Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Potato Comeback

We came. We fought. We conquered.  We've gained so much knowledge in the past couple of months that has led to this:  the final PR plan.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Target: Coming to Winnipeg in 2013

Target is coming to Canada.  Who doesn’t know Target?!  Like the Nike swoosh and the McDonald’s M, the Target logo is very recognizable.  Having billboards throughout the city with just the logo and the words “Coming in Winter 2013” would be a good way to start the buzz.  That’s when the first location is expected to open at Grant Park Mall with others to follow in Spring 2013.  The Winter 2013 could be replaced by a specific date, once it is known, to create further anticipation. 

IKEA distributed a compelling booklet to all Winnipeg households outlining their values, what they have to offer and how they will benefit the community.  To quell any fears of a USA invasion, Target could borrow this strategy.   Points they can tout are job creation, gas savings from the eliminated need for cross-border shopping and how they contribute to communities through volunteerism, education grants, charitable contributions, etc.

Winnipegers have a reputation for loving a deal.  The best way to engage them is through some significant grand opening specials.  Having daily specials throughout the grand opening week will bring some shoppers out several times.  Shoppers should be invited to bring a non-perishable food item for a local food bank in exchange for a reusable shopping bag.  This will not only be a show of support for a local charity but also provide traveling advertising as people use their bags for things other than shopping. (gym bag, lunch bag, shoe bag, etc.)

It’s human nature to react more strongly to negative things than positive things.  Target should endeavour to avoid negative publicity, both formal publicity and through word of mouth, by striving to have the grand opening go smoothly.  This would include having a sufficient team to manage greeting the press at the ribbon cutting, having ample staff to serve customers and restock shelves during the initial buzz and having an abundant supply of sale items.  Making the initial Canadian Target shopping experience as pleasant as possible for people will go a long way to cementing their arrival on Canadian soil as a positive thing in peoples’ minds.

Monday, November 5, 2012

It starts with research

Research and analysis are essential in the setting of effectual PR campaign objectives.  Through primary and secondary research, it is imperative to understand your target audience so you craft achievable goals that will meet your needs and cater to your publics properly.  Comprehensive research will undoubtedly reveal your main challenges and lead you to generate a thorough task list to meet your objectives.  It’s advantageous to know your strengths in order to capitalize on them.  You need to know your weaknesses equally well not only to address them or prevent problems but to also be prepared if you’re confronted about them.  The research phase is also the time to analyze external opportunities in order to capitalize on them.  It’s also the opportune stage to become aware of pending threats in order to be proactive.

Coca Cola missed the mark on their research for the launching on the New Coke.  When they were strategizing how to revitalize their brand, they failed to see that changing the formulation could alienate their current following.  Lucky for them, they were able to recover by introducing Coke Classic to appease their original devotees.  Who knows, maybe creating this uproar was part of the overall scheme to really get people talking.  It’s unlikely though because it’s a really risky approach.  Coca Cola’s experience is a prime example of where catering to one audience you can alienate another.  Tailoring goals for each audience (loyal following vs. prospective consumers) would have been more beneficial.

                                                                              CREDIT: FUNKYAH

If you don’t do the back work in a PR campaign before choosing tactics, the risk of taking the wrong path is that much greater. The effort will be paid back by way of clear objectives to meet the needs of your publics.  To jump right in can not only be ineffective but also detrimental and costly. Just like in baking, in order for a recipe to turn out well, you need to follow all the steps.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Research...A Vital Step

How do you compete in a marathon if you haven’t trained, you don’t know where the starting line is and you don’t know what route the race will take?  My guess is that you won’t succeed in crossing the finish line.  This analogy can be applied to a PR campaign.  Your race training is like the research to prepare for your PR campaign.  The race route, aka your PR Plan, is the route you’ll take to the finish line or your goal.  The only way to be well prepared is to put in the leg work through research.  As time-management author Alan Lakein said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

                                                                          Credit :  Nwardez

Research can be categorized as either primary or secondary.  “Examples of primary research include in-depth interviews, focus groups, surveys and polls.” 1   The advantage of primary research is that you can tailor it specifically to your needs.  The downside is that it is more costly and time consuming than secondary research.  Secondary research is data that has been gathered by someone else and reported through periodicals, journals, online, etc.  It’s relatively easy to acquire but you may not find exactly what you’re looking for leaving you to extrapolate based on similarities or opt to go the primary research route.  To be thorough, a combination of primary and secondary research would be ideal in most situations.

Research can further be classified as quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative facts are reliable because they are measurable and “allow for greater extrapolation to large populations.” 2  Qualitative research allows you to focus on more specific groups but it is less dependable because there is more room for interpretation than when you’re looking at hard numbers.

A thorough mix of research methods should leave you with a clearer picture of how to proceed.  You’ll either have affirmed that you’re targeting the right audience or you’ll tweak your target group based on your findings.  You should be left with a sharper image of which approach will be most successful with your stakeholders.  Research is the foundation without which a PR plan would be a course into the unknown.

1 & 2 Wilcox, Denis et al. (2013). THINK Public Relations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Monday, October 15, 2012

PR: A Professional Perspective

Jonathan Hildebrand is the Regional Director of Communications, Media, Public and Government Relations for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority(WRHA).    As I work for the same organization, I was able to find his email address in our employee directory.  Via email, I explained the reason for my contacting him and he graciously agreed to a phone interview.  His sense of humor was evident from the get go when he inquired about the nature of the questions to be asked due to his lack of expertise in photosynthesis.
Credit:  WRHA FLS archives
Mr. Hildebrand graduated with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration  with a focus on Marketing.  Though he acknowledges that his education “provided the right foundation,” he maintains that “there is a phenomenal amount of learning that has to happen on the job.» He started out his career with the Province of Manitoba before moving on to the WRHA.  The last six years of his career have been in a leadership role.

A typical week day for Mr. Hildebrand starts out at 5:30AM checking email and news sites.  This goes on late into the night and on weekends.  “It’s busy.  It’s intense.  PR is addictive.”  He recognizes that once you gain an appetite for it, it’s tough to pull back.  “You have to be careful not to let it pull you in too much.”  He’s at a loss to identify a specific project he is proud of but rather finds that whenever an issue plays out in the public domain and the reports read out pretty much what you were trying to accomplish, it’s very fulfilling.

To keep current in the PR industry, Mr. Hildebrand reads books on the subject but mostly closely watches what private and public companies are doing in every medium of news.  “You learn by watching what’s done right and what’s done wrong.”  He’s not involved in any professional organizations.  What has surprised him the most about PR is how omnipresent it is.  “It covers and touches many parts of an organization.”  “Technology has compressed time and space.”  Technology, both the physical technology and social media, have been the greatest changes since Mr. Hildebrand entered the PR field.  The degree to which the complexity of issues has increased corresponds to the time and space to explain these complexities have decreased.  Whether something has happened in Canada, the USA or elsewhere in the world, they are expected to respond.  “Technology increases the time pressure to respond but also provides the avenue to respond to meet that time pressure.”

Mr. Hildebrand sees writing as very important in his career.  “Not only do you have to be able to articulate but you must have an ability to respond in fresh, new ways.”  He advises people starting out to always be creative, to commit to being a continual learner, to always watch what’s going on around you and to be prepared to work hard.

Though he doesn’t hide the fact that his job is all-consuming, Mr. Hildebrand’s enthusiasm for what he does is very apparent.  As someone contemplating this field, I have to consider whether a career in PR would be compatible with a healthy family life.  How much is being all-in a requirement for success versus a by-product of the “addictive” nature of this field?   No doubt there are differing answers to this depending on the line of work and other variables.  Is it enough to scare me off?  It’ll take more than that to scare me off.  I live with two teenagers; now that’s scary!
Credit:  Maurizio Abbate,

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Comments on PR-related blogs

 comment due September 24th
As a Public Relations student, this list is a great guide of standards to live up to, no matter where this journey takes me.  It’s also a good guide for business leaders to be able to measure expectations.   Comparatively to others, public relations is a rather young specialty, so business leaders might not be aware of the return on investment they can realistically expect.  Whether employed by a PR firm or directly within an organization, the goals and strategies should be the same.  It comes down to values.  As the title of this blog refers to, are you a “pro”?  If you take pride in a job well done, you’ll be looking out for your client or company no matter what.  Like in any field, if you can’t deliver, you’ll eventually be shown the door.  That’s not to say that a dedicated individual won’t make mistakes.  It’s their willingness and ability to learn from their mistakes and rectify any missteps as much as possible that will solidify their trustworthiness and worth.

comment due October 21st
When I read the ongoing saga of the Lance Armstrong situation, I get a really uneasy sensation.  I think ExcuseMe hit the nail right on the head by posting, “people just don't know how to feel or what they feel regarding Lance. Did he or didn't he, is he or was he?” I don’t follow cycling but I do own a few articles of Livestrong apparel.  Until this all unraveled, I considered Livestrong to be a noble and high quality brand that was fighting for a worthy cause that touches so many.  Though the worthiness of the cause hasn’t diminished in any way, the gleam that the Livestrong name evoked has lost its luster.  Though Mr. Armstrong has stepped down as chairman of the foundation, he will always remain an intrinsic part in my mind.  For Livestrong, rebranding may be the best way to move on and focus on its mission.

comment due November 4th
Though formal education can provide the basics, much of PR is learnt by doing and by watching what others are doing, whether they’re doing it right or wrong.  The companies that tried to capitalize on hurricane Sandy through promotions such as hurricane sales have truly seen their efforts backfire. If these businesses couldn’t keep silent during this natural disaster, they would have been better off to put out a simple heartfelt message to the victims.  In the analysis of their activities and subsequent results, these companies should see the lesson quite clearly.  The lesson should be quite clear to those watching as well.  How long lasting the effects of these missteps will be remains to be seen.  Social media allows companies to react to current situations quite instantaneously.  The backlash can be just as swift however so social media strategies need to be as well thought out as traditional PR campaigns. 

comment due November 19th
What’s next?  Opening on Christmas Day?  Although there will always be employees that are willing to work on statutory holidays, I venture to guess that the vast majority would rather be spending time with family.  I think this will hurt the bottom line rather than help.  Consumers only have an X number of dollars to spend.  Whether they do that at 8PM on Thanksgiving or 7AM on Black Friday, it doesn’t change their spending threshold. The added expense lies with the store than has to concern itself with staffing for the holiday. In the end, we all pay for that.

When employees feel valued, they are less likely to seek work elsewhere.  Retailers may find themselves realizing too late that their eagerness to jump the gun on sales will increase employee turnover which is costly in itself.  Good employers breed good employees.  This leads to happy customers which translates into repeat sales. 

PR...Figuring It Out

I am halfway through the Public Relations program but am just now taking the first class of the series due to scheduling.  It’s crazy now that I think of it but I don’t think I ever stopped to analyze what I thought PR was.  I just blindly embarked on this multiple year journey.  It started as a recommendation from my manager.  When I was first hired, she mentioned that a couple of PR classes might be beneficial to my work.  Career wise, I thought it would be more beneficial to do the whole diploma rather than a couple of isolated courses.  At some point in my life, someone ingrained in me that you should always finish what you start.  If by the time my boss retired I had my sights set on her job, I figured this diploma would make me more marketable. 

 To date I’ve completed all the elective courses as well as written and oral communication.  This is truly my first taste of what PR is about.  I like what I hear!  The PR diploma is no longer my attempt at doing my employer’s succession planning but a serious career contemplation.  The reality of the Winnipeg market being that public relations is generally a portion of the job description isn’t a deterrent;  it’s a value add.  As the saying goes, “variety is the spice of life.”  I am an organizer and I enjoy a fast paced environment. Though organization skills are beneficial in my current position, the last thing I would call my job is fast paced which has impacted my satisfaction.  PR could be a good fit. 

My aim is to use this class and the PR#2 course as a period of self-reflection.   I would love to hear more about the career possibilities as well as any volunteer opportunities that would make a new grad a little more attractive to a potential employer.