends. As the theater resonated with approximately 100 college students singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” I realized that Disney might be onto something.

Disney blogger John Frost said that Disney retried the 3D film world after it merged with Pixar in 2006. After getting off to a rocky start with the over-promotion of “Chicken Little” and “Bolt,” Disney began to market 3D flicks in the same ways as its 2D classics. Frost continues that Disney’s marketing of 3D films has been reduced since the huge push for “Chicken Little.”

Regardless of how much money is spent on the marketing or promotion for the film, “The Lion King 3D” and other rereleased classics are big money-makers for the Disney corporation. However, many people see this rerelease as a lazy and exploitive move by Disney.

In a UK film blog, Jeremy Kay attacks the choice as one that tries to make the most money with the least amount of effort.

While Disney is not reinventing the wheel by bringing “The Lion King” back to theaters, the corporation is generating serious revenue. CNN reported that the flick grossed more than $29.3 million in its opening weekend.

An Entertainment Weekly article brings up another important observation. According to the article, “The Hangover” sparked a run of 8 R-rated raunchy comedies. Maybe Disney rereleasing “The Lion King 3D” to such overwhelming success will spark a new film revolution.

With the film world going back to classics to generate revenue, maybe we will see more 3D remakes of movies. With flicks like “Footloose” bringing older movies to new generations, 3D adaptations of older movies may be an easy way for movie companies to make money without new content.

The only problem: how do you market a rerelease without critical questions about the integrity of the film industry being raised? I’m not so sure, but I do think Disney will figure it out and keep audiences of all ages in theaters.

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The Spirit of Apple

by Sarah Shea, editor

Originally published on PROpenMic

When it comes to PR, Apple has it figured out. The company handles even the most secretive product releases virtually seamlessly. But what is the global technology giant to do when its founder and immediately former CEO passes away?

Change nothing. And that’s not to say the company disregarded Steve Jobs’ October 5 death; rather, it executed everything from the announcement to memoirs in the characteristically perfect way Apple does everything.

Just minutes after Jobs’ death was announced, Apple’s website featured a thoughtful photograph of Jobs himself. Apple’s statement about its founder’s death accompanied the black-and-white image, reading: ”Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

Like all things Apple, the statement is minimalistic, but more than sufficient. Viewers are even invited to offer “thoughts, memories and condolences” to a personalized email address: rememberingsteve@apple.com.

As with most major Apple announcements, news of Jobs’ death went viral. Unsurprisingly, much of the information was distributed from devices that are Jobs’ brainchild. Tweets and Facebook updates streamed constantly from a slew of iPods, iPads, iPhones, MacBooks and iMacs.

Also unsurprisingly, Twitter saw a near-record number of tweets per second, nearly 6,049, according to a computerworld.com article. Trending topics included #iSad, #SteveJobs and #ThankYouSteve. The personalized messages seem especially poignant when you consider the sources — fingers wildly tapped iPhone touch screens and Mac’s signature keyboards.

In a CNET article titled “Twitter reacts with emotion to Steve Jobs’ death,” Leslie Katz reported just a few of many powerful tweets about the legacy Jobs left behind. Even Bill Gates, former CEO of Microsoft and arguably Jobs’ biggest competition, tweeted “For those of us lucky enough to get to work with Steve, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.”

Almost immediately, Jobs fans laced the Internet with a plethora of articles on Jobs, ranging from his impact on Pixar to the reason he always wore black turtlenecks.

Jobs’ impact is both enlightening and heartwarming. I imagine he’d be proud of the way Apple handled his passing — simply and tactfully.

Without Apple’s products, where would we be? And without its shining example of good PR, who would we strive to be?

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