Monthly Archives: March 2009

A Schicky Situation

I woke up on a lazy Sunday morning and turned on the TV to one of my guilty pleasures, the Style Network. During the first commercial break I got up to get some water. When I returned, my friend had the TV paused and her jaw had dropped to the floor. “You have got to see this commercial,” she said.

The commercial she was referring to was the new Schick Quattro for Women TrimStyle. I watched in awe as the commercial played. Throughout the commercial, women walk past various bushes. As the women pass a bush, it transforms from a larger plant to a chiseled work of art. Each final product was different, indicating the different shaving preferences women have. I was shocked and slightly sickened by the comparison.

I immediately began to consider what Schick was thinking by allowing this ad to run on national television when my friend said, “That’s terrible. I’m going to buy one, but that’s terrible.” Her honesty really made me think. Sure, this commercial can come off extremely offensive to some. But how far are PR professionals willing to allow advertisers go to set themselves and their products apart from the competition?

When I think of women’s razor commercials, the first one that pops into my head is the catchy tune on Gillette’s Venus. These commercials depict women with silky legs relaxing around a pool. There are usually feminine colors flying around and it is obviously catered to a female audience.

The new Schick Quattro TrimStyle has set itself apart by not only focusing on the legs of a woman, but it also has a double-sided design for use on the legs and the bikini line.When Schick was approached with the time to set the image for this product, it did not go with a happy, feminine and colorful approach. It pushed the boundaries and went for something a little more shocking.

This was especially true for its PR launch of the new TrimStyle design. On December 8, 2008, Schick invited over 40 beauty and style editors to “free their spirits and intuitions” for an evening at the Luxe Laboratory. The evening featured guest host Barbara Biziou and her stress relieving tips and concluded with burlesque performer Veronica Varlow demonstrating the art of self confidence and teaching “seductive tricks of the trade.”

Schick is obviously focusing on the sex appeal of the woman. It wants to make a woman feel her sexiest because of its product. But what about this commercial actually provides sex appeal? It definitely promotes a negative connotation associated with the bikini area of a woman. I don’t agree with using such a nickname to sell a product. The women in this commercial appear to be beautiful, confident women. It is possible that Schick wants us to believe its product has increased their confidence.

The public relations professionals at Schick, if consulted, took a risk with this commercial. I have spoken with numerous people who believe that the shock factor behind the commercial is a good thing. It is memorable and much different from other razor commercials. The reasons that it stands out could also be reasons for which this commercial is viewed negatively. I know I am not the only woman slightly offended by this commercial. With that said, I am very interested to know how this commercial affects the sales and image of Schick.

I must admit that although the commercial struck me in an odd way, I plan on purchasing a TrimStyle. Hopefully bushes won’t change shape as I walk by.

-Dianna Duffy

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Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

How’s everything going? From the looks of the Facebook blog, I wouldn’t say it’s going well. Let me just give you a few highlights from the war zone.

  • “Thank you so much for these changes. I now have even less reason to come to Facebook.” -Karen
  • “Seriously, How can Facebook remain silent in the face of 94% displeasure with the redesign?” -Tanzil
  • “If 90% of McDonald’s customers didn’t like the new Big Mac, they’d change it back. Come on Facebook, learn from New Coke. Admit an error and give us classic Facebook back.” -Ben

And there are approximately 14,000 more comments where those came from.

I returned from spring break on Saturday to see your new design. I must admit, I had to do a double take to make sure I wasn’t logged on Twitter. It seems you redesigned Facebook to oust your competition. But with 75 million users, I don’t see how Twitter’s two million can be considered competition. Some could even see this decision as a retaliation against Twitter for not allowing you to buy the company with $500 million in cash and stocks back in November.

It’s clear that the masses you serve aren’t happy with the latest changes. Besides the 14,000 comments I browsed through on the Facebook blog, your users have created a new application to vote on the new design. The result? Over one million users voted AGAINST the new Facebook, and 560,000 of them left negative comments.

From the reports I’ve read online, it seems your own employees aren’t happy with the new look either, but you don’t seem to be listening to them. Owen Thomas from Valleywag wrote an article entitled Even Facebook Employees Hate the Redesign. Read this excerpt from the article:

The feedback on Facebook’s new look, which emphasizes a stream of Twitter-like status updates, is almost universally, howlingly negative. Why isn’t CEO Mark Zuckerberg listening to users? Because he doesn’t have to, he’s told employees.

A tipster tells us that Zuckerberg sent an email to Facebook staff reacting to criticism of the changes: “He said something like ‘the most disruptive companies don’t listen to their customers.’”

Really, Mark? Is that what you think? Because your public relations people are telling us “Facebook is attentively listening to user feedback.” You obviously have a public relations nightmare on your hands. Truthfully, I’m not exactly sure how you’re going to handle it. But Facebook users are not going to become magically satisfied overnight.

Perhaps Joe, a commenter on your blog, said it best. “How much negative feedback before you rethink this decision?”

Since its founding in December of 2004, Facebook has pioneered social media usage. With the additions of photo albums, applications and status updates, you have remained at the forefront, but as you drastically change the layout you are only doing a disservice to your site, your users and yourself. Before the recent change, Facebook had its own identity in the social media world that set it apart from its competitors. I suggest capitalizing on Facebook’s unique identity by restoring its prior layout, thus satisfying its users and maintaining its superiority above the rest.

Sincerely,
Kayla Anthony

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Beefing Up Social Media

Every five seconds someone writes online about McDonald’s. From a public relations practitioner’s point of view, that could seem almost impossible to manage. On Feb. 20, 2009, I attended the Real World PR Conference sponsored by the Georgia PRSA. I was able to hear Heather Oldani, director of U.S. communications for McDonald’s, discuss the company’s efforts to create an online social media presence.

Its debut was a YouTube promotion for the honey mustard snack wrap in February 2007. It has since branched out with Web sites encouraging user participation.

When launching the Southern Style Chicken Biscuit nationwide, McDonald’s made a Web site. Site visitors can create a dance-off between a chicken and an egg to battle it out and decide what came first. Personally, I found it quite entertaining to make a chicken do hip-hop on the beach (I beat the egg). It also incorporated Dance Like a Chicken Day, May 14, into the campaign. The Web site had 150,000 unique visitors and 45,000 dance-offs. It was the topic of 1,500 blogs and prompted 11,000 online discussions.

The Big Mac recently celebrated its 40th birthday. As part of the celebration, McDonald’s created a MySpace page and invited users to remix the Big Mac Chant (two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun). More than 1,000 entries were submitted, and the winner’s remix was featured in a national advertisement. McDonald’s also held a 40th birthday party at Project Beach House in Malibu. There was a cake made to look like a Big Mac, and celebrities like Kim and Khloe Kardashian and Serena Williams attended. The party produced 500 online and blog placements and 244 million media impressions.

The public has questioned the quality of McDonald’s food for a while. To combat this, it targeted the 46 million moms who are online. In 2007, McDonald’s created the Mom’s Quality Correspondents Program. It had 4,500 moms apply to the program and chose six to invite into the McDonald’s kitchens and suppliers’ facilities, and to meet with its nutritionists. The moms write uncensored, online journals about their trips and even answer questions from other visitors to the site. The Web site has had more than 83,000 unique visitors with an average of six and half minutes spent looking around the site. More than 15,000 people have signed up for the Quality Community.

McDonald’s has been successful in gaining participation from its customers. It has used fun contests and events to create buzz and gain publicity. The Mom’s Quality Correspondents Program started a dialogue about the concerns of many moms when feeding their families. The Vitrue 100 ranked McDonald’s 32 out of the top 100 social brands of 2008. McDonald’s must be lovin’ it.

-Melinda Williams

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Beijing’s Olympic-Size Public Relations Campaign

Four months before the largest sporting event for athletes with disabilities was held in Beijing, China, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake devastated the Sichuan province 930 miles away from the nation’s capitol. While emergency workers flooded the area to assist in the recovery and treatment of the thousands injured, construction workers were putting the finishing touches on the Bird’s Nest, Water Cube and other venues that would host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“Two Games, Equal Splendor” was Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games’ (BOCOG) motto for the 2008 Paralympics. Past Paralympic Games had been greatly overshadowed by the Olympics, which are held two weeks before, but BOCOG sought to produce a Paralympics that stayed true to its founders’ ambition: to create a sporting event for elite athletes with physical disabilities parallel to the Olympics.

BOCOG’s mission though was far greater than putting on an equally stupendous show. They sought to use the arrival of the Paralympics as a public relations campaign to develop China’s relationship with its extremely large and seemingly hidden disabled population.

According to an article on Reuters, there are nearly one million registered disabled people living in the Chinese capital with another estimated 81 million, roughly the population of Germany, in the rest of the country.

“In the vast and poor countryside, no more than two percent of people who need such aids get them,” the director of the China Disabled People’s Equipment Development Centre, Xu Xiaoming, said.

While BOCOG could not solve all of the problems of China’s disabled community, they sought to create a barrier-free Beijing and to include people with disabilities in the preparation and promotion of the Games. According to a People’s Daily Online article, Beijing invested 600 million yuan (about 88 million U.S. dollars) to install and improve accessible facilities. Public awareness campaigns were organized, and in Beijing, more than 5,000 residents with disabilities were recruited as community supervisors to check whether accessible facilities functioned well.

Partnerships were also made between Chinese middle schools and national Paralympic committees to educate the students about the Paralympic movement and spread the Games’ message of “Transcendence, Integration and Equality.”

I had the privilege to witness the “equal splendor” first hand as an athlete at the Games and feel a personal connection with the images of this campaign. I saw jumbotrons nestled next to ancient temples and promotional banners scaling skyscrapers. I saw the passion of the Chinese people and the pride they had for their country. In return, the people saw me as an athlete solely and surrounded me with awestruck expressions and outstretched autograph books.

One of the most memorable images of the Paralympic Games was of 11-year-old Li Yue. Dressed in a sparkling pink tutu, she sat upon the shoulders of Lu Meng, China’s prince of ballet, and performed to Ravel’s Bolero in the opening ceremonies. Yue had been at school the day of the Sichuan earthquake four months earlier and was trapped for 70 hours beneath the rubble. Now she performed before an audience of millions bridging the gap between the disabled and able-bodied community with her single red ballet slipper.

Two days after the closing of the Paralympic Games, Beijing’s factories were running at full production and both odd and even numbered licensed cars were on the road. Beijing was getting back to its normal schedule, and critics worried that meant reverting back to its old habits. Six months after the Beijing Games, amidst an economic crsis, people fear that Beijing’s boom has gone bust. More importantly, I am unsure if the barrier-free Beijing still exists. With a lack of follow-up material, few outside of China know.

– Mary Allison Milford

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Personal Branding: Your Online Image

We’ve all seen those candid profile pictures that are less than flattering. The low cut shirt. An alcoholic beverage in hand. But what we may not realize is future employers are seeing those pictures online and thinking how unprofessional we look when we are out for a night on the town. They view our pictures as a rating of our quality and worth as a potential employee.

With the economy in shambles, I recently began brainstorming on how I could set myself apart from the typical college graduate applying for the work force. I started browsing books and blogs about personal branding. Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0, has a Web site dedicated solely to the idea of using yourself as your main tool for success. Think of it as creating a public relations plan for yourself.

So where can you get started with personal branding? I found a helpful blog by Rachel Esterline who started her personal branding with her online image. After reading Rachel’s blog, Using Avatars, I began thinking how important it is to create a brand for myself, starting with my profile picture. So, I visited the site she mentioned – http://en.gravatar.com/.

According to the Web site, a gravatar, or globally recognized avatar, is simply an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things. Avatars are most popular in helping identify your posts on blogs and Web forums. It works by connecting the image you upload on their Web site to all sites that are gravatar enabled, thus giving you a consistent image with all online media. I decided to try it for myself. Below are the steps I took to create my gravatar and embark on my personal branding journey.

Steps: 

  • Visit Web site: http://en.gravatar.com/
  • Sign up for a gravatar (You can use your existing WordPress account information!)
  • Upload an image that you want to represent yourself online. Choose a picture that is clean and looks professional, but not unhappy or ominous. You can upload multiple pictures and organize them so they are only used on certain sites. Here is the picture I uploaded:

Upload Picture

  • Activate plugins for gravatar enabled Web sites, such as WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal and many others. For Web sites that aren’t compatible with gravatar, you can construct a URL to link back to your gravatar. Here are the changes that took place with the blogs and social media sites I am active with:

picture-11

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  • Stay active in social media and begin your personal branding online today!

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