Category: JOUR 4460


On March 31, 2011 Epsilon, a mass-marketing data provider, announced there had been a security breach in their customer database. Epsilon is a company that offers a full range of marketing services.

Epsilon says [the hack] only involves names and e-mail addresses, which even when combined do not represent personally identifiable information. So basically you might receive a lot of spam emails, and that’s about it.

Some of their clients include:

  • Kroger
  • TiVo
  • US Bank
  • JPMorgan Chase
  • Capital One
  • Citi
  • McKinsey & Company
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards
  • Marriott Rewards
  • New York & Company
  • Brookstone
  • Walgreens
  • The College Board
  • Home Shopping Network (HSN)
  • LL Bean
  • Disney Destinations
  • Barclays Bank of Delaware
  • Target
  • 1800 Flowers
  • Ethan Allen

Most of these clients immediately sent out an apology email starting what happened, what it means for the customer and what they’re doing about it.

Like this started in the TiVO email, “We regret this has taken place and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We take your privacy very seriously, and we will continue to work diligently to protect your personal information.”

The first press release from Epsilon was very short. On March 30th, an incident was detected where a subset of Epsilon clients’ customer data were exposed by an unauthorized entry into Epsilon’s email system. The information that was obtained was limited to email addresses and/or customer names only. A rigorous assessment determined that no other personal identifiable information associated with those names was at risk. A full investigation is currently underway.”

There is not an apology anywhere in that statement.  Epsilon, or its parent company Alliance Data Systems Corporation, failed to apologize until almost a week after the news broke. According to Ed Tagliaferri, executive vice president at DKC Public Relations in New York City, “You’re obviously sorry that a problem occurred and had a negative impact on your customers, so why not say that? It conveys that there is a human side to your company, you appreciate the trouble that has been caused and you’re taking the matter seriously.”

Taking your time to apologize only makes you seem suspicious. It’s like being in public relations and knowing to never saying “No comment,” when you don’t apologize for a mistake it makes you less credible.

Tripp Frohlichstein from PR Daily.com also writes, “An apology is so easy, and it makes a difference to people. Often, a person who has had a bad experience will say, “All I wanted was an apology.” It puts a human face on what can otherwise be perceived as a cold, heartless entity. It shows that you care that you may have had a negative effect on your customers.” Why is it so obvious to people that admitting there is a problem seems like first nature and to others it’s like they’re being tortured to confess they’re wrong or have made a mistake.

I think a quick apology from Epsilon would have been more beneficial to the companies involved in the breach. These well-known businesses have their reputation and trust at risk. Customers won’t remember Epsilon or Alliance Data Systems Corp. in a few months from now, or a even couple years. They’re just going to remember that when they signed up online at Target.com or TiVo that their email addresses starting receiving tons more spam.

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crunch time

Ready, set…

Start freaking out!

There are six weeks left of school and the job search has begun. I should have probably started the hunt awhile back but I just don’t think it would have been humanly possible. I hardly have time to see my boyfriend and we live together. Between building three websites, two communications plans , an internship and working I don’t have time for much else.

So are you wondering how to find a job after graduation? Me too. I’ve done my fair share of networking and asking communicators around me for tips or recommendations on the process. A lot of them had similar answers but I still hear this phrase in my head, “it’s not about what you know or who you know. It’s about who knows you.” Simon Salt gave my class this bit of knowledge a few months ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. After all, that is pretty much exactly how I got my internship with him and myDASHH.

For the past couple of months I’ve been attending a lot of networking events and job shadowing trying to get my name out there. I’ve made a few connections and plan on working those to get my resume in front of the right people. I’m also creating a digital portfolio online to help brand myself and showcase some of my best work.

My next step is to complete this weekend is a list of prominent places to work for in DFW. I need to do a little more research on the companies I haven’t heard of and determine which I think I would fit in best. After that, I’m going to figure out which of my connections have connection at each place, haha.

I’ve already been scanning the PRSSA job bank, as well as dfwcommunicators.com, Monster and UNT Career Center. Now I really need to start sending out my resume.

If you’re a PR student and you’re graduation next semester or next May I highly recommend starting your networking and internships now. Everyone should also read this blog post by MarketingMel,  How to get a job in Public Relations: Eleven tips from a PR pro. I like this post because it has a few unique but pertinent tips.

MarketingMel points out as number eleven on the list you need to brand yourself. I’ve heard this over and over the past semester. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to solidify your social media profiles and make sure you are portraying the brand in person as well. The other tip I like is to follow journalists on Twitter, etc. I’ve heard too many PR students say that they don’t read the news. I have always been a news junkie and it’s important in our field to know news breaking information no matter which part of communications you pursue.

 

job shadowing

When I first thought about job shadowing I racked my brain to find companies that were different and remotely related to the music industry. Then I remembered I knew someone whose company has done business with Clear Channel Radio and asked if she could help me find someone there to shadow for a day (networking is everything! ha!) After a few email exchanges the date was set for me to observe Shane Williams, the National Promotions & Integrated Marketing Coordinator for Clear Channel Radio in Dallas, on Thursday, March 24.

I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the Clear Channel building. Shane met me in the lobby and gave a quick tour around the different studios: 102.1 The Edge, Mix 102.9, Lone Star 92.5, 97.1 The Eagle, 1190 AM. Most of the morning shows were on-air so I just peaked in through the glass doors. Then we headed down to his office where I learned a little more about his job.

Shane is in charge of the national clients, people wanting to advertise, at the different stations. He handles them all, whether it is through traditional media or non-traditional (website and events.) He also works on the big events like Edgefest and Freakers Ball dealing with the vendors and just about anything else.  Shane started working at Clear Channel as a promotions coordinator, moved on to the integrated marketing coordinator and now deals with the national promotions as well.

An important part of Shane’s job is protecting the Clear Channel brand. He filters the potential clients to determine which ones will or will not be kosher through association. On occasion Shane will come up with a creative promotion to put on a station’s social media networks, but that is mostly left up to the promotion coordinators.

I found it very refreshing that everyone working there was so friendly and laid back. From the promotion coordinators to The Eagle’s on-air personality Cindy Scull, everyone interacted with each other like they were all equals.

The most important skill Shane uses to be successful at his job is communication. Whether it’s with the directors above him or the clients he’s working with. I found it interesting Shane said the station always makes sure to get sound clips or screen shots of advertisements to send back to the client to show their investment being executed. It’s not a requirement to do this, but everyone puts in the effort to make the client feel good about Clear Channel.

Shane also stressed it is important to manage expectations of others. “Under sell and over deliver,” he said. This too applies to the expectations of people within the company and those choosing to advertise with them. He is also constantly prioritizing and following through with things.

Before lunch I asked Shane the generic, but valuable, question I like to ask every professional: What are the most important things about how to get a job? According to Shane…

  • Have Passion
  • Know something about the company or person interviewing you
  • Do anything to get your foot in the door

Shane also threw in do NOT ask unrealistic questions or be late during an interview.

Job shadowing has been one of the most constructive experiences I’ve had. I highly recommend it to any public relations student, whether you have an internship or not. It gives you the opportunity to seek insight on different corporations to helps determine what type or what direction of your career you want to take. I could only be so lucky to have a job at such a chill, yet exciting place like Clear Channel Radio. I really appreciate Shane taking the time out of his day to show me the ropes and answer all my questions!

brands on twitter

Last week I grabbed a bite to eat at Taco Bueno on the way home from class. I had a lot of work to do and didn’t want to spend that time in the kitchen (although I love to cook.)

I don’t normally eat Taco Bueno. I’ve been a Taco Bell fan even through the “beef” lawsuit. On this particular day I choose to order the Beef Nacho Salad from Bueno. Normally I will order the cheese quesadilla. The restaurant is just a few miles from my house so I drove home to eat.

So, there I am sitting at the table, starving, waiting to devour some food… I open the styrofoam container… lo and behold, the salad is covered in refried beans!

Here’s the deal: I refuse to eat any kind of beans. I’ve tried them (all kinds) several times and I just don’t like the texture or taste. My boyfriend and I have an agreement that he won’t make me eat beans if I don’t make him eat peas. Our agreement includes that we won’t argue about it or force one another to eat our forbidden food.

I wouldn’t have got so upset about the bean cover nachos if the meal comes with beans and I asked for no beans. But the beans are not even an ingredient for the beef nacho salad! Someone working there decided I should have them and loaded them on. There’s a big difference

Naturally, I complained on Facebook and Twitter about my food mishap. I thought some friends would read it and laugh at my misery and I’d move on with my day.

Within seven minutes @Taco_Bueno replied to my tweet.

I honestly never thought I would interact with a brand on Twitter. I didn’t try to get their attention on purpose; I wasn’t looking for a resolution, free product or trying to get someone in trouble. They were just on it.

I direct messaged them but also asked a question just to make sure the ingredients in the salad haven’t changed since last time I ordered it and there really aren’t supposed to be beans. I would feel horrible if I was ranting and I was actually wrong.

I never got a response to my message, just an email.

The email was very generic, I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t conversational and didn’t make me feel like I was talking to an actual person. It seems like Taco Bueno has some a great social media team looking for people tweeting about their brand, but fail to follow through with a personal and meaningful DM or email.

Bueno’s timely response and attempt to send me a coupon still isn’t going to change my opinion on their food. Taco Bell will always be my fave.  I’ll probably give the coupons away.

There are a lot of brands that using social media well. Anyone who pays attention in the twitterverse are familiar with Southwest Airlines, Toms, Chevrolet and in response to recent events, Taco Bell. Mashable has compiled a list of 40 of the Best Twitter Brands and the People Behind Them in 2009, but I’m sure a lot has changed in two years.

Brands need to follow some of the better social media campaigns to see what is and what’s not working. A lot of companies are looking for a quick fix and use a lot of automated responses. Going in this direction isn’t going to get your company noticed or make consumers feel intrigued by your services.

UPDATE: I have received seven $5 free Taco Bueno cards in the mail. I’m a poor college student, I’ll never pass up free food so today I used two cards and got $9.93 of food… free.

Should social media practitioners have that vital journalism and communications training? Definitely, here’s why…

When trying to describe my major to friends, family and random people they are often confused by what exactly is “public relations.” Another confusing aspect for friends to grasp is I’m required to blog and tweet for class when most of these people don’t even have Twitter accounts.

I try to explain to them that Twitter is required to help me learn how to use it strategically in my “real world grown up job.” Obviously since they’re not even leisure users, they have no idea.

Hasn’t anyone wondered why Charlie Sheen just joined Twitter? My guess is because his publicist, Stan Rosenfield, probably gave him advice not to. Now that he has resigned, Charlie is obviously making a mockery of himself. Rosenfield’s communications training could have been the logic in knowing that every celebrity, brand, etc. is not suited for social media.

But for you that do understand using Twitter and other social media platforms, I hope you will agree that social media is an element of journalism.

In Erin Everhart’s article, “How is Social Media Not Journalism?” she points out a similar situation she’s been put in, “Social media has an ever-more influential position in the disseminating and the consumption of news and information, and it strikes me as odd that I get assaulted from my more mainstream journalism friends with accusations that I’m letting my journalism degree go to waste by being a digital marketer.”

I’m not sure how/if Erin was taught how to use social media strategically in college, but that is the kind of classes I’m perusing my last semester. Social Media can be a very important tactic of your overall strategic communications plan. You need to learn, whether it’s through experience or a class room setting, how to use these new elements of journalism to your clients advantage.

I’ve wondered to myself, and even had some candid friends ask, why am I getting a college degree to run someone’s Facebook and Twitter account? I believe I am a good promoter, even prior to starting college, but taking courses for five years has taught me in public relations you must plan and have a damn good plan while you’re at it.

Through guest speakers I have been able to learn how to strategically plan to use social media as a journalistic element. Announcing press releases in 140 characters has made me a better writer, more concise and direct.

I’m excited to see where this gray line of defining journalism transitions. This industry is ever evolving while people are trying to figure out ways to use the new platforms; someone is creating another one that is going to blow our minds.

 

Everhart brought up a good debate, “…at one point didn’t we think that you needed a newspaper for something to be journalism?”

Guerrilla Promotions

“It has to start somewhere
It has to start sometime
What better place than here
What better time than now”

The quote from Rage Against The Machine’s lyric seemed so fitting to this topic, mainly because I can’t ever hear the word guerrilla and not automatically start singing their song in my head. =)

In the 21st century public relation professionals, marketing managers and advertising directors are working diligently to come up with the idea that is going to get their brand noticed most by consumers. A lot of known brands are resorting to more guerrilla style promotions to achieve a competitive advantage in this tough economy. A 2010 Mashable’s article lists their top 10 Excellent Examples of Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns.

Out of the list, my favorite video example of guerrilla marketing came to a tie: Absolut Vodka and a Dutch insurance agency.

Both videos put consumers in everyday situations that they might encounter and made them fun. Who hasn’t ever thought about taking something on the luggage claim conveyer belt? No one ever does, because it’s just not right, haha. But what stops us?

And every driver can spot a scratch or dent on their car once they immediately set their eyes on it in the parking lot. After drivers got over the instant shock, they looked closer at sticker and then searched online and found out they could order scratch stickers to prank their friends, too. That leads to a lot of word of mouth awareness.

Agencies are resorting to this kind of awareness because it costs and only takes some thinking outside of the box. The campaigns are quite effective at getting consumers to notice your brand in all the clutter of traditional advertising. I personally believe guerrilla campaigns leave a longer impression on a consumer as opposed to flipping through a magazine and seeing an attention grabbing ad.

Unfortunately for us in the States we don’t experience a lot of these campaigns. This is usually because someone (government or nongovernment) always completely over reacts to anything abnormal. In 2007 Adult Swim launched a marketing campaign in Austin, Texas… and it completely backfired. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, check it out on Austinist.com

I personally, thought the Aqua Teen Hunger Force campaign was awesome! But I was part of Adult Swim’s target market (much like the rest of Austin’s 20-somethings) and was aware of the cartoon that the “bomb-like devices” resembled.

Hopefully guerrilla marketing campaigns will start to have more approval in our country. I have hope! Just recently works from the famous British street artist, Banksy, were spotted at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. He was doing a little self promotion for a documentary that features him, Exit Through The Gift Shop. If you haven’t watched the film yet, I encourage you to check it out (it’s on Netflix!) Whether you’re interested in graffiti art, marketing or pop culture it’s a must see.

trends in PR

Every week I learn something new about social location-based marketing. I’ve only tinkered with Gowalla and Facebook Places because I haven’t figured out what the point is. It reminds me of the Verizon commercial with the parents on Twitter and Facebook. The dad is constantly tweeting pointless information like, “I am sitting on the patio.”

I don’t want to spam everyone’s newsfeed with “Donna Douglas is at University of North Texas GAB rm 111,” “Donna Douglas is at University of North Texas Wooten Hall rm 216” or “Donna Douglas is at University of North Texas GAB rm 114,” Donna Douglas is at home.” I live such an exciting life huh? Haha. I guess it’s worthy to check-in to places that are of interest. For example, last night I attended the Social Location Marketing Book Tour with Simon Salt at the Angelika Theater hosted by SMC Dallas with some fellow PRSSA members and a couple friends. My friends were checking in and posting it to Twitter so their followers could see that they were there and then they could meet up. I started thinking about how awesome this concept was.

This paragraph was going to be about how I couldn’t see myself using check-ins on a daily (or even weekly) basis to inform friends and family on Facebook or acquaintances on Twitter where I was. I’ve started to rethink that. If I checked-in on Facebook it would be to show off that I’m at a cool or notable place. If I checked-in on Twitter it would be to see if anyone I’m following is there. Are you thinking why do I care if I’m at the same bar/event as a random PR professional I follow on Twitter? Because networking is everything. =)

So this blog isn’t meant to be about my personal use of location-based apps. I’ve been learning how useful social location-based applications can be for the marketing and the PR business.  I was curious as to how people were predicting it is going to affect the industries.  According to Eb Adeyeri, blogger for Lewis PR, his number two trend prediction for 2011 is “Location, location, location.” Although he doesn’t go into much detail, he threw in the term geo-fencing which I’ve never heard before but I like the sound of it.

For fun I thought I’d go back in time, to 2008, and see what trends were forecasted for public relations that year. On PR20/20.com the blogger mentioned social media as the number one trend to watch in 2008 because of its affordability and efficiency to connect with others.  Wow. It seems so vague! No one had any idea what social technologies would turn into. For giggles, I’ll share the rest of the list…

8 Public Relations Trends to Watch in 2008 (full blog post here)

  1. Social Media
  2. Online Press Release & Newsrooms
  3. Search Engine Optimization
  4. Content Publishing
  5. Social Bookmarking
  6. RSS Feeds
  7. Google News Alerts
  8. Standardized Services & Pricing

How many of these things have become instinctive to you?

As a soon-to-be graduate I often find myself asking every professional their view on things like what are the most important things I can be doing to get a job after school, what they prefer to see on a resume and what should I include in my portfolio, among others.

At this week’s PRSSA meeting the President of BizCom Associates, Scott White, gave some advice that really made a difference to me, “Write to be a good writer, not to get the grade.” This helped me get out of my forced creative slump. When you’re forced to be creative by a deadline each week the work produced is hardly your best. Every week staring at my laptop a powerful, thought provoking idea doesn’t automatically come to mind. I know I’m the only person with this problem. I know as a college senior that this definitely won’t be the last time I struggle with this situation. But I now realize that this blog can be something more than just an obligation. It’s another outlet for me to perform on deadline and improve my writing skills.

Another student (Brandon, maybe?) asked Scott what he prefers to read on blogs and if he likes a more conversational tone or a news-story structured blog. Scott said the key to writing is understanding your audience. We’ve all heard that before and apply it to our communication plans and marketing homework but fail to realize it’s the same for a simple blog post.

Scott, having a BA in Journalism from UNT, really emphasized at the meeting how important it is to be a strong writer. To write a basic news release that meets the requirements of standard format isn’t that hard. But to write an effective news release that is going to read and the information published requires being a skilled writer.

Scott White of BizCom Associates Tips to Scoring a Job after Graduation

#1 – Have an internship during school

#2 – Be a strong writer

#3 – Read The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly

A winter storm hit the Metroplex around three in the morning on Tuesday, just a mere five days before Super Bowl XLV. Snow, ice and frigid temperatures being somewhat of a foreign thing to us, we’ve all been freaking out. To all of the out-of-state football visitors in Texas this weather is completely normal for them. Texas doesn’t seem to have the infrastructure to prepare and take action to clearing the roadways and supplying power during such super an arctic event.

Everyone apologizing to out-of-towners, a flurry of complaints on social media and the overly dramatic stories on local news stations haven’t played off to make our host city (or, cities) look like such a good choice for the Super Bowl. I’m not that big of a sports fan but I think the attraction could lead to more annual visitors to North Texas towns, given the right circumstance. There is a lot of speculation about the weather harming the NFL Commissioner’s choice to ever host the game here again.

A lot of out-of-town media have also complained about the branding concept of the North Texas Super Bowl; not the Dallas-Fort-Worth-Arlington-Irving-Grapevine-Grand Prairie Super Bowl. Visitors are saying it’s a little confusing not having a central hub where all of the main events are taking place. For example, the NFL Experience and most of the celebrity parties are being held in Dallas, there are NFL Concerts being held in Grand Prairie, one Super Bowl team is staying in Irving and the other in Fort Worth as well as the ESPN Broadcast.

Now the ice is melting and falling off of Cowboys Stadium and has injured seven people. There is a video posted on NBC 5’s website of ice falling earlier in the day. If someone knew this was a problem, why weren’t more people alerted before injuries were caused? This is all turning into a PR nightmare.

When the decision to put the new Cowboy’s Stadium in Arlington first arose we all questioned whether or not it was a good choice. Residents in Arlington had to be removed from their homes on the land, highway infrastructure has been messed up for years and there’s not a downtown with booming nightlife.

After this Super Bowl experience is over, I hope the North Texas Convention & Visitors Bureaus will come up with a very clear marketing and communications plan to push traveling in Texas. I’m not sure if hosting the Super Bowl will be enough. Maybe when this is all over, a certain town that has been highlighted well will pick up some good PR practices and gain more butts in beds to get their share of that hotel tax.

Update: More things going wrong at Super Bowl XLV
sports.yahoo.com – Christina
sports.yahoo.com – Seating fiasco

lessons learned

As I’m starting my last semester of college I’ve been thinking about a lot of lessons I’ve learned along the way. I realized if you see an opportunity you must jump on it. For example, this Thursday I wanted to go to an event the Social Media of Club Dallas was hosting. I waited until the day of to purchase a ticket and the event was sold out! This isn’t exactly a critical analysis of something specific to PR, but a general analysis of my procrastination (it’s less than an hour before this blog is due.) In my defense, this first blog caught me off guard and I work 12 hours on Fridays. Anyways, I learned last year when I attended the PRSA Communications Summit that networking is everything. I already knew that… just never practiced it in a corporate/industry setting. At these events you’re going to meet that one person that is going to change your whole career. I hope to get on top of things (school and networking, among other affairs) and kick this semester into gear. I will have a job when I graduate.

Just so you know,
I’m already registered for the SMC Dallas’ next event with Simon Salt. You should be, too,

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