Skittles, Taste The…Errors?

864205_110431911Last week, Skittles learned an important message: if you don’t know about social media/networking, don’t use it to promote your product. Skittles decided to jump on the social media bandwagon by making its homepage background the Skittle’s Facebook page, Twitter feed featuring tweets about Skittles, and the Skittles Wikipedia entry.Skittles was hoping that their audience would start talking about them on these social media sites, which they did, but didn’t expect it to backlash against them. Many of the Skittles tweets contained racial slurs, profanities, and harsh words about Skittles.  

I think it’s great that Skittles wants to use social media to promote its product–many companies use social media sites to promote their organization or product. However, I think the way Skittles used social media was a bad move on their part. Sure, people are now talking about their company, but the focus got a away from the product and on to their social media mishaps.

Shiv Singh, author of the post “Did Skittles Scuttle its brand? Time will Tell,” makes some great points about how Skittles could have used social media to their advantage, without turning it into a “what not to do in social media” case study. He basically said that Skittles didn’t target its audience: it basically assumed that its customers are on Twitter, when really, only some of its audience is on Twitter. This is the same for Facebook. He also says that Skittles was more interested in having people look at its page and observing the fact that they are trying to incorporate social media to their marketing strategy, that they were actually forgetting to fuel conversations and participation by its audience. 

Although Skittles has changed its page and is now incorporating social media to its advantage, it should have tested the waters of the social media pool before taking the plunge into the deep end.

Six Tips for a Better Presentation

1027447_teachersBeing in college, I am used to giving many different kinds of presentations–English, Business Administration, PR, Oregon News Pitches, French, etc. And until last week, I thought I gave great presentations. But, last week my professor, Kelli Matthews, gave us a presentation on, well, how to give better presentations, and I learned that my presentation techniques were all out of whack. 

So, after learning that my presentations needed work, I decided to put together six way that I (and you, hopefully) can make stellar presentations.

  1. Relax! I hate, repeat, HATE, speaking in front of an audience–whether it’s 12 students, or 100 professionals. But, it’s even worse when THEY can tell I’m nervous; it just makes the presentation even more unbearable. So, before making a presentation, it’s important that you take a moment to take in a few deep breaths, and remember that this presentation isn’t about you–it’s about your audience. Taking the focus off yourself and focusing your energy on your audience and their understanding of your presentation will not only help you feel more relaxed and at ease, but it will also make your presentation that much better.
  2. Know Your Audience: Researching who your audience will be before giving the presentation will allow you to know how to engage your audience. For example, my presentation this week was about the Corporate Social Responsibility of the Starbucks Corporation, and I was giving a “mock” presentation to MBA students. If I were really giving a presentation to MBA students, I would want to know, a.) who these students are, b.) what school they are attending, and c.) why they are interested in corporate social responsibility. I also might want to figure out before hand what they think about CSR, or even better, if they know what CSR is–that way I can make sure that they are on the same page as me as I give the presentation, and I can address their concerns throughout my speech.
  3. Simple=Better: Before last week, my PowerPoint presentations used to have about five to seven themes per slide. This is a big no-no. Doug Neff, author of Lessons from TED: 5 Simple Tweaks, lists 5 ways to make a better presentation. One of his tips is to use, “one idea per slide.” This will make it easier for your audience to pay attention to you, rather than reading the six paragraphs listed on your one slide. Simple fonts also make for a better presentation. Neff recommends using Serif fonts (like Times New Roman) for words going on longer than one line, and Sans-Serif fonts (like Helvetica) for “headlines, captions, and short phrases.” Also, make sure that you choose images that match with the idea on your slide. You only need one or two photos per slide–remember, the simpler the better.  
  4. Know Your Core Message: what are you trying to convey, and what do you want your audience to get from your presentation? Kelli Matthews recommends stating your core message in 3-7 words. Think of it like a company mission statement: what is the purpose of your presentation? Knowing your core makes for a smooth and consistent presentation. 
  5. Make Your Messages Stick: A few posts ago, I mentioned the book Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The core of this book is how to make your ideas stick with your audience. Here are the 6 basic ways to make your messages “sticky”: 1.)Simplicity: find your core, and make it simple; 2.)Unexpectedness: pay attention to your audience, and generate interest and curiosity; 3.)Concreteness: make it clear; 4.) Credibility: make it believable; 5.)Emotions: make your audience care; 6.)Stories: use personal stories to get your audience to act on your ideas.
  6. Know your audiences’ objections, comments, and concerns: Not everyone in your audience will agree with what you say, so be prepared for any of their objections or questions regarding your presentation. For example, in my presentation about Starbucks, I talked primarily about how Starbucks does its part to help the environment; but, I was also prepared for the fact that my classmates may disagree, and think that Starbucks’ actions actually harm the environment. Kelli Matthews said, “Predict, preempt, and provide for what your audience might throw out.” 

I hope these tips can help you on your future presentations!

From 8th Grade to College

logoA classmate of mine, Gretchen Brandtjen, and her teammates for the UO PRSSA Bateman competition team set up an event at the University of Oregon: Lock Up Your Future Campus Day. Lock Up Your Future was designed by this PRSSA team to encourage and inform current eighth grade students about going to college. Around 300 eighth grade students participated in this event, which included a tour of the University of Oregon campus, a mini college fair, and a “map your future” activity. My Advanced PR Writing Professor, Kelli Matthews, gave the students of Cascade Middle School a simulated college lecture on the topic of using social media wisely. prssa_2_09_436

 

 

My responsibility was to assist in one of the “map your future” activities. I helped nearly 30 students fill out worksheets that helped them map their future from the eighth grade up to their senior year in high school. They talked about what sports or activities they were interested in participating in once they got to high school, as well as asked questions about the SAT’s, ACT’s, and financial aid. Overall, these students seemed very interested and inquisitive about the dynamics of college. 

group11I had my doubts about this event at first. I didn’t know how a few volunteers would be able to tame and entertain 300 middle school students, but I was completely wrong. Not only were these students well behaved, but they were actually excited about college. I remember being in eighth grade and wondering if I would even make it to high school; at that point, I wasn’t even interested in going to college. I think if I would have had a workshop like this when I was in middle school, I would have worked much harder in high school to obtain scholarships for college. This kind of program should be available to all eighth grade students, and possibly even required by all schools.

How to Build a Strong Reputation

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Last week I decided to branch out creatively and make a podcast. 
Dara’s do’s and don’ts is a podcast series about what to do, and what not to do, in regards to public relations and social media as a whole. I am fairly new to social media, and I am about to pursue a career in Public Relations, so this podcast is designed for newbies like me interested in PR and social media. It is also for organizations who are looking for a fresh perspective on how to improve their organization.

This week, I talk about building reputations. This is intentionally designed for organizations interested in creating strong reputations, but it can also be used for individuals to build their own personal brand and reputation.

Podcast Show Notes: Podcast

Introduction music                                                                                           :00- :10

Intro to podcast and topic (creating a strong reputation)                    :10- :48

Step 1: Establish a goal                                                                                   :49- 1:22

Step 2: Consistency and reaching audiences                                           1:23- 4:28

Step 3: Truth and transparency                                                                   4:29- 5:35

Step 4: Getting involved in the community                                               5:36- 5:59

Recap                                                                                                                  6:00- 6:37

Feedback                                                                                                           6:38- 6:50

Next episode                                                                                                     6:51- 6:59

Farewell, outro music                                                                                    7:00- 7:13

Thank you for listening! I would enjoy any feedback you may have! 

The Dangers of Astroturfing.

astroturfAccording to the Financial Times website, astroturfing is, “A technique that gets its name from the practice of generating fake grassroots enthusiasm.” This is one area where PR gets its bad rep. Basically, companies are paying bloggers to blog about their product–whether or not these bloggers actually used said product. This is extremely dangerous for companies, and PR practitioners. 

Most of us PR students are taught the value of honesty when promoting a company, person, organization, or what have you. Although most of us have not ventured out into the “real” PR world, we expect that most other practitioners also value truth when practicing. 

With the Internet booming as it is, astroturfing can be very dangerous to those who do it. It sends the wrong messages to consumers, and can cause a giant uproar when consumers find out that a company is astroturfing. If you want to promote your company, do so ethically. If you want to blog about your product, add links to other sites that have a common interest with your product. For example, if I wanted to promote a new line of hybrid cars, I would post links to websites that talk about environmental sustainability.

If your product is good, consumers will talk about it. You don’t need to pay people to blog about your product–this will happen if you are properly targeting your audience and promoting your product to that audience.

Getting a Job in this Economy–Can Social Media Help??

twitter-social-networkI am learning in my PR classes how important social media is–especially in the PR world. I’m learning about blogging, Twitter, podcasting, social media releases, websites like LinkedIn, FlickR and PROpenMic, webinars, etc. I’m understanding the value of communicating with consumers or a target audience through these recources, and how social media is now an easy, efficient, and cost effective way to communicate with anybody–literally. 

However, since I’m a student about to graduate, I’m more concerned with getting a job than playing around with all of the social media outlets. At least that’s what I thought until a few weeks ago, when I realized that I could use these tools to pursue, and possible acquire, a job in PR. In many of my classes, especially my PR classes, I’ve been told, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When it comes to finding a job, it’s all about networking. But now, social media is a new type of networking, especially for recent graduates looking for entry level positions.

I recently set up a Twitter account. I am currently following 85 people, and 74 people are following me. These numbers raise daily. About 20% of the people I follow are my  PR classmates, the rest are mostly PR professionals who offer great advice and links on their Twitter updates. Through these links I have found various internship opportunities, sites with job offers, and some really great PR tips and advice. Through my LinkedIn networks, I’ve found a number of job listings in some cities I want to live in.

I found a post the other day about how to find a job on Twitter. It gave great advice on how to set up your personal brand, and make your followers, or bosses interested in hiring you, want to hire you. 

It’s important for anybody wanting to get a job in today’s market to make sure they are able to promote their personal brand in any (positive) way they can. That means signing up for things like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., and publishing blog posts to tell future employers where your interests and passions lie. Personal networking days (in the sense that your best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s work is hiring) are over–social media networking for jobs is the future of job hunting. 

 

(photo: Luc Legay)

“Uh-Oh, Now What Do I Do???”–Dealing With a Crisis.

We all face some sort of crisis in our lifetime–some more major than others. Some of us face these crises privately, while others’ are blasted all over every news medium. Regardless of your situation, there are several ways to help ease your crisis situation without further ruining your reputation.270800047_57142234361

I am currently taking a PR Planning class where we work on mock cases (most of them are real case studies that our professor was involved in when he practiced PR). Our cases range from planning events to creating plans to help solve crisis situations. Our current case involves a crisis situation in which a high-school is facing racism issues after a white non-student assaulted an African-American student on campus. After the altercation, racism-fueled violence ensued causing a riot of 1000 students on campus. Our task for this case is to create an immediate crisis plan to deal with the situation and avert further violence and racial issues. I won’t go into detail about how we plan to execute our immediate crisis plan, but I will give some guidelines that we are following that can be applied to all post-crisis plans. 

I read a blog post by Kel Kelly that gives great advice on how to deal with crisis situation. In her post, talks about an NBC Nightly News report about a bailed-out bank sponsoring a meeting at a high-end resort in Vegas. Obviously, with their current financial situation, these banks were being just plain stupid. However, there is time to try and recover from their dumb mistakes. Kelly lists five steps to handle the situation:crisis-plan

  1. Assess
  2. Take Responsibility
  3. Identify Changes and Open Channels of Communication
  4. Tell Top-Talent to Screw
  5. Pray

It’s important for a person or a company to first take a step back and make sure that they are indeed responsible for the incident, and whether they need to take action. If they are responsible, it’s important for them to do something about it. In light of this week’s Chris Brown and Rihanna mess, it would have been a good idea for Chris Brown’s publicist to address this issue in a timely matter before his problems got worse (Chris Brown didn’t issue a statement until a full week after the alleged assault, after his contract with Wrigley’s Gum was suspended, and after some radio stationsbanned his music). The next step is to make sure this occurrence never happens again. This is what we are doing in my Planning class–we want to make sure that racial violence does not occur again at the school, and that faculty and staff are trained to handle these situations if a problem starts to arise. Kelly suggests that the person or organization makes their plan of action visible to anyone and everyone via a Web 2.0 platform. Make sure everyone knows you are doing your part to clean up your mess! Her next tip, “Tell Top-Talent to Screw,” is referring to the banking incident, but can be applied to other situations. If people are telling you or your company to do something that you know you shouldn’t be doing: DON’T DO IT! It could hurt your reputation. Instead, offer other suggestions to appeal to your “top talent” but that don’t put you or your company in the hole. And finally, have hope that this all works. Most PR Professionals say that you can never go back to “normal” after a crisis. However, if you follow these steps, and try to reform your image, you may have a good chance of gaining your client’s and the public’s trust again. 

(Photo: Brittney Bush)

(Photo: World Economic Forum)