Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and the busiest shopping time of the year! Retailers and brands are competing for consumer’s attention. During this shopping season, it is vital for your company to properly communicate its key messages. One way to deliver these key messages is through social media channels. Social media provides brands and retailers the opportunity to connect directly with customers through online engagement, allowing for a more personal shopping experience.

According to Research Industry Voices, 28 percent of consumers will follow certain retailers/brands on social media to keep an eye out for sales, promotional codes and deals. Additionally, 22 percent will follow retailers/brands on social media to find out what’s popular to get ideas for gifts. This is precisely why leveraging mobile and digital marketing to the fullest extent is crucial during the holidays.

Many brands are using unique approaches through social media channels to increase sales during the holiday season. Social media campaigns included in the mix this holiday season include contests, holiday cards and social giving. Once specific company that has embraced digital assets for its holiday campaign is Target. Target combined Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram for its 2015 holiday campaign, increasing its social budget by 30 percent compared to last year.

The efforts you put forth online and on social media should be mimicked in-store as well. The growth of online shopping does not discount the in-store shopping experience. Brands still need to invest dollars on in-store employees and processes to keep shoppers happy and ensure their customer’s in-store experience is as seamless as their digital experience. With the holiday season in full swing, companies must review their online and mobile presence, launch holiday campaigns highlighting special deals and promotions through social channels and ensure all content is authentic and conveys the holiday spirit.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Zuckerberg Shares His Wealth

The same young billionaire that created the sharing social networking platform Facebook has decided to share more than a status update. Facebook’s co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, along with his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, pledged to donate 99 percent of Zuckerberg’s company shares after the birth of their daughter in late November. Facebook is currently worth $45 billion, Zuckerberg promising to give away the majority of his share during his lifetime. This extreme generosity supports their goal of advancing human potential and promoting equality.

In an open letter to their newborn girl, Maxima, Chan and Zuckerberg share their plans for The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: “Today your mother and I are committing to spend our lives doing our small part to help solve these challenges. I will continue to serve as Facebook's CEO for many, many years to come, but these issues are too important to wait until you or we are older to begin this work. By starting at a young age, we hope to see compounding benefits throughout our lives.” The initiative creates partnerships and programs focused on solving these challenges in a changing world. Initially, the main focus of these partnerships and programs will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.

Not only is the couple gaining a large amount of media attention after the release of their open letter to their newborn daughter, but they are also highlighting the efforts on a Facebook page specifically for the initiative. With over 48,000 page fans, the page lists the various partnerships they have formed and donations made since 2009. Additionally, the announcement by letter has been shared more than 187,000 times on Facebook with the majority supporters.

In the past decade, Zuckerberg and Chan have already donated more than $1.6 billion. Some of the donations include a $100 million gift to the Newark Public School System, a $25 million donation to the CDC to stop the spread of Ebola and a $120 million commitment to education in the Bay Area.

Unfortunately, some agree the generous move was still not enough to counter the user privacy violations and other negative perceptions held by various Facebook users. Although this was not the goal of Zuckerberg’s initiative, this announcement is still life affirming and will be life-changing for millions. Chan and Zuckerberg can truly make a difference with this scope of work and strong commitment to ensuring their wealth is going toward efforts to accomplish these initiatives.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Before the Thanksgiving food coma even has the chance to take over, millions of Americans will line up to secure their spot at shopping centers everywhere to take advantage of the advertised “doorbuster deals”. Not all retailers will open their doors to welcome eager shoppers on Black Friday. In late October, Seattle-based outdoor outfitter REI announced it would be closing all 143 stores across the country instead of keeping its doors open on Black Friday. Instead, 12,000 employees will receive a paid day off to enjoy the great outdoors. Was REI’s choice to opt out of the retail holiday a poor business decision?

Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI explained the company’s decision to #OptOutside after the announcement was made: “For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth. We’re a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.” Instead of welcoming crowds of holiday shoppers into their stores, REI chose to emphasize how its organization is different and has value. As one of the most powerful forces in outdoor retailing, the company now urges its employees and shoppers to enjoy the great outdoors instead of losing sleep and money running from store to store.

In November 2014, the National Retail Federation reported Thanksgiving and the day after accounted for $50.8 billion in revenue. Choosing to close doors on a day that promises an increase in revenue may cost REI some profits, but it was not a poor business decision. The decision to close its doors encourages goodwill from customers and higher post-Black Friday sales. Many shoppers have already transitioned to online holiday shopping instead of visiting physical stores to avoid the holiday crowds. 

REI’s approach for #OptOutside is heavily promoted on the company’s social media and website, a countdown to Black Friday even displayed on the homepage of its website. Additionally, a feature on the website allows visitors to share their plans for Black Friday by selecting an image of an activity of their choice. The image is then stamped with a graphic that reads, “On Black Friday, I’ll be Here #OptOutside.” Although the promise of increased profits will be missed by REI, the decision to close stores for Thanksgiving and Black Friday was a successful business decision because of the organized campaign on the company’s website, paid holiday off for employees and the encouragement for others to enjoy the great outdoors instead of participating in the craziness of Black Friday shopping.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Holiday Trends

Now that Halloween is over, the holiday season is underway and building momentum as many begin to prepare their gift lists. Consumers are at the ready to spend millions this holiday season. As they open their wallets to take advantage of the deals and spread holiday cheer, it is important for retailers to recognize the consumer shopping trends ruling the season of spending.

With a $630 billion season ahead, retailers are preparing their holiday season marketing plans. According to the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Consumer Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, consumers celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa will spend an average of $805.65 on food items, decorations, gifts and more over the holiday season. This is the highest amount seen in the survey’s 14-year history. Spending on gifts for family members will total $462.95, up from $458.75 last year and also a survey high.

Holiday shoppers are looking for options that save them money and time but still provide plenty of value. Many consumers will take advantage of the deals and discounts during the holidays on merchandise that has little or no connection with the season. For example, many consumers will be spending on new clothing for themselves or for their kids as well as updates for their home. Retailers should utilize this trend in personal spending by ensuring gift items as well as personal items are discounted.

This season, approximately 46 percent of holiday shopping will take place online. With this in mind, retailers should place these omnichannel offerings upfront both online and in stores. Mobile is the fastest growing channel for holiday shoppers, especially for browsing and buying. Additionally, 47 percent of holiday shoppers ranked free shipping and shipping promotions in the NRF survey as a key factor in deciding where to do their shopping during the holiday season. ‘Tis the season to be spending. Retailers are preparing for the 2015 holiday shopper with discounts and digital as a focus.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Chipotle E. coli Outbreak

Chipotle cravings in the Pacific Northwest were unable to be satisfied due to a recent E. coli outbreak. Customers in Washington and Oregon reported illness after their meals at the restaurant. With this outbreak comes an opportunity for Chipotle to show its commitment to food safety and quality for its customers. So far, the damage control for its reputation after this occurrence has been focused primarily on the safety concerns for consumers, but the company is placing PR as a priority as well.

State health officials in Washington and Oregon reported 22 cases of customers with E.coli bacteria. The source has been linked to six Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants. Fourteen people have been hospitalized and this prompted the Denver-based chain to suspend operations at dozens of locations. A smart move on Chipotle’s part, the company chose to be proactive and update the media immediately after making the decision to suspend operations. Chipotle managers also informed state health officials that they would voluntarily close all restaurants in the affected areas until further notice in an effort to prevent further harm to its customers.

According to company spokesman Chris Arnold, 43 locations in Oregon and Washington have been closed temporarily: “We immediately closed all of our restaurants in the area out of an abundance of caution, even though the vast majority of these restaurants have no reported problems.” Although the closings are causing losses for the company, its concern for the wellbeing of consumers is larger, showing its commitment to quality and safety.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is working to prevent any further problems while keeping its consumers updated on the situation on its website and social media platforms. Consumers looking for information and reassurance that the food they are purchasing is safe to eat are happy to see the frequent updates and the overall sentiment on social media is positive and encouraging as the company takes the necessary steps to isolate the issue and fix it. The responsibility exhibited in the decision to close stores and the transparency the company has upheld is proof that damage control is vital if a company wants to come out on top after a reputation damaging crisis.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Public Relations Profession

What do Jerry Maguire, Samantha Jones and Olivia Pope have in common? They are the characters many people think of and misconstrue as true public relations practitioners. We’re not “spin doctors” and we’re not glorified party planners, so what are we? What is public relations?

There are many definitions out there for PR, but I tend to stick to PRSA’s definition: Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. With technology, social media and communication in general growing and times progressing, companies are searching for the adaptability, skill and knowledge of a PR professional to help them move through the noise and get a clear message to the audience.

Many portrayals of public relations practitioners are inaccurate because unfortunately, PR has a problem with PR. PRSA and PRSSA work to resolve this problem by advocating for the highest ethical principles with a strong Code of Ethics and diversity in the profession. The PRSA Code of Ethics advises professionals to:
  • Protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information.
  • Foster informed decision making through open communication.
  • Protect confidential and private information.
  • Promote healthy and fair competition among professionals.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest.
  • Work to strengthen the public’s trust in the profession.
Not only should professionals follow these code guidelines, but also PRSSA members as we work to prepare ourselves for the public relations profession after graduation. Adhering to these principles and core values shows professionalism and advances your success.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

PRSSA National Conference

The PRSSA National Conference is just around the corner! A group of students from Ohio Northern University’s PRSSA Chapter is preparing to attend conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference will be held November 6-10 and the theme is Rethink | Rebuild | Renew. Not only is National Conference a networking opportunity with thousands of public relations students and professionals, but it is also the time to announce the award and scholarship recipients for individuals as well as chapters across the nation.

The Ohio Northern University PRSSA Chapter has been a recipient of the prestigious Star Chapter Award every year since the inception of the award in 2009. The Star Chapter Award recognizes chapters of any size for meeting specific chapter and professional development goals.

The requirements are outlined on the PRSSA website and include 8 of the 10 listed:
  1. Initiate and complete at least one community service project.
  2. Strengthen your relationship with your PRSA sponsor Chapter.
  3. Give attention to ethics in at least one Chapter meeting.
  4. Confirm that at least one Chapter member applies for an individual National PRSSA scholarship or award.
  5. Confirm that your Chapter applied for at least one national PRSSA award.
  6. Conduct a high school outreach session and/or promote Affiliate membership to a nearby community college.
  7. Confirm attendance by at least one Chapter member at National Conference, National Assembly, a Regional Conference or Leadership Rally.
  8. Gain positive attention for your Chapter in at least one campus or community publication or community publication or other media.
  9. Extend an invitation to students/faculty from other disciplines to attend at least one Chapter meeting.
  10. Confirm that at least 10 percent of your graduating seniors applied for PRSA Associate Membership. Chapters with fewer than 10 senior members need to confirm one application.
Meeting these requirements throughout the year is only possible due to the tremendous commitment and hard work exemplified by each PRSSA member. As the president of ONU PRSSA for the past two years, I am looking forward to National Conference because I believe our Chapter is deserving of this award again this year. To be one of the two PRSSA chapters that has received the Star Chapter Award every year since its inception is an incredible honor. I am crossing my fingers that this year is a winning year for our Chapter again!