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Posts Tagged ‘Public Relations’

Hope y’all had a great holiday. Surprisingly, I made it to the airport by 4:20 p.m. today for a 5:10 p.m. flight with virtually no wait to check in my bag or go through security. It was amazing. If you’ve ever flown through Philadelphia International, you know it’s never cake. Perhaps I got lucky because of the holiday. Oh well, moving on …

I’ve been thinking about it and I’d like to revive the “Can We Talk?” Yahoo! Group. It’s not directly affiliated with this blog, though it’s a shared name. It was intended to be a branched-off group from YoungPRPros, as a forum for students and young professionals. Admittedly, it kind of fell to the wayside after I graduated college the first time in 2006.

Now that there are many more students and young professionals participating in social media, I think that a very valuable exchange of ideas can go down with this listserv. I’m hoping to start things off slow and welcome back those of you who were previous members and those who were interested in joining when it went defunct.

Let’s talk!

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UPDATE 10:47 P.M. – Looks like the folks behind Motrin are taking notice of the outrage.

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While watching the Penguins win over the Buffalo Sabres last night, I checked my phone to tweet and see what everyone else was yakking about. I noticed that there happened to be a huge uproar concerning Motrin and there was little I could do to find out due to a) not having an awesome iPhone or Blackberry/smartphone in general and b) I was at a house party, so … you know. When I got back this afternoon, I could see that there was much outrage by many moms on Twitter about a new advertisement on the product’s official site.

After monitoring the Twitter steam for a while at Motrin and #motrinmoms, I finally decided to watch the video to see what all the hubbub was about. Honestly, after watching it, I can say that I’m not wholly offended. I’ve watched it numerous times since then as a way to continue analyzing it, but nope … still nothing. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have children that I tend not to take any real meaning out of it. I think I’m in the minority here, but maybe not.

You can watch it and form your own opinion, but whereas many see the tone as condescending, I’m more convinced it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. Additionally, I can’t help but think I could relate and might secretly have the same thoughts whenever I’m a first-time mom, too. Am I wrong for thinking that?

There’s strong focus on buzzwords such as “supposedly”, “things”, “official mom,” and so on. While we can argue over the context of those words, it is my humble opinion that “things” refers to the swaddles, swings or whatever you want to call them and NOT babies as some seem to think.

Many are calling it a PR nightmare. At this point, we don’t even know who is on the team that formulated this concept. I’d be interested to see if some of the team members are moms who may/may not have had experience with babywearing and thought that they could share their own experiences in a semi-humorous fashion. How would the perception change if this comes to light? A focus group may have helped, but again, we don’t know if they put it through the proverbial wringer before making it public.

It could have been helpful for Motrin to have a Twitter presence right now to deal with the backlash, but how can one person (or a few people) possibly engage on a personal level with hundreds of angry parents at once? How would you do it? I’m unsure that having a social media presence at this particular moment would have really helped the situation.

You can argue with me that then I don’t get it. I do, but this whole wave of social media platforms is still very new and companies are slowly starting to catch on. While we can bitch and moan that it would be so much easier if every company utilized social media, I think it’s imperative that they monitor and understand what’s happening “now” before taking the plunge. Having a presence just to have a presence isn’t always the best thing if your company has no clue and is more or less utilizing these platforms as the opportunity to spam or quite simply broadcast and nothing more.* Now, this situation might show the company (which is part of the Johnson & Johnson family) that social media engagement could be helpful in the future and I’m sure they will be paying more attention to it.

In the short term, I see an official statement being issued in response to the backlash and the ad will go *poof*. I don’t think a boycott will have any detrimental effect on the brand. Those who haven’t bought the product in the first place, probably won’t anyway and that’s more than likely due to the cost or loyalty to another brand.

While I do agree that the ad is a bit tasteless tacky (again, I don’t see it as offensive), I don’t believe they intended to piss off an entire market. They tried to reach moms in a way that they thought they’d be able to relate, but obviously it backfired – back to the drawing board. I’m looking past the controversy on a personal level because at the end of the day, the product works and to me, as a consumer, that’s what matters.

*I know this might sound pretty contradictory to several posts I made previously about businesses utilizing social media, but I don’t believe every company will find value in all social media tools. Participation ultimately needs to be structured according to what type of conversation they’re looking to have – hence, I just throw out suggestions.

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While at the PodCamp Pittsburgh afterparty, I had the opportunity to meet David Fisher (@Tibbon) and have a chat about social media over a Smores martini (me) and a cheesesteak (him). As I recounted my own struggles the past year with consistent blogging, David offered up some great suggestions and advice to amp up my posting and continue to expose myself to different facets of social media while I’m looking for a new position. So, I’m starting another series called Social Media 101 (as I said – one of many) to examine how companies are utilizing social media or could they could be using social media to engage their stakeholders. Thanks, David!

My first topic is Kennywood Park.

Kennywood Park, located near Pittsburgh in West Mifflin, PA is one of the oldest amusement parks in the country. From its humble beginning in 1898 as a small trolley park, Kennywood has grown over the years to become a unique park marrying both rides from days of yore with those of the present and future. It’s an institution that conjures memories from Pittsburgh’s older crowd who now take their children and grandchildren, reminiscing of their youth while making new memories with the next wave of Kennywood thrill-seekers.

My goal is to share my thoughts about what I think Kennywood could use to its advantage when considering Web 2.0 community-building as part of its public relations strategy. Plans may already be underway, but I’m just going to pretend we’re working with a clean slate.

Twitter

Twitter is probably the most popular microblogging site right now and allows its users to connect and communicate in real time. Most users are those who have a vested interest in social media and technology, but major corporations have also started to catch on to Twitter and utilize the service as part of their communications strategy.

Kennywood is on Twitter (apparently), but there are zero followers, zero following, and zero updates. It’s quite possible that the park decided to hold its name until it figures out a game plan, but the account may have been created by someone not officially affiliated with the park. Either way, it’s time to put the service to use. How can the park do it? Here’s some ideas:

  • Sneak peeks and major announcements – Include your friends. Announce a new attraction or initiative as it simultaneously goes out via traditional media outlets, OR build suspense and make your friends the first to know. This is going to help create buzz and establish a word-of-mouth movement both online and offline.
  • Trivia and fun facts – Capture the joy of the amusement park experience by creating a trivia contest or posting fun facts about Kennywood and the amusement park industry.
  • Make memories – Part of Kennywood’s messaging is about making memories. Encourage friends to share their stories and engage in conversations about what makes Kennywood unique and why they return year after year.

Facebook

There are 116 groups on Facebook that make some sort of mention of Kennywood, yet none are officially administrated by the park. Instead, dozens of employees and fans have taken initiative to create community around the park, whether its a means of organizing trips or discussing favorite attractions and quirks. Hundreds of individual users also mention the name Kennywood in some capacity in their own profiles.

A close competitor in Ohio has a Facebook presence although I am unsure how many, if any, pages and groups are officially affiliated with the park. There is one page, however, created by a fan that is most impressive with more than 29,000 fans.

Here’s an opportunity. Fans of Kennywood are obviously there and would surely rally around an official page or group. All it takes is an intern, for example, to invite his or her friends and the power of word-of-mouth will take over. Facebook has the capabilities of importing information from other platforms, which makes it easy to link many social networks together.

MySpace

You can also find a page on MySpace, but I’m uncertain if it’s official. It’s very bare-bones, but has the potential to reach the 18-34 demographic. The unfortunate aspect of the site, however, is that there tends to be a lot of spam at times (though it has significantly decreased in recent years) and the administrator of the profile will have to carefully monitor who is being “friended” since not all profiles are exactly “family friendly” or legit.

YouTube

The site featured two podcasts, but they recently disappeared. What I do like is that Kennywood has its own video devices called KTube, which allows users to share their memories with others and K-Clips, where users can create their own “videos.” I would also recommend a presence on YouTube to allow for easy sharing and commenting. In addition, the Park can easily gauge just how many people are watching videos, subscribing and “friending” their channel.

Miscellaneous

Flickr – There are more than 8,500 tagged photos and one group dedicated to the park. A presence on Flickr would help contribute to that conversation and showcase fan photos on a consistent basis.

Blogging – Not every business has to blog, but it could be an opportunity for guest posts from fans, historians and staff so that everyone can learn a little more about Kennywood’s history and what makes it unique.

Social ads – Myspace and Facebook are offering ad placements, which could benefit the park. Maybe it’s a special promo code for discounted tickets, or a generic ad for Phantom Fright Nights. Either way, the appearance of the Kennywood logo is bound to attract more attention than most of the ads we typically see on these sites.

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The important thing to keep in mind with any SM venture is that a little time and attention should be devoted each day to make the community better. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a dedicated position has to be created, but someone must be diligent in monitoring and contributing to the conversation. I don’t advocate deleting user-created content unless it’s spam, obscene or abusive toward other community members. It’s a learning experience for everyone. Positive comments generally outweigh the negative and there’s always a way to turn those negatives into positives. The trick is remaining open-minded and willing to implement change.

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Whether you’re a senior in college looking beyond graduation or a more seasoned professional looking to re-enter the workforce, I won’t be the first to tell you just how hard job searching is given both the economy and potential uncertain times ahead. Nearly 1.2 million people have been laid off so far this year and we can expect that number will climb through December.

Once you center your focus on finding a position in our profession, things become even harder. Although it is expected that openings will grow by 18% through 2016, we know the field is still highly competitive as new talent emerges and journalists (and other professionals) find themselves wanting (or needing with the recent job and production cuts made by newspapers) to making the jump over.

As the saying goes, “it’s not just about what you know, it’s about who you know.” In fact, about 70% of people find their jobs through traditional and social networks. I’ve found that networking doesn’t have to be a complicated process. In fact, it can be a pretty fun and enlightening experience. Keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find a job right away, but it will help you sharpen your focus on what you really want in a career.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Create your own business cards – Make a lasting impression with other professionals by creating a business card that represents your personal brand. Make sure you include all pertinent contact information and anything else you think would be helpful. Even if you’re utilizing an online service (such as VistaPrint), try to be as creative as possible, even if you have to spend a little extra money. The key is to stand out and encourage people to remember you.
  • Come up with a game plan – Think about exactly where you want to be in your career. Once you narrow things down by industry, it’s much easier to devise your route. Compile a list of professionals within those industries that you’d like to reach out to whether it’s over coffee or lunch. Make sure you have all pertinent contact information before you call or email. Personally, I like to email because it’s a lot easier to reach people, but I also advocate calling. Don’t be afraid of picking up the phone.
  • Don’t take rejection personally – If you don’t hear a response right away, don’t fret. Schedules are always packed and it just may be a matter of time before you hear a response. Some professionals just don’t have the time or desire to meet. Don’t take it personally. If you’re still playing the waiting game, however, continue to do so and just move on down your list. Following up on an inquiry is OK, but don’t be annoying.
  • Attend networking events – Whether you belong to a professional association or not, there are many events that are of little to no cost to attend. Find events relevant to your career interests. You don’t have to attend every event to make a few good contacts.
  • Do your homework – Do a little research and devise a list of questions that you might have about the industry or a specific job. Just like a job interview, this illustrates that you are serious about learning all you can.
  • Be open-minded – As you’re meeting or speaking with professionals, try to remain open-minded and receptive to their advice. There may be ideas that you’ve never thought of before. It’s always likely that they’ll refer you to their colleagues as well, so make sure that you take notes.
  • Don’t burn those bridges – There’s nothing worse than slighting a professional with influence. Do make sure to show up if you’re scheduled to meet with someone. Deciding at the last minute that you don’t feel like going shows a lack of respect for that professional’s time and that you are unreliable. In addition, if you had a bad experience with a previous employer, never blog about it. The PR community is small and word will definitely get around.
  • Don’t forget to say “Thank You” – Maybe you’re not used to writing “thank you” notes or emails, but you should get in the habit. As I’m appreciative of a professional’s time and advice, I always make it a point to express that sentiment with a written note or email (depending on the circumstances).
  • Appreciate your existing networks – You might run in a few circles through social media and have an established base of colleagues offline. Make sure that you grow and maintain those relationships. I think we all make the mistake of trying to count on networks only when we find ourselves in want of a job. Networks are definitely beneficial in that sense, but there are many opportunities for a deeper connection beyond that. Take the time to find out what’s going on in their worlds and offer your help, even if it’s just an open ear.

By-the-by, if you consider yourself introverted and get nervous at the thought of networking, here’s a GREAT article with some tips to help you. Trust me, you’re not alone. One part of networking is about taking risks. It’s really empowering when you step out of your normal comfort zone and have your first successful networking experience.

Again, you might get lucky, as some folks do, but don’t expect an opportunity to come up right away. Just keep at it and great things can come your way. The best reward of all? You’ll be able to meet some incredibly smart, talented people.

This list is only a small piece of the art of networking. What are your tried-and-true methods?

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