What's New in Public Relations

November 16, 2011

Dreams Come True for Ken … and PR Firms

Filed under: Public Relations Posts — Carlie @ 11:09 pm

In 2004, the world was heartbroken to find out that Barbie and Ken, after being together for forty-three years, had parted ways. Barbie had taken up with newly-release Blaine, and Ken was left on his own.

After seven years apart, Ken decided in early 2011, just in time for his 50th anniversary, that he wanted Barbie back. But what’s a guy to do when it seems as though the doll of his dreams has moved on?

Mattel used this campaign to revamp interest in Barbie and Ken all over the world and to a wide variety of audiences. After a successful 50th anniversary campaign for Barbie in 2009, they continued to use social media to create interest in the reunion. Ken tweeted frequently about how much he missed his girlfriend of forty-three years and Facebook updates kept fans aware of the stunts he pulled to win Barbie back. While Foursquare let everyone know where his latest event was going on, YouTube videos  showed him filling out a dating profile and finding Barbie as his perfect match. All of these social media platforms led fans to a website (no longer active) asking fans to vote on whether or not the couple should reunite.

But the campaign was more than just viral. In the real world, billboards above the busy streets of New York and LA announced Ken’s goal of winning Barbie back and specially commissioned cupcakes from a popular bakery in New York City showed off Barbie’s favourite colours. But my two favourite part of the campaign happened right here in Canada.

First off, a number of reporters for lifestyle and consumer publications “accidentally” received packages containing roses, a love letter from Ken to Barbie, and a newly-released Sweet-Talking Ken doll with a message saying how badly he wanted to get back together with his “favourite doll”. A message was then sent from a publicist for Ken, apologizing for the mix-up and begging for their help in reuniting him with Barbie. What an amazing way for Mattel to get journalists intrigued for the campaign!

Then, models hired for their resemblance to Ken were hired to spend time in Toronto’s Union Station, meeting with travellers to hand out flowers and pins that proclaimed “I Love Barbie”. My every dream from childhood would have been fulfilled if I had been in Union Station that day!  (Who are we kidding, my every dream from today would have been fulfilled if I’d been there!)

In Toronto alone, the publicity from these events was outstanding. According to the PR firm that staged the events, “Ken” was interviewed on several television and radio shows all over Ontario and many newspapers (print and online) published stories about the events. It also showed that Barbie and Ken are both up to date in the social media-conscious world that we live in today. But media aside, did it really work? Did Ken manage to win back his dream doll?

It turns out that dreams really do come true – Barbie and Ken reunited on Valentines Day, February 14, 2011. Barbie updated her relationship status on Facebook to “In A Relationship” and Ken set the bar at a completely unattainable height for any future guy hoping to get back with their ex!


November 7, 2011

You Can Call Me …

Filed under: Public Relations Posts — Carlie @ 6:20 pm

Social media is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our everyday lives. We use sites like Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with friends, learn about current events, and follow our favourite celebrities. And a soccer team has taken that last one to new heights.

One team from the Mexican Primera Division, the Jaguares de Chiapes, decided to replace their names on the back of the jerseys with their Twitter handles. They hope to use this stunt to develop a stronger fan base online, as the names on the jerseys will make it easier for fans to search and follow their favourites.

Although the Jaguares are the first team to completely replace their own names with their Twitter accounts, other teams and players have pulled similar stunts. Another soccer team put the Twitter handles on the fronts of jerseys, while a member of the Manchester United team has mentioned that it’s something he has considered. But is it really a good idea to take things this far?

One sports site says points out that it will be harder for fans, especially new fans, to learn the real names of their favourite players and to cheer at the games. It also creates a much “busier” jersey, with a lot of space taken up by what could be seen as ads, something that could turn off some fans.

I was unable to find any information about Twitter’s thoughts on this, or whether it is something that they sponsored. Regardless, it is sure to garner a lot of interest in both the team and Twitter itself, if only to gauge the the success of the stunt.

November 5, 2011

It’s That Time of Year Again …

Filed under: Public Relations Posts — Carlie @ 2:13 am


Once again, it’s that time of year. The one month when any guy has the opportunity to rock a ‘stache, and when the girls can’t do anything about it. That’s right …

It’s Movember.

Since it began in Australia just a few years ago, Movember has become an incredible world-wide phenomenon. The fundraising efforts have earned millions of dollars for men’s health initiatives in dozens of countries; last year in Canada alone, one hundred and nineteen thousand people officially participated in the campaign. And a large part of Movember’s success all over the world is its incredible use of public relations.

Many of those who participate in Movember are young people, so it fits that the campaign is very closely tied to social media. The program’s Youtube videos are popular and facebook and twit pics can easily update followers with progress reports. The official program also has a website similar to facebook, where participants can create a profile and update it with photos and notes detailing their mo progress. The website also has an easy way for supporters to donate directly to a participant they’d like to support. Check out my friend Ryan’s profile for an idea of how easy it is to make a donation through this feature!

The program also plans ‘thank you’ events for participants at the end of the month. Known officially as “Gala Partés”, guys are asked to dress in a way that matches their mo and girls are asked to match the guys. Prizes are awarded throughout the night for a variety of different categories. Although the whole point of Movember is that it’s fun and social already, having a way to thank volunteers is a great way to keep supporters loyal to the program.

Of course, I also can’t imagine a campaign that is easier to advertise and promote than Movember. As one PR website points out, anyone who participates becomes one ofmany “walking, talking billboards for the cause!” Within the first few days of the month, it is impossible to be unaware of Movember on any college or university campus that I’ve ever visited. And really, is there any more effective way to raise awareness of a cause than by literally plastering it all over someone’s face?

Overall, Movember is a fun way to fundraise for a really serious cause. Like their slogan says: Together, we can change the face of men’s health!


**Need some inspiration for your mo? Although Lord Kitchener’s is always a favourite for me, check out Top 10 Celebrity Staches and decide from there!

November 1, 2011

A Guide (Dog?) for Good PR

Filed under: Public Relations Posts — Carlie @ 3:18 am

On October 23, Emily Ainsworth and her mother went to Winners in Edmonton to use a gift certificate that Emily had received from the store. But after picking out a dress and heading to the change rooms, they were told that they were no longer welcome because Emily, who has autism, was accompanied by Levi, the Labradoodle trained as a service dog. The worst part of this story? A few months earlier, Emily and her mom had been kicked out of the same store for the same issue. In fact, management gave them the gift certificate to apologize for the first incident.


Although each province has its own regulations and laws in place for service animals, it’s a given almost anywhere in Canada that a dog wearing the proper harness and accompanying someone with the proper license should never be evicted from a public place. Many people assume that service dogs are only for the blind, but a huge variety of people with a huge variety of disorders can benefit from the use of a service dog.


This incident could have been disastrous public relations for Winners. However, they did their best to turn it around. They took full responsibility for the incident, rather than blaming the victims or attempting to brush off the situation. The head of Winners’ locations in Western Canada spoke directly to the family and to the media, showing that the situation is indeed important to the store and its management and clarifying that this incident does not reflect Winners’ values or regulations. Finally, they found a way to make the situation better – they promised to educate all employees on policies regarding service dogs and will be making a $10 000 charitable donation to a charity chosen by the Ainsworth family.


It fits that Emily and her parents have decided to donate the money to training a service dog for another autistic child! Hopefully with the proper training programs in place, situations like this can be avoided in the future.

October 17, 2011

The Dark Knight is the White Knight of Public Relations

Filed under: Public Relations Posts — Carlie @ 4:13 am

When The Dark Knight opened in theatres on July 18, 2008, it was immediately a huge success. Within its first weekend, it had sold out in theatres across North America and earned almost two hundred million dollars. In total, its run in theatres made over one billion dollars, making it the tenth highest grossing movie of all time.


Part of The Dark Knight’s success is, of course, the fact that Batman has been an immensely popular brand for decades. (Perhaps the topic of a future blog post?) Initially created in 1940 as a comic book character, he has been the subject of graphic novels, TV shows and many different films before 2008. As well, the movie received rave reviews and was meant to be, like 2005’s Batman Begins, a grittier, scarier retelling of the Caped Crusader tale.


Another part of the movie’s success, though, was the public relations campaign that took place before the release. Event planners and media relations did a huge amount of work to promote the movie to a wide variety of fans and the effectiveness of their campaign was easy to see when fans flocked to the midnight release at thousands of theatres worldwide.


Public relations and media personnel for The Dark Knight created an enormous online campaign to promote the film. One of the first attempts to raise the public’s awareness of the movie was related to the movie’s website; it encouraged people to actively demonstrate their anticipation of the movie. The first treat for fans was the revelation of the first images of Heath Ledger in his Joker makeup and costume. The release of this photo was a multi-step process:
1) The initial movie website was set up in May 2007. It featured little more than the Bat-symbol and a link to another related website about the fictional election of Gotham City’s new district attorney, Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart.
2) Not long after these initial sites became active, comic book stores in the United States found that Joker cards from traditional decks of playing cards had been scattered around their stores, inscribed with, “I believe in Harvey Dent, too!” This strange message lead fans to find a new website of the same title. This third website featured a photo of Harvey Dent smeared with clown makeup.
3) When a certain number of people had registered with the newest website, the prize was revealed: for just a few days, visitors were able to see the first official photos of the Joker’s latest incarnation.
4) After a few days, the image was removed and replaced with another simple message: “See you in December”
According to an author at a website for movie marketing The Dark Knight nailed it with this campaign and the way that they continued to use their websites to drum up media and hype. They say, “Getting a look at a new trailer or whatever becomes dependent on their activity or at least their alertness. They *need* to participate or the goodies will go away. At least that’s the perception that’s created through such efforts.”


Another stunt involved the distribution of fake newspapers around various public events. “The Gotham Times” featured stories that promoted the film and was released on American Thanksgiving weekend, 2007. Headlines like “City at War – Batman Saves Entire Family” helped to foreshadow hinted about features and plot points in the movie. On the newspaper’s website, fans could also click on the subscription information to see The Joker’s version of the news in another Internet attraction for the film.


We’ve learned in our Public Relations classes that, compared to traditional marketing and advertising, public relations can often be quite cheap. In many cases, getting a good buzz about your product or event doesn’t have to be terribly expensive and can still produce amazing results.  Obviously, in the case of some of the stunts, features, and large-scale events (like fake kidnappings) for The Dark Knight, this was probably not the case. However, the smaller projects targeting different markets and audiences helped to make sure that the movie went on to become one of the most successful movies of all time.


The third part of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, will be released in theatres in the summer of 2012. With less than a year left to go, fans can hopefully expect that the PR team for this latest thriller is at work planning new and exciting promotions for the latest set of villains – Cat Woman and Bane – and for another series of events that will set anticipation at its highest level.

October 10, 2011

Good PR, in Seven Easy Steps

Filed under: Public Relations Posts — Carlie @ 11:37 pm

Since I began my program in public relations, I’ve been asked by many friends and family members what exactly I do at school and what I’m hoping to do when I’m done. At times, I’ve been at a bit of a loss when trying to explain how exactly PR can be used and how it can be effective. But an article on a public relations website has laid out seven elements that should make it easy to learn about how to be “good” at public relations.


Several of the items on the list are topics that we’ve studied in the classroom, either in terms of case studies or straight up on their own. One example is the seventh point on the list. It explains that you don’t necessarily need to have a tonne of connections established and the entire media at your beck and call. It’s really all about how you tell your story. “Good PR almost always ‘gets ink’ because a good story has been well-told to the right people”, explains the author of the list, a PR veteran of seventeen years at the time of writing. Our writing class emphasizes this point frequently: you need to make sure that what you’re writing is going to be read, or what’s the point of writing it in the first place? It’s important to make sure that you know your audience, know how to get your message across to this group, and present it in a way that they will be able to respond.


Interacting with those with experience in the field is without doubt one of the best ways to learn any profession, and with the internet and the many ways that people can easily communicate today, articles like this make it easy for those starting off to find out tips and hints for the workplace. Point six on the list says that it’s important to “leverage pre-existing relationships with influential people”, and articles like this make it easy to start forming relationships and hopefully making those connections!

October 6, 2011

Burberry and the Tweetwalk

Filed under: Public Relations Posts — Carlie @ 3:14 pm

Since the dawn of social media, a huge number of changes have taken place in the world of public relations. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and other websites have made it easier for people working in communications to get in touch with their audience and to reach a great number of people at once. Twitter makes it especially effortless to get in touch with followers and fans as anyone can become a fan of products, companies and people. And British fashion house Burberry recently used their Twitter account to do something incredibly new and innovative for its followers.

Burberry was founded in 1856 and, according to its Twitter profile, is a “global brand with a distinctly British attitude”. With well over five hundred thousand followers on Twitter and close to nine millions “Likes” on facebook, they reach a huge number of fans with their social media platforms. They are favourites of the British Royal Family, who have granted them Royal Warrants, and they are, according to Business Weekly, in the top one hundred most valuable brands.

Before the London Fashion Week in September 2011, Burberry announced that it had partnered with Twitter to create a “Tweetwalk” for its London show on September 19th. Their tweet that day explained it all in, of course, 140 characters or less: “Excited to announce the first ever #Tweetwalk Show. SS12 (Spring Summer 2012) looks will be on Twitter before the runway. Follow @Burberry today at 4pm #LFW – CB”. Their plan was to snap a twitpic of each model as they prepared to head out onto the runway and post the photos online so that their Twitter followers could catch a glimpse of the clothes before anyone else.

This stunt received huge coverage. As we learned in our public relations case studies class, it’s always the first person (or organization in this case) to do something that gets the most press, and the Tweetwalk was mentioned in publications that focus on fashion as well as technology and business . The Tweetwalk even helped to spread Burberry’s brand message in areas that they would not normally receive coverage: this site focuses on a combination of social media, technology and business, and the Tweetwalk fits perfectly with the interests of their readers regardless of their interest in luxury fashion. In fact, when I googled “Burberry Twitter Fashion Week” days after the event, only half of the hits on the first page of results were on fashion websites.

But what did the average person think of the stunt? Was it a hit or a flop? According to one reviewer, the early view of designs and clothes made Twitter followers feel that have become Burberry’s new VIPs. It connects the brand to the people and shows that the company appreciates them and their business. As social media users are often “early adopters and opinion leaders”, the Tweetwalk used public relations, and a cheap form of it at that, to show that they are ahead of other luxury brands.

The news wasn’t all positive, though. Some people complained that the Tweetwalk dominated their Twitter feeds during the show. Those who weren’t interested in seeing each design were flooded with the twitpics regardless. However, as it was something new and exciting, it received a huge amount of media despite the occasional negative point of view in some articles.

Overall, the articles and reviews that I read were positive and highlighted the innovation, the creativity and the excitement of the Tweetwalk. Burberry is ahead of the curve in terms of public relations and social media, and they’ve started something that could be the beginning of a new multi-industry trend.

October 3, 2011

Never Nudes, rejoice!

Filed under: Public Relations Posts — Carlie @ 12:38 am

Never Nudes, Frozen Banana Lovers and Blue Men finally have reason again to celebrate! It was announced this past weekend, after years of hope and speculation from fans, that not only will an Arrested Development movie soon appear in theatres, but a limited run of the show will start in the near future as well.


Arrested Development aired on Fox for three seasons, from 2003 until 2006. During its run, it won many awards, including several Emmys, and earned a huge cult following. Sadly, its third season was cut short and it was cancelled after the 2005-2006 season. Since then, many rumours have talked of a movie, but until October 2, 2011, it was simply a faint hope for diehard fans.


I tried to find more information about Arrested Development and how it used public relations to increase its fan base, find guest stars and, now, promote its movie, but when I looked up “Arrested Development public relations” on Google, all I cold find was reviews and synopses of season one, episode eleven, “Public Relations”, where Michael hires a publicist that he has been flirting with at the gym to improve the family’s image. Hilarity, of course, ensues.


So until I can find more information about real publicists for the show and how they used public relations effectively, please enjoy the Bluth Family Chicken Dance.

September 29, 2011

Video Girl Barbie

Filed under: Public Relations Posts — Carlie @ 1:27 am

During the summer of 2010, Mattel introduced a new Barbie to the world. Known as “Video Girl Barbie”, the doll comes dressed in jeans and a hoody (pink, of course) with her trademark long blond hair up in a high ponytail. It is her necklace, though, that really makes her special. The permanently attached jewelry is actually a tiny webcam that girls can use to make short movies. Editing software, provided with the doll, lets girls upload their videos and create short films on Barbie’s website. The goal was to make Barbie more appealing to girls in today’s technology focused world.


The problem began to surface around the holiday season that year. Someone released an internal memo from the FBI to the press about problems that could come from this Barbie. According to the memo, the doll is seen as “a possible child pornography production method”. Immediately, the media picked up the story and began reporting the risks associate with Barbie’s latest incarnation.


Of course, this incident is far from the first time that Barbie has dealt with public relations issues. Share-A-Smile Becky, the first Barbie doll to come in a wheelchair, could not fit in the elevator in the Barbie Dream Home. In 1965, Sleepover Barbie came with a scale set permanently to 110 pounds and a book on how to lose weight, including a page that said, “Don’t Eat!” Some Teen Talk Barbies, a doll that could “speak” a few select phrases, were found to say, “Math class is hard!” which caused controversy amongst groups that promoted post-secondary education for girls. And of course, there is the ongoing issue of Barbie having unrealistic proportions and promoting an unhealthy body image to young girls.


However, Barbie recently celebrated her fiftieth birthday. How is it that a doll with so many public relations issues has survived this long?


Part of Barbie’s longevity is that she constantly reinvents herself. She has had millions of different outfits and fashions, hundreds of jobs and roles, and enough pets and vehicles to fill any girl’s toy room. Her designers have been good at making sure that Barbie reflects the trends of the times to appeal to the girls of the day.


They have also been good at dealing with their public relations issues. They promised to redesign the Dream Home elevator to accommodate Becky’s wheelchair. They stopped producing dolls that talked about math and allowed owners of these Teen Talk Barbie dolls to trade them in for one without that phrase in her vocabulary. And in 1997, at a time when eating disorders were starting to become more common in North America, it was announced that Barbie would get a makeover: smaller hips, a wider waist, a smaller bust. Going from the unrealistic dimensions of what some have estimated to be around 38-18-34, the new Barbie look was meant to make Barbie look more true-to-life and to discourage girls from feeling as though they needed to resemble the dolls, as well as to fit better into the popular fashions of the time.


As for Video Girl Barbie, Mattel released a statement reassuring the public that the safety of children as one of their highest priorities. They also confirmed the FBI’s report that the doll had, to their knowledge, never been used in anything but an appropriate way. “Steve Dupre from the FBI Sacramento field office has confirmed there have been no incidents of this doll being used as anything other than its intent,” says the statement. “Mattel products are designed with children and their best interests in mind”.


Had some kind of incident occurred that put children in danger, I’m sure that Mattel would have reacted different. It would be completely inappropriate for them to do nothing but release a statement if it was possible that children were at risk from their product. As it was, however, Video Girl Barbie provided a way for girls to learn about new technology and sill enjoy a doll that has proven to be a timeless classic!

September 21, 2011

Magic and Pasta

Filed under: Public Relations Posts — Carlie @ 2:04 pm

As part of my post-degree public relations program, my classmates and I are expected to write a blog to discuss public relations and the topics that we’re studying in class. Hopefully, this will be a way for me to learn more about social media, quality PR writing, and how to communicate with a broader group of people. So far, we’re learning about how to use the online format, hyperlinks, and what the topics of our blogs should be.

If anyone has any advice or suggestions about public relations-related topics that I can discuss, learn more about, and share, please let me know in the comments section! I’d love to hear some feedback and learn about areas that interest others in the wide-open field of PR.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to keep you entertained and interested!

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