Cleaning up the Mess

Topic of the Week 13
Crisis Case Study

Although it was a hoax, I still remember the Wendy’s chili crisis like of 2005 like it was yesterday. The catastrophe began when Anna Ayala found a human finger in her bowl of chili at a Wendy’s restaurant located in San Jose, California. When this story was leaked to the media, Wendy’s was forced to act quickly and draw up an effective crisis management strategy in order to soften the oncoming blows they were about to take. Here was their plan according to Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics:
1.Establish that the brand name was not at fault quickly
2. Maintain Wendy’s core values
3. Brief and mobilize employees
4. Build a postincident strategy to enhance Wendy’s brand

Although they did the best they could in this crisis, Wendy’s restaurants lost 20-50% of their business in the San Francisco area and their 6,600 outlets around the nation experienced a large decline in sales.

After 2 months of thorough police investigation, Ayala was found guilty of creating a hoax and grand theft for causing Wendy’s to $2.5 million in revenue. In addition, Ayala was charged 9 years in prison along with steep fines. In order to rebuild their tarnished reputation, Wendy’s rewarded their loyal customers with free Frostie desserts, giving out almost 18 million free treats.

Sadly, Wendy’s reputation was destroyed for a small amount of time because of an enormous lie. After successful image restoration, however, Wendy’s was able to jump back up to one of the most favored fast food chains in America. How did they do it? Wendy’s followed an action plan using the following methods described in Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics:
1. Make progress visible
2. Analyze what went wrong
3. Improve governance structure
4. Make CEO and leadership accessible to media
5. Fire employees involved in problem
6. Commit to high corporate citizenship standards
7. Carefully review ethics policies
8. Hire outside auditors for internal audits
9. Issue an apology from the CEO

For those who aren’t familiar with the Wendy’s Chili Crisis, check out the sketchy Good Morning America interview with Anna Ayala:

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For More Information…

Topic of the Week 12
Interview with Kneale Mann

Last week, my COMM 2322 class got to experience the wisdom of Public Relations professional Martin Waxman. This week, the blessing continues with a word from Kneale Mann. Through an interview conducted by my Public Relations Applications professor, Barbara Nixon, my class received valuable insight from Mann concerning blogging strategies and the importance of writing. Here are some tips I learned from Mann that I should hold onto for the rest of my PR career.

“I’m a geek.”
A self-described “Geek,” Kneale Mann encourages first-time bloggers to write about their main interests. For example, Mann’s blog, One Mann’s Opinion, discusses strategies for marketing and social media. Although his first post was entitled “I’m a Geek,” simply stating that he was starting a blog and had no idea where it was headed, he took the plunge. He started writing, which leads us to the next important point to Mann’s interview:

“Too often we are trying to go for the absolute victory before we do the work.”
Kneale Mann suggests that practicing writing is the key to successful writing and also the key to a successful blog. He states that the most important part about blogging is finding a focus. Although not that many people subscribe to the blog at first, Mann encourages us that starting a blog is the hardest part. Once you find the audience you are trying to connect with, blogging gets easier because of the instant feedback it allows. Our downfall of today’s society is that we want results right away, or as Mann describes, “instant status.” The world, however, doesn’t work that way. But how do we gain followers? That leads us to the final point:

“The price of admission is contribution.”
The key to a successful blog is finding “blog buddies.” Social media allows bloggers to build relationships through participating in two-way conversation, sharing ideas and feelings with one another. Finding blog buddies gives us, as writers, validation that there are people out there interested in what we have to say. In addition, networking using blog commenting, allows others to give advice.

It was a pleasure to listen to the great information Kneale Mann provided our class with. For more information on Kneale Mann check out his profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter or check out the interview for yourself!!

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Innovations

The iPad. This device is the newest technological advancement and has created a ton of publicity. I have to admit. At first I was pretty skeptical of the iPad. I mean it’s just a iPod touch times 4 right? After a little bit of research, the iPad, once it becomes popular, will have the capability to transform the industries, especially the publishing business.

Magazine companies are already changing the way they publish information because of the iPad’s versatility. The iPad provides audiences with a more exciting and interactive reading experience. For example, VIVMagazine is leading the revolution, fusing vivid moving pictures with brilliantly crafted articles. Through moving images, magazine and book producers will be able to capture the energy of a still life shoot with the motion of a block buster film. Using visually stimulating images will draw more readers just as visually stimulating images draw large crowds to the theaters. Check it out!!

Not only will this innovation change the way the magazine industry works, the iPad can reshape the way we do public relations. For example, the iPad will give readers the opportunity to give editors instant feedback on content, giving the publishing staff a closer relationship with their consumers. Consumers will be able to get what they want exactly when they want it. I would consider this a public relations professionals’ dream.

I know that magazines are becoming more available online, but I truly believe America will embrace the iPad once costs decrease. The reading experience is just so much more appealing and exciting at the same time. In addition, everyone wants the newest, most versatile devices and the iPad is that next big thing. We will just have to wait until the diffusion of innovation hits the peak.

For more information about the iPad, check read this blog post on BNet.

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Art of Persuasion

Topic of the Week 11
PR Podcasts

 For this assignment I explored The Creative Career for interesting podcasts relevant to the profession of public relations. On this site I discovered a link to CBC Radio’s show “Art of Persuasion,” hosted by Terry O’ Reilly. Each show is a half-hour long, so I was able to enjoy two of O’Reilly’s clips.

Persuasion Fail
In this episode, O’Reilly commented on some of the catastrophes within the world of public relations.  First, company acronym failures were discussed. For example, the Wisconsin Tourism Federation’s acronym “WTF” became a huge joke after “WTF” became short for “what the…” (Well, you can fill in the blank). Other acronym fails belonged to the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Duke University Hospital.

One publicity fail O’Reilly highlighted was made by KFC in 2009 after Oprah announced its “two free grilled chicken pieces, 2 sides, and a biscuit for free” promotion used to introduced its new grilled chicken menu choice. KFC, however, underestimated the power of Oprah and supply was killed by outrageous demand and many eager customers left the restaurant hungry.

Finally, O’Reilly commented on marketing strategies with new products. “Marrying a brand with the right strategy and the right creative direction is like a culinary art. You might like smoked sturgeon and you might like strawberry jam, but that doesn’t mean you want them on the same cracker.” It is important to do the research before presenting an idea.

The most important thing “Persuasion Fail” teaches PR professionals and students is that failure is sure to happen, especially in an industry where so many risks are taken. O’Reilly, however, encourages us to “fail forward.” In order to succeed, it is necessary to bounce back stronger and smarter.

Embracing New Media
In this episode, O’Reilly discusses how new media brings about new changes in communication, especially language. New media and the introduction of new language, however, brings about problems. O’Reilly explains that each new media enters a “grace period” in which consumers have to figure out which manner, form, and language best suits the new media.

One great example of this new language was the early days of the telephone. If it was up to Alexander Graham Bell, we would be answering the phone using “Ahoy, Ahoy!” Instead, as we all know, “Hello” was adopted as the universal telephone greeting.

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Inside Look

Topic of the Week 10
Interview with Martin Waxman

Today I got the great opportunity to listen to one of the most world-renouned public relations professionals, Martin Waxman. Founder of Pallete Public Relations agency and president of the Canadian equivalent to PRSA, Martin took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the importance of social media in the PR field. Here is a little summary of the content Martin covered:

1. Use of Social Media
As technology evolves, the use of social media will become more important within the public relations community. For example, Martin has integrated various social media outlets into his business. One social networking tool he likes to use is podcasting. (Visit Martin’s podcast, Inside PR) Unlike blogging, podcasting really helps form communication skills because “once you say it, its done.” There is no room for rewording what is said so podcasters have to have the abililty to speak clearly and speak on their feet. Martin adds that the danger in using social media is the temptation to just use it without learning how to tie it in to company objectives. Social media, however, allows public relations companies the opportunity to be transparent and relational with their clients.

2. Skills
Although it is important for a person considering a job in the PR field to be familiar with social media, it is necessary for that person to have the traditional communication skills, says Martin. According to the textbook Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics, five essential abilities include writing skill, research ability, planning expertise, problem-solving ability, and business/economics competence. Because these skills never become extinct although social media becomes more prevalent, they are always important to the PR profession.

3. Customer Service with Social Media
One interesting use of Twitter that public relations professionals use is looking up a company name and placing “fail” at the end of it. This method allows PR agencies instant feedback on trending topics concerning different companies and their products or services. Martin states that because of social media outlets, the things we complain about are able to go public rather than staying within a small circle of people.

I really appreciated Martin Waxman taking the time to speak to our public relations class. I think it is important for students to interact with successful PR professional such as Martin to gain an inside look on what PR is all about!

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Digging Deeper

INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW

For this assignment, I interviewed Chelsea Kuchta, a fan relations employee with the Lakeland Flying Tigers and Detroit Tigers spring training.  Although she is quite young, Chelsea has a great education and experience background as she graduated from Michigan State with majors in political science and communications. During her education, she focused mainly on interpersonal communication. In addition to her schooling, she has worked as an intern at Disney World and is planning to rejoin the Disney community relations crew after the 2010 spring training season ends. Chelsea and I are co-workers at Tigertown in Lakeland, Florida and this interview was conducted in a face-to-face manner.

What is a typical week like?
On game days, Chelsea has quite a busy schedule. Pre-game tasks include creating informational posters and finding children in the crowd to run the rosin bag to the pitcher’s mound, throw out the first pitch, and say “Play ball!” During games, she hands out promotions such as free Zaxby’s chicken meals and  BD’s Mongolian Grill coupons in between innings. On other days, Chelsea works hard in the office creating posters, organizing information into spreadsheets, and making important phone calls to sponsors.

What is a project you are especially proud of?
When Chelsea was working at Disney, she was in placed in charge of cast members in the college program. During this time, she helped the cast members create and maintain resumes. One part of this experience that she was most proud of was the fact that many of the cast members she trained were offered Disney internships after the college program.

What do you do to keep current in the PR industry?
According to Chelsea, keeping updated on trends is very important to the work of a public relations professional. To keep current in the industry, she maintains a facebook and twitter account. Furthermore, Chelsea stays updated on professional sports by following ESPN news, reading blogs, and searching for articles on the Detroit Tigers’ official website.

What do you wish you could have known before staring a career in PR?
Chelsea said that she wished she had more “hands-on” experience speaking with businesses while she was in college. She discussed how learning about how to communicate and actually communcating are two totally different things.

How important is writing in your career?
Writing is a very important part of the public relations career, especially in the areas Chelsea has worked in. At Disney, for example, she spent a huge amount of time writing emails that were professional, clear, and concise. However, she stated that verbal communication is more relavent to her job than written communication.

What are 3 tips to someone starting in public relations?
1. Be confident. No matter what the situation is, it is important to appear that you know all the answers or at least know where to look for answers.
2. Do your research. It is important to know as much information as possible about the companies or clients you are working with.
3. Ask questions. It is better to ask questions and do a job right the first time instead of not asking questions and doing it wrong.

How did your education prepare you?
The most imporant class Chelsea took to prepare her for a career in public relations was Interpersonal Communication. In this class, she learned why people communicate in different ways. For example, someone may be perceived as rude because of previous events that have occured in their life that day. People tend to carry their negative feelings onto others.

What has surprised you the most about your career?
Chelsea acknowledged that the thing that surprised her the most is the lack of communcation skills within companies. Although communication can improve, most people seem to be stuck in their ways and are not interested in change. In addition, she described how networking plays a huge deal in getting what you want as opposed to experience.

How does technology affect your daily work?
Technology is used everyday. It is important to keep up with what is happening minute-to-minute. It is important to check your email as often as possible. It is highly necessary to purchase a Blackberry so email can be checked out of the office as well. With the Tigers, Chelsea is required to use different computer programs to create promotional flyers, brochures, and other forms of media. Additionally, co-workers keep up with each other by using radios.

After my interview with Chelsea I feel like I am more likely to pursue a career in public relations. As I sit in the outfield during games, I get to watch Chelsea and her co-workers interact with the fans. I would love to make the fans’ experience an extremely memorable one. Although public relations requires a lot of work, my goal in life is to put a smile on someone else’s face. This is possible through a career in public relations.

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Spring Break ’10!

Topic of the Week 8
How I Spent My Spring Break

Do you ever have those moments where you are just blown away by the way things work out? I am definitely having one of those moments. For as long I can remember I have been a hardcore baseball fan. I absolutely love the atmosphere of a baseball stadium: the sights, the sounds, the smells – everything! Recently, after a long chain of events, I was hired as a ball girl for the Detroit Tigers spring training. That means I sit directly on the left field line, field ground balls that come my way, then hand them to children in the stands. Before the game and in between innings I have the opportunity to interact with fans who actually had to pay to get into the game. As I sit in my chair I continually think to myself, “I get paid for this!” It is seriously a dream come true!

Although being the ballgirl is a great job, its not something I want to do for the rest of my life.  As I sit in my chair I get a first hand experience of community relations within the park. I get to observe all the promotions such as “Hot Dog Row” and “Three Generation Trivia.” All of these games and giveaways are great ideas to get the crowd involved in the game on a more personal level. In addition, public relations professionals find children before each game to say those famous words “PLAY BALL!” and to run the rosin bag out to the pitcher’s mound. After the game, kids are able to run the bases and parents are able to cheer on their children while taking tons of photos.

I think I found a possible career. Even though I just love watching the game, I would love to make the game a memorable experience for the fans- something they will remember for years to come!

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