Monthly Archives: October 2008

Marketing God

My grandmother takes the Great Commission to heart and even though she is ninety years old, she asks everyone who comes to her house one question, “If you died tonight, where would you be going and how do you know?”
Evangelism. It is a fundamental part of Christianity. Many denominations take it to the extreme, “selling” God in a prepackaged box complete with your own Bible. But is all that really effective?
TV evangelists, megachurches and all the life-changing books have one purpose—-reaching others for Christ. All of these are different outlets that some Christian groups have tried to get to average people to catch their interest and let them hear the testimony that will captivate and help them discover Christ. But with many books left on the shelves and people skipping over religious channels faster than if they were commercials, Christianity is branching out and looking for newer outreach tactics. As Christians seek out these new tactics, the question on their minds is, how do you market God to reach more people?

Sharing with the World

The world has entered a new era of technology in which podcasts, blogs and twitter are everyday words. Christians need to tap into this resource. Many churches have already established themselves online with their own Web sites, but how about utilizing Facebook as a social media network, recording a sermon and putting it online as a podcast or even sending out an e-mail newsletter or invitation to church events? Part of reaching people is meeting them where they spend most of their time, which, in this day and age, is increasingly the Internet, the final frontier. The world is globalized, and as society is more interconnected, why not reach more people by using a tool anyone anywhere can access?

Reaching a Target Audience

Another public relations must is building relationships, keeping in mind the target audience. As Christians try to reach people, they need to meet people where they are, and not just technologically. While inspirational books are inspiring to those who read them, is the average non-believer going to pay twenty bucks to learn how to turn their life around? Instead, there are many groups subtly encouraging people to be open to the message and a lifestyle of faith without charging them for it. For instance, Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays, emphasizing church as an important part of a lifestyle. Also, many Christian bands share God in their songs, having the opportunity to reach people as they listen to the music more willingly than a sermon. Furthermore, Christians should impact people. A religious organization on the UA campus this year provided pancakes at one in the morning to an area known for bar-hopping. By keeping the target audience in mind, christians realize they should go to the world instead of letting the world come to them.

Bringing the Message
One of the most important ideas of public relations is offering a consistent message, being open and honest, looking for two-way communication. Christianity is known not only for its televangelists, but also unfortunately for its hypocritical followers. If Christians are striving to reach people, they need to bring a consistent message to the table. St. Francis of Assisi once said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” It all comes down to living intentionally the life of love Christians profess. Christians can establish relationships by investing time in people so they know they aren’t a mere number on the list of believers. Christians shouldn’t be afraid to listen to what others have to say. Public relations assures us that two-way communication is a necessity. Christians aren’t going to make any progress if they just tell others what to believe. Every testimony and person is unique, and so is his or her reaction. Christians can instead show that there’s something more to live for, and reaching others through love will reap its rewards.
by Molly M

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Financial Crisis or Moral Crisis?

USA Today recently pointed out that corporate apologies are becoming more and more rare in the face of the current economic crisis. The article argues that CEOs see admitting blame as a sign of weakness, even though the article claims that “In 2004, professors from the University of Michigan and Stanford University found that companies that accepted blame for poor performance in annual reports were more likely to outperform the market the following year.”

The most recent public apology in my memory was when Jose Canseco expressed regret over the effects of his book, “Juiced,” an exposé on steroid use in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately for Canseco, his apology is too little too late. An investigation into steroid use in baseball has tainted the reputation of the sport and many of the players mentioned in his book as steroid users have had their reputations, careers and Hall of Fame chances destroyed by Canseco’s claims.

When will an apology be too little too late for the major firms involved in the financial crisis?

Linda Stomato of the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution defines an apology simply in the Ivey Business Journal article “Should Business Leaders Apologize? Why, When and How an Apology Matters”:

“An apology can acknowledge that an injury or damage has occurred. It may include acceptance of responsibility for the mistake; express regret, humility or remorse in the language one chooses; explain the role he, she or they played; ask for forgiveness; and include a credible commitment to change or a promise that the act won’t occur again.”

Stomato also claims that “Apologizing by admitting a mistake—to co-workers, employees, customers, clients, the public at large—tends to gain credibility and generate confidence in one’s leadership. Acting defensively, on the other hand, undermines it.”

If an apology and a place to lay blame restores trust when made in a timely fashion, would that not restore the missing confidence that is tearing the economy apart?

The issue is, understandably, a legal one for the failed firms. Admitting a mistake may not bode well for the company if legal action is taken as a result of the ongoing investigation into the cause of this crisis. This is where a firm’s values come into play, leaving each one with two options:

  1. Apologize, admit any mistakes, accept responsibility and outline a plan that will not allow it to happen again. This option risks future legal action, but holds promise of increased consumer confidence and a resulting upswing in the economy.
  2. Don’t apologize, avoid litigation and ride out the disaster.

Should a firm work for the social good or for the avoidance of legal action?

Johnson & Johnson’s apology for the 1982 poisoning of Tylenol made the company a PR legend and gave it a socially responsible image. Steve Jobs’ apology to consumers who bought a higher-priced iPhone when the price was cut and his subsequent rectification of the situation proved that Apple is a consumer-oriented corporation. Apologies in the past have been good things.

When will we see an apology, anyone willing to accept responsibility, for the financial crisis? Maybe never. Maybe too little, too late.

Until then, consumers are left to conjure confidence in the economy from somewhere else, but I have yet to see anything that warrants it.

Jessica A.

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Buzzword or Buzzkill

With the presidential election just days away and the final debate only a memory, we have seen numerous buzzwords and slogans thrown out there. Obama is begging for “change” at every campaign stop he makes and as the television show Saturday Night Live suggested, Palin and McCain’s references to the term “maverick” could be turned into a pretty successful drinking game. And who could forget from his frequent references to Scranton, Biden’s hometown?

We have also seen the emergence recently of a new player on the political field, Joe the Plumber. Replacing the Republican Party, and specifically Sarah Palin’s reliance on “Joe Six-pack,” Joe the Plumber is the new everyman the candidates are fighting over, or at least fighting for his vote.

But beyond all of this, there is yet another character that many may not even notice as he is being brought up in these same debates. ExxonMobil is taking a beating from both the presidential and vice-presidential candidates. It has been mentioned at least six times during the debates as the enemy both parties can rally around. The company is one of the only things that they seem to agree on during these forums on disagreement.

While I have seen a commercial or two for the company and read a press release about their work in a hurricane stricken area of Texas, this is a time for ExxonMobil to really ramp up its PR efforts. With everyone against them, they must have some message positively portraying themselves to the American people. A few years ago, ExxonMobil was the only oil company to have its CEO appear for interviews when the three major stations were calling all oil companies to account, but this same company is now letting these candidates hurt their image without putting up a fight.

So where is the ExxonMobil of the past, responding to issues when the call was placed? But then again, with all the criticism they face now and have faced in the past, maybe two candidates in a 90 minute debate who occasionally express their dislike for ExxonMobil isn’t all that bad. And maybe the American people care more now about candidate’s buzzwords than when they call a company to task. Could it be possible that those paying attention to this race don’t even realize a company is being bashed when all we hear about on the news are mavericks asking Joes for change?

Martha G.

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Celebrities Fight For a Cause

Celebrities define our culture. You buy a certain style of dress, brand of jeans, type of video game or cup of coffee because the celebrity you admire the most purchases that same kind. They serve not only as entertainers, but also as opinion leaders. Whether you agree with their views or not, chances are that you know what your favorite celebrities stand for and what they want to see accomplished. But their influence extends far past the realms of fashion, entertainment and politics.

In recent years, a new trend has emerged among celebrities: philanthropy. Celebrities have started using their wealth, influence and resources to fight for a cause. By channeling their energy toward a certain issue and supporting that cause, celebrities give the organization they stand for free publicity and PR. Their influence makes the cause they believe in popular within our culture, and thus they raise awareness and support just by joining the fight.

Over the past ten years, the following non-profit organizations and campaigns have emerged as some of the most popular among teenagers and young adults. And part of the reason for their popularity is celebrity endorsements and involvement.

TOMS shoes
This organization abides by the one for one idea. That is, for each pair of shoes that you purchase, TOMS will donate a pair to a child in need. Started by Blake Mycoskie in May 2006, TOMS has given 10,000 pairs of shoes to children in Argentina and 50,000 pairs of shoes to children in South Africa. And helping Mycoskie to spur on this cause and complete its mission is the band, Hanson. They realized that their music, vision and a willingness to get involved could help promote TOMS. Hanson informed their fans about TOMS shoes and encouraged them to get involved.

Other celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Tobey Maguire, Lindsay Lohan and Brittany Murphy have been spotted wearing TOMS. By wearing these shoes, celebrities raise awareness for the cause and drive up demand for the product. These shoes, made of rubber and canvas, look like the opposite of what our culture considers high fashion. But because celebrities sport these shoes, TOMS have become the new look.


In 1997 after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, Lance Armstrong founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation to equip cancer patients with the knowledge and confidence to become cancer survivors, not cancer victims. In 2005, Armstrong launched his famous LiveStrong wristband campaign to raise money and awareness for his foundation. The phrase “LiveStrong” is inscribed on a yellow wristband and sold all over the world. These wristbands have become widely-used for supporting other organizations and non-profits as well a new fashion trend among young adults. His innovation has encouraged cancer patients to keep on fighting and created new ways for other groups to promote their mission and raise money.

We All Have AIDS…If One of Us Does.

This slogan was coined to unite the plethora of HIV/AIDS organizations into a community with a single message. The We All Have AIDS campaign calls for an end to the HIV/AIDS stigma. “It is a powerful display of the unity and solidarity we all share with the 40 million men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS around the world.”

This campaign, launched on World AIDS Day in 2005 by Kenneth Cole, featured t-shirts (as worn by actor T.R. Knight) and advertisements appearing in over 200 magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune. The campaign features celebrities such as Richard Gere, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks, Alicia Keys, Will Smith and Rosie O’Donnell. Without Cole’s connections and influence, this campaign might not have been possible.

Celebrities have always provided our society with gossip, laughter, fashion, style, music, movies, television, speeches and award shows. And now we can add service to the list. Celebrities serve our culture by being a driving force behind non-profit organizations and campaigns. Celebrities first entertained our world, and now they are changing our world.

Kristin Mc.

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Couture, Catwalks, Controversy & Counterfeits

In the world of public relations and fashion, image seems to be everything. Your reputation, who you know, and in some cases, what you’re wearing can make or break you. The all-important question seems to be: how important is image? In the world of fashion PR, designers, companies and customers are going to great lengths to not only enhance their image, but in some cases, to protect it, too.

In recent years, the desire for designer goods has reached epic proportions as consumers are constantly trying to re-create the latest runway looks. It certainly does not help that images of celebrities sporting these designer frocks surround us wherever we go. One can not hide from Hollywood stars, such as Cameron Diaz, gracing the covers and pages US magazine wearing those oh-so classic skinny jeans, but don’t forget the moss patent leather Gucci clutch in hand that retails for only $1,050. So what should one do when they crave the hottest fall trends straight from the fashion houses of Paris, the same looks they can not afford?

It’s quite easy, as consumers only have three options: find a realistic knockoff, go to a mass-market retailer that has teamed up with a world-renowned designer for low-cost looks (i.e. Vera Wang for Kohl’s), or refuse to pay rent for a few months all so you can rock the newest $945 Manolo Blahnik “Something Blue” satin pumps. Regardless of which option you choose, the current craze for haute couture has turned into a public relations nightmare for practitioners in the fashion world and it does not seem as if they will be waking up from this bad dream anytime soon.

As many shoppers crave clothes and accessories that are only in the price range of the wealthy and elite, they are finding alternatives that look the same, but are in no way made of authentic Italian leather or actual crocodile like the creations of top designers. Enter the counterfeiting industry. No one knows for sure, but the World Customs Organization estimates that the trade in counterfeit goods is valued at over $500 billion. Knockoffs resembling the creations from European fashion houses, such as those in Milan, are constantly in demand, and although Italy only contributes to 1.4 percent of the counterfeiting industry, the Italian Institute Against Counterfeit Goods estimates that Italy has lost more than 40,000 jobs in the past decade because of lost sales attributed to replica goods.

So aside from writing news releases and planning fashion week, public relations practitioners are now left with the daunting task of trying to fight crime and defend brand image for designer clients, as well.

Because many people are unaware of the disturbing effects associated with the counterfeiting industry, Harper’s Bazaar, the world renowned fashion magazine, has developed a public relations campaign to create awareness about the illegal activities associated with imitation designer goods by establishing the Harper’s Bazaar Anticounterfeiting Alliance. Its “Fakes Are Never in Fashion” campaign educates shoppers on the negative aspects associated with counterfeiting industry and teaches buyers how to determine fakes versus authentic luxury goods.

The French holding company Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate, has also stepped up to combat counterfeiters head-on. As stated on the LVMH web site, the counterfeiting industry “unlawfully takes advantage of the prestige of its (luxury) brands and harms their tradition, identity and image.” In June, LVMH took legal action against eBay, a web site known for selling replica goods, resulting in a Paris court order requiring eBay to pay approximately $26 million in damages to Louis Vuitton and $30 million to Christian Dior.

This may be considered only a small victory for LVMH, as Louis Vuitton spends millions of dollars annually on a zero tolerance policy against counterfeiting. In 2004 alone, Louis Vuitton’s actions resulted in 947 arrests, more than 6,000 raids, over 13,000 legal actions, and the seizure of many fake printing cylinders.

Not only has this been an ongoing PR fiasco for LVMH, this ruling put eBay’s PR department into over-drive, too. According to Nichola Sharpe, the US spokesperson at eBay, she said the company developed a global crisis communication plan months in advance and worked with global PR teams to prepare for the ruling.

In the fashion war to combat counterfeiting, one might consider buying low-cost goods created by top designers at mass retail chains a solution. Think again. It may appear to be the perfect world, one where shoppers can have access to the affordable designs of Karl Lagerfeld and Isaac Mizrahi at places such as H&M and Target. Wrong. While many are praising top designers’ inexpensive creations, many of the “fashion elite” consider this a fashion faux pas.

“I think when the designers continue to have collections at the lower-priced line, it can be a detriment,” Heather White of W magazine said. “Honestly, Isaac Mizrahi…would you pay $10,000 for a couture multicolored knit sweater? Not after you associate him with producing clothes at Target.”

White is a prime example of those who believe that the overexposure of designers’ creations at mass retail chains could tarnish a luxurious brand’s image and identity. Why would one want to spend over $2,800 for a Stella McCartney dress at Nieman Marcus when people actually have the option of purchasing her clothes at (gasp!) H&M?! The nightmare continues.

So if fighting the counterfeiting industry is almost comparable to declaring war on a small country, and if large retail chains can tarnish a name and image, what is the solution? Perhaps the solution lies in educating the world about the counterfeiting industry. Maybe people would reconsider visiting Canal Street in Manhattan for a knockoff handbag if they knew that these same counterfeiting rackets also deal with narcotics, weapons and child prostitution. I bet my boyfriend’s mom would have taken that into consideration before she bought me the little replica Chanel diamond earrings as a stocking stuffer this past Christmas. Sadly, no one ever mentioned to her that the sale of counterfeit goods has also helped support a Shiite terrorist group. I know I took that into consideration as I was chased down the alleyways of Venice this summer, refusing to let vendors sell me poorly made “Prada” bags.

So instead of investing millions of dollars into combating counterfeiters directly, perhaps PR practitioners should focus their campaigns upon educating their prime target audience: shoppers. Instead of spending time debating whether or not Mossimo Giannulli ruined his career by designing for Target, people should be spreading the world about the negative aspects associated with counterfeiting. The reality is this: everyone knows that knockoffs exist, but many people don’t know the disturbing details associated with the industry.

For the time being, we can only hope that more PR practices begin anti-counterfeiting educational campaigns like that of Harper’s Bazaar and in the meantime, I will personally enjoy wearing my Isaac Mizrahi dress from the Target collection and only wishing that I had $495 for the Giuseppe Zanotti leopard-print ballerina flats to match. I’ll keep wishing and watching as this fashion PR nightmare continues to unfold.

Other Sources:

by Whitney T.

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Multicultural PR

Over the past few years, U.S. demographics have been constantly changing. Slowly, the minority is now becoming the majority. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in ten U.S. counties has more than 50 percent minority residents. With the change in demographics, PR professionals must realize that the generalized campaign message will no longer work. In order for your message to be truly effective, you must take a cultural approach and tailor your message for your target demographic using the concept of multicultural PR.

Since the U.S. population is so diverse, one generalized campaign could exclude groups because the campaign may not be consistent with the values or lifestyle of that group. Furthermore, a generalized campaign may not come across the same way for one demographic or culture as it would for another. In essence, your message could become lost in translation, completely missing people groups that could be important to your campaign.

Some companies are beginning to realize the importance of multicultural PR and understanding the changing demographics. Kimberly-Clark recently launched a campaign taking the cultural-targeting approach. Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies and Pull-Ups “Tren de Vida” (Train of Life) campaign aims at connecting with Hispanic mothers. Efforts include face-to-face meeting at events like the Mexican Independence Day Festival, radio broadcasts and the recent launch of According to Sergio López-Miró, president of Hispanic PR, the campaign is built on the cultural experience of many Latina mothers relying on extended networks of aunt, sisters and grandmothers to help raise their children.

There’s an article entitled “PR Technique: Multicultural campaigns: the sum of the parts” by Anita Chabria that offers some great tips about multicultural PR campaigns. It is a few years old, but still very relevant today.

Here are Chabrai’s tips:

  • “Do in-depth research on the target demographic to understand cultural nuances and preferences that could impact the message.” 
  • “Do reach out to smaller publications and institutions with clout in the community, such as neighborhood papers and churches.” 
  • “Do consider using a visual theme to tie together a campaign for various minority or ethnic groups.” 
  • “Don’t assume an outsider can understand the culture. Take the time to speak with members of the group you are targeting.” 
  • “Don’t limit your placements. Especially in the youth market, kids often cross demographic lines in areas such as music and pop culture.” 
  • “Don’t underestimate the power of language – reaching out in the target group’s native tongue is critical.”

As our country continues to grow, it is vital that PR professionals think beyond the general population, and develop more culturally and lifestyle-driven campaigns.

By Brandi

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PR in the New Economy

In today’s world it’s getting harder to make ends meet. The economy is on everyone’s mind during this time of banking crises, foreclosures, high gas prices and the ever-declining value of the dollar. In this new economy, people are forced to prioritize and focus on the essentials. Corporations have to cut back to stay competitive and some would think that public relations would be one of the first to get the knife. But public relations is not a luxury in a corporation; in fact, there are many reasons why public relations is a necessity in the new economy.

Research: Public relations is vital to a company’s research. PR professionals help the company keep up with the pace of world trends. For instance, if the world becomes more involved with the green movement, the public relations department should report this to the business so they can be more alert to global trends.

Image: The public relations department is also focused on conducting research based upon the company’s image. Seeing how others view the company plays a key role in the mission and direction in which the company goes. Ultimately, it is public opinion that allows a firm to sink or swim, so businesses need every bit of help they can get on developing and maintaining a positive image with their publics.

Strategy: Along with conducting research on global trends and views of the company, public relations develops strategies. A communication plan makes a company think in the long-run. Having one-year, five-year and 10-year plans allows the overall company to project its direction, define its goals and finally achieve them. In today’s economy, having a long-range plan helps business stay on track while making changes in the present.

Crisis Management: This issue has been in the news a lot lately. As businesses have been undergoing transitions and downfalls, management has not known what or how much to say. During the recent banking crisis, some of the banks that ended up closing reported that they were doing fine until after they declared bankruptcy. Crisis management requires public relations because there is one person disseminating information, who knows how much to say, and gives a consistent message of what is actually happening.

Public relations is needed just as much today as it was in the old economy. As we progress into a new economy, we must not forget how necessary public relations is in forming our futures.

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