Tag Archives: public relations

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PR and Reality v. Money in My Pocket

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Walmart has an image problem. Ask the proverbial passerby and he/she will tell you that Walmart underpays its employees, offers little in the way of job satisfaction and advancement, and functions prominently as a dead end for most retail workers.

The stock market has an image problem. Ask the proverbial passerby and he/she will tell you that the market is geared for the bigger funds and banks, offers little hope of profit for the common man, and functions prominently as a dead end for most people’s retirement funds.

Obamacare has an image problem. Ask the proverbial passerby and he/she will tell you that Obamacare is difficult to access, offers little hope in the way of customer concern, and functions prominently as a dead end for people who have had their insurance terminated.

But at the end of the day who cares? When there’s a killer deal to be had, our scruples and social compunctions suddenly feel a tickle in the throat and find a way to call in sick.

Walmart is obviously the poster boy for these problems. In addition to the negative perception mentioned above, the company is also facing a pending labor strike, a lawsuit for labor violations, and a viral face-plant for collecting holiday food donations for its underpaid workers. And yet, from a business perspective, life couldn’t be rosier. Forbes is reporting that even in the midst of the scandals and problems, this year’s Black Friday is shaping up to be one of the best yet. Offer us cheap goods, and we will beat a path to your door.

Similarly, when stocks trend up, there’s an ever-present sensation across America that we must jump on that bandwagon right now. And once healthcare.gov gets going (if ever), people will follow the states’ leads and jump on the cheap insurance bandwagon. Collectively we’re just suckers for the big deal.

The question is not can it change, but will it? Sadly not anytime soon, and that’s something you can take to the bank.

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The Wonderful Commercial Potential of Negative PR

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There’s bad PR, worse PR, and horrid horrid PR (which can actually work out pretty well).

The PR reporters are foaming at the mouth regarding Red Bull’s recent legal troubles. An $85 million wrongful death lawsuit is being brought against the company claiming that one of their drinks caused a heart attack in a 33 year old Brooklyn man. Red Bull responded with a standard corporate statement that affirmed the safety of their product, as well as its widespread uneventful usage.

Should Red Bull be worried that the adverse publicity could affect sales? In a word: no. If anything, they might even see a boost in their sales. The reason for this is due to the nature of the Red Bull consuming public: generally younger people, often male, who are looking for a “special” boost. This is not a demographic that is concerned for extreme safety issues. Quite the opposite in fact. “You mean this actually dropped somebody?” (appropriately long pause) “Cool.”

This brings to mind Dennis Leary’s epic rant regarding cigarette warning labels.
It doesn’t matter how big the warnings on the cigarettes are; you could have a black pack, with a skull and crossbones on the front, called TUMORS, and smokers would be around the block going, “I can’t wait to get my hands on these f…ing things! I bet ya get a tumor as soon as you light up!”

This notion, attraction from a negative direction, actually has basis in scientific fact. Martin Lindstrom writes about his lab experiments in this area:

A brain-imaging experiment I conducted in 2006 explains why antismoking scare tactics have been so futile. I examined people’s brain activity as they reacted to cigarette warning labels by using functional magnetic resonance imaging, a scanning technique that can show how much oxygen and glucose a particular area of the brain uses while it works, allowing us to observe which specific regions are active at any given time. …the warning labels backfired: they stimulated the nucleus accumbens, sometimes called the craving spot, which lights up on f.M.R.I. whenever a person craves something, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, tobacco or gambling.

In my own experience, I remember once looking on Amazon for an extreme pogo stick to give as a gift. One of the top reviews for the product was clearly written by a marketing pro. It attempted to emulate a teenage boy’s writing style, and it was a laughingly lame attempt. However, the content of the review was actually quite interesting. It focused on how the “reviewer” let one of his “friends” use it and the friend seriously hurt himself. (Of course, this was relayed in a “ha-ha” tone.) The marketing pro who wrote this piece obviously understood that a pogo stick so good it was dangerous would attract a young male market.

For our current imbroglio, Red Bull will most probably be found safe. Millions of cans have been consumed with very little indication of any negative health effects. But hey – a little horrid publicity can’t hurt.

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When Big Red Sees a PR Pickle

icon-42522_640China likes to look good. For real. (As opposed to my dimming the lights, squinting in the mirror, and finding the angle where I look the least like a PR professional.) The present predicament that the country has perceived for itself is that of the Chinese tourist. Specifically, a number of pictures and videos have gone viral that have shown Chinese tourists behaving in ways that are less than optimal. Now, being an American, my covering this story is such a case of “people living in glass houses”, that it’s hard to even continue. That being said, I will allow my American candor (i.e. obnoxiousness) to propel me forward.

Business Insider is reporting that the Chinese government has launched a series of videos aimed at instilling politeness in Chinese tourists. These will run on the government sponsored CCTV, and try to inculcate proper manners while travelling abroad. Apparently, rather than glossing over the problem, the government is actually trying to fix it. However, I would assume that most rational adults (as opposed to squinty eyed PR pros) will be dismissive of the problem to begin with. In which case, the maxim of “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” would certainly apply. Although, maybe my hackles are being raised just at the concept of trying to teach politeness and proper behavior. Having grown up as a Southern chil’ running free, the notion of restraint (and shoes) is somewhat anathema. In fact, if  you want to dip your feet in the water, y’all can come over my way. I won’t post any pictures to Facebook. (Today.)

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The Newer New Rules of New PR Newness

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One of the most frustrating aspects of the contemporary PR scene is the fact that public relations has become inextricably linked with technology. The medium and its viewership is king, and as a result, PR must now keep step with every tech and platform change that rears its pointy head. If we want to take a snapshot in the present, though, this report is a pretty good summary of what PR pros should be focusing on. (Dangling prepositions be damned.)

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The PR President Brings Hollywood Into the Fold

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President Obama, already known for his wily use of the PR machine, is now turning to Hollywood to “educate” the public. Healthcare reform is not the most user friendly of topics, (and it certainly hasn’t been the most popular,) so where does an aspiring history maker turn when he needs to get the message out in a favorable way? To Amy Poehler, Jennifer Hudson, and Kal Penn apparently. While this move may not be good for the country going forward, (cue the Hollywood government in Idiocracy,) it will certainly produce a few delayed yawns in the here and now. “Oh look, Jennifer Hudson! (pause) And she’s talking about healthcare. Hey, what’s on Animal Planet?”

Read more on this story in Variety.