Writing with Flare: A Public Relations Perspective

A captive title, a great lead, a short and sweet article, and an impressionable message — all expectations for writing in PR.  

I thought I had joined the PR program at Loyalist College with a bit of an advantage. I had just completed my Honours B.A. with a Major in Communications. As public relations is a subcategory of communications, I felt I already had acquired many of the skills needed for a PR professional. Although this was true, I learned that the academic writing style that I had been trained to automatically revert to throughout my four years at University was not appropriate at most times to succeed in the industry of PR.

Learning a new writing style has proven to be quite difficult. After having proper format, correct citations, and a rigid style of writing drilled into my head throughout my entire academic career, writing for an audience other than a professor with clear expectations left me with an opportunity to decide my own style of writing. The 20 page research papers are no longer a requirement, but instead, all important information about an upcoming event needs to be produced on a single page. 

Over the past school year I have learned that this style of writing can be quite fun. It is liberating to be able to write what you really feel, instead of tirelessly quoting peer-reviewed articles that coincide with a point you need to prove. On the other hand, it is also quite difficult to pack so much information into such a short space. PR is about writing to quickly catch the eye of a passerby, an internet browser, or a prospective client. PR professionals must write with flare, but also appeal to a general public. The two demands must come together in harmony along with the captive title, the great lead, the short and sweet article, and the impressionable message in order to obtain the status of success in the PR industry.

Fighting Hate: The Gap

Over the weekend, the well known designer brand company The Gap took a public stand against racism. I learned about this dilemma while scrolling through the Huffington Post website where they have posted an intriguing article about the case. The Gap is currently promoting a new ad campaign that features two Sikh models, a male and a female, that has been taken advantage of by vandals. The new ad is called “Make Love” and the male model featured is actually actor and jewelry designer Waris Alhuwalia. A poster near a subway has been changed from “make love” to say “make bombs” and someone has also added “stop driving taxis”.

Gap-Holiday-2013-Collection-05

Clearly offended, twitter influencer Arsalan Iftikhar, the senior editor at The Islamic Monthly and founder of TheMuslimGuy.com, tweeted a snap shot of the vandalized poster. He said he tweeted it to show the world how “brown people” were viewed in the world. The Gap recognized Iftikhar’s tweet and sent out response tweets in defence of their ad campaign and against racial discrimination. Shortly after, members of the Sikh community started a “thank you, Gap” campaign to show appreciation for the strong brand message.

The purpose of the “Make Love” campaign is for The Gap to feature a wide diversity of different models to promote equality among the races. This is a very clever and forward thinking public relations move and gives the company a more wholesome brand image.

The ad has now gone viral and The Gap has gained an enormous amount of positive publicity by turning a negative random act into a positive uplifting message of community and support.

I think the Huffington Post author says it best that this is how the internet is supposed to work. The topic was trending on twitter and raised awareness against racism all from the posting of one picture. It’s amazing what the internet can do and how individuals can have the power to create a global discussion such as this.

To read the full article have a look here –> http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/gap-ad-sikh-waris-ahluwalia_n_4343586.html?utm_hp_ref=canada&ir=Canada

The End of an Era: The Press Release Edition

Earlier today a very interesting article was posted in the public relations section of ragan.com (a great website if you haven’t already checked it out –> http://www.ragan.com) about possibly the most famous name brand in the world, Coca Cola. Coca Cola’s digital chief has recently announced that by the year 2015, press releases will be a thing of the past. This is mostly because the brand has a new journalism website, “Coca Cola Journey”, that has replaced its former homepage. This website is creating major buzz and is proving how powerful the digital world has become.

1798767393_1357956420

The leader of Coke’s digital communications and social media, Ashley Brown, boasts that the company has excellent PR and that the cause for success is their presence in the online world. Their digital campaigning has been so successful lately that the company is planning to get rid of news releases altogether. It’s clear from visiting their new website that Coca Cola certainly has everything figured out. Upon entering the new homepage the viewer is bombarded with loads of interesting information all wrapped up in the classic Coca Cola red, talk about strategic branding. The new site, which can be found here at http://www.coca-colacompany.com/, is loaded with everything that all of us love: a bounty of beautiful pictures, top 10 lists, most popular lists, hashtags, hyperlinks, videos, and multiple interesting categories. Although the website is full of fun, the main feature of personal individual stories is located front and center where Coca Cola uses consumer experiences to tell its own brand story.

In all, Coca Cola owes its fame and fortune to their PR team. Even though they’ve been at the top of the game for decades, their team never stops working and never stops promoting to gain new customers and keep all their loyal fans. The article I read even listed the new lessons the company learned in the first year of developing the website. These lessons include;

1. Leverage your current website

2. Build a newsroom, kill the press release

3. Fill your ‘careers’ section with stories

4. Touch their hearts

5. Use infographics

6. Design for smart phones

7. Use data to guide your editorial decisions

Coca Cola is definitely a company to study that exemplifies excellent branding! They continue to push themselves to learn and grow and each year their brand becomes stronger and stronger. To read the Ragan article yourself you can check it out here –> http://www.ragan.com/PublicRelations/Articles/47600.aspx

Dealing with Disaster

ImageLast Thursday, in one of my public relations courses, my classmates and I were faced with a mock disaster. We were told in advanced that the day would be dedicated to crisis communications but, like all real crises, we had no idea what the crisis would be or who we would be working with.

When we arrived to the designated area we were told that we were all to act as employees of a fictional company named Spruce Juice. The crisis at hand was that the e-coli bacteria had been found in several cases of already distributed Spruce Juice products. The infected cases were found in Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec. We were then split up into groups of three: the President of the company, the Quality Control Manager, and the Public Relations Director. We were provided a sheet of information about the company and a brief description of the damage already done by the infected products. We were given only one hour to come up with an idea for a news release and to formulate opening statements to say in the news conference that would be held immediately following the work hour.

During our mock news conference the professor posed a very thought provoking additional exercise. Not only did we have to perform as one of the three lead roles of the company in a conference with the media, but we also had the opportunity to act as media persons (mainly journalists) while the other groups were performing. This allowed us to think for both sides of the story and better prepared us for the questions we faced during the conference and also the questions we will have to face in the workforce.

Although I was already aware of crisis communications, this exercise taught me the values of time management and fast, critical thinking. With social media being such a huge part of our everyday lives, we no longer have 24 hours to devise a plan for the next days news. We, and all companies in the public eye, must react with great immediacy in all situations to uphold a strong reputation. Even though the spectrum of of crisis control is vast, ranging from inappropriate comments made by CEO’s to horrifying disasters such as 9/11, I have learned that we, as PR professionals, can never be too prepared.

Preparedness is a lesson that I think all companies and organizations should take the time to learn because it can be the difference between success and failure. Many past crises could have been avoided if the companies merely took the time to plan ahead for disastrous possibilities !

Holiday Branding

Over the weekend I found myself noticing more and more holiday advertisements as we near the American Thanksgiving and, of course, Christmas. I absolutely love this time of year and I am also a fan of good television commercials. Over the years I’ve noticed that large chain retailers such as Old Navy and The Gap seem to always have great Christmas commercials. This year is no exception.

This year, the well known department store K-Mart has come out with a very entertaining and seemingly controversial holiday commercial. This commercial, titled “Show your Joe”, promotes the new line of festive Joe Boxer underwear for men. It includes six very attractive men standing behind a white table dressed in what appears to be formal suits until the table is removed and the viewer sees that the men are wearing only festive boxers on their bottom halves. This, however, is not the controversial part. Once the table is removed the favourite holiday song “Jingle Bells” is played by each of the men swinging their shorts to the beat. Here is the commercial itself so you can see why some may view it as inappropriate — > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PVhIMr4ScI

Unknown

Over the weekend, K-Mart has received major backlash from many viewers because of the ‘racy’ commercial. The K-Mart public relations team was no doubt busy as ever this morning as they came to work as the Facebook page was loaded with negative feedback. Some viewers suggested that K-Mart is supposed to be a family friendly department store and should therefore not have commercials containing sexual innuendo. You can check out all the comments on the K-Mart Facebook page here –> https://www.facebook.com/kmart?filter=2

Due to the controversy, the Huffington post contacted K-Mart earlier today and their spokesperson said “The Kmart ‘Show Your Joe’ commercial playfully showcases Joe Boxer’s men’s clothing available at Kmart. We regret if some people found the commercial offensive, as that was not our intent.” I think this was the perfect response when dealing with an international brand. I also think that many viewers need to relax and realize the commercial is meant to be humorous, not overtly sexual.

Personally, I love this commercial and so do all of my friends. This commercial was promoting mens boxers so it was obviously not meant to appeal to children but it was also playful and pretty innocent when compared to other commercials currently on the air. It was clearly targeted toward young adults (men and women) and individuals with a sense of humour. While there are an outstanding amount of negative comments about the commercial from K-Mart customers, there is also positive feedback. K-Mart reps released a statement today saying again that they apologize if the advertisement offended anyone but they do not plan on removing it any time soon.

I say, way to go K-Mart! Those that are offended should check out European commercials if they think the ‘Show your Joe’ ad is offensive. In any rate, thanks to the decision by K-Mart to keep the advertisement on the air, the rest of us may continue to enjoy the commercial throughout the holiday season!

The Holiday Season — When to Start the Celebration

With Thanksgiving and Halloween now over, everyone is getting excited for the main event, Christmas. Over the past week I have overheard some debate about holiday festivities starting so early. Although Christmas isn’t until the end of December and we just finished our first week of November, the Christmas spirit seems to be in full swing. But only for some.

The debate of the early celebration from many is about a day that should never be forgotten. That day is November 11th, Remembrance Day. Many individuals are upset about the Christmas music being played on the radio, Christmas movies and shows aired on TV, and Christmas decorations already appearing before November 11th. Those upset feel as though early Christmas festivities are overshadowing the importance of Remembrance Day and should not begin until after the 11th.

Having several people in my life who are a part of or have been a part of the Canadian Military, I can understand those who feel offended by the early celebrations of Christmas. On the other hand, as a lover of everything Christmas myself, I can also understand those eager to get in to the Christmas spirit.

After thinking about this debate I have decided that the importance of Remembrance Day does need to be fully recognized. We should all take that day to remember and thank those who did and still do so much to protect us and our country. Especially in a country like Canada where we have the freedom to do almost anything we wish. The coined expression ‘lest we forget’ should be remembered.

Although I do love Christmas, starting the festivities on the 12th of November still gives plenty of time for Christmas carols, themed parties, etc.

Tomorrow I will be wearing my red poppy and taking the moment of silence at 11am to remember the sacrifices made by many and to remember why I even have the freedom and opportunity to be writing this blog.

After the 11th I look forward to drinking eggnog while decorating my house in red and green!

For a great Canadian Remembrance Day story, check out this article featured in the National Post –> http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/11/11/a-remembrance-day-with-significance-as-canadian-troops-return-home-from-afghanistan/

Honest Branding

Today, while stumbling through the internet in search of the latest stories, I came across a great website called Ragan’s PR Daily. This site is full of interesting articles from all sides of PR including marketing, social media, media relations, and events.

Anyways, the article that immediately caught my eye this afternoon is about a graphic designer, Clif Dickens, who is experimenting with ‘honest branding’.  He runs a Tumblr account called ‘Honest Slogans’ where he transforms already well-known brand logos and slogans into comical yet accurate descriptions of what the company or product truly delivers to the public.

For example, Dickens took Vicks NyQuil logo and added the slogan ‘slip into a nice coma for a few hours’. He also took the Kool-Aid sign (including the infamous Kool-Aid man) and wrote ‘sugar-water’ at the bottom.

Unknown-1

While clearly accurate in what both products really offer, obviously the act of maintaining brutal honesty is not attainable for brands. This may be the reason the industry of Public Relations often receives a negative view from the general public. It is the job of the PR rep. to bring out the positive aspects of the brand and make it sound good enough to buy. This is why a Kool-Aid advertisement will never have the words ‘sugar-water’ anywhere close.

At the bottom I have attached a link to the article in the PR Daily website and also to Clif Dickens’ Tumblr page. These modified ads are truly fun to look at and I suggest viewing the Tumblr page if your in the mood for a good laugh!

images

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/15478.aspx

http://honestslogans.com/

Thanks for listening! 🙂

Toronto Trip

This past Thursday my Public Relations colleagues and I took a fabulous trip to Toronto. We visited the Edelman Agency, the Blue Jays Care Foundation, and also got in on a taping of the George Stroumboulopoulos Show. It was for sure a busy day but my favourite stop, by far, was visiting and touring Edelman.

Edelman Toronto is just one of the four Edelman offices located in Canada. Along with their contemporary, open-concept office layout, the location of the agency is fantastic. Located in Yorkville in the centre of top shops such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and Co., and Prada (to name a few) the agency’s atmosphere and employees give off an exciting, modern vibe. They work with some of the most prestigious brand names and get involved in so many different aspects of business from technology to public affairs. The Edelman Toronto team includes specialists in Corporate, Technology, Consumer Marketing, Digital, Health, Government Relations, Public Affairs, and Financial Communications.

Along with the endless opportunities to freely explore their own creativity, the Edelman employees also seem to  have a very fun work environment. We were told that each Thursday the office shuts down at 4pm and all employees gather in a common room with food and alcoholic beverages to celebrate their success. It is no wonder that they have earned of of the highest employee satisfaction rates out of all the Edelman offices globally.

Visiting the agency really opened my eyes to all the possibilities I will soon have as a Public Relations professional and it makes me feel as though I made the perfect choice in joining the Communications work field.

Unknown

Attached is a link to the Edelman Toronto website if anyone is interested in learning more about it !

http://www.edelman.com/office/toronto/

Until next time,

Tiffany

The New PR Student

My Hometown

This past week, in one of my classes, we were discussing the region in which we live. The discussion lead to the general consensus that we seldom appreciate our own cities or towns as we live it every day. A fresh outlook can always bring forth the qualities we often overlook. Saying this, after a few days of thinking about my own hometown, Belleville, I have realized some of the really great features that makes this city a great place to live. 

The biggest and most beautiful feature would have to be the water surrounding the Belleville region. The Bay of Quinte is quite a large body of water equipped with waterfront trails, boat launches, and beach and park areas. A few of the biggest events of the year in Belleville are held with the Bay of Quinte in view as it makes for such a beautiful setting. The Canada Day fireworks are set off at Zwick’s Park, which borders the bay. Also, Waterfront Festival, Big Music Fest, and Ribfest are all held at the same venue. Getting to see a vast waterfront everyday may get old for the locals but for me, moving away for 4 years where I did not get to see or be around water much, each time I see the Bay of Quinte I feel happy. 

Another important feature of Belleville is the Bay Bridge. The two best views of Belleville are probably from Meyers Pier and from the top of the Bay Bridge, both looking out onto the water. The Bay Bridge is a landmark that was recently described to me as a gateway into the city, and also into the beautiful Prince Edward County. As a child, each time we got to cross the Bay Bridge I was filled with excitement because I got to see all the boats in the bay, and it usually meant we were driving to Sandbanks beach. 

After doing this exercise of trying to look at my own hometown with fresh eyes I have given myself a more positive outlook on my surroundings. I think that everyone should try doing the same because most of us never really appreciate what we already have.

Image

The Horror of Gramatical Errors

Today, in my Public Relations course, we are discussing the importance of proper grammar in the professional world. On a daily basis I come across small yet cringe-worthy errors that can easily be avoided. I do not, by any means, consider myself a grammar or spelling expert but most times it’s the little things. I was assigned to pick the one grammatical error that really frustrates me and blog about it. Here we go …

When discussing grammatical errors my biggest annoyance is the improper use of ‘to’ and ‘too’. Personally, I do not understand why there is such an issue. The word ‘to’ is a versatile and familiar preposition (I have already used it while writing this blog post). The word ‘too’, on the other hand, is an adverb used for a very specific purpose. An easy way to remember how to use the proper form of ‘to’ or ‘too’ is to replace it with a synonym of the latter. The word ‘too’ can be replaced with words such as ‘additionally’, ‘as well’, ‘likewise’, and many more. If the form of ‘to/too’ cannot be replaced with any of the previous words or their synonyms, the form to use is most likely ‘to’.

There is nothing I hate more than reading an article and the word ‘too’ is used instead of ‘to’. This small mistake gives me a negative impression of not only the sentence in which it was used but a negative impression of the entire article and the author.

In the days of autocorrect and spellcheck many forget to check their grammar!!!