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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

In honor of the New Year I found an interesting story to share about champagne . . .

Champagne producer Louis Roederer's latest aging process is going deep - in a cellar that's 50 feet below water on a seabed off the coast of Normandy. The cellar master came up with the idea after realizing that resting the bottles in an area that's about 50 degrees Farenheit, combined with undulating waters and total darkness, would be perfect for aging the wines.
The real test comes in June, when the dozen bottles will be raised from the deep after resting underwater for one year. The champagne will be sipped alongside identical bottles aged in traditional cellars. What's left will be sold at auction with proceeds going to charity.

Have a safe and happy New Year and enjoy your champagne (even if it wasn't aged in an underwater French cellar)!

~ Nicole

h/t Wine Enthusiast

Monday, December 22, 2008

Economic downturn a boon for PR?

This interesting article comes from PR Week . . .

A recent New York Times article about Super Bowl advertising discussed how the bleak economic climate might make high-priced ads and media deals reflect negatively on a company. Like with the Super Bowl, retailers jump start the holiday season with bold and splashy marketing campaigns. This year, some companies are thinking twice about spending bookoo bucks on advertising to hard-hit customers.

With new marketing efforts being hard to justify, public relations is a wise alternative to building lasting relationships with consumers. While consumers may see typical advertising campaigns as insensitive, public relations can place a message in the right context and deliver it in a way that is sensitive to consumers and the economy.

This year, companies that are looking to balance a strong marketing push with a sensitive appeal are relying more heavily on public relations tactics. Some examples:

1. Gap - Web site section features videos of celebrities performing remixed holiday songs

2. Sears - donating $1 to Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit that works to repair homes for low-income Americans, for every gift card purchased

3. Best Buy - launched a holiday campaign - "You, happier," - that focuses on value in terms of price and customer service (FYI - this campaign doesn't seem to be working very well, as Tasha spent a very frustrating two hours on the phone with them this morning b/c they screwed up one of her holiday orders)

4. OfficeMax - hosting its Elf Yourself viral video holiday effort. The site received more than 193 million visits in six weeks last year

~ Nicole

Friday, December 19, 2008

Food for Thought

"There's a reason we were given two ears and only one mouth. So listen twice as much as you talk."

Just something to think about from Catching Flack . . .

~ Nicole

Thursday, December 11, 2008

'The Day the Earth Stood Still' to be transmitted into Space

So FOX has come up with a publicity stunt to transmit their new release, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” into space. The plot of the movie is that we are destroying the planet and an alien arrives to save the planet from us, by wiping out the human race!

Does anyone besides me think that beaming a movie like this out into space is not really a good idea? Do we really want to give anyone “out there” any ideas?

Perhaps we should start with something a little more up beat - like a “Benji,” movie or perhaps an old Don Knotts flick. Even the comedy “The Great Outdoors” with John Candy would leave a much better impression.

So if you were going to transmit a movie into outer space with the hope that a much more advanced alien race would see it, and think good, positive things about us, which movie would you pick?


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Top 10 PR Blunders of 2008

Although there's still a few weeks left in 2008, here's who made Fineman PR's list of worst PR moves of the year (reposted from the Daily Dog) . . .
1. AIG All-Expense-Paid Retreats ... Paid By You
Mere days after receiving an $85 billion federal bailout package, American International Group dropped nearly half a million dollars on an executive retreat to the posh St. Regis resort, complete with "spa treatments, banquets and golf outings," according to the Associated Press. Public reaction, as many watched 401(k) and other investments deflate, was heated. AIG compounded the damage when it proceeded with an $86,000 New England hunting retreat. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo promptly launched a fraud probe, saying "our message to AIG today is simple: The party is over."

2. Detroit Three Fly to Washington in Private Jets to Beg for Money
Already reeling from the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, consumers, taxpayers and legislators were deeply offended when the leaders of the nation's Big Three automakers — General Motors CEO Richard Wagoner, Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli and Ford CEO Alan Mulally — flew to Washington in separate corporate jets to ask Congress for $25 billion ... without a turnaround plan. PR Week reported that, "it made the Big Three appear out of touch, and evoked memories of the AIG retreat controversy." When the execs made their second foray to Washington to further plead their case, they drove there in hybrid vehicles ... and made sure everyone knew it. But Meredith Vieira on "Today" was unimpressed. "They should have carpooled," she said.

3. Department of Veterans Affairs says "Shh!" To Veterans' Problems
In this day of digital justice it's surprising that some federal officials still believe their emails are private, as when messages between top officials in the Department of Veterans Affairs indicated secrets were being kept about appallingly high suicide attempt rates among veterans. According to the Associated Press, Dr. Ira Katz, top-ranking VA mental health official, emailed colleagues that "12,000 veterans a year attempt suicide while ... under [Veterans Affairs] treatment." Katz wasn't pushing for reform but hiding data from CBSNews, even beginning the email with a "Shh!" Everett A. Chasen, chief communications officer for the VA, wrote that, "I don't want to give CBS any more numbers on veterans [sic] suicides or attempts than they already have — it will only lead to more questions." Emails get leaked in most organizations, but the true blunder is the Department's disregard for veterans' wellbeing.

4. McCain Stands Up Letterman
Presidential candidate John McCain canceled his appearance on CBS's "Late Night with David Letterman," saying that he was suspending his campaign and "racing to the airport" to tackle the impending financial crisis. Midway through the show, however, Letterman learned that McCain was mere blocks away ... sitting down with CBS stablemate Katie Couric. McCain's response, when he did make it onto "Late Night" a couple weeks later, was apt but unapologetic: "I screwed up."

5. Nike Just Blew It
When self-described "good, solid" marathoner and elementary school teacher Arien O'Connell unexpectedly clocked the fastest time in October's San Francisco Women's Marathon, besting her personal record by over 12 minutes, race sponsor Nike had a golden opportunity to support those who "just do it." However, Nike only checked times of those in the allegedly "elite" front-running pack; by the time O'Connell realized she had been fastest, all places had been awarded and Nike would not recognize her victory. Later that week, pressured Nike recanted its initial stance, declaring O'Connell "a winner" but not the winner. The San Francisco Chronicle lamented the tepid ending to "what could have been a lovely Cinderella story." Only after competitor Reebok stepped up to award O'Connell free shoes for a year and a $2,500 donation for her classroom did O'Connell receive her "first place overall" trophy.

6. Merck and Schering-Plough: Profits with Side Effects
Prescription for a Blunder: market cholesterol drugs Vytorin and Zetia with a memorable $100 million plus advertising campaign. Withhold study results showing that the combo doesn't work as claimed ... for 21 months. Watch the drugs pull $5.2 billion in revenue in 2007 alone. Side effects, though, may include widespread consumer backlash, around 140 civil class-action lawsuits, and the unwelcome attentions of Congress, the U.S. Department of Justice and a coalition of 35 state attorneys general, according to the Associated Press. Makers Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. allegedly didn't release the results due to internal scientific concerns.

7. Mark Penn: Spinning Out of Control
Mark Penn found himself dropped from the chief strategist role in Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign when the Wall Street Journal exposed Penn's work on behalf of the government of Colombia, a client for whom Penn was also involved in arranging passage of a controversial trade bill opposed by, among others, Clinton herself. Penn was removed from the helm, although his polling firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, continued to provide services to the campaign. He ultimately admitted to an "error in judgment," but how many of those can one person convincingly admit to? Penn's other unbelievable missteps throughout the year, including praising McCain attack ads and demeaning Clinton supporters, calling them "downscale voters," earn him a seat among serial PR blunderers.

8. Senior Obama Campaigner Makes "a Monster" of a Slip
Sometimes a simple goof can be a major gaffe if committed by an insider. For example, Samantha Power, senior foreign policy advisor to presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, called Sen. Hillary Clinton "a monster" in a March interview with UK newspaper the Scotsman, then realized her error and immediately tried to withdraw her comment, claiming "that is off the record." However, in the dustup to follow, blogger Michael Goldstein of noted that, "you can't do it. There is no off the record." Many journalists agree, including Gerri Peev, the Scotsman reporter who interviewed Power, who noted that journalists are "not in the business to self-censor ... [they are] in the business to print the truth."

9. Absolut Mistake
Swedish vodka-maker Absolut is famed for its clever, well-executed advertising campaigns, but the company hasn't realized it's a small world after all. According to PR Week, ads for the Mexican market from the company's "Absolut World" campaign showing the western U.S. as Mexican territory "courted animosity" and "stirred up negative sentiment from ... [those] who complain about the porous U.S. border" after appearing on U.S. blogs. Absolut pulled the offending ads and proffered a public apology on its corporate blogs, but competitor Skyy Vodka capitalized on the situation. According to Ken Wheaton's Advertising Age blog, Skyy did "what a marketer should do in a situation like this, [taking] advantage of a competitor's headache" by distributing a humorous press release in which it touts Skyy's U.S. origins and production. Smart opportunistic marketing ... with a twist.
10. Hut, Two, Three, Four, Berkeley Rants Against Our Corps
Berkeley has always been known for an anti-establishment atmosphere, one in which free speech and independent thought are held dear. But when the Berkeley City Council denounced local Marine Corps recruiters as "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" and "sales people known to lie to and seduce minors," it incited yet another nationally covered culture clash depicting Berkeley's leadership as hopelessly out of touch. Although individual members of the Council did admit that they may have acted rashly, no apology was ever issued.

Friday, December 5, 2008

CA schools are running out of lunch money

Peaceful Playgrounds shared another sign of the dire economic times and the impact of the budget crisis. According to the blog, California schools are set to run out of funds for free and reduced lunch students by January 2009.

Jack O'Connell, California superintendent of schools, is appealing to the federal government to make up for the state's budget shortfall. Health advocates are also voicing concern that the high cost of fresh fruits and vegetables will result in serving less expensive, and less nutritious, canned fruits and vegetables.
"Without quick action by the governor and the Legislature, districts will be forced to make a series of unacceptable choices to dip further into their own bare-bones budgets, serve less nutritious foods and not comply with California's nationally renowned nutrition standards," Supt. Jack O'Connell said in a statement.
So not only are low-income, school-aged children getting less nutrititious and smaller amounts of food at home due to tough economic times, but now schools won't be of much help either. Sad times for those fighting the good fight for healthy kids.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Twitter and Brand Management: a Case Study

As communications professionals we always try to keep on top of the newest communication tools and how we can use those tools to best serve our clients needs. There’s been lot of conversation in our office lately about Twitter and it seems that we aren’t the only communications agency exploring the best ways to utilize Twitter.

For those unfamiliar with Twitter, it’s an online service enabling users to broadcast short messages (140 characters or less), known as tweets to friends or “followers.” Twitter is a form of microblogging – think of it as a combination of text messaging and blogging. Twitter is a way to engage in intimate, one-on-one communication and is another tool, for those in the world of public relations, to engage in a conversation rather than just letting it happen around you.

Johnson and Johnson recently learned how powerful a communication outlet social networking and media sites like Twitter are becoming. The company posted an ad online for Motrin, which equated carrying a baby in a sling to a painful fashion choice. By the following day, negative reactions appeared on Twitter, bloggers called for a boycott and angry comments filled up online message boards. Some of those offended even created counter ads, which they posted on YouTube. Johnson and Johnson quickly pulled the ad and a company spokesperson noted on its blog that the incident showed “it needed to pay closer attention to the conversations taking place online.”

I applaud Johnson and Johnson for its quick response and the important lesson it learned from the situation. We should all learn from Johnson and Johnson’s mistake – no one can afford to ignore what’s going on online.

~ Nicole

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Taking the agony out of choosing a place to eat

I don't know about you, but when I'm out and about and ready for something to eat I'm often paralyzed by the question of just where to go. I love to try out new places but I hate eating bad food, so I usually just end up going to my usual haunts. I just learned about the coolest iPhone application that would make my life so much easier and more fun - Urbanspoon.

Urbanspoon on the iPhone is part Magic 8 Ball and part slot machine. You shake your phone and it finds a restaurant for you that's good and close by. Keep shaking it until it comes back with something you want to try.

The free application uses the iPhone's accelerometers to pick up the "shake", find restaurants near you through GPS and then skew the results towards restaurants that are highly regarded on Urbanspoon. How cool is that?! Now I just need to work on getting that iPhone . . .

~ Nicole