By Emily Thole
*Warning. This post may contain spoilers about the hit TV show, “This is Us.” Proceed with caution.*
“This is Us” is the television show everyone is telling you to watch. It is full of happiness, anger, sadness, joy and every emotion in between, however, there is one monumental episode that you can’t forget. If you’re anything like me, this blog post will bring up a flood of emotions, so get your tissues ready.
As avid viewers of the show, we all know where we were when Jack died. Yes, I’m bringing up that heartbreaking moment. I was sitting with my roommates on our red leather couch in the living room, staring at the small screen with tears rolling down our faces, full of disbelief. This man fearlessly saved his entire family from a house fire, and then went back into the blazing building to rescue his daughter’s dog and a few personal items, only to wind up valiantly perishing. He was a hero, and then he was gone. Not because of burns, or an injury that was visible, but for having too much smoke in his lungs. This is the drama that keeps viewers coming back.
What does this tragic scene have to do with public relations? Well, after the episode, fans were boycotting one particular brand, and because of that, they had a crisis on their hands.
One thing I didn’t mention was how the fire started in the Pearson household. It was a Crock-Pot. The faulty slow cooker is accidentally left on and it starts a fire in the family’s kitchen, which leads to the entire house burning down, and later, Jack’s demise. Fans of the show immediately took to the Internet to share their heartbreak and frustration over the episode and the Crock-Pot brand. Their name was disgraced, and their stock plummeted, but Crock-Pot’s response to the crisis is one PR professionals can learn from.
First, Crock-Pot responded quickly. They released a statement less than 24-hours after the show aired. And shortly after they sent out a news release stating facts about their products to ease consumers’ minds that can be read fully here. Not only that, but they created a Twitter page called “CrockPotCares” to respond to viewers who were concerned about product safety, and throwing away their Crock-Pots.
Crock-Pot did a great job of listening to consumers’ complaints. They understood that people were upset, and they did their best to respond with understanding to build back their image. They even created the hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent to use in their responses to defend their brand.
Good tweet to consumer https://twitter.com/CrockPotCares/status/956258200239706114
Help from Star Power
Although this was a crisis they didn’t see coming, Crock-Pot wasn’t afraid to ask for help when getting their image back. They used the actor who portrays Jack, Milo Ventimiglia, in a commercial promoting the Super Bowl, joking about the Crock-Pot controversy. “The Late Show” host, Stephen Colbert, mentioned the issue on his show, stirring up conversation. Ellen DeGeneres even partnered with the company to hand out Crock-Pots as one of the giveaways on her show. Each of these people helped Crock-Pot restore their image.
A crisis can pop up at any time. Companies must be prepared in case a television show uses your product to kill off a beloved character. In a time of crisis, PR professionals can use Crock-Pot as an example. Although the situation presented on screen was fictional, Crock-Pot responded successfully and recovered quickly because of the crisis plan they had in place.
Crockpot even got Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) to make a video joking about the crisis as a whole (https://twitter.com/CrockPotCares/status/959789384785715200)
Their own hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent
Stephen cobert https://twitter.com/CrockPotCares/status/958022381741764609
Good tweet to consumer https://twitter.com/CrockPotCares/status/956258200239706114
By Nickey Buzek
Internships are designed to be the segway between the school realm and the professional world. They help students take what they learned in the classroom and project it onto a position they worked hard to gain. If a company does it just right, the student will walk away with experiences they weren’t even looking for. I know I wasn’t looking for the opportunities that fell into my lap when I stumble onto an internship with a company called P1 Learning.
I had just given a speech at a networking event called PR Connect when a gentleman introduced himself to me as Speed Marriott. “Can I have a minute of your time,” he asked politely. I realized I must have stepped into a different dimension for someone to ask me for my time rather than the other way around.
Marriott told me that he was attending the networking event because he was a University of Central Missouri alumnus, and one of our professors asked him to make an appearance. He said he was the CEO of a Kansas-based eLearning company called P1 Learning. The brief description he gave was something to the effect of, “We create training videos for on-the-go professionals in the broadcast industry.” I had never heard of such a service.
He must have known what I was thinking, because he followed up with, “Do you have a resume on you? I can have our VP of Marketing and Sales tell you more and talk to you about an internship.” I didn’t just give the man my resume; I gave him my business card and the biggest “please hire me” smile too.
I came into the internship expecting there to be a set way of doing things as companies often have in place. But at P1 Learning, it’s often said, “It’s easier to be a smaller company with the ability to adjust quickly, rather than a larger company set in their ways.” This mentality was the driving force behind P1 Learning’s willingness to try new approaches and welcome new ideas. Both of these seemed to be two necessary components in a culture that invited successful public relations initiatives.
Other inviting factors could be seen in my department specifically. The VP of Marketing and Sales and the marketing representative were enthusiastic about each new task I worked on and were quick to praise exceptional work.
With a mentality that adjustments are always possible and teamwork makes everything easier, my 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. workdays were far from routine. One day, I would engage in scriptwriting. Another day, I would be filming. Some days, I would sit in on meeting after meeting, and other days I would stay in my office with Slack attached to my fingertips for communication. The variety and autonomy P1 Learning gave me eased the transition from college life to the professional world, but it was the unique times that made the professional world the best.
My “atypical” days were much different. They included out-of-office trips, broadcast station tours, and even hula hooping in the middle of the lunch area. Occasionally, I would have to remind myself that I really didn’t step into another world and that I got to work with people who embraced my love of variety and autonomy. All of these experiences came within a three-month time period and put me on the fast track to having a direction for my career.
Life after graduation can seem like a different dimension to college students. Transitioning from on-campus organizations to contributing to work that goes out on behalf of a company can be daunting. But internships, such as the one I experienced at P1 Learning, make students like myself better prepared for the diverse experiences that come with the professional world. They help us become more confident in taking that step into the different dimension we call the workforce.
By Emily Thole
In the restless and brutal sea of social media, taking a risk could leave a company struggling for air. You may have noticed from recent events, Nike decided to jump into the water head first by tackling a highly controversial topic in the U.S. With immediate response, the internet both attacked and commended Nike for taking a knee on a political subject that many brands and organizations avoid.
Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49er’s quarterback who inspired player protest throughout the NFL, tweeted a photo marking him as the newest face of Nike.
The photo shared stated, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Since Kaepernick’s first protest in 2016, where he kneeled during the national anthem against police brutality, he has received backlash from the NFL and people around the country. His actions ultimately left him without a spot on any team, but Nike decided to endorse him anyway. In the early stages of the “Just Do It” campaign’s 30th anniversary, they made a statement.
As a result of the partnership, Nike made headlines. Celebrities including Jamie Lee Curtis, Serena Williams, Russell Crowe and COMMON were praising the brand on Twitter alongside Americans throughout the nation.
But with the good also comes the bad, and even ugly. Multiple individuals took to social media posting images and videos of themselves burning their Nike products, and cutting the swoosh logo from their socks and apparel, voicing that they will never shop with the brand again.
Nike isn’t the first brand to tackle a controversial issue. Many other companies have taken a stance on social issues as well. Dick’s Sporting Goods protested gun violence after the Parkland, Fla. massacre by saying they would no longer sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and also prohibit the sale of guns to customers under the age of 21. Airbnb shot back at President Trump when he closed the borders to refugees in a campaign called, “We Accept,” by voicing their company’s acceptance of other races and nationalities in a time when the biggest figurehead of the nation was saying the opposite. When the U.S. pulled out the Paris Agreement, Ben and Jerry’s started a campaign called, “Save Our Swirled,” focusing on the topic of climate change. Each of these brands were criticized for becoming politically involved, just like Nike.
For a brand with popularity around the world, what form of success can come from this controversial partnership? Through all the back and forth of praise and hate, will either party prosper?
It depends on how you measure success, and from my research, numbers don’t lie. According to the Washington Post, after an initial drop when Kaepernick shared the photo, Nike online sales went up 31 percent. The incident got people to talk about the organization, and, whether positive or negative, the Nike brand was pushed to the forefront of their minds. According to Bloomberg, the company received over $43million in media exposure in the first 24 hours, and that continues to grow.
Risking your brand’s reputation is scary, but if it is something you believe in, take a knee and show the world what you stand for.
By Blake Hedberg
WARRENSBURG, Mo. (Aug. 27, 2018) — The University of Central Missouri’s student-led public relations firm, Innovative PR, received two professional awards this summer for its 2017 event #teamUCM Social Media Night. The agency competed against many for-profit businesses in the Greater Kansas City Area.
The Kansas City chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) awarded #teamUCM Social Media Night a KC Quill award, the second time in the firm’s history to receive this honor. However, the winning wasn’t over for Innovative PR for the summer. In July, the firm received a Silver AMPS award from the Social Media Club of Kansas City at the organization’s annual banquet.
“We are incredibly honored to be distinguished for our work. Many hours went into making this event a reality and it is a great feeling to see the work of our students pay off,” said Agency Manager Blake Hedberg. “The 2017 event pushed our agency to new heights and created many opportunities, while providing visibility to our firm. I had a great team behind me.”
For six consecutive years, Innovative PR has been the driving force behind UCM’s popular #teamUCM Social Media Night event. Launched in 2013, the event takes place during a UCM Mules and Jennies basketball game and has engaged, entertained, and rewarded participants with a night of prizes, trivia, and contests.
The spring 2017 Innovative PR team raised more than $2,000 in donations and their comprehensive social media plan ushered in more than 1.2 million media impressions. IPR and UCM Athletics social media impressions more than tripled, while mentions increased more than 40 percent and profile visits nearly tripled over 2016 event numbers.
“Innovative PR’s work on behalf of its many clients is excellent. Winning the 2018 awards is an illustration of that excellence,” said program supervisor Dr. Tricia Hansen Horn. “We are proud to have the agency’s work represented and recognized by the Kansas City IABC and the Social Media Club of Kansas City.”
For more than nine years, students in the UCM Public Relations Program that are accepted into the UCM Innovative PR agency have the opportunity to gain real-life experience, while working with several client projects. In its time, more than 100 students have dedicated more than 22,000 hours of service to the greater UCM community.
# # #
Innovative Public Relations (Innovative PR) is University of Central Missouri’s student public relations firm, managed and operated by UCM public relations students. Under the direction of UCM’s Integrated Marketing and Communications office and the academic public relations program, the firm was founded in January 2010. It is comprised of several public relations students who are dedicated to professional development and public relations initiatives. Innovative PR is committed to serving the UCM community by executing timely, accurate and ethical strategies and tactics, with a goal of serving clients outside of the UCM community in the future. For more information, visit ucminnovativepr.com or contact Innovative PR at firstname.lastname@example.org or 660-543-8557.
Before writing this blog, the writer, Morgan Anderson, would like to extend her deepest condolences to the victims and families of those affected by this national tragedy. For the privacy of the victims, names have been omitted.
By Morgan Anderson
On October 1, at 10:08 p.m. local time shots rang out at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. The current total of those injured as of Monday, October 2 at 2:00 p.m. is 515 people injured and 58 deceased. CNN has said, “By the time [James] Paddock was dead, it was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.”
After the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, social media was flooded with information ranging from trying to find any connections to terrorist groups to videos of the tragedy taking place. One group of videos with the hashtag #prayforlasvegas has been shared over 55,000 times on Facebook, and contains graphic video of the shooting, including victims lying down on their stomachs screaming with their necks covered.
On Twitter, tweets are going viral for those looking for loved ones at the concert. Multiple tweets have been issued out by the Las Vegas Police Department on how to find loved ones who were at the concert.
On Snapchat, their news account, “Discover,” has released the snapchat stories of individuals at the concert in a video labeled “Las Vegas Shooting.” This video also had pop-up facts about what happened during each snap. The user-submitted snapchats were edited and compiled by Snapchat, and then released.
This is not the first time that Twitter has expanded its use to help those in need. During Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia and Maria, Twitter was used as a way for people to contact local police and volunteers to get to safety when emergency lines were overflowing.
During times of panic and terror, people turn to social media now more than ever. Twitter gives users the ability to contact anyone, anywhere and get a direct answer quickly. Facebook gives us the ability to connect with family and friends from all over the world. Snapchat gives us the ability to talk to friends and have fun doing it.
These three social media accounts provide the world a new way to deal with disaster. From natural to horrific, social media has grown through the worst events in this century.
I wish I could tell you how hard it was to write this blog. I should never have to write a blog titled “How Disasters Have Expanded the Use of Social Media.” I shouldn’t have to write about how hurricanes and mass shootings have evolved social media, or how instead of calling 9-1-1 because the line is full, they move to Twitter and Facebook begging for help from others.
The truth is, 58 families lost a loved one. Over 20,000 people who attended this concert had their lives changed, and not for the better, and more people know about it because of social media.
Innovative PR extends our deepest condolences to the victims, their family and friends, and everyone impacted by this horrific tragedy.
By Cole Braun
As you go through your Facebook news feeds, there is sure to be headlines for a variety of topics. Many of them are hilarious, or maybe even scary. But you, the public relations professional, know better than to believe everything. But what about your clients you represent, or your own family? Do they know how to differentiate what is based on fact and what is made up for the sake of increasing click-through reports? You can help them with this guide to addressing fake news and how a professional should deal with it.
The first thing to understand is that PR professionals have no business adding fuel to the fake news fire. We all know it has become a problem which is why we must take a stand against it. The Public Relations Society of America addressed fake news with an official statement in January, 2017 saying that, “Truth is the foundation of all effective communications. By being truthful, we build and maintain trust with the media and our customers, clients and employees. As professional communicators, we take very seriously our responsibility to communicate with honesty and accuracy.”
PRSA & The Code of Ethics
If you are familiar with PRSA, or the student organization, PRSSA, you know this organization established a code of ethics that members take seriously. The official statement on alternative facts, reflects on the organization’s code of honesty, saying that members, “adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.” If you wish to know more about the PRSA Code of Ethics, please follow here.
The PRSA Statement on “Alternative Facts” was released in January by the organization’s Chair of the Society for 2017, Jane Dvorak, APR and Fellow PRSA. After addressing how the society values its Code of Ethics, she finished by saying, “PRSA strongly objects to any effort to deliberately misrepresent information. Honest, ethical professionals never spin, mislead or alter facts. We applaud our colleagues and professional journalists who work hard to find and report the truth.”
One of the first things we as professionals must do is research. When dealing with information, we must ask, ‘Where did this come from?’ ‘Where does this link back to and who said what?’ You never jump into strange waters without a life preserver, or in this case, the facts.
A Rule of Three
Check your story three times before you take it seriously and hit the share button. You need to see how many people are saying the same thing and, if it is coming from a credible source. If the topic is breaking news, more than one publication will be telling the story.
CNN Correspondent, Brian Stelter said in his report, The plague of fake news is getting worse — here’s how to protect yourself, from October 2016, that there are three general categories related to misleading online information sites.
- Hoax Sites: completely fake
- Hyper-Partisan Sites: Some truth involved but stretched for the sake of the parties involved.
- Hybrid Sites: A mix of fake and fact combined to make a good story.
Whatever their purpose, these sites are not going away anytime soon, so learn to recognize them. Here are some tips found in the same article from CNN, shared by the Sunlight Foundation’s Alex Howard in a tweet:
- Search the source link on Twitter
- Google it
- Check Snopes
- Consider record of source
These are all excellent tips, and you can take it a step further with a Google search of the author’s name to see if they are credible as a reporter.
Open the Floodgates of Positivity
When it comes to combating the fake news epidemic, there are multiple recommendations on what to do.
If you have prepared for a crisis already, you probably have a pre-written response to a situation like this; that’s good! In February 2017, an article on How PR professionals should handle the fake news phenomenon appeared in Agility PR, written by Director of Media Insights Jim Donnelly. Donnelly conducted an interview with Hofstra University Professor and Bloomberg contributor Dr. Kara Alaimo on handling fake news. One question specifically addressed these situations with two or three rules to keep in mind. One positive measure is to have a response ready in advance, because when it comes to experiencing a crisis, every minute counts.
Alaimo also points out making sure you are keeping your client’s values in mind while communicating. If this is something you have been consistently doing before this incident, then it will be no hassle to reference back to, showing your clients’ interests are a priority.
A common question is when is it best to respond?
That answer seems to vary across multiple professionals. In the end, it just depends on the situation. For example, when it comes to internet trolls, it is best to just ignore them so they move along. But when their story trends, then answer with the truth, do not allow yourself to get flustered because that only feeds the trolls.
Alaimo share as well that, “you need to monitor carefully. The time to respond is if a social media post is starting to gain traction amongst stakeholders who are important to the company, such as customers, employees, investors, buyers, or board members.”
Another form of combating fake news is to “flood the media with a positive narrative.” In a November 2016 article for PR Week by Ilyse Liffreing, So your brand is the victim of fake news. Now what? Liffreing shares that you need to embrace the crisis and make the best of it, reversing the dialogue to positive content about what is happening with your brand. Share the truth and back it up with more positivity. If you don’t counter with good news, you could potentially open yourself up to more fake news.
The question now is, where are we headed as a profession in this new era of alternative facts?
The first thing to remember is accountability. Dan Guttridge from Ragan’s PR Daily notes in his March 6 article, PR pros’ role in the fake news epidemic, that we need to hold journalists accountable and “check credibility through facts and sources.” We can even take this a step forward and hold ourselves accountable for what we say to people and how we represent our brand as we traverse this terrain of fake news.
Guttridge shares some more amazing tips as you continue through his article. Here are some other key points we should consider as PR professionals,
- Do your own research.
- Stop reading headlines as facts.
- Expand your world.
That last tip is fascinating because he makes the argument to find some reputable journalist to read and take the time to learn more about what is happening. Speak to people who challenge your views and make you think.
We as PR professionals can provide the cure for the fake news virus. Know that if we keep our integrity and credibility, public relations will thrive in this fight.
By Hali Mieser
Public relations has many different definitions but it all comes down to being “the voice behind the voice.” But what if you were the “voice behind the voice” during a crisis? As a public relations professional, crisis communication is one of the many jobs we take on for our organization.
What is crisis communication?
Crisis communication is the dialog between the organization and its publics prior to, during, and after the negative occurrence. During a crisis, PR professionals must create strategic messages to inform an organization’s key publics about a crisis that has occurred within the organization. In today’s world, social media is an important factor that plays a huge role in the circulation of information. Traditional media outlets, however, are still valuable depending on an organization’s key stakeholders.
With the rapid flow of information, PR professionals have to be “on their toes” at all times. The “golden hour” has now turned into the “golden few minutes” when it comes to disseminating crucial information about an organization’s crisis.
Now you know what a crisis is but how do you handle a crisis?
Crisis management is the process of removing some of the risk and uncertainty from the negative occurrences that an organization could be exposed to which allows the organization to be in greater control of what happens to them. Another thing that allows an organization to be in greater control, particularly during a crisis, is creating and maintaining positive relations with their key publics.
Why are good relationships important?
A positive relationship with the media is imperative when it comes to a crisis. Having a good relationships with the media ensures that they know you are ethical, professional, reliable and accurate in the information you provide.
It is important to maintain a positive relationship within the community in which an organization resides. In the scene of a crisis, the organization knows it can rely on its community and vice versa.
What better way to keep an organization afloat than its employees? Building solid and supportive relationships with an organization’s’ employees and internal publics is important because it makes employees feel a part of the organization and helps them feel valued.
The final group to create positive relations with is the organization’s consumers. It is important to create a mutual bond between the company and its customers. Building this relationship can be as simple as return policies, sales advantages, educational material, open houses, and a complaint system.
Many public relations professionals say it is not a question of if an organization will experience a crisis, but when. Be prepared for these challenges, understanding that being able to add “crisis communication specialist” to your resume will serve you well in the job market.
by Jonathan Haile
If you have ever plunged into a program such as Cision, you understand there are thousands of media outlets covering hundreds of topics. That said, you might have a hard time believing that the number of journalists working today is at its lowest since 1978, says Pew Research. With the number of journalists and media contacts on the decline, PR professionals need to maximize their media relations efforts.
Mickie Kennedy of eReleases speaks to the impact of declining number of journalists on PR pros, so I offer a few suggestions in response to his PR Daily article.
1. Don’t forget about bloggers
While the number of journalists is declining, bloggers are enjoying their days as online influencers. As they build their audiences, build your relationships with them. Building these relationships can be as simple as sharing their content on social media sites, a suggestion from digital marketing analyst Brian Solis, or as involved as meeting up for coffee to discuss what topics they would be most interested in covering and how and when they would prefer to receive the pitches you want them to cover.
In the event that the blogger shares your story, be sure to acknowledge them on social media with a mention. For instance, “Check out what ‘xyz blogger’ had to say about our new product. Thanks for the shout out!”
2. Make sure your website has a “News” section
By this, I mean publish your own content. When you need to release information, post it on the news section or blog section on your website, and share that page on the social media platforms you utilize. Most large organizations have press sections on their sites, but if you’re working for a small company or with a small client as their representative and public relations council, you should recommend the client adds the feature to their site if they haven’t already done so.
3. Simply ask to whom you should send your pitch
In my Strategic Planning course, like all my peers, I was taught to pitch to one person at each media outlet. In my most recent internship, I was told to pitch to more than one contact at an outlet. Certainly, there are different schools of thought. Maybe the answer is calling the news desk and asking for suggestions about the best person to receive pitches for articles. Once you have that name, you’re set. Of course, if there are other contacts at the outlet who you know will be interested in your story, send it to them as well.
4. Leverage your relationships
You might be pitching to a journalist who hasn’t been receptive to your attempts in the past, but you know that a coworker has had success reaching that journalist, and they might be successful again in the future. Have the coworker pitch your story. They already have the rapport and it’s possible they can introduce you to the journalist, helping you build that relationship for yourself.
If you look around, you’ll find plenty of ways to deal with the declining number of journalists, but I hope I have provided you with four tools you can use in the meantime. Being a PR professional at a time when the number of journalists is decline is a challenge, but as with any challenge, there are exciting opportunities and different methods for getting your story or news to the masses.