Tag Archives: magazine

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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Dove gets a little too fresh

Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” revolutionized the perception of beauty in the media by showing real women, and not models, in its advertisements. This decision gave the brand a great deal of publicity, and Dove has a strong image, which supports “real beauty.” The “Evolution Commercial” features a woman who goes for a photo shoot and is transformed to look completely different through hair, make-up and technology. This commercial made a statement by encouraging women to have confidence in their natural beauty, helping them to realize that images shown in the media can be fake.

Dove targets a younger audience, as well, through the “Self-esteem fund,” which teamed up with the Girl Scouts of America. Dove reports that 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem engage in negative activities, such as disordered eating, cutting, bullying, smoking or drinking when feeling bad. Another statistic that I found appalling was that 34 percent of girls with low self-esteem believe they are not a good enough daughter.

When I saw that Dove’s new campaign for its “Dove go fresh” products incorporated the television show “Gossip Girl” on The CW, I was instantly confused. “Gossip Girl” is about a group of high school girls in New York City who live a somewhat unrealistic life. The characters on the show go to a prestigious private school, wear expensive clothes, engage in scandalous activities and are absolutely beautiful.

GossipGirlInsider.com admits that the show is racy, and quotes the Boston Herald in saying that the show is “a parent’s worst nightmare.” Because of the criticism that I have heard about the television show and book series, I couldn’t link Dove and its confidence-boosting campaign with Gossip Girl. The combination didn’t make sense because television shows like Gossip Girl seem to be an example of the negative influences and false portrayals of beauty that Dove wants young girls to avoid.

The “Dove go fresh” campaign features four New York City women who are the “real gossip girls.” All four are beautiful and lead an elite lifestyle in Manhattan. So far, there are only videos posted of Chrissie Miller, a woman who started her own fashion line. Although Chrissie had struggles starting her business, she went to a prestigious prep school in New York City, which gave her an instant advantage in the big city.

The three others are Laura, who is an Ivy League student from the Upper East Side; Dani, who is a magazine’s style director (a job that allows her to travel across the globe for fashion shows and parties); and Faythallegra, who names herself as the “struggling artist.” In my opinion, Faythallegra seems to be the only one who is actually dealing with any sort of challenges that a majority of young women can relate with.

From a public relations standpoint, I don’t think that Dove made a good decision to change the perception of its brand. The “Dove go fresh” campaign does not strongly incorporate the values of its “Campaign for real beauty,” which is still running. When the “Campaign for real beauty” was first launched, a great deal of publicity followed, causing the campaign to develop into something much larger and more influential. Dove had the potential to make a positive impact on our next generation, but now that future is questionable.

by Sarah Minkel

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The Windy City Candidate

As of April 23, 2009, at 11:22 p.m. “the windy city” has 1,113,258 “friends supporting the bid” according to Chicago’s 2016 candidate city Web site.

The following is a statement also on Chicago’s 2016 candidate city Web site:
“On April 14, 2007, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) selected Chicago as the U.S. Bid City for the 2016 Games. Chicago will now compete with other international cities for the honor of being the official 2016 Host City. The final decision on which international city will host the 2016 Games will be made in October 2009.”

Chicago is one of four remaining cities in the race to host the 2016 Olympics. The other three are Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. Many are excited about the posibility of the Olympics being held in Chicago; however, some remain skeptical.

According to an article in The Firm Voice titled An Olympic Opportunity: How to Leverage an Olympic Sponsorship to Communicate Your Brand, communication specialists said the Beijing Olympics raised the bar for future Olympic sites. The panelists went on to say that with this great challenge PR professionals had unlimited opportunities, especially in the areas of digital platforms when working with clients at the Olympics.

Some think Chicago may not be able to handle the scope of the Olympics. There are many considerations to think about when hosting such a wide-scale international event. Some of these include accomodations, environment, security, venues, medical services and technology. Some of the responses to these arguments can be found in Chicago’s bid book.

Efforts to bring Chicago in good light also include a new Web site called ESPN Chicago specifically devoted to Chicago’s “sports teams, scores, stats, news, standings and rumors.” Chicago is also getting exposure since it is President Obama’s hometown. President Obama sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee President Rogge endorcing Chicago’s candidacy for the 2016 Olympis. Having Obama behind this candidacy is a great way to gain exposure on this location as well as relying on his global popularity.

Although some are still skeptical of Chicago’s ability to host the 2016 Olympics, the city is showing initial effort in preparing for the possibility. The 2016 games will not be held for another seven years so there is still time to prepare for the event, nomatter where the location will be.

-Amy Hannah Burkhalter

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Think Twice

Most people would be content for six months with a $100,000 salary and lying on an island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  With this job, you will only have to feed several hundred fish, clean the pool and check the mail.  Other days may consist of trying out the latest spas or snorkeling through coral communities.  Also offered with the position is a fully furnished three bedroom, two-bath house with no utilities to be paid.  The only real duty is to regularly blog about the island with pictures and video posts.

Tourism Queensland  is the sponsor of the latest public relations stunt to hit the Internet.  The campaign was created in hopes that the increased attention would encourage travelers to vacation to the island. Measurable tourism numbers can not be seen until later years, but interest in the “Best Job in the World” may remind tourists where they can vacation next.  The Internet was the best medium to gain attention but such a stunt may not be the best decision for all.

Publicity/PR stunts are “planned events made to gain exposure and get public’s attention”.  A celebrity’s recent romantic rendezvous, a company’s product giveaway or outrageous leaks to generate excitement about a brand are all examples of PR stunts in the recent years. 

So is a PR stunt really the best way to get the public’s attention?

No one has compiled a list of the best and worst publicity stunts. Each year brings new attention grabbers for the public to take in.

Some bloggers say Twitter is just a PR stunt for celebrities. Twitter has created followings from celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Dave Matthews and John Mayer. Current updates from celebs instantly alert followers of daily activities. Generating buzz and advertising upcoming performances, Twitter is another medium for celebrities to be talked about in the media.

Everything can go wrong, even the best laid plans.   In the news lately, the Octomom has graced every entertainment blog and has seen her way on the 24-hour news channels.  The public backlash has been one of disbelief and questioning of reproductive technology physicians.   Perhaps she hoped to gain notoriety in the entertainment business, but bad news will stay with someone forever now thanks to the Internet.

Another recent PR stunt that may have not been one of the best thought-out plans was the Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast on Feb. 3, 2009.  Anyone could get a free grand slam breakfast from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. The only catch . . . lines were an average of three hours long.  Denny’s spent millions in advertising during the Super Bowl and the following days, along with several millions more of free food across the country.  Denny’s hoped this PR stunt would generate increased business, but their plan did not work that well.  People will still eat at Waffle House and IHOP, as one free breakfast won’t change a devoted customer’s mind. 

Some public relations practitioners have debated whether or not PR stunts are a good way to build relationships with target publics.  PR stunts generate attention to the sponsoring organization but that soon dies with time.  The public may look further into the company’s products or goals, but most of the time, stunts will not garner lasting attention.

If a PR stunt is in your organization’s future, there are a few things to help ensure success as quoted by a PRWeek article:


  •  Think about how the event will reflect on the brand identity and the message it will send to consumers.    
  • Create fun and engaging visuals for the media that will look good on camera.
  • Make sure you give the media a very clear idea of what those visuals will be in advance of the event.


  • Let bad timing steal coverage. Make sure you check for conflicting news stories.
  • Aim for publicity for publicity’s sake. Be certain your event is appropriate for the client’s product or service.
  • Don’t underestimate the problems that can occur. Being prepared for the worst-case scenario is essential.

Movie production companies, restaurants and tourism boards all implement PR stunts to get people talking, but PR stunts can put your organization in the worst hall of fame.  The best advice . . . think twice.

-Julie Brown

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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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G is for Gatorade; that is NOT good enough for me!

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
– William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 2.2

No offense to Shakespeare, but I don’t think he ever studied public relations or the value of brand identity.  Nor do I think he had to watch the “G” ads.  These black and white TV commercials scroll past athletes and pop cultural icons by the likes of Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh, Muhammad Ali, Derek Jeter, the JabbaWockeeZ, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Michael Jordan and Peyton Manning while an announcer answers the question, “What is G?”  “G” is of course “gifted,” “glorious” and “golden.” Duh.

I am sure that you have all guessed correctly that these commercials clearly refer to Gatorade.  What else could “gifted,” “glorious” and “golden” mean?  And if that wasn’t enough, I know all of America is up-to-date on its pop culture and American history.  The JabbaWockeez won MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos are infamous for their salutes protesting racial inequality during the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.  And if anything is going to fuel consumption of a sports drink after exhausting physical activity, it is these figures.

In my personal opinion, Gatorade wasted its money on these ads.  In no way does this commercial reflect the hydrating, vitamin-filled, flavorful qualities that we have come to identify with the blue-sweating, turbo jet running athletes in its past commercials.  And I’m not alone in this line of thinking.  John Swansburg wrote in his blog post on Slate, “It’s as if Gatorade execs had thrown everything they’d read was cool these days into a pot and stirred. Viral campaign: check. Hip-hop dance crew: check. Lil Wayne: check. Barack Obama: check.” 

Gatorade is a sports drink and its main consumer is athletes.  So how do pictures of Obama in a suit or dancers in masks inspire heart pounding activity after which Gatorade is necessary?  It doesn’t.  Now, I’m not saying its older commercials such as, telling consumers about its conception at the University of Florida or showing athletes performing rigorous activity, were breathtakingly original.  But at least we knew what they were when they aired.  What is ‘G’?

My friend, Sam, just summed it up like this, “It actually discouraged me from getting Gatorade, because I didn’t want to get anything with just a ‘G’ on it.  I didn’t know what it was.  So I just got one of the old bottles of Gatorade….But for real are the ‘G’ bottles special Gatorade or normal Gatorade?”


-Jarrett Cocharo

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Public Relations for Africa


What thoughts come to your mind when you see that word? AIDS…Orphans…Poverty? Those were the images that used to come to my mind. The pictures we normally see in mass media portray a negative image of Africa. Mocha Club is trying to change that.

Mocha Club is a nonprofit organization that works to raise and deliver aid to Africa. It supports six different projects: child mothers, education, HIV/AIDS, job creation, Sudan regrowth and orphan care. On December 1, 2008, Mocha Club launched the “I Need Africa” campaign. The goal is to change the public’s view of the continent by showing the joy the African people have—through a public relations campaign.

The interesting thing is how Mocha Club did it. A few weeks prior to the campaign, Mocha Club members were asked to blog about what Africa meant to them. The goal was to start a new conversation using social media. Barrett Ward, Mocha Club director, started the conversation. He said, “It’s true, there are great tragedies playing out in Africa every day, suffering that’s unimaginable. But the truth is, in Africa I find hearts full of victory. I’m not saying Africa does not need our efforts. But for me, I’ve come to understand that I need Africa more than Africa needs me. It’s Africa that has taught me that possessions in my hands will never be as valuable as peace in my heart.” Almost 100 people blogged about the campaign before it started. On Dec. 1, a shirt was put on sale to promote the campaign and raise money.

Since the start of the campaign, more than 1,000 people have purchased the shirt and $50,000 has been raised.

Africa. What do you see now?

– Melinda Williams

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