By: Ashleigh Horn
Research is the key to all successful public relations strategy. It is the defining factor in how we choose to tell our client’s story and helps us identify how our target audiences will react—long before they are ever exposed to any messaging.
But why is research crucial? How can it single-handedly define the effectiveness of our PR efforts? Isn’t research a little bit…old school?
No! Before I continue any further, I would like to emphasize that research is not old school. Call me a nerd for thinking it’s cool, but you actually need it to be successful in this industry. Here is why:
Beyond identifying an objective, research is the first step in defining what steps should be taken to solve a problem. A need may be increasing brand awareness, avoiding a crisis, or launching a campaign. The list is endless. However, used strategically, research can be conducted to meet needs, elevate your client’s brand and create lasting mutually beneficial relationships.
On the other hand, failure to conduct research may lead to indecision, inaction or financial loss. It may also make identifying key publics and their needs difficult. In many cases, actions taken without sufficient knowledge about who or what they will impact can even lead to tarnishing your brand’s overall image.
One brand whose reputation was tarnished because of its failure to conduct any research was Digorno. In 2014, the frozen pizza brand received major backlash for inappropriately using a trending Twitter hashtag to advertise its product. The company’s Tweet, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza” was ill-received by Twitter users who were disgusted that the company would poke fun at domestic violence to encourage pizza sales.
The company could have avoided the situation altogether by researching the nature of the hashtag before Tweeting. While research may frontload your efforts, it helps prevent mistakes later on. Doing so allows you to preserve your brand and may even save you money.
I will be the first to admit that research is not always sexy. In fact, anyone who has taken University of Central Missouri’s PR 3605: Survey of PR Research & Theory with Dr. Tricia Hansen-Horn knows that research can be tedious and seemingly mundane at times. However, it can also be exciting and provide key insights that will make decision making easier down the road.
Research allows us to strategically gauge information about our key publics. It helps us identify possible reactions and outcomes of our efforts and avoid unnecessary costs. It also equips us with the tools to measure the impact of our efforts from the get-go. At the end of the day, it takes out the guesswork and lays a solid foundation from which you can build—without fear of total failure.
You may be thinking, “Gee, that sounds great. However, I have no experience conducting research. I would never know where to begin.”
But you do!
May I ask if you have ever had a friend tell you that they have begun to develop feelings for someone? If you are like me, this small piece of information often triggers Sherlock-Holmes mode. Within the next hour you have scoured up a list of their hobbies, identified their grandmother’s name, and searched through all of the accounts they follow on Instagram.
Does this activity sound familiar? Don’t lie, I know you have done it too.
Curiosity is in our nature and whether we recognize it or not, we conduct research every day. We care about our friend and use research to ensure that the one who has them so smitten is actually right for them.
But where should you start?
Certainly there are methods to help guide how we research. However, there is no set protocol for how it should be conducted, especially in PR as we deal with all things human. I advise formulating one single question and allowing your curiosity to fuel any questions and quests for answers that follow.
You may think research is boring. It’s not! It is a vital element in the daily life of a PR pro. Ask questions, find the answers, then ask more questions that lead you to solid strategy and valuable decision-making.
By: Shayna Polly
The United States Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett, the fifth woman in history to serve on the Supreme Court, on Oct. 26, 2020. The Girl Scouts, front runner in the business of girl power, tweeted to congratulate Barrett, accompanied by a photograph of all five women who have served.
The Girl Scouts make a habit of making congratulatory social media posts anytime a woman does something of note or an accomplishment celebrating girl power. They mourned Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, they congratulated Zendaya on winning an Emmy for Euphoria (the second black woman to win in 72 years) and post regularly about women in STEM fields.
As the Girl Scouts’ mission statement notes, “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”
My question is: Is the post really political or is it part of their patterned and honed “girl power” branding?
The media seem to believe it was a political statement, and so did those on social media. No time was wasted slandering the Girl Scouts for “supporting” Barrett, so much so, that the Girl Scouts account ended up deleting the tweet and apologizing for even posting it. Of course, the apology suffered backlash from Barrett supporters as well (you really can’t win).
One exmple came from actor Amber Tamblyn, who tweeted “really disappointing and won’t age well when access to safe abortion and the healthcare needs of millions of women and girls is gutted in this country because of Barrett’s addition to the court.”
Some even think the Girl Scouts “caving” to the mass is more of a political statement than their original post. TV personality Megyn Kelly tweeted, “This is pathetic. It’s not ‘partisan’ to generically congratulate the fifth woman ever to join the High Court. It’s patriotic. Taking your tweet down *is* partisan, however, and a real disappointment.”
Looking at this issue from the lens of an unbiased, apolitical observer, it appears that this tweet was not intended to be political. In today’s highly charged and highly divided political climate, however, all organizations should be careful of what they choose to post,realizing how they can be seen through different lenses. In a perfect world, people would be able to see that this tweet was in support of women in general, not to speak to this particular woman’s policy or beliefs. Unfortunately, our world is not perfect.
One must be careful given said climate, especially considering the cancel culture that has come about in the past couple years. We have seen many examples of individuals and organizations being canceled such as stars like James Charles, Johnny Depp, and now Amber Heard while some organizations include Papa Johns, KFC, and GAP. Not to say that these individuals or organizations were right or wrong, just to acknowledge that the media is cancel happy and will take any opportunity to find a big story and cancel someone/something. In this case, the Girl Scouts handled it the best way they could.
I could write about how the media, and people in general, should chill out and maybe attempt to look at things from more than just one perspective, but many (with bigger voices than I) have tried and failed. Until that can happen, my final note is: be careful out there PR pros, it’s rough.
By Brittany Green
When Twitter was first launched, people were uncertain how successful it would be. Now in 2016, there are millions of users and more than 500 million tweets sent out every day. People are using Twitter to find news, share information and connect with people and businesses around the world. It has become a very powerful tool, not only for social purposes, also to help businesses market their brands.Some of the most successful companies use Twitter because it allows them to reach a large audience, interact with them quickly and keep them updated with content information.
Chipotle is a great example of a company that efficiently uses Twitter to interact with it’s audiences. According to a 2011 Nation’s Restaurant News Study, 90 percent of the company’s activity on Twitter is responding to customers through @mentions. Chipotle currently has 743,000 followers that it can interact and share content with. That is certainly amazing, but also something that, in principle, any business can do. If you’re interested in using Twitter to build your brand, here are some tips to help you get started.
Use the search feature
One of Twitter’s most powerful tools is the search feature. It can operate as a “global human search engine” of sorts and allows people to find others on Twitter with relevant information to share. Researchers also can look to see which topics are trending to stay informed and gauge audience interests. Hashtags (#) can help people immensely when searching. Just put a “#” in front of a topic and a lists of relevant tweets will appear. This can save you a lot of trouble and makes it very easy to search.
Know your audience
It is VERY important to know your audience. This will help you communicate clearly and make information relevant to them. If the content is not interesting, they will quickly move on to the next thing that interests them. The search feature can be very useful for learning about your
target audiences. It can tell you what is trending and their opinions on what’s going on. Another option is to look at various profiles and start collecting information. What are their interests and opinions? When are they active? Who do they follow? Which demographic groups do they belong to? These details can help give you an edge when creating strategic messaging for your audiences.
Customize the profile page
This plays a BIG role in visitors’ decisions to either read your content or move on. If your page is boring and doesn’t attract visitors, they probably aren’t going to follow you. The profile page should grab the visitors’ attention and convey who you are and what you’re about. While customizing the profile page, perhaps the most important decision is choosing a good avatar, as it will appear next to every tweet that is sent out. Make it something recognizable and eye-catching. Brand logos often fit well here since they are usually designed with these ideas in mind. An attractive banner image is a nice touch as well, and don’t forget to include links to your other social media accounts and/or website in order to create deeper engagement.
Tweet interesting content
This one may seem obvious, but bland content is still a common mistake that plagues the social media of many businesses. The Twitter feed is built around scrolling endlessly through a series of short posts. To escape the monotony, many people just scroll until something grabs their attention. Content should be fun, interesting and useful. Common themes or ideas in your content can help to establish your brand identity and keep readers coming back. Interesting, personal content is what separates your brand from everyone else, so use it to your advantage.
Engage with other accounts
Engaging with other accounts, particularly those within your industry/field, can be highly beneficial. Building relationships can help to build your reputation, grow your brand, increase awareness, provide sources of interesting content and keep you informed. This can also keep you informed about what your competitors might be doing and the state of the market.
More and more businesses are using Twitter as a professional communication platform, and if you follow these tips, yours can be one of them. On that note, remember to follow Innovative PR on Twitter and Facebook.
by Briana Piercey
We live in a world that is totally saturated with social media. Being constantly connected is the new standard. If you don’t post, tweet or “snap” a video of your every move, people may just assume your life is boring. The problem is, this habit can cause people to share too much, which can have much worse consequences. Let’s just say that everything isn’t meant to be posted.
There’s an old saying: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” When it comes to social media, though, it’s not how you post, it’s what you post. Social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are platforms where people brand themselves — whether they intend to or not. Posting without careful thought can create unnecessary risks, and although social media sites are great for sharing and connecting with others, they can also taint your professional image.
Control your content
Some people may think that if their profile pages are set to private instead of public, they’re protecting themselves. Although that’s ideally true, that’s not always the case. Despite the general privacy settings on a person’s page, the content they share is often available to “friends of friends,” which greatly increases the number of people who can see their post. Always check your privacy settings to see who exactly can view your content.
The “non-renewable” post
When on a social site, think of your control of your content as a non-renewable resource; once you’ve used it, it’s gone. When a Facebook or Twitter user hits that post/tweet button, that status leaves their control, never to be returned. Of course, you might have the option to delete specific content, which may provide a sense of authority as a social media user. However, websites often keep caches of everything people post and other users are able to take screenshots of content. By the time you delete something, it may already be too late. Once you post, you can delete but you can’t hide.
Social media safety
Along with potentially damaging your image, being careless on social media can also pose risks to your physical, financial or legal safety. Features such as location tracking or the contact information section of your profile page, for example, can reveal more than you might think. Crimes related to social media have increased at an alarming rate in recent years, so if you want to be cautious, here are a few tips for staying safe on social media:
Don’t announce your every move
“I just brushed my hair in the bathroom on 122 Lane Avenue and I’m headed to the Lennox shopping center all by my lonesome!” Okay, so this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it definitely simulates posts made by our fellow social media addicts. Publicizing your every move keeps family and friends informed of your whereabouts, but it updates potential predators as well. Play it safe and spare us the details. Simplicity is key.
Know who your friends and followers are
Contrary to what they would have you believe, not everyone on social media is your friend, and some may even have ill intentions from the moment they message you. Avoid accepting friend requests from people you don’t know and be aware of who’s following you. It might help you steer clear of hackers or other potential threats.
Avoid using profanity, images with alcohol, or other questionable content
Here’s a good rule of thumb for knowing if something is okay to post: If you’re not sure whether or not you should post it, #DontDoIt.
Are you conscious of your social media content? Do you have any tips to help people stay safe on social media? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
by Maria Schomer
Whether it was Neil Patrick Harris running on stage in his underwear or John Travolta becoming the latest internet meme with the awkward kiss on Scarlett Johansson’s cheek, Sunday’s Academy Awards proved to, once again, be a big day for Hollywood. The Oscars celebrated its 87th year with Birdman winning Best Picture, Lady Gaga singing a medley from The Sound of Music and The Grand Budapest Hotel taking Best Costume and Best Original Score. Twitter users were part of the conversation by the hashtags #Oscars2015 and #Oscars. What interested me most were the ways brands used the hashtags to piggyback off the event to gain brand recognition.
Before the show
Little Debbie tweeted this the morning before the show:
— Little Debbie (@LittleDebbie) February 22, 2015
The tweet received 27 retweets and 34 favorites. Even though these engagement numbers were low, by using the hashtag Little Debbie gained thousands of impressions. Little Debbie tweeting with #Oscars2015 might not cause Twitter users to go out and buy Little Debbie snacks, but it’s a great way to keep the brand current and in the conversation.
Another company that used the Oscars to get attention was CineFix. Don’t know what that is? CineFix is a YouTube channel that creates movie reviews and kids reenactment videos. I noticed a tweet with a video “Kids Reenact 2015 Oscar Nominees!!!” The video was a cute and funny take on the Oscars Best Picture nominees, including The Theory of Everything, American Sniper, Whiplash and Birdman. Watch the video below:
Don’t you think the kids’ versions should have been nominated for their own awards? Since this was not the first year CineFix created a kids reenactment video, I believe the clever videos are earning the Youtube channel long-term results with potential for repeated views.
During the show
Actor Channing Tatum recognized the winners of an amazing program called “Team Oscars,” a contest where a group of young filmmakers made 60 second videos. While this story, itself, is worth an entire blog post, what interested me was that right after Tatum got off the stage, Trulia, a real estate website, tweeted a picture of Tatum’s house.
— Trulia (@trulia) February 23, 2015
Tatum wasn’t the only celebrity that Trulia talked about. It used Twitter to share photos of the homes of actress Patricia Arquette, actors Jared Leto and Chris Evans, and more celebrities. Because of these tweets, Trulia was able to create a conversation with Twitter users about the celebrities’ homes, thus building its audience.
The ways these brands and other brands used #Oscars and #Oscars2015 to join the conversation was fascinating. In your opinion, what other ways is it beneficial for brands to use hashtags? Better yet, if you were a brand, how would you use #Oscars2015 or #Oscars to gain brand recognition? I could talk about the ways brands use social media to gain brand recognition, but I don’t want to write a novel. Leave a comment and, as always, follow Innovative PR on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
By Jonathan Haile
It might trouble the Innovative PR specialists (at least one in particular, I can imagine) to know that I had never heard of Kate Spade New York until yesterday. After all, I have no use for or pay any attention to ladies handbags or jewelry. That said, I appreciate a good integrated campaign, and Kate Spade is on top of that.
Anna Kendrick and “The Waiting Game”
This year, Newcastle made a few waves online with its “not Super Bowl” commercial, featuring Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick. It appears Kendrick, quickly becoming the queen of integrated and online campaigns, is back in this Kate Spade’s holiday ad, “The Waiting Game.”
The short and clever video shows the misadventures of Kendrick as she returns home from the retailer and quickly realizes she doesn’t have her keys. Watch the insanity ensue.
Why is it integrated?
When you find yourself on Kate Spade’s Facebook and Twitter pages, the first thing you see is The Waiting Game. It’s what makes social media so beneficial. The two minute and 30 second short film can play in the digital space, whereas it couldn’t fit as a television advertisement. Low and behold, you’ll probably find a 30 second version of it hitting your TV set as we get closer to Christmas.
It’s also instantly shareable. If you wish, you can easily send it to a friend or two, or you can tweet about it, using the hashtag #missadventure. Any time you search for that hashtag, Anna Kendrick and Kate Spade’s Twitter accounts are suggested to you in the results.
There isn’t just The Waiting Game video. I admire brands that give us these short films, but also give us behind-the-scenes access. When you watch the video on Youtube, another Kate Spade/Kendrick video is featured to the right.
It’s just a hunch, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that newspapers and fashion magazines will probably have Kate Spade print ads feating the young actress. Kendrick continues to build her star power and brand, and she is easily recognizable.
What can we learn from this?
Of all the things I touched on above, the thing that sticks out to me the most is the hashtag #missadventure. While it’s cleverly derived from the word “misadventure,” it helps the reader understand that this is a comical story about a character before they watch the video.
Again, it’s easily shareable and designed to get the user to the Kate Spade social media pages. It allows all the people talking about the video to find each other, interact with each other and interact with the company. If you don’t believe me, check out this tweet:
As PR students and professionals, we often have to explain to friends that we’re not in marketing and advertising, but those three ideas are often interwoven in integrated campaigns. Kate Spade does this brilliantly. It doesn’t surprises me that this was AdWeek’s Ad of the Day.
by Amanda Plachte
A large part of what we do in the public relations industry is all about opportunity; keeping up with current news and trends, finding ways to get an organization in the press and creating positive publicity.
So what about newsjacking?
After the unforgettable and surprisingly successful engagement following Oreo’s Superbowl tweet, everyone and their brother have been trying to recreate the magic of “dunking in the dark.” From the infamous Suarez bite to Tim Howard saving everything to Brazil’s history-making defeat at the “feet” of Germany, companies were giving their best shot to take advantage and score big on Twitter during the World Cup. That’s what we call newsjacking.
Real purpose or overhyped tactic?
Encore Alert, a company that sorts through brand tweets and identifies marketing opportunities, wanted to get to the bottom of it. The goal was to find out what works, what does not and why. An experiment was conducted with 18 companies of varying sizes with various numbers of followers. The research firm monitored the brands’ tweets during a timeframe prior to the World Cup and again during the World Cup.
Writer Matt van Hoven explains the results in his article. Eight of the 18 companies had positive “lift,” while 10 had negative. The results found some trends that could explain the engagement that came from each brand’s efforts. Those with positive lift, like Castrol, had well-timed, brand relevant tweets that truly engaged the fans. For a brand that normally has fewer favorites and retweets than can be counted on two hands, the motor oil company saw an impressive 21,960 percent lift during the World Cup.
— Castrol (@Castrol) July 4, 2014
Those with negative lift had poorly planned, self-serving tweets that were not overly interesting to true #WorldCup fans. McDonald’s fell in this category.
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) June 21, 2014
Digiday’s Brian Morrissey shares some other companies that went too far with the newsjacking during the World Cup in his article. Also, in James Gadea’s article, we’re provided with three tips for harnessing global Twitter trends:
- Be informed.
You can’t fake knowledge.
- Be timely, clever and brand-relevant.
Just look at Castrol.
- Be on guard.
Find opportunities within the audience; listen, connect, and score big time!
Images via: Digiday and Encore Alert
by Ana Guzman
After losing the NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs and opting out of the final year of his contract with the Miami Heat, LeBron James was a free agent for the past month and the world was anxious to know what his next move would be. James’ decision was finally revealed in a Sports Illustrated exclusive. He’s chosen to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, where his career started. Social media, as you can imagine, exploded once the decision was announced.
James the focus on Twitter
LeBron James-related tweets continue to rule Twitter. Soon after the announcement, in a single timeframe, James was mentioned in 6,000 more tweets than the World Cup Championship match between Germany and Argentina. There are several hashtags trending such as #BackToCleveland, #TeamCavs and #ImComingHome. At the the same time, Twitter users are also using a number of hashtags criticizing bandwagon Miami Heat fans who are suddenly Cleveland fans again.
Will the Fans welcome James back?
James’ departure from Cleveland four years ago left fans angry and bitter. Many burned his jerseys and Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, even wrote a bitter open letter to James. But now James has put aside all previous criticisms and says that it was the right choice for him after leaving the Cavaliers the way he did.
“To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough,” James said. “The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, ‘OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.’ But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react?”
James explained that everyone makes mistakes, and he is not one to hold a grudge. James also mentioned during the exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated that as his family grows he wanted to return home, raise his children and finish his career where he started.
The social media chatter will continue and likely increase as the season draws closer. When I checked on Ice Rocket, a social media measurement tool, the #BacktoCleveland hashtag had 36 mentions a minute, @KingJames was mentioned 900 times in a minute and #LebronJames was mentioned in 42 posts a minute. When all is said and done, social media is one thing and LeBron James is another. He’s his own brand. Clearly the interactions on Twitter showcase just a snapshot of his brand’s strength.
by Ana Guzman
Finding ways to reach a target audience can get a little difficult at times. There are so many factors that need to be kept in mind, such as age, location, gender, religion, sexual orientation and much more. A message can work perfectly for one group but might be offensive or not politically correct to another. For example, the “Help me, I’m poor” meme from Bridesmaids that FAFSA tweeted on June 24.
That wasn’t funny FAFSA
The response was not what FAFSA expected. While it was intended to be humorous, some were completely offended by the tweet. Some said that it was a little insensitive but they understood that it is a popular meme that many students are familiar with. FAFSA later removed the tweet and sent out an apology tweet, stating, “We apologize for the insensitivity of our previous tweet. Our goal is to make college a reality for all. We’re all very sorry.”
The responses to the apology was met with mixed replies. Some were still angry while others supported the meme saying, “You’re marketing to young people using memes, which are popular among young people, I think you have little to nothing to apologize for.”
This wasn’t the first time FAFSA used a meme to reach its audience. On March 4, 2014, FAFSA tweeted a picture of a kitten with the caption “You haven’t filled out your FAFSA yet? Are you kitten me?” I think it is surprisingly out of the norm for a government office to use memes, but according to finaid.org, most FAFSA recipients are between the ages of 15 – 23, so I can see why they would think to use memes to get the audience’s attention.
It’s only okay when students do it
Liz Gross, a social media strategist for a student loan servicer explained in her blog that the hashtag #HelpMeImPoor is commonly used by students when referring to their financial struggles during college. It’s like when a person says something mean about a family member. It’s okay when they utter it about someone in their family, but it’s insensitive if someone outside of the family says it.
Overall, I think FAFSA should not be condemned over one tweet. I also don’t think they should have deleted it. Deleting tweets is not a way of solving a problem since the tweet was already seen by many. FAFSA’s Twitter is full of helpful tweets and answers any questions students might have through its website and its monthly Twitter chats.
The lesson here is always, emphasizing always, think before you tweet. Make sure tweets are not offensive to others because once it is public, there is no way to make it disappear.
by Ana Guzman
On May 19, McDonald’s introduced, Happy, a new animated character along with a new low-fat yogurt side option, both for Happy Meals. McDonald’s says on its website that Happy was made to create excitement for healthier food choices that Happy Meals now provide. Happy will be the brand ambassador for the healthy choices which, along with new the yogurt, include apple slices. It is part of McDonald’s ongoing dedication to improve children’s nutrition and healthier choices.
Social media response
The initial response on Twitter showed that Happy didn’t get the welcome McDonald’s hoped for. Customers have described Happy as terrifying, scary, creepy and some have said the mascot lacks creativity. The response on other social media sites like Facebook and Youtube has not been any different. Parody videos about Happy are being created, daily.
Let the kids speak
Grub Street, the food site from New York Magazine created a video, Kids React To The New McDonald’s Mascot, portraying kids’ reactions and thoughts about Happy. The kids call it creepy and they emphasize how they do not like Happy’s mouth or eyes. One of the kids even says that his face looks like Happy is trying to find a human to eat. Will kids eventually warm up to Happy? Who knows. For now, take a look:
Terrifying and a Minion Copycat?
While some are terrified by Happy, others see it as a copy of Minions from the Despicable Me film franchise. People see a lot of similarities. Both animated characters do not speak yet communicate in a series of boops, beeps and kissy noises. However, this is not the first time McDonald’s introduced Happy. This animated character was first introduced in France in 2009, while Despicable Me was released in 2010, making the criticism less valid.
Although not much of the feedback is positive, McDonald’s is keeping Happy around. They even added a little humor by posting a picture where a group of Happy characters are in front of a laptop reading the feedback. But the question has to be asked. Did McDonalds make a mistake with introducing Happy? Tell us what you think.
Images via McDonald’s Twitter