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

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Unless 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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The Future of the Press Model in the Rise of Social Media


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.
Continue reading The Future of the Press Model in the Rise of Social Media

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.

Top 7 Jamaican Bloggers to Showcase Your Brand

With the Jamaican blogging community steadily growing and brands trying to find new and innovative ways to engage, marketers need to go beyond traditional media.

Here are a few of my favorite bloggers by category:

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Fashion & Lifestyle

1. Natasha Leeds is a young, stylish fashionista who blogs about her fashion and natural hair journey. With over 16k followers on Instagram, she has the potential to reach a wide audience. Best for 16-25 yo. Great for fashion designers, retail and department stores, lifestyle and cultural events, natural hair and beauty products. *Updated: Natasha moved to Miami but visits Jamaica every year.

2. Natalia OH: is a mother of two who blogs about Fashion, DIYs and Lifestyle. Best for 25-40 yo target, Twitter Followers: 5k, Instagram Followers: 8k.  Lots of #OOTDs! Winner of the 2012 Jamaica Blog Awards for the Best Beauty and Fashion Blog and is a Gleaner Lifestyle contributor.

Best for fashion designers, retail and department stores, makeup and beauty retailers, restaurants, lifestyle and cultural events and lifestyle brands.

*Updated: Nataliah is now Marketing Manager for Maxie stores.

3. Lauren O Lauren has been around for long time (see previous post on our interview with Lauren O Lauren). She moved to the US couple of years ago but still has a strong following in Jamaica. Best for 18-30 yo hipster, Gen Y group.Talks a lot about weave! Twitter followers: 6k, Instagram: 7k. Over 5,000 subscribers on YouTube. Best for tech companies, fashion designers, lifestyle and beauty products and services, fashion and retail outlets. See her most viewed blog which has over 21,000 views.

*Updated: Lauren lives in California with her husband and dog, Henry.

4. On Orange Street: Lifestyle blog for the life and style of young Caribbean women. Co-founded by Afayah Pendergrast and Monique Kennedy. The content is vivacious! They blog about budgeting and career building. Won the 2014 Caribbean Blog & Social Award for Best Lifestyle Blog. Small following on social networks but there is potential for growth.

Best for banks and insurance companies, the automotive industry, fashion designers, boutique shops and furniture stores, lifestyle and cultural events and lifestyle brands.

*Updated: This group no longer has a blog together but both are doing well as individuals.

5. Irie Diva: is lifestyle Jamaican blogger who writes about a variety of topics including recipes, hair and beauty products and cultural events. Oh and her munchkin!  Twitter Followers: 3k Instagram followers: 1k

Best for cultural and lifestyle events, ital/vegetarian products, natural hair and beauty products, travel and leisure, kids

 

Make Up 

6. Chunchi is a YouTuber who averages over 500 views per video. She vlogs mostly about her makeup skills and reviews beauty products both Jamaican and US based. Twitter Followers: 4k, Instagram Followers: 1k. She would be a great advocate for makeup and natural beauty products.

Food

7. Jessica in the Kitchen won 2014’s Caribbean Blog and Social Media Award for Best Food Blog. Creates innovative, vegetarian recipes fit to be in any food magazine. With beautiful imagery, this blog would be great to feature natural food and drink products. Twitter: 1.4k, Instagram: 1k

If you know any bloggers who you think should be featured, let me know! I’m always looking for new bloggers to follow!

5 Trends Destined to Shape the Media this Year

Last month, myself and a few other marketers came together at a #MarketersMeetUp to discuss our forecasts for 2015. It was an interesting conversation that lead to predictions far beyond this year. These are a few that really stuck:

1. The use of Social Media Influencers.

While Facebook campaigns and viral videos are interesting and can garner likes and shares, they don’t always produce engagement that is long-lasting. With endorsements from social media influencers such as tv personalities, athletes, musicians, etc., brands can not only reach target audiences but can create long-lasting advocates who will willingly share their love for the brand.

Chris Gayle at the 2014 Miss Jamaica Universe Pageant

See the list below of top influencers in Jamaica by category by Twitter followers:

Sports-related: Usain Bolt (< 3.6mil), Chris Gayle (<1.9 mil), Lennox Lewis (<375,000), Yohan Blake (<300,000).

Music: Sean Paul (<1.2 mil), Tessanne Chin (<250,000), Mavado (< 200,000), Jah Cure (<190,000), Taurrus Riley (<160,000), Wayne Marshall (<100,000), Chronixx (<82,000), Protoje (<32,000)

TV Personalities: Miss Kitty (<100,000), Yendi Phillips (<60,000).

An endorsement in a tweet, Facebook post or Instagram post by these top accounts could create an impact.

2. Mobile Integration

With the invent of LoopJamaica.com and its seamless integration onto every new Digicel smartphone, having the latest news at your fingertips will allow brands to target audiences even when they are away from their computers. As mobile use continues to grow, brands will have another channel to tap into. Communication is now a two-pronged approach: stories about the brands and offerings tied into ads with the links to more information about products.

Gleaner and Observer are right behind. Both have apps available for download. Most recently, TeenAge Observer discontinued its printed publication and will now be exclusively online allowing for brands to tap into the Jamaican youth market. With the high cost of print media, the possibilities of curating content that will engage preteens and teens online is limitless.

3. Online influencing offline

With the success of Dutty Berry, a vlogger who inspired Jamaica to support Tessanne on her road to winning “The Voice” and more recently Bella Blair, brands will feel compelled to utilize these personalities to become ambassadors. The real value in their presence is that they are already engaging online, have a strong fan base and are reaching the audience in a way that traditional media sometimes doesn’t. Bella Blair for example, has a YouTube channel with over 35,000 subscribers and within the past year, received her own show called, “Bella’s Bizarre World” on RETV. Bella is creating content that is fresh, young and different but still appealing to a wide audience. Check out Bella in the new 2015 Cran Wata Ad:

Cran Wata Bella TV Ad

Check out the video that inspired the TV Ad 

4. Mobile Dominance

Its been in discussion for years and now it seems to be on the “tips of the tongues” of many folks, particularly as the rise of mobile usage and telecoms are determined to sell phones and data plans. Websites will have to be designed for mobile as you will lose the interest of readers in a second. Mobile e-commerce is also a forecast for 2015.

5. Blogger Nation

With the success of the Caribbean Blog and Social Media Awards late last year, brands witnessed the possibilities of using bloggers to create content around their messages and offerings. As bloggers continue to grow their audiences and create content that is personal and inspiring–brands will want to get on board.

Here’s Irie Dawta’s Orange Chicken recipe featuring Tru-Juice

How do You Do Social? Lauren O Lauren

Lauren Dunn: Social Media Darling, owner of blog & YouTube channel Lauren O Lauren.com

With over 5,000 subscribers on YouTube and 8,000 Facebook friends, Lauren has been able to build a loyal fan base with whom she interacts with daily. Lauren not yet thirty, has been working in the media industry since she was 17 years old. With the success of her televion show on Jamaica’s cable tv station Flow 100, Lauren has been able to continue her connection with her audience even after moving to the US with the help of social media. She’s charismatic, bold and fashion forward. What makes Lauren unique is her ability to not just do a fashion feature but encourage her viewers to read books like “Damn Good Advice” by George Lois and find their life’s purpose. She tweets her  random thoughts, world views and quirky ideas to her 6,200 twitter followers and she’s not afraid of being vulnerable, daring  and at times — downright funny.

Here’s Lauren’s take on her social media success:

“Social Media has not only helped my career but in a large respect is responsible for the continuation of it. I started out on television but because of social media I was able to reach a broader audience and maintain the ones I had reached on television. TV shows don’t run forever,so during off season or when I’m not filming I can still keep my fan base close and keep them thoroughly entertained.”

What advice would you give others on using  social media to build their careers?

“If you’re trying to make a name for yourself the best way to do that is by NOT trying to make a name for yourself. Just do what it is that you do and do it better than anyone else can, even if it means spending more time getting it done than others in your field or doing over and over again. Let your work speak for you before you know it your name will build on its own. Be different than mainstream, mainstream is great but it’s easy to fall in line. I don’t go out of my way to stand out but I have realized that regardless of what I do or say I do stand out, my views and opinions have never been inline with the general public and that has been my claim to fame. Being yourself and being able to stand your ground is very important there will be days when you are the only person in the world who believes in your dreams.”

Go check out Lauren’s blog . She showcases fashionistas every Tuesday. Follow her on twitter @LaurenoLauren and Instagram @LaurenoLauren. Send your Fashionable pictures to show@laurenolauren.com

Promoting Events on Social Media

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of covering an event for the organization I work for. It was remarkably organized and all of Washington’s elite were in attendance.

Now you may ask if the event was so well attended, what would be the benefit of social media? The great thing about social media, particularly twitter is that allows a conversation between people who may or may not know each other or have the opportunity to talk to each other at an event.

Here’s the best way to promote your event on social media:

Pre event: Be sure to create an event page on Facebook and invite every member of the group. Ask the event planners and other stakeholders to invite guests as well. Facebook has a new feature in which you can actually add a link to the where the tickets are being sold.

Be sure to ask guests to check in on Four Square. Four Square is a tool in which when used correctly can create a great buzz around your event.

Use a hashtag: By creating a hashtag it helps people follow the story and contribute to conversation by commenting on the event. The event I worked on had a great conversation going on about issues affecting Africa and the world economy. Former Presidents, Prime ministers, ambassadors, even Grammy Award winners were in attendance.

Showtime:

Promote the use of social media. Ask the audience to engage and if possible publicize for people to see. People like to feel as if they their experience is interactive.

Post Event: Make sure to post pictures on social media with captions of attendees. The quicker you do this, the quicker the buzz around the event will continue. The people who did attend will be anxious to see the pictures of themselves and their friends, as well as the other attendees and the people who were not able to attend will want to see pictures of people who did.

Storify: Make sure you storify it and share it with your audience, this is just another way to keep people talking and perhaps read some of the comments they may have missed from the event.