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 State of Social Media in 2015

The social media landscape has become so saturated that communications professionals are struggling to keep up with the latest trends. Facebook sat atop the iron throne for quite some time, Twitter experienced rapid growth during its golden years and life was cozy for the few major players enjoying the view from a relatively quiet social media summit during the mid-2000s.

Fast forward to 2015, and now I have coworkers asking what “a snapchat” is and how “the vine” works. If you so much as blink, you will be swept up in this fast paced social media shit storm. In less than five years, Instagram exploded in popularity and is slowly strangling a competitive field once dominated by its owner (Facebook). YouTube is a video behemoth, and there doesn’t seem to be any website that can rival its superiority. Google owns it, and with their money, resources and creative direction it’s hard to imagine Vimeo or Hulu making any push to challenge the tube. Apps like Vine and Snapchat offer short form video storytelling, and a handful of brands have found success using these tools. From how-to videos on Vine (Lowes) to stop motion animation, it will be interesting to see how brands continue to reach younger audiences and create compelling content. Telling a story in six seconds is an art form in and of itself. I continue to be amazed at the creative process behind the amazing Vines being shared on a daily basis.

The best part is, brands will seek out influencers to create content for them! Every social media platform has its poster boys and girls, and brands are leveraging these influencers to reach new audiences looking for content that is genuine and not coming from the mouth of a money-hungry marketer.

Today’s social media lineup is so deep it feels like a new platform is sprouting up every week. Periscope is an app I’ve been keeping a close eye on. Twitter bought it in March for a cool $100 million, just like it bought out Vine in 2012. I don’t mean to stray off topic, but something tells me that Twitter is struggling to remain relevant. It is a social network that is here to stay, but the decline in the number of monthly active users is little concerning. However, no service can match Twitter in the realm of breaking news. The public controls the message, we’re empowered as our own reporters and news breaks on Twitter before traditional media outlets even have a chance to turn their cameras on. Let’s get back to Periscope. It’s a live video streaming service, and in its infancy it appears to have a lot of potential. Journalists are using it to cover live events and breaking news, politicians and other organizations are live streaming speeches and other notable talks and the general public is live streaming pay-per-view boxing matches and Game of Thrones episodes. What a time to be alive.

LinkedIn is a toss up for most brands, but if anything use it to build your personal brand. Employers want to see that you’re active on social media, and LinkedIn provides an outlet to showcase your career history and accomplishments. Flickr will always be a hub for more professional leaning photographers. It lacks in social where Instagram thrives, but Flickr is not trying to be an Instagram. It’s an image hosting site that has a traditional leaning audience, much like it’s parent company Yahoo. Times changed quickly for companies like AOL, Yahoo and Digg. They lost their competitive edge, their products became obsolete and now they’re playing catch up in a race they had no business competing in.

At the end of the day, it comes down to quality content. Satisfy a need, make someone laugh, make someone cry. Be genuine. Remain transparent, and remember that the audience always comes first. Social media is a part of our culture. It’s our generation’s printing press, and it has revolutionized the world we live in. In my own little world, I’m lucky enough to say that it’s my job.

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.

 

2008 Obama: Where Art Thou?

President Obama Makes Statement On The SequestrationHow quickly things change after a honeymoon period. I was in love with a, no, the man during my freshman year of college in 2008, and I didn’t even follow politics or listen to NPR news. I’ll admit, he knew his target audience which is key to any successful PR campaign. It wasn’t just a political campaign, but a well-calculated, strategic communications plan to win over an impressionable, young and naive demographic.

Obama used, and still uses social media to relate to me and my fellow Gen Y peeps! Social media! Ask any republican in 2008 what social media was and they’d tell you it’s literally socializing with members of the media (media and Fox News are synonymous in this case). In 2008, we had no clue who this striking, young, questionably American man was but one thing was certain. He was not George W. Bush. I liked the idea of Obama more than his actual plan to turn our nation around. Blinded I was by that damn word. Change. Haven’t seen anything from himin a while (Barack is change in this case. Personification is nifty. Nifty is a fun word. I’ll stop).

As a PR man, Barack’s 2008 campaign is a case study that will be talked about for years to come. A brilliantly executed digital plan, Facebook swag is on full attack and Obama is suddenly cooler than Maroon 5 when they were still together. Still together? I choose not to believe. So the campaign is a success, Obama wins and reality hits. The voter high wears off, and what’s next? He’s still the only one smoking, blowing smoke right in our faces because his team successfully used every great PR tactic in the book to influence our ideas, attitudes and beliefs.

Every brand should strive to do the same, but please deliver on your word so you have more to show for your efforts than a busted healthcare launch and the cutest Portuguese Water Dog I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Yahoo Can Keep Buying, But It Won’t Help Their Image Problem

yahoo_purple_large-prvYahoo is vying to stay relevant in this social media centric world, and the company’s recent Tumblr acquisition is proof of their desperate efforts to keep up with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google. So desperate in fact, that since Marissa Mayer’s takeover as Yahoo CEO in July 2012 she’s acquired 11 companies including the $1 billion Tumblr.

While Marissa makes it rain in hopes of getting Yahoo her groove back, she’s failing to realize how far behind Yahoo is in every aspect of contemporary web culture. When I think of Yahoo, AOL comes to mind. They are massive tech companies with the resources needed to make a resurgence, but they missed the window of opportunity to jump on the social media/mobile bandwagon.

I’ll go out on a limb and say the Tumblr takeover was counterproductive at most. It may appeal to advertisers in the short term as far as reaching younger, coveted demographics, but it won’t change the perceptions younger generations have about the company. Brands like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Pinterest, Instagram and Reddit have found their niche and are successfully building their respective brands and users. These companies weren’t afraid to meet the changing digital landscape head-on, and Yahoo’s complacency during this time of rapid change is one of many reasons why they lost their competitive edge.

To ultimately fix this image problem, I’d first avoid making any other $1 billion acquisitions. Embrace the existing and acquired products and services you now have, and focus on improving these products to meet the changing needs of your users. If the products and services you offer are the best they can possibly be, the image problem will eventually fix itself.

Gordon Ramsay Couldn’t Even Save This Failed Bakery Brand

full retardA company’s online reputation is crucial toward building goodwill, trust and loyalty among its customers, but this week one particular restaurant discovered how easy it is to tarnish a brand identity overnight.

Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro took it to a whole new level of crazy earlier this week, and the web had the pleasure of following this embarrassing social media meltdown since it first erupted Monday night. To provide a bit of background, the restaurant is located in Scotsdale, Arizona, and it was recently featured on an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

The two owners, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo, are a dysfunctional duo to say the least. Ramsay tried to salvage this lost cause of an establishment, but even he wasn’t able to tame these two crazies. The episode of Kitchen Nightmares aired in Dec. 2012, and now five months later they’ve made national headlines spurring from multiple social media blunders on social media sites Facebook, Reddit and Yelp.

Online users flooded these sites with negative comments about the restaurant’s unstable owners, sub-par food and questionable business practices, prompting Samy and Amy to respond to the “reddits”, “sinners” and “haters” who were only fueling the fire at this point. It got ugly when the two started sending out threatening Facebook posts with expletives littered throughout. This laughable excuse for a business was trolled hard by the relentless online masses, and the bakery owners did every single thing you should never do when executing an effective social media strategy.

In fact, Forbes compiled a list of six key things you should never do on social media in light of this recent act of social media suicide. If we can take away any piece of advice from this story, I think it would be to never. go. full. retard.

Brands Need to Make a Better Effort to Engage Audiences via Social Media

Two weeks ago, I sent a friendly tweet to the PRWeek twitter account asking if they had any plans to improve the sound quality of their weekly podcasts. Weeks went by with no reply, and my inquiry remained unanswered. I work in an industry that stresses the importance of audience engagement and participation, and as a fan of PRWeek’s insight and content I felt devalued when my simple, one sentence question went unanswered.

Social media transformed the PR industry in many unique ways. Never before have we been able to reach targeted audiences in a space where everyone can share content, ideas and opinions with friends, family and complete strangers. It’s been an absolute game changer within the public relations profession. My experience made me realize that some companies and organizations don’t place enough value on social media and the trust it creates with an audience. It can be time consuming for social media managers to sift through each individual twitter mention and send tailored replies, but going the extra mile ensures people will remain loyal to your brand.

What consumers want more than anything is a sense of belonging and knowing that their voice is being heard. Social media is an effective customer service tool, and it’s often the platforms brands can use to make a good first impression.