By: Faith Ford
TikTok, is a massively popular app that lets users create and share videos up to 60 seconds long. At least that’s the Dictionary.com definition of the content creation app that started to gain social media users’ attention around 2018. So how did TikTok get to where it is today? And what does it mean for the future of social media, especially in the public relations, marketing and advertising industries?
TikTok, described as one of the fastest-growing social media platforms of 2020 – and all time, began as an app that most people had recognized as Musical.y after an acquisition in 2017 by a Chinese company called ByteDance. Due to this merger of brands, the app specialized in dancing clips which led to viral trends of dance-offs, lip syncs, and extensive use of hashtag challenges. The app today has grown into a hotspot for influencer marketing and as a medium for brands to use when sharing their messaging. In just four years, the social media site has reached 150 countries, has 2 billion downloads, and 1 billion active monthly users. All this activity puts TikTok ahead of business favorites like Facebook and Instagram.
While TikTok has shown its tremendous growth and strengths within its use as a marketing and communications hub for businesses, the app has faced crises that have jeopardized usage rates in the business world. The biggest issue facing the platform is privacy.
Concerns about privacy have been under the lens of the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission and were even highlighted in a late summer move toward a possible nationwide ban on the social networking site, and other actions by individual businesses.
In a July NBC news article, reporter Kevin Collier states that, “The bank Wells Fargo told its workers to delete the app. Amazon ramped up the scrutiny of TikTok on Friday after a leaked internal email said company employees needed to remove the app from their phones. Amazon later clarified that no such edict had actually been issued.”
It seems hard to imagine that employee internal conflict with this app would reflect positively on the company, when the company starts to use it for its own purposes, as employees are a primary public to keep in mind.
However, the hesitations to use the app for public external messaging also becomes easier to understand. Why would a business invest in positions to research, analyze and create when there’s a possibility of the app being removed from your consumers?
With regard to these concerns, it seems that TikTok has outgrown its “he who cannot be trusted” description, as more and more businesses join the viral experience.
Considerations for Businesses
Of course, businesses shouldn’t just join in on the site just for the numbers and its popularity. There has to be some reason for their use or else the messaging seems forced, is lost, and won’t reach their intended audience. This is where PR comes in. Remember: “What or how you do something is not as important as the WHY.”
So what does this mean for companies wanting to use TikTok as a social media platform?
Do your research. Know who your audience is and what they are looking for. If you are a Senior Living facility, for example, trying to reach 65-year-olds, TikTok is probably not the place to reach your primary audience.
Be engaging. The whole point of social networking sites is to connect you with people. The ability to engage with your audience will give you a better idea of who they are, what they are looking for, and their personality. The extra effort of responding to comments, “dueting” challenges that have helped your brand, and being conversational with influencers is valuable for your brand on the platform.
Be aware. Look for opportunities that seem organic and authentic for your company. Is there a trend that fits your new launch? Act on it! TikTok trends move quickly, so being aware of the app’s climate is important to being up-to-date and creating new and unique ideas.
Other Emerging Social Sites
TikTok grew – fast. It was important for businesses to be aware of its presence, even if they were choosing not to be as active on the platform as their employees. While there still may be reservations about the site, here are some social media sites that public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals should keep their eyes on:
Social media, including TikTok, can be a powerful tool for businesses wanting to reach their audience. However, if you are considering including it in your communication strategy, don’t forget to do your research, and most importantly, don’t forget to answer the “Why?” if you want to maximize its effectiveness.
By: Sebastian Szczurowski
While it seems like social media has been around for a very long time, it has actually only been popular for barely a decade now. With the steady rise of social media over the past few years many companies have been able to strengthen their position in the marketplace by using it to effectively promote their brands and products.
One of the main things that social media allows companies to do is gain faster and more widespread coverage to thousands or even millions of individuals in under the span of a few minutes. This is something that was unimaginable 15 or 20 years ago. The rise of the internet has allowed this rapid increase in media and news coverage outlets across the globe, and has enabled social media to become a powerful tool when it comes to increasing a brand’s visibility within its target market. When a company is able to establish a strong online presence it will become more visible to the public by implementing a communication strategy that helps to promote the company and gain more followers on social media in the long run.
Another well-known advantage that social media has had on the public relations industry is increased communication. Social media allows everyday people to post their thoughts about all sorts of topics with just a click of a button on their phone, laptop, or tablet. These communication channels can also be used to develop relationships with your brand’s consumers and help PR professionals create relevant content that will resonate with their target audiences.
Nowadays, most people have some form of social media account or maybe even have multiple accounts. Today’s social media platforms are designed to provide easy integration for all of their users which allows people of all ages and backgrounds to have access to some form of social media. This has made it much easier for PR professionals to increase awareness of their client’s business and the products and services that are offered.
Social media has allowed many companies worldwide to promote their brands and develop a sense of relevancy with their consumers. Social media allows PR practitioners to track results in real-time and learn more about the people who are interacting with their clients online and how often those interactions are occurring.
While social media is still in its early stages, its value in promoting client branding and as a means for conducting research, are rapidly demonstrating its importance as a strategic public relations tool that is only gaining momentum.
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 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: Sarah Arnett
Searching for a job can be overwhelming, no matter what stage of your career you are in.
“Where do I start? Do I have what it takes to find a good job? How can I set myself up for success? How am I supposed to find a job if I am not sure what I want to do?”
If you’re anything like me, you may have asked yourself these questions. Thankfully, there are many experienced professionals who are happy to share tips and tricks with you. Whether you are entering the job market for the first time or considering changing career paths, there are a few steps you can take to set yourself up for success.
First, know your why. As a public relations professional, you have probably heard this phrase a hundred times. It may seem cliche, but it is important to understand why you are in the public relations field. It may be because you are a talented writer, a big thinker, passionate about helping others, or a variety of other reasons. No matter what it is, it is important to establish your personal why to figure out what motivates you to succeed. Knowing this will allow you to continue to grow personally and professionally. At the end of the day, you are your most important client.
Once you have established your why, it is important to find a company that is a good fit for you. While a job is a job, it is a great benefit to work for a company that you enjoy. Research companies and learn about their values and corporate culture. It is important that a company is a good fit for you on both a professional and personal level, and if you’re the right fit for them.
Another important step after establishing your why is to take a leap. No matter the size of your professional network, ask those you have connections with about potential opportunities. They may not have a position open within their organization, but more often than not, they will pass on your information to other professionals. Not only does this expand your network, but you might be presented with an opportunity you did not know about. In the past year searching for internships and full-time positions, I have learned that you will never know if you do not ask! The worst thing that can happen is someone will say “no”.
While I have learned countless things during my time in college, I have discovered that everything works out in time. No matter what stage you are at in your education and career, the things happening right now will all work out in the end and it will be okay, if you work hard, stay
focused and maintain a positive attitude. While it may be hard to believe at this time, you will realize it is true ten years from now as you reflect on the past.
As you search for jobs, keep these tips in mind. If you become overwhelmed, remember your why and continue to work hard. A positive attitude and strong work ethic will help you succeed in the job market, no matter what challenge you face.
By: Myah Duncan
“Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” -Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
Actively branding yourself via social media can go a lot further than a resume and cover letter when it comes to getting a first internship or job. It can also keep you from getting that internship or job. Employers never hesitate to do a quick Google search to see how a potential employee represents him/herself online, in fact, according to CareerBuilder, more than 70% of employers check a candidate’s social media content BEFORE deciding to hire. So ask yourself, do you want what you are posting to be seen by a potential employer? Do you think you’d get that internship you want so badly? As a college student, this is the best time to clean up your social media and build your online personal brand in a way that benefits you.
It is easy to get caught up in the moment and post every picture that you take to your social media accounts. But do you really want your future employer to see the wild time you had when drinking last Thursday night on Pine Street? You don’t want them to see it just as much as they don’t want to see it. They want to make sure you know how to act professionally when in public. So, the first lesson is, don’t post that picture. But if you have, this is the perfect time to start going through all those photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that may not shine that professional light. Delete them from your social channels, but you can keep them if you save them on your laptop, make a scrapbook, or do whatever feels right. But do not leave them on there for the world to see. Oh, and don’t forget to ask friends to delete questionable images of you from their own feeds. It’s time to draw that line between personal and professional life. You can still post fun experiences, but you have to make sure it’s strategically fun content.
The content that you put out on your social media accounts does not necessarily have to be all about business and links to different articles. It is still important to be yourself via your own channels; it’s like a portfolio of who you are. First, focus on your grammar and spelling. This is an easy way to represent your writing ability. It’s a huge red flag if all of your posts have many errors in them. Take time to read through your posts and delete or edit those posts that do have errors. Second, carefully evaluate the images you want to post. Ask, what do they say to others about my professionalism? My choices? My values?
Leaving the lasting impression
Just like after meeting a professional in person, those who engage with you via social media want to remember who you are and have a solid impression of the type of person you are. You want your social media to leave a positive lasting impression on a professional who views it. Actively cleaning and crafting now will help you leave a good impression.
By putting the time and effort into your social media you are giving professionals or anyone who views your page a well-rounded peek into your life. Don’t let inappropriate social media end your chances of landing the job.
Salm, L. (n.d.). 70% of employers are snooping candidates’ social media profiles. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from https://www.careerbuilder.com/advice/social-media-survey-2017.
Tips for Building Your Personal Brand. (2019, June 14). Retrieved from https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/tips-for-building-your-personal-brand/.
By: Shelby Bueneman
This summer I was fortunate enough to get an inside look into the life of a blogging influencer. Getting a behind-the-scenes look into how the blog runs, different events that the blogger is invited to, and the creation of pieces after event attendance was eye opening. Influencers are on the rise and they can be beneficial to public relations professionals through their outreach, honesty, trust and mutual benefits that exist between blogger and clients.
Influencers can have a big outreach or a small one. The influencer you choose depends on what audience you want to reach. The blogger I worked for had a small outreach, with followings of one thousand or less. Based in Kansas City, she had a strategic way of connecting personally with audiences. Her posts and blogs were pointed toward the interests of those who were from Kansas City and those who wanted to visit. Because she intentionally solicited a smaller outreach, she could make posts and promotions seem more personable and real. She talked about things her audiences knew about or had experienced themselves. She had a lot of clients and they all wanted to reach Kansas City folks. So, it’s clear that to reach your exact target audience you need to find the right influencer. There are many different bloggers ranging from lifestyle, entertainment, fashion, DIY’s, and so many more. Once you find the right one, it is as simple as reaching out to them with the right pitch. They are always looking for their next blog and more events to attend.
One thing that I found stimulating was that influencers want to be honest with their audiences. As a consumer it’s easy to think that they are only saying a product works or that an event was great because of the deal they have. That is not the case. Just like public relations professionals, they are looking to gain trust with their audiences. The amount of research they put into their blogs to make sure they have all the relevant facts is notable. Honesty is one of their main concerns; if they are dishonest with their audiences, they lose their credibility. Credibility gets and keeps clients. This leads into the third benefit, trust.
Honesty and trust are intertwined. Without honesty there can be no trust. Influencers that are labeled as the everyday person are seen as the most trustworthy in the consumer’s eyes. Business 2 Community talks about how over ninety percent of consumers trust people within their network. Generally, the larger a blogger’s reach, the more celebrity status that influencer holds. If you choose a mainstream celebrity as your influencer, your product or event may not be perceived as authentic because it’s most likely that money changed hands. When you choose an influencer with a smaller outreach, you find the audience that has the most trust. This benefits your brand through the relatability to influencer holds with audiences. Working with the correct influencer can help your brand to stand out against the competition.
Partnering with a blogger is mutually beneficial. By promoting for a public relations professional, the influencer is creating more content and catching the eye of more consumers. This can generate more engagement for both the influencer and the professional. Working with an influencer as a company allows you to be seen in a more positive light and gives you more organic engagement with potential customers.