Want To Be Successful in PR? Be Social.

Social media has only flourished in the last 10 years, and because of its capabilities, it has been welcomed with open arms in the public relations field. The impact it has had on PR cannot be underestimated. It’s impact in PR due to its abilities to improve communication, establish a brand image, organize a campaign, among many others, often seem to be overlooked by those who rely on public relations and how they utilize social media. But the way public relations professionals operate their businesses today could not be done if it wasn’t for the way social media has greatly impacted our lives and the lives of everyone around us. 

Social media’s ability to improve communication is often taken for granted. PR professionals need quick access to information about their target audiences and consumers, and social media can provide it for them. In the case of crisis response, it’s vitally important that brands are also quick to respond, which was reported by PR News in a survey they did of more than 400 PR executives. Social media also allows direct communication between brand and consumer; “It’s not just a place that allows you to communicate with your consumer; it lets your consumer communicate with you.” (para. 7) Doing this allows an opportunity for brands to gather important information about their audience and who engages with them on the daily. The gathering of this information allows PR professionals to know who they’re working for and what to research so they can do their job that much better. All parties involved only benefit when proper social media communication is practiced. 

Maintaining a brand image is also something made exceptionally easier in our age of social media. The job of a PR professional usually surrounds the image of the brand or company they are hired by. Social media allows quick access to data about the current brand image and what the respective PR firm can do to improve it. The relationship between a brand’s overall image and their social media can be clearly determined, so it is vital that it is properly maintained. “Social media has made things transparent as it reveals the good, bad or ugly regarding a brand which can get viral easily through shares” (Ansari, 2019, p. 6). While maintaining a positive brand image is important, Ansari et al. mentions that anything can happen for a brand regarding social media, so crisis management is also important. It’s a jungle, and one can easily get lost. 

Nowadays, campaigns are most prominent on the internet. It’s normally how word about them spreads, through shares, likes, and tweets. TV ads are a good way to give a “vibe” to a campaign, but people are more likely to engage in the campaign if they’ve seen it online, via a post through the brand’s official pages or an ad on a social media site. PR professionals often opt for campaign awareness via social media, especially in more modern times if their target audience is millennials or younger. It’s a great way to ensure most people get the message of their campaign, or at the very least that it’s happening at all. Social media has risen through the ranks as the thing that now connects most of the world, with more than 3.5 billion people logged online as of 2019. Because of this fact, it is arguably the way to reach the public (especially given recent times). Given any company that is thriving today, chances are they have a social media presence, meaning PR professionals are having a field day when it comes to ease-of-access for communication, brand image, and campaign awareness for these companies.

REFERENCES

Ansari, S., Ansari, G., Ghori, M. U., & Kazi, A. G. (2019). Impact of brand awareness and social media content marketing on consumer purchase decision. Journal of Public Value and Administration Insights2(2), 5-10. https://doi.org/10.31580/jpvai.v2i2.896

The Tide Pod Crisis

Late 2017 saw the emergence of the Tide Pod Challenge, in which teenagers attempted to eat the liquid laundry detergent pacs, allegedly because they looked edible. Obviously this proved very dangerous, as doing so can cause vomiting, breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness.  Tide’s stance on the crisis? Basically, they didn’t take one. There’s only so much a company can tell teenagers to do, without recalling and discontinuing a product entirely. They simply gave warning after warning about the product on social media when the crisis was happening, but also on the actual containers the pods came in. In a crisis, there are many different routes you can take in order to address a problem, and Tide really did their best to follow a crisis communication model in every way they could. The ways in which they took responsibility, how they monitored the situation via social media, the way they were honest about their product, and how they put the public first (Wilcox et al., 2016) are all honorable ways that Tide handled the Tide Pod Challenge crisis of late 2017/early 2018. 

Tide took responsibility. In the midst of the PR crisis in 2018, Tide took to their social media and responded in real time to people on Twitter who claimed they ingested the pods. Tweets such as this one streamed from the official Tide Twitter account, repeating the same guidelines as to what one should do should they ingest a pod. Tide also provided resources via this method, telling people to contact the Poison Control Center and also providing their own number for customer service help. They also went the extra step in working with different social media platforms to “remove harmful content that is not consistent with their policies.” In responding in real-time and providing people with the best available resources, along with working to make sure the harmful content didn’t see the light of day, Tide took responsibility for a PR crisis stemming from their own product. Not once did they ever say that because they didn’t start the crisis was it not their fault. 

They kept track of the situation and responded in kind. Obviously, a situation such as this in which people are being physically harmed warrants a quick response from the company responsible, and Tide did not disappoint. In the midst of the crisis, Tide tweeted out this tweet reiterating that the pods once again should not be eaten, but also included a video by New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski, simply repeating Tide’s message: “Use Tide Pods for washing, not eating.” By posting a simple video message and not endlessly repeating themselves on social media, but simply stating it via someone who is looked up to by the target audience (the teens looking to do or the teens who have already done the challenge,) Tide is able to drive home the ‘less is more’ approach to the crisis.  

Tide was transparent and honest. They outlined what their product could do in very simple terms should it not be used the way it was intended. The CEO of P&G (Tide’s parent company) remarked the challenge to be “extremely concerning” and “dangerous”in a blog post in the midst of the challenge. “They didn’t want people to do this and they didn’t need any more publicity – but now they’re doing all they can (to discourage the challenge),” said the chair of the marketing department of Miami University at the time. When a company is transparent like this during a crisis, it puts them in a place of humility, where the public is less likely to criminalize them. When Tide disclosed as much as they can about the danger of their product, there’s only so much they can do to a point in order to completely stop the Tide Pod-eating trend. 

They put their customers first. The first iteration of Tide Pods came out in 2012. Immediately, there were reports of small children getting their hands on them, so Tide responded by creating a double-latch lid to deter the children from being able to access them. When the popularity of the challenge was at its peak, Tide responded to people in real-time on Twitter, advising them on what they should do if they ingested a pod. They tried their best to advise consumers of the dangers of their very popular product, and help those that their efforts did not reach by improving their product and making it as unappealing as possible. They reacted quickly and took responsibility for the fact that their product may have looked delicious, but consuming it would elicit a feeling that is anything but. 

As soon as they released their product, Tide listened to the concerns of the consumers and changed the product accordingly. “Speaking publicly about lessons learned is a major corporate step toward obtaining public… forgiveness,” (Lukaszewski, 2016) and Tide acknowledged their wrongdoing. When misuse of their product grew out of control, they made public statements and prevented encouraging behavior of this misuse. When it comes to crisis management, and in a case like this when the crisis was ultimately out of their control, Tide took proper action to correct the situation as best they could. As a result of their efforts (or possibly just the natural pattern of internet trends,) the Tide Pod challenge soon died off. 

References

Wilcox, D. L., Cameron, G. T., & Reber, B. H. (2016). 10: Conflict management. In Public relations strategies and tactics, Updated 11th edition (11th ed., p. 182). Pearson.

Lukaszewski, J. E. (2016). Seven dimensions of crisis communication management: A strategic analysis and planning model. Ragan’s Communication’s Journal, 19.