Tag Archives: online

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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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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What Not to Wear

Possibly the hardest part of the transition from the classroom to the field is the dress code. College life is full of sweatpants, tee shirts and UGG boots. Unfortunately none of these things are appropriate in the working world. Knowing what to wear and when to where it can be difficult.

As Lizzie Post notes on her Web site, wearing the wrong thing can often cause an interviewer to pay more attention to your clothing than to you. A suit is always the best choice when going on an interview.

Business casual is quickly becoming the norm for many offices. Business casual usually consists of dress slacks, skirts and collared shirts. Low cut or cleavage-bearing shirts are not appropriate. Open-toed shoes are usually inappropriate as well. Try to find a comfortable shoe that you can stand in all day long. Jeans and shorts are never dressy enough for the office. Be wary of wearing oversized or too much jewelry.

The Platform Editorial Team created this video to showcase some of the biggest business wardrobe mistakes that we have witnessed. So grab your popcorn and please, don’t ever be caught making any of these irrevocable mistakes.

For more information about dressing appropriate and general business etiquette, please visit Lizzie Post’s Web site via the Emily Post Institute.


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A New Image: Cultivating Culture & Class in America

Public relations campaigns are everywhere and everyone seems to be a part of them. Whether for a political campaign, club opening or even a new product line, they seem to surround us and remain an integral part of the public relations world. While PR campaigns seem to play a vital role in the futures of politicians, celebrities and even Fortune 500 companies, maybe the one most in need of a PR campaign and image overhaul is a significant global power and world leader that we are all-too-familiar with. It may be considered a substantial undertaking and even unnecessary to some, but perhaps the “one” in need of a new image is our own country- the United States of America.

I had barely recovered from jet lag and only tasted a few bites of my first wiener schnitzel in Austria this summer before I was slapped in the face. No, I was not slapped by an angry Austrian man sporting lederhosen who suggested I drink more “house beer,” but rather by reality, and the reality was this: the Europeans were more consciously aware of the daily happenings on Wall Street or in the Senate than most Americans. They blew me away with more statistics, figures and opinions than I could ever imagine and wanted to discuss politics wherever we went. It did not matter if we were at a downtown café drinking cappuccinos or hiking in the Alps, they wanted to talk about our life, culture and political scene whenever I would allow it. While this knowledge and curiosity piqued my interest, I was left to answer some unsettling questions, but one stands out in my mind.

“Why are you bothering to learn a second language?  No one else in the United States does…”

That last question struck the wrong chord with me, especially after considering the fact that I was in Austria studying advanced German. However, it left me wondering: if the rest of the world regards us as dumb, lazy and wasteful Americans (as I was told by many Europeans), why don’t we do something as a country to change this general perception? While a public relations campaign focusing on America’s image might not be considered a high priority on Obama’s agenda with an economic crisis at hand, it might not be such a bad issue to tackle in the near future. What better way to erase the stereotypical image of overweight Americans driving Hummers to McDonald’s than by creating a public relations campaign focusing on educating Americans about literature, art, music and secondary languages?

While the White House is filled with many advisors scurrying about, telling the president what to say and how to maintain his image, perhaps the greatest advantage to any president is not the PR professional, but rather… the president’s spouse.

Let’s look back to the 1960s, a time when the United States was dealing with the Cuban missile crisis and nuclear policy causing rocky relations with France. Despite these troubles, one of President John F. Kennedy’s finest attributes was not his youth or charm, but rather his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, who acted as a magnificent public relations asset.

President Kennedy was barely inaugurated on snow-covered Capitol Hill in January of 1961 when Jacqueline Kennedy began her White House “transformation” with a goal to make the White House a “showcase for great American art and artists.” Her plan for establishing culture and class in America came into full swing after an official presidential trip to Paris.

While JFK and French President Charles de Gaulle were at odds over the development of nuclear weapons, Jackie was wowing the people of France. Before their arrival, Jackie had the White House press secretary arrange an interview with French national television where she spoke in fluent French for 15 minutes over her love of the arts and Paris. This public relations endeavor proved successful, as Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy were greeted by a crowd of 500,000 Parisians, enthralled and captivated by the “first couple.” Jackie enraptured President de Gaulle, as well, as he later told JFK that she “knew more French history than most French women.”

If the PR world had a hall of fame, Jacqueline Kennedy’s next PR feat would be in it. After her Paris visit, not only did she continue to nurture the relationship between France and the U.S. as the First Lady, she began promoting art, literature and music in America by inviting France’s Minister of Cultural Affairs, André Malraux, to the White House.

Some may claim event planning is not part of the PR world, but Jackie was one woman who could successfully pull off a political agenda and throw a lavish affair flawlessly. Prior to Malraux’s visit, Jackie spent five weeks meticulously planning his visit. She met Malraux at the National Gallery of Art (also a great press photo opportunity) where she gave him her own personal tour and spoke of the international significance of great art.

Mrs. Kennedy united the cultural world that night. In Malraux’s honor, she planned an extravagant state dinner where America’s finest artists, writers and musicians were brought together. As described in Vanity Fair, “The gathering of the most accomplished men and women of the American cultural scene not only underscored Kennedys’ support of the arts, but also demonstrated how adept Jackie was at employing the arts in order to add prestige to Jack’s presidency.”

And the result of such a grand evening? Minister Malraux agreed to make arrangements to have Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, Mona Lisa, brought to America which was the only time France had ever willingly agreed to let their beloved work visit another country.

The arrival of the Mona Lisa began to inspire America and made a lasting impression on Kennedy’s time in office. The masterpiece attracted millions of Americans, engaging and interesting them in art. As Arthur Schlesinger described, it was an exhilarating time in which “Washington engaged in a collective effort to make itself brighter, gayer, and more intellectual. The First Lady was at the center of this new feeling.”

Jackie touched the nation. She spoke superb French, enjoyed the arts, read masterpieces, entertained often and inspired women with her impeccable style and flair. Jacqueline Kennedy established the new American ideal. President Kennedy took his place on the international stage, but he did not do so alone like many presidents of the past. He made his mark on the world with Jackie at his side who acted not only as a wife, mother, and an art enthusiast, but as a diplomat, ambassador and First Lady.

Jacqueline Kennedy is still regarded as one of the greatest First Ladies of our time. And although she may not officially possess the title, she was an exquisite public relations practitioner who not only promoted art, literature, music and other cultures, but also established a new standard of living for the American way of life.

Reinstating this way of life and restoring America’s tarnished reputation should not be hard to accomplish, especially considering that our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, is regarded by some as the next Jacqueline Kennedy. This Princeton and Harvard Law grad is not only well-educated, but she also possesses an innate sense of style, similar to Jackie’s, and could be the chief proprietor in re-inventing America’s image.



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The Biggest Threats Facing PR

Earlier this year, when reading a colleague’s blog post, it occurred to me that there are some very real threats facing us as PR Practitioners, both in terms of detriment to the field and harm to third party participants.

I am accustomed to thinking that there are no real threats, just challenges that are in need of adaptive approaches or strategies. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade… if life gives you oranges, make orange juice… and so forth and so on through the list of palatable fruits.

But the article about the danger of the site juicycampus.com made me think about the very real impacts of making sites available that destroy the efforts of PR. At first, you might think that putting the power in the hands of regular media consumers would be good- that it might help keep things accountable, and if something horrible happens, we simply do our jobs as usual and get things back on track.

No, sites like these have proven records of direct physical harm to the users and their families/friends. Juicy Campus has led to depression and suicidal tendencies. YouTube has fostered a subculture of users who record children beating each other up. Facebook has developed a generation of users who stalk long lost acquaintances down.

The point is not that the users themselves or the tools they use are the sole threats. The threat is that together, unchecked, unmediated, without that set of risk and strategic management skills that PR fosters, not only will we suffer as PR practitioners, but society will begin to see a degradation in moral fiber.

However, this will also hurt us directly—in the same way that the media is and has been hurting us as well through lack of proper and adequate representation or understanding of what it is we do.

In the movie “Phonebooth,” a moderately entertaining psychological thriller about a man trapped in a phone booth by a terrorist, the man claims to practice PR as a “publicist.” This man’s daily routines involve twisting the truth, bribing, manipulation and complete dishonesty in order to only be considered “small time.” He uses the words “public relations” and “publicist” very clearly.

This stereotype is reinforced in shows like “Spin City” and movies like “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days,” often mistakenly combining the field with the field of advertising. While these are usually light-hearted and acceptable, we all know the dangers of mistaking the definition of PR from impressions on the silver screen and that PR is not “evil,” as the media may portray it. What we do not realize is its very real effect on those who don’t realize its falsity, and whom are now looking for revenge – a power put in their hands by the social networks, the online media platforms and the many blog sites available online.

We are in danger of being replaced by a subculture that does not believe we are necessary, but who do not have the facts, the training or the mindset to argue back effectively. They don’t need their facts checked, and they don’t have to care for another human being – they just have to have an agenda.

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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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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 HuggiesEnEspanol.com. 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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