A Happy Ending to a Stressful Semester

Public Relations has a lot more to it than one may think. In the beginning of the semester, I thought it was just making sure your company looked good. Though this is a part of Public Relations, it isn’t the whole thing. Public Relations is also making or changing plans to make sure that the company is doing their very best. It’s analyzing every single aspect of a company to ensure that every single thing they’re doing is earning the very best possible outcome.

In my first blog I used the quote “[PR involves] anticipating, analyzing and interpreting public opinions, attitudes and issues that might impact, for good or ill, the operations and plans of the organization” (About PR). What I failed to do was dig deeper into that quote and find that along with just analyzing the current situation, PR involves researching what you can do to improve a company, making plans, and sometimes implementing said plans in changing or improving a company or situation. Later in the blog, I discussed the difference between PR and propaganda. Had I written that blog today, I would have discussed the differences between PR and advertising, marketing and journalism, though in some situations propaganda and PR could be confused.

Throughout the semester, I have been working to create a campaign book for Shefit, a small athletic wear company specializing in maximum support sports bras. Throughout this process, I have learned a lot about what it is that PR is. When starting the project, I believed that PR was primarily running social media, maintaining a good reputation, and keeping in contact with customers. Though these are all key aspects of the field, there is so much more.

I didn’t realize until I was writing the strategy part of my plansbook that as someone in PR, you could make recommendations that would change the entire company. This makes a lot of sense though. Why would you spend hours doing research and analyzing the current situation of the company, the customer bases wants and needs, and then not make company changing decisions.

I also learned that PR is hard. People (not me, obviously) often think that both advertising and PR are easy fields, and I’ve spoken to several people in the major that have told me they’re only doing this because it’s the easiest major at GV. I knew it wasn’t true going into this class, but leaving the class I am certain. Not only is it difficult to do primary and secondary research on a very specific topic, but coming up with 9 different strategies to improve their Millennial influence, and increase their sales isn’t easy. It takes someone with a lot of creativity and a lot of skill to concisely put all of their ideas into one carefully planned, 55 page plans book.

Overall, I am very pleased with how this semester went. Before class I had been told that this was the hardest class in the major, but I would come out of it feeling like I could take on any PR project, and that’s true. Having (nearly) completed my plansbook, I feel extremely proud with how it turned out and I feel ready for any task that any internship or job may throw at me.

About Public Relations. (2017, April 24). Retrieved September 05, 2017, from http://apps.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/publicrelationsdefined/

The Social Media Iceberg

Social Media is a huge part of public relations, and it’s becoming more relevant as technology interweaves itself into everybody’s day to day lives. Nicole Matejic compares social media to an iceberg (2015). The comparison between the two seemingly unrelated things, is that there is a small amount of them available for viewing to the public. An iceberg is significantly larger underwater than it is above. This is true for social media in regard to public relations as well.

Above water, or what’s easily accessible to the public, is the organizational social media channels. This includes all public social media, your Facebook, your Twitter, etc. All of the magic behind crisis communications, along with analytics, which are infinitely important, is what lies below the surface (Matejic, 2015). An analogy made in the book, says “Much like those onboard the Titanic that fateful night in 1912, crisis communicators looking at the social media landscape without the information that lies beneath the surface of all social networks — their data — are steaming toward disaster” (Matejic, 2015, pg. 6).

The data that they’re referring to includes, “the geographical locations of your audience, peak post-engagement times, age and gender aggregated data, externally referring sites (such as your blog or website), how many clicks per URL in a post (further broken down into geographical regions), your audience’s aggregated interests (both professional and personal), and which type of post they are more likely to interact with (picture, video, text and so on)” (Matejic, 2015, pg. 6). Without this very important data, a company would have no clue which types of content are succeeding, and which are sinking (pardon my pun), both during a crisis, and day to day.

This type of data didn’t always exist though, in fact, the channels that we receive this data from is fairly new as well. In the past, someone in public relations would spend more of their time writing press releases, to give on air, release in print or publish online (Boitnott, 2017). Nowadays, social media is the primary channel for a company to release official information, but this isn’t the only thing it’s used for.

Public Relations specialists also use social media to find influencers, to identify brand threads, to influence journalists stories, to swiftly react to negative press, and to make announcements (Boitnott, 2017). With a world as digital as ours is today, it’s hard to imagine how a company ever interacted with their customers as much as they can today, considering all they have to do now to show they’re seeing what someone is saying is ‘like’ their tweet.

In addition to all of the ways that PR can use social media, it’s important to realize that the goal of the two are nearly identical: to create a two-way conversation between an organization and the people it wants to influence. When a company uses social media, it becomes a lot easier for them to interact with their audience, and also to tell their story. Posting on facebook is free, whereas a commercial can cost thousands of dollars, but the one thing to remember is that “Storytelling is a constant effort. Be strategic and plan your stories and the mediums you will use to tell them” (Pollard, 2016, para 9).

As a person working in public relations, it is essential to remember the iceberg analogy. Some things are going to work better than others, and it’s all going to depend on what you’re promoting, and who you’re promoting it to. In order to figure out what is going to work the best for your specific situation, it’s necessary to be checking the analytics of your social media, and adjusting your plans accordingly.

Boitnott, J. (2017). 5 Ways You Should Be Using Social Media as Your Top PR Platform. Inc., Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/john-boitnott/bhow-social-media-is-now-your-primary-public-rel.html

Pollard, C. (2016). Why You Should Combine Your PR And Social Media. Huffpost. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/catriona-pollard/why-pr-and-social-media-i_b_12568802.html

Matejic, N. (2015). Social media rules of engagement: Why your online narrative is the best weapon during a crisis. Milton, Qld: John Wiley & Sons Australia.

Adopt What?

Public Relations has a lot of different parts to it, including several theories or processes. Two of these are very similar, those would be the diffusion theory, and the adoption process. Some instances of these theories are thought to be continuous, in an article by Phillip J. Kitchen, he talks about how PR adopted the internet, he says,

In fact, adoption of the internet for PR purposes could be considered a continuous (as compared to discontinuous or incremental) innovation, although such use is now mainstream. Adoption and diffusion processes are not, however, a one-time instantaneous event simultaneously affecting all practitioners. Instead, adoption can be a long slow process, and following Rogers (1995), the way an innovation (product, process, system or idea) diffuses through a social system over time is just as important as the innovation itself. (2010, para 5)

Towards the end of the quote, Kitchen is talking about how the process in which something enters a social system can be just as important as the thing itself, which is why it’s so important to know the difference between the adoption process and the diffusion theory.

When people are making a purchase, it’s generally pretty thought out, of course, everyone makes an impulse purchase here and there, but for the most part people think about stuff before they buy it, “therefore, the strategy behind an organization’s product or service must also be calculated to obtain the most effective results possible” (Diffuse This, 2011, para 3). Both the diffusion theory and the adoption process are very carefully planned processes, and although they are very similar, they have their distinct differences.

One difference is the main usage of the theories, the diffusion theory is generally used for ideas or products, whereas the adoption process usually for issues or products. The other differences happen within the process of the theories. Both start with the awareness stage, this is when someone finds out about a product, they usually hear about it because of an advertisement or a news story, somewhere in the media. Following awareness is interest. The interest stage is when someone would be intrigued by the product/idea/issue and they’d be seeking out more information.

After Interest, is where the two theories vary. The diffusion theory would then go to trial, then evaluation, while the adoption process would go to evaluation, then trial. This means that in the diffusion theory, the people would try the product and then evaluate it, whereas in the adoption process, they would evaluate the process to see if it’s even worth giving it a try.

Although they happen in a different order, the ideas are the same. During the evaluation stage they would be looking deeper into a product, and evaluating it based on their wants and needs, they would also be talking to family and friends to see if it is something they should consider. The trial stage is when they actually try the product. They’d generally start with a sample, or a demo, but the product would be in their hands so they could physically give it a try.

The final stage is the same for both theories. This is the adoption stage. At this point, they’ve done all their research, and they’re ready to integrate the product/idea/issue into their daily lives. Sometimes during this theory, they also talk to their friends about the product/idea/issue and would generally be talking very highly about whatever they had just adopted which would in turn make their friend or family more likely to start one of these processes on their own.

These processes are also very important because “Marketing tools may change, the way consumers discover products may change, and consumer behaviors may change, but the 5 stages that make up the  consumer adoption process will always remain the same” (Chandra, 2014, para 1). So no matter how much technology advances, this process will remain the same. The way the processes are executed may change, but the five main steps will be identical.

 

Chandra, N. (2014, October 28). 5 Stages to the Consumer Adoption Process [Expanded].

Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://welink.com/blog/2014/10/27/the-consumer-adoption-process-never-changes/

Kitchen, P.J., (2010), Online public relations: The adoption process and innovation challenge, a Greek example. Public Relations Review, Volume 36(3).

Diffuse This. (2011, January 11). Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://elwinpr.wordpress.com/tag/diffusion-theory/

Adidas Drops the Bomb

Being able to handle a crisis is an essential part of being in the public relations field. Public relations is all about making sure your client is putting their best foot forward and a huge part of that is making sure their reputation isn’t ruined after a crisis.

Earlier in the year, Adidas sent out an email with the subject line “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” (Calfas, 2017). Given that just four short years ago the Boston Marathon was home to one of America’s biggest bombings (Berry, 2013), one that injured 260 people and killed three, many people thought this was a pretty inappropriate subject line (Calfas, 2017).

One of Adidas’ major marketing strategies is sponsorship (Advani, 2016), and they had created official Boston Marathon gear for runners of the race (Calfas, 2017). The email was being sent to runners to not only congratulate them on completing the race but to advertise their Boston Marathon merchandise.

The conflict management life cycle begins in the proactive stage. The proactive stage includes environmental scanning, issues tracking, issues management, and crisis planning. These are all very similar in the respect that they all relate to preparing for a crisis. This is the stage of the cycle where a company is actively trying to either avoid crises completely or be completely prepared for them when they do happen.

After the proactive stage is the strategic stage. The strategic stage is where a company would be planning for a conflict to become a crisis. Seeing as Adidas wasn’t planning to send out an email that would enrage everyone who got it, this stage isn’t a major part of their plan. However, if it had been it would have included risk communication, conflict positioning, and crisis management. These things all have to do with preparing for the crisis.

Next is the reactive stage. This happens right after the conflict explodes, or in this case, the email is sent. Immediately after Adidas sent the email, it blew up all over social media, and people around the world were talking about it. There were screenshots of the email all over Twitter with captions like “@adidas you may want to rethink the subject line” and “Dear @adidas, I love you, but you need to talk to whoever is doing your email marketing…” (Calfas, 2017).

Adidas quickly apologized for the email, saying “We are incredibly sorry. Clearly, there was no thought given to the insensitive email subject line we sent Tuesday. We deeply apologize for our mistake. The Boston Marathon is one of the most inspirational sporting events in the world. Every year we’re reminded of the hope and resiliency of the running community at this event” (Daily, 2017). This would be Adidas reacting to the crisis.

There isn’t much Adidas could have done besides apologize. The reactive stage makes room for conflict resolution along with litigation PR, but Adidas was not in any legal trouble, nor did anyone or anything get physically hurt by the email.

Following the reactive stage is the recovery stage. This is the point where a company would handle reputation management and image restoration. Since Adidas was so quick to apologize about the email and let everyone know that they didn’t mean what the email was interpreted as, their reputation wasn’t damaged too terribly.

Moving forward, Adidas will most likely triple and quadruple check every email that gets sent, along with all other communications. The Boston Marathon was a catastrophic event that changed the lives of thousands of Americans, and no company in their right mind would purposefully make fun of such an event.

 

Advani, S. (2016, September 26). ‘IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING’: EVALUATION OF THE MARKETING PLAN OF ADIDAS. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from https://mpk732t22016clusterb.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/impossible-is-nothing-evaluation-of-the-marketing-plan-of-adidas/

Berry, C. (2013, April 16). Top 10 deadliest bombings on U.S. soil. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from http://www.masslive.com/news/boston/index.ssf/2013/04/top_10_deadliest_bombings_on_u.html

Calfas, J. (2017, April 18). Adidas Apologizes for ‘You Survived’ Boston Marathon Email. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from http://time.com/4745066/adidas-boston-marathon-email/

Daily, S. B. (2017, April 18). Adidas Congratulates Marathon Runners for “Surviving,” Apologizes. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2017/04/18/adidas-email-marathon-surviving/

 

How to Become a Certifiable Know-it-all

One thing I’ve noticed since starting college, and really just life in general, is that there are some people who think they know everything. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some people who do know a lot of stuff about a lot of things (more on this later), but that’s not who I’m talking about. I think you know who I’m talking about. That person in your class that won’t shut up about the latest and greatest of something he clearly knows nothing about. Those people are, in my opinion, the worst. However, if these people did just a little bit of research, to have just the slightest bit of knowledge to back up their latest spiel, they would become significantly less annoying.

Now, hearing someone spew nonsense on a bus, or in a class is one thing. Having to listen to it in a professional environment, or worse, a business meeting might be worse, for their reputation as well as your own sanity. This is why research, especially in PR is so freaking important.

“Public relations is an art and a science focused on finding the best strategies and tactics to accomplish a client’s objectives. This knowledge comes from a mix of experience, an understanding of the media and the client and quality research” (Mitchell Communications Group, 2013). There are three different levels to research, basic, intermediate, and advanced. Basic research is simple stuff that you do every day, such as monitoring social media, reading the clients websites, or looking up facts. People often do basic research without even realizing it.  Intermediate is a little more in depth, and includes collecting and analyzing data and media. The most complex type of research is advanced. Advanced research includes analyzing competitors, doing statistical analyses or ROIs (Mitchell Communications Group, 2013).

One key part of Public Relations is reputation management, “this focuses on the image or reputation of the client organization, as measured by its popularity or value as a supplier, buyer, partner, employer, lender, citizen or investment” (Hutton, 1999). Managing someone else’s reputation is going to be really hard if you can’t even keep your own reputation under control. Along with this, managing other people is going to require a lot of research, that’s right, research (it’s everywhere I know). In order to manage a person or company’s reputation, you’ll want to know everything there is to know about them, their competitors, and anything going on in the field that they’re in. This is going to require a lot of research to make sure you know what you’re talking about when you speak to, or about them.

Now getting back to the people I was talking about earlier, you know, the ones who never shut up. They’d actually be really good at PR, if they’d just do some research (it’s everywhere!!). “Good PR is the telling of a good story. The better the story, the better the acceptance by the public and the better the public relations” (Lautenslager, 2003). These types of people clearly love to talk and love to tell a story, so just imagine how successful they’d be if they spent a couple hours researching whatever it is they won’t shut up about. Then, they’d actually be a know-it-all, they wouldn’t just have to act like one.

 

Hutton, J. G. (1999). The definition, dimensions, and domain of public relations. Public Relations Review,25(2), 199-214. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811199801623?via%3Dihub

Lautenslager, A. (2003, November 17). Why You Need PR. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/65672

Mitchell Communications Group (2013, March 19). Public Relations: The Value and Importance of Research. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from http://blog.mitchcommgroup.com/mitchell-communications-group/public-relations-the-value-and-importance-of-research

(PR)esident Eisenhower

The words “public relations” (PR) are pretty self-explanatory. It’s easy to figure out that it has something to do with relating to the public. The deeper you dig into what exactly PR is, the more clear the idea becomes. Before this class started, I thought PR was just how a company presented themselves to the public, and how they interacted with their clients. After doing some research, I know that along with that, it is also about building and maintaining relationships between a company and the public (About PR). PR is ever changing as technology advances, and it dates back to the early 20th century (Public Relations).

Public Relations is all about “anticipating, analyzing and interpreting public opinions, attitudes and issues that might impact, for good or ill, the operations and plans of the organization” (About PR). This means that they don’t often create new news, they work with what is already going on in the world and spin it for the benefit of their organization. This is done through research, planning and implementing the specific organization’s efforts.

Since the beginning, PR has been closely associated with propaganda, which is an association that people in the field have been trying to get rid of. Propaganda is much more manipulative than PR. PR isn’t so much about persuading people one way or the other, but about making sure that the company or person is showing their best side, and putting their best foot forward.

The difference between propaganda and PR becomes especially confusing when it comes to politics. The idea of public relations seems like something that would only be necessary for big companies with lots of customers, but that couldn’t be further from true. One singular person could need a PR team, such as President Eisenhower. Eisenhower knew that one of his biggest obstacles was going to be making sure the people understood why he was doing what he was doing (Parry 12). People on his team often got frustrated with how much he worried about PR, however, “It is not that Eisenhower viewed public relations as more serious than the development of the H-bomb, but rather, he saw public relations as one weapon that could eliminate its use” (Parry 12).

Eisenhower knew that putting the right foot forward, and getting the information out to the public, could be just as beneficial as creating a bomb. Because of this, he created the United States Information Agency (USIA). This was made because Eisenhower believed he could “end the cold war ‘without bloodshed’” (Parry 12). The USIA was created to essentially handle Eisenhower’s PR efforts.

It is obvious that PR is important. Without it, companies would struggle to connect with their customers, and would not be as equipped to get themselves out of sticky situations. If one of the most loved presidents in American history knew the importance of PR, it isn’t hard to believe that it’s a necessary part of any company.

 

About Public Relations. (2017, April 24). Retrieved September 05, 2017, from http://apps.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/publicrelationsdefined/

Parry, P. (2014). Eisenhower: the public relations president. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu

Public Relations Through Time. (2012). Retrieved September 05, 2017, from http://www.ipr.org.uk/public-relations-through-time.html

Collaboration with Technology

Collaboration is a part of everyday life for almost everyone, no matter their occupation. If you’re a doctor, you collaborate with other doctors to figure out the best way to treat a patient, as someone in Business, you collaborate with others to make sure you have the best plan, and the most efficient way to solve a problem. Some people love that collaboration is a part of their day to day life, and some people hate it. In this article, they talk about how collaboration can actually hinder someone’s efficiency because it requires them to constantly be reporting back to a supervisor, or another employee about what they’re getting done.

An article by The Economist makes the point that “Whereas managers may notice the benefits of collaboration, they fail to measure its costs.” They argue that “workers spend 70-85% of their time attending meetings (virtual or face-to-face), dealing with e-mail, talking on the phone or otherwise dealing with an avalanche of requests for input or advice,” this leaves them almost no time to actually get work done. They say that with all of the other stuff going on, it leaves a lot of them with work to bring home, which doesn’t make for a happy employee.

Collaboration can be stressful, especially if you can’t trust all of the people you’re working with. An article I found talked about how important a company’s culture is. When a company’s culture is good, that means you know you can trust everyone to get the job done, and to get it done the right way. One example they gave was the company Airbnb, a quote from their CEO Brian Chesky, “The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing. People can be independent and autonomous. They can be entrepreneurial. And if we have a company that is entrepreneurial in spirit, we will be able to take our next “(wo)man on the moon” leap.” If every collaborative project was done by people who could trust each other, collaboration would be a looked higher upon between employees.

To really make sure a company is putting forth its utmost effort, it is important that each employee feels appreciated. According to Lifewire, “Empowerment is a form of approval for individuals and teams to make decisions. Starting with executive collaboration, key leaders of your organization may need to support shared goals for empowering people if they don’t already, through communication and collaboration.” They also talk about how important it is to create value in a collaborative environment, “In Bloomberg Businessweek, Evan Rosen emphasizes every worker contributes knowledge to the business. Using an example at Dow Chemical, he writes, “The day’s sales and inventory numbers are shared with everybody in the company, including the people doing the heaving lifting on the front lines… People will do a better job when they know their actions contribute or detract from business results” If each employee knows that what they are doing is appreciated, and that they’re working together towards a much bigger goal, they’ll be much more motivated to work and to get their jobs done.

To make collaboration easier, a variety of tools for collaboration have been created. Microsoft Corp. launched a workplace collaboration service, dubbed Microsoft Teams, that weaves in various pieces of its Office productivity software franchise to compete with Slack Technologies Inc.” This product will be available in early 2017. There are many features to their new product, including but not limited to, digital chats and Skype videoconferencing. Microsoft is not the first company to release a product like this, as mentioned earlier, one of their biggest competitors will be Slack. Slack is a company that makes communicating between employees simpler, and makes it easier to get in contact with only the people that you need, and not the people that you don’t, which in return means every person will get fewer emails.

Overall I think that technology will greatly improve the collaboration between employees. Instead of sitting in a couple hour long meeting that you need to travel to, you can quickly get ahold of someone and share the project with them and solve the issue much faster. Along with this, the software that is being developed to help with collaboration has so many features that will make life a lot easier for employers, and employees.