Final Blog of 4460

It is both so exciting and frightening that in one week I will be walking across the stage at the Murchison Performing Arts Center as a University of North Texas graduate. It has been such an amazing three years from first flight week to my last week of finals ever I wouldn’t change anything about my time and experiences at UNT.

One of the best experiences throughout my college career was the time I got to spend working with the Richardson Symphony Orchestra. I know I have learned so much from all of the assignments I have been able to complete because of their help.

Richardson Symphony Orchestra Opening Night Concert ,2014

Richardson Symphony Orchestra Opening Night Concert ,2014

Executive Director Laurie Garvie and Conductor Clay Couturiaux were two of the most extraordinary professionals to work with. In order to keep this organization alive the sheer responsibilities Laurie has on a day to day basis was a learning experience just to observe. Despite being so busy she was always available to get me the materials I needed to be successful.

Music Director and Conductor Clay Couturiaux was also a thrill to work with. Before my time with the RSO I didn’t know precisely what symphonic music was or how if differed from classical music. Clay Couturiaux not only taught me that but so much more about this world of beautiful I never new existed. One of my favorite assignments throughout my time with RSO was the feature story I wrote about Clay. This assignment made me feel so much closer to RSO and took my appreciation of this art form and transcended it.

Attending the 2014 Opening Night Concert was also an experience I will never forget. I don’t think I can think Laurie enough for the opportunity to see the Orchestra live. It is such a different experience to hear this music electronically versus in person. For anyone out there who has never been to the orchestra I would highly recommend the experience (and the RSO in particular).

I may be starting a new chapter in my life here soon and I am so thankful to be walking away from this chapter with so much knowledge and skill. This organization along with the classes I have been enrolled in have shaped me as a student and improved me as a PR professional.

What I Got Out of Ethics 4470 and How I anticipate Using It In The Future

When I first began Ethics 4470 I thought I had a strong understanding of ethics and how I would handle the ethical issues I might encounter in my future field of public relations. Today I know I will be more prepared to face whatever ethical challenges may be in my future career because of the case studies we have examined and the philosophies we have learned this semester.

One of the things I have gained a greater understanding of throughout this course is the different approaches one can take when handling an ethical crisis. I know in the future I will be able to evaluate ethical situations in a more critical manner. 

Before the lecture about the difference between values, morals, ethics and principle I often used those words interchangeably. This is a mistake I feel proud to say I will no longer make.

I also know I learned more about philosophy in this course than in any philosophy course I took. Not only do I now know philosophical theories but also I understand how companies can use these philosophies to guide decision-making. The case studies we assessed made definitions and concepts real for me in a way that was almost frightening.

It was shocking to see the sheer number of companies who have had a public relations crisis. As well as the reasons in some cases the public was so outraged. In many cases the outrage was obviously justified but there were a number of cases that were shocking in the fact that people were upset by anything.

For example, the Coca-Cola case study with the inter-racial family was one of the case studies that when the group presenting first showed the video I was confused on where the problem was. This case study was one of my favorites because the company didn’t back down during the backlash but instead stood by its company values and didn’t pull the Ad.

All of these case studies we examined made the theories we learned about real for me. I feel like now when I read about PR crises I evaluate options the company may be considering in a different manner than I did four months ago.

In the future I know I will reflect on this class and use the things I have learned here to be a better professional.

Starbucks Computer Outage Creates A PR Win

A nationwide computer outage earlier this week inspired Starbucks to take a bad situation and make it better.

Starbucks coffee bars remained open earlier this week after the company’s computer system failed. A computer system failure means registers were down and baristas couldn’t charge patrons for their morning cup of joe.

Did this minor setback stop Starbucks from giving the people what they want?

Of course it did not.

Starbucks enthusiasts were shocked and overjoyed when many locations not only kept their doors open but began not charging for drinks. Twitter exploded with delighted responses to the surprising outcome of what could have been a sad day for coffee addicts everywhere (PR Daily).

This happy turn of events was the result of a corporate decision that closing stores would likely create a public relations issue.

Unfortunately not every store got the memo.

It seems some stores had already closed shop for the day by the time the decision was made. At least that would be what to hope for, because who would dare deny anyone free iced caramel macchiatos.

This miscommunication beside I would rate Starbucks a ten in its handling of this situation.

The big guys up stairs were probably right in thinking closing shop for a full Friday would distress some Starbucks die-hard-fanatics to the point of no return.

Instead of having thousands of caffeine fiending Americans tweeting angrily for 24 hours about their unquenchable need for a Java Chip Frappuccino® the general response to the whole fiasco was pleasant and cheerful.

I have to say I would give Starbucks an A+ for fast thinking but maybe only an A- for execution. Starbucks may have missed its full opportunity when the company allowed for the only promotion of this unexpected event to happen through word-of-mouth.

This would have been one of those times engagement through social media could have made all the difference. If more people (myself included) would have known it was essentially free coffee day at Starbucks the incident may have received more coverage and had a more lasting effect.

Was Lily Pulitzer too much for Target to handle?

Earlier this week I had a conversation with a classmate about Target’s positioning strategy, because these are the kinds of conversations you have when your minor is in marketing.

After a lot of discussion we concluded that in our opinion it is the better quality and style that really sets Target apart from other big box stores.

To quote my classmate, “every time I walk in a Target I walk out with like 30 things I had no intention of buying when I walked in” now of course this was a hyperbole but I have to say I feel the same way.

Now here is the punch line, this Sunday hundreds of Lily Pulitzer fans made our exaggeration a reality.

In January of this year Target announced its collaboration with the iconic designer brand Lily Pulitzer. The collaboration included: women’s and girl’s clothing, home goods, jewelry and accessories, which would be sold for lower prices.

This Sunday the line hit the shelves but it didn’t stay there long.

Pulitzer fans began lining up outside of Target locations at 5am; red baskets were over-filled and the event could easily be compared to a Black Friday in April.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 11.10.01 PM

(via Twitter)

Online shoppers experienced similar chaos. A Target spokesman told the Star-Tribune Sunday morning, “…overwhelming online traffic led the retailer to take steps to manage the situation that slowed the site down. At certain times, Target only allowed some customers to access parts of its website. And at one point, Target made the site inaccessible for about 15 minutes in order to grapple with the traffic and avoid a full-blown crash. (PR Daily)”

Shoppers were outraged by how quickly items sold out online and it didn’t take long discover the source of their frustration. Just hours after Target’s online store sold out of the Lily Pulitzer line items began appearing on eBay for double the price.

At this point Target has said it has no plans to offer anymore Pulitzer merchandise.

The real question here is was this really a win for Target. Could the chaos and the disappointment this event created change peoples minds about the store?

Maybe, but by the end of the day the company accomplished its most basic goal, to sell merchandise.

‘Shelf Help’

Ikea Singapore’s ‘Shelf Help’ Guru may be Ikea’s cleverest campaign yet.

This character was first introduced by Ikea Singapore a few years earlier in a video ad titled ‘Improve Your Private Life’ and is now reappearing all over Facebook (ADWeek).

Ikea Singapore has recently posted a new Facebook thread asking people to post question about how to improve their homes, but Ikea’s responses are anything but conventional (Time).

The ‘Shelf Help’ Guru plays precariously on the edge of risque with its clear innuendo. Other ads of the same style have been met with backlash from concerned parents who take this type of suggestive humor offensively.

Kmart for example received tidal waves of backlash after the launch of its ‘Big Gas Savings’ ads.

So what’s the difference? Why was Kmart immediately disowned as a family brand name while Ikea has accepted nothing but praise?

I for one can see how the blunt verbal innuendo of Kmart’s ad could be viewed as one step too far. I can imagine the shock on parents faces when their children come running up from the television set asking if they can go to Kmart for its ‘Big Gas Savings’.

That’s the kind of joke any kid would gladly take advantage of and use to bother the heck out of mom.

In Ikea’s ad the ‘Shelf Help’ Guru uses verbal cues to create visual innuendo. Yes, there is a sexual connotation behind almost every joke the Guru makes but maybe it’s subtle enough to not matter. Is this the line between too far and funny?

Looking at this from a PR perspective I would have been cautious with this role out. Have my crisis plan in hand ready for that one mom who can’t take a joke, but so far it seems the ‘Shelf Help’ Guru is a hit.

Is the online world making society nastier, or is society just taking advantage of the ability to express what its always felt?

I believe mankind has always been and will always be cruel. Every generation finds new ways to hurt and bring harm to its members and the generation that follows them.

Society cannot blame its cruelty on modern technology or the online world.

The Internet is a channel in which messages of human design are sent. To blame the Internet for human ugliness is to blame the messenger for the message.

The online world is not poisoning society; it is merely making it easier for people to spread their nastiest.

Bullying, for example has taken on a new form through the Internet in the modern world called cyberbullying.

“Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat and websites. (Stop Cyberbullying)”

Long before the online world existed children were teasing and picking on one another, calling each other foul names and acting out physical violence toward one another.

The online world has simply decreased the responsibility of these actions through anonymity. The anonymous nature of the Internet allows for students who under normal circumstances would not possess the courage to speak degradingly or act viciously toward a peer to find a new dauntlessness behind the keys of a message board and become a cyberbully.

It is not just children who take advantage of the online world and the opportunities for hate that it offers. Adults and children alike are capable of terrible things and the Internet makes it easier to be terrible without consequence.

Trolling is a slang term for Internet users who are purposely trying to evoke anger or frustration from someone online. Trolling is typically acted out by someone who has no relation to the subject they are commenting on or the person they are insulting or being rude toward.

Trolling is simply being nasty because one can.

In the last few years the issue of trolling has risen up and become a societal and legal problem worldwide.

In the UK laws against trolling have already existed for sometime and the government there has been working to make punishment for these crimes even stricter (BBC News).

Individuals who find themselves the victim of trolling and cyberbullying can be at a high risk for depression, low self-esteem and even suicide.

It is unfortunate that the Internet, which is a valuable tool that has reshaped society, has been used to spread so much vile hate.

Our culture has for too long passed on the blame for its cruel nature to the closest scapegoat. If we ever hope to change ourselves for the better we must first accept responsibility for our actions, that is all of our actions, whether in person or online.

Society must first admit that it is the ugliness of human nature and not the online world that creates hate and fear before we can begin to fix this growing problem.

It’s All Fun and Games Till Someone Gets Sued

Uber once again made its way into the media spotlight this week. It seems this app-based taxi service is always in the limelight in the worst possible ways.

The company was protested last year in India after a woman was raped and murdered by an Uber driver who had not been properly vetted and in fact had a prior offense for attempted rape. After that there was the scandal involving the company’s senior vice president Emil Michael, who treated to black mail critics of the company.

Finally just earlier this week the first law suit was filed against the company by one of the many drivers whose information was stolen in a hack that occurred in September.

Uber released a statement stating one of its databases “could potentially have been accessed by a third party (The Hill),” but later denied the claims that login information was being sold for only $1 on the dark web (Fortune).

It is amazing how even in the face of so many scandals and complications Uber has not only continued to survive, but also thrive and grow at an alarming rate.

Despite struggling with its image the company has still continued to grow in popularity over the last year. Uber grew from being a small start up to a $18 billion company in just five short years and continues to rise in value(CNN Money).

If only Uber could get a handle on its image the possibilities for this company could be potentially endless.

Companies get hacked, from insurance agencies to Chipotle, and the public has become well aware of this fact in the last year.

What I have come to realize is there is a definite wrong and right way to handle this situation and rule No.1 is be as transparent and honest about as possible. If your public thinks you are hiding something from them or lying to them you are just digging your hole deeper.

Second, be the first to scoop yourself. Beat the press to the punch with full disclosure as soon as discover the problem.

Uber failed at controlling this incident and may or may not suffer from it. I for one am interested in seeing how far will Uber go, and what else can this company possibly get itself into along the way.