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All Posts In: Public Relations

SeaWorld's Hashtag Reputation Campaign Fails

Posted: Wednesday April 1, 2015 • Category: Public Relations

Transparency campaigns have become a popular strategy for companies in trouble. Several brands suffering through bad public perception, including McDonald’s and comedian Bill Cosby, have used this tactic, including hashtags, as a means to track conversations with a skeptical public.

This bold strategy affords brands the opportunity to diffuse negative speculation, but also carries the high risk of receiving the opposite of its intended response and could end up doing more harm than good. McDonald’s, with its #McDStories campaign, and the Bill Cosby-skewering #CosbyMeme hashtag, are but two examples of these strategies gone awry. The most recent example of this reputation management attempt gone off-the-rails is the #AskSeaWorld campaign. 
After the release of the 2013 documentary, Blackfish, which called into question SeaWorld’s treatment of captive killer whales, SeaWorld’s stocks dropped, as did attendance at its once popular aquatic adventure parks in Florida, California and Texas. In hopes of improving its reputation and changing the public’s opinion, SeaWorld launched a multi-million dollar campaign, which kicked off with #AskSeaWorld. 
#AskSeaWorld became a trending topic on Twitter; however, it wasn’t because the campaign was going well. Questions and accusations came flooding in and let’s just say things got interesting. After being berated, SeaWorld’s social media team ended up getting a little sassy and failed to respond to several questions, causing the whole plan to crumble. This is just one of many PR missteps SeaWorld has made in the last year and a half. 
The rest of SeaWorld’s reputation management campaign includes print placements, national TV buys and YouTube videos addressing the “unfair criticism” they have received from the Blackfish documentary. Let’s hope those go better than their latest social media attempt.
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Public Relations: Sleepy Hollow’s Timing Snafu

Posted: Monday September 8, 2014 • Category: Public Relations

Season one of Sleepy Hollow, a suspenseful television show loosely based off of Washington Irving’s classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and one of it’s characters, the Headless Horseman, will be released on Blu-ray and DVD September 16. In an effort to promote the release, Los Angeles public relations firm Think Jam sent emails to journalists around 1:00 p.m. PST on Tuesday, September 2, asking Sleepyheads (Sleepy Hollow fans) to celebrate “Headless Day” and send out four morbid e-cards. The email read, “Heads will roll as Sleepyheads celebrate Headless Day today, September 2. On this National Beheading Day, viewers everywhere can share in the fun as fans prepare for the release of Sleepy Hollow: Season One on Digital HD now and the arrival on Blu-ray and DVD on September 16.” In the world of public relations, timing is everything, and unfortunately Think Jam had terrible timing. 

At 9:00 a.m. PST the same day, news of Steven Sotloff’s death hit the airwaves. Sotloff was the second American Journalist who was beheaded by the Muslim extremist organization ISIS. One hour after sending the promotional email for the DVD release, the PR firm sent an apology email, and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment released their own statement to Deadline: “Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment recognizes and apologizes for today’s promotion for the Season One DVD release of Sleepy Hollow. We regret the unfortunate timing of our announcement, and our deepest sympathies go out to the family involved.” 
If this had been the only such incident, no PR firm would have known that ISIS would release the horrendous video of Sotloff’s beheading. However, everyone involved in this promotion should have known about James Foley, the first American Journalist beheaded by ISIS on August 19, 2014, and the subsequent threats of doing the same act to the second prisoner, Sotloff. At this point, the “National Beheading Day” promotion should have been immediately canceled. This controversy could have been, and should have been, avoided by being sensitive to the situation and using a little common sense. Sometimes the best public relations is avoiding the need for public relations. 
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Lululemon: A Study in Questionable Public Relations

Posted: Friday November 8, 2013 • Category: Public Relations

Athletic clothing and accessory brand Lululemon has seen its fair share of bad press this year from see-through pants to inadvertently insulting a local Dallas charity. Its latest PR gaffe will have you shaking your head and comes at the hands of its CEO, Chip Wilson. This is where proper media training comes in handy! During a recent interview with Bloomberg TV’s “Street Smart," a reporter asked a question regarding some of the issues with the company's yoga pants from common customer complaints. Wilson remarks that, "Frankly, some women’s bodies actually don’t work for it…" Ouch! This also comes on the heels of an earlier customer complaint that the company's plus sizes were not easy to find in the stores, leading some to believe that the company shuns plus-sized women. Wilson's wife, Shannon Wilson, tried to quickly follow up Chip's comment with a more proper explanation, but the damage had already been done. As you can imagine, this comment did not sit well with many of the company's customers, some of whom are threatening to boycott the brand altogether. After a string of PR blunders in 2013, Lululemon might want to consider hiring a great publicist to its 2014 New Year's resolutions.

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Burger King Changes Name to Fries King

Posted: Friday October 4, 2013 • Category: Public Relations

This is an interesting way to create buzz for your new product. By now you probably have heard that Burger King is rolling out revamped french fries called "Satisfries" that claim to be healthier than their regular fries and their strong competitor, McDonald's fries. To help promote and create a strong buzz around the new product, Burger King is temporarily changing its name to Fries King along with a new logo which will be rolled out in its restaurants in Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. Under the new logo are the words "Formerly Burger King," although the new logo is very similar to the "old" logo. The PR stunt has created quite a stir, and many have wondered if the name change will cause consumers to question the quality of their burgers. What do you think? Good idea or not?

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+Kota's "Invisible Owner" Campaign

Posted: Thursday May 30, 2013 • Category: Public Relations

A pet shop chain in Mexico called "+Kota" needed a budget-friendly yet effective way to bring awareness to its pet rescue and adoption program, so it sent its cute furry adoptees to do the job for them. The pups were placed into local parks with leashes and no owner. The leashes stood upright and the dogs look like they are being walked by an invisible person, but the dog's large tag says "Adopt Me" along with information about +Kota on the back. The result was huge. More than 220 dogs found forever homes in two months. Compelling, inexpensive and engaging. Bravo. (Via) View the video here: http://bit.ly/18UV3Kx

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