Why Mixed Messages Mean Bad PR for Starbucks?

So if you’ve seen the recent Starbucks #whatsyourname Ad Campaign you probably know its a huge step in the right direction for Trans Rights. The campaign depicts a Trans male being able to choose his own name at the Starbucks counter when ordering a drink despite being upset at being called his birth name on other occasions. Watch the ad here:

When I saw the advert I thought this is amazing, what a positive and inclusive message for a huge company to be promoting. A massive win for advertising inclusivity in the LGBTQ+ community, something a lot of my research focuses on.

But then I was shocked to read that although Starbucks is promoting Trans inclusivity on a national scale they don’t have the same rules for their own employees. Former Starbucks employee Maddie Wade has spoken out against the company who she previously sued for misgendering and discriminating against her as a transgender woman.

Wade’s attorney, Arnold Peter, issued a statement calling the ad “a cruel slap in the face to their own employees who have faced hateful and derogatory discrimination in the workplace. The company’s attempt at marketing their position on inclusion and gender equality is both phony and hypocritical to their own employees who have faced discrimination while working in their stores.”

Other past employees have spoken out about their struggle to get gender reassignment surgeries covered. Many people joined the company after it announced it would be expanding its’ health insurance plan to cover top surgery and facial feminisation but this surgery was not obtained by employees.

Other employees have spoken out about not being able to use their chosen name within the company without first obtaining a legal name change, often a lengthy and costly process.

My take on this, maybe have a look at your internal affairs and what you can do for your employees who commit to building your business everyday before you try and cash in on the pink pound by releasing a hypocritical ad campaign.

Why a Career in PR is for me?

Growing up I knew I didn’t want a traditional career like a doctor, teacher, lawyer. At first I thought I wanted to be a ballerina, but I quickly realised I didn’t have many skills in that area and simply being a huge fan of ‘Angelina Ballerina’ didn’t qualify you for this career. About midway through high school I decided I wanted to be a journalist, I always had a passion for writing, public speaking and was interested in current affairs especially in the world of fashion and magazine journalism. After a week’s work experience at the ‘Ulster Tatler’ magazine and an A* in GCSE Journalism I was pretty affirmed in my career goals.

When it came to deciding what I wanted to do at University, I was torn between two courses Journalism or CMPR. My parents tried to persuade me to go for CMPR as my first choice, as they thought it was a more modern degree that adhered to many different career paths whilst journalism was somewhat of a dying art. In hindsight I should have listened to them. But being a headstrong seventeen-year-old, I decided to go for Journalism as my first choice and CMPR as my second choice.

Work trip to Google HQ in Dublin for a ‘Breakfast Briefing’

So I went to Coleraine to study Journalism, but one thing I realised, was I was a lot more interested in my Media Studies modules than I was my Journalism counterparts. In my Media classes we were looking at marketing and advertising campaigns and brand’s positioning on media issues such as gender, race and politics. I found this was inherently more appealing to me than looking at traditional in-print media. But I wasn’t going to let my dreams of being a Journalist slip that easily.

In April 2016, when I had to move home due to medical issues, I could no longer continue my Journalism degree at Coleraine. But as they say, often everything happens for a reason and I then ended up in my first year of my CMPR degree in September 2017. It’s possibly the best twist of fate that’s ever happened to me, and I would never change it for the world. I get asked a lot if I could go back, would I have rather continued my Journalism degree and pursued a career in that and the simple answer is no, my heart is firmly set in pursuing a career in PR now and I’m so glad that I took the chance on beginning a course in PR.

Three years down the line I am now six months away from graduating and I currently have my dream job as a PR and Content Creation Assistant at a local PR Agency, which I will continue full time after I graduate. So as it wasn’t love at first sight for myself and PR, why have I grown to love the industry?

My very first client at my PR job ‘Company the Musical’ at the Grand Opera House, where I managed the Influencer Marketing Campaign.

Well in the PR industry, no two days are ever the same, as mundane as a 9-5 job can sound, when working in PR it’s anything but. Whilst the overall task stays the same: make your client look good to its publics. The ways in which you could be executing this are almost infinite. From creating a PR Strategy to writing a press release to organising an event or managing your client’s social media platforms. I love the varied nature of the job, as I never know what to expect and I know I will never get bored of the industry. Depending on where you work you will also have the opportunity to work with a wide variety of clients in different niches, this affords you the chance to see what you like and don’t like before you might choose to specialise in one area. For example, in my current role I work with clients in the food and drink, fashion, fitness, arts, business and tech industries. This has allowed me to experience the different approaches and media channels which need to be utilised in each particular field. As I have always been interested in fashion, my aspirations for the future are to work in an in-house PR and Marketing Department for an online fashion brand.

One thing that attracts me to the industry is the reactive and ever changing nature, I love keeping up with trends on Twitter and often campaigns can be based off what’s trending right now. This is particularly something that I write about on my PR Blog: ‘Today on The Internet’, I am fascinated by the fast nature of the industry, similarly to Journalism where it’s important to react to developments quickly before they are ‘yesterday’s news’. This is also the case with new future developments in technology that are important to consider for your brand message. For example; Voice Based Search is becoming ever more popular with the rolling out of products like Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri. It is important for PR Practitioners to take into account what a brand sounds like when copywriting or looking at SEO, as consumers could not be searching by voice as well as by typing. 10 years ago we would have had no idea about these developments or what social platforms would be most popular, this is something that excites me about the industry, we don’t know what it will be like in 10 or even 20 years, newspapers could cease to exist, social platforms like ‘Tik Tok’ could be the new Facebook for brand content.

Work Perks at the Press Launch of the ‘Belfast City Blues’ another client I was lucky enough to work with and manage the social media for,

Whilst developments in technology are decreasing the need for workers in some areas, I think it’s absolutely the opposite with PR. I think developments in technology are requiring brands to have an online presence and engage with their customers in more new and creative ways, therefore requiring a PR expert to facilitate this. PR is an extremely important industry and we engage with hundreds of items of PR material on a daily basis without even realising it, from the advertisements on bus stops to posts by social media influencers on our Instagram feed, these have all ultimately come from PR Practioners

As a young person I still want to travel and experience the world as much as I can whilst in my 20s. I love the freedom that a career in PR gives me. Although I currently work in a 9-5 office based role, whilst completing my degree. There are so many freelance opportunities within PR and realistically all you need is a good WiFi connection and a laptop to be able to freelance. My current role allows me to work from home should I need to and I even took my laptop on a recent trip to London and was able to keep up with my clients via email and work remotely. This freedom is a great perk of the job for me. My mum always wanted me to be a teacher (she’s a teacher) because you get the whole summer off. But why should I do that, when my office could be a beach in California and I’m doing something I love?

An Influencer event I organised at a local restaurant client

The career gives you unlimited opportunities to upskill and learn more in the industry, my boss’s mantra is ‘Every day’s a school day’ and I think that’s particularly potent in the PR industry. You can simply never know it all in the industry and I take up any opportunity to attend talks or workshops where I can learn from other practitioners. Some areas I’ve learnt about recently are; Mail Chimp, LinkedIn Marketing and Google Ads. I hope to be able to get the opportunity to speak at some events myself in the future where I can educate others on my specialities. Currently my key interests in the industry are Influencer Marketing and Inclusive Marketing and PR Campaigns and these topics form the basis of my reading and research. I think events like the Belfast Media Festival and Digital DNA in Northern Ireland are exciting events and provide a great space for learning and development of industry professionals. I look forward to being able to progress my career in the future and build up a network of contacts in the industry. There is a great community of PR Practitioners on Twitter and LinkedIn, it can be interesting to engage in conversation and hear a wide range of opinions on these platforms.

In conclusion, I may have taken the scenic route to my career in PR but I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and I think I am in exactly the place I should be right now. Maybe I should have listened to my parents, but I think I needed to find my way to this path by myself. I look forward to what a future in PR will look like and am excited to progress my career even further. But granny please don’t ask me what I do for work over Christmas dinner, unless you have two hours.

Can Christmas Ad Giants Team Up In the Name of Corporate Social Responsibility?

If you were watching prime time TV on Friday night (6 December) you might have noticed something a little bit different about the Ad Break during Gogglebox. This was thanks to a collaboration from Save the Children and MediaCom North.

The ad break started with a message from Save The Children ambassadors Myleene Klass and Dom Joly who are seen sitting in their finest Christmas Jumpers. This was then followed by special editions of some our favourite Christmas ads – the famous John Lewis Ad even got a Christmas Jumper Style Makeover with Edgar (The Dragon) appearing in his very own little Christmas jumper. Others involved included Duracell, M&S, Waitrose, Moonpig and Smyths Toys.

The ad break marked a refreshing move away from traditional commercialised Christmas ad’s towards an appeal for a good cause. It is expected that 5 million people will take part in the annual Christmas Jumper Day on this Friday – 13th December. Raising more than £4 million for Save the Children.

I personally think it’s great to see big retailers getting behind a charity campaign at this time of the year. I also think it’s great to see many competitors teaming up to all get behind the one campaign.

Often Christmas adverts get stuck in a rut of just trying to get us to buy their latest product or service, however cute and sentimental the message might be the retailer is ultimately still trying to make a pretty penny off the back of Christmas culture.

This ad campaign reminded me of the Iceland Ran Tang banned Tv advert from last year which shed light upon the palm oil crisis and how it was used to make many of the nations favourite products., a collaboration with Green peace, the ad really made me respect Iceland for supporting a cause rather than just sharing their products.

I really liked the Christmas Jumper Day Campaign this year and it makes me more likely to buy from a retailer when I know they support important causes. I feel we should be seeing more of these type of campaigns in the future.

#WaPoDeathNotices – Where Do We Draw The Line Between Spin and Fake News?

If you haven’t been following the latest scandal in the Twitter-sphere I mean where have you been? But The Washington Post landed themselves in some hot water with the public over a headline that read ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48.’ You can see the issue here, a slightly strange obituary for the leader of ISIS to described as an ‘austere religious scholar’. It didn’t take long for quick witted Tweeters to pick up on this and call out the newspaper, who proceeded to quickly changed their headline to a more appropriate alternative. However the incident promoted #WaPoDeathNotices to become trending on Twitter. Members of the public soon became spin doctors, creating their own versions of the blunder, for well known historical figures. A few of my favourites below:

You get the idea, have a look at the hashtag on Twitter for yourself, if you like dark humour and want a laugh.

But what’s the point here?

This is all just a great big glaringly obvious example of spin. Had you not known any prior information about the people mentioned in the tweet’s you might have simply read it on your newsfeed and believed it. Then you might pass that information onto to someone else, believing it to be from a reliable source.

Is this all sounding rather familiar, for me spin is an infant form of fake news, a stepping stone rather. I mean if you read some of the headlines on the Daily Mail they can present a drastically different version of events to an actual story, just for clickbait and views.

So where do we draw the line? Is spin ok, but fake news isn’t? Even if the a headline is spun to be misleading and someone doesn’t open the full article for clarity and is left with a false perception? My view is that journalists, political representatives and PRP’s should try and maintain their integrity by not writing spun headlines that could be misleading, as they should be aware that often in the age of social media a headline is all someone will read, while scrolling.

Yesterday Free Costa Coffee, Today Free Skechers Trainers – Why are Brands Adopting These Types of PR Campaigns?

Today Skechers teamed up with Translink in Belfast City Centre, to offer Translink customers the chance to ‘Step Up’ and get a free pair of Skechers. The initiative took place in Donegall Place, at 8am and worked on a first come first served basis. Those who had a valid travel ticket were offered the chance to queue up and do Steps Ups for 60 seconds, to get a free pair of trainers. In total there was 100 pairs of trainers (up to the value of £60) up for grabs and I was one of the lucky few to get a pair.

I personally heard about the campaign as a Paid Ad on Belfast Live, which in itself shows the power of Paid Facebook Advertising, for informing the general public especially young people. Had this been in a newspaper, would I have knew anything about it? Probably not. I’m by no means saying In Print Media is dead but this campaign shows the instant nature of Social Media, this was posted around 20 mins before the event started and I arrived around 8:30 and ended up being number 95/100 in the queue.

This comes just after yesterday, I was able to get a free coffee from a Costa Coffee machine, which I found out about on Twitter also. So why do brands give away free products? Well it’s all about creating a buzz isn’t it and making people aware of the brand.

People were stopping in the street to see what all the fuss was about, people were videoing the challenge and putting it on their social media. The people at the Skechers were telling us to use the Hashtag #SkechersXTranslink on our social media to post about it. Yesterday #CostaCoffee was trending on Twitter and people were made aware that they don’t have to be close to a Costa store to still be able to get their caffeine fix.

It’s a similar scenario to the ever important question of ‘Why do brands gift free product to influencers in return for posts’? Well here’s the answer: To create a buzz, to get people talking about the brand and make people want to buy into it. Here we have a very similar idea but instead relying on real life people and a mixture of word of mouth as well as social media. What did everyone do after they got their free trainers? They went back to their offices and told everyone how great it was and showed of their new kicks. Or they went on to social media and told everyone there how happy they were with their new trainers. Similarly with the Costa Coffee Campaign.

Also campaigns like this don’t actually cost the brand anything apart from complimentary product. Skechers only actually gave away 100 pairs of trainers but around 100 people were also given 30% off vouchers to go and purchase a pair in the store (which I saw many people do.) The fact is these people using the 30% off probably had no intention of leaving the house that morning and buying a pair of Skechers but they were so caught up in the buzz that they did. (But this is something I’m going to talk about in detail in another post)

A Day Without Whopper – When Corporate Social Responsibility Meets Clever PR

So this week something peculiar caught my eye when I was doing my daily scroll through social media. Presenting exhibit one below.

An apparent truce in the Battle of Burgers. On first glance you might feel shock horror, two titans of the food industry coming together in the name of charity. What’s next? Tesco promoting Asda’s Pizza Counter? or House of Fraser giving it’s staff a day off to let people shop at Debenhams? Has the world gone mad.

Ok enough dramatic narrative.

Let’s now look at this from a PR and Marketing perspective, Burger King want to kill two birds with one stone. Or rather two aims with one budget. (Really no budget as they just took a potential hit on sales for one day). One, they have a corporate social responsibility to give to charity. Two, they want a good social media campaign. Possibly throw in a third, that McDonalds are going to give all their Big Mac profits to charity, so how can they ‘one up’ that and do something better.

Enter ‘A Day Without The Whopper’ (whoever thought of this deserves a pay rise, cause I personally think it’s so clever). Here we have a campaign that not only show’s Burger King supporting Charity but supporting their competitor to support charity. The sheer shock value of the whole thing makes it the perfect social media campaign, Burger King knew what they were doing here and did it well. The design itself is eye-catching and you automatically recognise the two brands, which if you’re like me will have made you stop in your scrolling and think ‘What’s this about?’. And for me the post has great ‘share-ability’ value for social media, it’s a talking piece. It stuck with me, I automatically asked my work colleagues if they’d seen it and what they thought and that’s exactly what a good campaign should do.

This is infact not the first time that Burger King has played on the rivalry as part of an Online Campaign and the brainchild for this idea may have started back in 2015 when the ‘McWhopper’ was born.

Back in 2015 Burger King created the ‘McWhopper’ and sent an open letter to McDonalds proposing a collaboration between the two brands in honour of ‘Peace One Day’. Burger King called for a ‘ceasefire on Burger Wars’ in the name of peace with all proceeds going to the cause. McDonalds didn’t bite at the McWhopper and politely declined the offer.

So it seems this time around, Burger King have taken matters into their own hands, with this charity campaign and in my opinion Burger King came out looking better than ever. On social media people praised Burger King for their great campaign and it afforded them a day of trending online and looking like the ‘bigger person’ in said Burger Wars.