jump to navigation

Target data breach tarnishes corporate reputation January 18, 2014

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

It was a nightmare for Target, and especially for its customers. During the busy holiday season, the company was targeted by thieves who stole credit and debit card data for at least 40 million shoppers. The theft meant that if the data made it into the wrong hands then criminals could easily create counterfeit debit cards. The country’s biggest banks promised to monitor the situation, but it got even worse. Later reports suggested that the data breach impacted at least 70 million customers, and that the criminals also stole names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers, thus making identity theft much easier. The incident ranks as one of the worst of all time, hurting targets holiday sales, fourth-quarter profitsand overall reputation.

For more on the Target data breach, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How does the data breach at Target impact its corporate image?

2.  How did Target attempt to control the situation?

3.  How should Target continue to repair its image in respect to this scandal?

Advertisements

McDonald’s shutters embarrassing internal PR January 18, 2014

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

McDonald’s has had an embarrassing year, thanks to some of its own internal PR designed exclusively for employees. Most recently, the fast food giant was outed for advising its own workers that burgers and fries are hazardous to one’s health. The post on the employee website cautioned:

“Fast foods are quick, reasonably priced, and readily available alternatives to home cooking. While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle, fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt and may put people at risk for becoming overweight.”

The McResource Line was responsible for another embarrassing episode in 2013 when employees received impossible financial advice designed for low wage earners. Such nuggets in that column including working another job, not saving for heat or A/C, and spending very little on healthcare. McDonald’s has issued a statement saying that the site was run by a third party and was closed for creating unwarranted scrutiny.

For more on this story, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How does internal PR differ from external PR?

2.  What did the McResource Line reveal about McDonald’s that was so embarrassing?

3.  Did McDonald’s make the right move in closing the site? Why, or why not?

Stars past and present team up for anti-NSA PSA December 30, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

A new PSA hit the internet recently, featuring several stars past and present describing the dangers of the current NSA scandal. The NSA, which was famously targeted by whistle-blower Edward Snowden in 2013 who leaked news of the agencies spying practices, has allegedly been collecting information on all Americans, foreign governments and leaders, and perhaps internet users everywhere. The PSA includes stars such as Maggie Gyllenhaal, Wil Wheaton, Phil Donahue, John Cusack, Oliver Stone, and many others. The PSA draws comparisons between recent practices and those of Richard Nixon in the 1970s.

The campaign, called “Stop Watching Us,” is working with over 100 public advocacy groups, including the ACLU, Demand Progress, and even Libertarian organizations. Beyond the PSA, activists have protested in Washington and elsewhere, and attempted to keep the issue in the public eye.

To see the new PSA yourself, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the NSA? What did Edward Snowden reveal in 2013?

2.  Why is the revelation of the NSA’s practices so concerning for those who advocate for privacy rights on the internet?

3.  Should the government have access to our internet activity in the name of national security? Why, or why not?

The amazing ad blitz for Anchorman 2 December 30, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

Anchorman 2 has been rolled out with an advertising campaign rarely seen in the marketing world. Will Ferrell, the actor who plays the misogynistic news anchor, kicked off the campaign with an announcement in early 2013 on Conan O’Brien’s night show, that a sequel was in the works. As NPR described recently, the official blitz has featured a Ben & Jerry’s flavor, an exhibit at the national Newseum, several car commercials, an event at Emerson College marking the school’s renaming its communication department after the character for a day, and appearances on news programs across the country.

Why the massive ad blitz? As the Christian Science Monitor‘s Schuyler Velasco explained, the film’s target demographic is younger males. Because such young audiences don’t watch programming where traditional advertising works best, the alternative is to generate buzz that will make certain ads and appearances go viral. It’s little surprise that someone as skilled as Ferrell could help pull this off.

For more on Ferrell’s many appearances for Anchorman 2‘s marketing, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Which of Ferrell’s latest appearances for Anchorman 2  have you heard about?

2.  How does the ad campaign described here differ from traditional ad campaigns? Why is it employed?

3.  How has media demassification led to a need for more creative ad campaigns?

The flight from hell: Epic PR fail by PR expert December 23, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Justine Sacco became widely known almost overnight. Undoubtedly, she wishes things worked out differently. Sacco was a PR executive for media company IAC, which manages websites for The Daily Beast, About.com, CollegeHumor, and Match.com. It’s surprising that a PR expert could be so foolish. Before boarding a flight from London to Cape Town in December 2013, Sacco wrote on her Twitter feed, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” She then boarded. On a flight without internet or phone access. The flight was long. Just enough time for a scandal to explode.

Sacco’s tweet quickly went viral. Parody accounts were set up on Twitter and Facebook, and hashtags related to her dumb tweet were more popular than almost anything else on social media in that 24 hour span. Social media users scrounged through her previous statements to find other gems. And even though she had just hundreds of followers when she boarded, she had thousands when she landed. And by the time she did land, Sacco found that IAC had distanced itself from her, she was looking at unemployment, and hated by millions of people who learned about her through a shared tweet.

Sacco quickly deleted her social media accounts, and eventually released an apology claiming that she was deeply ashamed. Nevertheless, her incident has become yet another case study on the importance of avoiding shameful behavior on social media. Whatever is entered online, assume that the world can and maybe even will read it!

For a detailed hour by hour account of Sacco’s social media scandal, see the following article from Buzzfeed.com: CLICK HERE.

For more on this story, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How does an individual’s personal use of social media influence their public and work life?

2.  What are some basic guidelines for using social media?

3.  Should employers have the right to terminate employees who create controversy in private social media accounts? Why, or why not?

Social media misconduct could cause Kansas professors to lose jobs December 23, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

The Kansas Board of Regents announced in December a new policy for addressing perceived misconduct on social media. State universities now have the right to fire professors if they use social media to incite violence, post confidential information about students, or engage in online acts that are “contrary to the best interests of the university.” In other words, interpreted in one way, this new rule could hurt professors or staff members who use blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram , or anything else to express controversial political beliefs, criticism of the school, or criticism of other faculty.

According to Erik Voeten of The Washington Post, the rule goes a little too far. There are too many inherent risks in using social media, which is now encouraged on campuses that try to engage more with students, and the policy doesn’t account for that. As Voeten wrote:

“Social media usage is mistake prone.  You hit publish and whatever happens to be on your mind is there for the world to see.  There is not much time to edit, sleep on it, review copy-edited versions of your text, and so on.  Anyone who blogs or tweets regularly will say things he or she later regrets or wished were worded just a bit differently.”

Unsurprisingly, the new rule is being widely panned. As an editorial for the Kansas City Star summarized, “It was devised with no input from faculty members, and it shows. In giving university leaders the authority to discipline or terminate even tenured professors for vague, subjective offenses, the regents have set up a chilling environment that runs contrary to the ideal of academic.” In other words, what would be bad for the university’s image could be interpreted so broadly to fire just about anyone. Pretty tragic for fields that require critical thinking about some of society’s most controversial subjects.

For more on the original incident that sparked the perceived need for this policy, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How might professors use social media inappropriately in a way that hurts a university’s image?

2.  Is the new Kansas rule a violation of free speech? Why, or why not?

3.  How could the new Kansas rule lead to a possible violation of free speech in the future?

Laughably bad PR: China’s response to smog problem December 22, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Smog is horrible in China. How bad? So bad that a NASA satellite recently captured an image of coastal China covered in a haze of thick pollution. Whereas the World Health Organization claims that PM 2.5 readings below 25 are considered safe, measurements taken in Beijing and Shanghai recently hit 480 and 355. Schools have been shut down this year, as the cold season makes the smog worse. Traffic has been dead. Business is hurting.

The Chinese response to the smog has maybe even been worse than the pollution itself. Turning heads internationally, the Global Times, a news site for the Communist Party, recently claimed that smog has several positive effects, including its power to unify the Chinese people, make China more equal, raise citizen awareness about the cost of the country’s economic development, make people funnier, and make people more knowledgeable about weather in general. Wait, not buying it? How about the argument that smog “on the battlefield . . . can serve as a defensive advantage in military operations.” Laughably bad, you say? You’re not alone.

For more on Chinese smog, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What are some basic principle of PR that China seems to be forgetting in its response to the smog crisis?

2.  Is China’s response unethical? Why, or why not?

3.  How should China respond instead?

Dumb comments hurt good companies? Learning from Lululemon December 22, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Want evidence that PR matters? Ask Lululemon’s executives. The women’s clothing line was quickly becoming a corporate giant, until it hit some snags in 2013. First, there was a problem when the company’s $100 yoga pants were discovered to be see through. The company issued a recall, but failed to really fix the problem. Second, company executive Chip Wilson issued a really dumb statement not long after the mini-crisis, claiming that the pants “don’t work for some women’s bodies. It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.” Wilson’s comment was perceived as blaming fat customers for their problems, and according to the company’s Chief Financial Officer John Currie, it “undoubtedly” hurt sales.”

How bad did Lululemon get hurt by this bad PR? The company recently announced that sales in its fourth quarter would be flat, and shares fell 11 percent after the news. According to The Huffington Post, one marketing research firm also found that women’s perception of the brand dipped four times in 2013, and leaves the company in a tough spot as the new year comes.

For more, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How could Lululemon have dealt with its bad PR in a better way?

2.  What kind of message does Lululemon need to craft to win back consumers?

3.  What does the case study of Lululemon demonstrate about the importance of staying on message?

Theeeeeey’re heeeeere! Facebook introduces video ads December 19, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Facebook has been experimenting with video ads for quite sometime. This month they are formerly launching streaming ads fir a small number of users. The ads will start automatically, be defaulted without sound, and even appear in the mobile version. According to The New York Times:

“The video ads, if poorly received, could risk that growth, but they also present a tremendous opportunity. Digital video advertising spending is expected to hit $4.15 billion by the end of this year, a 23 percent increase over last year, according to the market research company eMarketer. YouTube has the biggest slice of that spending, at about 20 percent.”

Indeed, the new feature could be a boon for Facebook. A single 15 second ad is reportedly going to cost between $1 and $2.5 million. With the online video ad market reaching $4.15 billion this year, perhaps nobody has a better chance of cornering the market than Facebook.

For more on this new feature, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Will users tolerate video ads on Facebook? Why, or why not?

2.  How might video ads on Facebook affect other forms of media, like network television? Could advertising dollars moving online hurt TV?

3.  What is Facebook trying to do, according to the articles linked above, to minimize the inconvenience of the new streaming ads?

Pantene ad on women appeals to global audience December 19, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

A Philippine ad for Pentene went viral in December. The spot portrays the double-bind that women often face, being labeled negatively for things for which men get praised. Well over 8 million people have viewed the ad on YouTube. It helped that Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg called it “one of the most powerful videos I have seen illustrating how when men and women do the same things they are seen in completely different ways.” Unsurprisingly, Procter & Gamble is taking the ad campaign global now.

While many are calling the new ad campaign uplifting and empowering, some women don’t see it the same way. Comedian and writer Hesseltine wrote for The Huffington Post, “This is playing the victim if I’ve ever witnessed it, and not all women think this way, nor want to. But thanks for the note, Pantene.” Hesseltine sarcastically concluded:

“Yes, women still get paid less than men and it blows; so let’s see an intelligent article/video exploring that with facts, educated opinions, and an inspirational undertone rather than a “woe is women” piece with a song that should be on an ASPCA commercial. How about: “Screw double standards! You can do anything men can do… and even do it better!” instead of “Don’t forget ladies, while men are being persuasive, you may come off as pushy. And don’t show too much confidence or people will think you’re showy.””

To see the Pantene ad yourself, watch the following video:


Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the double-bind for women? How does Pantene tap into common experiences for females to build goodwill for its products?

2.  Is the Pantene ad genuine, or a mere cooptation of feminism?

3.  Is Hesseltine’s criticism over the top? Why, or why not?