June 26, 2012
by Vianka McConville
Transparency is very important in today’s digital age and ignoring an unpleasant question or situation is never the best answer. Outside of a crisis, it may take a bit longer sometimes to prepare an appropriate response to a question, but it has to happen. As a global company with undeniable exposure to criticism, McDonald’s (specifically McDonald’s Canada) is addressing every last concern with the brand and its products in a novel campaign, “Your Questions.” I came across the website through an Ad Age article including the director of marketing for McDonald’s Canada confronting “Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?” The marketing director introduced the idea of food styling and photography through a helpful video answering the question.
Anyone can ask a question on the website. Other questions include “Why is the food at McDonald’s so cheap?,” “How is it that a McDonald’s burger does not rot?,” “Are your McNuggets really made from crushed chicken bones?” and my personal favorite, “Why are you doing this campaign?” A reader of the website has the option to follow a question if it has not yet been answered by McDonald’s. The reader choosing to follow the question will be contacted via social media when the answer is posted.
As this article adds, it is interesting to see McDonald’s be so upfront and willing to answer its criticisms after years of shying away. As communicators, we have to bite the bullet and work through unpleasant situations to build greater trust in the future.
June 21, 2012
by Roger Pynn
It isn’t the first time … and unless someone does something to reign it in my guess is it won’t be the last.
Retailing giant Walmart has been let down again by a public relations firm … despite the firm’s finger pointing which blames “a junior member of our team who made an immature decision.”
Give me a break. Who at Mercury Public Affairs is going to own up to it? What does her supervisor have to say? As someone who has operated a public relations consulting firm for more than a quarter of a century, I can’t fathom an entry-level employee conceiving of and pulling off something as absurd as posing as a reporter and infiltrating a labor union… much less showing up later on as a client employee.
What’s even more preposterous is that the agency would fire the kid and not her boss.
A Walmart spokesman called the actions “unacceptable, misleading and wrong” and said the company’s “culture of integrity is a constant.”
As someone who spent time in corporate life before starting this firm, I also know that the only way to ensure that your vendors represent your culture is to immerse them in it and hold them as accountable as you hold yourself. We reinforce to our employees all the time that they are an extension of their clients and that everything we do reflects on our clients, as well as ourselves.
The Walmart spokesman went on to say “this individual’s behavior was contrary to our values and the way we do business.” I’d say the same is true for the agency.
June 19, 2012
by Kerry Martin
When a client recently asked our team for recommendations on a valuable clipping service to use, it made me realize that we sometimes take for granted the tools at our disposal for monitoring press coverage of our clients.
It is so important to find out what is being said not only in traditional media such as newspapers and TV programs, but also social media, message boards and other online sources. Whether you pay for a paid clipping service or use Google alerts to send on mentions of clients, you should also include searches that cover the general industry, key figures and even competitors.
Funnily enough, I did glean one more helpful tip for managing the online reputation of a brand from the HBO show Veep: check nicknames, too. On the show, the chief of staff and press secretary have to explain to Vice President Selina Meyer that they monitor numerous nicknames for her including: “Wicked Witch of the West Wing,” “Blunder Woman,” “Selina Meh,” and my personal favorite “Voldemeyer.”
While most of our clients aren’t national or high profile brands, it did give me pause to wonder what might be left out of our reports if we aren’t searching for mislabeled titles, secondary terms and even nicknames.
That’s just one more Google alert to add to the mix.
June 14, 2012
by Roger Pynn
Pity the PR team at Shell. Their brand has been hijacked. Their creative has been stolen. Their message has been distorted. There’s hardly anything they can do about it.
Yes, what Greenpeace claims to have done is clever, but the Arctic Ready spoof they’ve spawned seems to go beyond fair comment. This is what happens in the wild, wild digital west.
Julian Assange hasn’t been in custody because of his leaks. These guys likely won’t be either … unless someone accuses them of other crimes, as with Assange, because there seems to be little corporate or government appetite for fighting people who steal intellectual property these days, or those who smear your reputation.
Assange, who worked on a book on Internet subversion with an academic, was described by his co-author as “quite interested in the concept of ethics, concepts of justice, what governments should and shouldn’t do.”
What do you think? Should there be any protection for the Shells of the world? Have they been wronged? Does disagreeing with a large, well-funded organization give protest groups a free pass to commit assault with a digital weapon?
An equally interesting question would be, given the potential to be mugged this way, how will communicators find safe information highways to deliver their messages if not via the Internet? And, who will own the responsibility for scrubbing every message to prevent it from becoming another victim of intellectual terrorism?
June 11, 2012
by Roger Pynn
Let’s face it … no one likes to hear you say “no.” Children don’t like to be told they can’t have what they want … nor do adults. How you say “no” in business is often critical to reputation and lasting relationships.
The classy people at Brighton Collectibles Inc., where I’ve happily spent a lot of money for the jewelry, wallets and handbags my wife loves, have upped the ante when it comes to saying “no” to job applicants … turning the dreaded rejection letter into a piece of marketing genius.
My wife’s cousin in Houston is an experienced sales rep, and as her daughter prepares to head off to college Susan is getting ready to re-enter the sales game after having taken a break to enjoy all the activities associated with Taylor’s senior year in high school. Also a Brighton fan, she applied for a rep position she saw advertised online.
When a package arrived in the mail from Brighton, it contained a piece of the company’s trendy jewelry and a letter from President Jerry Kohl.
“Thank you so very much for your interest in a career with Brighton. We’d like you to know that we appreciate your desire to make a move to our company,” he said, but at this time they would be considering other candidates.
“How can we ever thank you enough? While we can’t shower you with jewels from head to toe, we’d like to shower you with our heartfelt ‘thank you’s’ and send along a small gift to keep Brighton ‘in sight, and in mind.’ I hope you enjoy the enclosed gift and that every time you look at it, it will remind you just how special you are to us!”
Classy doesn’t even begin to describe this type of relationship marketing. Not only has Susan shared the letter and shown the gift to everyone who’d listen, it inspired her to keep trying. “They have other openings and I’m applying,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want to work for them?”
June 8, 2012
by Kerry Martin
Can NASA’s smartest scientists sell enough cupcakes to make up for the proposed $300 million budget shortfall? Probably not.
But by hosting bake sales, car washes and other events on one Saturday at 20 locations across the country, students, professors and those who hold a stake in the future of the space agency are sending a unified message to lawmakers and drawing national media attention.
This is a great example of a grassroots effort that goes beyond using lobbyists or the traditional letter writing campaign. It gets the issue out in the public and engages the general population to help be a part of the solution, if only for a 75 cent brownie.
While the proceeds from the events are in no way going to come close to the million dollar figure that’s needed, there is more value in the simple gesture of offering up whatever little they have—akin to a child offering up the contents of his piggy bank. To me, these efforts elicit the same kind of sentiment that people hold for the space program itself: optimism and pride.
I encourage you to go out to an event near you tomorrow to show your support or connect with the movement on Facebook. For those of you in the Orlando area, you can stop by the UCF location and get more details here:
June 5, 2012
In accordance with a fellow blog post, I believe today’s younger generation is a lot smarter and more tech savvy than people give it credit for – regardless of social class. Children, teens and young adults are less likely to hold on to traditional methods of communication and freely experiment with new online mediums. While I consider myself a part of this pioneering generation, I was not learning code as a freshman in high school to create a search engine for charity similar to these teens—they created a business! It is very easy to say teens spend useless hours in front of a computer, but practice makes perfect and toiling away with a computer can spark a deep interest in the digital industry with limitless future possibilities. While I am not promoting a disregard for Internet supervision, some children use such access to blur the line between a fun after school activity and innovating industries. In today’s rough economy, employment trends in engineering and information technology are on the rise and the will to fill those spots starts young. Why limit their potential?
June 4, 2012
by Heather Keroes
Do you know what STEM stands for? It’s an acronym our client EA-Tiburon, the Orlando-based EA SPORTS studio, is dedicated to helping you learn. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, important areas of expertise that are critical to filling jobs in fields such as physics and engineering. Believe it or not, game development is also on the list of fields requiring STEM skills, and the folks at EA-Tiburon look for ways to communicate the importance of STEM studies in hopes of encouraging the next generation of game developers.
Among its many STEM-related initiatives, EA-Tiburon has regularly partnered with the Orlando Science Center to meet this mutual goal with the belief that STEM subjects can also be fun and entertaining. For the past two years, the game studio has sponsored and participated in Otronicon, an annual Orlando Science Center celebration of interactive technology.
Working with Curley & Pynn, EA SPORTS provided prizes for a contest at this year’s Otronicon, and the grand prize winner was treated along with his family to a fun and educational tour of the game studio. The Callahan family of Orlando, Fla., was given a sneak peek at how games are created and met with several of the game makers, themselves. There was also plenty of fun to be had, including neat surprises such as a dip in the studio’s ball pit, and, of course, some game time.
The Callahan family enjoys a dip in the ball pit at EA SPORTS’ studio in Orlando, Fla. The game studio features a fun and unique work environment to foster creativity. Pictured: (L-R) Malakai Callahan (age seven), Richard Todd Callahan, Matai Callahan (age 7), Trinity Callahan (age 11), Destiny Callahan (age 8) and Xio Callahan. Photo Credit: EA-Tiburon