Monthly Archives: February 2011

Does Calvin Klein know PR? Part One

by Aman Judge

CK One, ring a bell anyone?

Taking full advantage of one of its most successful campaigns from the 1990s, Calvin Klein is revamping its approach to the consumer. CK One, the name of its most popular unisex fragrance, may soon become a global digital campaign.

Since the early 1990s, Calvin Klein’s image has suffered. This can be attributed to the unimpressive advertisements that were put out. With the popularity of sensual ads during this time, Calvin Klein’s ads were “lost in the fog.

In an attempt to appeal to a younger consumer and to regain popularity throughout the world, Calvin Klein is taking this brand to the next level. This time, the Calvin Klein brand is assuring that they get it right.

The company is approaching the campaign with digital media and the younger generation in mind. Not only has the brand created cell phone applications and advertisements, but it will also be utilizing social media to the fullest.

Klein is turning to what has worked for years in the PR field: two-way communication. With this implementation of social media, Calvin Klein will allow customers to interact more with the brand. They can put up video of themselves and talk about the brand on the CK One website. Customers can also interact on other social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Ren Ren and Weibo, which are popular in China, are utilized for international customers. Most importantly, the campaign engages consumers by having cast members, who are Calvin Klein representatives, propose questions on the website and social media outlets.

These tactics exemplify public relations at its best. The campaign prompts consumers to attract new customers by sharing their positive experiences. Not only will Calvin Klein continue its traditional avenues of advertisement, it is taking advantage of new avenues and creating an integrated marketing campaign.

The only thing to do now is to wait until the campaign is launched to see if Klein utilizes these avenues properly. After March 1, we will find out if Klein actually embraces this two-way communication, even if it isn’t always positive.



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PR ethics: “With great power comes great responsibility”

By Megan Cotton

Ethics in public relations has always been a hot topic without black and white answers, only shades of gray. To provide an open discussion on this topic, The Plank Center hosted a Webinar, “Ethics in PR Education,” on Feb. 23, 2011, in which the panelists provided their advice on teaching students the importance of ethical practice.

The shared theme of the professionals’ advice: the best way to teach ethics is through real-world examples. All the panelists spoke of using case studies, current events or decision-making exercises to show students the importance of being ethical in the public relations field.

One panelist, Kevin Saghy, a public relations and marketing specialist for the Chicago Cubs, discussed research about how students like to learn. He said results overwhelmingly showed:
• Real world examples trump theory when explaining ethics.
• Students value honesty and transparency in the classroom.
• Students’ main fear is saying “no” to management.

Saghy said none of the students mentioned codes of ethics like the PRSA’s, and he suggests that professionals and students keep these codes handy. These codes provide a secondary source of advice when stuck in a dilemma. He said they back you up in situations when you have a disagreement with management.

“It’s not your word versus his anymore,” Saghy said, concerning the use of a code of ethics in situations when you have to tell management no.

Kathy Fitzpatrick, a professor at Quinnipiac University, outlined her 14-week course on ethics and discussed a few teaching techniques she’s found that work:
• Encourage open discussion
• Use case simulations/decision making exercises
• Do case analyses
• Discuss current events
• Include some lectures (it is a class after all)

“I always let the students know that their voices count,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve always found it’s important to raise more questions than provide answers.”

As a senior graduating in May, I’ve never taken a course devoted exclusively to ethics in public relations. I’ve discussed current events and worked on case studies for assignments, but it would have been valuable to devote an entire semester to one of the oldest problems in public relations.

As our field and world become increasingly digital, universities work to keep up, adding social media classes that teach the PR functions of Twitter, blogs and smartphones to students. But I can’t help but think what Spiderman — yes, Spiderman — lives by, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

What is the point of learning all these great tools if you don’t also learn the importance of being responsible? In 2006, Edelman, a highly respected PR firm, found itself in a scandal that involved allegedly paying employees to blog on a pro-Walmart platform. So, if a trusted firm can make a mistake with the power technology gives us, how are individuals going to know when to draw the ethical line?

As panelist Dr. Shannon Bowen of the University of Syracuse said for PR professionals, reputation and relationships are intertwined, and trust is central to maintaining them.

Universities should require courses in which students discuss ethics and learn from professional examples what they should or shouldn’t do. Keeping credibility and trust in our field is key and should be the top priority of all public relations’ programs.


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Pauly D Does NOT Approve This Message

By Hannah McDaniel

The current generation of consumers is unlike any other. Generation Y does not know how to handle positive reinforcement, and most of us respond best to negative criticism. We are fine with product placement — but do not tell us what to buy. It’s about time major corporations grasped this strategy as a way of communication.

Kraft Foods launched a Miracle Whip campaign Tuesday that embodies both sides. The advertisements embrace argumentation, blast their product, and then ask the consumer to judge for themselves.

The results have been overwhelmingly positive: lovers currently outweigh haters nine to one.

And to top it off, Gen-Y superstar Pauly D from MTV’s “Jersey Shore” makes several appearances throughout the campaign.

Kraft created a campaign using social media as a forum for its debate. On Miracle Whip’s YouTube page, consumers can share their testimonials of the product. Users can also request a free sample of the “not so mayo” sandwich spread.

On its Facebook page,  Miracle Whip asks lovers to share their love of the spread in exchange for a coupon.

But Kraft isn’t the first to use criticism as a means of advertisement.

Domino’s Pizza has been using this tactic for months now. Its campaign features photos of visually unsatisfying pizzas (sent in by consumers), focus groups that blast its former pizza recipe and commercials of hunted-down consumers trying its new pizza.

As a result, Domino’s Pizza stock continues to rise, growing from its lowest point in over a year from $10.29 (June 2010), to its highest point just a few days ago at $17.55.

Thus far, Miracle Whip’s social media campaign allows the company to gauge its consumers for next to nothing, cost-wise. Plus, the two-way communication created from the campaign allows its patrons to be heard.

Public relations practitioners should take note of the success of Kraft and Domino’s. We are trained to toot our own horn. Kraft and Domino’s, however, are letting their customers do it for them. This strategy creates a more credible brand, reinforcing their reputations for quality. Most importantly, their clients feel like they matter.

What other brands have used unconventional tactics as a way to increase sales?


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Plan to Plan.

By: Victoria Corley

How much tangible knowledge can anyone pick up from reading a book, listening to a lecture or even studying for a test? Not too much. In a field such as public relations, it is vital for students to have hands-on experience with clients, creating work that can be used in the real world. Upon taking a public relations writing class, I was a bit naive about the world of PR. I now know how painstaking the field can be!

Aside from learning how to navigate through the PR bible (aka The AP Stylebook) and learning what tone to use when writing content for a media pitch, I have discovered a very important fact about public relations: It’s all about planning.

From graphs and timelines to budgets and media contact lists, public relations is more than just an event or a story featured in a magazine. Yes, you would think that I would have already known that, but the concept of planning is nothing like the actual work that goes into it.

I really began to understand what planning entailed when I first met with Nick Patterson, the director of communications for the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA). While in a PR writing class, I created a mock PR campaign for the BMA.

The first thing Patterson told me about his job was the enormous amount of planning that it took to work with media. Patterson begins planning four months in advance, whether it be for a graphic design, an event or even content published in the museum’s newsletter.

I was stunned when he told me this . . . four months? In our classes we learn that time is valuable in PR, but Patterson talked of time as if it were gold.

After working on the requirements for my campaign, I realized that four months are nothing, and that there are so many meticulous details that go into making any PR project successful.

Stephen Davis, a communications consultant based out of the UK, recently posted “12 Steps to a Successful PR Campaign” on his professional blog. Davis’ steps are a great resource to follow when working on any part of a PR campaign.

No matter how well you write a press release or compile a media list, planning is key to effective PR. Even though schedules are made and are usually subject to change, planning ahead will help you maintain your tactics while reaching your main goals and objectives for the campaign.

Gilbert K. Chesterton once said, “You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion,” and after a very stressful semester spent in my PR writing class, I learned that in PR you can’t plan a campaign in only two weeks.

As Rachel Meranus, vice president of communications at PR Newswire, explained, “Planning your PR strategy now will not only help generate new ideas and opportunities for you and your business to shine, it’ll give you peace of mind in your day-to-day operations.”

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It’s the people, stupid

By Katy Echols

There once was a boy named Jim Porter who was journeying from Oklahoma City to Memphis. Upon arriving at the airport, he walked up to a kiosk and scanned his driver’s license to print his ticket. This failed to work. He then pulled out his BlackBerry and spent several minutes connecting to the airport’s network. After sorting through spam and forwards of inspirational videos in his inbox, he found his flight confirmation and punched the number into the kiosk. Thankfully, it produced a ticket.

A flustered and somewhat late Jim proceeded to the security line. After spending several minutes in line, using the time to watch his inspirational videos, Jim reached the security guard who informed him that the name on his ticket did not match the one on his license. Jim glanced at his ticket, which apparently belonged to a Jam Potter. He wasn’t Jam!

Jim, newly Jam, went back to the check-in desk and spurted out a demand for a correct ticket along with some unkind words. The ticket lady angrily went through her files and corrected the error at the price of countless identity checks, usernames, passwords and of course, time. Saucily reminding Jim to be a more mindful typist, the lady handed him his new ticket.

Cursing the guard and his sloppy typing, Jim ran back through security (as quickly as the line would allow) and missed his flight. Luckily, he still had his handy BlackBerry to update everyone that his flight would be “delayed” and to tweet how much he hated flying.

That same day, across the airport, a girl named Lucy was leaving Oklahoma City for Houston. She walked towards her check-in counter and was greeted by a man in uniform with a broad smile. The man asked her name, and for courtesy’s sake, how she was doing. He swiftly printed her ticket without fuss, kinks or passwords then pointed her toward security, adding that she would be departing from gate ten.

A happy Lucy went through security and grabbed a coffee, a magazine and a pack of gum. Sitting at her gate, she did not dwell on her hectic day full of multiple flights. She simply enjoyed an article on finding the perfect pair of jeans.

So what is the point of these anecdotes? They would usually seem commonplace and transpire without notice. However, they remind me of a significant fact the world seems to be forgetting—a fact we as PR practitioners would be wise to remember—it’s about the people!

Human interaction is crucial.

So much of our world is controlled by technology. In the world of PR there is a particular emphasis on “keeping up with the Joneses” in regard to technological trends. While that emphasis is important, it loses its meaning if we forget the bottom line: we have to care about people.

It seems that everything has to be faster, easier and louder to catch the public’s attention. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, constant e-mails, smart phones, Bluetooth—it’s chaotic! But the truth is that in the rush of this electronic mess, simple human interaction can have a more significant impact than a billion tweets.

You see, while Jim was busy with his scanning and e-mails and confirmation numbers, no one took the time to simply serve him. Lucy was treated like a human being and in the end, she was happier and so were the workers.

We have to keep this concept in mind as we make decisions to reach and influence our publics. I guarantee that one meaningful person-to-person conversation can have a greater impact than a tweet that perhaps hundreds will see.

A recent study by the University of Michigan supports this idea. It discovered that college-aged students today are less capable of understanding and sharing feelings with others. This decline likely correlates with the rise of digital interactions. As empathy wanes, so does trust. Screen-only interactions tend to breed feelings of isolation and distrust.

If this is the case with relationships from person to person, I would venture to say that it is also the case from people to companies.

If we want to build meaningful relationships with our publics and gain their trust, we have to do more than connect with them digitally. We are in an age of perpetual electronic connectedness, but people seem more disconnected than ever. Human interaction is the only solution for this.

All this human interaction may seem like a tall order if you consider all your publics, but focusing this concept internally and moving outward is a good way to start.

I would like to conclude by recognizing the irony of this blog and its electronic nature. There will likely be tweets in its honor—irony duly noted.

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Eat What You Preach: Looking the Part

By Katherine Baker

Consider this scenario: You walk into a hair salon with high hopes of looking like a supermodel the minute you walk out the door. The first woman you see glances at you and says, “Oh hi, I’m Marcy, and I’ll be doing your hair today.” Sounds lovely, right?

But, there is a problem. Marcy looks like she has the entire amount of grease from a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder smeared over her head. Her hair salon immediately falls to the bottom of your rankings.

Now, consider this scenario: The gym near your neighborhood just had its grand opening. Now you’re ready to give it a try and get those killer abs you’ve always wanted. You decide to take a kickboxing class. Again, sounds great, right?

Wrong. Your instructor looks like he could be a contestant on the “Biggest Loser” and is more out of breath than you are throughout the class.

No one wants to use a hair salon where the workers don’t appear to keep their own hair clean. Just as no one wants to go to an exercise class where the teacher is more out of shape than he is.

These examples may seem a bit extreme, but would you really want to go to either of these places after having a similar experience? I don’t think so.

Looking the part is crucial for successful day-to-day public relations.

In Cynthia’s Health & Weight Loss blog, the author shares her feelings about gyms that have employees who don’t appear healthy. “As an expert in the field of health, [if] you’re going to inspire me and others to get healthy, then the least you can do is play your part and get healthy yourself.”

When you look the part in your field, it is automatically good PR for yourself and your company.

Cynthia’s blog re-emphasizes this point. “For me, it is hugely important and [I] couldn’t imagine how anyone can expect to be taken seriously when they don’t embody what they’re promoting.”

Anyone, whether in the PR field or not, should always try to look the part for public relations’ sake. Everyone should be wary of bad PR— it happens easily if you’re not careful.

Looking the part is one of the easiest things you can do to promote yourself and a great image for your company.

Just remember when you take your next job as a dietitian, be sure to eat what you preach.

Have you ever been in a scenario like the ones described? Could that person have promoted his company better by looking the part?

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Ted Leonsis: The New Approach to Sports PR

By Wesley Vaughn

Ted Leonsis’ sports franchises compete with opposing teams on the court and on the ice throughout their respective seasons, but even though they belong to two different professional sporting leagues, they each share a common competitor: the local newspaper.

For Leonsis, who is the majority owner of the Washington Wizards of the NBA and the Washington Capitals of the NHL, that newspaper is the Washington Post.

Speaking to the editors of The Post , he warned, “I think it’s something that you need to internalize: that we’re our own media company.”

Both the Wizards and the Capitals now employ personnel to produce their own video and radio programming and bloggers to create original online content. In addition, Leonsis regularly updates his own blog, as well as his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“I think this new media is like oxygen. Get used to it,” he said, again speaking to The Post. “I think that there is no more steering wheel in the hand of The Washington Post.”

For a newspaper that in 2009 had to cut its daily business section and search for voluntary staff buyouts, having its stronghold as the major source for D.C. professional sports threatened is a gut shot. But, losing the beat to the beat itself, now that is just crushing.

Recognizing that this battle is waged online, Leonsis has already taken steps to conquer Google.

“When someone goes to find out something about me or a team or a player, and they go to Google and they type that in, I want to learn how to get the highest on the list, and I’ve done that,” he said. “I don’t want The Washington Post to get the most clicks. I want the most clicks.”

Fans and followers can’t expect hard-hitting pieces or critical editorials from the team-employed media members. However, Leonsis’ unique involvement offers something no normal sports media can provide. That is a personal relationship with the owner, which includes honesty, explanations and apologies directly from the front office.

“When we make a mistake, I try to own up to it on my blog. When there is something good, I try to communicate it on my blog,” he wrote in a January blog post. “Transparency has kind of set us free. It is liberating. I trust that people empathize and know that we will try to do what is right.”

Demonstrating his close connection to fans, Leonsis answered e-mail requests for more Dippin’ Dots flavors and cup holders on urinals in the Verizon Center Arena.

Both stories were handled and covered internally; this effectively created a two-way street between fans and the front office. Without the media as middlemen, Leonsis has minimized the chance of negative coverage.

The response from fans on blogs and in Web comments has been nothing short of positive, even though the Wizards have struggled this year.

This PR strategy is only possible with the resources that Leonsis indeed possesses, but there are many other sports franchises that most certainly have the capability of following his lead. Sports PR practitioners must salivate over the thought of working for an owner such as Leonsis. He understands the industry, plays a supporting role and puts a friendly face on his franchises.

Most sports owners have refused to become public figures and have not realized that the local newspaper doesn’t have to be a barrier to reach fans. Leonsis’ methods could be the advent of a new approach to sports PR, one in which teams act as their own news media.

The implications for sports journalists are not so dreamy – much more nightmarish, really. Newspapers continue to look for financial support, while sports teams can begin to build their own media empires.

“I used to live in mortal fear about what you would write,” Leonsis told The Post in a televised talk. “Now, I don’t care.”

Ironically, in the same city and in regards to the same newspaper, Washington Redskins Owner Dan Snyder is suing for libel. Maybe other owners haven’t read the memo yet.

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