Pepsi, United Airlines & Spicer: PR Blunders and How to Fix Them

32621967922_66615f256c_bUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you may have noticed the amount of PR blunders being committed in the news this past week. We as the public have been shocked, embarrassed and enraged by some of the statements made by United Airlines, Pepsi and Sean Spicer. Well if you ever get yourself in the pickle these folks have gotten themselves in, lets look at how we can fix them.

Let’s start with Pepsi. Having made a commercial meant to unify and make a bold statement about the current landscape of the US, Pepsi managed to alienate and offend its target audience. Interestingly enough, my 14 year old daughter found nothing wrong with the commercial but thats another story.

The use of protesters in a commercial centred around a young, white reality television star and model Kendall Jenner being mesmerised by a large group of ethnically diverse people marching down a street holding signs that said, “Join the Conversation”–is a testament to show how disjointed the Pepsi internal ad agency was. What could this young model possibly know about the Black Lives Movement and the Women’s March? Not to mention the pivotal moment when she chucks her blond wig at the seemingly subservient black woman waiting in the wings.

Needless to say, she made a bad choice. But the real issue here is Pepsi. What were they thinking? That a can of Pepsi could unite the police and protestors across many different platforms?

Things got worse when they made their statement,

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologise. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologise for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

Firstly, they should have apologised to their key audience: people who adore the brand. As a Pepsi drinker, I was offended that my name wasn’t called. Yet they made the effort to call Kendall Jenner’s name? She got paid anyway didn’t she? What does putting her name in the statement do? This was their way of attempting to save face for Kendall Jenner’s reputation.

Unless You’re Political, Stay out of it

The bottom line is, if you’re not a politically charged brand, stay out of politics. I would recommend them doing some market research to see where Pepsi is and stick with lighthearted, non-political statements from now on. Will it affect the brand too much?  I doubt it. Pepsi is a corporate giant that can weather a storm such as this one. We will soon forget.

Let’s move on to United Airlines. What didn’t they do wrong? First of all randomly selecting a passenger and hauling them off an overbooked flight although legal (minus the assault) doesn’t mean its right. They could have offered an incentive. Although I read somewhere where they did offer the passengers $US900 to change flights.

The real issue here is how they handled it, the first statement they released,

“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologise for having to re-accomodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly him to further address and resolve this situation.” – Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines

 

Re-accomodate is the key word here. It implies that moving the customers is an inconvenience to United. They may not have known the details of what had happened but they didn’t address the issue head on which is the assault of the victim.

Admit You’re Wrong

They tried to redeem themselves by issuing another statement more fitting to the circumstances,

“Dear Team,

The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.

I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.

It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.

I promise you we will do better.

Sincerely,

Oscar”

This statement although more informal, really gives you a sense that they are admitting that there is a serious problem and that they are trying to fix it. Its good to face things head on. Although nearly $1bn of the company’s value was erased in trading on Tuesday, they will bounce back from this.

At last but not least Spicer.  Spicer’s job as Press Secretary for the White House is to handle possible PR issues day in and day out but he himself could not avoid getting into trouble. On Tuesday, he made a statement that not even Hitler used chemical weapons in World War II.

Now, he was trying to make a comparison that Syrian President Bashar Assad is worse than Hitler because he used chemical warfare on his own people in the attack in Syria. But no one knows for sure that Assad was responsible for the attacks and lets not forget the Holocaust! Nazis may not have used the chemical warfare that Assad allegedly used but they definitely used cyanide-based Zyklon B and other types of poison to kill Jews in gas chambers at concentration camps.

Think Before you Speak

Spicer should going forward, should really be prepared before making any blank statements or comparisons about Hitler or anyone else. Seems he may need some media training himself. There really is no hope for him at this point and he might be quite possibly out of a job as his sole purpose is to handle difficult media situations with poise and ease.

 

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5 Ways to Enhance Your Linkedin Profile

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There is a misconception that Linkedin is not effective in Jamaica. Although recruiters and hiring managers may not frequent Linkedin, it is still a relevant way to network with other professionals and make valuable connections.

First of all Linkedin is focused on showcasing professional accomplishments, a lot of which we don’t go about displaying in our daily lives outside of work. It is the perfect place to connect with people in your industry who could potentially hire you or recommend you for a job.

So here are a few tips you can use to make your profile more appealing to potential employers:

  1. Use a professional profile photo: Take the time to invest in a professional photographer. You can hire one of many spectacular freelance photographers there are out there or you can visit Photodayz in Soverign Centre. Depending on the industry you work in you can dress accordingly. For example, if you work in accounting, you should wear a suit. However, if you work in the creative industry, you can get away with a crisp, white shirt. Women, spend a little extra and get your makeup done. A nice professional photograph just makes you put your best foot forward.
  2. Create an impactful headline: The headline under your name is the first thing people read when they search for your name. Make it count. This you can use to say one, amazing thing about you as a professional. Use adjectives that describe who you are. For example, mine says, “I build brands!” which in a nutshell what I do in my professional life. It’s catchy and it gets the attention of the people that I’m targeting– potential employers and clients.
  3. Tell a story with your bio/summary: This is the opportunity to tell a story about your professional journey and list three accomplishments you’ve made in your career thus far. Keep it concise but quanitfiable. Like for example say, “I increased productivity by 25%.”
  4. Network, network, network: Reach out to people you’ve met offline and in some instances, reach out to people you may be interested in meeting but haven’t had the opportunity yet. Be tactful in your approach. Note that while not everyone would be open to connecting with people they don’t know, others see the value in connecting online.
  5. Share valuable content: Just like any other network, sharing valuable content like blog posts, articles in your industry and quotes is crucial to raising your profile and rank on Linkedin. Share once a day to really add value. People in your network will see you as knowledgeable and come to you for advice when they need it.

10 Tips to Creating a Personal Brand Online

 

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Ever since my thread on twitter about personal branding, people have been asking for a blog post. It seems timely to start the new year. The new year is always about new beginnings.

Your brand is your reputation. How you are perceived online is just as important (if not more important) than how you are perceived offline.

Here are a few personal branding tips to take into 2017:

  1. Your brand is your story: I find it interesting that many people don’t share what they do for a living on their social networks. Most use it for their passions, gossip and jokes. Which is all great and all but shouldn’t you be using your networks to share a little bit more about yourself? If you are self-employed or are seeking a promotion at work, start thinking of yourself as a brand. No matter what you do for a living more and more what we share on social media reflects on us. Employers look at your social networks before they choose to hire you. Remove any tagged photos of you in any comprimising positions or just make sure those types of pictures are private.
  2. Decide what you want to portray: Just as you would create a strategy for your business or marketing plan, so too should you create a plan for your personal brand. How do you want to be perceived? What are your goals? Your passions? Make short term goals and long term goals. And put plans in place to achieve them.
  3. Secure a personal website domain in your name: A part of managing your online reputation is making sure that your name is secured. Just think back to when  someone secured Portia Simpson Miller’s domain name and redirected it to Gleaner’s website showing an article about the PNP facing funding problems. Not pretty.
  4. Offer distinct value: Remember people don’t want to feel like you are advertising to them, so try in ways that are subtle to give advice or tips in your industry without pushing things down people’s throats. Figure out how you stand out from the rest.
  5. Start a blog: Here you can give a more detailed opinions and advice about your industry. That way people can opt-in to getting more in depth information if they choose. Be sure to share on your social networks. Try to blog 2-3 times a week. As more of your information is shared, so will your profile.
  6. Take professional photos to share on your social networks: Not just for Linkedin, professional photos can be used on other networks as well. Use these for your profile pictures.
  7. Fix up your resume and Linkedin profile: Write a bio with a description of your work experience and some of your professional goals. Make sure it is concise and strategic in representing you in the best possible light.
  8. Create a logo of your name: Create a logo of your name and make business cards with your social networks and contact number. This way people will remember you and can easily reach out to you when they need to. Business cards are still relevant and memorable.
  9. Use your social networks to tell a story about you as a person, your goals and yes, your industry:Tell a story and have fun! Use Instagram to share interesting pictures and quotes, twitter for blog posts and micro-blogging and facebook to connect with people in your network.
  10. Remember offline is just as important as online: Online is great and all but face-to-face is also very important in getting your personal brand out there. How you dress, how you greet people and the things you choose to discuss are all representative of who you want to portray.

If you need help with creating a personal brand online, I can help to enhance your personal profile. Please feel free to reach out to me via social networks or email me at kesigardner36@gmail.com

The Future of the Press model in the rise of Social Media

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Photo Credit: INTERACT

The political landscape has changed significantly in Jamaica in the past couple of years. Social media and digital marketing in general have helped to transform it, as politicians use it as a tool to engage their voters. We saw this in the last general election. JLP was very targeted in its approach, using online digital ads to reach female voters between the ages of 24-35 years old and mobilizing its MPs to use their social media accounts to inform and participate with their audiences.

As social media continues to increase in popularity, so too will politicians using it as a direct line to the public. Politicians can get insight through comments, likes and even debates about what matters to voters. This can dictate strategy and the tailoring of messages, as politicians become more aware of what is important to the masses.

They can bypass the media, as Trump did in the US election, (using half of his ad budget on digital) and continues to do so before his inauguration.

Trump has Influence of Over 17 million

He uses Twitter as a direct line to his now 17 million followers, side-stepping traditional media, sharing his unfiltered personal views. His influence is such that traditional media comments on his every tweet, with bated breath. Instead of the news reporting their views on a topic as given to them with privilege (either through press release or press conference), they are now forced to share the news direct from the source and then try to make sense of it.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness and many other heads of state, use social media to converse with their followers. The PAJ’s desire to have more access to the Prime Minister through more press conferences, is their way of making sure that they maintain access to this privilege.

To imply that the press is asking hard-hitting questions that only they are capable of asking, is negating the opinions of the public, who are the same ones that the press is asking the questions on behalf of.

The Media got it wrong in the US election

And journalists are biased most times, even if they try not to be. When I think of the weeks I watched CNN and witnessed numerous conversations, polls and opinions in favour of Clinton’s win—only to be side lined when Trump won. Boy did the media get it wrong! They were so busy trying to scandalize Trump that they failed to listen to the public’s views and report what they found. Isn’t that after all what the press is for?

Andrew Holness’s team continues to use social media as a way to keep the public informed. It is a more calculated form of communication than Trump, as it should be, but it gives you an insight as to how social media is affecting the political landscape in Jamaica. If Andrew Holness can send a Facebook post to his over 190,000 fans and get a response in real-time over going through traditional media sources that may or may not print his story, why should he?

Integrated Approach is still Best

As a communications practitioner, I say integrated approach is still the best way to reach your audience. Using traditional media channels in conjunction with social media and PR is still important to building awareness. Having your news story told by a reputable, respected news source only gives it strength and notoriety. And this I strongly believe, read my article on “Why Traditional Media still Matters” here.

But as someone who saw first-hand how biased the media can be, I say that social media will force the press to re-evaluate their model for how they approach reporting. News will have to become much more objective and integrated with social media. The future of the press relies on it.

Things I Learned from “Creating Winning Social Media Strategies”, Day 2

635987909554348478191657497_social-media-illoDay 2 had a much more in depth breakdown of creating winning social media strategies and there are several things I can share about what I learned but for me the mainstays were the following:

Create a compelling story: When thinking about your content strategy bear in mind that people appeal to positive, compelling stories. Make sure to think of the post as a conversation between the brand the customer. Speak in the voice of the brand– a voice that speaks to its personality and in the way that they can understand. This sets you apart from the noise and helps to build the brand’s story.

Best Times to Post: Now depending on the content you can determine what the best time to post for each platform. However, the times that people are most likely to see your posts are:

Twitter 12-3 pm Monday-Friday, 5-6 pm Wednesday

Facebook: 12-1pm Saturday-Sunday, 3-4pm Wednesday, 1-4pm Thursday-Friday

Instagram: Anytime Monday-Thursday, except between 3-4pm

What works in Jamaica: Jamaica is a special place with its own culture and sayings. With that said be sure to play on the few things that appeal to the Jamaican audience, which are  are culturally relevant like for example, sports–which is very important to the average Jamaican.

If you want to learn more about social media and how to create a winning strategy, I highly recommend this course. It goes into detail which is quite helpful.

My Personal View: Three Mistakes Malahoo Made

A couple of weeks ago, Marlene Malahoo Forte, current Attorney General of Jamaica and Member of Parliament for  St. James, West Central posted on Twitter that she considered the Embassy flying the rainbow flag at half mast, disrespectful to Jamaica. See the original tweet below:

malahoo-tweet-loopNow this tweet leaves much to interpretation but what we can take from it is that because there is an archaic law against buggery, the U.S. Embassy should not in any way promote the LGBT community, which the rainbow flag represents. For the record, the U.S. Embassy was flying this flag to show solidarity for the people who lost their lives in the Orlando shooting where 49 people died and 53 injured.

We can argue if this argument is valid or not depending on where you stand with gay rights, etc. but that’s not the point of this post.

She went further to post this tweet on June 19th after the backlash she received for the first tweet:

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Here’s what we can learn from Malahoo’s mistakes:

  1. Be aware of online reputation management: As a dignitary or person in a high-profile position, its important to recognise a thing called online reputation management. This is where you monitor and manage you reputation in the online space. It’s fine to have a personal opinion but to broadcast that opinion to your 1,600 followers is not necessarily the way to go.
  2. Have one account: Malahoo currently has two social media accounts. One that is for her “personal views” and one that seems to represent her professional. However, she’s using both in the same way so its not really clear which is which. Doesn’t matter which account you tweet from Malahoo, you will still be judged accordingly.
  3. Have a crisis communication plan: If you do mess up, make sure to have a plan in place. The best way to handle it is to respond to each comment with an explanation and apology.

Things I learned from “Creating Winning SM Strategies” Seminar, Day 1

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The world of social media is constantly changing and if you don’t try to keep up, you will get lost in the dust. To keep abreast of the latest technologies and also learn more about how we do social media in the Caribbean, I decided to take Carimac’s “Creating Winning Social Media Strategies” by Ross Sheil.

Ross Sheil, former Digital Manager at Digicel Group, has years of experience in the field of social media marketing as it relates to the Caribbean and is very influential on twitter, with some of his work trending on the social network. He even won a Caribbean Addy award for best social media campaign in 2015.

With that being said, I made sure to take a front seat of his class to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I went in of course expecting to know most of the stuff but surprisingly, I learned a few things!

Here is what I learned Day One of the seminar:

Boost Posts a Must for Facebook: With Facebook changing its algorithm and Instagram and Twitter following suit, to to get fans to see your posts you have to boost them. Now I thought that this was an “urban legend” but it is in fact now a mainstay for getting social media engagement on all platforms.

WhatsApp is Big: Mark Zuckerberg said, “Messaging is one of the few things people do more of than social Networking”. Now marketers don’t use it because it is not easy to track, but customers value it because its convenient to use. When we think of social media, WhatsApp doesn’t always come to mind but it is a great tool to get the message out there as people use it more often than other social platforms.

Mobile is a Dominant channel: Now I had forecasted mobile as being a trend from 2015 (Check out my post, 5 Trends Destined to Shape the Media this Year in 2015) but didn’t have the stats to back up  my claims. Based on statistics offered from Digicel, smartphone users spend on average 3.8 hours a day in Jamaica. According to Ross, that’s one day a week! Ross also mentioned that 50% of Digicel’s mobile users in Jamaica are using data plans.

Brand Advocates are Your Marketing Team: Your most passionate fans can become the best brand advocates one can have. By tapping into them as a resource it will make them feel like members of the team. More people respect and respond to tweets about brands from their friends than tweets from the actual brand itself.

Use Active Voice vs. Passive Voice: Acting voice is where subject does something and the passive voice is when the subject is acted upon by the verb. This one resonated with me as I’ve been accused of writing in the passive voice before so it’s something I can definitely learn from. Using the active voice is just a simpler, more direct way of communicating. Which works best for social.

More about Giving with a Touch of Buy our Stuff: Creating a winning content strategy you can’t just focus on getting customers to buy your product, you have to share tips on how to make people’s lives better from the brands area of expertise coupled with topics that both the brand and customer would be interested in reading.

There are a lot more tips I learned but can’t share everything. If you want to learn more, take the course. Will share Day 2 tomorrow!