Archive for the ‘Public Relations’ Category

I’m Published, Yo   Leave a comment

Two weeks ago I started a new graduate assistantship at UT – I’m now the “Environmental Communications Coordinator” for UT’s communications and marketing department. Fancy title, huh! It’s been a lot of fun so far – meeting new people and talking about recycling and sustainability efforts on campus (of which there are many). With this job, my goal is to make UT’s students, faculty and staff more aware of and more involved in UT’s sustainability and recycling ventures.

Anyway, today my first article was published in Tennessee Today, and I want to share! Tennessee Today is the Communication & Marketing official online newspaper for all things UT.

Here’s the direct article link: http://www.utk.edu/tntoday/2011/09/16/smart-trips-commitment-award/

And here’s the main link to Tennessee Today: http://www.utk.edu/tntoday/

I’m celebrating with a second cup of coffee and maybe some fresh hot homemade bread. What will you be doing to celebrate this momentous occasion?

~C

Netflix? How About Notflix?   7 comments

Today Netflix announced on their blog and through emails to customers that the price structure for watching DVDs and streaming videos would be changing. Significantly. As in more than a 60% difference in price. Netflix customers everywhere, including myself, are PISSED.

Since the post went up this morning, and at the time of this blog post, 4,700 comments (and rising) have already been made, mostly from angry customers. The first comment alone has more than 7,500 “likes.” That’s a LOT of bad social media juju for one company to handle. Did Netflix expect this backlash? Are they prepared to deal with it? Judging by their post (which comes across as well thought out, yet still egregious in content), I’d say not.

 

[UPDATE, July 14th – Yesterday Netflix spokesperson Steve Swasey talked to AdAge about the situation. You can read the full article here – If it’s TL;DR, let me summarize: Netflix took a business approach to the changes, but didn’t create a communication plan to announce the changes and deal with inevitable customer backlash (in other news, Netflix is now hiring a team of dedicated public relations and social media experts to handle…a…situation…that has emerged). The article’s discussion about the Netflix customer service hotline is especially curious.]

Some people who have been loyal Netflix customers for longer than a decade are irate at being taken for granted. I have to agree with them. Yes, the problem is likely with movie studios hiking their prices for streaming rights, which forces Netflix to charge its customers more, but it doesn’t explain why Netflix is imposing a more than 60% price increase and such imbalanced options. Especially in this economy.

Here’s the first comment to the blog post from a Mr Scotty Fagaly, who sums up how I feel very nicely:

“the only way that this is terrific for the customer is if you plan to offer your entire collection available for streaming…. otherwise this is just yet another way to choke more change out of your customers…. I mean… are you guys really that strapped for cash? or are you just greedy? ALSO, what a great way to treat you long term customers, we REALLY appreciate it…i can understand you applying it to new customers… but please, explain to me who’s brilliant idea this was… I hear it going like this ” Hey I have an idea of how we can show appreciation to our long term valued customers…. let’s take MORE of their money, that way they REALLY feel valued!”….IDIOTS.”

Right now I pay just over $10 per month for Netflix (including taxes), which gets me one DVD at a time, and all the streaming content I want. Netflix is going to change the price structure so I can continue with the combined service I have for $15.98 (plus tax) per month, or I can choose EITHER streaming OR one DVD at a time for $7.99. I can’t have both. Netflix thinks this is a “deal.” Netflix is wrong. Here’s why:

Streaming:

The streaming content is very limited and changes frequently because Netflix doesn’t have 100% streaming distribution rights from all the various movie studios. When they do have streaming rights, the streaming is only licensed for a certain amount of time. Streaming rights are rarely in perpetuity. So if you’re half way through season 3 of Breaking Bad and the streaming contract runs out, Netflix will remove the episodes from streaming faster than you can say “Heisenberg.” No more Walter White. No more Blue Sky. No more gripping plot twists. Just a frustrated viewer that now has to rent or purchase the DVDs to finish the season.

DVD’s:

Netflix’s DVD library is vast, but as you know, DVDs take time to arrive in the mail. Mine actually get delivered pretty quickly – within two days (we have a Netflix hub here in Knoxville). But still, that’s 48 whole hours slower than turning on the telly and choosing to instantly stream a movie.

The alternative:

Cancel Netflix entirely and switch to a mix of Amazon.com streaming and Hulu Plus. In addition, many convenience stores and supermarkets these days have RedBox or Blockbuster rental boxes where DVDs can be rented for $1 per day. Pretty cheap, but you still have to walk/ride/drive to get the damn things.

The biggest question people are asking…

Why should people have to choose between two services that are the same price, yet offer such stunningly different service? And why isn’t Netflix offering a discount for customers who want the choice of both viewing options? Many irate customers feel Netflix should only impose this new price structure on new customers, not the existing ones. So what does one do? I must say, it’s a tough decision that I haven’t made yet.

If Netflix actually decides to move ahead with this ridiculous plan, it goes into effect September 1, 2011. As a current Netflix customer, I will be watching attentively as this story unfolds. If the social media world has anything to do with it, Netflix will have to pay attention and respond carefully if they want to retain their loyal customer base while also adding new, willing customers.

If you’re a Netflix subscriber, what do you think about all of this? Are you frustrated by this impending change? Did you see the price hike coming? Are you going to take the plunge and cancel your service?

~C

Top 5 Tips For The PR SuperAgent   2 comments

On Friday I attended the Real World Atlanta Conference in downtown Atlanta. Hosted by the PRSA Georgia Chapter, about 150 public relations students attend, as well as a healthy mix of agency and corporate public relations professionals. Overall, the conference was fantastic. I networked with some really interesting people, and gained valuable tips, tricks, and insight into the public relations profession.

Instead of doing a play-by-play of the day, I’m going to list the top five lessons I took away from the experience. The following list is geared towards public relations practitioners, but it probably applies to almost any professional industry…

1) Facebook is a major, major component of your online presence.

If you’re interviewing for a job, make sure you have cleaned up your Facebook profile ahead of time. Even if all of your privacy settings are customized for “friends only” or even “only me”, chances are high that you’ve been tagged in other photos by friends. Dimyka Roberts, Recruiter at Digitas Health, and Tia Jackson, Human Resources Manager at Porter Novelli, both stressed that potential employers will search and search until they find a back door into your Facebook profile. Employers want to know the real you, and that means Facebook. So do yourself a favor and untag or delete all those photos where you’ve got a drink in your hand, or you look drunk. Sure, Bonnaroo was an amazing experience. And sure, you were sober the entire time, but a prospective employer might perceive otherwise if they see a photo of you standing in the Hippie Fountain with some dude toking up in the background. Another good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you’d want “that photo” to show up on the front page of the New York Times. If you’re okay with the consequences of that hypothetical situation, chances are, a future employer wouldn’t have a problem with it either.

2) Work-life “blending” is the new balance.

These days, the public relations professional is a busy, busy person. Public relations is one of those professions that’s often hard to leave at work once you head home for the day. People often refer to finding a balance between work and home, to avoid heavy bias in either direction. But with the integration of social media and the ease of multi-platform, mobile communication in so many facets of daily life, where does work stop and home begin? It has become far too easy to work at home, or play at work. Craig Hodges, Vice President at Edelman, talked about “blending” work and life to find a sustainable mix of the two. If you’re still emailing clients or working on a project once you get home, are you also able to simultaneously interact with your partner/children/pets? How long do you keep the laptop open once you’re home? Do you answer emails on your phone during dinner? Do you care? Does your partner care? The answer is different for everybody, but it’s important to keep tabs on your own happiness, your professional productivity, and your personal relationships (whether it’s with another human or your pet), and find the best blend for your situation.

3) Underpromise and overdeliver.

For entry level public relations professionals, being able to meet expectations is essential to gaining trust and respect from your boss. For long-term professionals, the same is true in client situations. Elizabeth McMillan, Account Director at William Mills Agency stated that an excellent strategy is to under promise what you believe is possible in a situation, but then always strive to over deliver. Of course, if a deadline is crucial, you’re not going to say it can’t be met, but make sure you understand what is being asked of you, and seriously consider the resources you have available to accomplish the task at hand. If you need help, it’s always okay to ask for it. If you can consistently over deliver, people will take notice. Another question: If you’ve got an internship, do you always leave five minutes early? Are you unsure what you should be working on? At the end of each day, employers love it when interns ask if anything else needs to be done before heading home. A strong work ethic and flexibility with hours are easily recognized traits in a good intern. Interns with those qualities are typically the ones offered full time positions when an internship is over.

4) What’s your elevator speech?

If you found yourself in an elevator with the hiring manager or VP from the agency that you desperately want to work for, and the ride from the lobby to the 16th floor takes 30 seconds, how would you use those crucial seconds? Would you make small talk, mumble, or look down at your shoes the whole time? Would you stare at the doors, silently freaking out about what you should be saying, but are too afraid? Hopefully not! Instead, you should pitch yourself like it’s the only chance you’ll ever get. Stephen Brown, the Senior VP of MSL Group in Atlanta says that it’s a great idea to have 2 or 3 scenarios rehearsed beforehand, so you can nail that once-in-a-lifetime elevator ride with confidence and ease. Keep it simple, straightforward and to the point. The most important part to remember is that you are, in no way, asking for a job (that’s what the formal interview is for, right?): Instead, use the 30 seconds to tell this VP one interesting idea you have, what amazing skill you can bring to his or her agency, and how you can make his or her life easier. It’s as simple as that. With any luck you’ll make a great first impression and give yourself a head start over the other candidates applying for the same job.

5) Interpersonal networking is still incredibly relevant.

The past two to six years have exploded with opportunities to connect with industry professionals via online social networks. It’s great that you’ve created a LinkedIn profile, and you’re following the PR industry heavyweights on Twitter. But do they know who you are? What’s your in? As a public relations n00b, you need more than a digital presence. Stephen Brown kicked off Real World Atlanta, 2011, with a great talk on the advantages of interpersonal networking. He stressed the importance of going to local PR events or conferences and talking to people face-to-face. Even if the person you’re talking to doesn’t work in the same PR sphere as where you want to be, they might know somebody who does. You need to work that room and let people know who you are. Dress professionally, keep a stash of business cards on you (even if it just has your name and blog URL, that’s good enough), and stay positive! It’s a small world: Work some charm, establish some  connections, and you’ll be surprised at how far it can take you.

~C

Diffuse This   1 comment

When an organization has a new product or service available, the goal is to obtain widespread adoption of that product or service, right? So how does a company go about doing that? Ask any public relations or advertising practitioner: Research and strategy.

As a customer of various organizations, think about how and why you decide to use a service, donate to a charity, or purchase a product. Do you blindly adopt or support anything and everything you see? Or do you put thought into it?

Although we all make impulse buys from time to time, chances are, most of your decisions are calculated (even if the calculation is very brief, it still happens). Therefore, the strategy behind an organization’s product or service must also be calculated to obtain the most effective results possible.

There is a process involved with almost every successful product or service adoption campaign in existence. A good public relations strategy is to always use a good theory. One basic but highly effective theory in this case is Diffusion Theory, which is neatly packaged below in five succinct steps.

1) Awareness: Before initiating any research, the organization needs to know who its target demographic is. Armed with the organization’s demographic data, the PR strategist can create awareness of the new product or service. Potential adopters need to know there is something new available before they can adopt it.

2) Interest: Once people are aware of the product or service, they’ll want to know more about it. An organization should be ready to disseminate easily understood information about the product/service: What it is, how it functions, why it’s useful or necessary, and so on. As always, this step should be kept simple. An organization doesn’t want to loose potential customers due to poor explanations!

3) Trial: People need the option to try a product or service on a trial-basis to determine whether it’s something they want to use long-term. The trial stage is crucial, because first impressions matter. For example, Ive heard of the Kindle from various sources (conversations with friends, TV commercials). I become more interested because I realize it’s a new, green technology. I’d like to try a Kindle out, but I’m still not sure if I need or even want one. Luckily, Amazon.com is offering a 30-day, money-back guarantee trial for just this reason. Excellent!

4) Evaluation: The fourth step is where most people will either accept or reject the product or service. Possible questions the person may ask him or herself when deciding: Is it useful? Will it make my life easier? Is it even affordable? Is it offered from a reputable, trustworthy company? An organization should try to ensure the answer is always YES to all of these questions, in order to attract (and retain) as many new customers or clients as possible. If a person decides to adopt the new product or service, the organization has successfully changed that persons’ behavioral pattern. Either the person is adopting a product or service for the first time, or they’re choosing to drop what the competition is offering, in favor of another organization. If the person chooses not to adopt the product or service, the organization will have failed to change that person’s behavior (for various reasons).

5) Adoption: If the first four steps are successfully implemented, a person will hopefully choose to adopt the new product or service. Widespread adoption may take a little while, but if people like what the organization is offering, they will spread the news. People typically share positive feedback with 9-12 friends, but be warned: People who have a bad experience with an organization’s product or service may tell as many as 20 people* about it – and not in a good way. With the explosion of social media use, word of mouth about products and services travels super fast these days. It’s essential to keep new and existing customers as happy as possible, so those fast-traveling words stay positive!

One last thought: Not every public relations or advertising campaign should use ONLY social media. Remember, for some demographics, using social media platforms to attract new customers can be about as useful as a submarine with windshield wipers. Keep some traditional options in mind when strategizing. If in doubt, remember that it always comes down to that initial research: Use the public relations or advertising strategies that best fit your organization’s goals. Chances are, the results will be a success.

~C

* Figures taken from The Social Media Bible by Lon Safko, 2010.

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