Archive for September, 2013


PR Crisis

Pink Slime!  The mere thought of it is disturbing.  But to think that you might have eaten it!  If you’re not a vegetarian, you probably have.

So what is it?  ‘Pink Slime’ otherwise known as “Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB)” is a meat additive made up of processed scraps of beef trimmings and fat treated with ammonia.  It is most often added to ground beef.  Are you craving a burger yet?

In March 2012 a media firestorm erupted when a picture of pink slime went viral and was broadcast all over ABC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets. (Sebastian, 2012).

pink-slime

Even though ‘pink slime’ had been an additive to ground beef in the U.S. for the 10 years prior, the media visuals and the fact that the meat additive was treated with ammonia proved too awful for the public to accept.  Most often ‘pink slime’ was used in school lunches and restaurants.  Consumers became overwhelmingly concerned for their health and the health of their children.  The USDA believed ‘pink slime’ was safe for public consumption, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy the outcry.  The public was simply grossed out.

The largest manufacturer of ‘pink slime’, Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), was forced to shut down plants and lay off workers.   Prior to the debacle, BPI had been producing approximately 5 million pounds of (LFTB) per week. Production was reduced to less than 2 million pounds per week when large purchases from the USDA and other national buyers began  to fall through. (Sanburn, 2013).

BPI did not provide an immediate response to the media firestorm.   Even though the reporting of ‘pink slime’ was bias, based on a former USDA food inspectors claims, BPI’s silence caused them to suffer great financial losses and a damaged reputation.

IF BPI had managed their public relations crisis immediately, they could have had a chance to show the public a different side of the story.  They could have educated consumers and the media regarding the care and safety measures they took in producing their product, and likely reduced peoples fear of health concerns (Espenshade, 2012).  They could have persuaded the public that the former USDA inspector had an agenda and was biased, which could have cast doubt on his claims.

Unfortunately, their silence became a catastrophic business loss.  It also became a lesson on the importance of good public relations crisis management and the importance of providing an immediate response to media situations.

Espenshade, Charlene S. (April 5, 2012). Pink Slime Has Been Public Relations Debacle. Lancaster Farming. Retrieved from http://www.lancasterfarming.com/blogs/Pink-Slime-Has-Been-Public-Relations-Debacle#.UkM1TlOE6no

Sanburn, Josh. (March 6, 2013). One Year Later, The Makers of ‘Pink Slime’ Are Hanging On, and Fighting Back. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://business.time.com/2013/03/06/one-year-later-the-makers-of-pink-slime-are-hanging-on-and-fighting-back/

Sebastian, Michael. (December 27, 2012). The 10 Worst PR Disasters of 2012. PR Daily. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225336

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The way to know if you’ve achieved success in public relations is through the process of measuring or evaluating the outcome of a PR campaign’s goals and objectives. Goals and objectives must be clearly defined in the beginning stages of campaign planning.  If they are not clearly defined the evaluation process will be impossible to gauge.  By gathering data through magazine and news clippings, surveys, social media analytics and other systemic tracking tools both before and after a campaign, the effectiveness of a PR program can be measured to justify budget expenses and overall success. (Anderson 2008)

According to Don W. Stacks, author of Primer of Public Relations Research, 2nd Ed., there are three stages of measuring campaign outcome.  In the developmental stage, a baseline is established to allow for final evaluation.  Who is the target audience?  What behavior does it seek for the target audience to become aware of and change?  Has action been effectuated?  The refinement stage occurs during the campaign relying on feedback that can be used to make tactical changes to the campaign if necessary.  The evaluation stage is the process that takes place at the end of the campaign, before it is over.  The evaluation stage is the time when measures of the campaign outcome are correlated with business outcomes and the return on investment can be established and analyzed.  (Stacks 2010)

Public relations evaluation is synonymous with investment.  The “bottom line” is extremely important to businesses, so to be able to show the value in a public relations campaign is  extremely important.

Anderson, F.W,. (2008). How to Evaluate Public Relations. Retrieved from http://www.forrestwanderson.com/documents/HowtoEvaluatePublicRelations_000.pdf

Michaelson, D., & Stacks, D. W. (2011). Standardization in public relations measurement and evaluation. Public Relations Journal, 5, 7-8.

Michaelson, D., Wright, D.K., & Stacks, D.W. (2012). Evaluating Efficacy in Public Relations/Corporate Communication Programming: Towards Establishing Standards of Campaign Performance. Public Relations Journal, 6 No. 5

Stacks D. W. (2010). Primer of Public Relations Research, 2nd ed. New York: Guilford.

Public Relations is important to all companies and organizations who seek to be successful. Unlike large corporations, non-profit organizations typically operate with a minimal budget at best which leaves little money available for public relations staffing and campaigns. Most non-profit organizations are staffed by volunteers and are funded by donors.

Before the Internet, corporations had an advantage over non-profits, because most had large enough budgets to hire PR staff and could more easily fund PR campaigns unlike non-profits.  With the development of the Internet, non-profits have been able to step up to the plate, and reach a worldwide audience on little or no budget at all.

By using social media, blogs, online journals, discussion boards, and other interactive sites, non-profits have been able to create and maintain  a presence among the Fortune 500’s.   A non-profit organization can easily set up a Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn, and website for free.  For a minimal amount, they can upgrade these services to better promote their ideas and meet their goals. These Internet pages allow organizations to manage and spread lots of important information to their audiences. They can be very persuasive about their causes, and they can even take donations for funding and other purposes online.   There are minimal limitations to what an organization can do online.  Spreading messages by going “viral” is one of the many successful ways PR can advocate for non-profits with a low budget.

Relationship management, essential to public relations, can be managed and maintained more quickly than old methods of phone calls and postal mail.  Many non-profits work together by sharing resources.  This allows for smaller non-profits to have an impact on media sources with minimal economic impact.  When used correctly, this can create a very powerful position for non-profit organizations and increase visibility world wide.

These public relations tools have become so powerful that even media journalists are turning to blogs and other Internet sources as credible sources used in their reporting, which can also result in low cost PR for an organization.

Sako, J. (2013). Public Relations for Small Business, Non-Profits and Start Ups (Non-Profits). Retrieved from http://smallbusiness-pr.com/non-profits/

Fitzpatrick, C. (2006). (Chapter 5.) Responsible Advocacy for Nonprofit Organizations. Retrieved from http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/10997_Chapter_5.pdf

Pre PR Reflections/Impressions

So, Public Relations.  What exactly is it?

I imagine long, busy, possibly even chaotic days filled with multi-tasking and great organizational skills.  Constant emails, phone calls, meetings, damage control, fixing issues, providing creative input, attention to social media, lots of writing, and decisions, decisions, decisions.

Could this be public relations?

When I think of public relations, I think of glamour mixed with clamor.  I think big city, big clients, big names, big deals, big messes to clean up, and big successes from ones ability to clean up those messes and maintain good relationships.

I think being a public relations professional will lend itself to different social circles, upscale dinners, VIP standing, parties, and insider view of places you would not normally have access to.  I think the income potential is above average, and the potential perks are endless.

I consider myself a people person.  In my world, relationships matter.  I imagine public relations is all about relating to people, and helping them maintain a good understanding of things that may otherwise drive them apart.  Creating, facilitating, and nurturing relationships is a very important part of public relations.

I currently work both as a local musician and for a company that makes music cleaning and polishing products for musicians and their techs.  The single most important thing I have learned as a musician is that you do not have to be a top notch musician to be the best in the business.  On the local level, building solid and positive relationships with your fans and with bar managers and wait staff will take you much farther than your musical skills can hope to do. I’ve seen some of the best players fail miserably in the scene because they are so caught up in their talent that they forget how important relationship building is in keeping them employed and keeping a crowd interested in coming back for more.

On the product side of things, it is the same.  You want to sell something?  Come to the table with a quality product, and start building quality relationships with your potential fan base/customer base.  Most importantly, make sure you maintain those relationships, and take care of your client’s, especially when problems arise.

Public Relationships means introducing yourself, making a lasting impression by finding out what peoples needs are, working to meet those needs, learning how to work together, and growing together.  Stay organized and in control, learn how to problem solve, know your audience/clients and interact with them accordingly, listen, and prepare to be successful as a public relations professional.