Between You and Me, There's PR

Exploring, learning and using social media, public relations and marketing.

Is there haterade in the water? October 16, 2013

Filed under: social media — thisgirlsarah @ 8:58 PM
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Have you ever heard that saying, “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? Or if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all? Everything we were taught about being kind to others seems to of vanished among the masses online. Simply, people are mean.

A lack of filter has led to many cases of cyber-bullying and suicides. Bullying is not something new, but the fact that someone can do it where no teacher can hear them so there are no repercussions if they don’t get caught is attractive to cyber-bullies.

Bullies are childish. So, why does it extend beyond children? Grown adults take to social media to share their opinion about everything. In customer service, it’s accepted that generally more people complain than compliment and it’s the same with social media.

I’m not saying people should be stripped of their freedom to speak, but adults should be more apt to respectfully share opinions. My jaw constantly drops with the anger people have towards strangers and situations they disagree with. People feed off one another until the snowball effect takes action and the whole situation is blown out of proportion.

Photo from


The fact that moms are mad at Maria Kang for posting an intentionally motivational photo drove me to stop thinking about writing this post to actually doing it. I can’t understand why people are so mad about the photo. Her Facebook page was specifically designed to be an inspiration for other women, specifically moms, who visit it expecting fitness tips and motivation.

It’s not like Maria is attempting to create a false image of her life; she even shows pictures of her with her kids being a normal mom  Her controversial photo asking, “What’s your excuse?” was asking fans to honestly evaluate their health and in turn, people came up with lots of excuses.

Then there are things people can rightfully be mad about, like the government shutdown. However, even if it’s something that would naturally solicit a frustrated response, the comments turn into an argument that snowballs with assumptions and anger rather than facts.

Read any news story followed by the comments section and prepare to be amazed by spelling errors, capitalization and accusations galore. No matter how sweet the story begins, there’s always someone to take it the wrong way and bring down the mood.

Let’s pretend there is actually a filter. Just because you think something, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to say it. Breathe and ask yourself, “Would I kiss my mother with that mouth?”

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but consider the difference between voicing an opinion and being a bully. And speaking for all community managers, we’d appreciate it when the filter is used.


Starbucks Does Not React to Controversy September 22, 2013

Filed under: marketing,social media — thisgirlsarah @ 2:01 PM
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Mmm Pumkin Spice Latte season has arrived, unless you carry a gun. I’m not here to write another “Thank you, Starbucks” or “I hate you now, Starbucks” story, but rather looking at the PR implications of the company’s statement and reaction. (Quick catch up if you missed it, here is the letter from Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, asking customers not to bring their guns into Starbucks.)

One of the first rules in a PR crisis is to respond rather than ignoring the situation. How did Starbucks measure up with their recent gun request? I think they did everything with a careful strategy, despite the fact that it looks like they were ignoring customers.

The letter was posted on their blog at about the same time it was shared on Facebook and Twitter. Instantly, the public insisted on sharing their opinions with the company. What I find interesting, is the fact that it looks like the company shared the statement then just let it ride out, only responding to a select few of their customers’ critiques.

starbucks fb2 starbucks fb1

They didn’t even post any new corporate messages for 48 hours on both Twitter and Facebook.

starbucks twitter

Every bit of Starbucks’ strategy was intentional and planned out. Aside from correcting a few misunderstandings about the request, there was no need to defend themselves against haters; therefore, no response was necessary.

Had they responded in a defensive way, they’d have just created more controversy. Instead, they allowed everyone to share their opinion and two days later, came back with a photo of a warm cup of coffee as though nothing happened.

The general rules for a PR crisis may, in fact be to respond, but there are rules to that rule. The important takeaway for marketers to learn from Starbucks are to

  • Have a plan.
  • Decide what is right for your company as a response. Every situation is different.
  • Be united as a team and convey the same message across all media outlets.
  • Never lose control of the situation.
  • Respond, but not too much and not too loud.
  • Never ever, ever do what Amy’s Baking Company did in response to a crisis. (I can’t get enough of this story. It’s a train wreck.)

What do you think of how Starbucks handled the backlash from their announcement?


Are eBooks the future? September 15, 2013

I’ve been cheating on you with my iPad. I’m obsessed with reading lately and it’s all because of the convenience of eBooks. Between that and Fairway Solitare, it’s the only thing I use my iPad for.

photoJust like when mp3 players came out, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read an electronic book. I knew I’d miss holding it in my hand and turning a physical page. In the end, convenience (and price) won out.

I can go to the library from my couch and never have to worry about returning the book on time. Instead, they just take it from me. Meanwhile, I forget to pick-up a book I request at the library and am charged $2 for a  book I never even touch.

I do miss the fact that I can’t skip back a few chapters to see if that character that was just mentioned was the same one they mentioned in chapter one to find out if I just solved the mystery. It also makes it hard to join a book club or use it for a textbook. I also miss looking at how thick the rest of the book is to determine if I can finish it in one sitting, or if I should just go to bed. I’m suspicious of whether or not eBooks will replace paper books or not because there are so many benefits to both.

When I go to the pool, I can’t take my iPad with me-; it’s the most expensive book I’ve ever purchased! But when I go on a plane, I’d much rather pack a less bulky book that can also check my email and Facebook all in one.

Studies show that hay-day of the eBook was in 2010 and since then, has had a dramatic decline, including a signs that sales are beginning to level off.  It also shows that while ebooks are popular, they have yet to match the demand for printed copies.  Is it nostalgia, resistance to change, or both? When we made the switch from CDs to digital music downloads the same trend occured. CDs continued to dominate for the first few years after their introduction, but they now dominate the market.

closed-shop1It reminds me of the moment Meg Ryan’s character turns off the lights of her empty boutique bookstore in You’ve Got Mail. It’s such a sad moment. Nearly as sad as driving past abandoned Borders stores after they went out of business. Can you imagine a future where our children don’t know what it’s like to visit a bookstore? It’s really not that hard these days.

I have faith that people will still crave a tangible book to supplement their digital readings. There are certain circumstances when you just need one over the other. Then again, if we look at sales trends of CDs to Digital music or how DVDs made VHS obsolete, chances are we’ll eventually live in a eBook only world. Brace yourself.

Do you think print books will remain in the market in the future?


Are QR Codes Dead? August 21, 2013

Filed under: marketing,QR Code — thisgirlsarah @ 8:49 PM
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tombstoneThe two most popular posts I have written on this blog have been about QR codes. I wrote the first post around the time they first came out in 2010. Three years later, the general consensus is that they are useless. Of course, that has not stopped them from appearing everywhere.

As a 24-year-old young adult living life, I always feel disappointed when scanning a QR code. If I am sitting a restaurant and see a QR code, I scan it expecting a discount, not a link to their boring website. I always anticipate a QR code helping me in whatever I am doing at the time and am let down time and time again with general content.

However, as a marketer, I have seen their success. The demographic I currently market to is truck drivers, therefore, my challenge is the fact that they either a) are never home or b) their home is the truck. As more and more drivers use smartphones, I’ve started testing QR codes with success.

The key is placement and content. Our most successful QR codes have been on ¼ size flyers people can pick up and take with them. They also have a promise at the other end, such as a chance to win something or to download our app. The app is especially successful because a smartphone is necessary to scan a QR code as well as download and use the app. It’s a perfect combination. Just like using a mobile marketing tool to market to a mobile demographic.

QR codes will die if not used appropriately. Haven’t we been taught as marketers that every successful campaign should have a call to action? Just sticking a QR code on a magazine ad is worthless unless there is an explanation, a chance to win a prize, or something beyond just a link to their website. Reward customers for doing the work to scan your QR code and you will also see a reward. They key is placement, content and the right demographic.

What has been you experience with QR codes either as a consumer or marketer?


Writer’s block and other excuses August 15, 2013

Have I really been too busy to blog? Absolutely not. How is it then, that though I ache to write content longer than 140 characters at work, when I come home, I do anything else but exactly that? It’s so simple and I am 100% in control of my ability to do it, yet I haven’t.

I find bloggers fascinating. The fact that people can actually earn money by simply writing down their thoughts and opinions is amazing. Companies actually market to and create campaigns to recruit “mommy-bloggers” as brand advocates. But more than that, they are so open with ideas and supportive of one another.

band r diaryI’m an inconsistent blogger because sharing my opinions and ideas about things is like letting you look at my diary. Fittingly, when I was younger, I was inconsistent with every attempt to keep a diary as well. The only diary I consistently kept for longer than a week was my Beezus and Ramona diary that offered prompts for things to write about. And that’s what I am missing, the prompt.

When I started this blog, I was a student. I continued the blog after I learned everything I had to learn at my internships. Now, I am no longer the student. I have to figure these things out on my own and come up with my own prompts. No longer are the thing I am writing about stories of someone else’s trial and error, they are things I am experiencing on my own because I am the head of my company’s social media department (truth be told, it’s just me).

I told myself I was too busy to blog. I told myself it wasn’t important. I decided not to fix the virus taking over my laptop. I created excuses to avoid doing what I should love. Writing a blog, whether anyone reads it or not, is an excellent outlet. It’s as much a social experience as it is personal. Blogging is an especially necessary outlet for someone hanging out on party of one social media team. Those of you that do read my blog, I apologize for slacking. It turns out you are the community I need and look to for encouragement and ideas.

Whew, it feels good to get that off my chest. I promise I’ll be more willing and committed to letting you see into my “diary”.  Writer’s slump is the worst, but sometimes it feels good to let it all out into the virtual world!

What causes your writer’s block and how do you overcome it?


A Theory on Persuasion April 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — thisgirlsarah @ 7:21 PM

I remember sitting in my Com Theory class thinking, “This is stupid, I am never going to use this in real life. Who applies and quotes theories in a daily situation?” Turns out, I do, sometimes. I hate that. This one is about Cognitive Dissonance Theory. Stay with me…

In preparation for a presentation to my executive board, I needed to not only show the success social media has provided our company, but also the worth and importance. I was showing the team step-by-step the fact that our target audience has a growing presence on social media. Furthermore, the younger generation (those under 50) are even more involved with social media, especially Facebook. This proved my point that we should absolutely be involved in social media, but the team needed more facts.

jifConsider this: My parents both buy crunchy JIF peanut butter and refuse to buy anything else. I did too until this year when I was persuaded by my boyfriend to get creamy. I never turned back.

There are two parts to this story:

1. We form consumer habits based on our parents’ habits.

2. Habits can change.

These ideas sounded familiar to me so I dug deep in my brain trying to remember where I learned about this in my communication classes and in walked the Cognitive Dissonance Theory.

This is the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time.

Dissonance increases with:

  • The importance of the subject to us.
  • How strongly the dissonant thoughts conflict.
  • Our inability to rationalize and explain away the conflict.

Cognitive dissonance is a very powerful motivator which will often lead us to change one or other of the conflicting belief or action. The discomfort often feels like a tension between the two opposing thoughts. To release the tension we can take one of three actions:

  • Change our behavior.
  • Justify our behavior by changing the conflicting cognition.
  • Justify our behavior by adding new cognitions.

So depending on your passion for the idea, you either change your behavior, or keep the behavior. We want to sell our brand and change the behavior of people who might not use our service and instead use a competitor. People who are very passionate about a certain brand are harder to persuade. This might be a person who’s parents used that brand and the entire family swears by it. Someone who uses it just because they picked it up off the shelf is more likely to be persuaded.

I predict that those under 50 are less involved in their brand choices and therefore more likely to be persuaded because they haven’t committed their whole life to doing something one way. If those people under 50 have a stronger presence on Facebook, it seems logical that we should also be on Facebook. We have to go where our demographic is.

We can’t necessarily change the mind of someone who has been going to a competitor for 50 years, but the person who entered the industry last year is likely looking for a place to stick his loyalty. We want it. We need to be present where they are present so that we can change their behavior and create loyal customers. Where are they? ONLINE.

Turns out, school is applicable.


Adapt or Die: Marketing Trends That Said Goodbye March 11, 2013

90s Hunk

Leonardo is definitely a 90s hunk.

I’m a 90s kid and, like all 90s kids, love the lists on Buzz Feed of things from my childhood. For example: “35 Things You Will Never See Again” featuring the VHS tape and “90s Hunks Shirtless: Then and Now”  even the word “hunk” is a 90s flashback!. Today, I saw a list like those that was  written by Hubspot called, “25 Things You’ll Have to Explain to Your Kids About Marketing One Day”. This list offers a lot of perspective as to where marketing was and is going in the future. (I’ll wait while you read.)

The craziest “whoaa” moment for me while reading this was the fact that I had been taught about most of these things in my high school marketing class and even college classes just a few years ago and now the list claims they are going extinct. My job in social media didn’t even exist a few years ago, will it exist 10 years from now? What’s both really scary and really funny is to go back to my first blog post (which was for my social media class senior year- also the FIRST time it was offered as a topic) titled “Times Change“. To further embarrass myself, I’ll pull a direct quote: “This Youtube clip from Erik Qualman, author of “Socialnomics,” shows statistics regarding social media and really opened my eyes to the success of these trends.”

“The success of these trends.” I called social media, my job, a trend. Is it? Will it go away like the Yellow Pages, newspapers and catalogs?  I think they will only grow and improve. Newspapers aren’t really dead (yet). They have adapted to the changing culture. Cassette tapes have died and CDs  are dying, but they were replaced with an even better tool that makes it easier to listen to music. Direct mail has been replaced by e-newsletters. Newspapers and magazines are still printed, but their online versions were created to adapt to the changing times. I don’t like change, so my vote is we keep them, but make them fit our fast-paced lifestyles better.

Today’s marketing focuses on the online world and takes a special interest in what consumers want. We no longer live in the world where the advertiser tells us what to think or do. Now, marketers use crowd-sourcing and target ads based on our search history or Facebook profiles. Add that to the list of things to explain to your kids: “Kids, back in the day, marketers couldn’t see what you searched for online enabling them to cater their advertisements to your specific likes or dislikes. Life wasn’t creepy like it is now.”

Who am I kidding, Don can handle anything except our smoke free society.

Who am I kidding? Don can handle anything- except our smoke free society.

Wouldn’t you love to see Don Draper take on the marketing world today? He nearly had a heart attack when Peggy Olson staged a ham fight as a PR stunt, I can’t imagine how he’d handle the dynamic world of online marketing. Then again, even he had to adapt as cigarettes, their biggest client, became a health concern.

I don’t think social media will be something we’ll tell our kids about because it doesn’t exist, but I do think it will change dramatically. I leave you with 20 Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2013 and Beyond.

What do you think we’ll see?


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