Category Archives: Public Relations

Another BP #fail

At least BP covered all their social media bases.  You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Twitter and even Flickr.  In a crisis situation such as the Gulf oil spill (you may have heard about it) social media outlets present a unique opportunity to circulate company messages in a timely and focused manner.  Concerned citizens can get updated information directly from BP in the company’s voice, without an attached agenda of news networks.  Information directly from the horse’s mouth – what a wonderful thing!

And surprisingly, as noted in NPR post, BP has been good about sharing information using social media, however their messages and tactics have not stood the test of time.  Meaning (strike number one) BP rushed out information using social media channels that turned out not to be accurate and (strike number two) they put out the same information using social media channels as they released through more traditional PR channels like news releases.

Broadcasting the same information over both social media and traditional channels is a completely viable strategy and messages should be integrated, but social media (especially in a crisis situation) requires a little something extra: conversation.  BP is just talking at people, which is okay for an ad campaign, but not very effective on Facebook where people want and expect interaction and conversation.  No one likes being ignored, especially over such an emotional and serious issue like the oil spill.  And with their anger building, many people are flocking to satirical, negative Facebook and Twitter pages like Boycott BP and @BPGlobalPR to vent their anger and avoid a lot of the inaccurate spin that BP’s PR team is pushing out.

So BP, in addition to washing pelicans and hermit crabs and stopping the bajillion gallons of oil shooting into the Gulf every second, needs to revisit their social media strategy or risk #failure in yet another aspect of this tragedy.


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Confessions of a former Abraham Harrison intern

On Friday my time as an intern with Abraham Harrison came to a close, and I remain overwhelmed by how much the experience has taught me and how all that I’ve learned is now influencing my career path.  During my internship I not only gained new skills, but deepened my interest in social media and digital public relations and made professional connections that will continue beyond my internship.  Since May is a time when many graduates reflect on their time at school, I figure I should do my due diligence and share a bit about my own journey with AH and my preparations for a new career. Continue reading

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Lighten up PR!

I’ll take my PR with a side of hilarity and bacon please.

Here’s a little excerpt from Humor Can Create Engagements by Aaron Perult at

Mistakenly, most PR execs are convinced the world lives and dies on the pages of media such as The Wall Street Journal, and lean toward using speakisms such as “strategic,” “results-oriented,” and “synergies,” words that have little meaning to actual human beings.

As a result, the companies and brands represented by these boredom ambassadors become further detached from consumers. They lose opportunities to endear themselves to audiences new and old, and instead reaffirm the stigma that they are managed by out-of-touch corporate drones just looking to turn a buck.

Consumers are, in fact, willing to engage with companies and brands in today’s online social forums. The trick is that people are looking for authentic, self-deprecating voices willing to not take themselves too seriously. Consider whether the PR staff for Hormel’s bacon brands could better spend their time creating an online, regional and national event vehicle like the World Bacon Games–where they hand out medals made of delicious bacon–as opposed to pleading with food reporters to write glowing reviews about their products. Since there are hundreds of bacon enthusiast websites and blogs online, and statistics such as between June 2008 and June 2009 there were more Web searches for “bacon” than “Barack Obama,” that would be a good bet, yes.

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Ellie Brown: Professional Networker

That’s right.  Professional networker.  I even have the cards to prove it now.

Many thanks to the brilliant Shelli Silverstein for the design.  I’ll be breaking these babies out as soon as we print them later this week (I hope!).  So now that I’m professional, please offer me a job. okaythanksbye.

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Break me off a piece of Nestle’s social media meltdown

Pay attention PR students…this one will be in the “what not to do” section of the social media case study book for a while.  Nestle, best known for Kit-Kats (IMHO), is embroiled in a fierce “oh no you didn’t” battle with social media…yes, all of it.

Here’s what happened according to Caroline McCarthy at CNET:

So here’s how it appears to have started: Environmental activist group Greenpeace has long been putting the pressure on Nestle to stop using palm oil, the production of which has been documented as a source of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and endangered species loss. A provocative new Web video campaign (warning: may be a bit nauseating) on behalf of Greenpeace’s U.K. arm targeted the food manufacturer as a threat to the livelihoods of orangutans, and according to Greenpeace, Nestle lobbied to have the video removed from YouTube, citing a copyright complaint. Cue plenty of free press for Greenpeace.

But it got worse. These days, just about every brand has a public forum in the form of a Facebook fan page, and Greenpeace supporters–whom the activist group had encouraged to change their Facebook profile photos to anti-Nestle slogans that often incorporated one or more of the company’s food logos–started posting to the Nestle fan page en masse. Nestle countered with a mild threat: “To repeat: we welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic–they will be deleted.” A Nestle rep diving into the comments of the thread with responses like “Oh please…it’s like we’re censoring everything to allow only positive comments” didn’t calm things down.

Long story short, fans are really TO’ed and Nestle is in social media time-out.  (Finger shaking) Learn how to interact properly with your fans and then you can leave the corner.  Maybe try and take a hint from Starbucks, a company that has weathered storms of criticism and prevailed…mainly based on the company’s loyal Facebook fan page and Twitter following that they have spent a great deal of time and energy building.  For example, last year Starbucks was accused of donating its profits in Israel to fund the country’s army — even though Starbucks doesn’t have any cafés in Israel.  Starbucks’ social media progress allows the company to manage any discontent that is expressed within the social media space.  Starbucks calls this the “embassy strategy,”  making MyStarbucksIdea and its Facebook and Twitter pages places that when you go there you know you’re going to get the straight scoop.

Nestle should have taken the time to listen to the concerns of their fans and not responded so brashly to their comments.  It obvious Nestle customers want the company to stop using palm oil.  Nestle should listen and take this as an opportunity to come out with some new “organic,” non-palm oil Kit-Kats so everyone is happy.  I know I’d buy them and maybe Greenpeace would lay off a bit.

(Disclaimer: I realize I’ve been writing about Starbucks a lot recently.  It’s not cause they paid me to (I wish), but rather it’s because I’m writing about them for my graduate capstone project.  So I’ve been reading about Venti soy lattes for weeks now.  And they have some good social media strategies.)


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HAPPO Day – A Post in Two Acts

Act 1:  I want to be a HAPPO day success story

Wouldn’t it be great if your company was featured in hundreds of blogs posts, magazine articles, mainstream media mentions, the Harvard Business Review as a social media pioneer?  I mean, YES.  And wouldn’t it also be great to have an employee who gets the job done creatively, cost-effectively and on time AND is a fun person to be around?  YES.

It’s really easy for this wonderful dream to become a reality.  Bring me in for interview, let me impress you with my knowledge of interpersonal influence theory (the topic of my Master’s thesis), and offer me a job.  What a great HAPPO day success story…for both of us!

A little more about me:  I am a graduate student at American University getting my Master’s in Public Communication in May 2010 .  I have been interning with Abraham Harrison LLC, a digital PR company, for the last 3 months.  Before school I was an analyst at Abt Associates, Inc. where I worked with government clients in Africa on health financing studies. I would like an account position where I can work directly with clients; writing, pitching, blogging, media training, event planning…all the PR good stuff.  No specific industry, I just want to be challenged.

Here is what I know:

  • It’s a breeze to budget and plan multi-million dollar projects (well, for me anyway)
  • Be persistent, but not annoying
  • Understand what and to whom you are pitching…make it personal
  • Have a sense of humor
  • Prioritize and finish the most important work first
  • Always try and figure something out before you ask questions – but always ask questions if you need to
  • Social media is above-all, a way to build relationships with consumers, not a sales outlet (unless you are @delloutlet, then that works for you)
  • Always respond and be active in the Twittersphere, blogosphere, all the “spheres” (a la Southwest)
  • Measuring “eyeballs”
  • I am a really good worker, I’m a good communicator (except from the ages of 13-17, when no one “understood me”), and even though it sounds cliche, I play well with others.

Looking for jobs is terrible, looking for staff is terrible (I had to find my replacement at Abt before I left).  Why don’t we both just end this terrible process and you give me a shot?  Then we can both relax with a celebratory happy hour Super Mug from Chef Geoff’s Downtown.

Hopefully your interest is peaked, so send me an email ( or Tweet if you want to chat more.

Act 2: What the heck is HAPPO day? (this one’s for you Mom)

HAPPO stands for Help a PR Pro Out, so today PR bloggers, agency leaders, and PR professionals from across the country will donate their time and talents to help fellow PR pros connect with employers as part of the first-ever HAPPO day.  Using the hashtag #HAPPO on Twitter, hundreds of industry professionals will click on this very link, realize I am what their company has been waiting for, and hand over a job (I hope).

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Team Southwest vs. Team Silent Bob

So I don’t have time to write two blogs.  From Marketing Conversation:

Which side are you on in this Twitterrific customer service debate between Southwest Airlines and director Kevin Smith aka “Silent Bob“?  I can understand both sides of the story, but personally, I’m with Team Southwest.  But Team Southwest but only because I think their communications team handled the situation well, not because of their customer service. Let me explain.

Last Saturday, Kevin Smith purchased two seats on a plane from Oakland to Burbank, which SWA claims is common practice for the not-so-small man.  However, Smith decided to switch to an earlier flight and fly stand-by which did not guarantee him a seat, let alone two.  After all the passengers with tickets were boarded, stand-by passengers like Smith were allowed to board.  Smith found a single seat, buckled up, and prepared for take-off.

Shortly after being seated, Smith was approached by a flight attendant who said she was told by the captain that Smith violated the airline’s “Customer of Size” policy that requires passengers that can not fit safely and comfortably in one seat to purchase an additional seat while traveling.  According to Southwest:

The spirit of this policy is based solely on Customer comfort and Safety. As a Company committed to serving our Customers in Safety and comfort, we feel the definitive boundary between seats is the armrest. If a Customer cannot comfortably lower the armrest and infringes on a portion of another seat, a Customer seated adjacent would be very uncomfortable and a timely exit from the aircraft in the event of an emergency might be compromised if we allow a cramped, restricted seating arrangement.

Smith was asked to leave the plane, placed on a later flight on which two seats were available and given a $100 travel voucher.

Enter PR nightmare for Southwest as Smith proceeded to inflame the Twittersphere with a barrage of angry rants about his experience.  Smith is a popular celebrity director/actor and has over 1 million followers on Twitter, so you can imagine Southwest was quick to respond.  Christi Day, Emerging Media Specialist, posted this blog in defense of the employees’ enforcement of the “Customer of Size” policy.  In my opinion, her response was to the point, addressed what happened and explained why the employees did what they did.

But, the rantings continued, even after Southwest personally apologized (well, so they say).  So, Linda Rutherford, VP of Strategic Communications, wrote another blog post apologizing again and noting that the airline employees could have handled the situation better.  She adds that Southwest will be reviewing the policy and trying to figure out a way to implement it better.

Good work Communications department.  I think your responses were timely and said everything that needed to be said.  One, you apologized.  Two, you said you’d address the problem and said you’d try to be better in the future.  That’s all I need to feel good about flying Southwest again.

However, giant fail for the employees on the flight.  It is incredibly obvious to me that this policy should not be “zero tolerance.”  The captain should have made a more calculated judgment about the safety and comfort of passengers on the plane.  The flight from Oakland to Burbank is a little over an hour.  I’ll give up half my seat to a “Customer of Size” next to me for an hour if it means not having to delay take-off because of this BS.

As a former frequent flyer, I’ve had my fair share of  inconveniences from passengers of size, passengers of snoring and even passengers of smelly feet, so I’m a fan of policies that help make the flying experience more bearable for those of us who usually just sit quietly and endure 10 hours of uncomfort so that no one is embarrassed.  But on a 1 hour flight?  Use some judgment Southwest.  And maybe just give the passengers on either side of Smith a $100 voucher.  We like those too.

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