A Blog About Blogs

An undergraduate thesis about blogging, public relations, marketing and social media

Fortune 500 Blogs December 22, 2008

Filed under: Public Relations,Social Media — Stephanie Sheppard @ 8:39 pm
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As newspaper staffs and circulations continue to shrink and broadcast news segments are cut in half, it’s more than apparent that public relations is changing forever. With less journalists to pitch and even less space/time for news, traditional methods of using mainstream media to reach consumers isn’t going to cut it. In order to survive, public relations professionals must find new ways of reaching the public directly, such as via blogs and other social media. Surprisingly, I’m not seeing the major changes I would have expected by now.

Angelo Fernando of Valley PR Blog posted today about a Wiki project that reviews Fortune 500 blogs. According to their research, only 12.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies are blogging as of November 2008. I find this statistic to be staggeringly low considering the current state of the media. On the Wiki, you can find links to each of the 64 Fortune 500 blogs.

Additionally, the Wiki links to Michael Turk’s analysis of corporate blogging by looking at a sample of 30 Fortune 500 blogs. Turk rated each blog by content style (information vs. commentary) and writing style (logical & formal vs. casual & colloquial). Overall, he found that:

“While it might be assumed that a corporate blog would err on the side of formality to protect public image, findings show that this is not the case.

Approximately two-thirds of the weblogs studied were more casual and personable than formal and cold, indicating that these companies are utilizing blogs as a way to humanize the brand. One-third of the measured blogs opted to create the bulk of their content with a “commentary” bias.”

This suggests to me that those major companies who are blogging are using it in a wise way, but not everyone is catching on. I fear the do or die period is very quickly approaching, and public relations staffs who don’t implement social media tactics will not be successful.


Value of Customer Service December 15, 2008

Filed under: Marketing and Advertising,Public Relations — Stephanie Sheppard @ 5:21 pm
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During a drive home over the weekend, I was rear-ended and pushed into a vehicle in front of me. You would think that since I work for an insurance company, I’d know exactly what to do. But of course, I didn’t. Luckily, all parties involved were very nice and waiting on the side of the road in the cold with me for more than an hour to file a police report. (Yes, that’s how long it took for DPS to arrive.)

Per the officer’s instructions, I called my insurance company the following day to file a claim (even though the accident was not my fault). The representative I talked to seemed annoyed to be on the phone with me, couldn’t find an adjuster anywhere near my house and had a hard time answering my questions.

After scheduling an appointment with one of my insurance company’s adjusters at the end of the Earth and at an inconvenient time, the person at fault’s insurance company called me. This person was extremely helpful, sent me links to online databases of approved car repair places so I could pick one wherever I’d like and even told me what to do to close my claim with my insurance company.

I couldn’t believe the stark difference in customer service. You wouldn’t think you’d receive excellent treatment from a competing company. It occurred to me that insurance is one of the few industries where competitors have to contact other company’s customers all the time. This is a huge opportunity to show superior customer service and win additional customers. Especially since being involved in a car accident is already frustrating, good customer service can go a long way. After my experience, I am certainly considering switching. We’ll see how this all pans out after my car is fixed…


Good riddance, Rudy December 6, 2008

Filed under: Public Relations — Stephanie Sheppard @ 1:53 am

Tomorrow’s rival football game against the Arizona Wildcats will be Rudy Carpenter’s last game as a Sun Devil. And so many of us are all too ready to see him go. I’m willing to bet ASU’s PR team is ecstatic.

Despite that according to the stats Carpenter will leave as one of the better quarterbacks in Sun Devil history, he was loudly booed by the student section when he came out of the tunnel during last week’s “senior night” game. Although many are disappointed with his performance this season, that’s not the reason he’s so hated by students and fans alike. If Rudy weren’t such a hot head both on and off the field, I guarantee he’d start receiving the respect that he feels he deserves.

From throwing off his helmet, cursing at the student section from the sidelines, throwing drinks and start fights at ASU mens’ basketball games, Rudy’s behavior in his past four years has been one headache after another for ASU athletics. Just this weekend, Rudy was tossed from a high school girls’ basketball game for heckling the ref and using foul language. Way to go out with a bang.

I know his behavior affects donations to ASU athletic programs and the university’s reputation as a whole. Good riddance, Rudy. We won’t miss you.


Golfer’s honesty is admirable December 2, 2008

Filed under: Public Relations — Stephanie Sheppard @ 11:06 pm
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Although I don’t generally follow golf, I found this story to be incredibly relevant to public relations.

Golfer J.P Hayes’ turned himself in when he realized that he had mistakenly used an unapproved golf ball for two strokes during the the first round of the PGA Tour’s qualifying tournament. Had he not admitted his mistake, it’s very likely that no one would have noticed and he’d be well on his way to the PGA Tournament next year. The penalty that resulted disqualified him from the second stage of qualifying school.

In a time when sports is often associated with cheating and scandal, this move received quite a bit of attention. Isn’t everyone tired of hearing about steroids? Hayes’ act of honesty scored him some great publicity, and I think is great for the sport as well. Here’s just another reason to view golf as a sport of integrity, rather than just another competition.

I would imagine that despite the disqualification, Hayes, the PGA Tour and golf in general are pleased with the outcome. In fact, Hayes has already begun to reap additional benefits. Over the weekend, he accepted a sponsor’s exemption to the 2009 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas.


PR pros must be proactive November 21, 2008

Filed under: Public Relations — Stephanie Sheppard @ 7:20 pm
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Len Gutman, Valley PR Blog author and founder of Open Door Communications, posted this today about the American auto maker CEOs’ use of private jets in route to Washington D.C. He notes that when asking for bailout from the government, arriving in style is a PR disaster.

“Where was their corporate communications counsel? Or perhaps they got counsel but didn’t care. I’ve been a corporate communications executive at three Fortune 100companies so I know how hard it can be to get heard in these situations, but surely someone with an APR or an ABC (or hell, even a PR student) could have seen this disaster coming and warned someone.”

Since Len also teaches PR at ASU, I’ll go ahead and let the “PR student” comment slide. 🙂 While Len makes a great point, however, my colleague (whose husband is a lawyer) and I were discussing that there may be legal agreements in their contracts prohibiting commercial flights for safety, among other business reasons.

The issue here is managing how the action is viewed by the public rather than the action itself. As Len notes, it’s often difficult to get the PR voice to senior-level management and change course (for example, persuading CEOs not to use private jets), but what we CAN do is be proactive. Recognize that this may be ill-perceived and communicate the necessary reason for private jets. Whether it be time efficiency (mobile office/meeting room), cost efficiency or contractual agreement, communicating this to the public can reduce any misunderstandings and ensure people don’t assume poor money management.


Obama changes campaign tactics forever November 7, 2008

Many say that Obama’s online campaign tactics propelled him to victory, and that this campaign will have a lasting impact on political campaigns to come. I agree.

As reported in a recent article, PRWeek surveyed PR pros who said they think this new way of highly-interactive campaigning with focused messaging and social media involvement is here to stay.

“Obama’s campaign was widely lauded for having a keen understanding of new media, the epicenter of the conversation-driven media. According to data compiled by the Wall Street Journal, Obama had nearly double the number of unique visitors to his Web site compared with McCain. It also showed that Obama’s Facebook network topped more than 2 million while McCain was just shy of 600,000. The story was similar on their YouTube channels.”

I credit Obama’s positive message of and consistent slogan and symbol. The “Yes We Can” theme started from the beginning and followed through all the way to the end. If there’s one thing I’ve learning about branding, it’s that consistency wins.

“Jeff Mascott, MD at the Adfero Group and an adjunct PR/communications professor at Georgetown University, says, ‘What’s interesting is [Obama] was the first candidate to come up with a visual brand for his campaign in the same way you would for a corporate brand.'”

I’m glad to see the power of branding and marketing online taking such a national stage. Still, not many major corporations are grasping the effectiveness of social media and interactive approaches. I wouldn’t doubt that Obama’s success makes the business of the world who aren’t putting efforts toward social media reevaluate their marketing plans.


Pepsi: cute idea, terrible redesign October 31, 2008

Filed under: Blogs,Marketing and Advertising,Public Relations,Social Media — Stephanie Sheppard @ 4:29 am
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Peter Shankman, well-known blogger and social media guru who I’ve blogged about before, revealed on his blogthat he was recently included in Pepsi’s marketing efforts to unveil their redesign. Shankman was one of 25 people who received Pepsi cans on their doorsteps showing the progression of Pepsi logos and can designs.

At first I was impressed with this tactic – they sought out social media influencers and creatively and selectively pitched the new look. But no matter how wowed I was with the public relations move, I was completely underwhelmed when I saw the photo:

New Pepsi Design

New Pepsi Design

 The new look is terrible! I’m not sure if they were going for a “throw-back” look or what, but it reminds me of generic brand soda that you’d buy at Fresh ‘n Easy. Don’t get me wrong… I love Fresh ‘n Easy, but I assume people buy Pepsi over generic for the brand name, not necessarily the taste.

More importantly… why mess with something if it isn’t broken? Isn’t Pepsi the number one selling cola?


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