By Ashleigh Horn
There’s no denying that each generation is different. Baby Boomers, Generation X, Xennials, Millennials, Generation Z, I’m sure as you read each of these titles, you may have recalled your own thoughts toward each group. During a time where as many as five different generations are working together in the workplace, it’s important to understand how they all function and what each brings to the table.
Though I could certainly cover all five of these and the impacts they have in the workplace, I want to instead provide first-hand insight into a generation that is seemingly misunderstood by its predecessors. This is a generation with a desire to create change; a generation that I have nearly 21 years of experience being part of.
Who are we?
Although the lines defining the age range of my generation are a bit blurry, the Pew Research Center identifies this group as having been born after 1996 (Parker & Igielnik, 2020). Today, some Gen Z-ers walk the halls of middle schools, whereas others are hunched over books in their dorm rooms, working full-time agency jobs or even preparing to vote in the upcoming presidential election. There’s no doubt we’re all at different stages in our lives; however, somehow, some way, there are a few common desires and passions we all seem to share.
How is this generation different?
Generation Z is the largest generation to date. We also have access to more technology, media and quite honestly, each other, than any generation before us. It may be our sheer size, or it quite simply may be the comfort we feel in sharing our thoughts and ideas through Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, that compels us to reach for our dreams and to stand up for what we believe in. Politics, social injustice, sustainability, ideas for new products or businesses, we Gen Z-ers are a researched, opinionated, innovative, change-making group.
The Target Incubator
A few years back, the Target retail chain set out to better connect with this next generation of consumers. One way they did so, was through directly engaging with young Gen Z entrepreneurs in what they called the “Target Incubator.” Inspired by these young adults’ big ideas about “better for people” and “better for the planet” products, the company selected eight business pitches, created by students, to help become a reality.
You may be asking, “Why would the company do this, and what was their reward?”
Generation Z is often referred to as the “Changemaker” generation. Target recognized that many of its Gen Z consumers have big plans to change the world and sought to help make their dreams become reality. The students’ ideas ranged from producing compostable single-use products to using juice pulp waste to create healthy snacks. These eight businesses were not only unique—they did not simply provide innovative products or services—rather, they were all created as solutions to a number of the social and environmental issues we face in the 21st century.
I think James Sancto, founder of We Make Change, hit the nail on the head when he described Generation Z’s passion as “not willing to accept the world as it is, [who] believes [it] can address the challenges the world faces today, and [who] will do whatever [it] can to make the change [it wants] to see” (Sancto, 2019). The product of the Target Incubator is a testament to Gen Z’s eagerness and willingness to ensure the changes we wish to happen are made.
Gen Z’s not so breakthrough solution to creating change is to have a purpose. Whether you’re a business, college institution, or just someone we pass on the street, Gen Z-ers want to know what you’re all about.
What are your goals?
Who or what do you stand for?
Does your vision align with what we believe?
Generation Z prioritizes purpose and “[looks] to engage with brands and organizations that have a higher purpose that goes well beyond a simple transaction” (Beal, 2019). Unlike generations before us, we don’t simply purchase a product or rep a brand because we like it or it’s “convenient.” Rather, we use the power of reviews and our access to technology to compare prices, product availability, to research a company’s CSR practices and what it values, in order to make educated purchases (Salesfloor, n.d.).
Google, Netflix, Spotify and the Walt Disney Company are all examples of some of the most loved brands by Gen Z consumers. It’s no coincidence that all of these same companies placed in the Digital Marketing Institutes (2020) list of the “Top 16 Brands doing Corporate Social Responsibility Correctly.” Generation Z values these brands because they do more than provide their specific products and services; these companies use their platforms to create change on issues important to their employees and to each company as a whole.
As I mentioned earlier, Gen Z-ers look for ways to impact our own corners of the world. In fact, we often make decisions with long-term consequences in mind. We’ve been called lazy, self-involved, tech-dependent, and more (The NPD Group, 2020). Yes, some of these monikers may be partly true. But, we are also a passionate generation focused on standing up for only those issues or movements that align with our interests. Our passions drive our actions. We just might change the world.
As each new year has passed onto the next, Generation Z, or the “Changemaker” generation, has become older and older. With this age has come new responsibilities, both in our own lives and in contributing to the world around us. We are growing up, entering the workforce and making an impact in our own generationally-unique way. Slowly but surely, we are revealing who we are, what we value, what our goals are, and are debunking the generational stereotypes that have defined us since we were babies. In turn, we are using these differences to provide new perspectives in both the workplace and in society, and are doing all in our power to create change.
By: Emma Honn
As a senior in the public relations program at the University of Central Missouri, I am often asked “What is public relations?” I get the question at family functions, social gatherings and different events around campus. Sometimes, I get tired of the question and think to myself “How do they not understand?” I have realized that people do not know what public relations is because PR professionals have been doing PR for their clients, and not for the profession itself.
Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” To a public relations professional, this makes sense. However, to someone who knows nothing about the industry, it may not. Here are a few things you need to know about public relations.
We are strategic storytellers. We use narrative to build our brand and relationships with our intended audiences. It can be through social media, brand specific communications or the media. We tend to try and humanize a brand, meaning we add a human element to a story or brand to help our audiences relate. For example, instead of saying “buy this product,” we say, “this is important because…” We do this to build trust between our company and our audiences.
We work with the media. Read that correctly: we are not the media, we work with the media. The goal here is to earn media placements. We build a story with a human element, and earn media coverage on the subject. This gets our brand in front of our audiences for something that may not necessarily be our products. Although there is no guarantee of media placement, when we do earn a spot, there is a third party validation of our brand, our products and our story.
We write press releases and speeches, and plan and execute events. A press release is typically written by a public relations professional with the goal of it being picked up by a media outlet. These, however, are written with much thought, newsworthiness and human element. If you are ever listening to a speech, chances are, the script was written by a public relations professional. The basis of speech writing is solid writing skills. PR professionals have an eye for detail and design, two things that are essential to a great speech. Public Relations departments typically handle the planning and execution of events meant for public outreach and media relations. If you are ever at a large event, it was probably handled by someone who works in PR.
We manage social media and handle crises whenever they arise. Social media is a tricky subject. Since it is a relatively new thing in public relations, we have had to learn how to adapt and work with ever-changing platforms. We handle crises that may come up for organizations. For example, think of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal. Every statement given by VW, press conference held, you name it, was planned and handled by a PR team. Crises can range in severity, but whatever the crisis may be, a solid PR professional can handle it.
We are strategic storytellers, work with the media, write press releases and speeches, plan and execute events manage social media and handle crises. These topics are all under the public relations umbrella, but this just scratches the surface. Now, the next time someone says “I work in public relations,” or “I am a public relations major,” you will know a little bit about what they do.
By: Sarah Arnett
When I entered college, I did not know what I wanted to major in. While I knew I wanted to make a difference, I continued to explore and research, eventually landing in Dr. Tricia Hansen-Horn’s office to discuss public relations. However, I was unsure how public relations made a difference in the world around me. As I begin my senior year, I have a set of tools in my back pocket, ready to utilize and make a difference.
Networking is crucial to public relations. To be a successful professional, it is important to make connections whenever the opportunity presents itself. Whether it be at a professional event or at the local Starbucks, never pass up the opportunity to make a connection with somebody. You never know, they may be your next partner on a groundbreaking campaign!
– Social Media
Gone are the days of reading the morning newspaper. Instead, you can catch people scrolling through Twitter and checking their email first thing in the morning. A strategic public relations professional knows that social media is a powerful tool to share messages and appeal to human interest.
– Team Work
As much as some hate group work, there is no denying that the best ideas come from the culmination of several ideas. When used effectively, group work sparks creativity and inspires great ideas. These ideas are the ones that motivate audience members to take action, making a lasting impact.
– Setting SMART Goals
If you want to change the world through public relations, big goals are to be expected. However, it is important to make those goals SMART. A goal must be strategic, with sound reasoning and research backing it up. It must also be measurable, to ensure that it is results driven and justifiable use of resources. A goal must also be attainable and realistic, as there is no point in setting a goal that has no chance of being accomplished. A goal must also be time-bound to ensure that resources are being used efficiently and team members are focused on providing results. By setting SMART goals, public relations professionals have a strong plan in place to change the world.
– Finding Your Passion
At the end of the day, the biggest results will come from efforts you are passionate about. There will be projects that you work on that don’t set your soul on fire, and that is okay. But the best ideas and results come from working on things that set your soul on fire. Whether that is grounding breaking technology or a new brand of coffee, the best results are those that you are proud of and feel that you made a difference with.
By combining these skills, as well as many others, public relations professionals are able to provide results that make an impact on the world one message at a time. I’m excited to put them to use in my future career as a public relations professional!
By: Samuel Jordison
For the past year, I had the opportunity to work as a human resources intern for a manufacturing plant in Kansas City. When comparing PR and HR on the surface it looks like two completely different fields, but there is a lot they have in common. I’ve found that certain commonalities extend not just between PR and HR, but PR and almost every field in business. One of those things is that you have to know your audience.
One of the first things we learn in Intro to Public Relations is that you need to understand who your “public” is if you want to relate to them. That advice is universal across the world. If we want to communicate something to someone, first we need to make sure they are interested in what we are communicating. If we want them to respond, we need to communicate in a way that is clear to them. If we want them to have a positive reaction to what we say, then we need to say it in a way that encourages them in a positive way. All of these things hinge on knowing who your audience is and understanding what is important to them.
This is not exclusive to those in the PR world. In the workforce, managers need to know that their employees have an interest in their work to be good employees. Parents want their children to understand them, and will try and communicate in ways their children will understand. Even friendships are built with recurring positive interaction.
Knowing your audience, whether it’s employees, co-workers, friends, or family members, is important in any setting. As an HR Intern, my primary audience was the employees inside the company. I strived to gain an understanding of how they think and the best way to communicate with them. Otherwise, the programs or events we would roll out would be ineffective.
When we take time to figure out how those around us will best receive our message, we are strengthening a relationship. Whether that relationship is with consumers, employees, family or friends, it’s extremely beneficial.
By Megan Myers
Whether it’s your freshman or senior year of college, you may still be unsure about which public relations career path you should follow. You might be fortunate and have a passion for one field over another, which will make finding your PR field of choice much easier. However, for most PR students, all they know is that they have a passion for PR and need a little extra help determining which direction to go. Just like how your personalities must complement each other in a personal relationship, you have to fit and mesh your personality to work well within a company and career.
You may have taken personality quizzes before such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, to gain insight about yourself. Some careers or company cultures may be better suited for different personalities. Knowing who you are and how you work can help you determine which PR fields may be a good fit for you.
In case you haven’t taken a personality test before, 16Personalities offers a quick and easy way to gain insight about some of your traits. The test will sort you into one of four personality archetypes, which include diplomats, analysts, sentinels or explorers. If you don’t already know your archetype, you can take the test and use these suggestions to consider your fit with potential PR careers.
Being a diplomat, you are considered adaptable and manageable because you work well in a group setting. Your features include compassion, recognition, and artistic abilities. Diplomats would fit better in the PR fields of agencies, non-profits and corporate organizations with a creative/fun cultures, such as Google, Nike, or Netflix. Diplomats’ cooperative and imaginative nature means they will be an asset to any team and have creative ideas and solutions.
As an analyst, you are firm and self-reliant. You take it upon yourself to do a job with little to no questions. You rely on your research and are there to get the job done. Analysts would fit better in corporate and academic PR fields, such as writing for a company like Cerner or for a college or university. Their strategic mindset makes it easy to be the strategist for a campaign or foresee the long-term effects that may occur in campaign implementation.
Being a sentinel, you need order and organization in your life. You love a good challenge, but like to stick to the rules when it comes to creativity. People in this category are considered to be achievers. Sentinels would fit better in governmental, medical, and financial PR fields. This could include working with county government organizations, lobbying or working for a major corporation such as State Farm Insurance. Their meticulous nature means that they would fit well in a managerial position in any field, focusing on achieving goals and objectives makes them great at moving up the ladder.
Explorers have the most exciting and outgoing personalities. These types of people are sharp-witted; they are the go-to person during a crisis situation. Explorers would fit better in the PR fields of event planning, crisis management or consulting firms, such as O’Neill Marketing & Event Management Company or Edelman. Their ability to connect with their surroundings and ability to think on their feet makes them perfect for situations that are high pressure with lots of moving parts.
Now that you understand which category you fit into, you are better equipped to choose the path you should take in your PR career.
By Haley Gleason
After reading the title of this post, I’m sure you’re thinking, “I can communicate just fine with people.” However, you may not be as effective as you think. The world is constantly changing around us, and the same goes for the ways in which we communicate. As future business professionals, we must take the necessary steps to stand out from the crowd, and being exceptional communicators is a great way to do it. With that in mind, here are a few tips to improve your communication skills.
1. (Actually) Listen to others
Hearing what people have to say is something we do on a daily basis. However, are we truly listening? Many of us take listening for granted, believing we are good listeners simply because we hear others. Yet many people they feel as if they are not receiving the full attention of those they converse with. According to Chip Rose, a professional mediator, “We all use language to communicate, to express ourselves, to get our ideas across, and to connect with the person to whom we are speaking. When a relationship is working, the act of communicating seems to flow relatively effortlessly. When a relationship is deteriorating, the act of communicating can be as frustrating as climbing a hill of sand.” Personal and professional relationships alike require both parties to listen effectively. Therefore, it is important to take steps to avoid disruptions, such as our phones, background noise or even our own thoughts.
Bearing this in mind, consider making these personal adjustments as necessary to be a more effective listener:
- Face the speaker and use eye contact.
- Use body language and gestures.
- Keep an open mind.
- Don’t interrupt. Listen to everything others have to say before you provide feedback.
- Ask questions to ensure you understand what others are saying.
2. Provide valuable feedback
Providing valuable feedback goes hand-in-hand with listening. You can only truly provide valuable feedback if you listen to what a person has to say. It is not always easy, but it is obtainable with conscious effort. One aspect to consider that is very important in providing feedback is patience.The point of providing feedback is to improve and/or satisfy the person you are talking to, which is best accomplished by exercising patience and conveying your support. Being honest is another important part of good feedback, but note that you are often not going to get your point across by being critical or harsh, as this behavior often causes people to become guarded or hostile. Again, exercise patience and provide feedback in a positive, supportive manner.
Feedback also requires constant attention and timeliness. This is especially true since methods of communication have changed. Feedback is more relevant when provided as soon as possible, and modern technology enables near instantaneous responses. Make an effort to utilize your resources and provide feedback in a timely matter when it is needed the most.
3. Break down boundaries
Sometimes, poor communication skills may make you feel as if you’re on a deserted island, attempting to send a message in a bottle which no one ever receives. In a way, you may have unknowingly placed yourself on that deserted island by not breaking down boundaries with whom you are trying to communicate with.
The first step to break down these boundaries is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Try to understand where their opinions and ideas are coming from. This does not mean you have to always agree, but gaining an understanding of their stance can help you move forward to communicating effectively.
The next step is to be fearless. Don’t be afraid to talk to others and ask questions. Talk to people you normally wouldn’t, like people in other departments and different seniority levels. If you are an entry level employee, break the norm and go engage with a manager or executive. That is your opportunity to learn from them and grow in the company.
As described in an article on Fortune.com, breaking down these boundaries can help you secure nigh unlimited potential in the workplace. This potential will not only help you grow as an individual, but also as an unstoppable business professional.
4. Embrace change
Change can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around, especially because we often become comfortable in our abilities and current situation. However, it is important to remember that change is an important part of stimulating personal growth. To help embrace change, get rid of the negativity in your life, such as the self-doubt that takes over in uncomfortable situations. Develop the confidence to break down boundaries. Have the strength to actually listen to people. Be patient, honest and timely in providing feedback. With the help of these tips, you can set yourself on the path to becoming a great communicator.
By Blake Hedberg
You have done all the necessary research, crafted an excellent cover letter, branded yourself with an excellent resume and survived the strenuous interview process. The company you hope to work for finally gives you that long-awaited phone call – you have landed your first internship. However, this is no time to relax. Plenty of hard work and learning opportunities await.
For most students, the process of finding and securing an internship is a daunting task. The amount of research, time and effort that goes into the process can be extensive. Some students put the process off until their senior year (do not wait this long). For those who have gone the extra mile to be placed in an internship program, your journey is off to a fantastic start.
You are about to embark on the beginning of your professional career, and you’re ready to begin your first day as a professional. Before you do, here are a few tips for maximizing your internship experience.
1. Embrace hierarchy with a smile
Let’s get this out of the way from the beginning: As an intern, you might have to perform trivial tasks at one point or another. Photocopying, coffee runs and things of this nature are not uncommon for interns. Get over it.
You are there to help the business by any means necessary – do this with the biggest of smiles. You must understand that there is a hierarchy at the company you are working for and everyone has been in your shoes sometime during their careers. Employers will remember you better if you perform any task with enthusiasm. Doing these small tasks will demonstrate your ability to listen and work effectively. This will, hopefully, lead to better assignments in the future.
2. Don’t be afraid to speak up, ask questions
An internship is an incredible opportunity for learning, personal growth and development. You are expected to be asking questions. After all, you are there to learn, aren’t you? Don’t hesitate to pull your employer off to the side and ask them something when you are uncertain. Make sure the time is convenient for them, however, and they will likely be happy to give you some guidance. Asking questions is a necessity in getting the most from your experience. If you do not ask about it, they will assume you already know it. The more questions you ask, the more knowledge you gain.
3. Get to know anyone and everyone
From the other interns, to the CEO, to the janitorial crew; get to know the people around you. You never know who might be able to help you with something down the road! Participate on company softball teams, go out for drinks with your internship team, stay after events and chat with fellow employees.
Go above and beyond the hours you are expected to work and establish relationships with co-workers. Your work will become more meaningful that way. Networking does not have to stop once you have landed an internship. In fact, it is just now beginning. Keep building that professional network. It will pay off when you are looking for your first job.
4. Be willing to learn
Having the right mindset in any workplace is extremely beneficial. Taking a positive approach with an open mind will definitely impress of your employer. Not all internships are the same and you may have unique opportunities that go beyond your job description. Be ready. Take in as much as you possibly can from whatever you are doing. You will appreciate that you did after the internship has concluded.
No one likes a know-it-all. If you walk around and act like you know everything and that the employer has nothing to teach you, this will resonate with them in a negative way. Accept when someone is offering to teach you something, no matter what that may be.
5. Sell yourself
When it comes to internships, there is also a more competitive angle that is often forgotten. As you make friends with the other interns at the company you must not forget that, from an employer’s perspective, you are competing against one another. Whether you realize it or not, your employer is grading each intern with the possibility of hiring one or two of you at the end of the process.
You must be able to work and get along with others, but make sure you are selling yourself and reinforcing why you should be considered for employment post-internship. You need to outperform the other interns in your program. Yes, this is somewhat of a bleak realization but is in fact a representation of the real business environment. Leave no doubt in your employers mind that you are the candidate they should pursue.
By Molly Olten
How does one of the biggest game releases in the history of mobile downloads become a passing fad in a matter of two months?
Pokémon Go, a free, augmented reality game, based on the ‘90s kid show, Pokémon, hit app stores in America on July 6, 2016. The release went far from unnoticed. It seemed that everyone had heard of it, from your five-year-old nephew to your 78-year-old great aunt. Even media outlets swarmed the game. To many, Pokémon Go was seen as a social and gaming revolution. Even social media giants started to sweat when the game’s active user base topped 45 million in the early stages of release.
But now that number is barely reaching 30 million.
Engagement and time spent on the game is also declining.
As the old adage goes, all good things must come to an end, but most people hoped the end wouldn’t come so soon. So why were users hanging up their trainer hats? Aside from media negativity and game play issues, the communication, or lack thereof from Niantic, the development company behind Pokémon Go, was the most detrimental mistake to Pokémon Go.
Niantic provides a perfect example of the value of proper communication. Pokémon Go may not have suffered such losses if Niantic had simply communicated decisions made and explained the situation. Niantic’s poor communication with its audiences frustrated players and, in some cases, even prevented them from liking the game.
People simply wanted to understand and enjoy the game, and it seemed as if Niantic did nothing to encourage that.
One of the major game issues Niantic faced with Pokémon Go was server overload. So many people were trying to log into the game in the first weeks of its release, it was almost impossible to play. Instead of letting players know that they were aware of the issue, Niantic continued to expand the availability of the game in other geographic areas, adding further strain to the servers.
Another strike against the company came when it changed an integral part of the game without warning or explanation. Not a single tweet, post or announcement was made. The only information users got in the update was “Minor Text Fixes.” When making major changes, silence is the wrong answer.
Keeping quiet on an issue and not opening up a dialogue about it is the easiest way to lose your audience’s trust.
Focus on your audience
Speaking of audience, it is also necessary to give them the attention they deserve. At one point during the start of all Niantic’s communication issues, instead of posting information about how they are fixing problems or working on an update, Niantic tweeted out at Soulja Boy.
This was a major oversight. After virtually zero communication and an abundance of issues, Niantic chose to break the silence with a celebrity shout out instead of taking a few minutes to acknowledge players’ concerns.
Make it easy for audiences to like your brand
An enormous amount of people wanted to like Pokémon Go (and many still do). However, the magic it held for a few brief moments this summer is lost, mostly due to the fact that Niantic was unresponsive.
Niantic’s blog was updated just once during the launch in July, with the next “update” coming Aug. 4. Both posts fail to acknowledge the issues or updates made to the game. Organizations should make it easy for an engaged, enthusiastic community like Trainers to feel listened to and respected.
Invest in communicators
The bottom line? Invest in people that will help your brand grow. The former Niantic Global Community Manager, Brian Rose, perfectly summed up Niantic’s future problem: “If you’re there with the community, they’ll be there for you when things go south. Bugs can be fixed, but regaining people’s faith is hard.” Moving forward, Niantic needs to make some major changes in its communication habits.
Maybe part of this rant is coming from a bitter Team Instinct player, but the massive losses and wilting potential of Niantic’s Pokémon Go is something gaming companies should take a note from.
By Jamie Jackson
I love Instagram. I really do. It’s fun to post pictures and to get a sneak peek into strangers’ lives (why is this not a weird statement anymore?).
Instagram is a popular social media outlet for personal use, however, it is also becoming popular among companies for branding and marketing. Here are a few tips to get the most out of Instagram for your business (or even your personal account).
Use brightly colored and well-lit photos
An attractive photo stream doesn’t usually involve unedited, dull pictures. Starbucks’ Instagram feed is full of colorful and attractive photos.
However – not all black and white pictures should be thrown in the trash. Leon Bridges’ photo stream has some great examples of how black and white pictures can still be great for Instagram.
Leon is an R&B artist embracing soul music. These black and white images line up perfectly with Leon’s personal brand and the subjects he sings about.
Instagram is effective when people follow you, and you gain followers by giving people what they want. On Instagram, that means aesthetically pleasing photos.
No one wants to see another ad on Instagram. Sure, if you’re a clothing store, post pictures of new arrivals. If you have a great new product, it’s okay to feature it in a post. But Instagram shouldn’t be used as an online store. Try something like this:
Tell stories. Show consumers the faces behind the name.
You are more than an ad agency or a boring, unoriginal company. Show the fun! Unless you really want people to think you’re a boring, unoriginal company – in which case, I’m afraid I can’t help you there.insta
If you use Instagram, actually USE it
Post consistently. Don’t post once or twice, or for a season. If you put an intern in charge of the account, make sure someone else takes over after they leave.
Consistency is key in posting and branding. If you use hashtags on Twitter or Facebook, use the same for Instagram. Use your same logo as the profile picture, link to the same website, use the same voice and use your brand. Instagram provides a unique opportunity to tell your story solely through pictures. As the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Steward them well.
By this, I don’t mean try to use modern slang just because it’s used by young people. You risk misusing or misunderstanding words and phrases, potentially losing credibility and followers. Instead, follow current trends and try to stay fun. This post from McDonald’s is a great example.
Celebrate things like hump day. Be relevant in your posts on holidays or during big world issues. This might seem like it won’t affect sales, but an online presence that seems real and personal is so valuable to a company – especially with younger people.
While Insta is more fun and exciting than a lot of other tools, it’s still very measurable and very valuable. Do it better by evaluating your efforts with Instagram analytics tools. Instagram is great for reaching younger audiences and telling your story with photos. Evaluating any social media effort is a chance to show the C-suite their money is being used well. It also gives coordinators a chance to change their efforts as needed depending on what works and what doesn’t. Evaluation helps to refine and target your audiences and determines if you are indeed reaching them. All efforts are wasteful if not evaluated frequently.
Social media is a wonderful branding tool when used properly. Millennials grew up with this stuff, so employ some of them to help you navigate new waters. It’s worth it. Speaking of social, you’ll want to follow IPR on Twitter and Facebook for the latest.
By Molly Olten
Fine Brothers Entertainment, a popular YouTube channel, recently launched into crisis mode. The creators, known for popular videos such as Elders React to Dubstep and Kids React to Old Computers, announced plans to allow other video makers to “franchise” the brothers’ video formula. These plans also include trademarking the word “react.”
This is where the issues start.
The response from the YouTube community has been overwhelmingly negative. Creators feel threatened that trademarking a vague term like “react” could create numerous problems for other YouTube users and ultimately hinder creativity. Their fears were immediately confirmed as numerous videos were taken down for infringement. Ironically, several YouTubers have made their own reaction videos to the news.
So what can PR professionals learn from all of this?
The Fine Brothers are essentially dealing with a crisis. Although quick to respond, their strategy has not met the needs of the affected audience. Here are three lessons PR professionals can take away from this situation.
Listen to your audience
When their plans to trademark became public, the brothers’ substantial 13 million subscriber audience began to voice its opinions – loudly. In the early stages of the update a dialogue began between the brothers and their audience,
however, eventually as the situation worsened, the brothers backed out. They began deleting negative posts and questions. Bad move.
This amount of backlash deserves to be properly addressed. An audience wants more than anything to be heard. By silencing negative responses, the outrage will only grow. The conversation will be taken somewhere else – somewhere a brand cannot adequately communicate.
Clarify and then clarify some more
Part of the problem with the Fine Brothers’ announcement was their lack of clarity. They didn’t understand the fears of the YouTube community or how this would threaten their creative freedoms. Because of this misunderstanding, the Fine Brothers employed side-stepping language and vague examples. They tried masking the intentions of their initiative. This fueled speculation by concerned audiences and left the consequences up for interpretation.
Although a company may have been planning a change for months, when the announcement is made public, the information is totally new to audiences. There will be plenty of questions, and organizations need to have answers. If they do not receive adequate responses to their questions, the audience will make its own assumptions and this can add to the problem. Clarity is key.
After the storm of protests just a few days after the initial announcement, the brothers uploaded an update video. Despite the fast response, the creators seemed rehearsed and not genuine. It seems that the Fine Brothers still think their audience considers them to be just a couple of guys making funny videos, but this is not the case. Their channel essentially functions as a business, and the viewers know this. Many of those who responded to the update commented on its forced nature and rehearsed appearance.
Audiences know when an explanation is coming from a place of sincerity or insincerity. An obligatory, seemingly forced “sorry” will not suffice when the audience is deeply connected to the issue.
Know your audience, respect it and own up to the mistake.
Eventually, the Fine Brothers realized the error of their ways and decided to back down from trademarks. In an effort to save their reputation, they released a statement recanting all their future plans. Despite this gesture, the brothers’ YouTube channel has suffered significant subscriber loss and serious damage to follower loyalty. Overall, this was the best and only move the brothers could make.
The bigger picture: While this crisis brings up serious questions about trademarks and fair use, PR professionals can take a few notes from the struggle. Know your audience, be clear and be genuine. This is solid advice for nearly any situation, but it’s especially important in crisis situations.