Thursday, May 3, 2007

a publicist's worst nightmare, well, maybe

Did anyone catch Paula Abdul on QVC last week? It was Friday, I believe, when she touted her wares on the shop-at-home-extravaganza channel and sounded like a complete lunatic. You have to check out the MSN video so you can watch her total and utter inability to complete thought. I wonder if her back pain medication is set at too a high a dosage. Normal people can find their nouns most of the time. At any rate, she does seem like she is struggling with something, and I hope she gets some help.

However, if she does just enjoy acting ridiculous, why not go for cooky or eccentric rather than substance abusive? To me, that doesn't seem like the image a major celebrity should shoot for. I've heard the conspiracy theory that the American Idol producers want Paula to act like this to fuel the rumor mill and drive up ratings. Yeah, maybe, but honestly you can't fake crazy like that and make it so consistent.

Did you catch the quote by her PR rep (Howard Bragman in case you were wondering), "Paula had a great time and sold a lot of beautiful merchandise." Way to evade the question Howard. But honestly, I think I might have done the same thing. If she is struggling with substance abuse, then it's her rep's job to protect her privacy and personal medical information. As a PR rep you also need to control when and how the message is released about your client's substance abuse problem and recovery if he or she is going through that. There's a very delicate way that information like that needs to be handled.

At the same time, how do you reign in the crazy? I mean, it's your job to look out for your client's image. You can't be with them every second of the day when they're out and about having contact with the other humans. And those seem to be the times when they cause the most damage.

This is why I could never be a personal PR rep. I can't deal with the crazy. I would lose my mind trying to come up with a way to fix their weird problems. My first reaction would be something along the lines of, "Why again am I digging you out of this hole that you dug for yourself? The fact that it's my job is no longer a good enough reason." It's not to say that I don't have sympathy, it's just celebrities do some really stupid things sometimes. If Britney Spears hasn't run her rep off yet, he or she must have gone into voluntary hiding by now.

Someone has to be there to put them back together, and I applaud people who have the sanity to do it for a living. Besides, no celebrity would want me to be their rep because I would never let them leave the house. That's how I would reign in the crazy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

jimmy buffet- i should get into music pr

I went to the Jimmy Buffet concert last Wednesday, and it was amazing!!! As a lifelong Parrothead, I was ecstatic to finally get to see Jimmy live! It made me think that I should really consider a career in concert promotions. I think there could be some exciting perks associated with a musical PR career.

I must confess that I know absolutely nothing about music PR, but I really would like to find out more information. I'm sure some of the disadvantages include really long, crazy hours and a million little things to get done to contribute to the big main event. At the same time, I bet you can get some pretty fabulous tickets to some pretty incredible shows.

This is one of the things that I love most about PR- all the niches. There really is something for everyone. You can work in the music industry, you can do sports PR, and even health care to name a few. I know so many practitioners who are attracted to the health care field because they feel like they get to serve others and improve the quality of other's lives while doing something they love.

Of course there's also the fashion industry, a love of mine, where I bet a supply closet lurks filled with amazing product samples (or at least I dream it does). We can't overlook government and corporate PR as well, however droll they seem to me. I prefer agency world, but I understand the appeal of corporate PR. You can really put your heart and soul into the company and feel like you are making a difference in something you believe in. I think that same sentiment applies to nonprofits public relations as well.

With all that in mind, I assembled a quick list of few blogs I found interesting in some fields. Hopefully you will find them insightful as well.

For sports PR: Sport's PR and Marketing Ramblings from Joshua Milne and Karen's Public Relations Blog
For fashion: PR Couture
For nonprofit:

Saturday, April 28, 2007

finally! i can catch my breath!

Well, it's all over. We pitched the client Monday. We turned in the campaign book. PR campaigns is over. Let me just breathe a huge sigh of relief. In case you were wondering, I turned the 12 page Spanish paper in and took the mass communication law test this week. I still have the 400- page Spanish novel to attack, but that seems manageable now.

I love that feeling you get in PR when all of your hard work pays off. After an entire weekend spent finalizing our campaign book and rehearsing our presentation, we were thrilled to see it all culminate into an excellent client pitch. To me, this is one of the most rewarding aspects of PR. You get to see the results of your efforts.

I'm in a class this semester that helps students choose a major and/or a career. (I know, as a senior shouldn't I have already picked a career, not to mention a major? It's a little late in the game to change my mind. It's a long story how I got there, but it wasn't a complete waste of time.) In this career planning class, we took about seven personality assessments. We even assessed our assessments sometimes. What I gleaned from all these tests was that my personality is completely perfect for PR. I also discovered that my work values sync up with what PR has to offer. One of my work values was recognition, and completing our PR campaign certainly brought that.

PR is by all means a collaborative effort, and my campaigns team is by far and away the best team I've ever worked with in college. Everyone contributed ad shouldered the work load together. Even more than that though, I have never met a group of people randomly assigned to one another who got along so well together. It's like our personalities just clicked. We all like being together.

To me, this social aspect of PR is what drew me to it. I didn't want to stuck in a back corner cubicle writing copy. I want to work with people. Especially if the team is as great as this one!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

american idol anyone? that was some great pr!

Did anyone watch American Idol tonight? That was some great PR! This Idol Gives Back fundraiser is a major image boost for everyone involved. Ford, Coca-Cola and AT&T look smarter by the show for jumping on board. And let's not forget Exxon Mobile and News Corporation (but that one was sort of a given) with their contributions.

This fundraiser is great because it not only helps underprivileged children in Africa and here in the U.S., but it gets the word out about the hunger issue. Check out the videos about Idol Gives Back, which to a great job of communicating this issue. It tickles my PR instincts to see them focus so much on awareness of the issue. This obviously needs to happen because when most Americans think of people who don't get enough to eat, we immediately picture people in third world countries, but rarely our own. This campaign is going to do a world of good for informing people about hunger and homelessness problems for children in America.

Using American Idol as a platform benefits everyone involved. People are more aware of the hunger problem and how they can help solve it. Corporate America gets involved and demonstrates social responsibility, which improves the public's image of these companies. American Idol gets lots of celebrities involved and attracts a huge viewing audience which means higher ratings for the network and higher prices charged for ad spots so profits increase. Advertisers get their message out to a huge audience. And most of all: people in need, especially children, get the help they deserve.

Kudos American Idol to a job well done!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

hectic shcdules, a pr person's life

My schedule has been so hectic lately that I count myself lucky if I even have a chance to sleep and eat every day. I have so much work due, it's not even funny. I feel compelled to list all of my assignments, just to fill everyone in. I have to read a 400 page Spanish novel, write a 12 to 15 page literary analysis of a Spanish play (in Spanish of course), a put together a 200-something page PR campaigns book, rehearse a client presentation for Monday, study for a mass communication law test, study for a Food Science test and look for a place to live after graduation.

This is nothing new, PR is a busy, fast-paced career, no matter what industry or sector you're in. Especially if you work at an agency, however, it's best if you don't mind it. It's also a good thing that I don't mind the craziness. Not to say that I enjoy having no life, I think it's more that I am used to this type of schedule. If you look at my calendar, every day is covered with reminders and due dates, but I guess I wouldn't have it any other way.

This bodes well for me going into agency work, since it's pretty much a mile a minute there. While some people consider this a disadvantage of agency work, to me it's exciting. Life's never dull and you always face a new challenge to tackle.

While it can be stressful at times, it's usually not more than you can handle. Which is what my current life schedule is like right now. Overwhelming.

My point here: I'm sure I can hit the ground running when I start working at an agency after graduation.

Friday, April 13, 2007

it's time for some good pr

It seems like my recent posts have been on the, er, more critical side, so for a change I'm switching to looking at a company who's doing PR the right way- Ford Motor Company. You've probably caught some of their new ads on TV and American Idol. Personally, I think those American Idol music video ads are a stroke of genius.

Here's what Ford realized: the age of the gas guzzling SUV is over. Baby boomers who were buying and driving those vehicle, some as a status symbol at the time, have switched to smaller more fuel efficient luxury SUVs or fuel efficient cars, luxury or otherwise. Some no longer need the big SUVs because their kids grew up and moved out. Ford also realized they were losing their market share to Toyota and its highly economical, well-built vehicles.

So Ford stepped it up a notch and came out with an amazing PR campaign. I love the "BoldMoves" theme of the ads. If you think back a little bit, you'll recall the premier ad for this new series showing a 16-year-old getting her first car, a Ford Mustang her dad just bought for her.

Since Ford realized the market was changing, they re-branded and launched a new campaign targeting a younger generation. Great strategy- get them to buy a Ford when they're young and build some brand loyalty. Mustangs have always been cool to us young people, and we love innovative, high tech new vehicles like the crossover Edge. I love the commercial for it- catchy music and a clever, innovative connection between the crossover's name and where its driving, which is up and down the edges of city buildings.

Partnering with American Idol keeps their name in the forefront of young consumers' minds as well. Seeing the Top 8, 9 or 10 Idols in an entertaining music video featuring the Ford Edge, Mustang, Fusion and Hybrid Escape is an amazing platform to market these new vehicle to young people, to whom these vehicles have tremendous appeal. Ford has definitely gone about this campaign the right way. They stepped out and took a risk, and I think they've done a supremely successful job.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

if i was doing pr for menu foods...

I saw an article on the MSN homepage today that calls me to take another look at the Menu Foods pet food recall debacle. Talk about a company going down like a sinking ship. In the complete and total absence of any communication efforts from Menu Foods, I have come up with some potential PR moves that Menu Foods would really benefit from.

1. First of all, why in the heck are tainted foods still on store shelves? If the pet food industry is as heavily regulated as the Pet Food Institute claims, why is there no action plan for immediate removal of tainted products?

My PR suggestion: This really needed to be something prepared ahead of time as part of a crisis plan, but since it wasn't, let's turn it around and use it as for our advantage. Create a contact list of every supplier carrying your pet food products with a direct contact line (i.e.- a phone number) to a department manager or other sales associate who would be immediately responsible for removing harmful items the minute they receive the call. Since we know a list like this doesn't exist, publicize the fact that your making one. This can help restore consumers' trust in the company and demonstrate that this incident has not been taken lightly by company executives.

2. Second, all of this lying low by Menu Foods does NOT improve their image in the eyes of consumers and the media. It just makes them look guilty. As you see towards the bottom of the article, Menu Foods declined to attend a hearing by the FDA.

My PR suggestion: Hiding looks bad. Accepting responsibility and facing the public looks good. Get out there and apologize. It is YOUR fault that people lost their beloved pets. Hire a spokesperson, an expert in the animal field that the public can trust. Hold press conferences where the spokesperson gives weekly or daily updates on the situation. Have the spokesperson show up at events like the FDA hearing and speak on behalf of the company.

3. Third, the lack of steady communication must be corrected immediately. In the article, Senator Durbin calls attention to Menu Foods' delayed notification to the FDA of tainted foods, even though tests showed animals were getting sick from it.

My PR suggestion: Wow, this one does look incredibly bad because it compounds people's possibly unfounded notions that Menu Foods was consciously hiding dangerous problems. But I'll tackle this one too. Communications is the key here. This message could be wrong. If it is, Menu Foods has no conduit to disseminate the correct information to the public. Use the Web and social media. Start a blog where consumers can go to get their questions answered. Have veterinarians involved in this process so that consumers can be confident they're getting the best advice on health for their pets.

Other tips I have:

  • Set up a memorial fund in honor of the pets who died from the tainted food. Use the fund as a vehicle to promote pet health and to help adopt out homeless pets. It might also help to ease the pain of pets owners who lost their beloved companions.
  • Work with another agency like the FDA or the Pet Food Institute to come up with a list of safe pet foods that consumers could switch to. This lets consumers know that you care more about the health and well-being of their pets than your bottom line. Take the financial hit now, in the long run it will pay off.
  • Pet connection did a great job with this. Check out their page with a link to The Pet Food List complied by Complete list of all NOT recalled foods and info. about each one. Kudos guys for a great job!

Finally, in closing, good PR by Menu Foods means that Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, would never have to make this comment, "We didn’t have all the answers ourselves.”