Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Comment #4

Recently I came across a joke about PR. A mathematician, an accountant and a public relations officer apply for the same job. When asked by the interviewer "what does two plus two equal?" the mathematician and accountant say, '4'. The public relations officer responds: "What do you want it to equal?"

Here's what I've learned about relationship between PR people and their clients. There's several particular things clients want from communication agents. First, to be told what to say; even if they know what to say, they still want a second opinion and the way to clarify the message. Second, to get media coverage of course. Third, to have process details shared with them at all times. It benefits internal relationship and smoothes operations. Fourth, to deal with crisis situations, which require apologies and cleaning the mess up. Fifth, to generate cash back as the bottom line. Followers, likes, re-tweets, shares at the end must equal cash!  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My PR beginnings

As someone interested in the field of public relations and studying this for the past year I know there's a variety of aspects involved. I've learned some about different types of public relations interviews. The first would be the job interview. And of course I will have to go through it to be able to get a position in the field. As with any other career industry, I will have to prepare. Do my homework, as many say. Taking a good, relevant internship will be vital because employers are increasingly demanding that job applicants have related experience. And I'm excited do projects for Vine Multimedia, which I recently got internship at.

It was crucial to develop experience and skills that help me to prepare. Through university I've worked on a number of PR projects. Some of them were interesting, some were not. But the more challenging the project, the stronger you become: it worked exactly this way for me. I developed my public speaking, communications, copywriting and graphic design skills. And many more. But it's only the beginning, the development should not stop.

Speaking of representing a company, I'd note that corporations must be interviewed for their side of a story. For example, if a particular firm is receiving bad publicity on an issue, it is important to talk with the people running it to see what they have to say about their decisions and their involvement in various matters. Sometimes you have to get under their skin, which could be very challenging and uncomfortable for them. If it's a campaign to increase awareness for a company, I have to learn about them first. Research comes first, always; it's like a steering wheel in the car - you don't have it, you can't drive it. The main things here are the organization's history, mission, goals, and other supportive information. There's also a need for agents to help do an image makeover. Based on what I've learned in Case Studies and Issues in PR class and what I see in the news, they can be used to put a spin on issues for celebrities and executives, or to repair their images through interviews or press conferences. Clients are placing their trust in PR agents, who need to be sure to deliver on that trust in order to maintain a strong relationship. Doesn't matter who is a potential client or source of a future referral so the best policy is to find a way to make sure you follow up on any opportunity, even if the interaction seems to be small.

All of the above refers to people skills that open career doors. Quality of interpersonal skills is one of the important reasons employees are promoted to management positions. It is never late to learn to conduct productive easygoing conversations. I understand it's normal to be nervous when interacting with people for the first time, but I do not let anxiety or tension stand on my way. Reading body language helps a lot: expressions, gestures, posture, eye contact. I'm not afraid to seek feedback and criticism anymore, at the end of the day they make me think of how to improve my life. Those are the essential things that I defined for myself, they can help anyone  to be successful not only in the field of PR, but in everyday routine. I started with myself, I made change and now I see it. 

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Comment #3

A great way to put your personal resources altogether and to create your own history. At the end of the day we're all driven by our values, which should be aligned with the goals and be the core of all the beginnings. Do not forget to dream and picture yourself in the future. Have your opinion, let it be heard rather than staying neutral. Being proved wrong gives you the opportunity to learn, the more open you are the better your connection with the world. Proactive lifestyle keeps you fit both mentally and physically, balancing these two makes you stand out and be visible. Be true to yourself, know your weaknesses and share beliefs. Have the priority of things: the first, the following, the least. Become extension of your roots, it's certainly worthwhile; you are the master of YOU brand, YOU image and YOU style. Sky's the limit, time is joy when one does things the right way. Keep that in mind, always be kind and don't forget to smile!

Monday, July 15, 2013

The saga of the BlackBerry

Once known as the market leader of smart-phones, Research In Motion may have seen and touched the future of mobile technology a few years ago, but was bumped off by the introduction of Apple iPhone around 2007. At that time RIM was the master of the smart-phone industry having loyal customers who were dedicated to company's BlackBerry phones with the signature keyboard. It took them a couple of years to realize that the future was going to be different from what company had created. And they still didn't know how to reach it, an overloaded software platform could simply stop functioning one day. In addition, RIM's marketing strategy was a complete mess. Different agencies ruled their own versions of a BlackBerry campaign almost in every country or region. Even within the same region, campaigns would slightly change, which led to no lasting effect.

According to Kantar Media market research made in 2012, BlackBerry spent $41.3 million that year on marketing in U.S., while Samsung and Apple spent more than $400 and $333.4 million respectively.

The beginning of 2013 shed light on renamed as BlackBerry company's vision of the future. Still not clear, still distant and risky. Although, some of the core ways are determined. BlackBerry phones of the past were for communication, the future ones are for computing, commanding, controlling. New devices will be used to do business, command your car, or control your health. The launch of BlackBerry 10 signalized company's re-design, re-engineering and re-invention.

Many say the success in this market in no longer dependent on the device quality, it's more about ecosystem. 70,000 of BlackBerry's applications are competing against 775,000 iPhone apps and 600,000 apps for Android. Great product is not enough to regain lost ground, they need to grasp new opportunities. That's why this case draws my attention: BlackBerry has the potential to get back to its leader position if they make tough decisions. That refers to Thorstein Heins, CEO of the company, who earned the reputation for doing so: after crisis he laid off about 5,000 workers and focused on software development. Now BlackBerry makes both hardware and software just like Apple, but they can license the software platform for additional revenue, which Apple does not do. Owned by BlackBerry QNX Software company also developed a stable operating system to eliminate crashes and is going to improve it over the next few years.

Overall, BlackBerry's saga continues to gain momentum. They went back to basics by taking the focus off the growth only, moved quickly towards restructuring the marketing division under a centralized unit. Company's Live conferences were aimed to change the perceptions about them and deliver the message "We're back". Another way they intend to mainstream awareness is through the carriers, which have rich advertising resources. Operators want to create competition and variety in handsets and BlackBerry will launch more new models this year and next year at the mid- and lower-ends. Let's see who wins this race...

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Comment #2

Thank you for the insightful tips. I am currently studying PR at University of Winnipeg. I came to Canada less than 3 years ago from Belarus and of course felt the need to develop communication skills. My speaking wasn't too bad, but writing left much to be desired. At that time I had no clue that I was going to be Public Relations and Marketing student (my program includes both and is very intense). Working as a bartender I got to know many people in the neighbourhood. That certainly helped me to open up and not being afraid to speak up, even making mistakes or no sense at all. Anyway, the feeling of doing something better than just that did not want to leave me. I set up a goal - to become good at writing, be not only heard but read too. This summer I'm finishing the program with other 25 domestic and international students just like me. My class is very diverse in terms of backgrounds, countries, and age. We all were taught a handful of essential PR skills. And blogging is one of them. I must admit, for me it was a struggle at first as I had never done it before. I remember the day when I was assigned to write my first blog post. Inspiration left me for hours. Now those days are history. Blogging became an ongoing process for me. Thanks to Samantha Lapedus and her classes!

Occupy Wall Street Movement, where are you?

Occupy Wall Street unites people regardless of colors, genders and political persuasions as a leaderless resistance movement. The common thing between those people is that They Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. The official website states that movement is using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve their goals and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.

Up to this date, numerous debates on gathering in Zuccotti Park in September 2011 still taking place. While the first Occupiers had originally came to protest Wall Street, once the movement began their game plan was not very clear. What are their goals? How are they going to pursue them? Nevertheless, Occupy began to spread throughout the States and internationally, despite the lack of clarity. After a month there were hundreds of other protests, debates, critiques across not only American society.

Even though Occupiers did not issue clear demands, one thing became evident to me right away: they are aiming to reverse the agenda of global capitalism, which increases socio-economic inequality and originates in U.S. Among the key organizers there were Kalle Lasn, head of a small anti-consumerist magazine from Vancouver, Vlad Teichberg, former derivatives trader, and David Graeber, anthropologist at the University of London. They continue to build a movement even after violent evictions across the U.S. and other countries. Some people think it had come to an end. I don't believe that  protesters had an intention of abandoning a movement that had already bought out thousands of people to demand attention to the economic inequalities.

On the other hand, Occupy is not winning the war. No tangible results are seen, no real organizational policy, no legislation influenced, no candidates put forward. Nothing had really changed. Movement was set out to promote self-expression and did not focus on any particular goal. Occupy together with many labor unions could be a winning coalition of citizens, taking into account that even police is unionized in New York. Organizers probably didn't care about win-lose situations. They overly relied on viral effect of an idea. But even small victories in a movement, struggle, resistance, campaign can turn participants into fearless winners, who will feed off those win moments and get only stronger. First of all, Occupy Wall Street needs a mission, so people can relate to it and follow. Without it the movement has a risk to remain weak and uninfluential.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wal-Mart: "For" or "Against"

As the largest American multinational retailer corporation, the biggest private employer in the world with 2.2 million employees, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., or Walmart, has been running chains of large discount department stores and warehouse stores since 1962 (incorporated in 1969). Company is controlled by the Walton family with 48% stake in it. It is also the U.S. largest grocery retailer and the world's third largest public corporation after Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. By the end of 2012 Walmart had 8,500 stores under 55 different names in 15 countries and is currently developping strategies for growth through the next 20 years. The company is proud of its strategy and even incorporates it within its moniker "Always Low prices, Always." While company's business in United Kingdom, South America, and China is going very well, German and South Korean ventures were unsuccessful.

Walmart is not the only store criticized for its policies, but it has become a symbol for much of what is wrong with employers. For the fiscal year ending in January 2011, Walmart reported a net income of $15.4 billion on $422 billion of revenue. It's obviously a lot of money to justify some questionable workplace practices; however, stories persist about wage law violations, inadequate health care, exploitation of employess, and the retailer's anti-union position. Some 5,000 lawsuits are filed against the company each year. Walmart is facing an enormous wave of negativity - from community activists trying to keep big retailer away from their neighbourhoods, to local governments mandating that Wal-Mart supply workers with health insurance, to opportunistic lawyers trying to get rich by bringing on endless lawsuits, to labor unions, grassroots organizations, religious organizations, environmental groups, and customers of course. Company is being accused in racial and gender discrimination, mistreating illegal aliens, denying overtime pay. Criticism also includes the corporation's foreign product sourcing, treatment of suppliers, compensation and working conditions, environmental practices, the use of public subsidies, and the company's security policies.

Walmart's SWOT analysis can help understand its internal and external potential. Among company's Strengths are: large scale of operations, extensive information systems, wide range of products, low cost leadership strategy, and international operations. Weaknesses include labour related lawsuits, high employee turnover, little differentiation, and negative publicity. Corporation's Opportunities are the following: retail market growth in emerging markets, rising acceptance of own label products, healthy eating trends, and growth of online shopping. Threats that Walmart is facing are: increasing competition from non-chain and online competitors, resistance from local communities, rising commodity product prices.

PEST analysis can help to define the areas of Walmart's concern which are important and necessary to activate immediately. This analysis also reveals the positive or negative affects to their business according to some factors. In political sphere, corporation is affected by policies on economy and trading agreements, such as NAFTA. Economically, unemployment rate and slightly increase in consumption are likely to influence Walmart. The U.S. government is planning to decrease the amount of supercenters to leverage capital assets through increase in returns and sales across the country. In socio-cultural terms company is affected by the faster pace of life where efficiency is the key. Social infuence pushes consumers to shop at Walmart to the point where it becomes a trend to use one stop service. Walmart uses IT technologies and online shopping opportunities for the core purpose of marketing, they rely on social media for advertising and selling their products.

There are many groups and individuals who have a stake in what Walmart does, the market and non-market stakeholders are among them. The first ones include the stockholders, company's executives, employees, consumers, non-profit organizations, online and gasoline retailers, and commuities where Walmart is located. Non-market stakeholders have a non-economic or political stake in what course the company takes, they are labor unions, international retail stores, and politicians. In public, Walmart uses top of the line Public Relations strategy firms to produce commercials for its stores and to portray the best possible image. Its relationships with key stakeholders are maintained as well by the communication of corporate statements on its Internet site and through other paper based corporate communications. Walmart's public message is consistent, and has been so over time. The core message is that Walmart is a "family friendly" store, and that it is good to its customers, and that it is an asset to the local community. The messages of selling for less, respecting employees and communities, and expanding are all echoed in company's Annual Reports.

According to company's reports, their sales continue to improve, but different measures of public opinion indicate that their reputation declines, which affects both ability to reach new shoppers and to build new stores. In order to further increase sales the company must either sell more products to existing customers or identify new ones. Recent public opinion surveys indicate that although people are shopping there, they are not happy about it because of Walmart's poor business practices. The Harris Interactive survey found that shoppers consider company's labor practices above all other social responsibility issues. In 2008, The Reputation Institute ranked the 150 largest U.S. companies based on "the overall trust, esteem, admiration and good feelings consumers have toward them." Walmart came in at number 136 out of 150 companies, dropping 76 places from number 57 in 2007. Walmart Watch 2007 Public Opinion Survey indicates the drop by 5% in overall favourability, 27% of respondents developed a more negative opinion on the company. It's clear enough that Walmart needs more than a logo or an advertising campaign to fix the situation.

After all this, we may be curious to see how Walmart's social media strategy addresses its online brand reputation issues. While being perceived as an "evil empire" by some, company does a lot of good for its communities and the world, for example providing 2,450 truckloads of supplies to Hurricane Katrina victims and donating more than $2 million to end world hunger. The brand developed the strategy to share corporate news and build public goodwill by sharing information about how Walmart is helping society. They created multiple Twitter handles, each targeting a different audience with the information and messages that pertain to them. Walmart's Director of Social Media, Umang Shah, also implemented a way to monitor social media conversations almost around the clock so that questions and issues addressed in social media are addressed as soon as possible. Before implementing that strategy company analyzed data by utilizing Social Flow tool.  Additionally, Shah stated that engagement online could be bought, but the true value of the content and the way of engagement is told by how much succeed without paying for it. Walmart constantly updates its Facebook feed, and created pages for each store across the nation. As was noted by Wanda Young, Vice President of Media and Digital Marketing for Walmart, company's marketing team asks questions to engage its customers on Facebook, and uses the answers to change the way it does business. Walmart understands the importance of building relationships with customers through social media platforms, let's see where this  path full of controversy and negativity will take them...

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Comment # 1 (Case Studies and Issues in PR)

The 3 F's of Time Management for Overwhelmed Entrepreneurs. By Elena Velree.

Sometimes we need to slow down in order to get work done. Being overwhelmed by the pace of my school activities, I realized that mono-tasking is the way in a real life experience, especially if you are going to become an entrepreneur. By minimizing distractions and focusing carefully on the task at a time, we can actually speed up our overall work rate. With so much head work, we can often neglect our bodies. Regular exercise helps me blow off steam, gives me more energy, greater concentration and better sleep at night. It's good to track your time hour-by-hour for one week: everything that you're doing from the time you get up until you go to bed. This is so sobering! By doing that I usually see where the holes in my calendar are. It helps to rearrange my life (and calendar) accordingly. Some may not support me, but being selfish is a good thing. Once I have prioritized my to-do list, I put that ahead of all others' lists. When I'm able to get my own work done, I'm in a much better position to support others with their projects.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The power of persuasion (TOW#1, Case Studies and Issues in PR)

In its purest form PR often promotes one group's endeavors to persuade another group to its point of view. There is competition for the available time and space. Some individuals seem to get more than their fair share. Other are barely visible. Some do not appear at all. The competition is a fact of life in the news business. That's why it is important to develop a "hook", a reason that your organization should be singled out for coverage.

Here's 3 questions concerning public persuasion that I'm going to answer providing my own examples.

What made you change your opinion of a public figure, organization or brand?

Upon my arrival in Canada from Republic of Belarus in 2010 I was not familiar enough with Walmart, the largest retailer in the world. It was obvious: Winnipeg is packed with company's stores. I must say that my impression about their business was not vivid, because some former employees I know had negative experience with Walmart. The list of reasons explained seemed to be endless: horrible wages and high demands,  poor health insurance and environmental approaches, discrimination against pregnant, labor abuses, high staff turnover, union-busting, shareholders' greediness, local retailer oppression, outsourcing from Asia with terrible labor violations. Company spends more spying on their own employees than on security of their consumers, who are being robbed, raped and murdered on the parking lot (2005 Walmart parking lot crimes). Word of mouth played its role in shaping my own opinion on Walmart policies. Now I wonder how does the company address such a bad publicity. Food for thought for a separate blog post...

What factors have influenced your decision to do or not to do something?

Being a member of GoodLife Fitness Club for the past year I've been constantly following company's presence in the media. Thanks to their efforts to give every Canadian the opportunity to live a fit and healthy good life, I got engaged with this whole idea instantly and can't imagine my life without regular exercising anymore. Since its foundation in 1979 GoodLife have created a big community with their own values (7 corevalues), which are shared with a positive attitude through multiple ways, whether it's a blog, forum, facebook page, twitter, training program, marathons, charity cause, etc. They are definitely good in gathering people. I find their campaigns are very appealing and messages clear, for example: "When you experience the life-enhancing benefits of exercise, others around you do as well." Every new campaign includes short TV spots, radio spots, direct mail, online and in-club merchandising material. While writing this post I came across GettingStarted Page, which starts with Founder and CEO's, David Patchell-Evans's, appeal to fitness beginners. The page contains information that can be personalized by all kinds of new members, it has many 20 minute video tutorials, FAQ about workout, club services and reward programs. GoodLife Fitness do not just draw our attention to make us join the club, they show how to achieve our personal goals by being a guide into the world of fitness. 

What had made you think differently about an issue?

An American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, actor, and writer/author George Carlin made me think differently about issues in politics, psychology, religion, and other aspects of socio-cultural life. By employing black humor Carlin was making light of otherwise solemn subject matter; he knew how to bring up very unpleasant, serious, or painful topics and make people think about them. Death, war, disease, crime, corruption, bureaucracy, beliefs, mass cultures, taboos, everything that arises from stressful, traumatic, or life-threatening situations were served by Carlin on a plate just like a dish flavored with light, silly, or satirical fashion. His "Seven Dirty Words" comedy routine was complained about to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) back in 1970's. However, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the FCC action, ruling that the routine was "indecent but not obscene" and giving FCC freedom to determine what constituted indecency in different contexts. "I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately," - noted Carlin.

                                                          Portrait by Odwin Rensen


Friday, June 21, 2013

My PR Fundamentals II class: Learning Outcomes.

Yesterday was an important day for me and all of my classmates. Separated on several groups we were assigned to prepare a communication plan for a real client, Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The plan had a goal to target youth audience, 15 to 25 years old people. I must admit it was a real challenge, this time everything appeared to be serious: 1 out of 5 proposed plans will be named as the Winner and be executed (at least partially, with the use of its ideas). By the end of the course we were asked by our instructor to reflect on 3 key learnings each of us have taken away. Further, I'm going to justify my point of view on that question, followed up by the learnings concerning the PR project we've worked on for the past 6 weeks.

The first topic that stands out to me the most after completing the course is Ethics in PR. Protecting relationship with the audience and public trust is essential to the organization's reputation and PR practitioner in particular. Moreover, it depends primarily on the actions of the last one. Public Relations organizations are developing and maintaining their code of ethics, which are expected to be obeyed by all its members. The primary objective os such codes is usually to guide and educate members on the subject of professional conduct. Despite all that, ethical dilemma still exists. Many, if not all, of the major PR firms routinely engage in unethical practices. Let's face it, they do that to clean up the mess for their client, and money is a big motivator in the "era of materialism, services and price tags". The common sense must navigate each and everyone: be true and honest to yourself, be trasparent and interactive with those around you, be respectful to the cause you are working on. There's no science behind it and it goes without saying.

Secondly, I had a good lesson on how to measure social media Return On Investment. Many PR practitioners are frustrated when dealing with ROI. Though measuring it may not be perfect, it's not impossible yet. This is a great way for both small and big businesses to assess what they are getting out of their social media commitment. For example, Facebook has Conversion Measurement tool allows advertisers to record the behaviour of the users. But ideally, user clicks and then registeres on company's site. Optimized CPM tool helps Facebook ads target the right people. At the same time, measurement seems to be loosing its weight between impressions and likes, which makes interactions very relevant. That's why everything should be maintained and measured altogether. Analyzing website analytics against pay per click is  another way to measure. To sum it up, no social media ROI measurement is perfect and I realized that it takes time to find the best way to measure social media presence and mentions.

My third and not the least important learning outcome is about Crisis Management and Emergency Preparation. Self-reliance become indispensable in situations when a lot of people are affected at once. Immediate response and preparedness are much more effective when discussed and planned prior to potential crisis. Crisis Management is a matter of facing the threat quickly. That includes minimizing negative perception and losses. The first step in developing a plan should be the conduct of a SWOT analysis. Once possible theats and weaknesses are assembled into a list, the group should discuss the action during the time of current crisis. These simple actions will eliminate the turmoil and minimize the frustration in difficult circumstances.

Finally, I would like to mention the learnings from the idem CMHR project. Crafting a message for youth we were confused in the beginning. Maybe because of the fact that me and my groupmates represent only the last sub-audience on a scale from 15 to 25 years old. We decided to go on streets and simply talk to young people. Engage them into conversations about the new Museum, information that they are aware of, attidudes, concerns. And the main point we were trying to make is what do Human Rights mean to them. We value every opinion. After several days of interviewing random strangers we finally shaped our own vision on the project. I think it would not be as easy to accomplish the work we've done without simple interaction with our target audience. And I'm going to use this approach further while practicing my Public Relations skills.

Comment #3(4)

Getting Back To Basics: Why Brands Are getting it Wrong in Social Media. By Brian Solis. May 21, 2013.

Comment. June 21, 2013.

Understanding the importance of social media today, I definitely support organizations that use social media channels to connect with the public. Social networks are used by the companies as the tools that are effective and useful in their efforts to reach their target audiences, no doubts. However, from my own observations I defined several reasons why social networks are not the key influencers for evaluating company's performance. At times, it is wrong and potentially dangerous for the brands to rely solely upon communication channels.

Troubles while using Twitter or Facebook appear uexpectedly and usually caused by the delays in Application Programming Interface, which frustrates users who are trying to post something. Such platforms are also being changed frequently without any prior warning to users. The way content appears in user feeds and the following sharing are affected as well. The real social posts made by real people are often being pushed down to the bottom of the feed by the biased news feeds that are defined as "most popular". Not every member of the social audience gets to see the the message posted at the moment. And the last but not the least, how uncommon is it for you to see annoying spam coming from fake or hacked accounts? A well established connection between organization and its audience can be seriously harmed in seconds because of virtual attacks. Many users would prefer to unsubscribe from the organization's feed and find another source of information rather than wait till the problem is eliminated.

From: Twitter Terms of Service. 
Effective: June 25, 2012

From: Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
Last revision: June 8, 2012

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Future of Care Campaign at Misericordia Health Centre

Misericordia Health Centre has been providing health care to Manitobans since 1898. It is a non-profit organization geverned by a volunteer Board of Directors. Today, Centre offers a vide range of health programs from walk-in Urgent Care to Misericordia Place, personal care home that has 100 bed. As a research and teaching centre, Misericordia affiliates with different educational organizations, University of Manitoba and Winnipeg are among them.

Centre has been going through a comprehensive redevelopment since May 2011. Among the facilities under construction are Buhler Eye Care Centre, the Ambulatory Diagnostic Centre and PRIME, a day centre for seniors. Misericordia workers are proud to be a part of the project which was started as The Future of Care campaign that encourages community partnership. Redevelopement campaign was launched as of June 16, 2011. Bonnie and John Buhler generously donated $2 million dollars for the cause, the province has pledged $38 million, and the Misericordia Foundation contributed $7 million for Phase 1 of redevelopment.

During the beginning of the massive redevelopment Misericordia Health Centre Foundation hired a new Communications and Fund Development Officer, Glynis Corkal. Glynis's backround embraces great marketing and communications experience that she gained while working for the National Sccreen Institute, ProMar Management Services, SAAN stores and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The Future of Care campaign plan was projected for over the next few years. Dirung this period Glynis's personal competence will include developing a monthly giving program and suppoting special events throughout the year. Glynis also manages newsletters, donor recognition and direct mail pieces.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Comment #2

New Digital Influencers: The Coming Youthquake. By Brian Soilis. May 14, 2013.

Comment. June 4, 2013.

This article proved to me that my brother Daniel is a true representative of the Generation Z. He was born in 2001 when I was 13 years old. At that I already had my first computer. More and more of friends of mine were getting new PC's. Digital era occupied our lives inevitably. Social networking became a new way to connect with people and
share. To me it was mind blowing. I could chat with teenagers just like me from all over the world in real time. Browsing different online chats, joining numerous rooms dedicated to specific topics, spending my leisure time a home in front of the computer screen seemed to be fun, but my parents  did not take it that way. Enough was enough. My web consumption was limited to a certain point. But I still wanted to enrich the connections and expand the view. Later on, even the time spent together with my little brother became a mutual staring at the computer screen. Sometimes, the only way for me to calm cranky 2 year old Daniel, was to put him on my lap and make busy with following the activities on the screen. Being 3 years old, he was able to play sophisticated computer games and persistently demanded his own private time to do so. Even being grounded for misbehaviour and suspended from gaming, Daniel knew how to put together completely unplugged computer wires and play at least a little bit before he gets caught. I was fun watching him doing that. Being 5, he was advising our mother about her cellphone options that she had troubles with.

He is turning 12 this month and knows how to use many devices that I know of. He he has his own laptop, tablet, Xbox, PS Vita, and Ipod. Soon he's gonna get a cell phone and the rest is in history. But now, I often hear him talking to his friends from US, UK, Germany, Brazil, and many more as they play online together. Socializing online has become a part of his everyday life. He is very friendly, sociable, funny and cute in real life conversations. I'm sure that he found his most appropriate balance between the two worlds and I'm very proud of him. As for myself, I think our Technological Era is just the beginning...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Amy's Baking Company outrage

There's a number of problems that Amy's Baking Company has to address in order to get the business on track. But the main relevant issue in this particular case is that both owners do not realize the importance of feedback and criticism. "KitchenNightmares" episode featuring their business proved that they don't have what we call people skills and are absolutely not familiar with restaurant ethics. It was a nightmare in a true sense of this word: customers got insulted and kicked out of the place, employees were treated like garbage, quality of dishes could not get any worse, etc. Nothing  stopped the owners, married couple, from swearing and yelling at each other, staff, and customers - neither the TV cameras, nor the common sense. The main goal of the TV show was to help the striving business to revive by creating a "teachable moment", which was supposed to only improve the service. There was an obvious need for that in Amy and Sammy Bouzaglos' company as their mistakes included:

- wrong handling customer's feedback,
- not leading by example;
- assurance that the customer is not always right;
- blaming online reviews, taking them as attacks, and thereby making them worse.

Referring to Grunig and Hunt's models of publicrelations can help in establishing company's Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. The models are perhaps the most commonly used theories in the field and help to separate problems to address their different parts in particular. Amy's Baking Company perfectly fits into Press Agentry, or Publicity model, which deals with the activities of those who will do anything to gain publicity in a style of one-way communication (organisation to target public) typically involving ones personal emotions. The information given by a company is often distorted, half-true or incomplete. Amy was caught lying in front of the TV camera: she ardently denied firing about 50 employees, when her husband Sammy "honestly" admitted firing approximately 100 of them. The model's main purpose is propaganda as Amy considered her dishes as perfect, delicious, and nothing else serving undercooked pizza and frozen ravioli. The model also involves little research, while in this case no research takes place whatsoever as the owners don't even care whether customers liked the food or not. Nine times out of ten the food goes straight to the trash bin passing the main chef, who actually should know about the dish being thrown away. Sammy just does not bother telling his wife that the order was not eaten because "stupid customers don't know what the real good food is".

Amy's Baking Company marketing strategy is focused on a specific type of customer. They position themselves as European Bistro, Pizzeria, Bar, and Cafeteria. They also serve vegetarian food, fanciful cakes and desserts. Thus, their target market are homemade bakery and fine European food lovers including teens, students, young adults, families and children, seniors, vegetarians, lunch and happy hour crowd, take-away customers. According to the About Us section of company's official web-site they assure with confidence that customers will not be disappointed. However, as we were following the media blow up on their disastrous services it turned out to be false. They do not meet the expectations set up by themselves and wanted to be seen as the restaurant striving for quality over quantity. But Amy blindly believed that her cooking was superb, even though many customers expressed dissatisfaction about it. Not to mention Chef Ramsey. The Review section only contains good but outdated comments from 2012, which suggests that the website was moderated in order to keep only positive feedback. The Bouzaglos are notorious for their outrageous responses to the reviews on Yelp.

This case generated a lot of conversations about what not to do on social media as a brand. Such behaviour is not acceptable in modern business world. It may become a big lesson for anyone, including new entrepreneurs and companies that were around for a while.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Comments on PR-related blogs

Not the time for politics or clever PR # Fail. By Brittany Falconer. April 19th, 2013.

My comment. May 23, 2013 at 9-47pm.
From my own observations as a PR student I distinguished two aspects of Bad PR during crisis times: a company takes poor action or creates poor communication surrounding the crisis. This kind of publicity is never welcomed and can ruine the business very easily. That’s why PR practitioners should think several steps futher before using the crisis for their own benefit.
However, if the damage to company’s reputation is already done due to somebody’s poor performance from inside, there are ways to limit the damage. The mistake should be reviewed immediately when found because today bad publicity speed is beyond belief. “No comments” situations must always be avoided, it will only make the bubble become even bigger. All media questions should be answered; otherwise, company may look like it’s hiding the facts. Company’s spokesperson should not be reading a prepared report at the press conference, it creates an impression of insincerity. An apology to both shareholders and stakeholders is the best way to show that responsibilities have been taken very seriously. After all the necessary steps to prevent the spread of bad publicity, the situation should be reviewed overall. But it does not mean that it’s the time to relax; building relations with all the parties, supporting charity or any other positive cause is very critical. The future of the company will depend on the bad publicity or crisis handling.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PR Campaign failure

Many entrepreneurs and brand managers run PR campaigns supporting their "new, useful, and safe" products without proper research, or any research at all. Their confidence about products' indispensability in consumer life drives them at a risky speed, as they often see products' features to be self-evident for its target market. However, practice shows the importance of getting people interested in buying before investing time and effort. It is about dialog, interaction with prospect customers.

According to Harward Business Review, over 50% out of 120 recently surveyed entrepreneurs from all over the world admitted that not selling before making often leads to complete flops of campaigns. Neither strong brand mane, nor picth will help to push sales up if people weren't interested in the first place. Proper market research makes up for campaign success in the long term.

In 2004, Coca-Cola C2 was introduced to the market and became a big disappointment for the company with $50 million spent on advertising. With its half calories and carbs C2 was rejected by 20- to 40-year-old men, who were targeted primarily during the disastrous launch. The price was set as premium comparing to regular Coke. Nobody wanted half the calories and carbs; either full-flavor or no calories, plain and simple. Even the fact that low-carb diets were evolving at that time contributed to the list of Coca-Cola's mistakes.

Marketers together with PR practitioners should have test the product first to make sure its features are distinctive enough. And if they would have done that, Coke Zero could be on the shelves instead of C2 satisfying its consumer with full-flavor and no calories and the same time. As per company statements, C2 dropped total sales by 3% in North America just over a summer of that year. Nevertheless, Coke Zero came out in 2005 completing the learned lesson.

Coca-cola C2 is one of many examples out there. Lack of preparation is the biggest factor, but other numerous factors can influence new PR campaign to fail. We live in the era of interaction between corporations and consumer who needs adequate education on the products and/or services offered. Before campaign launch PR people should always ask themselves what do they want to achieve, what the audience gets from this, what is the call to action in their PR campaign. It's about the time to craft a plan for campaign when those questions are answered. A series of press releases and solid PR tactics should serve as the tools for customer education. And that requires a lot of commitment. The message should be consistent, but not overwhelming or confusing for audience. And the last but not the least is social media! Today, it would be very imprudently to neglect its mindblowing potential.