Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nine Worst Social Media Fails of 2009...So Far

In this online article, Jennifer Leggio cites what she feels were the nine worst social media fails of the year thus far. Here they are:

1. House M.D. -When writers needed to cut a character from the show, they had him commit suicide. The writers embraced the ambiguity surrounding the situation by creating an "online altar" for the character. The plan backfired, because it was viewed by some viewers to be insensitive to the topic of suicide.

2. Quiznos- used a "2 girls one sandwich" viral video that spoofs a porn meme and therein created a strong negative reaction.

3. Motrin- posted some videos on its website that claimed that women who engage in "babywearing" need Motrin because of pain brought on by "wearing" their babies. This enraged "mommy bloggers."

4. Denny's- used a banana character it called a Nannerpuss to try to create customer loyalty. Attempts to gain a following for the character failed miserably.

5. Jack in the Box- ran a series of ads and online videos showing its Jack character in the hospital, after apparently having an accident. The company set up a site where customers could leave the character get well messages. Customers felt the campaign was insensitive and saw the company as stupid for insinuating they would kill off the character.

6. Skittles- turned its homepage into a Twitter feed for its brand. In doing so, the company failed to actively engage its community. Plus, the company has no control over what Twitter users are tweeting about the brand, so even negative messages were being broadcast on Skittles' own site.

7. Pizza Hut- issued a press release that said it was seeking an intern to maintain its Twitter presence over the summer. In doing so, it belittled the way that people engage one another and conduct business on Twitter. It also generated negativity because why would you want someone who is not familiar with the ins and outs of your company to be its face on the web?

8. Burger King- offered customers a free Whopper for unfriending 10 friends on Facebook. The company would notified the unfriended friends to tell them that they were unfriended- over a free burger. The campaign did not generate much participation and its manipulation of the "friend" system on Facebook was perceived as shallow.

9. CNN/ Ashton Kutcher- raced each other to 1,000,000 followers on Twitter. Detracted from CNN's credibility by engaging in a blatant stunt.

Leggio reminds us: "word-of-mouth marketing is a fantastic thing when you know how to leverage it. But if you lose control of your brand, the disasters are almost endless."

What do you think? Do you disagree with any of Leggio's picks? What campaigns would you add to the list?

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Racy Interpretation

See an interesting guide of illustrations aimed at portraying the differences between marketing, public relations, advertising and branding.

My interpretation of the images (see article for actual illustrations):

Marketing – In this illustration, it is more of a form of direct marketing, with the man directly telling the woman (his audience) that he is a great lover. Marketing is often thought of as the broad spectrum for all types of promotion/communication. With marketing, and in this image, the sender of the message is exchanging an offering for something that has value to the audience they’re targeting (in this case, a great lover). Marketing, the umbrella term, clearly and directly states the overall message: “I’m a great lover.”

Public Relations – This image portrays a woman telling another woman “Trust me. He’s a great lover.” It is more word-of-mouth news, or aka: “Did you hear…?” The most important part of public relations that is emphasized in this image is the third party credibility. Although the message is ultimately created by the same party, its flow through a trusted source garners more support and makes the message seem more credible.

Advertising – Advertising is very pervasive, and is best characterized by repetition. You turn on the TV for two hours and you are almost guaranteed to see the same commercial at least two or three times. Same for other forms of advertising. In this picture, the man repeats his message “I’m a great lover” over and over again to his audience. A party (the man in the picture) bombards you with the message they want you to hear. It is paid for, and aimed at the masses.

Branding – Branding is not necessarily a channel of communication, but more the resulting effect of other forms of communication (marketing, PR, adv, etc.). Branding ensures that all messages coming out of a party are the same (aka, integrated marketing) and results in the party having a certain place in consumers’ minds based on values and ideals. The party creates and repeats a message through various channels of communication so that people start to identify when they see the product or message. In this example, the consumer (the woman) sees the product (the man) and immediately identifies with the message she has been hearing/seeing (that he is a great lover).

What’s your interpretation? I thought it was ultimately a creative and effective attempt at portraying the similarities and differences between the different channels.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Safe Haven

Today I felt proud to be a future public relations professional. My mentor at my internship is an active member of our community and volunteered her public relations and marketing skills and connections to help the task force for Safe Haven. The committee had a meeting this morning and I was invited by my mentor to tag along.

For those of you who haven't heard about Safe Haven (personally, I hadn't really heard the name before today), it is a piece of legislation that enables parents who are unequipped to raise a newborn child to drop the baby off anonymously at a designated spot in hospitals without prosecution. The goal of the law is to prevent situations in which newborns are placed in danger by other means of abandonment or killed by parents who cannot- or do not want to -raise the child.

The problem is that this legislation is not widely publicized, so many people do not know it is out there. This could prevent the law from effectively saving the lives of unwanted babies. The goal of the task force is to raise awareness about the legislation so that parents who feel they have no other alternative can relinquish their babies into a safe environment where it will be cared for.

As I mentioned, my mentor has volunteered her services to the committee and is committed to helping raise awareness about the law. So far- and on a tight budget- the committee has rented a kiosk in our local mall to raise awareness, placed ads on buses and in schools, aired an interview with a task force member on a local TV news station and created a brief video that is run at an area movie theater along with the previews for showings of movies that are popular for teens.

I was excited when I was asked to help with these initiatives. I was also asked to help reach out to area universities to get them involved in spreading awareness about the law, as the most at-risk age group for reckless abandonment are those who are upper-middle class and college-age.

I feel that this is a great example of a situation in which the field of public relations can truly contribute to a good cause and benefit the community. I am excited- and proud- at the opportunity to work on these projects. This situation has also demonstrated to me that I might have a special interest in health-related public relations. I look forward to contributing to the Lancaster Safe Haven task force and learning more about health-related public relations in the future.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ciao from Italy!

Since I got caught up in the pre-departure frenzy and was unable to blog last week, I thought that this week I'd share a little bit about my first few days without American media and how it's affected me. I'm so used to having information right at my fingertips; back home I can turn on CNN, get online in a second and even grab a paper on my way to class or work. Here that's a different story.

I flew into Rome with Reilly Fies last Wednesday. Before departing, we said goodbye to our loved ones as well as all of our technology. Our American phones wouldn't work here, our laptops were packed up, and the TVs on the planes didn't have CNN or BBC. After leaving Philadelphia we used the Internet when we could, (at Heathrow airport and at a hostel we stayed at in Ostia) but we mainly used it to say hi to friends and family.

When we got to our residence in Rome, we figured out how to get the Internet to work and tried to catch up on things that we had been missing for a few days. We looked at blogs, Twitter, and other sites that we use back home.

The point of this whole blog is that I didn't think I would appreciate online media in Italy more than I did in the US. That changed when I got here and I had no way of knowing what was going on back home except for the Internet! I will continue to depend on online media to get news for the next six weeks, unless I learn Italian and can watch news or read papers here!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Becoming a Blogger

Since becoming director of public relations for PRowl Public Relations, I have already learned a lot! One of the most important things I have learned over the last few weeks relates to this very blog.

As a student of public relations, I have a special interest in social media. I am active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but- up until taking this position with PRowl Public Relations- had little experience with or knowledge about blogs.

One of my new responsibilities is the upkeep of this blog. My predecessor Jessica Lawlor taught me the ins and outs of how to run the blog, including how to post to the blog, how to use the labeling system, how to post to the future, how to link within a blog entry and how to edit posted entries.

I feel that these skills are really important to my future career as a public relations professional, especially because social media is proving to be a valuable medium through which various publics can be engaged. Knowledge about how to blog is an important social media skill, but it is also important for understanding how to work with bloggers in order to spread messages in the future. I have also found blogging to be a great writing exercise.

Learning the basics of PRowl's blog has sparked my interest and drawn me into the blogosphere on a deeper level; I have come to understand blogs and blogging a lot more and see blogs as a valuable means of learning and sharing with others. I recently established a Google Reader and subscribe to twelve blogs (so far). Who knows, maybe I'll even start my own blog one of these days.

Here are some PRowl Public Relations members (past and present) that have gone on to start their own blogs. Be sure to check them out:
  • Staff Member Evan Nicholson, who is currently interning in Los Angeles. She will be blogging about her experiences as she travels and interns this summer.
  • Reilly Fies, former secretary and director of finance. Reilly is studying at Temple Rome this summer and has started a blog about traveling.
  • Jessica Lawlor, who is also studying at Temple Rome this summer. She will be blogging about her experiences in Philly, Rome and everywhere in between.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Old Navy's $1 Flip Flop Sale: Good Publicity Gone Bad?

Old Navy delighted customers- and potentially alienated others- yesterday when it held a $1 flip flop sale. As an employee of the company, I was able to witness consumer reactions firsthand.

During the summer months, Old Navy's flip flops, which normally sell for $3.50 each or two pairs for $5, are a top seller at the store. In fact, the company is renowned for its simple but affordable and reliable flip flops. So when the company decided to offer the sandals for just $1 in a one-day-only sale, it was not surprising that customers were thrilled at the idea of obtaining one of their favorite summer wardrobe staples at an unbelievably low price.

The idea behind the sale is to provide customers with affordable fashion while raising awareness and generating loyalty to the Old Navy brand. The company garnered awareness for its sale by running ads on television and distributing marketing materials in individual stores. Much of the publicity for the event was also generated through word-of-mouth. Some store employees and others who knew about the sale also posted information about the sale to Facebook and other social networking sites to raise awareness.

As far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out on whether or not this sale was a success in achieving the company's strategic objectives. On one hand, the event could enhance the brand image by generating loyalty through the low prices it offered while simultaneously raising awareness about the brand and its other products. The company also held a coloring contest, allowing kids to design their own pair of flip flops. The winner of the coloring contest will have their flip flop manufactured and sold during the 2010 summer season! The entry form also featured a coupon for families whose children participated in the contest. My specific store also hosted face painting and gave out temporary tattoos for kids. These aspects of the sale all worked to paint Old Navy in a positive light.

There were also some factors that likely detracted from the brand image and thus worked against the reputation of the store. Excitement about the sale produced excessive lines. In the specific store in which I work, we estimated there to be over 1,000 customers in line within an hour of the store opening. These long lines served as an aggravation for customers, and also posed other problems. Fire Marshalls were called to regulate against safety hazards, and police were called to curb violence that erupted as a result of line-cutting. The large crowd created a situation in which several children were separated from their parents and also enabled shop-lifters to go unnoticed. Additionally, the company instituted a limit of five pairs of flip flops per customers, which perturbed many shoppers-- especially when our store began to sell out of most sizes and colors of the sandals.

All of these factors of the sale detract from the integrity and reputation of the Old Navy brand. Many customers that came to my register voiced complaints, and several even said "this was not worth the wait." Comments and impressions like these only damage relationships between the company and its publics -- especially when such negative sentiments are later spread from person-to-person.

When a truck from the local news station showed up to cover the story for the evening news, I found myself wondering what angle the station would take for the story. Would they extol the company for its unbelievable sale, or would the company's sale be met with derision for the chaos it created? What do you think, was the sale a net benefit or net loss for the reputation of the Old Navy brand?

Friday, May 22, 2009

How to Pitch Editor of Vanity Fair

I found a great article on yesterday about how to pitch the contributing editor, Michael Wolff, of Vanity Fair. Why was it so great? Because the tips came from the editor himself!

Here are some excerpts:

“‘There’s a big difference between a blind pitch and someone I have a relationship with,’ he told The good news is Wolff has relationships with a number of people in the PR and communications field ‘who are talking to [him] all the time.’ ‘Some of them are among my close friends,’ he said.”

“If your client is hot for immediate coverage in Vanity Fair, don’t bother reaching out to Wolff. Sharing an idea with him takes time. ‘It’s a matter of someone saying to me, ‘What are you thinking about?’ Or saying, ‘You should think about this,’ and that may percolate with me over a number of months.’”

Also, don’t try to pitch him without reading his column and knowing what he actually covers, and don’t let your pitch reek of salesmanship.

Bottom line: If you want a chance at coverage, send him a note first and get to know him, then stimulate his thoughts with your product or service.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Social Media, Social Media!

"To marketers, it seems, personal relations have become the new public relations."

Check out this article in the New York Times about the job market and companies offering new job titles such as social media specialists. The article discusses a winery in California searching for a social media person and the 600 applicants already interested. While it also mentions the real personal conversations social media allows, such as the ones Southwest Airline's go-to twitter person takes advantage of.

"Having a social media aficionado on staff is one way to create conversation about a brand, the same way hip-hop record executives in the 1990s used urban street teams to promote new musicians."

With big corporations and well known companies embracing social media through all assets like Twitter and Facebook, they need someone to master the skills of utilizing these tools.

So, I guess we better get to practicing! Anyone interested in applying for a social media whiz position? Anyone done so already?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Coming FTC Guidelines for the Blogosphere

An interesting update today on PRSA Issues & Trends from Business Week covers an ethical debate on the blogosphere: Is it okay to blog about something a company has “gifted” to you? It’s a smart tactic. Instead of just sending an e-mail touting your product’s great qualities, send the product to the blogger and let them try it for themselves and then hopefully write a fantastic (and seemingly objective) product review. Blogs are often a go-to place for people with similar interests who want their peers’ advice.

This tactic may come to an end soon though with a coming set of Federal Trade Commission guidelines designed to clarify how companies can court bloggers to write about their products.

According to the article, “This summer, the government agency is expected to issue new advertising guidelines that will require bloggers to disclose when they're writing about a sponsor's product and voicing opinions that aren't their own. The new FTC guidelines say that blog authors should disclose when they're being compensated by an advertiser to discuss a product.”

Another way to deter bloggers from taking the company’s bait? Google will penalize you for paid blog entries by demoting your blog in its search results.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How to Weather a Twitterstorm

I started my internship this week, and my employer shared this article by Abbey Klaassen with me from an April edition of Advertising Age. Please forgive me the age of the article, but I thought it was definitely worth sharing!

Sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube give new ways of amplifying and unifying the voices of critics, activists and even everyday people. This feature of social media can have advantages for brands when it magnifies praise, but it can also be incredibly detrimental when it amplifies criticism.

Amazon, when "thousands of its titles, many of them gay- and lesbian-themed, disappeared from its all-important sales-ranking system," and Domino's, when a video of its workers "defacing a yet-to-be delivered sandwich," are two examples of companies who recently suffered from magnified criticism in "Twitterstorm[s]."

Here are 6 steps for dealing with such online frenzies:

1. Listen to the what--and the who. Know who is doing the talking. Who is angry? How angry are they? How widespread is the problem?

2. It's OK to say, "We don't know." One PR pro reminded companies that "'[i]t's perfectly fine if you say, "We're aware there's an issue; we're not ignoring it, and we're working hard to get to the bottom of it."'"

3. Address the crowd where it's gathered. "Knowing someone is listening to you is often more important than getting exactly what you want," Klaassen said in her article.

4. Tone matters. "'People don't expect be infallible. They do expect those companies to want to learn, to want to engage with their customers, to want to listen hard, and to show genuine commitment to fixing the problems -- with the human voice they've become known for,'" one professional communicator pointed out in the article.

5. Explain how you'll address the future. Transparency is a must; own up to the problem, explain why it happened, explain measures in place to prevent another incident and apologize for the problem.

6. Invest now to prepare for accidents later. Have a plan.

Tips like these can help companies recover in the wake of viral crises like those of Amazon and Domino's.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Networking: Think Outside of the Box!

I recently had the honor of interviewing Paige Wolf, of Paige Wolf Media & Public Relations, for an article I was writing for an upcoming edition of the Temple PRSSA newsletter. Paige Wolf Media & Public Relations is a Philadelphia-based firm specializing in "eco-friendly and community-conscious lifestyle public relations." Wolf had some great advice to offer students of public relations.

Everyone knows that PR is all about connections, so many people involved in PR understand the value of networking and relationship-building -- especially when trying to get one's foot in the door. However, it seems that students of public relations tend to focus their networking efforts on attempts to network within the field of PR.

These connections are certainly valuable, but Wolf also advocated networking within specific fields of interest. "Try to find your niche and really network," she said. "Don't just network at PR events- try to network within your own interest. If you are interested in animals, attend an SPCA event. If you like fashion, go to fashion shows."

While this makes perfect sense, it does not seem to be the type of networking students do enough of. I myself must admit that even though I am potentially interested in working in health care or travel PR in my future, I have very few acquaintances within those fields.

Both types of networking are important, but, as students of PR in today's challenging economy, we must not forget to branch out into the specific fields in which we one day aspire to work. After all, in this business, every connection counts.

At the very least, Wolf reminds students to "[m]eet as many people as you can and try to create meaningful relationships."

Sunday, May 17, 2009


As many of you know, Jessica Lawlor, who acted as director of public relations for PRowl Public Relations, recently left our organization to become president of Temple PRSSA.

My name is Emily Woodward, and I will be taking over her duties as director of public relations. A little about me: I'm originally from Lancaster, Pa. I will begin my junior year at Temple this upcoming fall, and am majoring in public relations. Besides being involved with PRowl, I'm an active member of Temple PRSSA and the Temple Student Alumni Association. I love to read and I'm also interested in travel. I find the field of public relations fascinating and am dedicated to sharing and learning as much as I can!

Jessica has taught me a lot over the course of the last semester, as she is extremely knowledgeable and versed within the field of public relations! Her presence at PRowl Public Relations will truly be missed. She has left big shoes to fill, but I promise to do my best.

That being said, I am looking forward to interacting with the surrounding community on behalf of PRowl Public Relations!
  • As always, please feel free to contact us by e-mailing I promise to respond quickly and thoroughly!
  • We also welcome your feedback about our blog! Let us know what you like, what you don't like, what you agree and disagree with. What would you like to see more- or less- of? I will do my best to act upon your feedback.
  • Please also consider following the firm on Twitter! Find us @PRowlPR. I will be tweeting about what's new on our blog, as well as interesting information about our firm and the field of public relations. You can also follow me on Twitter @Ecwdwd.
  • Did you know that PRowl Public Relations also has a Facebook group? Check us out!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Time Well Spent

If you are a regular reader of our blog, you probably know that this past week marked the conclusion of final exams and the official end of our semester at Temple.

My last final was on Wednesday and was for my Cyberspace and Society class, a computer and information science class that explores today's computer technology.

I originally took this class because I needed a second level science course that didn't seem too hard; I must admit that I had little or no interest in the coursework, although I did recognize that the skills I would learn may be helpful to know at some point in time.

Studying for this last exam gave me a chance to reflect on what I had learned over the course of the past 15 weeks, and suddenly a semester's worth of seemingly annoying projects took on a new level of significance. Although I did not particularly enjoy the class, I am shocked at the amount of skills that I have learned as a result.

Because of this class, I now have:
  • An understanding of HTML
  • Experience with Adobe Dreamweaver software and website-building
  • Experience shooting a digital video and editing and compiling a finished product using Windows MovieMaker
  • Experience posting a video to YouTube
  • Experience using a wiki to complete group work

After realizing how much I had learned, it became clear to me that this class did not simply teach me the technical workings of technology. Instead, this class helped me diversify my skill set as a future public relations professional.

I was reminded of the Careers 101 event hosted by the Philadelphia Public Relations Association in March, where the panelists stressed the need for students to have experience with- and an understanding of- web-based media.

Although I took this course to satisfy a requirement, I feel that skills that I learned in this class may actually apply directly to my future career and give me a competitive edge in the job market. So, time spent on projects that seemed annoying in the moment ended up amounting into time well spent.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Check this out!

Although we are a public relations firm, fields like advertising still sit closely with our line of work. With the state of the economy stores are forced to close down around the country. Check out what these landlords are offering companies in this article... creative storefront advertising!

*Picture from the

Landlords are taking abandoned retail spaces and leasing/renting them to companies at cut-rate prices. Though, "At first, advertisers saw storefront advertising as a poor man’s billboard — that is, a bad thing. Now, they see it as a poor man’s billboard — that is, brilliantly frugal."

If you live in Philadelphia you can even see an Advanta sponsored storefront ad on Walnut Street!

So what do you think about these ads?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Goodbye From Me, Also!

Not only is this week Jessica's last week posting for PRowl Public Relations, it is also my last week. Hopefully you'll be hearing from me again in the future!

I've had a great time being in PRowl. I got a lot of experience that I have never even come close to seeing in the classroom. Being director of finance, secretary, an account executive and an account staff member has opened my eyes so much to the world of PR. I never thought I'd be writing and executing a PR plan in my second and third years of college. I only thought that was for seniors in their final semester. However, our founder Natalie wanted to give us all the experience we could ever ask for.

I'm going to miss everyone in PRowl, but I'll still be in close contact with everyone. I'm not just leaving PRowl and falling off the face of the earth. I will be Jessica's vice president in Temple's chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Both PRSSA and PRowl work closely together, and we will be making a name for both organizations at Temple.

Hopefully you'll be hearing a guest blog from me next year! Have a great summer everyone! I sure know I will - I'll be in Rome with Jessica and Melissa!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's that time of the year again ...

My room is a wreck from all of my books, papers, articles, study materials, and laundry that I will definitely be taking home to do. I can feel the sun coming in through the windows, and I know it's almost time for S-U-M-M-E-R! In just about a week I'll be packing up and boarding a plane to Italy where I'll be studying until July, and I couldn't be more excited. But first I have to get through my last final. Which leads me to say ...

Good luck on your last day of finals from everyone at PRowl!

If you're already done, I hope you had a great semester and got through finals without pulling out your hair.

Anyone have any fun summer plans? Internships? Traveling? Working? We want to hear about it!

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Goodbye- For Now

I can't believe the time has come for me to write my very last blog post as PRowl Public Relations' Director of Public Relations.

I've been with the firm since the very beginning, and I've loved watching it grow both in credibility and membership. When I joined the firm, I had just switched my major to public relations and couldn't even tell you what a press release was, let alone how to write one. Thanks to Natalie, our past firm director and Jaime, our current firm director, I learned not only how to write a press release, but also how to successfully participate in brainstorming sessions, write a PR plan, present to a client, and manage an account team.

Through my position as Director of Public Relations, I ventured on a social media journey of my own, and learned so much that this semester, I was able to teach our firm members about social media. Because of my experiences in PRowl Public Relations, I now know how to create and maintain a successful blog and use Twitter to network with PR people all over the world. I've found other amazing PR blogs to read and now know more about the industry than I ever could have imagined, and certainly more than what I could have learned solely in class.

As I've mentioned before, I'm leaving the firm to be the president of Temple University's PRSSA chapter. I look forward to the challenges that await me in this new position.

I know that my replacement Emily Woodward will nurture this blog as much as I did, and I know that she will succeed in this position.

Hopefully this won't be the last you hear from me as I plan on starting my own blog next fall. I also hope that Emily will let me guest blog from time to time on this very blog that launched my love for all things social media.

Best of luck to all the members of PRowl Public Relations! I can't wait to see the amazing things you do next year.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

MySpace Tries to Compete

Check out this article on Business Week's website about MySpace trying to compete with the ever increasing popularity of Facebook.

As public relation professionals, it has become critical to follow social media and that means staying on top of what is garnering the most attention and what sites are the most popular.

We all are familiar with the battle between Facebook and MySpace... Currently Facebook is winning with 236 million unique visitors worldwide since January compared to MySpace which holds 126 million globally. But according to analysis based on unique visitors and time spent on the sites, MySpace still has an edge!

Advertising is major threat each site has against one another. So what can MySpace do to stay in the game? They offer a "home-page takeover," something Facebook does not have. But is it enough?

What do you think? Are the days of MySpace over or is there still a chance for the original social site? What will it take for MySpace to maintain growth like Facebook?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

KFC: Think it Through!

Kentucky Fried Chicken recently partnered with Oprah to offer a downloadable coupon on her website offering consumers two pieces of the brand's new product, Kentucky Grilled Chicken.

However, this gesture, which was intended to gain good PR, backfired for the company. In fact, the situation had arguably the opposite effect, causing anger and frustration in many consumers.

Consumers waited hours to download the coupon because the website could not accommodate the high numbers of traffic the offer drew. There were also problems in redeeming the coupon, as individual restaurants were seemingly unaware of the offer and unwilling or ill-prepared to handle the volume of free chicken they were expected to hand out.

These problems can largely be attributed to poor planning; when designing their PR initiative, KFC apparently did not (sufficiently) take into consideration "the enormous drawing power of Oprah, the viral capabilities of the internet (which immediately clucked the news even to people who don't watch Oprah...), the general allure of anything that is free, and the state of the economy," according to an article written for NPR by Linda Holmes.

We can all learn something from the mistakes made in this situation: when implementing a PR plan, think things through and do your research thoroughly to avoid a PR nightmare!

**Update (added 5/10/09):
KFC has acknowledged the problems associated with the offer and is now taking good steps in crisis communication to work toward fixing the problem. The company has apologized publicly on the Oprah show for the mix-up and has also posted a statement of apology on The company says it will "honor [their] commitment to giving [consumers] a free Kentucky Fried Chicken meal" by issuing rain check forms that have been made available at participating restaurants. The company has also provided detailed instructions to consumers about how to properly complete the rain check forms and has made contact information- a phone number and e-mail address- available on Oprah's website. When all is said and done, besides learning from KFC's mistakes in this incident, maybe there will be some good lessons in PR to take from this situation as well.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Simplify Your Writing

I recently started receiving "Ragan's Daily Headlines," an e-mail similar to PRSA Issues and Trends that lists different topics being written about for communicators. An article posted today talked about the importance of eliminating clutter from your message. Be concise and clear; here are some examples you can use to simplify your writing:

"accompanied by" - "with"
"answered in the negative" - "said no"
"at the present time" - "now"
"experience has indicated that" - "I have found"
"it is to be assumed that" - "I suppose"
"it is our opinion that" - "we think"
"it is possible that we might" - "we may"
"subsequent to" - "after"

Also, reduce "tautology" (repetition of meaning) to further simplify your message. Some examples in the report are as follows:

basic fundamentals
cirrhosis of the liver
consensus of opinion
free gift
new innovation
true facts
unconfirmed rumor
unproved suspicion
unvarnished candor
widow woman
yellow jaundice

I've been guilty of using "free gift" and "basic fundamentals." How about you? Are you guilty of any of the above or have any other phrases you'd like to add to the list?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Breaking Boundaries

On Tuesday, some members of Temple University's PRSSA chapter and I attended Drexel University's PRSSA event, "Breaking Boundaries: The Revolution of Social Media."

I found out about this awesome event when I e-mailed Drexel's PRSSA president Frannie DeFranco. She kindly invited Temple's PRSSA to attend.

The event was a panel with PR pros and social media experts answering questions about social media and the future of these sites and how it will affect our field. The panelists were:

Valeria Maltoni
Steven L. Lubetkin
Scott McNulty
Kate Shields
Gloria Bell

The panel was moderated by Rick Alcantara.

When asked what social media is, one of the panelists answered, "social media is life." How very true...Everytime we are communicating online, we are using social media.

Panelist Gloria Bell answered that social media is all about, "communicating, connecting and conversation."

Rick Alcantara posed a question about how to respond to clients who claim they have no time for social media. The panelists all responded that you need to make time for social media, because whether you are involved in the conversation or not, it's happening, and isn't it better to be a part of the conversation than out of it?

Great questions were asked by several audience members which consisted of about half students, half professionals.

I posed the question, "is Twitter just a passing fad or is it here to stay?" The panelists responded that Twitter, the site may go away, but the idea of Twitter will never leave. The idea of constant conversation and communication is definitely here to stay.

After the Q and A portion ended, we headed out to the lobby for some networking. I met a few great people, and enjoyed getting to know some of Drexel's PRSSA members and executive board.

Thanks to Drexel's PRSSA for putting on a great event!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pitching Through Twitter?

We've done it time and again: proofread, edited and chopped down a pitch to what we think is the absolute shortest it can be. The newest challenge? Pitch in 140 characters, or less. In an article from PR Daily, there are tips on how to pitch through Twitter.

-Form relationships with those you're trying to pitch. You can't just find them and send them your meticulously edited pitch. You must get to know them first.
-Don't give up after one tweet.
-Don't pitch in a direct message
-Just like any pitches, know the beat of that person. Really do your research.

You've got 140 characters. Use them wisely.

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Social Marketing

Choosing to be a public relations major at Temple has given me the chance to take many classes that I normally wouldn't choose. Since the PR major leaves a lot of room for electives, and I didn't choose a minor, I have been taking a bunch of different classes that I am interested in. One area that I have learned about that I really like is social change.

I learned about social change in my sociology class, and in a social movements class that I have this semester. I thought it was really interesting, but I didn't know how I could merge that with my love of PR. Would I try to work with a company that's goal was social change?

One solution to my question came at the end of the semester when I had to write a newsletter for a class. One of my topics was called social marketing; something I didn't know anything about. It turns out that social marketing is "the planning and implementation of programs designed to bring about social change using concepts from commercial marketing" (The Social Marketing Institute). After doing some research on social marketing, it seemed like something I would really be interested in.

One of the things I love most about PR is that you can take PR anywhere. It's possible to merge your interest in PR with another one of your passions. All it takes it a little digging, a little soul searching (what are you passionate about?) and a little research!

For more information on social marketing, check out The Social Marketing Institute's website here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Top 5 Things I Learned Being Director of PR for PRowl Public Relations

My time in PRowl Public Relations is quickly coming to an end. As I may have mentioned before, I'm unfortunately leaving PRowl Public Relations at the end of this semester...but for good reason!

Next year, I'll be Temple University's PRSSA chapter president. I'm very excited about this opportunity, but I'm sad to see my time at PRowl Public Relations end.

I'll bid you my official goodbye next Monday but for now, I'd like to share the top 5 things I learned being PRowl Public Relations' Director of Public Relations.

1. Social Media, Social Media, Social Media- I can't stress enough how important social media is. Without PRowl Public Relations, I probably never would have learned to blog or tweet, and thank goodness I did! The opportunities that come from social networking are incredible. I'm so glad I got the chance to expand my network and to learn how to use these crucial tools.

2. Organization is key- Whether it's collecting clips or organizing calendar dates on Blackboard, organization is so crucial to a PR practicioner. It's important to save everything to ensure that everything is in its proper place. It's also important to make sure everything is organized to ensure seamless transitions when a new person comes into the firm or takes on a leadership position.

3. Connect with PR students at other schools- Through Twitter, I've gotten the opportunity to network with PR students from all over the country, including other students who work for student-run PR firms. It's great to hear what their firms are doing, and to get advice. Remember, though we may go to different schools now, we will all be working together in the very near future!

4. Learn to compromise- As part of a board of directors or in any kind of leadership position, you're not always going to get your way. Learn to make compromises in order to maintain strong relationships.

5. Writing- I know as a PR student you're probably sick of hearing about the importance of writing, but the reason you keep hearing it is because it really is important. During my time in PRowl Public Relations I've written PR plans, PR plan evaluations, blog posts, tweets, brochure text, Web site text and hundreds of e-mails. No matter what the type of writing, make sure it's 100 percent perfect.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Where will Summer Lead our PRowl Public Relations Members?: Jade Barnes

Pretty much anyone who knows me knows that I love music. I listen to endless amounts of songs, go to concerts, and wouldn't be here right now if my mom hadn't met my dad when he was a DJ at a local radio station in Florida (she wanted Sting tickets, but instead got a husband).

I grew up in South Jersey, and the kids in my town constantly went to shows in Philadelphia. The Electric Factory, the First Unitarian Church, the TLA and even the Trocadero were all venues that my older brother and his friends went to. Finally, my senior year of high school, I also started attending the trips to Philadelphia and it was amazing.

In March, I decided to send in my resume to the Trocadero for an internship that focused on Special Events and Production. I was ecstatic when I received an email asking when I could meet for an interview and I was jumping for joy when I landed the internship for the summer!

I recently started interning and it has been a great experience so far. On my first day, after getting a tour of the venue, I got to place set lists back stage and do hospitality for the bands. I have also begun to learn HTML to create bulletins for the Troc's Facebook and Myspace pages. I have also worked on contacting the Street Team to find people to flier at concerts in the Greater Philadelphia Area and have been looking up concerts for the month of May.

I'm still in the early stages of interning, but I absolutely love it. I look forward to blogging about my experiences this summer, live from the Troc!

This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations firm staff member, Jade Barnes. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebarnes.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Keeping with the Times

In my Introduction to Communication Theory class this week, we discussed identity and new media. Because it is so varied, we jokingly defined new media as "anything the old guys don't know how to use" to interact.

Imagine my surprise recently when I opened my e-mail one morning and found an invitation from my dad to connect on LinkedIn.

I had created a LinkedIn profile a few months ago, but honestly I had not utilized the site much since then. In fact, my dad's invitation marked my first official connection on the site!

This event drove home the point of how pervasive social networking sites are becoming in our society; even my dad- one of the "old guys"- is joining in. But it also brought with it a new appreciation for my dad and his willingness to change with the times. After all, the world of social and new media is changing so rapidly that it is hard for me to keep up, even though I consider myself an interested and engaged member of this technology-driven generation. It takes a lot for someone who is pretty removed from the phenomenon to begin to get involved.

My dad's willingness to embrace these new elements of our culture also reminded me of the need to stay on top of these new sites, especially as a student studying public relations. Technology and social media are valuable ways of reaching a diverse audience, but they are constantly changing, and they will not wait for anyone! Those who are able to adapt and stay with these various new media outlets are the ones who will get- and stay- ahead of the pack. Simply being aware of these outlets for networking is not enough; one must stay actively engaged in order to thrive.

Needless to say, I have been more active on LinkedIn lately. Thanks dad.

Friday, May 1, 2009

10 Things to Learn from the CDC

Advertising Age recently published the article “In a Time of Crisis, Sexy and Flashy Doesn't Count.” With the Swine Flu - I’m sorry, the 2009 H1N1 Virus - slipping off everyone’s tongue every time someone coughs or sneezes, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has done a particularly fantastic job on communicating during a crisis. The article lists ten things marketers can learn from the CDC's response to the Swine Flu epidemic.
  1. Empower those who want to help others: The CDC website allows site visitors to subscribe to and share its content, especially the real-time information.
  2. Make search really, really simple and accessible: This search feature should be on the homepage of the website. It's not enough to simple build a search capability into your site. Repeatedly test it with important queries and make sure it works on timely topics.
  3. Syndicate the message: Everyone is talking about the Swine Flu. The CDC needs a presence, or some level of representation everywhere. The CDC has made its swine flu information easy to share and pass-on virally through social networks, such as widgets, Twitter links and embeddable mobile apps. The CDC even set up a account specific for crisis situations.
  4. Communicate in multiple languages: Everyone needs to know, period. Even though CDC is a U.S. agency, you can learn about swine flu in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese or even Tagalog.
  5. Push mobile as a service extension, and don't make it complicated: The CDC appears to be working really hard to make its data available to consumers via mobile devices, services or widgets.
  6. Be simple and selective on Twitter, don't over complicate: Share only the most essential content. Everything the @CDCEmergency account shares is important, timely and actionable.
  7. Prime the messaging: The CDC created Health eCards on topics like "Teach Hand Washing" or "Immunization." And by tweeting early, the CDC is helping to frame the public's perception of this event by providing rational and fact-based messaging.
  8. Update the scorecard 24/7: The CDC refreshes and updates the swine flu "scorecard" on the front page daily. This builds confidence and authority. It keeps people coming back. It doesn't need to be sexy or flashy; it just needs to be reliable and consistent. Timeliness boosts relevance and credibility.
  9. Exploit sight, sound and motion: The CDC provides site visitors with multiple ways and formats to consume this serious content, from video explanations to podcasts featuring health domain experts.
  10. Proactively ask for feedback: On the front page of the CDC page there's a prominent "Tell us what you think" button and the ensuing process for providing feedback is simple and obvious. Even after the podcasts, they feature a "How are we doing?" button.