CrossCountry Christmas Creativity

Whilst on the train home today I was handed two Santa shaped chocolates and a leaflet reading ‘A Christmas treat from CrossCountry.’ I thought I would write a quick post about this as I believe that the little things really do matter and not just in personal life but with regards to campaigns and building a brand’s reputation. IMG_0319 IMG_0321 The leaflet simply reminds you that booking tickets for the holiday season in advance could save you money and promotes the free App to purchase the tickets via. I thought that this was a simple but affected way of direct marketing for a brand I never before had considered to be creatively communicating with its consumers. CrossCountry’s slogan is ‘going that bit further’ and even though it’s something small I think the festive tactic is definitely proving so. Of course, there are many complaints to be made about the train service within the UK (late again, are we?) but when looking at it as simply a tactic for the brand I think it’s very effective. Well done, CrossCountry and Merry Christmas to you too.

Mind the gap: Consumer perspectives of ‘ethical’ retailers

I was recently tasked with writing a research report for the Ethics, Issues, and Crisis Management unit on my Public Relations and Communication course. I am required to research into an organisation of my choice and identify any ethical issues that this organisation faces and how this affects their brand reputation and stakeholder communication.

Ethics has always been a part of PR that I have been interested in and this report is a great opportunity to practice researching into ethics for a small report before taking on the task of my dissertation, which also focuses on ethics. I chose Gap as the organisation in focus for the report, not to draw out and Gap logohighlight their ethical issues but to demonstrate how some organisations can struggle to repair reputations after widely covered scandals, such as Gap’s sweatshop and child labour scandals. I have recently ended my part time job at Gap to focus completely on my final year studies and during my time with the organisation I worked with the Southampton team on a number of different CSR events, such as an employees uniform recycle scheme where staff donated old pieces of Gap uniform that could be resold at a stand within West Quay, Southampton to raise money for Rose Road, a charity for disabled children and young people. I think that the current ethical responsibilities that Gap are managing aren’t achieving enough awareness for consumer perceptions to change. From this report I hope to emphasise the need for awareness when reputation management efforts are being made and give recommendations on how organisations can effectively communicate their ethical responsibilities.

In order to gain some consumer perspectives about Gap and ethical retailers I have created a short survey. If you would like to get involved and share your views on ethics within retail please go to my survey.

The war on morality: Sainsburys Christmas advert 2014

Sainsburys’ official Christmas 2014 advert has recently been released and it has caused some controversy on whether it’s morally ‘ok’ to use times of war for profit gains.

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The advert was made in partnership with The Royal British Legion and depicts the extraordinary story of 1914 where British and German soldiers put down their guns, arose from the trenches and played in a friendly football match. All in the favour of Christmas. The famous truce shown in the advert emphasises how Christmas brings everyone together, including people from different cultures and even people with conflicting views. Just like the soldiers of WW1. If you haven’t seen it yet (where have you been?) you can see it here.

I personally think the advert has been made well and tells a meaningful story about compassion and celebrating Christmas with everyone. However, many people have taken offence to the depiction and have shared their opinions of the advert on YouTube comments and Twitter hashtag.

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Even though my first reaction to seeing the advert was positive and definitely a ‘goose-bump’ moment I can see where the people with negative views are coming from. The advert is promoting Sainsbury’s at the end of the day and the use of such a rememberable time could be seen as crossing a moral line. However, I do not think the advert glorifies war or down plays the importance of the real soldiers doing their part in WW1.

Many of the YouTube comments have grown into debates as other users are getting involved to either defend Sainsbury’s or agree with the offence-takers. One user made the point that big Hollywood films, such as Saving Private Ryan, use times of war and don’t necessarily emphasise the true environment of what it’s like at war and these films make money from it as well. So is the problem simply against advertisements using such content or perhaps against supermarkets trying to play on the customers emotions as a way of making money. It is also important to bear in mind that the chocolate bar featured in the advert is on sale at Sainsburys for £1 and all profits from the sales of this will go to The Royal British Legion. I think this could possibly be another case of ‘there’s always one that’s not happy’ but in this case there’s quite a few unhappy viewers.

What do you think? Love the ad, hate the ad, not too sure? Let me know.

Tinder used as tactic against sex trafficking

Tinder has recently been used as a tactic in gaining awareness of sex trafficking in Ireland by ad agency EightyTwenty. The agency teamed up with The Immigrant Council of Ireland to set up fake Tinder profiles as a tactic for bringing attention to the ever-current issue of sex trafficking.

image I came across this story when reading through The Independant yesterday and thought about how it was a great use of a current app. The fake profiles that were created displayed a series of photos that start with an attractive model and then as the user swipes through the profiles’ photos they find that they progressively show the impacts on women that are being sex trafficked. In some cases the photos showed the physical impact such as bruises and cuts to the face. The last photo will show the campaign call to action with the tag line ‘sex trafficking victims have no option’.

The campaign is designed to reach men of all ages and spread awareness of the issue. EightyTwenty has said that the responses so far are positive and that people are surprised to learn that sex trafficking is happening currently within modern societies.

Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said, “[We’re] committed to using every possible opportunity to increase awareness about the activities of the thugs behind these crimes and the impact on their victims.”

I personally think that this approach to using the free service of Tinder to gain awareness with men of all ages is innovative and creative. Many of my previous posts have been regarding creative tactics used to gain awareness and I think that this is a great example of how to do it right. Yes, some people will probably find it annoying and potentially class it as ‘spam’ on the app but for the majority, it will have the desired impact. It is also important to remember that the issue has not only gained awareness through the app but also by news and social platforms that have discussed the success of the campaign, which will all benefit against sex trafficking.

Visit the site to find out more about the efforts being made against sex trafficking in Ireland here.

Solent PR Graduate Conference

Last Thursday (6th November 2014) was the first ever Solent PR Graduate Conference organised by my course leader Sally Holland. The day consisted of industry expert speeches followed by a networking lunch.

Having just started my third year of university I am being given many opportunities to meet with potential future employers. However, I must say that it is rather scary to be able to attend ‘graduate’ conferences as it feels like first year was only last week. The day began with an introduction from Sally Holland and a brief outline of how the day would run. The keynote speaker was Ilona Hitel, MD and Founder of CommsCo with a talk about how to get and keep a successful career in PR. The main piece of advice that I’m positive most of the students will take away from Ilona’s speech was that ‘It’s all about work experience.’ Ilona also offered tips of how to get noticed by using creative applications, such as a video CV.It was interesting to here how Ilona carried out a Google search of Solent University before coming on the day and found that that latest story was of a drunken Solent student getting her head stuck in a bottle bin. ‘You are only as good as your last google result’ says Ilona when raising the importance of what we have on the internet that potential employers can see. Another piece of advice given from the founder of CommsCo was to know the news agenda and said “Journalists will only respect you if you understand a good story and are not just interested in getting your clients in the press.” ILona’s speech was full of useful advice for all PR students across the 3 years of the course.

Tomasz Dyl, founder of GottaBe Marketing was the next industry expert to share is experiences and advice with the cohort and told the inspiring story of how he started his PR Agency at the age of 17. The agency grew into GottaBe Marketing and Tomasz emphasised the opportunities available through LinkedIn when it comes to future employers. He said that it is important for us as third year students to identify which agencies and/or companies we want to work for after graduating and to start connecting with them via LinkedIn. He also pointed out that it is vital to give the person a reason to accept your connection by telling them a bit about yourself and why you think you would make a good connection for them to have. Tomasz shared with us that the most rewarding part of working within the PR and Marketing industry is seeing your work and the good that it’s doing.

Beth Ansell founder of Lemon Squeezy was up next to deliver her speech about what it’s like being a freelancer. Beth is a graduate from Solent herself and is only four years ahead of the current final year students on the course so it was good to see how much can bee achieved after graduating. The key points that Beth mentioned were being able to have control over your work timing but having the pressure of working until it’s all complete. She pointed out that as a freelancer there isn’t any other employees that will pick up the project and complete it for you. Being a freelancer sounds tiring but Beth pointed out that being your own boss means you can take afternoon naps whenever you like, which i’m sure has convinced many students to potentially take the freelance route.

The next industry expert to speak was Emma Hazan from Hotwire who gave advice about how to stand out and get the job you want. Emma is a great communicator and gave an inspiring presentation giving tips on first impressions and how to sell yourself.  Emma was very confident and it was clear that communicating with others is a key strength of hers and she emphasised the importance of knowing what you’re good at and to build them into a personal brand for ourselves. Own the room was a good piece of advice given from Emma as first impressions are important to future employers.

Mark Stretton, MD, and Michelle Williams, Account Director from Fleet Street Communications were the final industry professionals to speak to the Public Relations students, where they gave inspiring advice about how ‘you can really effect change through trade PR’ (Mark Stretton). Michelle discussed how it’s important to decided which PR path is right for you, however, don’t be afraid to try other paths. Mark told the group how he started Fleet Street Communications four years ago with only 3 people and how it has grown. For many students travelling is a big factor for their career choice and Michelle explained how bigger agencies could often give employees the opportunity to travel abroad to head offices in places like Dubai, Florida, and Hong Kong.

All of the industry professionals provided inspiring stories about their experiences and useful advice tips for us PR students trying to gain graduate job offers. It was good to see the students actively tweeting about the event and using the #PRconference to gain awareness of the first ever Solent PR Graduate Conference. The day was a success and a great opportunity for all of the students that attended. The talks were followed by a networking lunch where students could ask the experts questions and make professional contacts.

Here are some photos from the speeches during the day:

Ilona Hitel, MD and Founder CommsCo

Ilona Hitel, MD and Founder CommsCo

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Beth Ansell, Lemon Squeezy Marketing

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Emma Hazan, UK Deputy MD Hotwire

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Mark Stretton, MD, Michelle Williams, Account Director, Fleet Street Communications

Mr Nutcase – review

I recently had the opportunity to do some work for mrnutcase.com whilst on placement at Atelier Studios and was then offered the opportunity to design a phone case on the website and to then review the process and final product.

Mr Nutcase is a phone case design website that offers a range of cases for a massive range of phone models with existing design patterns or a ‘create your own’ feature. Mr Nutcase has 3 different case styles (Ultra Light Weight Slimline case, Executive Leather Flip style, and Full Wrap-around Premium Edition)  for a large range of phone models. There are set designs that you can choose from, which are bright and fun. The best feature on the site, however, is the ‘create you own’ option where you can upload any photo you want and it’ll be printed onto either of the three case designs. I chose the Ultra Light Weight Slimline case and uploading and designing the case was easy enough. All you need to do is pick a photo you want on the case, upload the photo from your desktop onto the site, and then position the picture how you want to fit onto the case. This process was easy enough, however, the zoom buttons are a bit temperamental so be careful as to do not crop any of the image off by accident. You are given the option to preview the case before ordering so you can make sure at that point that all is fine with your design. When ordering your case you will get the option to like their Facebook page and in return get a free screen protector, which is a great bonus.

The site states that they dispatch the next day and they definitely lived up to that. I placed my order and received a confirmation email straight away, albeit to my spam box so watch out for that, and then an email the following  day to say that my case had been dispatched. Quick and easy service is a massive plus and I was impressed when my case arrived the next day. The printing quality of the photo is great and the matt finish makes it look smart and not so plastic-like or cheap. The surface of the case gives a good amount of grip, which is perfect for all those clumsy people out there, myself included. The see-through edges of the Slimline case is a great design feature as the phone doesn’t look bulky or even like it has a case on at all. The design fits perfectly with none of the edges sticking out or covering any vital buttons. I must admit that the very first day I had the case on, I dropped my phone onto my dinner plate but the case just easily wiped clean.

As it goes for pricing.. It’s surprisingly good for value. Starting at £14.95 for the Ultra Light Weight Slimline case, and yes, that’s for the ‘create your own’ feature, which is amazingly cheap compared to other services that offer your own designs.

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Here is my Ultra Light Weight Slimline case that I ordered through the ‘create your own’ feature on the Mr Nutcase website. I uploaded the photo of myself and my boyfriend (cute, right), which I was a bit wary about as the original photo was a bit dark and dull but the printed image is really vivid. (Please forgive the poor image quality. I quickly snapped them at my office desk)

Overall, I am very happy with the process and the final case.
– Quick
– Easy
– Good design
– Vivid printing
– Light weight
– Brilliant

The amazing part about Mr Nutcase, minus the great phone cases, is that it’s also an app! Download the app from the App Store and start creating your own phone cases from the snaps on your device.

Design your own here

The gift of GIFs

A great way to make you smile on a Monday is to remind yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing and that you’re not the only one struggling through the day.

Here’s a great tumblr site that is filled to the brim with GIFs that all PR folks will completely relate to. Many will make you nod in agreement or laugh at how sad but true some of them are.

Click the photo to have a look through to brighten up your Monday afternoon in the office:

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The middle point of my Maitland placement

I have been working in London at Maitland PR Consultancy for 2 weeks now and it has been a massive eye-opener to say the least. Working for a large corporate firm with an added experience of commuting into London every morning has made the ‘PR dream’ a reality.

The first two weeks of my placement have flown by but have presented me with many new opportunities. Within the first week I became familiar with Gorkana, Reuters, and Bloomberg and began to work on briefing notes and coverage monitoring. I had heard of Gorkana before from a lecture at university, however, I had never used the database before. Gorkana is an industry-wide used database meaning this will be a useful skill to take with me through the final year of university and into my career. Within the first few days in the Covent Garden based office I was given the task of running an errand to a nearby clients office and having only visited London a few times prior to starting my placement I was clueless as to where I was going. With some rough directions scribbled on a scrap piece of paper and an umbrella at the ready, I ventured out and some how ended up in the right place. I may have ruined my new suede pumps in the rain, but I now know the surrounding area a bit better.

The second week was spent working on more briefing notes and coverage monitoring and started to work on research documents for clients. The research documents would consist of coverage relating to the clients interest, journalists within that sector, and possible angles to reach these journalists. A second errand to find camcorder cables and a memory card was a bit more of a challenge during the week as Oxford Street was quite hard to find with minimal directions. Hurray for GPS on phones, right!

I am enjoying the placement so far, especially seeing the difference between the work I am familiar with to the new financial and corporate projects I’ve been given. I must admit, I don’t understand much of the financial language that the partners and consultants speak here, but I hope that I am contributing through other ways, like creative ideas for reaching new markets. As for commuting, that was fun for the first five minutes… Delayed or cancelled trains are always a treat at the end of the day. Having said that, I am grateful as experiencing what it’s like to live and work in London has smacked the reality into the PR dream that I had of doing it after graduating. I will hopefully be set some new tasks during the last two weeks of my time with Maitland that will give me more experiences to learn from.

The best of the beautiful game campaigns

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently you wouldn’t have been able to escape the lead up to the 2014 World Cup. Having said that, there’s been so much hype about the 20th World Cup that it would probably find its way under the rock anyway.

(I must say that I have never watched a football game before so I can’t say that I’m not a fan of the sport. I do like watching sports so perhaps I would enjoy it, however, my only dislike with the game is the over-the-top hooligan fans that come with it. The ones that get into fights when their adored team loses or starts riots in a town centre pub when they disagree with a refs decision.. This type of football crazy fan makes me think negatively about the sport and therefore have steered clear. But what I have been interested in is the overload of football themed campaigns that have been released this summer.)

Many companies have jumped on the opportunity to release a timely campaign that fits in with the build up to the World Cup. Brands like Nike and Pepsi have pushed the boat out, so to speak, and have created some extravagant campaigns, whilst others have simply paddled in the shallow waters with a more simple approach.

Here’s a look into some of the campaigns that have launched to coincide with the 2014 World Cup:

Pepsi

Kristin Patrick, Pepsi’s global chief marketing officer, told Bloomberg in April: “It’s the first time we’ve rolled out a global football campaign to this magnitude. It’s in 130 countries, and we have a large body of content from television, short films and digital content. We have events happening every single month leading to up to the summer.”

Nike

Nike’s ‘Winner Stays’ ad, the second in its ‘Risk Everything’ 2014 football campaign, has attracted more than 70 million YouTube hits so far.

Beats by Dre

Adidas

Adidas, an official partner of FIFA has 17 million Facebook likes and one million Twitter followers.

The advert creation isn’t the only element of the campaign as Adidas promises to have 50 people in its Rio ‘war room’ located at the home of Flamengo FC. “Our target is to be the most talked about brand at the World Cup,” says Rob Hughes, senior global football PR manager, adidas global football. “We will have our legal, marketing and FIFA teams to help expedite approvals, to ensure we are best placed to publish content and drive media spend, no matter what the time, day or time zone.”

It is clear, however, that a company doesn’t need to be an official partner or sponser with FIFA. Coca Cola’s campaign has been over-shadowed by Pepsi even though Coca-Cola is an official partner and sponsor.

CocaCola


Twitter also got involved by creating ‘hashflags’. This new feature turns a hashtag and 3 letter abbreviation into a colour icon of the countries flag.

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So to sum up the campaigns, it is clear that a visual and interactive approach has been used by many big-name brands as way of establishing themselves within the World Cup. Social media has, of course, hit the ground running with new features and engaging ways for fans to communicate throughout the World Cup. There is a lot more that could be said about new campaigns and features but I feel like this post is now rather long, so here are a couple of links for you to use if you wish to read more about this.

Tech Giants Play The Game

War Rooms

Paddy Power PR stunt that was hated by everyone is now loved by Greenpeace

Paddy Power posted an image of what appeared to be the Amazon Rainforest with the words ‘C’MON ENGLAND PP’ hacked out of the trees, which later caused chaos and outrage on social media, in particular Twitter. The PR stunt is now being praised by Greenpeace, the well-known environmental activist group that uses similar controversial tactics to get publicity.

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People took to Twitter to share their ‘disgusted’ views on the PR stunt that at the time seemed very real and very ‘shameful’. One tweeter saying ‘think your PR person will get sacked in the morning’ (@richbyronbyles), which in fact is the complete opposite of what happened next.

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The stunt had many people fooled and gained a lot of publicity from across all platforms, including national publications like the Mirror. Paddy Power reportedly lost hundreds of followers within the following hours of the original photo being released but has seen a larger increase of followers now that truth has come out and they’re actually ‘the good guys’.

Paddy Power let the drama play out for a little while before releasing another photo that showed the original was a fake and it was all a PR stunt to gain awareness of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest.

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The new photo humorously played with the word ‘Brazilian’ and also showed a green banner at the bottom promoting the statistics of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest. The banner was aimed at football fans who otherwise might not be seen as a large market for an environmental campaign.

Paddy Power confessed all in a blog post that stated, “Greenpeace told us that in the Amazon an area the size of 122 football pitches is chopped down every 90 minutes, which is shocking. Paddy Power’s #Shavetherainforest stunt helps to haul this issue into the public light, with our own little mischievous twist.” Greenpeace have said that they had no involvement in the campaign but are praising the stunt by saying,  “It’s very reassuring that people were outraged when they thought Paddy Power had destroyed tropical rainforest for advertising – but it’s just as outrageous to chop it down for garden decking or flooring.

“Efforts to help raise awareness of the crisis facing our rainforests are always welcome, and we hope that the World Cup bringing the eyes of the world to Brazil will lead to a lot more attention being paid to this issue.”

A lot of companies are using The World Cup to their advantage and creating campaigns to fit in with the event, however, it’s safe to say the Paddy Power’s stunt may be one of the most memorable. A statement by the creators of the stunt said: “We knew we’d drop off a fair few Christmas card lists yesterday, but we couldn’t resist a bit of fake Twitter mischief to highlight an important issue to football fans as our World Cup warm-up.”

I personally think that the stunt was a brilliant PR tactic. No trees were actually cut down but the campaign generated a lot of publicity and awareness for the issue. Controversial (but legal, I must emphasise) tactics are known for getting people talking and this is a great example of how to do so without actually doing anything wrong. I’m sure the PR pro(s) behind this stunt had a little giggle at some of the reactions.

Quotes and images found here