Arby’s No Longer Serves Police Officers

arbys_redux_logo_detailArby’s made national headlines this week, and it was not for their delicious curly fries. A Pembroke Pines (Florida) restaurant employee refused to serve a police officer at a drive through, and the Pembroke Pines Police Chief did not take kindly to that news. The chief contacted Arby’s corporate executives directly and demanded an apology. Arby’s issued a public statement and apologized for the employee’s actions, but from a public relations perspective that’s like putting a band-aid on a broken window. Arby’s needs a lesson in crisis communications, and from observing the way they handled this situation it’s clear their public relations team was blindsided by this unexpected event. The online community is threatening to boycott their brand, and the company has done very little to assure customers that the issue is being resolved.

This story has spread like wildfire on social media, and from what I’ve observed the company is being more reactive than proactive with their communications efforts. Arby’s hasn’t made a post on their Facebook page since August 29, and at the very least they could have issued a statement on social media explaining the situation, apologizing and offering ways to alleviate the situation. Was the employee fired? What is being done about it? Why should we ever eat at Arby’s again? The company is keeping the public in the dark when they should be acting as transparent and honest as possible. More proactive steps are necessary to educate and inform the public, but instead they’ve allowed the media and their own customer base to dominate the discussions that are happening across social media. Right now Arby’s is more interested in promoting their new “sliders” on all of their social media channels instead of doing some much needed damage control.

Corporations are not invincible. There comes a time when a brand will come under fire when they least expect it, and a crisis communications plan needs to be in place for trying times like this. The power of the web should not be underestimated. In less than 24 hours the entire nation caught wind of this story. A simple interaction between a fast food worker and a police officer is now threatening to tear apart a well-established brand, and the company expects this to just blow over. The internet never forgets, and with how much cops like fast food Arby’s is also in jeopardy of losing a large percentage of their customers.

“All Cops Eat Free for a Day” would be a simple campaign Arby’s could start to earn back the trust of the public. A simple statement will not cut it. A call to the police chief is not sufficient. This story has legs, and right now it’s outrunning the Arby’s brand in every possible way.

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The News Release is not Dead, but it’s Dying

It’s been over a year since my last entry, but for good reason! I’ve been working as a social media coordinator for almost two years now, building an online brand and reputation that has thrived since my humble start at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in August 2013. A job in social media may sound fun to most since it’s something we all use on a daily basis, but it takes an incredible amount of hard work, dedication, planning and strategy to manage social media for a company or organization. I’ve been fortunate enough to promote the great research being done at the institute via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Instagram, and the most rewarding part of it all is getting to learn about Florida’s natural environment and the many fascinating marine science and research projects happening around the state. I’m learning something new everyday, and the knowledge I’ve gained over the last year and a half is something I never could have never imagined when I first started in this position.

One thing I’ve come to find out while immersed in a social media career is that the media no longer relies on the traditional news release for ideas and story leads. Reporters now have the luxury of scanning social media sites for story ideas, and the PR industry has benefited by reaching the media via different channels. On the institute’s Facebook page, print reporters and local, state and national television news stations track our content on a weekly basis, and our stories have gone viral from news outlets picking them up directly from our social media channels. As our audience has grown larger, we’ve become more aware that the general public is not our only target audience. Technology and the rise of social media has transformed the PR industry for the better, and it’s given us an opportunity to foster trust and good will with not only the public but with members of the media. The news release will always be a staple in our profession, but social media gives PR pros another avenue for reaching reporters at the right time, with the right message and on the right medium.

Social media is here to stay, and public relations professionals need to begin identifying how it can be best leveraged to achieve important communications goals for a client, company or organization.

 

Publicity Does Not Define Public Relations

the oscars
Publicity and public relations do not go hand in hand. As a communications professional it’s easy to make this distinction, but to  the general public it may not be as easy to differentiate the two. The 2014 Oscars are tonight, and while it’s a great event honoring our best and brightest in film, a problem still persists that continues to plague the PR industry, which is suffering from mistaken identity.

To put it lightly, the entertainment industry has belittled the value of public relations. If an actress sleeps with her married director (cough Kristen Stewart) and her reputation is at stake, what are the first words you hear? Public relations. Need to do some damage control? Get the PR person on it, because that’s clearly all we do as PR professionals. Our profession strives for transparency, trust, and a strategic approach to communication. A word like publicity is grouped with public relations so often, that if you don’t study our trade it’s easy to assume public relations is superficial and lacking depth.

Unfortunately we have many forces working against us, with the media as one of the primary culprits. They’ve perpetuated the false idea that public relations is only newsworthy and relevant when a major crisis erupts. Crisis communications is only one of many concentrations that fall under the large umbrella of public relations. Our work is not one-dimensional, but to outsiders I can see why that common misconception is alive and well.

To fix this problem, we must do what we do best. Educate, then persuade the public to maintain a certain point of view about what we really do as communications professionals. We’ve had a difficult time branding this new era of public relations, which isn’t just about manipulating news stories and unethical practices of the early years. Our profession has matured, and it’s time to make an effort to change the negative, uninformed perceptions and attitudes associated with PR.

Weiner Sacrificing his Reputation for a Chance to Become NYC Mayor

anthony-weiner-loses-campaign-manager-suffers-a-brutal-day-on-the-sunday-talk-showsAfter months of ridicule spawning from leaked photos of Anthony Weiner exposing himself to multiple women via Twitter, he’s recently made the decision to continue his New York City mayoral campaign. The man’s got more balls than I do, (see what I did there?) but his choice to stay in the race is unwise on many fronts. He’s surrounded himself with yes men, and he has no business running for mayor with all of this negative publicity affecting his personal and professional life.

His situation is dire. Ultimately it’s his call on whether to ride out the storm or drop out of the race, but at this point he should be more concerned about repairing his severely damaged reputation. Weiner’s dilemma can be compared to a PR firm working with a client in a time of crisis. The client may think they know what’s best as far as goals, strategies and tactics to implement, but a forward-thinking client will take a PR consultant’s advice seriously to eventually agree on an effective crisis communications plan.

Weiner is acting as the client who is disillusioned, uncooperative and stubborn. Dropping out of this race in his eyes would be a blow to his pride, but sometimes you need to swallow that pride and make the selfless decision to cut your losses. If I were his publicist, I would strongly urge him to put the mayoral campaign on hold and focus on stabilizing areas of his life outside of politics. The countless hours he’s spent on the campaign trail could have been better spent improving relations with his wife Huma or attending sessions with a therapist to eliminate his embarrassing problem.

The title of my post says it all. By staying in this race, he’s digging himself into a deeper hole by choosing short-term success over long-term happiness. In order to save his political career, Weiner must take care of personal matters first to show his family, friends, supporters and the voting public that he’s ready to be back in the limelight.

The NFL and its Lingering PR Problem

nflThe National Football League is arguably the most popular sporting league in the world, but it will never reach its full potential unless there’s a concerted effort to rid the league of players who continually damage the NFL’s reputation. Roger Goodell & Co. conduct business as usual with a “too big to fail” mentality, but if they don’t address this pressing issue soon it could lead to damaging consequences for the league and each of its 32 NFL franchises.

Since the Super Bowl in February, 27 active NFL players have been arrested for a number of different crimes. Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is one of those 27, pinned with murder and five related gun charges just two short weeks ago. I thought the Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick incidents would be enough to push the NFL to make drastic changes to its player misconduct policies, but apparently not.

The league’s public relations crisis can be analyzed from a strategic communications perspective. The NFL has a reputation to uphold, and as of now the decision makers have been reactive instead of proactive in combating off-field player misconduct. To salvage the league’s image and restore credibility with the fans, media, and other invested stakeholders, these steps should be taken by the NFL commissioner :

  1. Set an overarching goal that will be the main focus of your efforts. In this case, ” Decrease the number of off-field player incidents.”
  2. Establish strategies, which are the broad approaches you’ll take to achieve the goal. Revising player misconduct policies and enforcing stricter penalties and repercussions are a few good examples.
  3. Identify measurable objectives that will be used to see if the chosen strategies are being met. Banning or suspending players who act out could be an objective that’s easily measured to see if player misconduct decreases due to increased player bans and suspensions.
  4. Tactics need to be implemented to identify the tools you will use to achieve the already set strategies and objectives on a day-to-day basis. Working with the press to get the message out about revised policies and forcing players to seek professional help to fix behavioral issues are a few useful tactics that will aid in achieving long-term goals.

This problem is not going away anytime soon. Regardless of what the NFL decides to do, it’s imperative to take action and communicate goals, strategies, objectives and tactics with those who have a vested interest in the long-term success of the National Football League.

Samuel L. Jackson Uses Reddit as an Effective Public Relations Tool

The legend himself, Samuel L. Jackson, made a visit to Reddit this week in an effort to raise money and awareness for the non-profit Alzheimer’s Association. Jackson encouraged redditors to submit 300-word scripts on his r/movies subreddit post. At the end of the contest, Jackson promised to read the highest upvoted script as a monologue, which can be viewed above.

From a public relations perspective this idea is gold. It’s fun, engaging and gives anyone who wants to participate a chance to hear Samuel L’s iconic voice read their written, stolen or borrowed script. Mashable explained that Jackson also teamed up with Prizeo, an organization that works with celebrities and charities to award donors with the chance to win big prizes. Those who donate as little as $3 to his Prizeo page have a chance to sit down with SLJ in the UK for muthaphukkin’ lunch! (all expenses paid)

He could’ve just went on Reddit to do the typical promotional run like every other celebrity, but he branched out in an effort to connect with the movie nerds at r/movies and the reddit community as a whole. It’s a case study we can all appreciate as public relations practitioners. He identified his target audience, engaged them actively with a flawlessly executed contest and made a call to action asking interested users to donate.

I’ve respected this man as an actor for many years, but this effective display of wit and humor have turned me into a fan for life.

Publicists and Unethical PR Pros Abuse Reddit’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ Feature

FailIf you’re unfamiliar with the popular social news site Reddit, chances are you have no idea what my headline  suggests. For nonusers, Reddit’s functionality is relatively simple. Users post content, whether it be pictures, news articles, memes or gifs, then registered Reddit users have the option of upvoting or downvoting content based on how funny, interesting, creative or relevant each submission may be. The best content on the site will normally acquire a lot of upvotes, which in time will push the best content to the front pages of Reddit. Each post is divided into subreddits, which essentially are categories where similar content is posted. If your post is meant to be funny, (most aren’t) then you would post it to the r/funny subreddit.

Now that we have the nonusers up to speed, I want to bring up an issue within the confines of Reddit that is smearing the reputation of publicists, press agents and the public relations industry as a whole. The subreddit, IAmA, or Ask me Anything, gives Redditors the opportunity to interact with celebrities, thought leaders, musicians and anyone with a great story to tell by asking them questions on a live feed within the subreddit.

A great example that comes to mind is comedian Louie C.K’s recent IAmA, which can be found here. His genuine responses went over well with the Reddit community, and his honesty and integrity with each reply shows how much he values his fans. If used correctly, the platform is a great way to gain exposure by nontraditional means.

But if you ask Morgan Freeman or Woody Harrelson how their appearances on Reddit went, they may have different stories to tell. These men are two excellent actors, but the way they handled their AMAs resulted in a PR shit storm when it was all said and done. Each of their lazy, thoughtless responses to fan’s questions made it seem like a publicist was on the other end churning out bullshit response after bullshit response with genuineness nowhere to be found.

The worst part about it is we will never know if a publicist is acting unethically by doing these AMAs on behalf of the actual celebrity or musician involved. Either way, it’s hurting both parties involved. The actor catches flack for dishonesty and an overall lack of transparency, and the public relations industry suffers because there are publicists out there with terrible morals who ruin it for those of use who work with a sense of integrity.

If we ever want to be respected and trusted as an industry, these practices need to stop. We have a code of ethics for a reason, and it needs to be followed and enforced for the long-term stability of our profession.