Category Archive: Public Relations – Company Image

Building your brand one step at a time

Marketing agencies like to tout their wins for big companies. We applaud those wins, for we know how hard they are to garner.

Yet, what about small companies? Don’t they deserve the same services as the big firms? Emphatically we say yes!

Sometimes when you’re a small company just trying to make your way in the world you have to start somewhere. That somewhere might be a single press release, or media pitching, or social media campaign.

We have had the privilege of working with national companies in multiple markets.  Our firm takes an equal amount of pride in the work we do to promote smaller businesses. We are happy to provide project work – a single press release if needed – to bring companies the publicity and business they richly deserve.

In just the past few months we’ve announced restaurant openings, worked with dance companies, app developers, window shade manufacturers, and even horse farms to help promote small business owners.

We’d love to tell your story!  Reach out to us at 407.339.0879 or emailmystory@wellonscommunications.com to discuss your PR potential.

Controlling the message has its limits

A good Public Relations professional knows the media inside and out. They know what stories will soar and which ones will flop. They also know the limitations of their job.

One of those limitations is the ability to control the message once it gets into the hands of the media and the public. This topic has been top of mind this week since the firing of Oakland Raiders’ Public Relations Director Zak Gilbert. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, owner Mark Davis was unhappy with a Sports Illustrated story that was critical of Davis and his late father Al Davis. Gilbert lost his job over it, and the Raiders have been taking some heat for the decision.

The biggest take away from this week’s event is that PR professionals do not have complete control over the conversation surrounding their organization. It’s nearly impossible to know which stories will soar and which will flop. On the same note, once a story gets out we can’t control it. Don’t trust a PR firm that tells you any different. We do our best to build goodwill and broadcast a positive narrative, but we can’t always predict when a journalist or angry customer will decide to voice their opinion.

The best way to avoid or weaken the blow of negative PR is to build a good defense and look at the big picture. First, remember who your fans are. Community and customer goodwill goes a long way and can overpower less-than-desirable coverage. Second, consider the true impact of the story. Bad PR often feels worse than it is, which may have been the case with the Raiders.

(Source: NFL.com)

Mobile Movement

Ask Americans for the one thing they can’t leave home without, and we’ll bet most of them name a smartphone or tablet.

The popularity of mobile devices isn’t anything new, but a surprising number of entrepreneurs don’t consider how it affects their business. Smartphones and tablets have changed communication in ways that dramatically affect the business world.

With that in mind, it’s vital that business owners consider the mobile implications of any marketing initiative – the most important being a mobile version of your current website.

Let’s look at the facts:

  • Average smartphone usage grew 81 percent worldwide in 2012.
  • In 2012, the number of mobile-connected tablets increased 2.5-fold to 36 million, and each tablet generated 2.4 times more traffic than the average smartphone
  • Last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000
  • Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012, opening the door for easier and more frequent surfing

So, take a critical look at your company website. View it on multiple devices and consider the ease of navigation. For a real perspective, ask someone who has never viewed the site to take a look and share their impressions. You may not like what you hear, but it’s a window into the potential revenue losses that come from a less-than-stellar web presence.

Data from Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast
Photo courtesy of Microsoft

Don’t be a dope: drug scandal leads to sponsor fall out

Lance Armstrong. American professional road racing cyclist. Seven-time winner of the Tour de France. World champion of the sport. And a bona fide dope.

In light of strong evidence of the use of performing-enhancing drugs, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has banned Lance Armstrong from competing and will strip away all his titles earned throughout his career.

For years Armstrong has craved the spotlight, but now he’s making front-page coverage in leading media across the country for all the wrong reasons. And sponsors are taking notice. Endorsers – such as RadioShack, Anheuser-Busch, and longtime friend Nike – are bailing on the popular former cyclist in light of these allegations.

This controversy surrounding Lance Armstrong shows how a reputation built over time can be destroyed in mere seconds. Especially in today’s digital world where headlines jump from your computer screen to your daily morning paper in less than a day, it can be hard to hide from the truth.

Organizations fight fake reviews

The value of a good review for a business is priceless. How many of us browse Yelp when choosing where to grab a bite to eat, scout TripAdvisor to plan a vacation, or check out reviews of the local auto mechanic down the street just to see what others are saying? People rely on the opinions of others (instead of just advertisements) to decide on where to spend their money, which is why online reviews are so important.

However, don’t let the urge to get more buzz around your business sway you to the dark side. Fake reviews can tarnish your brand, and organizations have been cracking down to weed out fraudulent posts.

All the sites I mentioned already have algorithms and human moderators in place to fight fake reviews. Yelp in particular is very aggressive, with 20% of their reviews never making it to public display. In fact, Yelp is planning to punish repeat fraudsters by exposing them and shaming the businesses that employ these deceitful tactics. It is also against Federal Trade Commission guidelines, which states that you must disclose if you have been paid to endorse a product or service. Not doing so entitles you to steep fines, like a $250,000 one the FTC slapped Legacy Learning Systems in 2011.

But an even greater damage that outweighs any monetary concerns is the damage to your reputation. Years of building your business as a credible organization would instantly evaporate and instead be replaced with public scrutiny. Make sure to only employ reviews from credible sources and not engage in deceptive practices to ensure that the next business exposed online and shamed for fake reviews is not yours.

Reputation Management in a Modern World

“Glass, china and reputation are easily cracked and never well mended.”
- Benjamin Franklin, “Poor Richard’s Almanack”

Long gone are the days where figureheads of corporations remain in the shadows. Now, news outlets and the public are putting the spotlight on these bigwigs, often exposing their misdeeds in the process.

Best Buy is a recent example of this. Two weeks ago, the CEO of the consumer electronics giant, Brian Dunn, resigned after the company opened an investigation into his “personal conduct.” There was speculation that he misused company assets to contribute to an alleged relationship with a female subordinate.

Another high-profile case involves University of Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino, who was recently fired from his multi-million dollar gig for violating a morals clause. The crime? He had a secret affair with a recruiting coordinator for the Arkansas football team.

These examples highlight two important lessons related to reputation management and the media. First, political leaders are no longer the only ones to have their personal lives catapulted to the front page; no one is safe from the scrutinizing eyes of the customers or shareholders. In fact, everything from financial records to emails to cell phone text messages can sometimes be fair game to the press thanks to the Freedom of Information Act.

Good reputation management involves being aware of the fact that nefarious activities in your personal life can easily cross-pollinate to news outlets and spread like a virus. It takes just one blow to your credibility to dismantle the years of hard work building that reputation.

Secondly, we learn how personal reputation is not the only concern in these scenarios. As shown from the Dunn and Petrino issues, organizations believe their image is tied to that of their employees. This is nothing new, as noted by Cees B.M. van Riel and Charles J. Fombrun in their 2007 publication, “Essentials of Corporate Communications.” They termed the phrase “media mania” to refer to this trend of how companies and their top executives now perform in the media spotlight. The book also states that chief executive officers in particular act as spiritual and emotional symbols of the organization, so it is especially important that these figures adhere to the same values and ethics of the companies they represent.

In this day and age, technology has allowed media outlets to report and deliver news instantly, which means they are quick to pounce on breaking scandals in politics, corporations and even football fields. Organizations have certainly taken notice and become more critical with media monitoring and reputation management, showcasing how they may react to threats by removing scandal-plagued employees from payroll, like what Best Buy and the University of Arkansas did to their offenders.

It also helps if the immoral acts weren’t committed in the first place, either.

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s know how to spice-up their brand image

With so much advertisement constantly being produced, it can be difficult to target a specific demographic and receive the response your advertisements look for – difficult, that is, for everyone except Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.

Known for their racy ad campaigns featuring young female pop-culture icons, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s once again proved that they know who their target audience is, and they know how to capture their attention.

In the most recent Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s campaign, Sports Illustrated model Kate Upton appears in a classic drive-thru setting, eating a spicy Southwestern Patty Melt. The ad features Upton reacting provocatively to the “hot” sandwich, prompting many ad viewers to feel the heat.

Considering that the fast-food chain ads are targeting men ages 18-34, it’s no surprise that the campaign generated a lot of internet buzz. In fact, the campaign has been so popular that Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have enjoyed more than 120,000 new Facebook fans, a 104 percent increase in website visits and more than 5,000 Upton-and brand-related Tweets since the campaign launched.

The success of the campaign is an excellent example of how knowing your target audience and establishing your brand can propel any company into superstardom. What Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have accomplished is the difficult task of successfully targeting a very specific audience in such a well-developed way that a small portion of the population generates the most social and website traffic.

Without an understanding of their target audience, the amount of success Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have received as a result of the campaign would be impossible. Establishing a brand and staying true to that brand also factors in to the success of the campaign. The inclusion of young pop-culture females in their advertisements has become a staple in the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s brand, and it is created quite a buzz.

Starbucks Beetle Juice has Vegans Seeing Red

The world’s largest coffeehouse chain has the vegan community in an uproar…over Strawberry Frappuccinos®.

It was recently discovered that Starbucks has been using ground-up beetles for the coloring of this tasty treat. As disgusting as that sounds, the Cochineal Beetle is actually a very common, government-approved food coloring used in familiar foods, such as Yoplait Yogurts and Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts. It is also used to make more than 300 bright red lipsticks.

With the vegan community frothing over what was thought to be a veg-friendly drink, Starbucks now has an unexpected PR crisis on its hands. ThisDishIsVegetarian.com, among other websites, is buzzing about the beetle juice and announced to their readers not to drink it anymore. They are not trying to cause trouble; they just want to alert members.

Starbucks made the switch to using beetles in January to help get rid of artificial ingredients in their food and drinks. The coffee giant maintains it was simply trying to do the right thing. Nutrition experts say it was the right idea, but the wrong execution.

Starbucks’ good intentions have left them with a completely unintended public relations problem.

Groupon: Accounting principles up to 50 percent off

Ok, so maybe the headline of this is tad unfair and technically incorrect. However, there is no denying that Groupon’s reputation has stung in recent days because the popular Chicago-based online coupon company overstated its financial position in its first quarter as a public company.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Groupon’s auditors discovered that the coupon company suffered a “material weakness in its internal controls” and did not set aside enough money for customer refunds.  The size of this oops-worthy mistake was more than $14 million, the newspaper reported.

For companies that are trying to polish their accounting numbers to make them look as good as possible, there is a deep downside – bad PR that travels quickly. Reputations are hard to earn and quickly lost.

The numbers might have frustrated Google’s investors if the company had recorded their financials right the first time; however, it would also not be shown in a negative light at the front page of the leading financial newspaper.

Groupon should leave the deep discounting to specials. Deep discounting on accounting practices will lead to negative publicity that will last longer than the daily deal.

The Role of PR in the Susan G. Komen Foundation vs. Planned Parenthood Debate

Recently, the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research has come under attack for their decision to revoke funds allotted to Planned Parenthood for breast-health services. After a public attack on the Komen Foundation, leaders quickly revoked their previous decision to discontinue funding for Planned Parenthood (which totaled $680,000 just last year).

The controversy surrounding this debate is a great lesson in crisis communication.

The quick reversal of statements made by the Komen Foundation after considerable backlash implies that the decision to make the statements in the first place was not fully thought through. If a corporation publically announces any intentions, the intent behind the announcement and the reaction the announcement will generate should be thoroughly considered. Good PR means that a corporation can communication effectively and without reservation.

On the other hand, the Komen Foundation’s realization that the brand has been tarnished by this decision indicates that the foundation understands the importance of maintaining a brand image. The role of PR is pointless if a corporation’s brand does not correlate with its audience. Angering or displeasing your following can be the downfall for any organization.

PR is more than just the free flow of information between business and client. It is the direct reflection of a business as a whole, and communicating the values and beliefs of that business is an essential to success. As the Susan G. Komen Foundation has demonstrated, sending out the right message the right way is the key to good PR.