Tag Archives: Megan Reichenbach

Will SOPA curtail creativity?

by Megan Reichenbach

The Stop Online Piracy Act (also known as the Protect IP Act in the Senate) is a new initiative copyright owners are taking to “isolate and shut down websites or online services found with infringing content.”

Should we be worried?

SOPA’s primary goals seem to be legitimate, giving those artists the money they deserve for work that is being displayed online by others. The problem is that this bill has been reworked and now includes a requirement for pre-screening all user-contributed content.

In essence, we are looking at a future of broad Internet censorship . . . aka, changing the entire nature of what the Internet has become. Some even believe this act to be the “Great Firewall of America.”

The beginning

In late October 2011, the House of Representatives introduced a bill that would extend our federal government’s ability to stop foreign sites from using pirated content developed by U.S. businesses. This includes websites that steal music, videos and software from U.S. corporations.

As I noted, the initial purpose of the bill seemed reasonable. Many people illegally download music, films and television series rather than paying the 99 cents to download from iTunes. In reality, such stinginess is leaving those music producers and filmmakers with empty pockets.

It’s estimated that Hollywood studios and record labels are losing up to a $135 billion a year from piracy alone.

But, eradicating domain names all together may “disrupt the way the Internet is designed to work today and put too much of a burden on search engines and Internet service providers in blocking suspected sites.”

The SOPA buzz

It’s no secret that SOPA has been the ongoing gossip in the cyber world. The bill suggests that those individuals and companies that publish about or link to others’ works may be accused of piracy.

This would include all of us who retweet, post or even write about another person’s publication. According to an infographic on Mashable.com, “sites you visit may be blocked, email providers may be forced to censor certain links you send or receive” and “the links and content you share on social networks will be carefully monitored and possibly censored.”

I just have one question . . . where are my privacy rights?

A threat to our future?

SOPA also threatens the future of job searching and innovation through online techniques. Sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have recently been job searchers’ platforms for getting their names into the industry market.

Unlike traditional resume builders, LinkedIn, a professional social media site, allows individuals to offer links to personal sites such as Twitter and Facebook accounts, upload professional résumés and add photos to your profile.

Are we all going to have to resort back to the simple résumés built on Microsoft Word? This limit on creativity could be the catalyst for never getting that dream job.

Those of us searching for a job in this ever-so-difficult market need to have the ability to put our names out there in ways that show off our individuality. The sites Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have given us that opportunity.

In retaliation to the serious risk the bill is imposing, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo and Zynga sent a letter to the U.S. Congress voicing their concerns.

These companies respect the goal of enforcing additional tactics to combat illegitimate copyright and counterfeit sites. But, they urge the legislators to “preserv[e] the innovation and dynamism that [have] made the Internet such an important driver of economic growth and job creation.”

Instead of tweeting about Kourtney Kardashian’s recent pregnancy announcement or who will play in the national college football championship, maybe we should all be concerned with the direction the Internet is going. Are all of our posts, tweets and blog postings going to be accused of counterfeit?

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Filed under Career, Ethics

National Competitors: Behind the scenes or over the line?

by Megan Reichenbach, editor

We all have those products that are a go-to while doing our usual weekly grocery run. For me, I immediately pick up the Kashi cereal over Special K, Diet Coke rather than Diet Pepsi and Tide cleaning products over the generic Publix brand.

We all develop a loyalty to preferred brands, leaving those companies to thrive because we are immediately drawn away from their competitors.

But, this does not mean that those competitors impacted by our purchases are not finding ways for loyal buyers to divert from their usual purchases. Brands such as Coca-Cola and PC Windows 7 have been blatantly attacked in national television commercials through media manipulation and comparison advertising.

Media manipulation is defined as “an aspect of public relations in which partisans create an image or argument that favors their particular interests.”

Comparison advertising is a “promotional technique in which the advertiser claims the superiority of its product over competing products by direct or indirect comparison.”

Companies have been using manipulation and comparison advertising in recent television commercials in order to divert attention from a competitor’s brand to their own.

Santa Claus: the legendary Coca-Cola icon

The Coca-Cola and PepsiCo rivalry is still one of the oldest, most publicized product rivalries in America. In the summer of 2011, PepsiCo took the competition to the next level by stealing Coca-Cola’s most iconic symbol, Santa Claus, in its “Summer Time is Pepsi Time” commercials.

“The commercial stars a short-sleeved Santa who does the unthinkable and deliberately picks Pepsi-Cola over Coke – because he’s on ‘vacation’,” Fiona Roberts said in a July 2011 MailOnline article.

Usually competition shown on television is behind the lines, but this commercial specifically got me thinking . . . Is this blatant strategy even ethical?

According to the Businessihub article, “Comparative advertising: Ethical mode of increasing the brand image,” comparative advertising has been begging the question of whether this marketing strategy is ethical.

The PepsiCo commercial clearly overshadows Coca-Cola’s ownership of the Santa Claus icon, giving it a more enjoyable connotation by partnering the concept of Santa drinking Pepsi with the idea of summer vacation. Can PepsiCo really overshadow the entire idea of the Santa Claus icon that Coca-Cola began in the first place? According to a Businessihub post, “overshadowing a brand to increase the market penetration for one brand is considered as an unethical process by many.”

After watching the “Summertime is Pepsi Time” commercial for the first time, I was shocked by PepsiCo’s use of such blatant competitive attacks. According to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, “the intent and connotation of the ad should be to inform and never to discredit or unfairly attack competitors, competing products or services.”

In the 2011 commercial, PepsiCo failed to inform consumers of its product, and instead created its main focus around Santa choosing the Pepsi product over Coca-Cola.

Steve Job’s invention of Apple – PC’s worst nightmare

On its website, Apple describes the act of buying a PC Windows 7 as a purchase downgrade because obtaining an Apple product has the potential to “upgrade your entire computer experience.”

While browsing the Apple site, you constantly run into claims that the Apple computers are a far better choice than a PC: “It has features you won’t find on a PC. So from the outside in, a Mac is designed to be a better computer.”

In a series of the “Get a Mac” television commercials starring actor Justin Long (seen in films such as Jeepers Creepers, Dodgeball and Live Free or Die Hard), the Mac computer is repeatedly suggested to be a far better choice of a computer.

According to a PCWorld Article, “the commercials pinned a nerdy-looking, suit-wearing John Hodgman as a PC against a younger and supposedly cooler Justin Long as a Mac.” Through the use of a celebrity endorsement the commercial is using comparison advertising. The Apple industry is clearly implying that Mac users are essentially “cooler” than those who use a PC.

The “Get a Mac” commercials raise the ethical question of whether the stereotypes depicted are even true. According to a CNN news article, a survey by Hunch suggests that Mac users can be seen as “elitists or more pretentious.” I find it to be a far-fetched claim that using a specific brand of a computer can actually change you as a person; a computer is a computer, right?

Are these ads offending PC users, giving them the reputation that they are less tech-savvy just because they invested in a PC rather than a Mac computer? It seems as though the Apple industry is manipulating its market to “think” just that.

We all can agree that commercials such as these have used media manipulation and comparison advertising to successfully reach their consumer market. But, when is that ethical line crossed and when will the attacked brands retaliate?

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Filed under Ethics, The Industry, Trends

The X’s and O’s of Crisis Management

by Megan Reichenbach

As we all know, mistakes happen. And sometimes these mistakes lead to detrimental circumstances. Miriam Fry’s article on Platform Magazine, “You’ve got 60 Minutes,” describes a situation where PR practitioners “take the position of the quarterback” when it comes to cleaning up the mess of a controversial situation. But let’s ask ourselves: are the PR practitioners the only ones doing the clean up?

Peter Federico, senior vice president and chief risk officer of American Capitol Agency Management, seems to think otherwise. “Every person in the vicinity of the controversial situation needs to take a stance in rectifying the problem,“ Federico said. “And every person needs to take this stance early in the game.”

From saying the wrong thing during a press conference to a federal takeover of a business, those in the finance and investment markets need to think outside their comfort zones and more like a PR professional. Federico lends a breakdown of what financial and investment companies need to do in order to get back on their feet.

For those of us who are prone to procrastinating, Crisis Management 101 may have to be added to your to-do list. Crisis planning requires steps to be written down beforehand: “it’s basic, but crisis businesses need to follow a play book; otherwise, things will be missed,” Federico said. This preparation goes hand in hand with the tips suggested on the PR Coach website, which asserts “the time to plan, of course, is when there is no crisis.”

The Pre-Crisis: Prologue to the Crisis Playbook 101

Businesses should develop BCP, or business continuity planning. In public relations “layman” terms, this would be the time that all external factors are identified and potential threats are determined.

Everyone in the business, not just those public relations quarterbacks, must come up with actions to take for every type of crisis. Even though we can’t predict every kind of crisis, we all might as well do as much as we can to ready ourselves for whatever comes our way.

“Who is in charge?”
Before the crisis occurs, a company needs to find out who is going to be accountable for whom, and for what controversial situations.

“Who is going to talk to whom?”
This question centers the main responsibility of a PR person: communication. Throughout the hierarchy of a business, every person needs to create relationships and a communication plan with other members in the business. According to Federico, this simple task of relationship building will save a company from becoming defeated by the crisis.

Businesses can’t forget to create a funding plan. Managing a crisis without a hold on the finances of the company would be nearly impossible, wouldn’t you think?

In a tragic situation where a company’s facility has been affected or ruined, a pre-conceived plan for an alternative location to keep business running is fundamental.

Pre-crisis planning also calls for a written list of constituents, including suppliers, investors, regulators, board members, customers, etc. A simple list of names and phone numbers can be the difference between success and failure.

The Crisis

Identify the crisis
During the crisis, the steps listed in the Prologue of Crisis 101 are put to the test.

Believe it or not, the steps taken during the crisis itself are more easily executed than expected, thanks to pre-crisis planning. Once the specific BCP is chosen for the crisis at hand, follow these tips given by Peter Federico:

• Look back at those relationships that were built and come into contact with whoever is in authority.
• Establish the ultimate decision maker.
• Identify the essential employees in the business and designate appropriate responsibilities.
• Ensure that critical systems are operable. Are the phone lines down? Are the computers still functioning?
• Prioritize all decisions that need to be made, and decide at which point these should be executed during the clean up.
• Ensure that all finances are in check. Does the company have the liquidity to maintain all critical operations?
• Develop the internal and external communication plans—so critical. This is the point in which those individuals in the finance and business industry need show off those PR skills.
• Establish a timeline for damage control.
• Establish meetings to be held in the morning, in the afternoon and at night. Communicating the situation at hand to the public is key to saving the reputation of the company.

It all sounds pretty basic, but most businesses take planning for granted.

Communication is key in a crisis. Acting like a PR professional, and taking on the role of relationship building, can make a world of a difference for those companies involved in a crisis. For companies in the financial or investment industry, there are steps taken by individuals who do not, in fact, have a “PR” position in the business. Whether a controversial situation in a PR firm or financial company, all of those individuals working for the organization need to get a handle on Crisis 101.

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Filed under Leadership, The Industry