Think before you tweet

04/04/2012 § Leave a comment

Social Media Infographic from

Social networking services have practically become a necessity when it comes to the public relations world (and just the modern world in general). Twitter, a micro-blogging service with real-time features, has become one of the top social media sites of this technologically advanced day and age. The iconic, blue bird (endearingly named Larry) and the 140 character limit messages called “Tweets” are becoming all the rage. Twitter was first created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey, and now has over 300 million users, generates 300 million tweets and handles more than 1.6 billion search queries every day.

Although Twitter can be used for personal pleasure to catch up and stay connected to the latest stories, ideas and opinions of friends, opinion leaders and the like, this large social media platform has grown to something much more. Large corporations and businesses have jumped onto the Twitter bandwagon to promote events and even lets customers stay connected to the happenings of the business. Even Twitter promotes the usage on the about page,

“Twitter connects businesses to customers in real time—and businesses use Twitter to quickly share information with people interested in their products and services, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and influencers. From brand lift to CRM to direct sales, Twitter offers businesses an easy way to reach an engaged audience.”

However, just because a lot of businesses are making accounts to connect with already existing customers and to establish a relationship with new followers, there are certain guidelines and rules that every corporation should follow in order to make a successful social media campaign on such a large platform such as Twitter.

  1. Let your followers participate. Businesses should be regularly active, and a great way to do this is to make the campaign engaging. Uniqlo, a large Japanese clothing retailer, launched the Lucky Line to celebrate the 26th birthday in 2010. Every 26th user who “joined” the Line would receive a gift card worth ¥1,000. The amazing part? Uniqlo managed to be a top trend for two consecutive days.
  2. Listen to your followers and be accessible. If questions are directed in a Tweet, the business should take the time to answer the person rather than ignoring it. Ignoring will lead to bad relations (and isn’t a good relationship the whole point of public relations?), angry tweeting, and most likely an unfollow. Oliver Peoples, who specializes in unique, designer sunglasses and prescription glasses, does a magnificent job at interacting with followers. Oliver Peoples has a habit of retweeting real-time Tweets made from people all around the globe and takes the time to answer customer questions in a quick fashion. On top of that, Oliver Peoples keeps customers and followers up to date with upcoming trends by Tweeting with photos! This makes the business more reachable and friendly while keeping followers intrigued to create a balanced relationship between customer and seller. Here’s a personal example:

    Oliver Peoples interactions

    Oliver Peoples interacts with me personally

  3. Don’t hashtag in excess and know when to use them. A quick and easy way to be on the radar is the usage of hashtags on Twitter because these usually become top trends, which are featured on everyone’s homepage. One campaign that ended terribly was McDonald’s attempts at letting Twitter users share memorable moments of the fast food chain by having the hashtag “#McDStories” in the Tweet. However, what ended up happening was a onslaught of stories of bad service and horrible food. Rick Wion, the social media director for McDonald’s, said it was promoted for less than two hours because of the negative backlash. Let’s not have a #hashtagfail here, businesses.

Despite the negative attention McDonald’s received because of the hashtag, McDonald’s did the right thing in quickly putting an end to the “#McDStories” hashtag. A way to do this is by deleting all of the Tweets that were connected to the disaster. A good thing about this is that retweets are also instantly deleted, too, which corporations will find most helpful (well, as long as the retweet button was used). Afterward, the business should issue an apology via Twitter to all followers for the mishaps.

Before any business decides to make a Twitter, it is important for the corporation to decide exactly why it’s being made. “Everyone has one so we should, too,” is not a legitimate reason and will surely end in failure. Have an agenda, be transparent and keep followers in mind.

Unplanned Parenthood backlash

03/07/2012 § Leave a comment

Photo found on Fast Company website

Known for the symbolic pink ribbons and Race for the Cure, Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the most renown and largest breast cancer organization in the United States. Yet the once highly praised and upstanding organization has been under massive attack lately. Such anger has been directed toward Komen for halting all grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates, because of the new guidelines that prohibit it from funding other organizations under congressional investigation. For the past five years, Komen has been funneling money into Planned Parenthood in order to pay for over 170,000 clinical breast exams and mammogram referrals.

Despite the lack of funding from Susan G. Komen, donations started pouring in to Planned Parenthood. A total of $650,000 was contributed, which practically made up for all of the funding the non-profit organization wouldn’t receive.

On February 3, 2012, Nancy Brinker, the president and founder of Susan G. Komen, quickly apologized for cutting the funds for Planned Parenthood and promised to reverse the decision. What stood out must throughout the speech was Brinker’s assertion that this was not a political move.

“We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.”

Nancy Brinker

Many have said this Susan G. Komen debacle has made the organization suffer greatly, especially on a public relations level. In hopes of maintaining the organization’s previous image, the crisis strategy that Komen used was excuse where the “crisis manager minimizes organizational responsibility by denying intent to do harm and/or claiming inability to control the events that triggered the crisis.”

It has been repeated numerous times from Susan G. Komen that the plan to cut funding from Planned Parenthood was not a political move (it’s excuse); however, the entire reason why that plan was set into motion was because of a recent policy change that prohibited it from funding organizations that are under investigation. Furthermore, the organization has been under pressure for many years now to cut these grants to Planned Parenthood from multiple anti-abortion groups. The foundation also hired Karen Handel, a former Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate who is against Planned Parenthood, as vice president for public policy. However, once the entire Planned Parenthood disaster occurred, Handel quickly resigned from the position. In an interview, Handel even admitted to playing a role in defunding the non-profit organization. Not only that, but a handful of board members also left once funds were cut.

However, more research shows that Susan G. Komen currently funds at least $7.5 million to cancer research at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Although that may sound rather heartwarming, the problem is that Komen would be breaking its new policy, considering the fact that Penn State is currently under federal investigation over the recent sex scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Considering all of the evidence that worked against Komen’s excuse, I do not believe that this particular crisis strategy was the right. The media has picked up on every single detail of Komen’s move that has led the organization to cut funding from Planned Parenthood, such as hiring a Republican who was completely against Planned Parenthood. I think a better method for Susan G. Komen was both apology and compensation. Although Komen did apologize, the organization should have played more on that part of the crisis management rather than focusing on the accusations of it being a political move. Denial only leads to more people believing politics was the cause.

Pirates don’t belong on the Internet

01/26/2012 § Leave a comment

AP photo found on

The hot topic that’s been causing quite the stir, especially on the Internet, is the two bills that are making its way toward Congress. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA’s (Protect Intellectual Property Act) main focuses are to crack down on copyright infringement and would allow the US government to restrict access to websites that contained pirated matters. Anything ranging from blogs to search engines would be affected by these two bills.

The two opposing sides are Silicon Valley and Hollywood. While Silicon Valley fear these two bills, demonstrated by Google’s petition and Wikipedia’s blackout, Hollywood and the music industry believes the policy to be fair. A total of 145 companies and organizations lobbied the House of Representatives for and against SOPA, and 157 groups lobbied the Senate for and against PIPA, the sister bill. One of the biggest supporters is Comcast. The company has spent over $5 million on lobbying for the bills. In contrast, Google spent $4 million on lobbying against the bills. Who has the upper hand?

In order for SOPA and PIPA to become legitimate, it is consequential for the public relations practitioners to present the information in favor of Hollywood and the entire music industry. The first important thing is to figure out the targeted publics. Two of the most important publics in this issue are Congress members and college students. Congress members are the ones who will be voting on the bill, and the collective college student body, who are the ones that spend the majority of their time on the Internet and have no qualms rallying against these acts, need to understand why SOPA and PIPA are important in this technologically modern era.

However, these two publics are very much different and would need completely different approaches. It’s easy to generalize these two different groups. While one is primarily made of politically driven and middle-aged men, the other is made of an eclectic mix of youth who are very much used to the unlimited resources provided by the Internet and stripping them of such access would cause quite the backlash. Information would have to be presented in a way that would grab the intended audience’s attention and to keep it, especially with the way attention spans seem to be decreasing every day. If not that, then at least try to make both understand Hollywood’s standpoint.

Although public relations, advertising and marketing can sometimes overlap and entwine each other, even making it hard to differentiate between the three, the best method is to stick with public relations. With an important public being Congress members, lobbying, a form of public relations, is the closest thing to getting these Capitol Hill dwellers to see why PIPA and SOPA are good ideas.

“… The role of a lobbyist is to influence legislators, using the art of persuasion, on behalf of an organization’s point of view on various issues. Lobbyists aim to influence the policy making of the institutions to produce policies and legislation that are beneficial to their employers.”

Marissa Sudol, PRowl Public Relations staff member

Public relations practitioners can do the job better than advertising or marketing employers, because most are already well-trained in the business of persuasion, which is a necessity when it comes to winning this fight.