A Final Reflection

My major is Advertising and Public Relations. My emphasis is Advertising. Until taking this class did I really think that the other side of my major mattered to me. But the two fields are grouped together for a reason, and that reason is how much they seem to share. Understanding one field is important to understanding certain aspects of the other, and there are skills I’ve learned (such as this blog writing, or learning how to write certain parts of the planbook) that I will take with me in the advertising jobs I’ll have in the future. 

In my first blog post, I talked about PR very vaguely. Obviously this is because I didn’t feel like I could discuss it because I didn’t really know anything about it, but it’s interesting to look back and see what I was saying before I had a chance to really embrace the material in the class. In my first definition of PR, I said this: “Public Relations is what it sounds like – relations to the public. It’s the field of making sure something is accessible and comprehensible to the public and the public eye.” It’s a pretty good definition, but it seems as if I didn’t want to say anything too off-kilter, so I stuck with a basic definition. Compared to now, I have learned many more concepts that give substance to this definition, such as how many different aspects there are to a PR job (research, planning, conflict management, etc) and what to look out for to make sure that what you’re putting out into the world is quality over quantity.

Research is a pillar of public relations, and at the end of this class I should now know its importance. The planbook, at the beginning of the semester seemed like a daunting and unfavorable task (and I’m not going to lie, not all of it was fun,) and doing TWO different types of research did not seem like something I was capable of doing. Even though I was able to break it down in the blog I wrote in the middle of September about research, I did that only based on the sources I read, not really from personal experience. I’ve done similar research throughout my academic career, but compiling two different types of research to gather information on ONE project is not something I’m familiar with. But after we broke it down over several weeks and I was given time to understand how it all works, the task did not seem so daunting anymore. 

Admittedly, this is one of the most difficult classes I’ve taken in my major, but I’m glad for it. I have a planbook to show in my portfolio, and I know, at least somewhat, how to properly conduct secondary and primary research and how to write it up. I know what blog writing entails, and I know that it’s important to check your sources. These things and so many others have culminated in a class that I will always be glad that I took, even though sometimes it was difficult. 

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.

The Search for the Need of Research

Research is a pillar of public relations. There are others, but research is the first that should be learned by all PR professionals. It is the gears that help it begin turning. It is the key turn to start the ignition. It is opening your eyes to start your day. But enough metaphors. It is a vitally important thing to learn if one wishes to be successful in PR.

Along with being a “pillar” of PR as was previously mentioned, research has pillars of its own. A person, brand or company must ensure that the research they do is two things: reliable and valid. Doing so will prevent a slew of embarrassment for said person/brand/company when they are doing, say, a press release, for example. Making sure the sources gathered in the research for a press release are up-to-date, valid and reliable is arguably the most important thing a PR professional can do to prevent such embarrassment. The more one knows how to do so, the more one can prevent it from ever happening, so learning how to do research first before anything else is something a PR professional should prioritize when studying the field. 

Research is “the systematic gathering, analyzing, and evaluating of data.” There are different types of research, obviously, but one can dumb it down to gathering raw, unfiltered data, analyzing what it means, and evaluating it to make it something anyone would be able to read and understand. The ability to do quality research would put anyone ahead of anyone else not as skilled in the area for a public relations job, any day. “Without research, professionals are… reduced to taking, at best, educated guesses regarding the problem…”, meaning that the people meant to conduct research at PR firms wouldn’t have any information to give. There would be no sources backing up claims, and all these firms would be doing is grasping at straws. Solid, reliable information is needed to give to the public, as people base their lives around this information. Again, vitally important to learn for a public relations professional. 

There has never been a better time to learn such a trade than the era we are fortunate enough to live in now. With unlimited resources at one’s disposal, there is no longer an excuse not to do a thorough job of research, as well as do it in such a way that reflects quality for the person/brand/company you’re doing it for. It has never been easier to learn and then delve into the different aspects of a research project, such as the initial problem, the information needed to address the problem, how to state the results of your research on the problem, etc. To put it another way, “research is critical to establishing the goals and targets of a campaign and for measuring the outcome and whether the goals and targets have been met and how well.” 

There are many important facets to research that one must know should they want to be good at it. It must be reliable as well as valid, or be learned in way that conveys quality over anything else so it becomes a valuable skill for the person learning it. The fact that we have multitudinous resources at our fingertips nowadays is a fact that should be realized and respected, and then one wanting to learn research should take great advantage of that fact. As Arthur Robinson from Varascope.com puts it, “Research is getting more evolved and sophisticated day by day and will be able to offer reliable solutions to PR problems.” It is more than a pillar of public relations; it is part of the foundation.

Why Should You Care About Public Relations?

To put it into simple terms, public relations can defined as exactly what it sounds like: relations to the public. At first it seemed easy to understand, but it’s easier to see now that there is much more to the term. If you had to boil the definition down into a couple of words, though, it sounds like the words “public relations” seem to be a good jumping-off point. To sum it up, though, public relations is the field of making sure something is accessible and comprehensible to the public and the public eye.

A lot of public relations seems to deal with what people see, but what people usually can’t see is how what they’re seeing came to be. In other words, a lot of PR work is behind-the-scenes, working to bring about something that is very much in front of the scenes. A public image doesn’t usually have a face (or it can, in some circumstances,) but the countless people behind said non-existent face definitely do. Many, many people work, day-in and day-out to bring you, the consumer, a brand image you’ve come to love for many of your favorite ones.

The hardened, determined face of Nike that brought about social change in the form of Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem? Someone who works in PR likely made the decision to use him in their campaign. The seemingly accepting face of Dove when they launched their Real Beauty campaign way back in 2004 that criticizes the beauty industry for putting a façade over nearly everything put out into the beauty world? Yes, the public relations team over at Dove decided on that as well. Everything you see when it comes to how a brand looks or makes you feel, is due to the work of people who work in public relations. Despite their importance, many don’t seem to consider that it the work of the PR industry that is able to give us the brands that we know and love.

Difficult circumstances have arisen for all over the last half-year. Some have definitely fared better than others. As the COVID-19 death toll reaches nearly 900,000 since the outbreak in the beginning of this year, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. We must remain wearing masks in public places and refrain from gathering in large groups for the foreseeable future. This has become our new normal. However, people are nothing if not adaptable, and the PR industry is one such group of people that seems to have adapted remarkably. PR professionals have been able to get on with their lives and adapt in even these extreme circumstances, still servicing their clients and representing their brands as normal (Barrett, 2020). Of course, many of these professionals most likely have fared with some luck involved, but the field in and of itself is also just an adaptable one. As millions of people are doing nowadays, working from home has also become a new norm and the Ad & PR industries seem to be no strangers to it. People are adapting and attempting to do so as best as they possibly can, and fortunately, public relations is a field that is thriving despite people under these conditions.

As previously mentioned, public relations is a field meant to give a face to the brands we know and love. An important part of popular culture as we know it, public relations enables what pop culture looks like to us, and arguably, can be considered the backbone of making it what it is. The efforts of public relations “create, promote and amplify [people’s] pop culture experiences” (Fitch et al., 2018) so there’s no doubt that what goes on behind the scenes and what people don’t know about has unknowingly influenced generations of people.

Once again, public relations can be described simply as exactly what it says it is: relations to the public. PR is “the one function…that is positioned to step up, take a leadership position and have the greatest impact on company reputation during [a difficult] period” (O’Neal, 2020). It is a field that puts the face on the brands you know and love. It thrives despite hard times being hit. It influences people’s view of the world. The role of public relations cannot be undermined. THAT is why you should care about it.

 

Works Cited