NASCAR drivers leave Goodyear spinning…

So when I randomly started watching NASCAR races  on Sunday evenings, I was first intrigued by the comical amount of advertising and brand sponsorships–I never dreamed there could be a hidden PR lesson too! 

 NASCAR drivers (Tony Stewart, Jeff Grodon, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman) this week voiced their disappointment in the quality of Goodyear tires from Sunday’s race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article. Stewart, the most outspoken of the racers, said the tire was “the most pathetic racing tire I’ve ever been on in my professional career.”

Interactive Reactions…First-hand
Fans also have the option to listen in, first-hand, to hear driver’s comments during a race from NASCAR’s Web site. Stewart’s fans had the opportunity to hear him say, “Goodyear can’t build a tire worth crap.”–Yikes, how’s that for product endorsement.

 Even though drivers use three different types of cars for the different race series, the tires remain the same. The tire used in the Atlanta race did not properly grip and left drivers sliding all over the track.

The buzz around this stituation left Goodyear with some explaining to do, according to a Cox News Service article:

Goodyear said in a statement Monday it was pleased it had no safety issues because of the hard compound it brought to combat Atlanta’s abrasive surface. Still, the company promised to re-evaluate before returning to Atlanta in October…

…Ed Markey, Goodyear’s VP of communication, said Tuesday, First and foremost, keep in mind that the tires in Atlanta performed as intended. There were no tire failures, no heat issues and no wear issues.

We have 100-plus years of brand equity built up. … We feel good about our brand, our momentum and our credibility as a company.

A lesson learned
For me, this case illustrates the importance and the power of feedback–especially when those providing the feedback are your opinion leaders. I will be interested to see the result of this case and to see if the Goodyear logo remains on NASCAR tires. 

Time will tell.

PR needs a new spin…

After watching this video and reading recent discussions, it is quite evident that PR needs some help.

The blame for PR’s negative spin can’t be placed on one person or organization. It’s the job of each individual PR professional to prove our negative image wrong by explaining what is the function of PR. (Hint: We are not party planners.) 

The fact is, whether people view PR as a positive or negative, they need us. People need us everyday to provide them with communication support.

So we’ve achieved the first step, admitting we have a problem, now what?

What is PR?
Well, that depends on who you ask and when you ask.

  •  Edward Bernays: Public Relations is a management function which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interest of an organization followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.
  • Public Relations Society of America: Public relations helps our complex, pluralistic society to reach decisions and function more effectively by contributing to mutual understanding among groups and institutions. It serves to bring private and public policies into harmony… (Read the full PRSA official statement.)

PR needs ONE simple definition that everyone can endorse and that will stand the test of time. We need a solid foundation that will remain constant as our industry evolves with culture and new technology.

What do you think of this: PR builds relationships.

Once we are able to effectively and concisely answer what is PR, then we can address how we build those relationships.

Back to the Basics…

winter-wonderland.jpgI may not be a runner, but I do know how to enjoy a walk in the park on New Year’s Day.

By the looks of my last blog post and my recent blog stats…I’ve been away for a while. Granted, I could blame it on the holiday season or on the big step of college graduation. But really, I could’ve taken a few hours in between watching White Christmas or Miracle on 34th Street with the family to get reconnected.

But I chose not to–and yet, I still didn’t want to abandon ship.

I admit the blogosphere was addicting at first. I found myself wanting to read news articles and blog posts rather than a text book.

Blogging Benefits
As many others have questioned before me, I wondered about the true impact of blogs and social media on the world. I also wondered how it has impacted me. I’ve realized that it has: 

  • Connected me to a world that I was clueless of
  • Forced me to question and reflect on what I read 
  • Given me a venue for my voice
  • Provided me with opportunities to learn more about the industry
  • Motivated me to be a part of the conversation.

Getting Reconnected
I’m logged on and reading again. Getting re-acquainted with the blogosphere, is just like riding a bike. To me, blogging has had a positive and worthwhile impact. 

I’ve also realized that I want more. I want to blog. I want a career that will teach me something new everyday–PR seems to be a good choice. And I want to be open to possibilities that are yet to come.

grad.jpgLooking Back…
I am thankful for the experiences and the people I met at Kent State. Here are a few helpful tips that helped me leave college with a smile.

dancing.jpgTake a class that you will enjoy–even if the credits do not count toward your major. I took a dance class every semester from one of my favorite instructors, Miss Beverly. I’ve been dancing since I was five years old and going to college didn’t stop me from dancing.

opening-champagne.jpgTake a class that forces you to try something new. Kent State offers a wine tasting course in the geography department. The course takes students to different wineries in Northeast Ohio to try a variety of wines–from a Port to an Iced Vidal Blanc. Beyond the obvious reasons of why this class is popular, the instructor, enologist, Tony Carlucci, is very passionate about this topic and teaching students about the world of wine. Classes that challenge you can mold you into a well-rounded person. (On the left: That’s me learning how to properly open a bottle of Champagne. This new skill makes me very well-rounded. : )

norma.jpgGet yourself connected to the campus. Join a student organization. You will meet a diverse group of people and learn how to work within the diverse group. These people can help you network and possibly land that internship or future job.

Don’t hesitate–when the time is right, take on a leadership role. I was active in several organizations, and I held positions within PRSSA and my sorority, Delta Zeta. These positions taught me how to work in a team atmosphere and how to manage my time wisely.

Holiday shoppers spend more, travel less

present.jpgI’ve never had the courage to venture out to the mall on Black Friday, but I have had the lovely experience of working in retail during this frenzy.

Granted, my outlet store didn’t have the same crowds as Best Buy; however, the outlet mall did start a new trend of opening its doors at midnight.

This new trend had customers parking on freeway exit ramps and walking the rest of the way to the mall. To me, something seems backwards about this-not what I would call post-Thanksgiving dinner fun. Upsurd is the only word that comes to my mind.

Forget the hassle.
Many people have figured out a more relaxing way to digest their turkey and to get some holiday deals–online shopping.

Online shoppers spent a record $531 million this past Friday, which is up 22 percent from last year, according to a comScore news release. More sale increases are expected throughout the holiday season.

Holiday rush
If similar sales are available online, why do shoppers still brave the elements to line up outside a store to buy the latest trinkets?

We live in a world that turning mostly digital, yet we still find security in face-to-face interaction. Hmm…What is it about searching a store, paying a cashier versus clicking a mouse that makes us feel more secure?

Must be our good ol’ human nature and our need for an interactive experience. I’m sure it won’t be long until online shopping will turn into a more interactive experience.

I am thankful during this holiday season that I no longer work in retail and I can sit at home happily clicking my mouse.

An Iraq veteran shares his chilling truth…

dinner.jpgMy mom always told me that it’s not right to bring up religion and politics at the dinner table; but this is the blogosphere, and I feel that on this Veterans Day it is my simple duty to pass this story along.

The LATimes ran a story about a young, Iraq veteran, James Blake Miller, who fought in the bitter battlegrounds of Falloujah in 2004.

If the name rings a bell, it’s because his photograph (taken by Luis Sinco, Times staff photographer), ‘Marlboro Marine,’ was used across the country to illustrate the frontlines of Iraq. 

Miller has since returned home safely, but the images of Iraq still haunt him today.

I think about Iraq everyday, he said…

…What have we gained as a country? What have we actually accomplished, other than the loss of some damn, fine people? 

Conventional journalism urges journalists not to get involved with the peoples’ lives they cover; but as an embedded journalist in Iraq, Luis Sinco feels responsible for Miller’s life and is helping him cope with adjusting to life at home. (Be sure to check out the full story and listen to the podcast.)

Miller is not alone.
Miller, like many veterans, returned home and cannot forget the nightmare of Iraq War.

So what is being done?
Resources are available for these veterans, but the reality is–there is no quick fix when it comes to mental health. Government funds do help lower therapy costs, but doesn’t always cover everything.

The next time I fret over a busy schedule I hope I will take a american-flag.jpgmoment and remember how lucky I am to have the opportunities that I do.

To our veterans, thank you.

FEMA’s under fire…again.

stillnofema.jpgNothing like a PR professional’s media mishap overshadowing FEMA’s corrective actions as an attempt to repair a battered reputation. Just another classic PR case study for the text books:  ‘What not to do.’
 

FEMA caught faking it
Last week FEMA called a press conference to give updates about FEMA’s response to the California wildfires. Because the conference was called last minute, no reporters showed up. Reporters were given the option to call in to a listen-only press conference line.

Red flags were raised by journalists listening to the call and questioning the overwhelmingly positive tone. Reporters also questioned how Harvey Johnson, FEMA spokesman, answered questions with ease and eloquence, according to the Washington Post. For example:

“Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?” a ‘reporter’ asked. Another asked about “lessons learned from Katrina.”

“I’m very happy with FEMA’s response so far,” Johnson said, hailing “a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team.”

FEMA later admitted to using its own employees as staged reporters asking prepared questions.

Responding to the media flack 
The media had a field day with the claims, which once again damaged the credibility of the government agency. According to an a report on Time.com, Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary, wasn’t afraid to let the press know what he thought of FEMA’s theatrics:

I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I’ve seen since I’ve been in government, Chertoff said. I have made unambiguously clear, in Anglo-Saxon prose, that it is not to ever happen again and there will be appropriate disciplinary action taken against those people who exhibited what I regard as extraordinarily poor judgment.

These disciplinary actions may cost some FEMA representatives their jobs. At this point it is unclear if Pat Philbin, FEMA’s external affairs director, was fired or offered a resignation.

you say you wanna REVOLUTION…

linked-ppl.jpgWe all want to change the world–and we are.

Our world around us is changing and we are just trying to keep up with it all–wikis, blogs, Facebook, podcasts, iPhone, YouTube, SecondLife, RSS feeds, etc.

The phrase semiotic overload comes to mind when attempting to describe aspects of the Web. Even more overwhelming is the concept of the ever-changing Web 2.0 and the role the PR practitioner plays in this medium.

The machine
I stumbled across this video from Kansas State University. After watching it, I’ve never felt so small. I started to wonder if it all matters, or are we just wasting our time? You decide.

(OK, here is my poor attempt to be philisophical.) According to the video, using Web 2.0 we are our own educators and information providers. “We are the Web.”

In Plain English
Well, that is enough analytical thinking for me today. 

I don’t want to leave you too overwhelmed, so here is a video that explains our new PR role in simple terms. (Thanks for finding the hilarious clip, Bill.) So cheer up, it’s not like the Web will bring about the end of the world.

Two award-winning campaigns. Two conflicting messages. One brand.

images.jpgUnilever‘s credibility is in question recently after releasing two conflicting campaign messages. Dove Real Beauty has real women battling against the MSM pressures for unrealistic beauty, while Axe Body Spray exploits the stereotype of women.

Hypocrites or just the business of branding?
Dove Real Beauty fans are not pleased with Unilever’s contradictory messaging and have started a campaign of their own: “Ax the Axe Campaign.”

Unilever responded to the negative claims in a NYTimes article by explaining this is how the marketing business works:

Anita Larson, a Unilever spokeswoman, called the Axe campaign a spoof “not meant to be taken literally.” “Unilever is a large global company with many brands in our portfolio,” she said. “Each brand effort is tailored to reflect the unique interests and needs of its audience.”

The Axe campaign also has a music video featuring a fake music group, the Bom chicka wah wahs, dancing around in lingerie. (Granted this campaign may be geared toward college-aged males, but I am not sure what objective this video is trying to achieve. To me, it looks more like a Victoria Secret ad.)

Similar images of women in lingerie are used in the Dove Onslaught video–except the images are shown for shock value.

If this is just business, why all the fuss?
Dove fans, myself included, didn’t see the Real Beauty campaign as just another marketing scheme. It transcended other campaigns and was a chance to change the way society views beauty. For Dove and the parent brand, Unilever, it was a chance to position itself as socially responsible. 

I guess some things never change–image is everything.

It’s about ‘Times.’

pizza_sign.jpgThe last thing on a college student’s mind is budgeting money for an online newspaper subscription. We have come to rely and live on countless coupons and free giveaways.

No wonder why older generations tend to view us as narcissistic and apathetic to the world around us–our only trusted source for news is our campus newspaper (mostly because it’s free!). Until now…

Getting the hint…
The New York Times is just one of many newspapers that has recently decided not to charge readers for online subscriptions (Previously, the Times used a paid online subscription system, Time Select.).

Other newspapers are catching on as well and are beginning to expect the trend of declining print circulation. Instead of fighting the Web, newspapers are starting to embrace it and re-strategize. In fact, newspapers are finding that home delivery subscriptions are too pricey and advertisers aren’t willing to pay, according to an article in The New York Times.

If you build it, they will come…
I am curious to see if having a free online newspaper will improve readership among my fellow Gen Y-ers. I am also curious to see how these news venues will pursue this demographic and draw them to their sites.

 A successful tactic  that some college newspapers have been using is Facebook, according to a college student blogger. Inserting your product where your audience already is, can easily give a product a boost among a certain demographic. 

For Gen Y, if you build it on Facebook, we will be there–after we are done tagging inappropriate photos of ourselves from the night before. 

The Beauty of PR

dove-real-beauty.jpgLast month I needed a well-deserved break from the busy college life, so I got my hair highlighted and cut. I felt so much better afterwards. I needed it. (The small salon in Ravenna even serves coffee while you wait for your hair to dry. Real customer service does exist!)

Getting my hair cut was an innocent treat to myself, but why did I feel the need to change my physical appearance to feel better about myself?

Good question with no simple answer. However, this behavior is common in young women my age–and marketers are banking on it. An article on emarketer.com illustrates these trends:

While cultural differences abound, the pressure to look good is felt worldwide, said Shuchi Sethi, vice president of Nielsen Customized Research, in a statement… It seems the older you get the less you spend, as teens and consumers in their 20s spend more in this category.

Nearly two-thirds of US consumers said they spend money on personal grooming because it makes them feel better about themselves, according to the article. 

logo_big_dove_silver_tcm72-18904.jpgPR gets a makeover
One big brand is paddling against this current trend of perfect beauty. This week, Dove launched another viral video, Onslaught, for its already successful Real Beauty campaign.

Spoiler: The video depicts a young girl being exposed to images of distorted beauty and shares a message for parents to talk to their children about beauty before the advertising does.

 A quick pick-me-up…pick Dove
Some are skeptical about the true motives behind the Real Beauty campaign. Well of course Dove wants to sell more product, but what’s the harm in delivering a good message with it.

So, the next time I need a self-esteem booster, I may just reach for the Dove–Dove dove-chocolate.jpgChocolate that is. It’s less expensive than a hair cut, and they still make me feel better about the day. My favorite Dove Chocolate quote:

You know what, you look good in red.

Those little chocolates may be a marketing ploy, but it’s a darn good tasting one.


Disclaimer

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Contact me

If you wish to contact me personally, send me an e-mail, megrote@gmail.com.