Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Share A Coke, Share A Sale

Chances are you've seen Coca Cola's latest initiative, 'Share A Coke', whether it be while grocery shopping or while skimming Instagram. Soda has become a product placed in the category with things people don't necessarily feel good about buying - this puts companies in the niche industry under the same pressure as marketers of both alcohol and cigarettes. Thank you for drinking soda. The communications team at Coca-Cola needed to think outside of the box, and that, meant printing our names on their labels.

(Source: Coke Zone)
Since its release in June 2014, the 'Share A Coke' campaign has been correlated with a 2% increase in Coca Cola, Co.'s carbonated-beverage sales. The company dodged a lot of bullets towards carbonated beverages with this well-executed campaign that made buying the drink and handing it to your friends and family worth it. According to the Wall Street Journal, Coca Cola's soft-drink volumes had been decreasing for the last 11 years, and now increased in August. Over the same period, other companies in the niche industry, like PepsiCo. and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. remained with lower sales.

Here are a few details of the successful campaign :
  • First launched in Australia in 2011
  • Replaced logos on Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero products
  • 250 names were printed
  • General nicknames, like "BFF" and "Sister" were included
  • Most-stocked names: Chris, Jess, Alex
(Source: Coca-Cola)
Coca-Cola's goal was to replace their name with ours. Ultimately, they sought to include their consumers, hoping to reach them personally. Let's not forget, Coca-Cola isn't half bad at playing up our emotions through advertising. Three months until the holiday season and I'm already missing that cute polar bear drinking out of a glass bottle in the middle of winter.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Urban Outfitters: How Far Is Too Far?

On Monday, September 15, online shoppers of UrbanOutfitters.com were shocked to see the store offering customers the chance to buy a “vintage” Kent State University sweatshirt splattered in red coloring, which looked like blood. This sweatshirt is a clear reference to the 1970 campus shootings at Kent State and the school soon released a statement saying they took “great offense” to the promotion and sale of this sweatshirt. Kent State University wasn’t the only outraged audience though.

Angry customers took to social media to express their disbelief at how once again, Urban Outfitters has gone way too far. In addition to the bloodstained appearance of the sweatshirt, it was also priced at $129.00 and there was only one available. While Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne did release an apology, it was defensive in nature, apologizing for those who may have felt “offended” and defended the integrity of Urban Outfitter’s vintage line.

However, in the last several years, this is just one of many Urban Outfitters clothing scandals. A brief timeline includes the following incidents:

2012: Urban Outfitters comes under fire for selling a $100 t-shirt mimicking the design of star patches Jewish people were forced to wear during the Holocaust

2011: Urban Outfitters labels a clothing line and accessories “Navajo”

2010: Urban Outfitters debuts the “Eat Less” t-shirt

2010: Urban Outfitters sells a t-shirt in a color combination labeled “Obama/Black" 

2003: Urban Outfitters angers the African-American community with a Monolopy knock-off titled “Ghettopoly”

Over the years, these incidents have begun to pile-up and as a public relations student, I’ve begun to wonder if perhaps to Urban Outfitters, any publicity is thought of as a good publicity? While us Strategic Communication students learn early on this line of thinking is actually harmful to one’s brand reputation and message, Urban Outfitter’s actions have lead me to strongly believe they think otherwise. While most organizations seek to avoid controversy and utilize crisis communications in the event of a slip-up, it’s an interesting debate onto which side of this spectrum Urban Outfitters seems to fall. Time and time again though, they continue to seemingly provoke public controversy, but one begins to wonder: how far is too far?

As public relations students, what do you believe? Has Urban Outfitters gone too far this time? Let us know in the comments below!  

This guest blog was written by PRowl staff member Rachel Draghi. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Eric Holder's Legacy

Eric Holder, this nation's first African-American Attorney General, announced his resignation earlier this week. However, after six years in the position Holder has been able to do a lot of good for the American people. Here are five acts documenting the legacy that Holder leaves behind (in no particular order).

  • During the recent events in Ferguson, MO, Holder served as the point of contact for the federal response, ordered a civil rights investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, and assembled a team of criminal justice researchers to study racial prejudice in law enforcement. 
  • In regards to terrorism, during his time in office Holder waterboarding (an interrogation method that simulates the sensation of drowning) as a form of torture and ordered a full review of current CIA interrogation efforts.
  • In 2011 he declared that the Justice Department would no longer defend the constitutionality of a 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage in an effort to advance progress for gay couples.
  • He also fought heavily against discriminatory voting restrictions that made it difficult for minorities and poorer citizens to vote, demographics that typically vote Democratic. In North Carolina and Texas, two Republican-controlled legistlatures, Holder challenged restrictions such as cutbacks in voting hours and strict voter-ID policies to allow those demographics a better opportunity to cast their ballots.
  • In relation, many of Holder's efforts went towards civil rights and law enforcement. He worked to ease the disproportionately harsh treatment of African-Americans in the criminal justice system saying it isn't just unacceptable; it is shameful.”
Although not everyone may have agreed with his policies or felt that he failed to act on several other issues during his time, this article is simply to focus on the improvements that were made because of his leadership. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Using the Power of Social Media for Good, Not Evil

Social media platforms frequently get a bad rap for their part in issues like privacy breeches and cyberbullying. Police frequently look to interactions on social media when dealing with stolen identities, harmful hoaxes or even public threats. But recently the Philadelphia Police have Twitter to thank for helping them identify and charge three people in an aggravated assault case. Two weeks ago, a gay couple was violently attacked by a group of 10 to 12 people in what many are calling a hate crime. The victims both suffered serious facial injuries and claim they were targeted because of their sexual orientation.

Police originally released surveillance footage of the assailants in an effort to inform the public. A Twitter user named Greg Bennett posted a photo of a large group of people at an unknown restaurant who looked similarly to those in the surveillance video. That initial post was retweeted by user FanSince09 who received responses from his followers identifying the restaurant. FanSince09 then took to a different social media platform, Facebook. He reviewed the Facebook accounts who had “checked in” at the restaurant and was soon able to identify many of the people in the photo, which he reported to police.

(Source: Twitter)

Philadelphia Police Officer Joe Murray tweeted, “This is what makes my job easy. Sure, it’s up to me to make the arrest but we are all in this together.” Three people have surrendered to police and are being charged with aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.

(Source: Twitter)

The amazing thing about social media is that it connects millions of users over cultural and geographic boundaries, making its uses for good inconceivably infinite. So what does this mean for the future of social media? Will it mean the beginning of Twitter vigilantes? Not likely. Could it start a trend of crowdsourcing investigations? Possibly. It all depends on its users to step up and take action.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Poetic Justice

You could tell there was something special about her, the minute she walked into a room. When she walked into my Tuesday night class, I'll admit, I was falling asleep, head bob and everything, but as she told us about her life of public relations, all thoughts of sleep vanished. I'm not normally one to raise my hand in class more than needed, but the day she was there, I knew I had to, almost as much as I wanted to; to learn everything I could from her. The first thing I had to learn was her name, and then how to stay in contact with her. She, is Meredith Avakian-Hardaway, and she managed in an hour what I'd taken 19 years to figure out: what I wanted to be when I 'grew up.'

It's been a year since that one class, and Meredith's gone above and beyond helping me decide what I wanted to do, she's given me the connections and opportunities to do it. But just who is Meredith Avakian-Hardaway, and what's she done? Well, we could ask her friends. Or her boss. Her colleagues? Or maybe her teachers from when she was in school? Or all of them; all of them eager to talk about Meredith, all of them full of praise, respect, and admiration. Or we could start with the basics of her life. But it's not the basics, or the many awards, distinctions, and honors in her work as a PR professional that she's received, that speaks the most about her, it's the people. I think Meredith's other half, Marques Hardaway, put it best, "Meredith is a kind and generous person, an honorable wife and caring family member. She is intelligent, hard-working, and pursues her goals with enthusiasm. Her experiences in life have molded her to be strong, yet compassionate. I am in constant admiration of her professional achievements, and in awe of her personal growth."

Before writing this piece, I reached out to some key people for a few lines or sentences about Meredith, but what I got back was staggering in its positivity towards her. What started as a 'few' people became a lot of people, indicating just how impactful Meredith has been. I started with her boss, Mark A. Tarasiewicz, Executive Director at the Philadelphia Bar Association and Philadelphia Public Relations Association Hall of Famer, and from him got in touch with MANY more people. Mark told me that "her arrival as Director of Communications and Marketing for the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association in January 2014 required her to become a quick study on the intricacies of the city's legal community and justice system. She met this challenge head-on by immediately extending herself as a resource to the Association's leadership and hundreds of committee, section, and division lawyer-volunteers. With her own lifelong passion for justice, Meredith maintains it was destiny that brought her to the Philadelphia Bar Association." Not only does Meredith dedicate her time to furthering the PR profession as a whole, but she also works for justice for Armenia and Armenian refugees, AND has managed to write 2 books of poetry. "Meredith Avakian-Hardaway has spoken to many of my Temple and Drexel classes, and she has a wonderful interaction with my students--they always love meeting and learning from her," Rosemary Rys, friend and colleague to Meredith, told me. "I was always amazed back then at how she could be the perfect corporate DuPont executive during the day, but then let her hair down (literally!) after work, reinsert her diamond nose piercing, and get out that hookah, bake baklava, or do any of her many Armenian skills. A very talented poet, her on-target, often tongue-in-cheek poems truly resonate with my students and everyone else."

Of all PR alumni of Temple, Meredith is known most notably to current PR students as the one that turned our PRSSA chapter around and prevented it from dying. Our very own professor Gregg Feistman said about Meredith: "It was apparent from the very beginning Meredith was a star-in-the-making. Her smarts, ambition, and drive were evident in the way she viewed her leadership role as President of Temple's PRSSA. As faculty advisor, I always knew I had to do my homework before I met with Meredith to discuss PRSSA chapter business, because she had done hers."

Meredith Avakian-Hardaway will be receiving the Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Rising Star Award, at the Lew Klein Awards Luncheon at Temple University, on September 26, and everyone who knows her could not be more proud and supportive. Meredith, there are so many people who've congratulated you; who are going to congratulate you, that this post could go on for miles. Instead, read on for some heartfelt words.

"We are especially proud of Meredith as she carries forward the Temple tradition of excellence through her role at the Bar Association, and we congratulate her for her well-deserved honor as the 2014 recipient of the Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Rising Star Award."
- Mark A. Tarasiewicz, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

"I want to congratulate Meredith on this prestigious award, I'm sure it's a precursor to many more. It's always a pleasure working together, she's a consummate professional and has helped me frame my responses to many different issues and events."
- William P. Fedullo, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

"Outstanding work Meredith, congratulations from me and the Bar Association. We look forward to more of your timeless dedication and commitment to the Bar and the justice system in the future."
- Albert S. Dandridge III, Chancellor-Elect of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

"I can't think of anyone in public relations who deserves the Rising Star prize at the Lew Klein awards more than Meredith does."
- Lisette Bralow, Philadelphia Public Relations Association President.

"Meredith is not only a wonderful public relations executive and role model, she is also someone I am honored to call a friend."
- Gina F. Rubel, Esq. President/CEO Furia Rubel Communications.

"I'm very proud to be her friend and colleague!!! A very big congratulations on receiving the Lew Klein Rising Star award, and thank you for all the classes you've spoken in and will speak in!"
- Rosemary E. Rys, Professor at Temple and Drexel Universities, colleague and friend.

"It's no surprise to see how successful Meredith has been in her career. I can't wait to see what she does next. Look out world!"
- Gregg C. Feistman, Professor at Temple University, PRowl and PRSSA Advisor.

"Meredith is the ultimate go-getter, often juggling multiple responsibilities including work, PPRA and personal projects, including publishing books of poetry. I'm constantly in awe of her determination and drive. There is no one more deserving of this prestigious award. Congratulations Meredith!"
- Jessica Lawlor, Philadelphia Public Relations Association Vice President of Membership.

"Meredith is well deserving of her Lew Klein Alumni in the Media 'Rising Star' honors, and of the many more symbols of recognition and gratitude yet to come her way."
- Christopher Lukach, President at Anne Klein Communications Group

"Meredith, your arrival at the Philadelphia Bar Association in January was the best thing that ever happened to us. Your success is our success, and we wish you a lot more of it!"
- Paul Kazaras and Naomi McLaurin, Philadelphia Bar Association, dear friends.

"We (her family) are honored by her having been selected to receive this latest award, and are humbled by all of the work and patience that is at the root of her achievements."
- Marques Hardaway, loving husband.

"The first time we met, I remember wondering how someone could do so much good work in so little time. Working with you now still hasn't enabled me to figure out your secret, even seeing you find so much time to teach me the workings of the world of PR. You always surprise me with your thoughtfulness; those sandwiches you told me about have been all I've eaten the last 2 days. There's nobody more deserving, and I look forward to seeing where you take your career next!"
- Faiz M. Mandviwalla, proud intern, mentee, and author of this post.

Congratulations, Meredith!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Know Current Events: Political Satire

In order to understand the public, you must have a stable comprehension of what is going on in the news and what is currently surrounding the public. Current events are important in understanding the public's placement in emotional, financial, and sociocultural environments; this way you can strategize ways to approach your target audiences with this background information.

Soft news is one trending way that people are receiving their news. Soft news would be described as something that's main purpose is to entertain, while providing news on human interest topics, such as disaster and scandal, according to Matthew A. Baum in the American Political Science Review. Currently, there are a lot of news-broadcaster-types providing soft news every night. Here's a breakdown of three you've probably heard of, and may want to check out:

Jon Stewart (host of The Daily Show) Mon-Fri @ 11PM EST on Comedy Central 
Jon Stewart has always been the "funny guy", but since 1999 when he increased the ratings for The Daily Show by 400%, his humor really took off with a whole new purpose. Jon Stewart reports the news to you with a sarcastic attitude, one that makes it very clear which side he's on of any story. BUT it's okay! Because through his platform, he can get away with reporting in such a way that hard news outlets never could.

Book: America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart & The Daily Show writers
(Source : The New York Times)
Stephen Colbert (host of The Colbert Report) Mon-Fri @ 11:30PM EST on Comedy Central
A spin-off of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report uses satire to explain, well, everything. More specifically, it's more likely to comment on the conservative. You can think of Stephen Colbert as somewhat of a "fake" anchorman.

Book find: I AM America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
(Source: zap2it)
John Oliver (host of Last Week Tonight) Sundays @ 11PM EST on HBO
Last Week Tonight comes on once a week in both the U.S. and the U.K. With a host with such a loud personality as John Oliver's, this show has a following weekly that matches the tastes of other satirical news shows, like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. John Oliver reports on general current events over a longer span of time.
(Source: Sesame Workshop)

Monday, September 22, 2014

NBC News Gaffe

For those who don't know, Chris Christie is the current governor of New Jersey. While technically a Republican, Christie crosses party lines enough to be the governor of a historically democrat voting state, and to have the support of most of it's residents. However, last year we first heard about what's now known as the 'Bridgegate' scandal, wherein Christie surrogates purportedly orchestrated the closing of 2 lanes on the George Washington bridge because the mayor of that county didn't support Christie's reelection bid. I believe that Christie is innocent in this scandal, but there are always some who'll take any opportunity to slander those in power. Christie is also considered a serious contender for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016, so anything newsworthy about him, especially this scandal, is very controversial to report on. With all controversial issues, it's absolutely critical to get all the facts right, which NBC news failed to do last Thursday, the 18th of September.

In their nightly newscast, anchor Brian Williams said that "federal charges are now ruled out for Chris Christie in the affair that came to be known as 'Bridgegate.'" Federal prosecutors say that the investigation is still ongoing, and that while there is currently no incriminating evidence linking Christie with the scandal, charges have not yet been ruled out. A serious gaffe, to be sure, but NBC chose the right response and quickly admitted the mistake. Had NBC ignored or denied their mistake in reporting, the consequences could have been serious, such as a decline in viewer's trust of the network. By owning up to their mistake and sticking to the truth, NBC has shown that they are a network that can be trusted; that even when they make mistakes, which is a trait of all humans, they can be trusted to fix them. The way NBC handled the situation should be a lesson in honesty; that the truth always works.

Here's a link to the full article about it: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/09/19/christie-george-washington-bridge-closure-report/15885679/

What do you think about NBC's mistake and how they handled it? We'd love to hear from you in the comments.