Posts Tagged 'brand public relations'

Cultural Appropriation and Brand Advertisements: What Could Go Wrong?

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For PR folks, the Ford Superbowl LII ad for Dodge pickups raises the issue, if not of diversity, then of extrapolation without context. The ad came under fire almost immediately for using excerpts from one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Drum Major” speeches, under compelling visuals, to promote the pickup brand. While not among the most offensive examples of commercial appropriation, it does raise questions of corporate insensitivity and points to the dangers of perhaps well-intended marketing folks extrapolating information—even for well-intended, though nonetheless brand-promotion purposes—without a full appreciation and context for what’s being used. Let’s examine more closely why this is a good case in point of good intentions backfiring.

Clearly, the focus of the ad is serving—humanity helping humanity at all levels of the human experience. What could be wrong with that? Next point is that the ad was an obvious bow to our nation’s recognition of February as the “official” African-American history month, ergo, the use of Dr. King’s thought-provoking words and speech. The problem with juxtaposing the two ideas into a commercial spot for trucks is more clearly spelled out in this AL.com story originally from the Washington Post. Bottom line, Dr. King goes on in this same speech to talk about the dangersImage result for dr. king public domain of materialism, and particularly uses the purchase of expensive vehicles as an example. The context would surely be a double-edged sword for a commercial message, especially for an automaker.

Many found the ad insensitive, at the least, even without knowing the full context or full speech. The clear lesson for PR, advertising and marketing folks, once again, is before adopting cultural messages and touchstones into brand ads, be sure you understand the full context.

When Did We Start Doing Only “Traditional” Public Relations?

There’s a lot of talk in the PR field about the “death of ‘traditional’ or ‘standard’ PR.” What with new technologies continually exploding on scene, we’re told that the standard tools alone simply won’t cut it. Our question is: When did we start doing only traditional PR?

Collectively, at MediaWorks we’ve been doing PR for almost 30 years. During that time, we’ve written news releases, pitched media stories, created and placed ads, planned and orchestrated special events—including scripting and stage management—updated and managed websites, tweeted and posted other social media updates, shot and uploaded videos to online sites, and even run interference  to mediate a few issues, which, left unattended, would have devolved into a crisis. In our time, we’ve even had to manage a couple of crisis situations. In the course of doing all this, we’ve never considered our work “standard” PR. What is standard PR? When did it become “standard”? When did “standard” PR become out of vogue?

Yes, we’re among the vanguard in accepting that public relations has evolved; but as advocates for our organizations or clients, we never considered, or accepted, that what we do as tactics and techniques is “standard”. The beauty of PR is that it’s as encompassing as the situation requires, or as the client will pay for.

In reality, the public relations skill set and duties have continued to multiply since the 1960s. Perhaps there are PR pros who’ve worked continuously in siloed sectors; maybe they’ve never had to produce a video, train a virtual army of frontline employees, write op-eds and talking points, or negotiate media buys. If so, I don’t believe I’ve ever met them. At MediaWorks, what we’ve always loved about the practice of PR is that it’s so boundless.

Now the world seems (forgive the expression) –atwitter– because learning how to understand, use and measure social media is becoming part of a PR pro’s required toolkit. We think the reality is that most PR folks have been expanding their repertoire of skills to solve problems for decades. Why? Because it’s the way to keep a job, or clients—and the profession demands it!


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