Crisis Communications: KFC Runs Out of Chicken

A few weeks ago in England a number of KFC restaurants were forced to close because they ran out of one very important ingredient: chicken. Yum! Brands Inc., the U.S. based company that owns KFC is predicting a loss of millions of dollars due to the chicken shortage.

While the fast-food chain scrambled to figure out this supplier logistics issue, KFC’s PR team buckled down and worked to alleviate the stress of this major crisis.

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The PR team responded by taking out full-page ads in United Kingdom newspapers. The ad featured an empty KFC bucket with the letters rearranged to read: “FCK.” It continues to say, “A chicken restaurant without any chicken. It’s not ideal.”

The ad didn’t completely solve the supply issue of the one product KFC is known for, but it did respond to customer concerns quickly and honestly. The PR team used humor to acknowledge the irony of a chicken restaurant without any chicken and consumers loved it.

The ad went viral on social media and received laughter and praise from both customers and PR aficionados.

The KFC PR team is certainly staying busy. As soon as they shut down one crisis, another one popped up. Now, KFC is facing a gravy shortage.

I’m interested to see if the PR team will use the same humorous approach to tackle this situation or if they will try something new.

Purple Purse Infographic

Domestic violence awareness and prevention has always been an issue that is very important to me. In high school I volunteered in preschool classrooms at the Relief Nursery, which is an organization that works to prevent the cycle of child abuse and neglect through early intervention. My dedication to this cause was further ingrained when I came to the University of Oregon and joined Alpha Chi Omega. AXO’s local philanthropy is Womenspace, a non-profit that provides emergency shelter and support services for women and children who are survivors of domestic abuse. At a national level, Alpha Chi Omega partners with a number of domestic violence awareness agencies, including The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse.

The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse is aimed at creating long-term safety and security for survivors through financial empowerment. Society says it is taboo to talk about money, which is one of the reasons why many people don’t know very much about financial abuse as it relates to domestic violence. If you would like to hear personal stories of how this has affected someone, I strongly encourage you check out this expose in the Huffington Post.

When I was asked to create an infographic that tells a story for a class assignment, I knew I wanted to focus on The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse. I wanted to visually tell people that domestic violence is an issue that affects one in four women in the United States. I thought it was important to use statistics that shocked people and made them aware of how prevalent this abuse is in our society. I found data from the CDC that backed up the statistics. As you scroll through the infographic you learn more about what Purple Purse is. The goal of this was to get people to want to get involved and donate; which is why I felt it important to include a call to action. I showed how far a $25 and $50 donation to the Purple Purse foundation would go to help women and I urged viewers to donate and help break the cycle of abuse.

Given that I am not the most design inclined, I was initially worried about how I could tell this story visually. I found it helpful to look at other infographics so that I could get an idea of what I liked and what I didn’t. I personally don’t like infographics that are so busy you don’t know where to look, so I made a point to include some white space. I chose to stick to a color palette of grey, black, white and purple: a color associated with domestic violence awareness. I found the hardest part of creating this project was finding a visual way to display certain statistics. My advice to anyone creating an infographic in the future is to treat this assignment like you would a writing paper. Do background research into information and design layouts and then create a rough draft. I went back into my infographic and made changes a half dozen times until I came up with something I was proud of. My last piece of advice is to remember that you are not just creating something that looks pretty. You are telling a story visually and there should be a natural flow that your viewers understand.

IT'S TIME TO SUPPORT SURVIVORS OF

A College Senior’s Job Search Advice: A Timeline

The post-grad job search can be a little daunting at first. I’ve compiled some of the best advice that I’ve received and some of my own personal experiences to hopefully help you find your land your dream job.

Summer-Fall Term

Continue to Build Your Resume: The summer before your senior year of college is a great time to continue building your resume and developing professional skills that will make you a strong candidate for a post-grad career. Coming into my senior year, I was fairly confident in my resume but I was still looking for opportunities to hone my communications skills. In December I began a position as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Eugene Marathon. My primary responsibility in this role is to oversee communication between the marathon and over 800 volunteers. I also co-manage the event planning of three separate races with more than 7,000 participants. Holding this position has given me the opportunity to further develop my communication and event planning skills, which will make me a more competitive candidate for future jobs I apply to.

Get an Idea of Where You Would Like To Apply: You probably don’t know what exactly you want to do, and that’s ok! Start a list of companies that you think are interesting and would like to learn more about. Every time I hear of a company that I might like to work for, I add it’s name to a note on my phone. When I have more time I do research into the organization and I will prioritize it on my list or remove it if I don’t feel like it would be a good fit for me. I started with hundreds of company names on my list but as I’ve focused in more on what I would like to do, I have narrowed down the list to a few dozen favorites.

 

Winter Term

Perfect Your Resume and Cover Letter: My biggest piece of advice is to create a general resume and cover letter that you are proud of, and start early! Senior year fly’s by, so keep track of time and don’t let yourself get behind.

One piece of advice that I have gotten from a few PR professionals is to have a visually appealing resume and cover letter. An Edelman recruiter even went as far as to tell me that he won’t consider an applicant if their resume is visually unappealing.

Knowing that my expertise is in words and not design, I purchased a resume template from Creative Market. For $6 I was able to purchase a resume, cover letter and references template that looks much nicer than anything I could have designed. There are also several websites that offer free templates but I would be hesitant to choose anything too generic. It may reflect poorly on you if your resume is the same design that ten other applicants are using. One last piece of advice: don’t get too fancy with your layout; keep it simple. Pick a template that best uses the space you have and makes it easy for someone to read at a glance.

When it comes to resume and cover letter content, you can never have too many sets of eyes. Once I had created something that I felt properly showcased my professional abilities, I took it to the SOJC Writing Central to have my peers review and offer edits. I made those changes and then ran it by a few trusted professors. Keep in mind that every person you talk to will have different preferences and feedback. In the end, the decision is up to you how you will best present your abilities.

Having a nearly perfected resume and cover letter by December has saved me so much stress moving forward in the job search process. If my dream job is posted tomorrow, I’ll be relieved to know I can make a few small edits to my resume and cover letter and still be one of the first applicants.

Conduct Informational Interviews: When I first started thinking about informational interviews I thought the process would be incredibly painful and awkward. Now, having done a few dozen, I feel like a pro.

The informational interview process begins with research. I always look at a company I am interested in applying for on LinkedIn and look at the employees who work there to see if I have anything in common with them. The University of Oregon alumni network is strong and there is almost always at least one fellow duck who works at the company. Next, I’ll request to connect with that person on LinkedIn and I always add a note. An example I have sent would be, “Hi Jane, I came across your profile during my research into Apple and I noticed you were also involved in Allen Hall Public Relations at the University of Oregon. If you have any availability in the next week I would love to talk to you about your work experiences. Thanks, Aly Brandt.” LinkedIn only gives you 140 characters so get to the point and keep it short. I have had a lot of success with this method and almost everyone I have reached out to was willing to give me 20 minutes of their time to talk on the phone about how they got to where they are today.

Once you’ve made a connection with someone and have an informational interview scheduled, do more research! Study the person’s LinkedIn page, twitter and website to learn more about their work experiences and interests. Unlike a regular job interview, informationals are usually pretty casual and you will be the one leading the conversation. Develop a list of questions you have about the persons job and see what kind of skills are needed to fill the position. This is not the time to ask for a job! You simply want to learn more about the person’s job and the company they work for to see if you would be a good fit in the organization.

Be mindful of the persons time and be sure to thank them for their help! Thank them again the next day and also send a handwritten letter in the mail. Buy a fun set of cards and envelopes to have on hand so you don’t have to run to the store after each interview. Snail mail takes a few days to get to the recipient so try to send your thank you that day or the next morning. To find the person’s mailing address look up the location of the company they work for and address an envelope like normal but include “Attn:” and their name at the top.

This advice has been so valuable to me in my job search process so far and I hope it will help other college students land their dream job as well. As I continue to apply for post-grad jobs I will make sure to include any other advice that I find helpful. Happy hunting!

March For Our Lives Proves Social Media to be a Powerful Tool

In a time when politicians are offering up “thoughts and prayers,” survivors of the Parkland school shooting are fighting back against our nations lax gun laws and demanding change.

On March 24, survivors of Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that legislators take action to prevent future mass shootings. The peaceful protest has garnered thousands of media impressions and inspired others to plan marches in their cities as well. The official March for our Lives Facebook page lists event pages for 68 marches taking place in the United States and London, with hundreds of thousands of people saying they plan to attend.

The event has even reached celebrities who have offered up financial support to promote the movement. Reuters reports that George Clooney and his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, were the first to offer a financial pledge of $500,000 and said they will march alongside the students on March 24. Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey have followed in Clooney’s footsteps and matched their donation.

Winfrey said, “George and Amal, I couldn’t agree with you more. I am joining forces with you and will match your $500,000 donation to March for our Lives. These inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the 60s who also said we’ve had ENOUGH and our voices will be heard.”

The March For Our Lives official Twitter page has earned over 124,000 followers in the week following the shooting and sparked viral twitter threads including #MarchForOurLives, #NeverAgain and #BoycottNRA.

While many of the drivers of this movement are still too young to vote, they are putting their savvy social media skills to use to fuel their cause. Survivor, Cameron Kasky has become one of the faces of the movement. He said he would like to make it shameful for politicians to accept money from the NRA.

Kasky may see this goal come true. First National Bank of Omaha, Enterprise car share and Wyndham Resorts are a few organizations that have responded to customer feedback and media attention and agreed to drop their partnerships with the NRA.

The young students of Marjory Douglas are proving themselves to be extremely social media savvy and brave beyond their years. Their actions prove how powerful of a tool social media can be. I look forward to following the movement and hope to see its success in coming years.

Code of Ethics

As an aspiring PR professional and creator upholding a moral code of ethics is very important to me. The following are standards I agree to uphold to. I’ve adapted this ethics policy from MOR10.

  1. I will voice my opinion.
  2. I will tell the truth at all times.
  3. I will stay independent to preserve my trustworthiness and integrity as a creator.
  4. I will always give credit where credit is due.
  5. I will admit and correct my mistakes immediately.
  6. I will strive to create quality content.
  7. I will moderate all comments and reserve the right to delete spam and comments including hate speech.

5 Essential Writing Tips For a Public Relations Professional

Writing is one of the most important skills to master in order to become a successful PR
professional. Effective writing in this field requires more than just good grammar; it
involves strategic communication and carefully worded sentences. Here are my top 5
Essential Writing Tips for a PR Professional:
1. Pay Attention to your Audience
Always tailor your work to appeal to your specific target audience. Understanding your
audience’s needs, wants and motivations will enable you to tailor your messages and,
ultimately, better connect with people. To achieve this you should identify who you need
to target. Consider age, gender, race/ethnicity, income, education, geographic location
and other demographic information that might be useful to you. Research this
demographic and take note of their interests and the most effective ways to reach them.
2. Keep it Simple
Straightforward and clear writing is an essential aspect of PR. Stay away from wordy
sentences and make sure every sentence serves a purpose. Effective and concise
writing keeps readers engaged and interested. Here are some examples and exercises
to practice eliminating wordiness.
3. Include Facts and Stats
Backing up writing with solid facts and statistics gives you credibility and proves that you put research and effort into what you wrote. Doing your research will make your
argument more persuasive and based on fact rather than opinion. Including this
information will show how knowledgeable you are of the subject matter and make you a
well-trusted PR professional.
4. Proofread
Grammar mistakes in the PR industry can make you look unqualified and careless,
especially since effective writing is such an essential skill for a PR professional.
Proofreading multiple times will minimize grammar, spelling and style errors and ensure that everything you produce is a quality piece. Grammarly is a great resource to help you catch all of these mistakes on social media, essays, emails, etc.
5. Second Pair of Eyes
Asking someone you trust to look over written work is a great way to learn and grow as a
writer. After working on something for so long it is easy to overlook a confusing sentence
or a misspelled word. Having a fresh set of eyes is a great way to get a new perspective
on what you have written.

The Olympic Scandal That Rocked the World

Although it took place 24 years ago, the feud between US figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding remains one of the most talked about scandals in Olympic history. The feud has been the focus Harding’s autobiography, an ABC special titled Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story, and most recently, a 2017 biographical film that earned over $33 million in the box office.

Following a practice in 1994, Kerrigan was coming off the ice when she was hit in the knee with a baton. In a heart wrenching moment caught on tape, Kerrigan is seen crying and screaming in pain and fear, that her Olympic career would be over. Following the attack, it was discovered that the assault was carried out by a man hired by rival skater, Tonya Harding’s ex-husband. To this day, Harding maintains her innocence and claims she did not know of the planned attack on her competitor.

Thankfully, Kerrigan’s injuries were not permanent; she suffered from severe swelling and a bruise, which left her sidelined for the following day’s Olympic qualifying round. IOC officials allowed Kerrigan to compete in the Olympics where she skated two of her best career performances and took home a silver medal.

The US Olympic Committee attempted to disqualify Harding from competing but allowed her to, after Harding threatened the organization with a $25 million lawsuit. The shamed figure skater went on to compete and placed eighth. Harding’s career following the Olympics was essentially over. She had been sentenced to probation, fined $160,000, stripped of her national title and banned from competing in any event sponsored by the US Figure Skating Championships.

As a public relations professional, I like to ask myself, “If I were the PR person tasked with responding to a crisis like this, how would I go about it?”

Before taking Tonya Harding on as a client I would be faced with an ethical decision to make. Harding claims that she was not aware of the planned attack on Kerrigan but the evidence stacks against her. As a person and a professional, I would need to look inside myself and decide if I was comfortable defending someone whose innocence I was unsure of.

If I chose to go forward as Harding’s PR person, the first thing I would do is get ahead of the story so I could frame my own narrative. The second Harding knew she would be implicated in the story she should have released a statement to the press. Being upfront and honest about what Harding knew and when she knew it would have made her a more reliable source. It came out that Harding’s ex-husband was linked to the attack five days after it took place, but Harding herself knew of his involvement days before.

Had Harding been honest and transparent upfront, her story would have had more credibility. Harding initially kept the truth from the media and that was the beginning of the end for her likability and her career.

 

Crisis Communications Case Study: Carmax

SUMMARY

In November of 2014 a producer from ABC’s 20/20 contacted CarMax with allegations that questioned the quality of the company’s used vehicles and its customer service commitment. CarMax immediately got on top of this potential PR crisis and hired PadillaCMT to manage the potential negative impact on the brand[1]. Through extensive research PadillaCMT was able to gain a better understanding of customer and employee complaints identified by 20/20, visualize how the 20/20 producer and journalist would approach the story and how the media and news outlets cover these types of stories. Conducting this research allowed CarMax to provide 20/20 with evidence that discredited several complaints and therefore weakened ABC’s story. 20/20 producers delayed the airing of the episode until December 12, 2014 so that they could gather more information for their story. CarMax developed their own digital response through a website, videos and social media channels. They chose not to debate the story in the 20/20 episode so that they could direct their own narrative and tell their story directly to consumers.

ISSUES AT STAKE

CarMax was founded to provide the most transparent and integrity-driven car buying experience in the industry[2]. Accusations that questioned the quality of CarMax’s used cars and its customer service commitment went against the organizations mission statement and threatened to damage the reputation that CarMax was built on. CarMax’s PR team had to find a way to keep ABC’s story from impacting sales and share prices and recover brand perception following the airing of the story.

PROS & CONS

Pros: CarMax did a really good job of staying ahead of the narrative. They did thorough research right off the bat so they were able to discredit negative complaints and delay the story from airing. CarMax’s constant communication with the 20/20 producer allowed for them to know when damage would hit. CarMax’s PR team thoroughly monitored social media and responded to questions and complaints by redirecting consumers to a CarMax website that responded to 20/20’s story with informational videos and statistics while reiterating CarMax’s commitment to quality.

Cons: CarMax declined to provide an interview with 20/20 producers in order to delay the story and conduct their own research. This allowed the company to frame its own narrative but also limited the number of people who heard its defense. CarMax’s lack of response in the episode could have been misinterpreted as ‘no comment’ by viewers who did not do further research into the story.

RECCOMENDATIONS

The 20/20 story put CarMax’s quality promise into question. CarMax forwarded concerned customers to a website that specifically addressed 20/20’s allegations which was helpful but I would recommend for the PR team to take their statistics that back up their quality promise and use them on their social media channels to appeal to customers on a personal level. CarMax is the nations largest retailer of used vehicles. To create long lasting positive brand recognition following the 20/20 episodes airing, CarMax should visually tell the story of how it helped customers find a reliable vehicle at a reasonable price. For example, if CarMax were to show how they helped a recent college graduate purchase her first car for her first real job, it could appeal to other college graduates and allow an opportunity for customers to make an emotional connection with the brand.

 

 

[1] CarMax Responds to 20/20 Allegations. (2015). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://apps.prsa.org/SearchResults/view/6BW-1509A2095/0/Carmax_Responds_to_20_20_Allegations#.WebM62JSxO0

[2] About CarMax. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://www.carmax.com/about-carmax