The Biggest PR Stunt of All...

While my fellow colleagues and I begin to discuss the power of PR many different examples are mentioned: Max Clifford, Edward Bernays, Nestle and so forth are all among the top contestants to speak on behalf of the power of public relations. While these are all good subjects and lend themselves well to PR, I find myself hypothesizing about a small incident known as the Roswell Crash of 1947.

As a proud New Mexican, I grew up hearing of the alien crash in the tiny town of Roswell and have actually visited the sites and festivals many times. The whole premise of this incident is simple. On a warm July night in 1947, something fell out of the sky. The next day a PRESS RELEASE was issued, saying a flying saucer was recovered from the crash and even after that a PRESS CONFERENCE was called to speak out that the crashed item was a weather balloon.
Now normally this is where some people stop listening to the story, they accept the second story and move on. But what if this is actually not about aliens at all? What if this started out as a PR stunt for the failing economy of Roswell, New Mexico? A ploy to raise tourism and to boost the economy? Both the original Press Release and Conference were set up by a Public information officer, only adding to the speculation that this could really just be a made of incident to enhance the appeal of Roswell. Since the alledged crash of 1947, Roswell's tourism is on the rise every year, believers and non -believers alike flock to this small New Mexican Town to see the museums and crash sites for themselves. A "must see" of the Southwest United States? or the Biggest PR stunt ever pulled off? At this time these questions have remained unanswered, but I am working diligently on it!

You Gotta Give a Little...

With all the press NGOs are getting these days due to different social media blunders. Why don’t we take time out to look at a NGO that is using social media in a positive way?

Toms Shoes a small American shoe company is making the most of both its PR strategy through social media and its status as an NGO.

Established in 2006, Toms Shoes was built on a simple and concise idea, one for one. For every pair of shoes purchased Toms Shoes gave a pair of to a child in need a pair. This simple concept is changing the business world and their strategy is as innovative as they come.

Relying solely on word of mouth and their dedication to the use of social media is commendable to say the least. Having multiple blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is simply not enough for Toms Shoes. Toms uses these platform as a way to speak to followers and spread their message further. Using this innovative approach before the days of Obama, Toms Shoes has positioned itself as one of the most recognizable shoe brands in the world.

To change things up this week I have compiled a powerpoint/slideshare to give a better understanding of Toms Shoes. Enjoy!

Bohemian Rhapsody via Skype

Friends rocking out to Queen. Having an amazing time, using Skype and loving life!!!!
Think you can do better?


Vote or Die... or Obamanos?

Vote or Die?
“We made Bentley, Cristal, and bling hot. Now it’s time for the election,” P. Diddy

Before the political machine called "Obama," a similarly formatted movement was in affect in the US political world. The 'Vote or Die' campaign aimed at young voters in America to get out and vote in 2004 presidential election. The campaign was wanting to engage the young voter into understanding the process of voting and challenge them, as they put it, to 'Vote or Die!'

Backed by the most unlikely of political partisans, P. Diddy and Paris Hilton, the campaign stood strongly and looked as if it was going to bring out more young voters than ever before. Setting a precedent for the later "Yes, We Can," campaign stylings of Obama, this political way of speaking had yet to be seen yet. Engaging with and inspiring young voters to go make a change in their world, were key phrases and goals for 'Vote or Die.' While this campaign could be seen as a success, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) says this of the election:
The 2004 presidential race, as far as the youth vote was concerned, was a landmark election, bringing out nearly 21 million voters under the age of 30 to the polls, according to Peter Levine, CIRCLE's deputy director
While the jump of young voters was a great number the campaign really set up the stage for Obama to come in and engage with voters even more. Through the use of social media, websites, and a grass roots approach to campaigning, Obama was able to use this newly set forth political communications model to gain the youth vote for his 2008 election.

Tapping into the tribe-like mentality that is used through platforms like social media and engaging in the conversation that young voters were already having was a brilliant move from team Obama. Pushing the envelop to cater towards these group of disenfranchised voters would enable Obama to change the way political campaigns would now be run. Politics is no longer for the old and priviledge but now the youth are getting involved and I believe we will be seeing more and more campaigns that look like "Vote or Die" and the Obama Campaigns.


Innovative Webcast to Educate Millions

Demonstrating the Power of Social Media
Today, in London, a webcast entitled, "Social Media: How Will PR Change?" is released for free viewings online. The long awaited webcast will show case different methodologies and strategies using social media and will educate those who want to know more about including social media into already existing media strategies.

Lena Brau , Head of Digital Communications says, "We are very excited about this webcast. We know that there are many people out there that have questions about social media, and we are happy to answer those questions." The webcast is a short five minute video explaining the advantages and usages of social media. Taking a simplistic approach, the webcast is sure to be easy to learn from and fun to watch.

Aimed at public relations professionals, but anyone wanting information about social media would be able to take away some good pointers, "We present the information in a way that anyone wanting information will find it useful," comments Jey Bernal , webcast producer, "We were able to reach out on a peer-to-peer level, using YouTube as a means of getting the webcast out to the public." Jey Public Relations is offering this webcast for free and can be viewed on YouTube , as well as on the company blog.

Notes to Editor
  • Social media sites like facebook, youtube, and myspace get a combined total of over 250 million visitors monthly.
  • Print newspaper distribution is down 7 million in the last 25 years.
  • Online newspapers are up 30 million in the last 5 years.
  • Internet traffic is growing at a 50-60% growth rate per year.
  • Social Media engages the consumer into two way communication and allows for the free flowing of ideas.
For additional information Contact the Press Officer: Jey Bernal +(44)7501861858

The XX Factor

It's an age old question that is raised in most industries,
"Will Women Ever Be in Charge?"

Do We Even Have a Chance?
From a topical point of view, the quick and unequivocal answer would simply be: YES. Simply put there are more female than male practitioners and this would lend well to the rise of females in management positions. However, the industry has yet to see a proportional rise of females in these management roles and questions are being raised as to why this might be? The shift in female practitioners has gone up significantly in the last 20-30 yea
rs according to the US Department of Labor. This also shows that females working in the industry are less likely to be working in manage
ment level positions and
are simply stuck in technician roles, which then also has an effect on the pay of which they receive. As the circle of injustice keeps my head spinning, one must look further into reasons as to why this torpedoing spiral has yet to be broken. Could it be the image of the 'fluffy' PR girl and the glass ceiling effect on women in this industry?

In the book, Public Relations Strategies and Tactics by Wilcox and Cameron, the authors outline 5 reasons why the field of public relations appeals to women:
  1. women find a more welcoming environment in PR and see more opportunites to advance than in other communication fields.
  2. women still make more money in PR than comparable female dominated fields
  3. a woman can start a PR firm without a lot of capital
  4. women tend to have better listening communication skills than men
  5. women are more senstitve than men in facilitating two-way communication
Now these reasons do not at all reflect the sometimes prominent image of the fluffy PR girl, these reasons seem to be based in reality and reflect a female that is strong and ambitious. And yet women are still not advancing in this field as quickly as they are drawn to it.

Seems to me that the true problem here is the glass ceiling effect. The glass ceiling refers to a barrier that can simply not be broken. Differences in pay scale and advancement to higher level jobs between male and female practitioners are two examples of the glass ceiling effect. This effect seems to be systematic and not only referring to PR but most industries are seeing the same effect, however being that PR is a female dominated field this effect seems to be more severe.

It is disheartening to say the least, to look at these statistics as a female practitioner. Out of my MA course we have 30 females and 4 males and statistically speaking the males have a better shot at succeeding than we do because of the sex that we were born with. However, change is on the rise and it is up to females to rise above. We should no longer accept a technician role as success, but strive for a higher position. The stage is set for success, but will men get there before us?


Bad Cookies...???

You've done it, I've done it... We've all done it. There is something so satisfying about taking a spoonful of cookie dough and enjoying every morsel of the unbaked goodness. After all, what harm can be done from just one little taste of this chocolaty goodness?

If you were in America in March 2009, consuming Nestle Toll House cookie dough could prove to be fatal. From March of that year over 70 people became ill, by a common strain of the E. Coli bacteria, all citing that they had eaten raw and uncooked cookie dough. One can imagine what this crisis could do to brand reputation, Nestle faced mountains of bad press as the victims grew worse, as the thought of any deaths rang in the ears of journalists covering the story nationwide.

A classic case of crisis management was on the hands of Nestle, as they would have to take all the right steps to ever recover from this incident. Acting with perfect precision and not a moment too late, within 24 hours Nestle had voluntarily recalled all cookie dough products within the US, advising them being thrown out and to be cared for with extreme care, as cross contamination is a factor as well. The company took even more steps to thwart sayings of mismanagement, by offering full refunds for those wanting to return the products and reassuring those that had consumed the products after being baked, would be fine. Also stopping all production of new products at the Virginia plant where the contaminated cookie dough had been produced, Nestle seem to be quick and concise decisions.

Seemingly taking notes directly from W. Timothy Coombs, Nestle produced a near perfect accommodating strategy. Meaning the strategy not only met immediate crisis communication demands, by acting within 24 hours of the rise of the problem, but it also subsequently was repairing the organization's reputation and image, by acting in the best interest of the consumer.

From a PR standpoint, Nestle executed a clear crisis management communications strategy and in the end, the cookie dough crisis of 2009 would adversely affect sales. Nestle's year end profits reportedly fell 42%. While this sounds like a huge percentage to fall, Nestle actually increased sales in different areas, so the crisis management strategy put in place by the cookie dough crisis was not lost, by all.


Ethics in PR: Why Do We Need Them?

Why Have Professional Codes.

Societies usually have set of codes by which they model their lives after. Whether the codes were simple: “Do unto others” or complex, “Survival of the fittest,” these ethical codes have always been a way of life. In a professional world, it is just the same. Doctors, lawyers and even PR practitioners have professional codes. Each code delineates what those in the profession can and cannot do. They act as a guideline of how to practice whatever profession they are representing. In order to determine what these codes should be, the PRSA looked to, “The cumulative behavior of the individual practitioners will determine the ethical standards and perceivedcommitment to ethics of the profession.” This allows the members of the society to help shape the world of PR they work in. By having the input of the different practitioners the professional codes are not set up to be unattainable, but rather to be as practical as possible for the practitioners. The professional codes for PR practitioners outline such things as, “advocacy, loyalty, honesty,” and “maintaining highest levels of standards, integrity and respect.” The purpose of these codes is to ensure ethical practices and to bring together the community of PR practitioners. Both the PRSA and the CIPR insist their members to abide by these codes and to practice PR accordingly. Another purpose for these professional codes is to guarantee accountability.


Professional codes are about the masses just as much as they are about the individual, or who ever is the practitioner. If there were only one PR practitioner in the entire world, there would not be a need for professional codes because they could practice PR in whatever way they see fit and would have no one to answer to. Since this is not the case, accountability plays a huge role in why professional codes are necessary. With these codes in place, the practitioners know exactly what they can and cannot do, and this therefore makes the actual practicing of PR mutually beneficial for all parties involved. PR practitioners

The CIPR and the PRSA are two of the most respected and looked up to communities in the PR industry. They are not only just societies of PR practitioners, but they are societies made up a people who want to further the evolution of PR and, “to ensure public trust and confidence is gained.” Gaining public trust and confidence is not an easy task and once it is lost, it can be hard to regain that trust. By setting forth professional codes that members of the CIPR and PRSA have to abide by the PR industry is establishing standards that not only help unify the practitioners but also keep them accountable to not only themselves, but also to each other and to society as a whole.


The PRSA and the CIPR have both been established institutions for a long time and their codes have been as well. Both operate by constantly updating and changing their codes in order to be in alignment with societal norms. The codes are set up to work and in theory are great on their own, but in theexecution of them, they fall short. The PRSA and CIPR are both organizations that are funded by dues that an individual has to pay in order to become a member. This, of course, will hinder the effectiveness of these codes. While it is always considered better to be a part of a prestigious group like the PRSA and the CIPR, if one chooses not to be a member, one can still practice PR. Outside of the organizations that put forth these codes, there is no watchdog system that will ensure that the codes are being upheld. Another way these codes are virtually ineffective is the way they are regulated. Anyone can contact either one of these groups to file a complaint against a member, but how they are handled are a bit different. Both societies have many loop holes to get around getting in trouble with the society. Within the both societies, if one had a complaint brought against them and did not want to face the consequences that member could drop their membership and they would no longer have any jurisdiction over that person any more.

Other examples of the codes ineffectiveness are the ways that the organizations implement them. The essence of the PRSA code is one of inspiration, rather than punishment. In order, to find what the punishments might be for violating the codes, one must search the website thoroughly and is still unclear of the punishments. The only punishment that the PRSA states that they will enforce is, “PRSA the right to expel a member found guilty of

misconduct in a court of law.” While this is a fair rule and should be enforced, it is the only example of the PRSA enforcing punishment on those who violate the code of ethics. This will only come after a member has violated a law and found guilty in a court of law. It seems as though the PRSA will only prosecute once the law has stepped in and prosecuted first.

The CIPR operates much like the PRSA in instances of people violating the code of conduct. Punishments for people who do not adhere to the code are not listed on the website for the CIPR ( The Code does, however, address how it handles complaints, “The CIPR can investigate complaints made against only its members. If a PR practitioner is not a member, then they are not accountable. All complaints remain confidential. Announcement of a complaint outcome is at the discretion of the Professional Practices Committee.” Without having a structured way of dealing with members who do not uphold the codes and standards of the society the codes are virtually ineffective.


Philip Morris and Corporate Social Responsibility

We don't just measure out performance in terms of financial success. We also track whether owe measure up to the expectations that society has of us, as a major multinational company- and as a tobacco company.- Philip Morris International Website.
When speaking of Corporate Social Responsibility, the companies that inevitably come to mind are the tobacco companies. Philip Morris International and other tobacco companies are now looked at with great scrutiny and employ the means of public relations to practice corporate social responsibility.
In 1990, Philip Morris was ranked number 2 in the USA for most respected companies in Fortune Magazine. Just a few short years later, an image that would stay in the mind's eye of the world for years to come, 7 CEO's testified to not believing that nicotine was addictive.

This would end up being just the beginning of problems that Philip Morris was about to face, a public relations nightmare would ensue. Lawsuits, bad press, FDA investigations, you name it and it was thrown at the Philip Morris company. One would think that after that whole ordeal the company would have slowly sunk into oblivion, never to be heard from again. That, however, is not the case. How did Philip Morris come out the other end? One simple answer: CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY.

Having to be fast acting, Philip Morris, entered the world of corporate social responsibility. Acting in the 'interest' of the public, Philip Morris took steps towards 'societal alignment.' Meaning they would act with the societies needs in mind and would take steps to becoming more trust-worthy in the eyes of the public. Philip Morris would begin campaigns that featured the harmful effects of smoking, offer tips on how to quit, speaking openly about their products and most importantly operating the company in a way that is corporately responsible.

Since these early steps taken to improve the public image of Philip Morris, many other steps have been made as well. Such as: engaging in conversations with those that oppose the company and its means of business, admitting to mistakes, and confess to trying to build up trust and credibility. Taking even more steps, PM devised a 'best practices' guide as a means to speak about public health and tackle the issues of reducing the risk of addictions and youth usage.

Now the question is, did it work?

In 2003, Fortune Magazine, awarded Philip Morris, the number 4 spot on its Most Admired List for its efforts in Social Responsibility.

Questions and comments are always welcome!


Pizza v. Rice

"You like pizza and I like rice. So, let me have my rice and you can have your pizza" -Filippo Ciampini and Sarah Jingsi Wang, Westminster MA PR students 2010.

The quote above was taken from a debate discussing globalization in Public Relations. While this was a popular school of thought (Think Global, Act Local), within the last 20 years, with the rise of social media and the interconnectivity of the world, this stance on globalization might soon cease to exist.

"Think Global, Act Local," is a popular movement that reinforces thoughts of considering the well-being of the global society, but acting locally within their own communities. This could be used in many different instances and makes for an interesting case for practicing public relations on a global scale.

The rise of social media, has connected people from all over the world. And we are ever increasingly becoming a more succinct global community. This will become more predominate in PR in the sectors which deal with crisis management and brand reputation. With the speed and breadth of social media networks, these sectors need to be thinking globally as this could potentially help or hurt the business, because lack of speed or negative word of mouth throughout an online community. However, on the other side of the coin, as we saw through Hofstede's studies the cultural dimensions of different countries change vastly through out the world. We cannot assume, that because social media is on the rise and people are participating in social media in record numbers, that the cultural barriers have all but broken down.

We must be able to find a balance in practicing PR on global and local scales. While cultural barriers are breaking down and participation in a global community is more common now than ever before, we, as citizens of the world have not completely broken down all cultural differences and must be able to integrate strategies that are aware of both communities.

So why not have both rice and pizza?


Cultural Dimensions

Renown sociologist and author, Geert Hofstede studies the interactions of cultures and organizations and has been able to compare these different cultural dimensions from country to country. Hofstede argues that our so-called human instinct is not actually universal at all, but it differs from country to country and culture to culture. He argues that if we have a clear understanding of these different dimensions, as he calls them, we are able to be more effective when conducting business or interactions with people from different cultures.

Hofstede has broken down his study of these culture into five different dimensions:
  • Small vs. large power distance -This dimension measures how much the less powerful members of institutions and organizations expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. Small vs. Large Power Distance does not measure or attempt to measure a culture's objective, "real" power distribution, but rather the way people perceive power differences.
  • Individualism vs. collectivism - This dimension measures how much members of the culture define themselves apart from their group memberships.
  • Masculinity vs. femininity - This dimension measures the value placed on traditionally male or female values (as understood in most Western cultures. Another reading of the same dimension holds that in 'Masculine' cultures, the differences between gender roles are more dramatic and less fluid than in 'Feminine' cultures.
  • Weak vs. strong uncertainty avoidance - This dimension measures how much members of a society are anxious about the unknown, and as a consequence, attempt to cope with anxiety by minimizing uncertainty.
  • Long vs. short term orientation - This dimension describes a society's "time horizon," or the importance attached to the future versus the past and present.
Through these five dimensions, Hofstede was able to 'quantifiably' study different cultural dimensions and can rank them accordingly. However, this process has gained negative feedback as it could be thought to promote stereotypes and generalize millions of people into a mold that they might not fit into. Hofstede publishes on his website his findings and here they are from my home country, the United States.

  • The Power Distance Dimension- The USA has a score of 40, which is surprisingly low compared to the rest of the world. The world average is 55, this indicates that there is a greater equality between social levels, families and even within government. Also indicates interaction between all levels which in turn allows for a more stable social environment.
  • The Individualism Dimension- The USA has the highest individualism index ranking in the world. With a score of 91, the USA is one of only 7 countries that has individualism as its highest ranking factor. This reveals a society of people that rely solely on ones' self and looks out only for the individual and one's family.
  • Masculinity Dimension- The second highest ranking dimension for the USA is the Masculinity dimension. Scoring a 62, when the world average is a 50, shows that the differences between gender roles is much higher in the States than anywhere else in the world. This produces a female population that is more aggressive, assertive and competitive, which means that females are moving more towards a masculine role and away from the ever there female roles.
  • Uncertainty Avoidance Dimension- The USA has a ranking of 46, with the world average reading at a 64. This points to a society that has fewer rules and does not try to limit the outcomes as much as other cultures. This allows for tolerance in belief systems, ideas and individualism, as well.
  • Long Term Orientation- With the lowest ranking for the USA at a 29, this shows the societal belief in meeting obligations and apprehension for cultural traditions.
This a very interesting way of looking at American culture because while some of the findings, might not shock, I find some to be quite curious. America is either on one end of the extreme for all the of rankings. With high individualism and masculine dimension rankings, one can see this through out society. As a child I remember the "you can be anything you want to be," rhetoric being instilled in me on a daily basis. This is also the same for being pushed as a woman to never let my sex stop me from achieving what I wanted. As a product of this society, I would say that these rankings are very accurate in my individual case and living now in London has changed my cultural perspective, as England has different cultural findings as well.

Once we know the different cultural aspects of a county, it serves as sound logic that using these different dimensions to speak to the people of these countries. This would serve all us, PRs well when planning different PR strategies, whether they be on a global or national scale.

The Social Media Challenge

The era of Social Media is upon us and we no longer have the luxury to prepare for the future. We are living in the future and social media is an integral part of everyday life, which means the practice of PR will no doubt be changing with the times as well.

The term social media refers to the paradigm shift that we are currently experiencing through the rise of media content online. It also encompasses social networking sites, search engines and online news. Social Media is considered to be a paradigm shift because it is changing the way people get information and therefore will change the way we, as PRs, will be giving information. Traditional media, as we all know, is a one way communication model that simply puts information out for the consumer to have, not taking into account what that consumer wants or is looking for. The consumer in this case is considered to be a passive observer of media. Social media flips traditional media on its head by offering the consumer the chance to be active. With the help of the internet and social networks, the consumer can now search for exactly what they want and can also engage in conversations with not only, a certain company or entity, but with others wanting the same information.

Social media has not only revolutionized how people speak with each other, but will revolutionize how PR will be practiced. PR can now go directly to the audience (providing there is already an audience in place) or can build an audience through social media. Sites like facebook, youtube, twitter and myspace are visited by more than 50% of their users at least once a day. These sights could potentially over take personal email as the #1 reason for going on the web. Having said that, social media is revolutionizing public relations because this two way model of communications is now at the center of all public relations. Public relations strategies will now included social media in order to reach a wider range of the audience and ensure that all mediums are being used (i.e. traditional media and social media.)

Using all mediums, the scope of audience being reached grows exponentionally. This allows PR practitioners to speak to more people at one time, but also allows the people that are receiving this information to exchange ideas, concepts and opinions with each other. The free flowing information will change everything for PR because it breaks down the one way communication model and now all audiences have the ability to speak directly to companies.

Politics and PR

Complete governmental control of information? Retelling of truths into fabrications? Threats of an atomic war?

No, these themes are not coming from George Orwell's classic novel, 1984. Rather these themes are taken from the war documentary, War Spin. The documentary aims to expose the untruths told by certain governing bodies (mainly the US and UK) and uncover different propaganda messages that were used during this time of war and hardship for both countries. The documentary opens by showing the rescue, of Jessica Lynch, a 20 year old soldier, who had been taken as a prisoner of war. The rescue was cleverly filmed and excerpts of the film were immediately released all over the world, in turn sparking support of the war.

What the world would not be privy to, until months later, is the uncut footage of the rescue. The BBC aired War Spin, months after the rescue and further claimed the usage of War propaganda, by both the US and UK governments in order to win over public opinion and support the war which we are still involved with today. So how did these governments (mainly the US) successfully shape public opinion? They brilliantly employed Public Relations tactics..

Basic PR tactics such as, controlling the message and providing journalists with an inside scoop. In order to be successful in these two arenas, the governments set up a communications center, simply entitled Central Command or CentCom. This center, would be open to journalist from all over the world to go and get information as it was available straight from the government. The government took this opportunity to control the message they were giving to the journalist and would therefore be in complete control of the public opinion of the war. A few journalists were even given the opportunity to get an 'inside look' at the everyday operations of soldiers. This is another way the government was able to employ public relations tactics during the war. By offering journalists exclusive opportunities and showing the public what they were being privy to the government was able to control the message and this in turn turned out to be a great public relations move, because for a short while public opinion was in favor of the war.

While the issue of ethics behind the war are not what are being discussed here, it is reasonable to say that the tactics that were used by the differing governments during the time of war were used very effectively and hopefully throuhg this blog were examined more closely.