a blog by Liz Johnston… just a 20-something PR girl trying to find her way

Archive for February, 2011

The Red Cross Twitter Retraction

When I heard about the Red Cross “Twitter Faux Pas” my first thought was “Oh no, that’s my worst nightmare!” As a PR student, I monitor my personal Twitter page and the Twitter page for my internship at HIV Alliance – both of which are set up on my smart phone. Every time I post from my phone, I check which account I am logged into a minimum of three times before I press enter. You could call me paranoid, although the Red Cross blunder reaffirmed my paranoid routine. Inappropriate posting to the wrong account happens and I don’t want to be the one posting a retraction tweet.


Worst case scenario, I would follow Red Cross’ example – Red Cross handled its “faux pas” with grace and brilliance. Once Red Cross processed the fact that “yes, this did just happen – personal content was just tweeted to the professional account,” it has the right state of mind to know the tweet in question could not be simply deleted. Once content is posted, it is out there in the Internet universe, circulating and gaining attention and momentum. Plus, if the tweet in question were deleted, issues of transparency could pop up for Red Cross and then Red Cross would be in a bigger blunder than before. Instead, Red Cross quickly took a print screen of the tweet and deleted it from its feed. The next morning, a new blog post was up on the Red Cross website where people could see the tweet in question and read Red Cross’ explanation of events and decisions.


Like any public apology, Red Cross admits their mistakes, shows evidence, corrects said mistake and explains the situation from their point of view – all with a sense of humor and humanity. What is even more great about this is the fact that this “apology” was posted on a blog, allowing for easy finding via search engines and allowing for comments.


I would have taken it one step further – instead of just mentioning the pledges of donations from Twitter followers, I would have turned the situation into a call to action, like Dog Fish Beer did. Red Cross could have followed up its “apology” tweet with something like “We are all human and we all make mistakes. And sometimes we all need a helping hand (with link to donation).” Due to the “faux pas” Red Cross probably had a lot more traffic to its Twitter profile than on an ordinary day and it would have been a great time to try and capitalize on the extra attention.


Freeing Facebook Fan Features

To immerse myself into the public relations industry I volunteer at a local nonprofit, HIV Alliance, as its social media intern, managing the Facebook fan page, Twitter account and blog. When I began my internship, it was clear that social media had been pushed to the back burner – the development team simply didn’t have enough time to manage it all. HIV Alliance wanted to utilize social media to connect to the community as a whole but specifically wanted to have a deeper connection with current and potential volunteers and donors.


Enter new Facebook fan page features.


I can now breathe a sigh of relief because Facebook has now made it so much easier to communicate, along a two-way communication highway, with our publics. Previous to these updates, an organization as unable to comment or post on a user’s profile. This made it extremely difficult to cultivate meaningful relationships over cyberspace. If a volunteer posted on the HIV Alliance fan page, as an organization, we would only be able to comment on that post, which is on the HIV Alliance wall. But last week, everything changed for the better.


According to Facebook:

“Facebook pages are getting an updated layout and several new features to help you engage with your fans. Here’s some of what you’ll be getting:

  • Notifications when fans interact with your page or posts
  • A place to showcase photos along the top of your page
  • A news feed for your page
  • The ability to Like and post on other pages as your page”

And Facebook has it right! All of these new features will help organizations engage with fans. As a nonprofit we solicit time, donations and support – all of which align with our core values, and direct two-way engagement is necessary to communicate those values in cyberspace. Simply posting content to the HIV Alliance fan page does not attract potential “fans” and a simple post will not convey why people should care. The ability to post as HIV Alliance on pages opens the door to a much wider audience. If you don’t “like” the HIV Alliance fan page and place the page within your network, you will never see our content we post. With the new features, posting on a fan’s page allows us to reach everyone in that fan’s network ­– a huge increase in the number of potential views and impressions.


These new Facebook fan page features are freeing. Now, HIV Alliance has the ability to break out of the small network of fans and enter the entire Facebook network of users.

ADvertisements that work

Once I started my education in the School of Journalism and Communication, I began to see the world of media differently. Every sitcom, every billboard and every commercial is now seen through analytical eyes. I find myself  dissecting the decisions the producers made with every and every shot. Yes, I find myself much more observant these days, but when I am trying to relax with a glass of red wine in front of my TV, analytical eyes are not beneficial. I tend to zone out instead of paying attention to my favorite comedies like How I Met Your Mother and Modern Family, especially during commercials.

-Side Note- As a kid, I always found it funny and somewhat odd that my parents always put the TV on mute during commercials. At the time, I thought commercials were just additional entertainment, but now I see the wisdom of my parents way. -End Side Note-

So when I find myself actually paying attention to a commercial, either there is something special about the advertisement or I’m especially bored. But they are a few that stick out in my mind…

2011 Lincoln MKX

I want this car. I know nothing specific about this car except for what little is mentioned in the commercial – but I want this car. I don’t know if it because Mr. Sterling (John Slattery) is the one selling the car or what, but it works. In fact, all of the 2011 Lincoln commercials work. Each commercial conveys the same sleek,  sophisticated style paired with unprecedented car technology, something that is very appealing to a 20-something college student driving a ’96 Toyota Corolla. Especially true when a sophisticated, successful and yes, sexy man tells me how amazing the car is. Additional bonus, Lincoln has got a great 2011 commercial soundtrack.

Trident “Fighting Cavities”

I love Trident’s commercial series on fighting cavities and the above commercial is my favorite. When I see the commercial I honestly want to applaud the kids. If my future kids are able to create those costumes with plungers attached at the knees, I will be so proud! As a commercial, it really does work – I think about the type of gum I chew. It begs the question, if you are going to chew gum throughout your day, why not make it cavity fighting gum? And Trident makes a valid point. Cute kids and a little humor never hurts either.

Velveeta “Blow ‘Em Away”

I do not like and have never liked any form of “fake” cheese, but for some reason I want this queso dip. Maybe my taste buds are evolving as I mature – or perhaps devolving with my college lifestyle. But this commercial first makes me gasp, then laugh and finally real hungry for some yummy cheese dip. It works. At least on me.

The Truth of a Fast-Food Restaurant: ‘We’re in the business of making money’

It has been one of the core problems for the pubic relations industry since the beginning – to find a balance between the harsh truth of business and the softer side of corporate responsibility. This challenge becomes exponentially harder when the heart of a company, the product they sell, is seen to many Americans as bad, gross and disgusting, to name a few. This is the predicament faced by America’s fast-food chains. For many years, the food products from fast-food restaurants (the term restaurant is used loosely) have been criticized as being unhealthy, fattening and sometimes even inedible. Taco Bell is under suit for its lack of “meat” in its ground beef products. So how do the PR departments of fast-food restaurants, like Taco Bell, counter the poor images and bad reputations about their companies?


One industry spokeswoman, Beth Mansfield, decided to taking the blunt route stating, “The bottom line is we’re in the business of making money, and we make money off what we sell.” The Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chain spokeswoman continued by explaining, “If we wanted to listen to the food police and sell nuts and berries and tofu burgers, we wouldn’t make any money and we’d be out of business.” These comments come from an LA Times article that asks the question, how much responsibility should fast-food restaurants take in preparing healthy, or less unhealthy, meals? An answer to this question is by no means simple, and I don’t have one, but let’s look at some possible perspectives.

It is all about the bottom line. Period. In the same tone of the comments made by Mansfield, the fast-food industry is a business and in any business, it is all about the money. The goal of most companies is to bring in customers to buy their product, regardless of the perception of that product. Carl’s Jr. and other fast-food chains will continue to produce food that customers demand – all to make that great big pile of green dough.

It is an individual’s choice, not a company’s responsibility. It is neither the job nor the responsibility of a company to protect its customers from its own product. If the product is in fact unhealthy, then it is up to the individual customer to make a conscious decision not to eat at that establishment. Fast-food is not the only option. A company has a right to serve what they choose and an individual customer has the right to not eat there.

If the food is so cheap, then why not sell less for less money? Many critics believe that one reason fast-food is so popular is in the fact that it is dirt cheap. A low-income household can feed a family of four for fewer than $25. You can get a lot of food for a small amount of money. But this is also why many believe fast-food is so horrible, it overloads you with food and calories no one needs. So it makes sense to reason that fast-food restaurants could sell the same product, just less of it and for fewer dollars.


So what effect, if any, did Mansfield’s comments make? While I wouldn’t call the comments positive, they are not negative either. They’re just real, and I can applaud that.

Five-Feet to Fear

As a 20-something aspiring PR girl, I am not only in the process of finding my perfect career path – which, by the way is harder than it sounds – but I am also trying to discover the who I am a part from the what I do. Throughout my life I have been told, in the nicest way possible, that I am energetic, loud and a bit in your face. So this past year I have been working on being happy alone – content with the silence of my being.

Again, it’s not so easy – I am a talker, but I’ve slowly been discovering ways in which I can silently shine.

Here, I would like to reference a blog post from a fellow Duck on PRos in Training, which hits on the subject of the person behind the career – the who you are apart from the what you do. Yes, the two relate, but the key is to know that within every 20-something PR girl, the girl must shine through. And I know it’s cheesy, but sometimes the cheese speaks the truth, confidence is the key. Kelli nailed it on the head, the way in which you carry yourself and view yourself completely effects the people and atmosphere around you. When you are confident, people around you will view you differently. They will view you as a professional and maybe even an adult…but I’m not sure I’m ready for that.

I have been loving my senior year at the University of Oregon – and no, not for the parties and nights at the campus bars. (Well, at least not entirely.) I love the feeling I get as I walk out of my classrooms. I think to myself, “I’m ready. I can do this!”

But, that feeling only lasts a few steps. I like to call this the “five-feet to fear” theory. As I exit my classrooms and hit the five-foot radius around the door, fear sets in and  anxiety takes hold. All thoughts of “I’m ready. I can do this!” fly out of my head and are immediately replaced with “I still feel like I’m 18 and I’m not ready to be a full-on ADULT.” Yes, I am 22, I live on my own, I pay my own bills, and yet I still don’t consider myself an adult, and I think  quite a few of my peers would say the same thing. In fact, I think that a lot of students, most of them seniors facing the inevitability of graduation, would agree with my “five-feet to fear” theory. Or, I just hope that I’m not the only student facing this anxiety about the rest of my life.

That is really how I see it. When you get to the core of the fear, anxiety and uncertainty it is that fact that after graduation the rest of my life begins. And in writing those words I must let out a sigh – the rest of my life begins. Students everywhere, if you have yet to think about this, really let it sink in.

The kicker: I really am ready.