A Last Request

By: Sebastian Faura

Sometimes, there are cases in life that are, unfortunately, an inevitable result. Some of these cases are those that have their lives cut too short for one reason or another, whether it’s a tragic accident, or a terminal condition. However, there are those who go the extra mile for these individuals, and they truly are the exemplar of human empathy. Today, we’re going to recognize a couple of these individuals and groups.

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The Pixar movie “Up”.

Back in 2009, Pixar had just finished the development of their latest movie, “Up”. However, there was one fan who desperately wanted to see it, and didn’t have a lot of time to. Her name was Colby Curtin, and she was sick with Vascular Cancer, rendering her unable to go to a theater and see it. In response, Pixar sent out an employee directly to her hospital with a copy of the movie, giving Colby the opportunity to see it. Colby passed away later that very night, but her last wish had been fulfilled.

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John Cena, after granting his 500th wish.

This next person isn’t so much recognized for one thing as much as he’s being recognized for the massive list of accomplishments that arise from him. John Cena, while being best known for his association with WWE (and also being made into an infamous meme), is also a philanthropist, and is the highest Make A Wish granting celebrity to date, with over 500 wishes granted. His commitment and goodwill towards others is a standard not many can match.

 

Where’s the Follow Through?

By: Sebastian Faura

If there is one thing that is important as a public relations professional, it’s keeping true to the alleged promises your company makes in terms of incentives, announced commitments or otherwise binding elements that mean the company has some sort of obligation. Sometimes, though, that’s not followed as closely as it should be.

The first one that comes to mind is honestly a silly case, but nonetheless proof of the idea “Don’t say what you don’t mean”. Pepsi was trying to gain traction for its points program, where any Pepsi product you buy you could register online and gain points for it. So to add a little bit of hyperbole into the mix, they put a CGI harrier jet on the TV ad for it, listed at 7 million points. John Leonard took this claim seriously, and ended up actually gathering 7 million points. Despite this, however, Pepsi did not, in fact, dole out a military aircraft, much to the chagrin of Leonard, who attempted to sue.

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Didn’t think someone’d go for it, did you, Pepsi?

The second case, while incredulously elaborate, is nonetheless a true instance. Back in 2002, a waitress at a Hooters in Panama City, FL beat out all the other servers to sell the most beer in a month, under the impression that the restaurant will award the winner with a Toyota. Unfortunately, the miscommunication (intentionally so, for the sake of April Fool’s) merely awarded the woman with a “toy Yoda”, as in the Star Wars character. The woman, not amused, sued the restaurant and the company, quitting the job, and settling the suit in favor of her.

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Jodee Berry, former Hooters waitress and roundabout winner

So, what’s the lesson to learn here? Simple: People will take anything a company says seriously, unless otherwise indicated differently, or given the context of a joke or otherwise facetious remark. Tone is key in communication, and when that’s lost, you lose face.

Is Backpedaling A New Dance?

By: Sebastian Faura

So recent events can easily be summarized as PR disasters, best used as case studies on how to react in the proper way, how to NOT react in the proper way, and the ramifications of each. In this case, we’ll use the most prominent examples available to us: Pepsi’s insensitive ad, and United’s extremely poor treatment of overbooked passengers that devolved into actual physical confrontation.

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Kendall Jenner in the ad. Source: Vox.com

First example: Pepsi’s ad. Developed by the in-house ad team at Pepsi itself, it could be said that the idea of group think and a failure to outsource its focus groups led to the airing of an ad many have called tasteless, and implied that you could solve serious issues like police brutality, racial bias and social issues by giving your opponents a refreshing can of Pepsi. This is exacerbated by the fact that the key star in this commercial is Kendall Jenner, a celebrity part of a family that many people consider out-of-touch with reality in terms of common concerns that most of the country faces. Pepsi in this case did the right thing in its backpedal, pulling the commercial and stating that its intention was not to trivialize serious efforts for social reform. Damage done, written off. The next case, however, is a bit of a doozy.

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A United Airlines plane. Source: Google

United Airlines, like many other airlines, takes part in the practice of overbooking its flights to ensure that no seat on the flight goes unsold. This has some consequences however, and if all people show up to the flight, they will attempt to compensate passengers for being bumped off the flight. In this case, though, they selected a passenger to be removed from the plane (despite asking for volunteers), and airport security ended up assaulting the man, dragging him off the plane. Instead of distancing themselves from that behavior, United’s CEO BACKED the actions of the airline, saying the passenger was belligerent, and gaining even more negative press for the airline.

There’s a certain way to handle things when mistakes are made, especially when the actions taken are out of control of the companies in reference. But sometimes, you have to learn how to posture yourself better, and realize when you’re in the wrong.

Locally Grown

By: Sebastian Faura

I live in Denton. Anyone who lives here is aware of the very abundant, thriving local culture that I would argue defines the city’s scenery and charm, as well as being home to one of the largest colleges in the state. Alongside this is the distinct and unique nature of the local small businesses, which generally get a lot of good attention from residents of the DFW area. Occasionally, though, these businesses themselves make mistakes any business would, and sometimes have earned the same negative publicity as a result of these mistakes.

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Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. Source: Dallasobserver.com

One notable incident that comes to mind is a cardinal sin of public relations: Attacking your publics, and letting your emotions get the better of you. I understand that tensions can get high, but as a representative of a business, it’s on you to keep a generally professional demeanor, something that Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio didn’t do when they made a suicide joke in reference to their conversation with the Tron Collective. While the Tron Collective made mistakes in reference to following clearly outlined rules regarding the venues policy, it is still in no way right to make any sort of references like that, nor is it right to go on and insult the people who criticize you for your reaction.

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Donuts by Denton Square Donuts. Source: Foodspotting.com

Another instance of local business making distinct mistakes is Denton Square Donuts. While they were still in business, they had the right idea of posting to multiple social media channels. However, they made multiple mistakes: Their tone of voice was very frantic, they posted generic content on such a rapid basis that it clogged up the feed, and made blatant mistakes in spelling and punctuation.

Both of these businesses are closed now. For what reasons may be besides the issues listed above, but certainly enough, the ones listed played a distinct role in the mismanagement of the business overall.

Clever Girl

By: Sebastian Faura

One big aspect of social media, especially corporate social media, is the careful crafting of a brand persona. Brand engagement is important, and larger brands are recognizing this. In one way or another, brands engage with their community with a certain tone and purpose, whether it’s being helpful and answering questions, or giving a witty reply to a snarky post. In fact, it’s typically that human aspect of communication that gains those posts attention, thus the brand gains more attention than it would if it were a canned response.

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Blizzard Gamemasters responding to a concerned customer. Source: Imgur

Some of the best responses are those that are not only helpful and kind, but go the extra mile in order to satisfy their customers. A good example would be Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of World of Warcraft. Their Gamemasters are their front line of customer communications, and their responses tend to be top-notch, and attracting a wide span of attention due to the occasionally outlandish nature of their responses. Because of the positive reaction to these rather creative responses, Blizzard has given some of the Gamemasters with the best responses bonuses as a result.

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Wendy’s responding to an accusation with a clever response. Source: Sizzle

On the other hand, some of the interactions with customers and brands aren’t always peaceful and genial. Some of the more popular fast food brands, for example, have been more than keen on perfectly crafting retorts to some of the more belligerent posts made involving their brands. Oddly enough, this brutal level of cunning gains the posts positive attention, and the brand a reputation of being clever with their communications.

Tito, Greg. “WoW Customer Support Does Your Math Homework.”http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/7.262275-WoW-Customer-Support-Does-Your-Math-Homework. N.p., 2 Feb. 2011. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.

Griner, David. “Wendy’s Put a Troll on Ice With 2017’s Best Tweet So Far.” – Adweek. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

 

 

“I’ll Fill”

By: Sebastian Faura

In the world of competitive gaming, oftentimes teamwork is what ends up making the difference between a win or a loss. The interesting (and somewhat troublesome) part of this teamwork is that many times, these teams are thrown together typically within 5 minutes or less. The clash of personalities means that if the team doesn’t get along, cohesiveness is lost, and typically leading to the loss of the match. The reaction and interaction of these people define the face of the community of the game itself.

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Tracer, a character from Overwatch, a competitive game that relies on good team composition. Source: ign.com

“I’ll fill” is a phrase commonly used by players who are willing to accommodate to the needs of the team, meaning that the player wants to work together with others to make sure that the team wins. This not only builds the idea that teamwork is important, but improves the perception of people to each other. A study done by Canadian researchers shows that despite teammates being from different social groups, working together strengthens relations, even helping to create bonds between the team.

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Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is one of the most renowned competitive games — but also one of the most toxic communities. Source: Gameskinny.com

On the other side of the coin, there are those communities that tend to elicit the negative parts of a person’s responses, and making them respond in an adverse way. This is sometimes referred to as “tilting” in games, where a player will lose composure, tending to play worse as a result of them losing focus and momentum in the game. Some of the most toxic gaming communities are attributed to primarily competitive multiplayer games that rely on teamwork in order to achieve victory. Most often, players will blame their teammates for their failure, and reduce the credibility and perceived friendliness of the community as a whole, despite there being helpful, understanding players out there.

News, Douglas Quan Postmedia. “Co-operative Modes in Video-games Hold Potential to Improve Teamwork, Reduce Bias, Study Finds.” National Post. N.p., 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.

Pearce, Alec. “The Top 5 Worst Gaming Communities.” Video Game News, Cheats, Guides, Walkthroughs, Videos, Reviews & Culture. N.p., 01 Mar. 2016. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.

A Trust Exercise

By: Sebastian Faura

In recent times, the trustworthiness of the media has come into question, notably any print or digital news sources. Due to the overall worldwide turmoil and the increasing amount of news with unfounded or false claims, the public has become arguably more skeptical than ever before. As a result of this, many media outlets and companies are making an active effort to win the trust of the public again.

In the dire circumstances of having even the sources of information come into question, companies have taken measures to listen to the public more. PR giant Edelman, for example, has run what they label as a “Trust Barometer” for the past few years now, gauging the overall trust the public has in the various media channels of the world. Their assessment for 2017 is currently that the public’s association with the media is distant, not only caused by misinformation, but the mixed signals given to the public by the most popular topic currently in the news: The administration.

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The Edelman Trust Barometer. Source: Edelman.com

Government tends to be the established foundation of trustworthiness in the news, and as a result tend to be the most solid information, albeit at times lagging behind dedicated news sources. However, the figureheads of the current administration have been contradicting each other in a serious way. Sean Spicer, Press Secretary for the White House and Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President have had conflicting opinions of the recently-resigned Mike Flynn. The polarized verdicts of these two members of the Presidential Cabinet lead to an image of uncertainty from the White House, eroding the public’s trust in the administration even further.

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Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President. Source: CNN.com

To further make matters worse, the president is currently in conflict with the press, publicly attacking multiple news sources, though unnamed, directs unwarranted and unfounded accusations against otherwise usually trustworthy sources of news.

 

Wilkie, Christina. “Trump Attacks ‘Out Of Control’ Media In Chaotic Press Conference.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 16 Feb. 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Blake, Aaron. “Analysis | Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer Have Their Own ‘alternative Facts’ on Flynn’s Resignation.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Well, That Backfired

By: Sebastian Faura

Since the advent of the internet and social media, everyone has a platform to be able to communicate their opinions, hold discourse about specific topics, and generally share ideas with one another. This also allows for a wide variety of news sources, and the spread of information is quicker, gaining awareness to a singular topic or cause. However, this concept is a double-edged sword, due to the now apparent spread of misinformation. Though many technology and social media-based companies have started taking steps in order to verify news content put on the internet, in the meantime major figures have used the awareness of “fake news” to their own ends, exploiting the movement against it.

On the better side of the “fake news” movement, many social media giants and information aggregates are aiming to “vet” the flow of news on the internet. In order to ensure the information output from news sources is, at the least, based in some measure of fact, major web companies like Facebook and Google are teaming up to form a process to do so.

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Google Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Source: Business Insider

On the negative aspect of this, powerful individuals and organizations, primarily ones based in politics have used this trend of awareness to their own ends as red herrings and as a dissuasion tactic. This has been primarily done by members and proponents of the current administration, discrediting any opposition to the current president as another piece of fake news. This harks back to the days of the Red Scare and McCarthyism, where opponents threw accusations at each other and being labeled a communist was a black mark for anyone involved. The administration is trying to incur the same effect, discrediting any of its critics or opponents and effectively ostracizing them in the eyes of the people.

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Steve Bannon, Trump’s nominated chief of the National Security Council. Source: BBC

Beres, Damon. “Google and Facebook Join Forces for News Verification Project.” Mashable. Mashable, 06 Feb. 2017. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.

Massie, Chris. “WH Official: We’ll Say ‘fake News’ until Media Realizes Attitude of Attacking the President Is Wrong.” CNN. Cable News Network, 7 Feb. 2017. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.

Covering Your Tracks

By: Sebastian Faura

Recently, with the election of Donald Trump, a new cabinet has come into power, including a retinue of various political, financial and business advisers in order to aid the president in his new administration. One member of this cabinet is Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber, having been brought on as a corporate adviser for the Strategic and Policy Forum. While this in and of itself is a dubious success, what would follow in the wake of this announcement would deal a heavy blow to Uber’s success.

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Kalanick speaking at a conference in Germany. Source: Wikipedia

After just over a week in office, Trump signed a temporary ban on immigration from seven Muslim-dominant countries, sparking a worldwide protest against the executive order. In response to this, many airports across the nation were packed full of angry citizens, protesting the ban and trying to free those detained by customs officials. Alongside this, the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance protested the ban by going on strike, not taking any riders to or from the airport. Uber, however, continued their service, and gained greater profits from the strike. This was met with ire throughout the country, and even gained a call to action, with the hashtag #DeleteUber being a trending topic for a period of time.

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Protesters stand outside JFK International Airport with a painted flag in distress. Source: USAToday

Making matters worse, Lyft, the direct competitor to Uber, announced within the same time period that it would donate $1 million to the ACLU in order to protest the ban. To try and match the same efforts Lyft was making and to earn their way back into good graces, Uber went on to pledge $3 million to a defense fund for those caught in the immigration ban. It’s unclear, though, whether or not this was done to fight against the immigration policy, or to stymie the damage done to the company’s image.

David, Javier. “Uber Pledges $3M to Travel Ban Defense Fund as Backlash Widens, Celebrities Join ‘delete Uber’ Call.” CNBC. CNBC, 30 Jan. 2017. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.

Blumenthal, Eli. “The Scene at JFK as Taxi Drivers Strike following Trump’s Immigration Ban.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 29 Jan. 2017. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.

The Modern Commodus

By: Sebastian Faura

During the later stages of the Roman Empire, the Empire was ruled by an emperor known as Marcus Aurelius, and was the last of what were considered the “Five Good Emperors”. He was born into the rich lifestyle of politics as the son of Aurelius, and when Aurelius passed, took on his mantle as emperor of Rome. During his reign, though, he was noted as an extreme egocentric, and used his station as the foundation of the empire’s traditions and image. With no care for how the public truly viewed him, he quite literally saw himself as Hercules reborn. Now, nearly two millennia later, we face a similar figure, and one whose connection to his people, the public, is nearly nothing: Donald J. Trump.

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Commodus, in the dress of Hercules. Source: Wikipedia

With the appointment of a new cabinet underway, Trump has shaken the faith, with a great deal of his picks coming under fire for effectively inviting nepotism of the highest order into the administration. A good example of this was his appointment of Rick Perry as energy secretary, when Perry called for the closure of the Department of Energy when he was running for president in 2011. Other appointments include a former CEO of Exxon-Mobil (Secretary of State), a neurosurgeon (Department of Housing and Urban Development), and a delegate for the Michigan Republican Party (Department of Education). Though some appointments are sensible, such as James Mattis, a reputable former Marine general, the rest of the cabinet tells a story of ineptitude and self-interest.

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Rick Perry, former governor of Texas and nominee for energy secretary. Source: nytimes.com

To the point of connecting with the public, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, has critically erred in the way of communication, outputting a doctrine of spouting party rhetoric while disallowing any notion of feedback or lines of questioning. This breakdown in communication only serves to further divide the public from the administration, and in short, worsens the public image of the country’s administration.

Cillizza, Chris. “Sean Spicer held a press conference. He didn’t take questions. Or tell the whole truth.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 21 Jan. 2017. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.

Davenport, Coral. “Rick Perry Regrets Call to Close Energy Department.” The New York Times. N.p., 19 Jan. 2017. Web.