By Elizabeth Fisher
Some of the most famous tweets were shared by celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and President Barack Obama, however, a teenager from Reno, Nev., may surpass all previous retweet records. Wendy’s, “Yo @Wendys how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?” Carter Wilkerson, with one simple tweet, begged Wendy’s to supply him free chicken nuggets for one year. Soon, he may exceed the highest number of retweets ever recorded.
Wendys response was simple, “18 Million.” Now, clearly Wendy’s was joking, however, one simple joke has spawned a firestorm of engagement for both Wilkerson and Wendy’s. The most retweeted tweet in the history was created by Ellen DeGeneres, which has about 3.3 million retweets. This makes 18 million from a 16-year-old in Reno, Nev., sound impossible, but the power of social media may prove otherwise.
Carter took a screenshot of his interaction with Wendy’s and posted it to Twitter with the caption, “HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS.” This tweet now stands at 2.6 million retweets and continues to climb. Wilkerson hopes that this number will continue to rise so he can receive free chicken nuggets for a year. He is now known as the “chicken nugget man” at his high school, according to ABC News.
This is a great example about how customer loyalty could create a social media buzz. If Wendy’s had not responded to Wilkerson, there would have been no attention brought to the tweet or Wendy’s. Because Wendy’s tweeted back to Wilkerson, they brought attention to their restaurant and social media.
Personification has become popular for businesses on Twitter. People do not want to tweet to companies who give all customers the same response or no response at all. By creating a personality for your Twitter, people feel like they are actually talking to a real person instead of just a machine. This, in turn, creates strong customer loyalty. Wendy’s did a great job in showing that they were listening to Carter and gave him a unique response.
By: Jayla Kearney
According to Snapchat’s IPO paperwork, 158 million people use Snapchat daily. This number is now larger than Twitter’s daily users and still increasing. Mostly millennials and teens are operating Snapchat with 70 percent of users between the ages of 13 and 35 (Omni Core Agency). For this reason, Snapchat is an important platform when it comes to sending messages out to a younger audience.
Here are five ways to use Snapchat for public relations efforts:
- Behind-the-scenes footage and sneak peaks:
Snapchat can be used to provide a behind-the-scenes look into what is going on at a company. Snapchat is informal and gives professionals the opportunity to show the personality of employees. For example, fashion brands often Snapchat a behind-the-scenes look at photo-shoots. When posting the final photo or video on other social media websites, mention that behind-the-scenes footage will be shown on Snapchat to direct followers to the brand’s Snapchat account. Also, if there is a product coming out soon, showing a sneak peak on Snapchat can build excitement and get people talking.
Who is doing it well: Forever 21 gives a behind-the-scenes look into photo-shoots with models.
- Reveal Offers and Promotions
Begin offering exclusive promotions for Snapchat viewers. If there’s an offer on the same day each month, consumers will remember to view the Snapchat stories and tell a friend. Reveal a coupon code that is only shown on Snapchat to measure the amount of sales Snapchat promotions can bring the brand.
Who is doing it well: GrubHub used Snapchat to reveal a coupon code for 15 percent off by removing slices of pizza. It was not only creative, but it encouraged users to continue clicking through their Snaps.
- Influencer Takeovers
Snapchat takeovers occur when influencers in the industry takeover a company’s Snapchat. This could be a social media star or a celebrity that the brand’s target market would be interested in watching. The influencer would mention the takeover on their other social media accounts, building the brand’s social media following.
Who is doing it right: Sephora gave Hannah Bronfman, a beauty influencer with over 350, 000 Instagram followers, a chance to takeover the Sephora Snapchat account. She promoted brands and reviewed beauty products for a short period of time.
Engage with the brand’s Snapchat followers! Give them an opportunity to Snapchat a photo of themselves and a product and showcase it on the brand’s Snapchat story. Another way to engage with followers is to create a contest. Followers can either screenshot a snap to win a prize or reply to win a prize.
Who is doing it well: GrubHub, a food delivery service, asked their Snapchat followers to snap them a drawing of a pizza. Ten snaps were chosen randomly to win a discount.
- Create fun filters!
Filters are what make Snapchat unique and fun. Creating a filter for a special occasion or a geofilter for a certain event is another way to encourage users to engage with the brand’s efforts on Snapchat.
Who is doing it well: Taco Bell created a filter for Cinco de Mayo in 2016 that turned users into a taco.
Although Snapchat’s audience is primarily young, half of Snapchat’s new users are over the age of 25. The user age range is widening and people use it daily, influencing social media professionals for various brands to start a Snapchat account.
By: Hali Mieser
Public relations has always been and will always be about content development and management, but with the fast evolving social media trend, PR must “keep up with the times.” Past PR professionals have taught us to curate creative and strategic stories for clients along with teaching us to measure media coverage. But the PR field has changed. As the lines between advertising, marketing and public relations begin to blur, PR professionals have to learn to navigate these new waters.
The first trend to look out for is specialized experts. In today’s Internet-based world, it is easier (and cheaper) to assemble a group of experts per project basis, instead of keeping the mental processes all beneath the same roof. Sure, it will take more effort from the agency end but the future of PR looks like partnerships between experts.
The next trend is the content train. Agencies used to simply hand over their public relations, marketing and advertising, sit back and approve whatever need be. Today, in order for work to get done smarter, faster and cheaper, promotion and advertising requires participation from the client. Simply put, your client knows the material and you don’t. But what you do know is what kind of content spreads, how to create it, market it and measure it.
You can outsource a lot of duties but outsourcing relationships is a resounding mistake. The client must be involved in forming trustworthy relationships. This means delegating time each day to communicate with the agency’s clients, hence the SOCIAL aspect of social media. Sure, the agency could outsource the building of relationships, but this could be the downfall of the agency. It could go one of three ways: the trustworthiness of the relationship would be a lie, the agency would be posting irrelevant content that is not reaching the clients but rather shouting into the void which in return is getting no interaction or the client could lose any and all of the human aspect which is imperative to forming meaningful relationships.
The last trend to consider is respect of the blogger. Traditional media and advertising is not dead, but it is important to remember the different online opportunities. Building relationships with bloggers is imperative because not only is the advertising cost-effective, it also targets and even narrows down the target audience to whom you are looking for with more precision. Getting creative with other bloggers is a strategic and engaging move; ideas could include guest posts on each other sites or reviews.
Public relations professionals have come a long way. Just years ago the only form of media relations tools was the telephone. Today, there are many more options. But with so many options, our voices could get overpowered, therefore, it is essential to watch out for future trends in the PR world.
By Elizabeth Fisher
Building audience engagement on social media is an important goal for many organizations. Audience engagement can help you form closer relationships to your consumers and followers. Below are some helpful hints to building your organization’s audience engagement.
- Include a Photo
According to socialmediaexaminer.com, simply by including a photo in your tweet the amount of retweets can increase by 35%. Almost 75% of content on Facebook includes a photo, if your Facebook and other social media posts do not incorporate photography they could be passed up on follower’s timelines.
- Show Your Personality
By featuring humor or an emotional appeal and applying your specific brand to posts, you can create stronger audience engagement.
- Use Innovative Ideas to Drive Your Posts
Your social media posts should be unique and differ from your competitor’s content. It is important to keep up with trends, but use these trends in your own creative way. You also want to be sure that you are not repeating yourself too often or users could become bored of your content. Launching new social media campaigns annually can help keep your social media from becoming “stale”, Coca Cola’s #shareacoke campaign is a great example. People were able to find their name and post it to social media, which caused audience engagement.
- Know Your Target Audience
Knowing your target audience is the simplest way to reach your followers. You may want to consider the type of content you are posting and even the time of day that your target audience is more likely to be on social media. Track when you are receiving the most engagement and base your future posts off similar content and time of day.
- Know the Right Platforms for Your Audience
Some audiences are particular with which social media platforms they use. Know what platforms your target audience is on and focus content to those platforms.
- Encourage Engagement
Look for ways to encourage audience engagement through your social media. For example, ask them to “comment for a chance to win a free T-shirt.” You could even encourage people to share their experience, for example, “now that you have heard Becky’s story, share your own and tag us.” Users like to talk about themselves on social media, this would give them the opportunity to do so.
- Engage back with Followers
By replying to users it builds a relationship, especially when each repose is unique. Do not avoid negative comments, this will only make users angry. Send users to a customer support site or customer service number as well as apologize for whatever inconvenience they are having.
- What’s Interesting Today?
Social Media trends move very quickly. It is important to stay on top of these trends and find ways to incorporate them within your own social media. When the Hollywood sign was changed, for example, Denny’s restaurants put their own spin on the controversy.
- Videos and GIFs Grab Followers Attention
Videos can be compelling to viewers, but they can also loose interest quickly. Keep videos reduced to about two minutes. An exciting caption and introduction to the video will captivate the audience’s attention. GIFs have become popular because they are so quick for followers to watch and will add personality to your posts.
- Share Followers Content that Relates
The greatest way to form relationships with followers is by sharing the content that they post that pertains to your organization. This will make users excited about your content and as it makes it more personal and relatable.
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 Jayla Kearney
“We gave the internship to someone else with more experience.” I was stunned to hear those words from a recruiter last year. How could someone already have two years of related experience as a college student? I thought I was on the right track but little did I know, I could have been doing much more.
In public relations and many other fields, it is difficult to obtain a job post-graduation without experience. Employers expect you to already have some type of experience in your field in order to prove that you have built the right skills. Even some internships require you to have experience.
So, how do you build a portfolio of work when the majority of jobs require you to have at least two years of experience?
Here are some ways to gain PR experience in college:
- Internships: Internships are among the most common opportunities to develop valuable job market skills. Depending on where you live, there are an abundance of internship opportunities in the public relations field. Try getting multiple internships under your belt before graduation. The more you do, the more contacts you make and the more experience you gain. Internships are also a great way to learn what activities and sectors are most interesting to you. In addition, they can be a valuable learning experience.
- Volunteer: Do you want to work for a particular company? See if there are any events or projects in which you can voluntarily get involved. Many companies post volunteer opportunities on LinkedIn. Here is an example from a nonprofit organization needing a social media plan: Social Media Plan for Family Promise of Hawaii (Remote). Volunteering stands out on a resume and catches the employees of that company’s attention.
- Blogging: Blogging is something anyone with a computer can easily begin doing. Blogging is valuable because it shows potential employers that you have writing skills and they learn what you are passionate about. It can also be an opportunity to showcase your expertise or intelligence about a particular topic. In addition, it helps develop a personal brand.
- Campus involvement: If you’re not already involved on campus, you should seriously consider branching out. Join any organization that interests you! The organization may even need someone to do their public relations and social media management. In addition to joining PR/communications organizations such as Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators, you can become the PR/marketing chair for your fraternity/sorority or any organization that plans events.
- Student Jobs: Ask around. There may even be real PR jobs for students available. At the University of Central Missouri, we are lucky to have Innovative Public Relations as a student-led agency that gives us real world experience. In addition, check with the theater department, television station or any office on campus for available publicity or social media positions.
- Build connections with a variety of people: Anyone can be a valuable connection, not just recruiters. Talk to your peers from different majors as well as your own. You may be able to help each other out when an employer is looking for another assistant or intern.
- Pitch yourself: When you cannot find anything that interests you, create your own opportunities. Come up with a list of duties and pick an on-campus organization or a company that can benefit from having a PR Intern. Some small or local organizations may not have a specific person to do their public relations. Ask them about it! It could be a great start for your career. Also, follow professionals on Twitter and people with whom you would like to work. Often, companies and even musicians have gone to Twitter asking for PR professionals.
If you or anyone you know would like to apply for Innovative Public Relations for Fall 2017, navigate to the “Join Our Team” tab.
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: Elizabeth Fisher
LinkedIn is one of the most popular social media platforms among business professionals, but many people do not know how to use it to its fullest potential. Here are some helpful hints to making your LinkedIn account stand out from the crowd:
- Use photos to make your profile more attractive
- Include a business professional profile photo and cover photo on your profile. The photos should represent you, but also in a professional manner.
- Use this photo to feature your personality and style.
- Use LinkedIn to feature organizations and job experience not included on your resume
- When future employers visit your LinkedIn account they do not want to see the same experience featured on your resume. Create a LinkedIn account that features your personality and qualifications.
- Connect with individuals with whom you are currently connected
- Professionals you have worked with in the past are perfect individuals to connect with because you already have an established a connection.
- These individuals will be more likely to make a connection with you and help to build your LinkedIn profile.
- Connect with individuals with whom you wish to establish potential connections
- Do not be afraid to connect with potential employers. This will show your enthusiasm for a job or for their company.
- Connect with people who are connected with your friends. Having a mutual common ground will most likely lead to a connection.
- Do not send the general ‘add me’ message
- Create and customize your own message when connecting with professionals.
- By creating your own message, it shows individuality that will stand out to employers.
- Continue interacting with individuals with whom you are already Linked
- Making connections is important, but maintaining connections is equally important.
- Like a connection’s posts or congratulate them on a career milestone. This will help build stronger relationships with your connections.
- Use LinkedIn to search for potential employers
- Employers will remember your face from LinkedIn, especially if you create a message of your own when requesting a connection.
- Connect with company profiles you are interested in and relevant industry profiles
- When you connect with company profiles it allows you to network and build trust with that company.
- Download the LinkedIn app
- This will help you stay connected so that you will receive messages and notifications that you may receive on your LinkedIn account.
- You can even read company profiles and resumes directly from your mobile device.
Linked Up Life
- Create and share posts
- Posts can show off your personality that cannot be seen within your content.
- Sharing posts can create great networking opportunities!
By following these key points, you can ROCK the LinkedIn world!
By Cole Braun
Innovative Public Relations, a student-led PR firm at UCM, has organized a social media night event for five years and is more excited than ever before to launch this year’s activities. It’s funny how people believe these events are easy to execute, however, this is far from the truth. Social media is still an unrefined tundra in the last frontier of digital marketing.
Weeks of careful planning and writing are necessary to facilitate an event like this. It is much more than just tweeting about something and seeing if your audience comprehends what you are trying to say. Every sentence and word are planned for a specific reason and you have to account for cross platform posting. It requires critical strategic thinking about the choice of platforms.
Multiple publics are being taken into consideration as we prepare certain messages for the event. We want to have giveaways that will engage people in the event, so we have collected a wide variety of prizes for our multiple audiences. We think about what certain publics would like, what is something everyone would want. This is where the tactical tool of research can help. Then the next decision is, which platform is best through which to give certain prizes away.
Events can be complicated, intricate and overwhelming, so in recognizing the complexity of event planning, I wanted to share tips I have learned in preparation for this social media night. These tips can help you survive the Wild West, that is the world of social media marketing right now.
Here are 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts on hosting a social media event.
● DO: Engage your audience with fun and exciting content.
If you want your audience to engage with you then you need to give them a reason to hit the like button and respond back. You will not get far just telling people to go somewhere else online to do something. Be creative here, make a silly pun or add a goofy image. Don’t be another block of text in the news feed.
● DO NOT: Copy previous work from local similar attempts.
It looks silly and confuses the public. They are not paying attention to who is doing it, only that something is happening. So don’t embarrass your organization and step all over the work done by previous groups.
● DO: Provide a variety of opportunities for all in attendance.
Not everyone in attendance is going to be a Twitter user, or a Snapchat user. So if you want your event to be engaging, make sure to interact with all audiences in some form. Alienating one audience may compromise their engagement and your brand image.
● DO NOT: Make it an obstacle course for the audience.
Making it a hassle to participate is not how you create a successful event. No one wants to download this, click here for more or have to jump across multiple platforms for one prize. Your audience will instantly lose interest if they have to take too many steps. Make it simple such as, “reply with the answer to this question or send us back a picture.”
● DO: Plan ahead!
I know this seems like a silly thing to say, but it is important. Social media is still a Wild West world and anything can happen. So plan ahead for an inappropriate response or someone trying to abuse your competitions. Create a plan of action for any incident that could possibly happen. If something never happens, that’s great, but it’s better to be prepared.
● DO NOT: Be afraid of collaboration.
Sometimes you aren’t going to have all the answers, that’s okay. That is why it’s fun to bring in people from outside organizations to share ideas. By working with multiple individuals, you will have the chance to get tips and tricks you never would have considered. Collaboration is a key tool in the world of public relations, but sometimes it’s not the best tool. If those partnerships are not ideal, then separate. Don’t just burn the bridge.
● DO: Thank your sponsors!
If you have brought in outside groups or businesses to help sponsor giveaways or other parts of your event, thank them. Giving them appropriate acknowledgement could strengthen their future participation. Keep your side of any commitments you have made. Showing gratitude to groups that help you put on your event is essential to its success and future endeavors.
● DO NOT: Try to plan last minute.
Lack of planning creates heartache, confusion and makes for a sloppy event. So plan ahead. Last-minute work is messy work.
● DO: Keep note of all interactions.
Paperwork may be stressful at the time, but it makes life so much easier further down the road. This helps with keeping track of promises made to sponsors and what sponsors have done in the past. When you go back to them for the next event, you have record of their previous contributions, which can help make their decision in participating again easier. Essentially, you will have all the answers for them so all they have to do is decide how much support they can provide above last year’s efforts.
● DO NOT: Forget the reason for your event.
It is easy to get so hyped up about your social media event you forget the reason you are doing this in the first place. An immediate example is our event this Thursday, Feb. 16, #teamUCM Social Media Night. The purpose behind this event is to foster a strong sense of community between the University population, local businesses and citizens of Warrensburg, Missouri. Though the main audience is UCM students campus, we cannot forget the other factors. If we lose sight of that, then the event can easily fall to shambles.
Social media is a tool for all, not just college students and teenagers. It can be part of a strategy to make your event engaging. Remember this; research, critical thinking and tactical decision-making are your best tools in the Wild West-like field of social media.
By Jayla Kearney
ABC’s award-winning TV show, Scandal, has recently returned for it’s sixth season. If you haven’t watched, Kerry Washington stars in Scandal as Olivia Pope, a crisis communications manager, and her character is based on Judy Smith (former press secretary for U.S. President George H.W. Bush). The scenes and activities are more dramatic than real-life crisis management in order to make for good TV but there are still valuable PR lessons to learn from Olivia Pope & Associates (OPA), her crisis communications firm.
Here are five public relations lessons from Scandal:
- Master media training
“Artie take a breath. Keep your head still, maintain eye contact. Just answer what was asked of you; if you go off on a tangent it will look unreliable. Let’s try again.”- Olivia to her client Artie.
Olivia spends a lot of time training her clients to speak to the media. She often advises them on how to respond to media questions. She has advised them to prevent saying the phrase, “no comment” when answering questions. Preventing yourself from answering a question will make it seem like you have something to hide. It’s better to answer a question positively or empathetically. Never place the blame on someone else and don’t apologize when it’s not your fault.
- Perception is reality and looks matter
“In a case like this, perception is more important than evidence. The truth doesn’t matter. He looks guilty, he is guilty.”- Olivia
In the PR world, it’s all about public perception. Your client may be innocent but if they look guilty or seem guilty, then they’re guilty in public opinion.
- Remain calm
Whenever there is a crisis, Olivia keeps her cool and remains calm. Being a crisis manager can be stressful and takes someone who knows how to remain calm in difficult situations.
- Dress Professionally
No matter where Olivia is going, she always dresses like she’s ready for business. You never know who you may run into so always look your best. When you look good, you feel more confident and are taken more seriously.
- Be confident
Olivia is very confident in her abilities and she makes sure her clients are confident through their media training. She also does not give up on a client or case.
- Value Teamwork
“ You don’t get to run, you’re a gladiator. Gladiators don’t run. They fight.”- Abby
Olivia works with a dynamic team, which she calls “gladiators in suits.” Olivia Pope & Associates is the name of her crisis management and communications firm. Each member of her team possesses different values and skills. One of her colleagues may be great at technology and research whereas another co-worker could be more creative. In addition, Olivia and her team have great connections and have built a relationship with various media outlets and opinion leaders.
- Be in the Know
“I have looked at it from every angle”- Olivia
Members of Olivia Pope & Associates watch a lot of TV, always keeping up with current events. Crises can come quickly so it’s best to keep up with what’s going on. You may be able to prevent a crisis this way. Always be two steps ahead of your clients and competition. Constantly research your clients and the industry in which you practice and keep up with trends so that you’re able to capitalize on them.
- Wear your white hat
“Dirty little secrets always come out.”- Olivia
This means do what is right and ethical. Olivia has performed unethically in some cases, but we can learn from her mistakes. For example, she rigged a presidential election and it haunts her throughout the series. Also, be honest because “Dirty little secrets always come out.” Public relations professionals are often misunderstood and believed to put a “spin” on situations in order to improve their client’s reputation. However, PRSA has established a code of ethics by which members should abide.
Although some of the practices from Olivia Pope & Associates may be unethical or dramatic, there is no doubt that there are several good public relations lessons to learn from Scandal. Remember to wear your white hats, do your research, collaborate, look your best and master the art of media training.