Sunday, April 27, 2008

Social Media Release...the wave of the future?

PR professionals have traditionally relied on one type of news release to deliver information to the media and journalists. But recently, a new type of news release, called a “Social Media Release” has begun attracting more attention.

Shift Communications, a mid-sized independent PR agency, created the social media release in 2006 as an innovative means of simplifying information in a news release. Inspired by Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher, Shift Communications believes that the social media release “merely facilitates [journalists and bloggers] research by using the latest tools (social bookmarking, RSS, etc.) to provide background data, context and on-going updates to clients’ news.” The company made the template available for free distribution to any interested PR practitioners.

The benefit of the social media release is that it taps into online techonolgies by incorporating online and social media tools into the news release, and allows information to be communicated more effectively to the online community. It incorporates videos, social networking videos, images and hyperlinks into the release. This is a great way to distribute information to bloggers!

I am currently an intern at an advertising and PR agency in Dallas, and a couple months ago we watched a webinar explaining the functions and meanings of the Social Media Release. The agency recognized that although this release is not currently distributed by many PR firms, that it may be play an integral role in the future of PR.

With its user-friendly template, and wide-spread distribution I have yet to determine why the social media release has not yet taken off. My only guess is that the industry as a whole is afraid of change. Journalists are used to receiving the traditional news release, and PR agencies are used to distributing the traditional news release. I am interested to see if agencies will utilize the social media release in the future, and how journalists will respond to it.

Check out this awesome video on the social media release.

Are you part of the "Go Green!" campaign?

What do you think about all the companies suddenly jumping on board the “Go Green!” campaign? Companies like Honda, Continental Airlines, PG & E, S.C. Johnson, Goldman Sachs and Hewlett-Packard are among some of the companies that, according to CNN Money have gone “above and beyond what the law requires to operate in an environmentally responsible way.”

Last week was earth day and the TV and news were full of promotions for companies that are going green. Even E! Entertainment interviewed celebrities on the ways in which they contribute to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Some celebs, such as Tori Spelling who rambled off a few random items, appeared extremely caught off guard by this question and as a viewer it was apparent that now celebrities are under pressure to hop aboard the “Go Green!” campaign.

Wal-Mart recently implemented an advertising campaign that invites all Wal-Mart shoppers to join together in an effort to make a difference. Specifically, Wal-Mart created a commercial encouraging all Wal-Mart shoppers to use a certain type of light bulb, and gave statistics to demonstrate the impact this change would make. Check out the commercial below.

I think it’s great that huge corporations, celebrities and everyday people such as Wal-Mart shoppers are exerting the extra effort to help support and preserve our environment. It is definitely a critical issue to help maintain our earth for future generations, and it appears that we are doing a great job! I just hope everyone doesn’t get so wrapped up in this one issue that the countless other issues plaguing today’s society are neglected. We still have starving people abroad and in the U.S., a high rate of unemployment, welfare, homelessness, domestic abuse and countless other issues that also need support.

It is fantastic that all of the U.S. seems to be uniting in the effort to promote environmentally friendly lifestyles, and I hope that in the future we will unite again to make a difference on another issue. Making a difference lies in our hands.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Another Reason to Love Coca-Cola!

Do you get that 1:00 p.m. craving for a thirst-quenching drink? Does you mouth thirst for something more than water on a daily basis? Well if you are like me, that thirst can only be quenched by an ice-cold Coke, or in my case an ice-cold Diet Coke. Since I can remember I have been a top supporter of everything Coca-Cola. I love the taste, I love the ads and I love the Coke side of life. Not until recently, though, did I discover yet another reason to love Coke, and this time it has to do with the company itself.

Whenever a company makes a single mistake, that mistake seems to stick as a stigma that the company is forever associated with, no matter how many other good deeds they perform. For example, Nike. I have always loved Nike and continue to wear many Nike workout clothes. But when I think of Nike, I immediately remember all the negative publicity they received for their sweatshops. Everyone does! No matter what else Nike does it will always be associated with its former sweatshops.

Which brings me to the point of why I have come to love Coke even more – they practice social responsibility in the environment, the community, the workplace and the marketplace.

Coke says, “the future of our business depends on the vitality of the communities where we operate.” Coca-Cola and their bottling partners produce products in more than 800 plants worldwide, and make sure to “employ local people, pay taxes to governments, pay suppliers for goods, services and capital equipment, and support community investment programs.” They also support socioeconomic development of these communities through “economic opportunities and wealth creation as well as technology and knowledge transfer; local entrepreneurship; and other international investment.”

In 2006, Coca-Cola donated approximately $70 million to these communities to support their civic and public affairs, and community and economic development. Talk about making a difference in the world!

I realize that a major factor for Coca-Cola’s generosity is based in their American business foundation: ultimately to get back to the bottom line. Yes, by practicing great social responsibility Coke is trying to increase their profits. They are helping people in poor countries, providing employment opportunities in safe workplaces and making monetary donations to aid the growth of these communities. They are giving these communities assets they may never have without the help of a larger conglomerate, but they are doing it to increase there own profit. And it’s working.

So I wonder, is it less moral to be such a do-gooder if you are doing it with your own self-interest in mind? The good deeds are still being done, and the people and communities are benefiting in ways they might not otherwise have been. Does the intent behind Coca-Cola matter? Or is just important that the good deeds are done?

Who doesn't want to drink a Coke after watching this commercial?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Yahoo! and Google help repress Chinese citizens?

From foot binding, to communism, to one-child policies…to internet regulation? Historically a country known for its strict adherence to traditions, cultural laws and respect for superiors, some Chinese are now speaking out against their repressive government via the Internet. According to Human Rights Watch, “the Chinese government retains its ability to arbitrarily restrict certain speech or punish people for holding and sharing their opinions.” In a country where the media adheres to restricted topics it can report on, the Internet provides an anonymous place for citizens to finally vocalize their opinions. Or so they thought.

Chinese citizens, such as Jiang Lijun, are being arrested for discussing political issues on the Internet. A Chinese Web site was even closed for running a public opinion poll about whether national leaders in China should be elected! Check out the story below.

This is completely shocking to me! In the U.S., blogging, and the Internet in general, is a powerful means of measuring the public opinions, and presidential candidates rely heavily on the Internet to relay information to the public, and to receive feedback from the public. It is revolutionary over here! Candidates create media campaigns specifically for the Internet, in order to target specific audiences through various sites. Some even propose that the Internet may make or break the decision of our next president. That is HUGE!

I am so fascinated that the exact same invention can cause polar opposite revolutions in different countries. For the U.S., blogging and freedom of expression in regards to the government are encouraged and even promoted by candidates, and government leaders even maintain their own blogs. In China, freedom of expression is severely restricted and is enforced by arresting those who decide to speak their mind about the government via the Internet.

Companies such as Google and Yahoo! have adjusted their search engines to incorporate the restrictions of the Chinese government. Yahoo! has adapted even more than Google in an effort to increase the use of their search engine in the country. So I ask you, are these search engines benefitting the Chinese by complying with their laws? Or are they restricting Chinese citizens even more?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Deceit? Or great self-promotion?

Along with all innovative technologies comes a recipe for disaster. The birth of the internet. A marvelous invention that revolutionized the armed forces, changed the way we do business and unites people all over the world. The birth of the internet. An invention used to promote hate crimes, sex videos, gossip, pornography and cults. First came the good, then came the bad…

And then came blogs. A way for people to post personal opinions for the world to see, freedom of expression and a great tool for marketing research. And then came blogs. An open means of publically humiliating yourself, others, companies and friends. First came the good, then came the bad…

And then came FLOGS. Perhaps one of the most famous incidents of flogging can be attributed to Wal-Mart. Let me pause for a second for those who have yet to hear the term “flog.” A flog is the new world for fake blogs. According to Wikipedia (yes I know this site is not always reliable, but in this case it gives a great definition,) a flog is a fake blog or “a marketing tool
designed by a professional advertisement company to promote a product in a fashion one might find on a fan site or in regular blog entries.” Wal-Mart, one of the biggest corporations in the U.S. faced public humiliation when it was discoverted the corporation had been flogging on the internet. In fact, the flog is now extremely difficult to track down, as Wal-Mart is deleting all available evidence of its existence. Learn about it and other fake blogs here.

So what is the problem with flogs? I mean, who cares if a Wal-Mart employee is told to write positive comments about the company and post them on the internet? SO WHAT! First of all, Wal-Mart has thousands of employees, so one opinion is not magically going to change America’s opinion of Wal-Mart. Secondly, companies promote themselves on the Internet all the time. Why does it matter if someone promotes their company anonymously? Or under a pseudonym? The Internet is one of the few facets in our world in which people are capable of being completely evasive, nondescript and secretive about their identities. Everyone knows this.

I guess what I am saying is that I feel Wal-Mart received a ridiculously unfair amount of negative publicity for this incident. I see nothing wrong with promoting a company, and if that promotion happens to be via the internet, then consumer beware. Everyone knows that when it comes to the Internet, nothing is set in stone.

Check out this example of a parady blog: a fake blog written to entertain.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ethical Considerations in PR

With the public relations industry on the rise, controversy surrounding the profession has grown just as fast. Trying to avoid stereotypes such as “spinning” of “flack” organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) have established a Code of Ethics by which their members must comply. Many PRSA members undergo strict regulations in order to gain accreditation in the field of PR. Since there is currently established testing to become a PR professional, such as law school for lawyers or medical school for doctors, accreditation by PRSA or IABC is the best available option we have today.

The PRSA Code of Ethics includes a list of rules by which their members are encouraged to obey in order to increase credibility of the PR profession.

Some of the issues included in the Code of Ethics include:
Be honest and accurate in all communications
Act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the practitioner is responsible
Preserve the free flow of unprejudiced information when giving or receiving gifts by ensuring that gifts are nominal, legal and infrequent
To serve the public interest by providing the widest choice of practitioner options

This full Code of Ethics can be viewed here. As our generation represents a large increase in PR practitioners, I feel it is our duty to follow the Code of Ethics, whether an accredited practitioner or not, in order to develop a reputable profession. Developing a positive image of PR and breaking through the stereotypes starts at an individual level. If we take it upon ourselves to start the change, we will see a huge progression in the field in the next decade.

Here's a video addressing the question, "Should bloggers follow a professional code of ethics?"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Case Study: Columbia Sportswear

“Columbia Sportswear Company is a global leader in the design, production, marketing and distribution of outdoor apparel and footwear” ( As an international company, Columbia’s employees always spread across the nation and always on the move, making efficient communication a necessity for good business.

Gertrude Boyle, chairman of Columbia Sportswear, says, “fast access to up-to-date information is key to the company’s success” (

Columbia Sportswear employs more than 2,700 people in 76 countries, and works with more than 13,000 retailers internationally. Approximately 25 percent of Portland’s 700 employees are traveling at any given time.

Barbara Cason says, “Columbia Sportswear is a quintessential Northwest kind of company. Those of us who work here are really drawn to the active lifestyle, to products that allow us to enjoy skiing, hiking, fishing, and all of the things that the Northwest has to offer. But at the same time, my foreign legal associates often need my help with urgent issues outside of our normal business hours. I need to be available to them in a very timely fashion, no matter where I am” (

To increase communication efficiency, Columbia Sportswear began using Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 in July of 2006. This technology is the newest enterprise software. In addition to Microsoft Exchange 2007, Columbia Sportswear also uses Exchange Unified Messaging, which affords employees the convenience of receiving e-mail , voice mail, calendar items and faxes from a single inbox. Employees can now access their messages through either a Web browser or a telephone, rather than memorizing multiple passwords for multiple inboxes. (

These new technologies allow employees to enjoy an active lifestyle while maintaining constant, efficient communication. They have also reduced phone costs, the costs of business delays and missed opportunities.

“Bill Tung, vice president of international sales and operations at Columbia Sportswear, spends about 40 percent of his time traveling around the world. ‘Being responsible for a global business, it’s absolutely vital for me to have instant access to e-mail, voice mail, faxes, financial data, and company reports,’ he says. ‘Having all these capabilities consolidated on a single device that fits in my pocket saves me a great deal of time.”” (

View this entire case study and a one-minute video here.