Posts Tagged 'social media'

The Perennial PR Problem: Tone-Deaf Companies, Tone-Deaf Messages, Tone-Deaf Workplaces

The long-standing, and often contentious issue of diversity in the media industries (news, PR, advertising, social media, etc.), was raised anew in a recent spate of events. Of course, diversity in these industries, as well as in tech, has long been an issue close to our hearts. We’ve blogged about it, advocated for it, and been adherents to the practices and principles of diversity for a very long time. Yet, as we are frequently reminded, many of our major companies still apparently don’t subscribe to the importance diversity in key parts of the workplace. A few recent examples come to mind … (Mind you, while we do not know for certain that any of these examples are not the creation of “diverse” work teams, you’ll see why we have our suspicions when you examine the evidence.)

First, probably most spectacularly is the video commercial released by Pepsi, quickly tagged the #PepsiKendall ad, featuring top model Kendall Jenner. As you’ve probably already seen or heard, the commercial, although pulled from circulation almost immediately after its release, featured Jenner, abandoning her high-fashion photo shoot and blonde wig to join a passing multiracial, multicultural street protest conveniently passing by. After some lingering glances at an attractive male within the protest group, she quickly circulates through the crowd joining the front lines, where she ostensibly leads the group until they meet up with a line of waiting police officers who, as Stephen Colbert has described them, look every bit “the world’s least intimidating police force.” Bottom line, Kendall hands the cop a Pepsi, they both smile, he looks at the other cops down the line, then drinks the Pepsi while Kendall leads the other protesters in a rousing round of cheers. We’ll stop the action here, but we hope you see the problem. The Internet certainly did.

Within hours, a storm of protests, mocking and mimicry of the ad broke out on social media, causing such a furor that Pepsi pulled the ad and issued an apology—to Kendall Jenner, that is, for “placing her in that position.” For the rest of humanity who were offended and weren’t a paid part of the ad, Pepsi issued this rationalization:

This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey,” they said in a statement.”

And regarding the creative development of the ad, they added this:

The creative showcases a moment of unity, and a point where multiple storylines converge in the final advert. It depicts various groups of people embracing a spontaneous moment, and showcasing Pepsi’s brand rallying cry to ‘Live For Now,’ in an exploration of what that truly means to live life unbounded, unfiltered and uninhibited.”

Where do we begin to unpack what went wrong here? Let’s start by raising the question we first posted in a tweet immediately after we head of the furor:

For us, this ad immediately raised the question of diversity on the team who created it—not to mention the marketing and other pros who approved it. What is it they missed that the rest of the world found immediate outrage in? This, we think, is the saddest part of this debacle: that highly paid professionals in major corporations and professional services agencies couldn’t see the offensive nature of this ad.

Any team member schooled in media stereotypes and commercial (cultural) appropriation–which should be everyone involved in creative development as well as the marketing of brand images–could have advised Pepsi to steer clear of its approach, for the clear reason it appears to trivialize people’s struggles for social justice and human rights. Certainly, we think, most persons of color involved in the creative development and marketing of corporate and brand messages (but perhaps not all), should have foreseen the trouble with this ad; so, our guess is that none played any major role in the creation of the spot. So instead what we got was among the worst demonstrations of what insular, self-perpetuating kinds of privileged and homogeneous teams produce for the rest of us. The ad looks good and paints a “pretty” multiethnic picture, but is completely devoid of any real sensitivity to the often life and death circumstances, struggles and ideologies that drive people to protest in the streets.

The lack of authenticity in any part of the #PepsiKendall ad is antithetical to the very democratization of media and media messages that social media has been so effective in producing in the US and globally.”

Yet, sadly, this misguided advertisement doesn’t stand alone. Not long before, but to much less, but surely well-deserved furor, the Switzerland-based company Nivea quickly dropped its ad touting “White is Purity” for its skin creams. We’ll just let the Internet make our case from here …

And, ironically, the backdrop for all this uproar over media messages and images was the very real-life ongoing saga at Fox News regarding sexual harassment and gender discrimination against its female employees.

Finally, as if to show that no contemporary industry is immune to calculated colorblindness and insensitivity, the fashion industry produced this outrage a short time ago. It’s what we called some of the worst kind of commercial/cultural appropriation, as this remnant from international slavery–a face mask forced upon workers in the fields to prevent them from eating corn and other crops they were being forced to harvest—was re-created as “fashion” for adornment on the runway.

One of the PR lessons that all these corporate affronts, miscalculations and misjudgments tells us is that despite the current “zeitgeist” toward diversity, human rights and social justice that many companies are clamoring to tap into, too many of these companies remain bastions of privilege, homogeneity (in regard to race), and social and cultural isolation. One thing many public relations professionals have understood for decades is that sometimes the greatest challenge or threat to good PR isn’t external, it can be internal, exemplified by tone-deaf companies, tone-deaf work environments, and tone-deaf messages—often with toxic results.

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Exploring the Evolving World of Media, Technology and PR

Alternately as publicists, communications strategists, social media marketers, and general media advocates—in other words, as Public Relations professionals—we’re highly interested in the evolving world of new media, technology, and new methods and distribution channels for reporting. We understand that these developments are an integral part of what we do, and we’re pleased to be actively involved in some of these spaces. In the past few months we spent time away to examine more closely what’s happening in the fields of journalism, media, technology, and therefore public relations. We’re excited to post our first findings here.

Capping our activities, we participated in Illinois Humanities People-Powered Publishing Conference, subtitled “Innovation, Community, and the Future of Journalism.” As it turned out, this conference gave us a national picture of what’s happening in these areas.

A Changing Sense of Audience

To begin with, perhaps in the future, the whole concept of “audience” will change, or even diminish. Hearken, the company behind its namesake community engagement platform for news organizations, describes the audience as all of us, and the relationships we share with others.

audience-silhouette-black-large-panoramic-view-35594276

 

By this view, the “audience” isn’t consumers, or for PR purposes “publics,” sitting out there waiting to engage with us and what we do; the “audience” is our network of friends, associates and even strangers who we interact and engage with in some way on an ongoing basis. Think of it—as a practicing or aspiring journalist, PR person, social marketer, content developer or thought leader, you view yourself as an integral part of whatever community you’re looking to engage with, and not separate from it. Otherwise, you’re missing the point.

Giving and Receiving Feedback

When you’re in almost any business, especially media, PR, journalism and social networking, how we share information and receive feedback is vitally important. There’s a lot of study, development and, in some cases hand-wringing, going on related to how best to share, then receive and process feedback. In the real media world of today, much of that receiving feedback focuses on comments—how to receive them, what to make of them, and how best, or even whether, to respond them. Here’s a peak at how much actual science is going into how individuals are managing daily, or should be managing, such interactions as comments.

____________________________________________________

Are you thinking about two-way conversation and feedback? Important questions:

1) whether comments are allowed;

2) what are the rules/guidelines for commenting and how are they customer-engagementcommunicated or monitored;
3) are comments curated or moderated, and who’s assigned those duties;
4) when we solicit feedback, especially in social media, are we too limited in our range of choices (e.g., like, share, comment, etc.)

_________________________________________________

While we’ve always agreed that it’s not the best judgment to assign digital and social media curation to an intern, as many do, we wondered how much actual forethought organizations are giving to addressing crucial questions like those above, directly tied to audience engagement. It was also exciting to see that one group, the Engaging News Project makes the case for and offers additional feedback tools such as downloadable buttons for Respect, Important, Recommend, etc., for posted content.

Of course, your individual goals, objectives, organizational culture and policies, should guide answers to some of these questions. However, it was great for us as consultants and counsel to re-examine some of these questions to make sure we consider a wider array of options in making recommendations to clients.

Re-Emergence of Civic Journalism

What’s old is new again! Remember back in the 1990s (for those of you old enough to recall) the trend in journalism toward more participatory, collaborative reporting between journalists and community members toward what was considered the greater good. It was called civic journalism, and though the trend fell out of vogue, it never died in some places. With the further decentralizing of the news media, and news reporting capabilities now made possible widely via mobile, social and digital media, there’s a renewed push for more collaborative journalism between news reporters and community members. Be on the watch again for the terms civic journalism and “engaged journalism,” even “public journalism”—all of which speak to what the Democracy Fund, one of the organizations spearheading this media transition, describes as “transforming the relationship between news consumers and news producers.” (Overholser, Democracy Project)

cropped-impact-of-social-media1

Some of the other organizations actively promoting more open and collaborative efforts include The Pew Center for Civic Journalism, which describes itself as “an incubator for civic journalism experiments that enable news organizations  to create and refine better ways of reporting the news to re-engage people in public life”; the Coral Project, dedicated to creating open source tools to further empower news content developers of all sizes; and university-based research centers such as the Engaging News Project, at University of Texas/Austin, mentioned above.

In addition to all of these, there are a number of working models and examples of collaborations between media and community organizations aimed at diversifying news gathering and news content. At People-Powered Publishing, several of those featured included experiments in Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia and Kansas City, to name a few.

Technology

More specifically on the technology front, Mozilla OpenNews, enables peer-to-peer networking and problem-solving by techs, journalists and digital content producers to “help journalism thrive on the open web.” It’s an example of the kind of high-stakes networking, research and development, and collaboration taking place to maximize and support technological developments in the news business.

At behooves all PR pros to at least be aware of these initiatives, and to perhaps look for ways to participate and engage on behalf of their organizations or clients. The news business is changing radically right before our very eyes. It’s important for public relations professionals to be on the cusp of those changes.

New Marketing, New Media, New Public Relations: Why it’s a Great Time to Teach Communications

Communication concept isolated on white

Happy 2016! As we reflected on the lessons learned from the past that guide us into this new year, it dawned on at least one of us what a great time it is to teach communications. New approaches to marketing, new media channels, new public relations techniques all lead to newer business models, so it’s an exciting time to practice and to teach aspiring professionals. As PR pros, we’re enjoying the transition from older methods of practice to new technology and newer standards. And in teaching, we find an exhilarating exchange with students of older wisdoms to newfound truths. With that in mind here’s our list of why we’re not only thankful to be in PR, but equally excited to be teaching communications as a career path for the future.

Revolutionary Changesocial-media

While energy, dynamism, and, in some cases disruption, has always been a characteristic of PR, at no time in recent memory has it occurred as such a tidal wave on so many fronts. Today, changes in branding, images, skill sets, tools and channels is occurring at such a fever pitch, which is why “disruption” is now part of our modern vernacular.

Do-You Style

It would be hard imagining another time when personal style, branding and imprimatur were more celebrated. PR and communications today reflect more individual style, preference and prerogative than the industry has ever afforded. Beyond essential skills and expertise, success today is less the result of a well-worn pattern or formula, than of hard work, energy and verve. Consequently, all manner of creativity is being unleashed—some for good, some otherwise, but the marketplace of ideas will sort it out. For aspiring and practicing pro communicators, the path to a successful career has never been more open to different personas, styles, acumen, knowledge, interests and lifestyles. Consequently, it’s tremendously exhilarating to help developing pros find their own brand and voice.

Evolution of cellphone graphic

Changing Business Models

Change isn’t solely the domain of the communications industries; structural change is occurring daily in our economy and changing business models are rampant throughout the entire business sector—retail, manufacturing, technology, professional services, healthcare, etc. Even the business model for nonprofits is in flux. Communication pros and businesses are experiencing it all together, and pro communicators who take the time to understand and invest in being a part of this new and still emerging economy will be on the cutting edge of future growth.

DiversityDiverse Businesspeople

We take our colleagues at their word that efforts to continue to strengthen all levels of the profession through diversity are not only real, but they’re also a priority. But it’s also exciting to help push and shape the agenda for a world that’s increasingly diverse and for a more diverse profession. We hope to continue to be a part of that continuing drumbeat for diversity inside classrooms as well as in the work-a-day world and professional ranks. Greater diversity is the only honest option for communicators in all media-related professions in a now-global, and increasingly diverse world.

 

Getting “Social”: A Snapshot of CEOs Using Social Media

Our readers no doubt know that we’re a big fan of  CEO-blogging. There’s virtually no reason not to, and there are many, many ways to work around the possible constraints. To make the point about CEOs generating content via blogs and other forms of social media, here’s a relevant reblog from Steve Tappin, Guru and Founder of World Of CEOs, via LinkedIn and his WorldOfCEOs social-mediawebsite.

In this post, Tappin cites [and ranks] the many big execs who are now active on social media [not just blogs] and creating digital content. It’s very insightful and underscores our belief that CEO-posting is relevant and useful in creating an overall company culture, but also in influencing the social climate in which businesses operate.

The graphic below shows a bit of what Tappin and his World of CEOs has found. We’ve copied the top three CEOs listed: Richard Branson, Marissa Mayer and Jeff Klein, but you can view the entire list by following the link at the end.

 

World of CEOS World of CEOs 2 World of CEOs3

Here’s the link to Tappin’s full top 60 list of CEOs using social media:

http://linkd.in/1kiLZK4

And, if you’re interested in more on this topic, below is a link to a nice series of articles from Forbes on corporate marketing on social media. We’ve started with the summary of the 10-part series, from which you can link to each of the 10 articles.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviatemin/2011/08/17/strategy-the-one-do-amidst-the-donts-wrapping-up-the-10-donts-of-corporate-social-media-series/

Check out all of the above, and share this info with your top exec! It’s great for inspiration and as a guide for “how-to.”

Communications Professionals: Are you on the Sidelines of the Social Revolution?

Make no mistake about it , the Internet and social media have changed the way that we do business. If you’re still limiting your expertise to the traditional models (print, broadcast, and even outdoor), and sitting on the sidelines of the 21stCentury communications revolution, you may soon find that you’re about as relevant to modern life as Stonehenge.
Adam Bain of Twitter discusses the company’s impact and users’ best practices.

When it comes to technology, I’m usually what’s called a “late adopter.” I will spurn new developments until the old technology expires or I am blessed to win something new. So I’m amazed to actually be on the front lines when it comes to understanding the marketing technique and implications of social media. However, true to my nature, taking this deep dive into social media and marketing, I pursued it in the manner I usually do—first through formal study (various seminars and workshops leading to SEMPO, Google Adwords courses for certifications)—then through intense application.

Fortunate for me, according to social & experiential media maven Shannon Downey, and others, I’m making the right moves at the right time. “Like any good revolution,” Downey says, “social media has fundamentally changed how we communicate in a very short period of time.” Even more, she says we are still at the beginning of massive changes. “With emerging technologies focusing on geo-targeting, augmented reality and near field communication, there are countless evolutionary developments in communication headed our way.” It’s thrilling, she adds.

Shannon ought to know. She’s the owner of Pivotal Production, a digital marketing agency serving such clients as Chiquita, Northwest Community Hospital and  Woman Made Gallery. She’s also a digital trainer, adjunct faculty at DePaul University, and a blogger for Crain’s Enterprise. She says there’s been an unequivocal shift in society and today’s media landscape. She spends a good deal of her time, she says, training professionals on how to get on board: “My favorite expression is “Evolve or Die”. Marketers that see the potential and opportunity for innovation and embrace it are, and will continue, to thrive. Those that don’t will die off. Those decisions are being made right now, consciously and unconsciously.”

For other late adopters who don’t quite “get” social media, here’s something to keep in mind: Social media isn’t just a social network. It’s a huge marketplace–and marketplace of ideas–where you can market yourself to both a targeted market and global market, at the same time.

Given all that, what can you do? Here’s a few quick tips on how you might get started:

1)      Be creative. Beyond the everyday uses (updates, personal messages, news and professional networking), think of how you can participate in the seemingly boundless communications arena of digital and social media.

2)      Find a niche.  Think about what you love, and how it impacts others. That’s usually a good place to start. Then think of a platform to best express your passion. (Think Pinterest!)

3)      Get started.  Take the leap! Now that the seed of the idea has been planted, nurture it and watch it grow.

4)      Be active. Commit time everyday to participate and communicate with your audience (remember, participating means reviewing and responding). Like working any job, branding on social media is a dynamic, everyday activity. This is not the time to rest on your laurels. Discover your brand, then work it, every single day.


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