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Applebee's recent PR failure can serve as a case of worst practices in social media

Applebee’s recent PR failure can serve as a case of worst practices in social media.

I’m sure most of you have heard of the recent debacle at your friendly neighborhood Applebee’s, but for those of you still out of the loop here is the rundown.

A waitress at Applebee’s posted a picture of a bill with a hand-written note form a customer complaining about the built-in gratuity. The customer crossed out the 18 percent and added “I give God 10 percent, why would I give you 18?”

After the photo was posted the worker was fired and chaos ensued.

I’m not here to argue for freedom of speech, or even to make a case for the fact that another Applebee’s bill was posted on a social media site with a positive comment and no disciplinary actions were taken.

Instead, I would like to draw attention to some major no-no’s on the part of Applebee’s social media team and see what can be learned from such a catastrophic failure.

First let’s talk about what went wrong.

In PR there are plenty of ways to deal with a crisis, two of which are complete and total transparency as well as strategic silence. As I’m sure you can tell, by definition, the two do not mesh. Even individually, Applebee’s managed to botch the methods.

In an interview with ABC News, Dan Smith, Applebee’s spokesperson, admitted to in many cases, responding to negative comments on their Facebook page by copying and pasting the policy which the former employee had violated. This, in my mind, is worse than the automated replies used by some companies. This approach is unprofessional and only served to fuel the firestorm of angry comments towards the comany.

To make matters worse, the company disabled user posts on their Facebook page, thus rendering the public voiceless. This defeats the entire purpose of social media for corporate use. Without feedback from the public, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and all other mediums simply become another advertisement lost in the clutter. In this particular case, this move also made it look as though Applebee’s had something to hide. This is what I was referring to earlier about missing the mark on the strategic silence approach.

So, what can be learned from Applebee’s misfortune?

First and foremost, before there ever is a crisis on hand, companies need to have a plan of action. This is especially true now, in the age of social media when a single comment or post can serve as a catalyst for all sorts of bad press. Applebee’s first mistake was not having this plan laid out.

Next was the generic response to comments on their Facebook page.  Again I’ll stress the importance of social media as a form of two-way communication. Consumers know when you are not being authentic in your response and an automated response is by no means genuine.

Saving the best for last-and by best I mean worst- Applebee’s disabled user comments. In the ABC interview, Smith explains that this was in an attempt to respond to the overwhelming amount of comments. If this is indeed true, there is another very simple solution. RELEASE A STATEMENT. Facebook and Twitter are excellent venues to release a single, concise, and well planned statement which will deliver your desired message the public all at once.

The bottom line is that social media has changed the way we interact with our audiences and crisis management needs to evolve with the times.

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Éole / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Anyone who has ever tried an Oreo will probably agree when I say any advertising effort on their part is not exactly necessary.

That didn’t stop the brand’s social media team from capitalizing on the real star of the Super Bowl. No not Beyonce, not Ray Lewis, THE Blackout.

During the one of the most highly televised events of the year, when companies are willing to pay upwards of $3 million for a commercial spot, Oreo got perhaps the best hype without spending a dime.

Within minutes of the blackout, Oreo and their ad agency 360i had composed a tweet, “Power out? No problem.”, complete with a graphic and a catchy saying, “You can still dunk in the dark.”

In an interview with AdAge, president of the brand’s digital agency 360i, Sarah Hofstetter explains the story behind such a quick and well executed response.

The marketers for the brand and the 360i team were in a sort of “mission control” watching the Super Bowl when the lights went out.

Hofstetter said the graphic was “designed, captioned, and approved within minutes.”

This is a lesson to all PR professionals and a reminder of the importance of an active and relevant social media presence.

While the average consumer will soon forget Oreo’s valiant effort in light of the blackout (pun intended), the world of PR will surely look at this as a prime example of a “best practice” for years to come. Or at least until something replaces Twitter.

Cola-Cola has a history of iconic ads. From Mean Joe Greene in 1979 to those cute polar bears we see every winter, there is no denying Coke has become an American Institution.

While it’s hard to argue with a company with over 125 years under its belt, Coke’s new “Coming Together” ad me questioning their most recent efforts.

The ad, which debuted Jan. 14, is half PR genius and half slap in the face to consumers.

The Good:
Coke makes a concerted effort to promote their 180 low and no-calorie drinks. This ensures that while promoting healthy beverage choices to consumers they won’t see a significant drop in sales.

Coke also highlights all the work that they have done to combat obesity, especially in children. They have worked closely in with the Boys and Girls Club of American and “voluntarily” removed high calorie sodas and other drinks from schools across the country.

The Bad and the Ugly:

Coke is pointing fingers.

This ad not only blames other high-calorie foods for the obesity epidemic sweeping the nation, they also place blame on consumers.

While there may be an element of “we-were-all-thinking-it” to this situation, consumers may not respond well to an industry leader blaming customers for their own weight issues.

Another issue is that Coke is placing all the emphasis on the caloric content of their products.

It seems to me that they are intentionally turning a blind eye to the high amounts of sugar in not only their sodas, but also their “healthier” low-calorie beverages.

Overall, as a student of strategic communications and a future PR professional this was a extremely smart, proactive attempt to save sales during a time when American’s have become more and more weight conscious.

From a consumer’s point-of-view this ad made me feel targeted as the root of the obesity problem while Coke is left looking good.

Hello everyone. My name is Katie and I am a graduating senior strategic communications major at Ohio State University.

I have had two internships and I am excited to start my career in the field of communication. I hope to find a job at an independent public relations or advertising agency.

I am currently a member of Public Relations Student Society of America here at Ohio State and am a proud volunteer in the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. I am also doing an independent study at The Lantern,  Ohio State’s school newspaper.

On my blog you can see my views on things that I find interesting in the field of strategic communications and public relations.

I am new to blogging and relatively inexperienced so I am excited to get this off the ground and see how it goes.

I hope you can all enjoy my input and maybe add some of your own so we can get a conversation going on the ever-evolving field of strategic communication.

 

Contact:

Katie Lianez

North Market Public Relations

740-867-5309

klianez@osu.edu

 

NorthMarket

The North Market houses 33 locally owned vendors in the heart of downtown Columbus, Ohio.

 

North Market: Foodie Central for Central Ohio

North Market Gears up for the New Year Full of Events

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec 8, 2012- Nestled in the heart of downtown Columbus between the Short North and the Arena District, in an unassuming warehouse, lays 44,000 square feet of culinary wares waiting to be discovered.

The North Market is the physical embodiment of every foodie’s dream. Serving up an extensive selection of international foods, meats and cheeses, as well as baked goods and pastries, Columbus’ only public market is the perfect place to spend a day sampling or to stop in for a quick lunch.

This is food you can feel good about eating. Vendors take pride in using the highest quality, usually locally farmed ingredients.

A prime example can be found in the heart of the market in the form of The Greener Grocer. Offering fresh, locally grown, organic produce, this is truly food with a conscious.

“Its special to be a part of a group of really independently minded entrepreneurs,” said Colleen Wuhn, operations manager of The Greener Grocer.

If the promise of fresh ingredients and delectable food hasn’t already pulled you in, the North Market has a full calendar of events to keep things interesting.

To finish out 2012, the Christmas celebrations are now in full swing. Watch for live holiday music, kids’ cookie decorating  from Mozart’s bakery, and fresh cut Christmas trees for sale on the Farmers’ Market Plaza.

Children 12 and younger are invited to the Dispatch Kitchen between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.today to decorate a holiday cut-out cookie from Mozart’s Bakery.

If you’re still looking for the perfect Christmas tree, Rhoads Farm Market will have five varieties of their fresh cut firs for sale in all shapes and sizes, Saturday, December 15. You can even contact them ahead of time to have a cut-to-order tree bagged and waiting for you.

“If you’re looking for a tall skinny one to stick in a corner or big bushy one to hang lots of ornaments on we can have it waiting for you,” said Kathy Rhoads of Rhoads Farm Market.

While you’re picking up a Christmas tree, why not get something to put under it? The North Market sells gift certificates in five dollar increments in addition to all the delicious food. Beats re-gifting again.

The New Year is shaping up to be rather exciting as well. February’s Fiery Food Festival is set for President’s Day weekend.

“We bring in spicy food producers from the region. We also have some vendors from Illinois, New York, and Maryland,” said John Hard, co-chair of the event and owner of CaJohns Flavor & Fire, a North Market staple for all things spicy since 2006.

For those brave enough to endure some of the hottest recipes in the Midwest, there is unlimited sampling. Keep an eye out for some of the friendly competition that weekend as well, including the amateur and profession chili cook-offs in the Dispatch Kitchen.

Despite the name, this event is for everyone. Visitors with a slightly less daring palate can enjoy some of the vendors more mild selections.

About:

The North Market sits at 59 Spruce Street in downtown Columbus, Ohio. This non-profit is the only public market in Columbus. Open seven days a week, with 33 local vendors, there is something to suit everyone’s taste buds. This isn’t just a market, “people use it as a gathering place,” said to director of marketing, Mary Martineau. There are plenty of ways to get involved with the market too. Volunteer at the market,  try the Amazing Tastes Tour , or sign up for one of the School of Cooking classes.

Contact:

Katie Lianez

Public Relations Officer

740-867-5309

klianez@osu.edu

 

 

Big Brothers Big Sisters Recognizes Matches at Annual Luncheon

 COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec.1 2012- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio recently honored the three matches of the year at their annual luncheon.

Matches were honored in three categories, community based, school based, and dual. The dual match started in the school based program and later became a community based match.

The community based match honored was John Hawley and his little Jeremy. Christie Thompson and her little Tolly were honored in the school based program, and Sharyn Rigsbee and her little, Brandy were recognized as the dual match of the year.

In addition the recognizing these honorees, two Big Brothers Big Sisters alumni spoke at the luncheon. Mayra Flores, a member of the inaugural school based program, Project Mentor, talked about her experiences in the program. Flores, who has just started her first year of college, is a nice example of a BBBS success story.

The second speaker, a “little” now in his forties, was David Sturgill. “It was a neat touch, David was actually John’s [Hawley] little when he was in school,” said Mary Palkowski, marketing director with BBBS.

To end the luncheon, CEO Ed Cohn gave an overview of the years successes and finally thanked the matches for another year of hard work.

Next on the organizations agenda is their biggest fundraiser of the year, Bowl for Kids’ Sake. The 2013 event will be held in March at the Columbus Square Bowling Palace. Everyone is welcome to organize a team and join in on the fun.

 

About:

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of promising, underprivileged children by encouraging friendships between children and adult volunteers. Volunteers can participate in school based programs such as Project Mentor or the traditional community based programs. If you are interested in volunteering there is always program to fit your time schedule.