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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dove Soap Ad Controversy

Do you see anything controversial about this advertisement? DoveVisibleCare

Some in the blogosphere and on Twitter have criticized the ad as being racist, saying that the ad implies that lighter skin is better than darker skin.

But what does the average consumer think? According to a poll conducted by the Today Show, 88.9 percent of poll respondants (116,530 people) believed that the advertisement is not racist. A similar poll on the Huffington Post reveals that 58.91 percent of readers think the advertisement is harmless and that there’s no hidden message.

Dove’s responded to the controversy with the following statement:

We believe that real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and ages and are committed to featuring realistic and attainable images of beauty in all our advertising. We are also dedicated to educating and encouraging all women and girls to build a positive relationship with beauty, to help raise self-esteem and to enable them to realize their full potential.

The ad is intended to illustrate the benefits of using Dove VisibleCare Body Wash, by making skin visibly more beautiful in just one week. All three women are intended to demonstrate the "after" product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.

What Does This Say About Social Media’s Relevance?

 Those of us who fully embrace social media realize that this new digital landscape is a game changer for business and communications. But I think some of us forget that social media is not the end-all for communication, and opinions that go viral on social media platforms will not necessarily affect mainstream consumers.

It’s true that more and more people are signing up for Twitter, but that “more and more” is still only 11 percent of adults.If you ask your friends what their favorite Twitter hashtag is, many of them will probably not understand the question.

Social Media, Crisis Communication and “Freak Out” mode

So when a large segment of your audience does not believe your ad is racist, but a small segment of influential tweeters and bloggers do, do you have a crisis on your hands?

The women’s blog Jezebel suggests that the response by Dove should have been simplified down to talking about how the “Before” and “After” panels in the advertisement refer to the panels, and that all three women in the advertisement have beautiful skin.

Shel Holtz, one of the two podcasters for the public relations podcast “For Immediate Release” suggests that the Dove should have released a more concise statement, then put the issue behind them because such a small segment of their consumer base took offense to the advertisement.

I personally tend to agree with Shel and Jezebel. I think companies should strive to hit 100 percent customer satisfaction all the time, but they also need to realize that sometimes (emphasis on sometimes), social media trends that speak negatively of your company are not huge crisis. Yes, they need to be addressed, but companies can better spend their time concentrating on other issues.

Was releasing this advertisement a mistake? Probably. Someone in the company should have caught the potential negative racial undertones in the advertisement, and the advertisement as release should have never seen the light of day.

But is this a huge crisis? Dave’s brand may take a hit on some social media platforms, and it is something that needs to be addressed, but the majority of Dove’s consumer base does not see any problem with the advertisement.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How to get more out of Twitter

Starting a Twitter account can be daunting, especially if you do not have any friends who are Tweeting. But by engaging with other individuals and being consistent in your tweets, you can find success relatively quick.

“Success” on twitter can mean a variety of things, but most, if not all, metrics of success depend on whether you engage the Twitter community you are a part of. You’ll find the most success when you build a community of tweeters you can engage with, when you share information that your followers will find useful and when the tweeters you follow share valuable tweets with you.

Here are four tips that will help you on the road to building a successful twitter account.

Join a Hashtag community, but DO NOT join one just to get followers. Hashtag communities are great ways to learn about and debate topics. Hashtag communities, especially #pr20chat and #happo have taught me more about the public relations industry than I would have learned by myself.

However, I have seen users get called out for joining a hashtag chat solely for the purpose of gaining followers. Likewise, I have seen companies on twitter successfully participate in hashtag chats because they try to contribute to the conversation and do not market themselves or their products.

So engage people in hashtag communities, sit back and learn, but do it for the right reasons. Twitter users are pretty good at spotting tweeters whose intentions are not authentic, and there are plenty ready to call these people out.

Retweet, but DO NOT retweet for the sake of retweeting. If you retweet a tweet containing a link, READ THE LINK before you retweet it. Doing this will allow you to engage your fellow tweeters about the RT and will keep you from spamming your followers with RT spam.

Provide helpful links to your followers, but make sure these links are actually helpful and not irrelevant  to your followers. Attach hashtags WHEN APPROPRIATE. If you find a blog post or a website helpful to young PR pros, tweet it and attach appropriate tags (#u30pro, ect.), but be wary about tweeting too many links about lolcats… unless your viewers absolutely love lolcats.

Have fun on Twitter, but… ok, no caveat. If you have fun on twitter, your followers will have fun following you. Respond to tweets that are off topic but you enjoy talking about. Remember, Twitter is not all business. Sure, a large part of twitter is about networking with other professionals and sharing interests, but Twitter is a great opportunity for you to show off the characteristics that make you you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tweetdeck: A Tech Tip Every PR PRo Should Look At

As someone who currently writes technical articles for a living, I had to share this tech tip with everyone who is doing PR for a living or trying to get a job/internship. This is a how-to to set up Tweetdeck to scan hashtag conversations.

Step 1: Click the "Plus" button at the top of your Tweetdeck menu. The plus button will have a gray background and is next to the "Compose Update" button.

Step 2: Select the "Search" tab on the left side of the window that appears.

Step 3: Type in the hashtag you want to scan, then press "Enter" on your keyboard.

I did this to scan #PRStudChat yesterday, and I've learned more about PR from twitter in the last 24 hours than I did the previous week.  I strongly recommend that all PR professionals utilize tweetdeck's search function to scan conversations about their clients, public relations and the journalism industry.

 If you have trouble with any of the steps or find them hard to undergo, please leave a comment. I'll respond and update the steps to make them easier.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

20 Tips for Maintaining Professionalism

(Reblogged from my personal blog.)
My roomate Sho attended  a lecture the other day by Steven Asbury. Steven runs a design firm in Eugene, OR and specializes in print design, but also has valuable experience in maintaining professionalism in the office. Here are the 20 tips he shared with my roomate for remaining professional in the office (they’re aimed at designers, but anyone doing work in journalism can use these):
1. Drive can beat experience.
2. Smile – even when work/life sucks.
3. Be Switzerland (*1).
4. Double check everything.
5. Writers should get to know designers, and designers should get to know writers.
6. Pick your battles.
7. Designers and photographers… Read the stories before you begin.
8. Getting it right still beats getting it first.
9. Look beyond your own publication.
10. Keep a portfolio. Improve upon it constantly.
11. Never miss an opportunity to market yourself. Show your portfolio to anyone who will look.
12. Make contacts. Make contacts. Make contacts.
13. Be accountable for mistakes. Everyone makes them, and they’ll be forgotten much faster if you just admit that you screwed up and move on.
14. Don’t get caught in “the moat of suckiness (*2).”
15. Never bring dirty laundry to a job interview.
16. Know the industry. Read industry blogs.
17. Keep track of job postings.
18. Be the answer person. Say “yes” a lot.
19. Solve any conflicts before you go home for the day.
20. Show enthusiasm at work by getting involved.
*1: Meaning: don’t take sides. If you take sides, it will later limit your work whether your side wins or loses.
*2: The moat of suckiness is where you and your fellows can freely enjoy criticizing other staff and the things you don’t like at the workplace. If you are stuck in there, you will be totally unproductive and losing lots of opportunities.
If I were to change any of these, it would be #18 to "Be able to say 'yes' a lot." Research how to do any task that might be expected of you. Strive to be a jack of all trades, but take time to master a few of those. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Savor the Blue: Employees Owning a Corporate Message

IBM’s China office has a corporate culture that centers around three ideas: innovation, dedication and trust. To disseminate this information to employees, IBM hired the public relations firm Ogilvy.

Instead of creating a list of tactics to “ preach” to the employees, Ogilvy enlisted the help of the employees themselves to disseminate these ideas. They collected stories from 40 employees and compiled them into a book called Savor the Blue that IBM distributed to employees.

The stories, which were translated into both mandarin Chinese and English, embodied IBM’s ideas of innovation, dedication and trust. Savor the Blue was a wild success, with more than 12,000 distributed to both employees and interested customers. Eventually, the Chinese media got a hold of the story and covered it extensively.

So why was Savor the Blue such a success? In my opinion, it is because the employees themselves own the message. If it was the executives trying to talk down to the employees, the employees might look at this as just another corporate message. But since these stories were told by fellow colleagues, the message was more authentic.

More information: Page 17 of the Asia Pacific Public Relations rewards report, Ogilvy's case study.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Edelman Report: U.S. citizens trust institutions less than in 2010

According to the 2011 Edelman trust barometer, American citizens trust institution is less than they trusted them in 2010.

The report stated that only 46% of people in the U.S. trust businesses, compared to 41% in Russia. Only 40% of the people surveyed in the United States trusted government, which is only 1% higher than Russia. This year, 38% of Americans trusted media; this year, only 27% of people surveyed trust media.

According to the report, academic experts remain the most trusted source for telling if an institution is reliable. People's trust in CEOs increased 29%, but surprisingly, survey respondents said that regular people are less trustworthy by 7%. That's less than government officials, NGO representatives and CEOs.

From a Corporate Standpoint

To me, the most interesting part of the report was that U.S. citizens expect companies to put social value above profits. 85% of people surveyed in the U.S. believe that companies should put societies interests above their shareholder's profits.

I was completely surprised when I saw this because my understanding of U.S. business culture is that profit is king. I knew that a prominent corporate responsibility program was important for a company to maintain a good image and a good level of trust, but I always assumed Americans expected businesses to put their profits ahead of their contributions to society.

It does make sense that a business would gain a lot of trust if they put the values of society above their own profits, but I never thought that this would be an expectation of the business to gain trust.

Not so surprisingly, the U.S. had a relatively low percentage of respondents who said that governments need to regulate businesses to ensure social responsibility by those businesses (61%)..

Another thing that did not really surprise me was that transparency is becoming more and more important part of maintaining trust with corporations. With the rise of social media, the Internet and quicker methods to disseminate information, corporations are less able to keep their dirty laundry hidden.

So is it worth it for business that the social values above their own profits? That may vary from business to business, but the real question is can business afford to keep losing trust?

Monday, April 11, 2011