Tag Archives: crisis communication

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen…

After just finishing my first year in college as a journalism major with a news editorial concentration, I’m still not sure where exactly I want to end up in the media world, but I know I want to be in it. I find the industry greatly fascinating.

Ever since I took Introduction to Journalism my freshman year of high school, I was hooked. Just learning about the power the media has over the whole world was exciting and intimidating at the same time.

Five years later, that excitement is even stronger. This past semester in my Mass Communication class, we had to read a chapter out of the book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. In that chapter, it explained how collaboration can really help businesses get new ideas and increase profits.

That got me thinking: What if we used wiki’s to help solve the bigger issues, such as ones the government is dealing with? Now I realize that would be difficult because the businesses that use this wiki idea had to put lots of their company information on the wiki to give enough information to the people that were trying to help. So, I’m not sure how the government could go about doing that without it being a national security issue, but I’m sure there’s way (cliché alert but if there’s a will, there’s a way).

My ideas that I suggested in my Mass Comm class were things like using wiki’s and collaboration to figure out more efficient strategies for the war on terror and ideas for finishing the still unfinished clean-up of Hurricane Katrina. The business in Wikinomics that used wiki’s would get idea entries from people all over the world including people that wouldn’t normally be considered qualified for the job that was needed to be done.  Ideas would be flowing in from neutral parties that wouldn’t need votes for the next election or other reasons to protect a public image like many politicians do.

I just got back from a vacation in the Pacific Northwest. My uncle lives in Kirkland, WA, which is a small town right outside of Seattle. We took a road trip around the Olympic Peninsula. Surrounded by the constant green scenery and mountains, the tree-hugger in me came out. Between all the green, we would see logging trucks pass us on the road and go past patches of what I like to refer to as “tree graveyards” where only the stumps and woodchips were left behind from loggers. It was kind of a reality check while driving through the otherwise lush coastal area.

Another reality check that followed us around was the headlines about the continuing oil spill in the Gulf. Ahh! It stresses me out just thinking about it and what it’s doing to the environment down there. With all the major government and BP officials running out of ideas, what are we going to do to stop this? Well, there was a bright spot in the reality checks that followed us: a story in USA Today told about a retired engineer who traveled down to the gulf area to lend his ideas about how to stop the spill. I got super excited when I saw that because it was embodying my idea of using mass collaboration to solve problems. So, my newest idea for wiki’s and mass collaboration: BP should create a wiki with all of the information about the oil spill and that exact drilling site and have engineers, oil-specialists, and other problem solvers from around the world submit their ideas to help end this major crisis using the new media’s massive power to do a massive amount of good.

-Tara McElmurry


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Flirting with Consumers

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always considered advertising to be strikingly similar to dating. Singles (and brands) are guilty of flirting with, hitting on, making a pass at, others in the hope that they “score” with the object of desire.  Let’s think about it.  A ridiculous amount of time and money are spent researching target audiences (sound a little like Facebook stalking?).  Next, we figure out the best ways to manipulate that audience into buying our product, using our service or agreeing with our movement (basically, a pick up line to land a first date).  Below are some typical “man at bar” stereotypes, their relation to current ad campaigns, and a prediction on how these brand boys may “end their night” by either “getting lucky” with consumers or failing miserably.

The mysterious/intriguing man that women flock to: This is the quiet guy in a bar who is usually by himself or possibly with one or two friends.  He doesn’t say much, but it’s not hard to tell that he’s good looking, educated and interesting.  He might even dress a little “different”, which makes him even more irresistible.

Ad Campaign: By now, you’ve surely heard of the Puma clever little bag campaign.  By using a bag instead of a box to package their shoes, they will reduce cardboard by 65%, save 8,500 tons of paper and reduce carbon dioxide by 10,000 tons per year. They didn’t have to utilize enormous budgets to draw crowds; rather they did it by being smart, quiet and desirable.

Outlook for the Night: This brand boy will leave the bar with just about anyone he desires. By remaining quiet, yet confident, this guy knows how to line up the suitors. In fact, his demeanor may even inspire others to be more like him.

The “I was wrong, baby, come back please”: This is the guy walking through the bar with his head down.  His ego is a little bruised.  Maybe he didn’t care enough or maybe he cared too much, but either way he messed up, lost his girl and wants her back.

Ad Campaign: Dominos has made quite the splash lately.  They’ve emphasized their bad traits (pizza that tastes like cardboard) and explained how they’ve changed (New herbs! Better seasoning!).  Their target hasn’t changed; they just need to prove how much they care and how sorry they are for screwing up. With their “apologize and change” tactic, Dominos has been able to change their image in the eyes of many.

Outlook for the Night: Still an emotional wreck, this brand boy has managed to salvage it’s relationship with pizza lovers.  They maybe even secured that “let’s start over” first date, that is a critical step in regaining love.

Moneybags: Everyone has seen this guy at the bar.  He’s the one who goes in and drops ridiculous amounts of money on anyone and everyone.  He’s loud, obnoxious and doesn’t care that he has to buy his friends.  He also has no particular target; he’ll take whatever he can get.

Ad Campaign: Okay, Geico. Please pick a campaign because the multiple ideas are confusing (Cavemen? Talking geckos? Charlie Daniels fiddlers?).  Sure each idea is slightly funny, but the fact that you can’t make up your mind shows your lack of confidence.

Outlook for the Night: Maybe money can buy happiness a night at a time. (Afterall, everyone needs insurance.) However, this brand boy needs to realize that while getting lucky on one night, doesn’t mean you’ve got a long-term relationship on the horizon.

While each ad campaign mentioned above was successful at one time or another, how might it stereotyped and perceived by consumers and industry critics? As you think about your company, do you want that sentimental relationship with your audience or are you searching for a one-night stand?

-Ryan Pylipow

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Profession Defense with Truth

As I looked down at these final two questions of my marketing exam, I became (surprisingly) somewhat defensive.

1. How can PR professionals defend their careers when many people think of them as ‘spin doctors’ who cover up their company’s mistakes and warp public perception?

2. Some people say the advertising industry is unethical, and in some cases unhealthy, for the majority of society. Why do you think people feel this way, and what is the true role of advertising?

As a PR/Advertising major, I’m obviously not naïve to these kinds of stereotypes and misconceptions in my industry – but never had a situation presented itself where I was forced to defend my position or worth to another individual. I have to admit, I was stumped for a second. I, of course, inherently understood the value of PR and advertising. But how do you convey that passion and appreciation on the spot? After a few moments, I realized I could ”spin” the situation (since that’s what we do, right?) into a positive one, and came up with some pretty convincing arguments.

It is not a PR practitioner’s job to lie. It’s to be honest, consistent and accurate.

Public relations efforts strive to accomplish just what the word implies– the development of relationships with various, targeted publics. If implemented correctly, PR is an effective, cost-efficient tool that complements and emphasizes key messages communicated by other forms of media. PR plays a vital role in a company’s brand, identity and personality. And as we’ve all been taught, but easily forget: you’re only as good as your brand. Perception is everything in our competitive marketplace, cluttered and fragmented more each and every year. Think of where half the world’s companies would be today if it weren’t for the roles played by crisis communicators, event planners, media relations specialists and spokesmen/women. Would it be difficult to distinguish what makes a company or brand truly unique, reliable or important?

So, in a nutshell: PR is reputation management, not manipulation. It’s communicating, not cheating.

Moving on to advertising’s role in society…

Although both industries intrigue me, I’m much more passionate about the world of advertising. Advertising allows me develop a relationship with a brand that extends far beyond the tangible product. It’s an industry that capitalizes on human emotion and a generation’s desire for creativity and out-of-the box experiences. To put it simply, advertising helps me decide. It would be nearly impossible for me to fall in love with a product or service without the personalities they promote via ads. I understand how humor, fear and sex appeals can be offensive – these three things are definitely not universal. However, it is within these controversial boundaries that some of the most original, thought-provoking concepts arise. What may seem “risky” today will be discussed in twenty years as an industry (and societal) revolution. Advertising trends change as society and culture shift, and that’s why it’s so impactful. With so many different functions – inform, educate, entertain, promote – advertisers are undoubtedly some of the most powerful, influential people in the job force.

Although somewhat shocking at first, I’m glad my professor forced me to think about why I’m doing what I do. Who knows, maybe a potential employer will ask me these types of questions one day? Guess I’ll be prepared!

So, how would you have answered my exam questions?

– Lauren Fisher

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Crisis Communication, PR, Public Relations