Anne's Blog


Is this PR? Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

I think everything not-for-profit organizations do is PR, because the goal for these companies is to raise money without spending much money. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is an interesting nonprofit organization. Ninety cents of every dollar raised by the foundation goes directly toward research.

In South Carlina, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation raises money through various fundraisers and PR events, such as Carolina Kickoff for a Cure Tailgate, a tailgate for a USC game; Curefinders, a competition for school-age children to raise money for CF; and the Lowcountry Red Trout fishing tournament. In every chapter, the CFF holds a GREAT STRIDES walk, which has the same idea as the MS Walk. In the South Carolina Chapter, this is held every year in seven different cities.

I think the CFF is a great example of public relations. The events are covered in many newspapers all over the state. The foundation uses other sources to get its message out as well; there is a CysticFibrosisUSA channel on YouTube, a fan page on Facebook, and couple of Twitter accounts.

The CFF us really using its social media resources, and I think overall, it’s doing a great job of sending out positive PR. The fact that ninety percent of the money raised goes to research certainly doesn’t hurt the organization.


Is this PR? Mark Sanford

As much as public relations practitioners, and especially David Guth and Charles Marsh, the writers of “Public Relations: A values Driven Approach,” hate to admit it, part of public relations’ job is not only responding to crisis situations, but also trying to make things like public affairs seem less big than they already are.

This summer, the South Carolina News media found out that Governor Mark Sanford was missing from Columbia. He had left the state house in a SLED vehicle and turned off all communication devices, including a tracking device on the car.

The story about the missing governor showed up on probably every news outlet in South Carolina, not to mention the national attention it received and the numerous blog posts.

Then, someone found Sanford: no big deal, he was just hiking the Appalachian Trail to get some fresh air and clear his head. But he missed Father’s Day for this? And why would he need to sneak away in the middle of the night? Soon enough, a cell phone tower in Atlanta picked up his signal, and a reporter from the State newspaper was waiting for him at the airport when he stepped off a plane from Argentina.

First, the fact that the governor was missing and that no one in the office would admit to knowing where he was, plus the Appalachian Trail/Argentina confusion were bad PR for the governor. He wasn’t relating to his public at all, but his actions sure were. Secrecy is not the way to remain a popular political candidate.

All Sanford could do was tell the truth, so he held a press conference and admitted his affair with an Argentinian woman. Take a close look during Sanford’s teary confession, and you’ll notice Joel Sawyer, his public relations representative physically trying to get him to stop talking. After Sanford’s later interview with a reporter from The Associated Press, sans Sawyer, the PR guy resigned.

This is the worst kind of public relations I can imagine. If you are making so many mistakes that a public relations professional quits in the middle of your crisis, you’re not doing anything right.

Some politicians have affairs and still end up very popular, like Bill Clinton. He must have listened to what his PR people told him. Mark Sanford’s only mistake wasn’t just not listening to Sawyer, it was giving too much personal detail and not immediately declaring allegiance to his family. He shouldn’t have declared his love for his mistress; he should have only talked about his wife and children.


PR and employee relations: part deux

At Ruder Finn, an important value of corporate and public trust is employee relations. They claim their “proven strategies help clients communicate directly to their people on the front lines, on the shop floors and around the globe, improving morale, motivation and productivity.” To improve all these things, Ruder Finn concentrates on “Change Management, Recruiting and Retention strategies, Best Places to Work initiatives, Diversity programs, and Employee issues and crisis communications.”

Ruder Finn says all this on the company Web site yet offers no how-to or solution as to how it keeps “engaged and loyal employees.” Exactly what should a company do to prevent something like the Domino’s fiasco from happening?

It seems that the most effective form of good employee relations is open communication. Company heads and mangers should keep the lines of communication open. Public relations practitioners literally do this for a living, so it’s no wonder they help out. Creating social media networks, like company blogs, company applications for cell phones and company intranets are all effective means of communicating with employees.

In many companies, internal PR people or external PR companies help set up these two-way lines of communication. As internet and communication gurus, they create environments where upper-level employers don’t tell employees what to do; they also listen and react to complaints and suggestions.


PR and employee relations

Before the internet and its social media phenomenon basically took over our lives as we know them and what seems to be the world, inter-office and inter-company communication relied on memos and newsletters. Anyone wishing to communicate with employees – senior management, public relations departments, and even individual employees – sent a memo to the person or groups they wanted to send a message to.

Today, with the help of the internet, there are numerous ways to communicate within an office or company. The public relations professionals in companies are now responsible for more than just telling everyone what they’ve done, they now fuel conversations between employees and management and help create two-way communication overall.

Becky Ericson and Justin Goldsborough gave a presentation at the IABC Social Media Conference in which they explained the workings and importance of social media communication fueled by public relations departments. It seems that they covered everything under the sun in this department; some of their examples include: mobile videos and podcasts, Skype, social portals and internal social media.

As far as inter-company relations are concerned, there is a lot more to social networking and communication than Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Companies, like Southwest Airlines, promote employee-voiced company blogs. Other companies, like Deloitte, hosted a film festival. In Deloitte’s case, 2,000 employees participated and made videos like this one.


Is this PR? Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008 and hired Ruder Finn to do its PR. The goal was to celebrate modern dance, honor African American roots, and bring dance to the public. To bring dance to the public, Ruder Finn gave the dance company a bigger audience by arranging performances on So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars. The public relations company also pitched media ideas, and the campaign was covered on major news outlets, like The Los Angelas Times, Essence, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times.

Thanks to Ruder Finn, AAADT’s regular sales went up 50 % in the first week of sales in September, and people lined up at 5 a.m. for one day discounted tickets.

This is definitely a good example of PR. Dance as a whole hasn’t been widely popular until recently, when shows like SYTYCD and DWTS brought notification to the performing art. Putting dancers from the AAADT and then advertising in major news media outlets was very smart. Many people who now watch SYTYCD and DWTS are not immersed in the dance world and may not even know about the Alvin Ailey dance company. Putting dancers on these shows that get more than 1 million viewers weekly was a great way to get the dance company’s name and performances out to the public.


Social Responsibility — Gap

Gap Inc. is a company that cares about social responsibility. On its website, it says, “At Gap Inc., social responsibility is fundamental to how we do business.” Gap is also taking steps to improve factory conditions, advance women’s roles in the world, design more sustainable stores and products, and protect natural resources. The company also strives to create a work environment where “people are proud to work and able to reach their career goals.” Gap Inc.’s social responsibility seems to cover all the current hot social topics, like women’s rights around the world and natural resources. The company even covers an old issue: factory conditions.

Gap is so committed to its social responsibility that the company created a new website, instead of having everything in print. With the website, Gap Inc. can update its social responsibility policies more often and update its publics on new advancements in covering the policy. It also can post relevant videos and update publics via social networks.

On the website, Gap Inc.’s social responsibility plans and progress are clearly mapped out and easily navigable. Putting this online for everyone to see makes Gap Inc. seem much more credible than if they only had a print version of the policy for employees only. People are now more inclined to buy and use Gap Inc. products because the company seems more trustworthy.


Corporate Social Responsibility in PR

Sustainabilityblog’s definition of Corporate Social Responsibility is “organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment in all aspects of their operations.” In reading this, I immediately thought of Edward Bernays’s public relations campaign to make cigarettes cool when ten debutantes were paid to walk down fifth avenue smoking cigarettes. No one knew then, in the 1920s, that cigarettes were bad for people’s health, but if someone did that today, it would be considered falling down on corporate social responsibility.

Public relations’ role in CSR is large, I think, especially since PR should always be values driven. PR’s corporate social responsibility is to uphold values set by companies, stakeholders, and the public. People in PR and hoping to practice corporate social responsibility should make sure they uphold the social values and standards of the PR firm, company they are representing, and publics. They should make sure their campaigns sincerely uphold social standards without looking fake.


Is this PR? “In Search of Maria”

In March of this year, millions of people watched the viral video that took place in Antwerp’s Centraal Station. Two hundred people broke out into a dance to the song “Do Re Mi” from “The Sound of Music,” which was mixed with techno music throughout the piece. The dance was reportedly promoting a Dutch reality TV show called “In Search of Maria.”

The video was picked up by many bloggers and even major news outlets, like the Huffington Post, and that’s just in America. A simple Google search of something like “Sound of Music Train Station” brings up numerous articles, blog posts, and videos. The YouTube video above has over 12 million views.

It seems that everyone has heard about or seen the video, but the reality show did not get as much attention. It took me many Google searches to figure out that the dance in Antwerp was to promote a reality TV show, then that the TV show was called “In search of Maria” and finally that the point of the show was to find a woman to play Maria in a British stage version of “The Sound of Music.”

In finding all this, I also found that these are two examples of PR. One is the song and dance in Antwerp, and the other is the reality TV show. I’ll start with the train station groove.

The video garnered lots of hits, but I don’t think many people knew what it was for, at least not in America. I don’t think this is the best example of PR, because those people dancing at the train station could have been from any group, and the reality TV show didn’t get much attention in the blogs and articles—many times it wasn’t even named. People just enjoyed the movie-like aspect of the stunt.

I think the reality TV show is a better example of PR for the stage performance in London than the dance was for the reality show. Having a reality show about a stage performance really gets the name of the musical out to the public. In America, there was a reality show for the musical “Legally Blonde” called “Legally Blonde the Musical: the search for Elle Woods.” Like the show for “The Sound of Music,” viewers could vote on the person who would take the lead role in the musical. This gave the public a more personal stake and publicized the show to broader audience. People who watched the TV show or even saw advertisements were more likely to go see the musical on stage after the reality TV show. Both TV shows for “The Sound of Music” and “Legally Blonde” opened the musicals up to a broader audience.

As much as everyone loves a random break out into song and dance, I think what the dance was promoting, the reality TV show, was a better example of PR.


Is this PR? Wii

Early surveys said only 11 percent of consumers would buy the Wii, but once it launched, it outsold its competitors Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 by two to one and three to one, respectively. The Wii Launch campaign was named PR Week’s 2008 Campaign of the Year.

The first step in this PR Campaign was having a good product, but at first the product didn’t seem so great. As the above article says, though, the makers of Wii created a market for the game that didn’t previously exist: the non-gamers. By creating a game that was easy for anyone to use, Wii’s PR team could market the product to everyone – and they did. Not only did they get the usual gaming audiences interested, they also targeted “dabblers,” “lapsed-gamers,” and “non-gamers.” The team also marketed to girls, women, and seniors to pass the competition.

The Wii campaign created good media coverage, as well. The Associated Press, MTV, Good Morning America and other news outlets covered midnight events in New York City on the day of the launch.

Organizers even targeted publics on Myspace and through an ambassador program that interested moms, families, and seniors in the game.

The Wii Launch Campaign is definitely an example of good PR. The fact that it won PRWeek’s award tells us this, but so does the obvious well-thought-out work that went into the campaign. Most video games, like Halo, are targeted toward guys my age, but so many other demographics of people have the Wii. In targeting everyone and getting great media coverage, Wii had a great PR campaign.


Chapter 15–libel and rights to privacy

Chapter 15 of our book talks about PR and the law. One of the major things PR professionals need to look out for is libel. Libelous statements can turn into huge, expensive lawsuits. Here is an example of a libel suit that happened because of something published on a blog. The story is from the Associated Press:

Outed blogger who trashed model is angry at Google

NEW YORK (AP) — A blogger who called a magazine cover model offensive names on a Web site says Google failed to protect her right to privacy.

Rosemary Port tells the Daily News in Sunday editions that she’s angry that Google unmasked her after a Manhattan judge forced the company to reveal her identity.

Port was identified as the author of a site on Google’s Blogger.com that had published anonymous remarks about Vogue cover model Liskula Cohen’s hygiene and sexual habits.

Cohen sued to have the blogger identified, arguing that the comments on the site were defamatory.

But Port says that her privacy was violated, and that she has a right to her opinions.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google did not immediately respond to an e-mail sent Sunday requesting comment.

After the story received national recognition, this story ran in the New York Daily News. Port in this article complains that her right to privacy was not protected. The article goes on to say that after Port was forced to reveal her identity, the model decided not to proceed with a $3 million suit. The two women knew each other and have reportedly had disagreements in the past. For me, it looks like this lawsuit involving libel and right to privacy can be chalked up to a good, old-fashioned cat fight.