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What PR pros can learn from the Carnival Triumph disaster

When the Carnival Triumph lost power just under a week ago and was stranded in the Gulf of Mexico without electric and just over 4,000 passengers on board, backup plans should have been put into place. However, as far as we can see, they weren’t.

Passengers were left fighting for food or waiting in line for hours for it. Toilets backed up, creating an unbearable and unsanitary environment for all. And as most news outlets are showing in their broadcasts today, passengers were camped out on the upper decks, using whatever materials they could to make beds.

So what can PR professionals learn from the Carnival Triumph disaster?

  1. Communicate. Many Carnival passengers said that once they got cell reception, they called home to tell loved ones they were okay. In addition to that, passengers got more information from those on land than what they were being told on the ship by Carnival staff members. One of the most important things public relations professionals can do in a time of crisis or trouble is to disseminate information. Whether you use a press release distribution service, hold a news conference or simply speak with the effected publics, it is extremely important to keep everyone updated.
  2. Keep all hands on deck. It’s not just a nautical term that the Carnival Triumph probably used during this past week; it’s a cliché that should have been carried out by the entire office. While individuals from Triumph staff members to company spokespeople were involved with the ship’s safe return, one prominent company figure was seen out enjoying a night out on the town. Carnival CEO Micky Arison was seen at a Miami Heat basketball game, watching the NBA team he also owns, according to BleacherReport. When your company’s ship is unable to return to dock and is currently hosting thousands of people without adequate food, water and sanitary conditions, it’s probably not best to be out at a basketball game.
  3. Have a plan. Any great company or PR professional has a plan to follow in time of crisis. The plan should include key personnel, steps to take and instructions on handling the media, among many other detailed items. This plan should be readily available and be updated regularly.

Carnival Cruise Lines has unfortunately been no stranger to controversy, but let’s hope the cruise line starts becoming better friends with proactive public relations and communications.

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Get your business on base with Twitter

Deliver a line drive for your company tweets

So you or your company has been on Twitter for a while, and the results you wanted are just not there. You are thinking about giving up because, well, what’s the point? I say do it! Not permanently, of course; it would be a ridiculous idea to cut one of social media’s top brands. But give up a day or two, reassess your tweets, and figure out the goal of your Twitter game plan.

The purpose of being on Twitter from a professional standpoint is to sell you or your company and gain online awareness. The problem with that is people do not want to feel like someone is trying to sell them something. Think about advertisements by Nike. What makes their ads different, and why are they so successful? They do not shove their product down consumer throats, yet their brand is everywhere. Consider this ad:

Nike Commercial

Sure Nike does not need to sell their product now, but it was this innovation that made their brand what it is today. They took advantage of human curiosity (which I will get to further down) and did it without the hard sell. So how do you do the same on Twitter? The trick is to be ubiquitous yet subtle. Nike is everywhere, but they are not in your face, annoying you.

In honor of pitchers and catchers reporting this week to spring training in Major League Baseball, consider these Twit Tips to help make your social media presence more effective and worthwhile, with a baseball twist:

1.) Chicks Dig the Long Ball

You are too boring and no one gets excited to see your tweets. Think of it as a baseball game. The casual fan wants to see the ball go deep and the score run up more so than a pitching duel that ends up 1-0. Sure there are fans that love the duel, but some people also loved your boring tweets too, and that’s why you have 10 total followers. More fans end up in the stands when the game is exciting and more people will follow when you stop boring potential followers. If you are having “tweeters block” or are not that fascinating, I would suggest reposting an interesting article that relates to your business that was written by someone else. Make sure to give that author and/or company the credit. Sure you did not write it, but potential followers will start seeing you as an interesting news gatherer and follow you in the future for more.

2.) Make a Web Gem with a Great Catch

I have to admit, I took advantage of your curiosity. Think about it, what made you click on this link from Twitter? The tweet asked a question that you did not have the answer to, followed by easy access to that answer. Now, I have your full attention, and my time is not wasted writing this piece. Ask a question and give easy access to an answer. It’s all about the catch that excites people to look on.

3.) Short and Powerful Swing

Traditionally the most successful baseball hitters have had a short and powerful swing. A 90 mph fastball takes 0.6 seconds to make it to home plate from the pitcher’s hand, and that is roughly the attention span of a Twitter user looking at a given post. To hit your post out of the park, you need that quick, effective tweet. At this point you may be wondering, how is it possible that a 140 characters can be too long? Sounds strange, but it is true. It is the same reason why Facebook usage is down 20% with a sharper decline predicted in 2013, people either do not have the time for long posts, or lose interest quickly. Did you ever describe a great novel to someone only to have them say “I’ll wait for the movie.” That’s because that person, along with the majority of Twitter users, want the build-up, climax and conclusion right away. Summing up your tweets is great when combined with the second topic above. Case in point, the tweet that brought you here!

4.) Relief Picture

Here are some good clichés for you: “seeing is believing” and “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Sometimes you can talk until you are purple and hoarse and still nothing comes of it. At times, a picture with a simple caption brings more attention. When PR NewsChannel was at a conference in Vegas earlier this month, we did not just tweet about it, we took pictures and video! People have a tendency to be wary of others, and a picture gives evidence to the contrary. In other words, your starting tweets mean nothing if you do not have an adequate relief picture to back you up. If you cannot come up with any pictures, than you are just not interesting enough to be successful on Twitter.

5.) Hey Beggar,Beggar, Beggar

Did you ever want to be someone’s friend so badly that you begged them to hang out with you? The vast majority of you are going to say “Heck no,” while the very small minority gets red in the face as they remember the reaction of that person who found them so creepy that they never talked again. The same rules apply for social media. A relationship will form over time as long as it is not forced and you are interesting.

6.) #KnowTheStrikeZone

If you have few followers and zero hashtags, you are not reaching a wide audience and are minimizing your list of prospective followers. This does not mean add in a hashtag that is currently trending, though I do not discourage it as much as other social media experts (Think of it as your 0-2 pitch in the dirt, you
don’t expect a lot out of it but if it gets results, then it was a successful pitch). What you want is to find a hashtag that is applicable and regularly used. For example, PR NewsChannel uses #PR and/or #PublicRelations at times because one, they are tweeting about public relations, and two, current and aspiring PR professionals are using the hashtag as well. By doing that, we are increasing the chance that our tweets are reaching Twitter users that are interested in the company, instead of swinging aimlessly with our eyes closed hoping we hit a homerun.

7.) Extra Innings

Social media can be your business’s best friend, but when you treat it wrong, it can be your worst enemy. Take care of Twitter like you would your friends. Commit to them, be interesting and fun to be around, and be patient. Your online awareness will not transform overnight, but if you stay in the game and execute the plan, your team will be victorious.

As the adapted to baseball saying goes, hope springs eternal. Today can be a fresh start for you and/or your company. Take a few practice swings and work on making your pitches more effective. Now that I am out of cheesy and sometimes forceful baseball puns, I am done.

Okay, one more…Play ball!

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Super Bowl ads: Do companies push the envelope on purpose or are they naïve to today’s sensitive culture?

With the large price tag and record viewers, do companies create a “PR crisis” on purpose by using controversial ads that keep people talking?

Ah, the Super Bowl, the event that used to signify the end of another NFL season. Now, it is more about the hype and stories leading up to the game than the game that is actually played on the field. And let’s not forget the most popular aspect of the game, even to non-sports fans: the commercials.

Last year, more than 111 million Americans tuned in to watch the New York Giants win their second Super Bowl in five years. Due to those numbers, companies paid an average of $3.5 million for a 30 second ad. With the inflated cost of these ads it begs the question: are companies satisfied with just 30 seconds?

Last year’s event was the first time that companies “leaked” their ads early, allowing journalists and the public to critique the ads prior to and creating an even larger buzz leading into the game. That trend has carried over into this year with an interesting trend connecting the most talked about ads. Controversy.

Volkswagen, Coca-Cola and Taco Bell have each released a commercial riddled in apparent controversy.

Volkswagen takes a white male from Minnesota and gives him a Jamaican accent and a “Don’t worry, be happy” attitude after riding in his new car, conveniently a VW beetle. Some organizations called the ad “insensitive” and “racist.” A spokesperson for multicultural marketing agency Dove Marketing
even told USA Today, “It’s pretty horrific.”

Coke released an online teaser of their commercial, showing a group of men in traditional Middle Eastern clothing leading camels through a desert to a mirage of a giant Coke bottle. They soon see cowboys, Las Vegas showgirls and a motley crew of “Mad Max” marauders racing by them as they struggle to get their camels to cooperate. Arab-American groups have since come out against the ad, saying the ad is racist and “is portraying Arabs as backward and foolish camel jockeys, and they have no chance to win in the world.”

Taco Bell’s spot, which has already been pulled due to the company’s desire to have anyone “misinterpret the intent of the ad,” was set to feature a man bringing a tray of vegetables to a game day party with a voice-over saying, “Veggies on game day is like punting on fourth and one. It’s a cop out, and secretly, people kind of hate you for it.” Complaints have been made that the commercial encourages people not to eat their vegetables.

It seems as though in the hyper-sensitive culture that we live in, someone is bound to get insulted or a message misconstrued as being given “in poor taste.”

My first question is the obvious one. Why can’t people just take these commercials for what they are – pieces of entertainment not intended to insult or diminish any person, culture or food group?

But that brings me to an interesting follow-up. With the amount of money and skill invested into the creation of these ads, is the controversy intended?

The purpose of a commercial is to increase awareness and notoriety of your product. And if there’s one thing that daytime talk shows, reality television and news broadcasts have shown me it’s that Americans love controversy. We talk about it, dissect every possible (and sometimes improbable) aspect and outcome, and then we discuss it some more.

And that’s what has happened with these commercials. The issues and controversy in these ads are large enough to get people talking but small
enough to be easily dodged with the common “statement of clarity”.

So are these companies really that insensitive and naïve to place the controversy in the ads without noticing, or are they that smart as to place enough controversy to get people riled up just enough to bring it to the forefront of their social media news feed without creating a PR nightmare?

I guess it’s up to the public to judge.

Ray Lewis’ road to redemption travels on

After severe bump, the Raven’s linebacker has sped past street image

Super Bowl XLVII has a lot of firsts. The event will see its first pair of brothers coach against each other, first-time quarterbacks in the big game, first appearance for either team in over a decade, and the first martyring of an NFL player.

In correlation with the multiple firsts, comes a few seconds as well. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will be making his second NFL World Championship appearance of his 17-year career. It will also be his second Super Bowl as a once accused murderer who pled guilty to obstruction of justice for his involvement in a double-homicide.

The evidence seemed overwhelming. Lewis was involved in a confrontation with the victims, his limo had traces of one of the victim’s blood inside it, and the white suit he was wearing has not been seen since that night. Despite these circumstances, 13 years later, Ray Lewis has been all over your television screens the past month.

(Credit: Sports Illustrated)

On January 2, Lewis announced that he would retire at the conclusion of the Raven’s playoff season. After three straight wins, Lewis’ career, win or lose, will end February 3 at the Super Bowl. He will take with him 13 Pro Bowl selections, 10 All-Pro teams, two NFL defensive player of the year awards, a Super Bowl MVP trophy, and arguably America’s biggest redemption story of all time.

How did Lewis go from being a villain with blood on his hands to a saint, one-win-away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy? The answer is image rebuilding, time, and winning.

Yes, in America, a person can be convicted of obstruction of justice in a double-homicide and reverse the attitude of on-lookers by playing a game at a hall-of-fame level. America is the land of opportunity, whether it be your first or second try at it. This society loves to give people second chances, especially athletes. If Ray Lewis did nothing else but play football at a high-level and not, at the very least, obstruct again, his gory past would be all forgotten. Yet the Raven’s linebacker decided to take his image rebuild to the extreme, and has done so effectively.

Ray Lewis’ new image is built around his faith. Whether you believe it is genuine or not, the Raven’s linebacker is in your face about it at a near Tebow-like rate. Last year in a documentary on NFL Network, he claimed that “God had to incarcerate [him]” to help Lewis appreciate his life. In his retirement speech, Lewis stated that “God is calling in so many other areas of life” and that it was time to step away from football. After he and his teammates beat the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game on January 20, Lewis crumbled to his knees in front of reporters, cameramen, and fans thanking God for his goodness. Minutes later, Lewis would announce to the world that “God is awesome” in a post-game interview.

It is certainly hard to argue with most of Lewis’ cries. I like God too. In fact, most people are big fans of their God. This is why it is so hard to dislike the guy. Viewers see a man who pours his heart and soul into his job, laying it all on the line for his teammates, being the consummate leader. Add in God and the memory of his involvement gets cloudier to the point of almost non-existence.

The Super Bowl is a media frenzy. Anything and everything a participant says during the two-week long pregame is magnified. Broadcasters of all sorts need something to talk about whether it is 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s bicep, Bernard Pollard’s statement on the potential demise of the NFL, or the Harbaugh brothers coaching against each other. The story that has been heightened above all is Lewis’ journey to redemption.

What was once a public relations nightmare for Lewis and the Raven’s organization as they went through trials, litigations, and public scrutiny has turned into the ultimate PR success. The NFL has made Lewis the face of Super Bowl XLVII, a spiritual advisor for the league and its players, and an ambassador for the league’s Play 60 charity for kids. There has been no mention of his criminal record, only insinuation as the media plays up his love for God.

Almost 13 years to the day, Lewis was involved in a confrontation that left two men stabbed to death. Today he will sit down with the “who’s who” of the journalism world during the Super Bowl’s media day. He will converse, laugh, answers questions, and undoubtedly talk about God’s plan. A mysterious plan that seems to include the killing of two men and has led to the resurrection of one Ray Lewis.

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How to incorporate Twitter’s new video Vine app to help your business

The forever-updating social media age has added a new chapter, how can your business capitalize?

Social media’s possible next big thing has just hit the free app market. The video version of Twitter, Vine allows users to record six seconds of edited video with the touch of their thumb. Automatically business owners will wonder, how can we use this to help our business? Before you start the process, consider these issues:

Know Your Audience:

A simple lecture or how-to is not the answer for this app. Users will not be on Vine to learn the intricacies of what you do. More often than not, viewers will be searching for entertainment. Think of it like a standard television commercial, only 24 seconds shorter. What are the memorable and most effective commercials? The creative ones! This does not mean it needs to be hysterical, let alone funny. Yet it needs to have some artistic value to stand out. Remember your favorite high school teacher? He/she was entertaining and made learning enjoyable.

Informative content:

It is truly easy to gain followers on Twitter. Stay with the trends; say something memorable and you will gain followers. But that does not convert to an effective following that will build sales. Profitable individual and business tweeters are able to share informative messages in a memorable, attention-grabbing way. This will hold true with Vine as well. For example, as a press release distribution company, it would not be valuable for us at PR NewsChannel to upload a video on to Vine that shows me spinning in a chair until I puke. Sure it will be memorable, but the next time a business is looking for a competent press release distribution company, do you think the business will say, what about the one with the guy who puked? Absolutely not.

Commit to it:

If you are going to do it, DO IT! Never expect that the one or two videos you throw on Vine will go viral and you will be an overnight success or instant “Vine connoisseur.” Like Twitter, fresh content creates exposure. You want more eyeballs on your videos to create company, and/or product awareness. You can count on the majority of viewers will not be interested in what you have created, but the more videos you distribute, the more likely you are to find someone interested. For example, the concept is similar to a press release. Imagine you have a new product that you are excited about but it is currently not receiving the attention you think it deserves? How do you gage the interest of others? Successful businesses turn to multiple press releases armed with SEO tactics and social media. Why? Because the more coverage a company receives, the more visible they become, and the more likely a client will consider you when they are looking for a similar service that you provide.

Share it:

Vine is nowhere near taking over the social media world, and the odds are against it that it ever will. With that being said, be sure to use the currently more successful avenues to promote your Vine videos. Tweet about it, tell people to like it on Facebook, send a screen shot of it to Pinterest and Instagram, put it on your Tumblr, and whatever else you can think of. If you want Vine to work, go to where people already are and lead them to the possible next best thing.

To get started, go to your iOS app store and download the free Vine app and let your creativity help answer your business questions. Happy Vining!

Check out our Vine!

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