Recent Examples of PR – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

In any given week, if you look for it, you’ll find examples of public relations; good, bad and ugly.  Here’s what I found recently:

The Good:  Restaurants and fast food chains have so many examples of bad PR that you could write a novel.  So when something goes against that trend, it’s worth talking about.  Red Robin recently received great positive PR and all it cost them was $11.50.  How did that happen?  A couple expecting their second child visited a location in North Carolina.  When the bill came due, the couple was pleasantly surprised to see her meal was at no charge with “MOM 2 BEE GOOD LUC” written on the bill.

The Bad:  Allstate recently released an ad that focused on how they’ve helped numerous victims of Hurricane Sandy and how their agents put the customer first.  The problem was that one of the damaged homes featured prominently in the spot is not being covered fully by the company and the insurance claim is still in dispute.  The homeowners have vocalized their displeasure with both the company and the video.  I’ve tried to include a link to the video, but it’s been removed.  While not a PR disaster of epic proportions, this is certainly bad PR for the company.

The Ugly:  Did you happen to watch the NCAA Football Championship game on January 7th?  During the game, play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger made some comments about the girlfriend of the starting quarterback for Alabama.  What he said wasn’t necessarily inappropriate or bad, but many viewers during and after the game took to social media criticizing the comments as “creepy” and “awkward.”  In my opinion, an apology wasn’t necessary, but ESPN issued one to escape a potential firestorm.

What have you noticed recently in public relations and would you nominate it as good, bad or ugly?

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What’s For Dessert This Thanksgiving?

As the American Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaches, there’s word that an increasing number of retailers will open that day for holiday shoppers this year.  Thanksgiving used to be immune from the craziness of holiday shopping.  Not any more and consumers are to blame.

Not too long ago, retailers were closed on Thanksgiving Day.  Many would open early the following morning (known as Black Friday) with special deals.  Over the years, that early opening would start even earlier as retailers wanted to get a jump on their competition.  You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see the writing on the wall that one day, a few retailers would cross the midnight threshold.

The trend started last year, as some retailers tested the waters of opening on Thanksgiving Day instead.  For the most part, and to my personal displeasure, that test was a success.  As a result, the door has opened a little further and more retailers are planning to open on Thanksgiving Day; some with offers that are exclusive to Thursday.  Other retailers won’t open their brick and mortar locations, but will have special online details in place.

Guess what?  More consumers will embrace the sales this year and next year the door will open yet a little more.  Slowly but surely, the sales-happy consumers in this country will send a message to retailers that it’s okay to open on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving might just be my favorite holiday of the year.  I love what it stands for and I love the family traditions that revolve around it.  I have no plans to reward retailers who choose to open on the holiday, even if they try to entice me with a 70-inch LED television for next to nothing.

How about you?  Will you be enjoying apple or pumpkin pie for dessert, or running to your local mall (or computer) to shop instead?

3 Reasons Why Quality is More Important than Quantity

Quality vs. QuantityA friend recently shared a story about a client who gave him the sole directive of increasing fans/followers in social media, specifically the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers.  In fact, this client wanted to structure his consulting fee strictly around the quantity of fans/followers.

Fortunately for this business, my friend has ethics and attempted to illustrate the error with that kind of thinking.  Here are 3 reasons why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.

  1. Fans/Followers can be bought.  Services exist that allow you to purchase fans/followers to make your social media presence seem important and popular.  While that might fool some who give your site a cursory look, it doesn’t take much digging beneath the surface to uncover the house of cards your social media popularity is built on.  If your following can be bought, how authentic is it?  If your business is mostly local, odds are purchased fans will not be, so how will that be of any value?
  2. Real fans are more likely to interact.  Engagement has been the buzz word in social media for some time, and rightly so.  Which would you rather have?  50 fans who are truly fans and would not hesitate to recommend you to family and friends?  Or, 100 fans who will never visit your site, never try your product/service, or never recommend you to family and friends?  Real fans, engaged fans, are brand ambassadors.
  3. Social media is meant to have a conversational element.  When you concentrate on quantity over quality, the conversational element will likely suffer.  If the quality of the conversation is there from day one, your fan base will grow at a natural rate, and you’ll increase quantity without sacrificing quality.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to build relationships with followers who don’t care and are not engaged.

Think about your own involvement in social media.  Think about the sites you’ve willingly followed.  Has there been a site you’ve recommended to others?  Why?  It goes beyond brand loyalty, doesn’t it?  Chances are, it’s a two-way street.  You value the content on the site and the business values you as a fan/follower/customer.

When that two-way street becomes one-way, it’s the equivalent of a dead-end road.  Consumers don’t want to waste their time on a dead-end, and neither do (most) businesses that know what they’re doing with social media.

What are some of your favorite sites to follow, and what makes them so special to you?

How Well Do You Know Your Customer?

If I had $1 for every business owner who thought he/she knew their customers very well, I’d be wealthy and retired at this point.  The sad reality is, most businesses think they know their customer, but their perception is almost always inaccurate (and sometimes by quite a bit).

I once worked with an established retail business in Rochester, NY that sold men’s fine clothing.  They were convinced their clientele were, on average, “male, 50 years or older, from the eastern suburbs, wealthy and watched prestigious networks on television like CNN.”  While that seemed plausible, I still conducted market research analysis with two main goals.  The first was to verify their customers’ demographics and the second was to research the media consumption of the actual demographic.

When the data was tabulated, it showed their customer base to be much younger and less affluent than they thought.  As a result, different television networks were a better fit.  Imagine their shock when I demonstrated how their advertising would be more effective (and cost-effective) on MTV instead of CNN!

Since seeing is not always believing, the client wanted to stick with the media plan involving CNN.  I was able to convince them to incorporate MTV into the plan as a trial, and suggested they simply ask customers if and where they saw their television commercial and keep a manual tabulation next to the cash register.  At the end of one month, MTV had a 3x advantage over CNN.

Seeing that MTV was significantly less expensive than CNN at the time, by concentrating on the proper network for their customer base, they could cut their ad spend, double their advertising frequency and triple (at minimum) their impact.  Now that’s what I call bang for the advertiser’s buck!

If you own a business, how well do you think you know your customer? If you haven’t conducted market research recently, I’d suggest there are many things you could learn.

Yes Virginia, There Is An App For That

Unlike the retail industry, which seems to start the holiday season earlier each year, I can fully embrace the season now that Thanksgiving is behind us.  If you’re over the age of 20, you’ll probably remember holiday seasons in the pre-internet age.  You know, the Stone Age.  😉

I remember looking forward to receiving my Sears Wish Book every year.  It seemed like a thick encyclopedia of toys, with pages upon pages filled with an assortment of things to ask Santa for.  I’d sit down with paper and pencil (again, well before the internet) and write a list of things I hoped to get on Christmas morning.  In 2011, that sounds quaint, doesn’t it?

As a parent in the 21st Century, it’s interesting to witness how technology has changed things.  Yes, printed catalogs still arrive in the mail.  However, kids can create online registries so Santa can fulfill their wishes with a click of the mouse or a review of an email.  Articles, blogs and websites can detail the most sought after toys, compiling lists, providing reviews and checking for best pricing.  Sound amazing?  That’s actually old news . . .

Sears Canada recently announced the creation of a Wish Book app for the iPad.  According to an article in Chain Store Age, the app allows “thousands of items to be viewed, added to Wish Lists or purchased with the tap of the finger on the iPad.  The application also includes a built-in gift list organizer to manage holiday gift giving and shopping.”

So when that little girl asks about Santa and whether he’ll see her list, you can reply, “Yes Virginia, there is an app for that.”

How are you and your family using new technologies this holiday season?