Friday, December 19, 2014

The Cosi glossary of terms

I'm a big Cosi fan, and I liked the sound of "Tuscan pesto chicken" — which was described as coming with shredded romaine lettuce. So I walked up to the young lady and ordered that…
Q: Size? Me: the larger size... Q: Multigrain or regular? Me: multigrain...
Q: Want the melt?... Me: Is that cheese? Q: Yes.... Me: Okay, sure, with cheese.
Q: Hot or cold? ... Me:...um... okay, hot.
Q: Carrots or chips?… Me: Carrots.

Now, when the Tuscan pesto chicken described with lettuce and PICTURED with lettuce came to me, guess what: NO LETTUCE.
It turns out that when the young lady at Cosi asks "hot?" — your answer determines not just temperature but ingredients: "Hot" in Cosi-speak means "We will take off the lettuce described on the menu and pictured in the display overhead."
 
As pictured on the overhead display
Who knew? So my suggestion to Cosi is this: Hand out a glossary of terms that explains how Cosi defines ordinary words (like hot, cold, high, low, etc. —perhaps "take out or eat in” also has other meanings at Cosi). Otherwise, if I had been asked, say, "in a bag or on a plate?" my answer might have dictated whether my head is placed in a bag.

So I’ve written to Cosi with this suggestion:

“Please hire a team of top communicators to create a Cosi glossary of terms — starting with the word "Cosi" — which I recommend defining as "a company of people who are comfortable removing lettuce from sandwiches which are described in words and pictured in photos as having lettuce when in fact some such sandwiches might come with lettuce while others definitely do not." … Okay, perhaps this definition needs to be tightened, but it's only my first draft.
Sincerely, Brandsinger

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Is Gifting a New Branding Strategy?

Joanne Cai is tonight's guest blogger from NYU's School of Professional Studies. Joanne weighs the comparative benefits of having a large PR budget versus, ummm, simply giving your merchandise away!... Let's listen up: 

November and December are the holiday season and shopping peak. A student in the UK received a surprise gift from Amazon: 51 parcels worth about $5600. He called Amazon and reported this mistaken delivery; however, Amazon asked him to simply keep and use the goods, for free. The right recipient also received his packages. Amazon claimed, “It’s on us,” and gained more avid shoppers, such as the student and his family.

There was another customer who bought a new iPad 2, but he returned it by leaving a reason: “Wife said no.” Apple fully refunded his order accompanied with his returned iPad 2 and left a note: “Apple says yes.”
In these two cases, Amazon and Apple easily gained maximum media coverage. Compared to spending a ton of money on PR to achieve the same result, this really save a lot, and reinforced their reputations as generous merchandisers. 

When reading these reports, I keep thinking: Is it an appropriate way to brand the company?

My answer is yes: it’s an effective and smart strategy, but it can only be used once, especially the case of Amazon, and here’s why:
1 Mistaken deliveries often happen. If Amazon keeps dealing with the situation in the same way, I think all mistaken recipients may refuse to return the products. If they are asked to return, then Amazon treats customers differently.
2 While Apple’s case maybe different, the company definitely has a right to send gifts to its customers. However, if other customers copy the same approach, use various excuses and hope to be gifted, what will Apple do? Those customers who fail to receive full refunds and gifts may criticize Apple for being ungenerous to them.
Organizations have corporate social responsibilities to the public, but misleading when being generous isn’t one of them. Rather than sending gifts to express generosity, I believe donating to those who are really in need of support can be a better way.  —Joanne Cai

Friday, December 5, 2014

Public Relations Measurement: No, That's Not a Typo

Tonight's guest commentator from NYU is Irelyn Akers, who works in Analytics and Insights, enjoys reading, and is proudly from Pennsylvania. She adds wryly: "Well, that’s my life in a sentence. I clearly need a hobby."

I had worked in communications for two years before moving to NYC. I churned out press releases, developed communication strategies, and reorganized my company’s financial communication plan. It sounded like I was ready to take the world by storm, right? Well, not exactly.

When I got to New York and started working at a small company, senior managers were suddenly asking, “Do we really need to have a person do this ‘stuff’?” Clearly, that was not the response I wanted or expected, but it sparked a thought: how can I tell someone what I do is necessary?

As I pondered my existence in pr, I began to work at a public relations research firm where the main function was to measure the efforts of their various campaigns. Through various online tools, we figured out if what the communication team did was successful, and if so, how successful. Suddenly, it all clicked. It was one thing to have a great relationship with a reporter and get a placement, but that doesn’t mean much if you cannot prove the value of it. Those in charge want to know why you need that budget, and showing your progress through measurement and analysis is the best way to do it.

By identifying your business and communication goals, it is easy to show in a report at the end of the campaign what worked, what didn’t work, and how this data can be best used to prepare for future events. This shows the C-Suite how you and your department are part of the bottom line.

Although I am new to pr measurement, I have found it’s a huge part of the pr pie. As digital continues to be integrated into the field, companies will need measurement and people like me to sift the data to create actionable deliverables. 


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Peaking Into a Fashion PR Professional’s Real Life

Tonight's guest blogger is Jane Li, who comes to NYU's grad school from China and is preparing for a career publicizing global fashion brands. After reading her commentary, you might think twice about plunging into the battlefield of fashion public relations! 

Fendi, the Italian luxury fashion house, held its fashion show at the Great Wall of China in 2007. Here is a link to the video of The Magic Of Fendi. It does sound crazy and dramatic to host a fashion show at the Great Wall, but Fendi’s PR team made this happen at the cost of approximately $10 million.

When we talk about fashion PR professionals, we might think of beautiful dresses, luxury jewelries, glamorous parties, and rivers of champagne. But in fact, those are only a small part of a the life of a fashion PR professional. The hidden part includes frequent business trips, long working hours, and sometimes, to be on call 24/7.

Before working in a fashion PR agency, I thought (as you may have imagined) that fashion PR professionals dress like models while working backstage at the glamorous fashion shows. But in reality, they have a strict dress code. 

Here is the dress code in a New York fashion PR agency where I once worked:
  • All black
  • Conservative – the less skin the better
  • No cleavage
  • No heels – closed toed flats are ideal
  • Minimal jewelry
  • Minimal, natural makeup
  • Well-groomed – clean hair and nails

Does this seem totally different from what you thought? But this is the truth of working in the fashion industry. Nothing is easy. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so we always need to be kind and respectful. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

"Young" is not your brand

Our guest blogger is NYU grad student Jie Gao, who writes that she is "branding herself as a global marketing and PR professional with a passion for art and life." This nifty essay on personal branding is based on Jie's qualitative research among 20-somethings.


Experienced professionals define their personal brands by their titles. As we are in our 20s, however, our professional experience is not extensive, but we still need to brand ourselves to stand out from the crowd. 

Here are results from nearly 30 of our peers I asked about branding themselves:

·      Time flies. People in their late 20s are worried about time. “I hold myself accountable more than ever before because there is so much to do to build my brand, but so little time to do it all.”

·      Cultural limitations. Especially in Asian culture, young and inexperienced professionals are supposed to be humble and unaggressive and not stand out among seniors. Some young and ambitious people have to adjust and accommodate to this social bind.

·      Others’ recognition. Even though young people brand themselves in unique ways, they worry that others, such as their bosses, colleagues, and classmates, don’t believe their brands.

·      Lack of knowledge about branding. Some people I interviewed only heard of branding for companies but not for people. “I don’t have a brand, or I don’t know what it is.” 

Clearly young people do have concerns about branding themselves. This is not treatment, you are not a patient, and I am not a doctor, but here are some prescriptions for young people who are trying to brand themselves. 

Time flies. I know! I know!  To those who are in their late 20s, time is not only frightening you; it is frightening everyone. But remember, time can enhance your brand as long as you focus and concentrate. 

If you have no idea how to brand yourself, here are three recommendations:

1. Google how other people brand themselves.

2. Ask your friends how they evaluate you.

3. Feel free to contact Jie by email. Yes! I am here.

Don't live with social and cultural limitations; try to transfer them to your advantage. For example, Asian culture requires that young professionals not compete with their bosses. Instead of branding yourself as powerful and ambitious like your boss, you can enhance your boss’s brand by defining yourself as detail-oriented and a fast learner with high efficiency. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Neutrogena: A Brand To Love

Today's guest blogger from NYU grad school is Ekaette Edet, a PR professional entwined in the world of high fashion.

Neutrogena is one of my favorite brands not solely because of their remarkable products but because of how they connect with their audience. Neutrogena’s Pink Grapefruit Oil Free Acne Wash line is promoted on television, on-line and in print as a way to engage the brand’s target — young women between the ages of 16-25 who want to fight acne caused by stress. The campaign promotes the pink grapefruit line, which includes body wash, cleansing wipes, facial cleanser, foaming scrub and a cream cleanser.

This campaign is a fully interactive brand experience. Neutrogena has implemented a huge media push online using Facebook and YouTube to connect and engage with young women where they tend to live online. TV ads of the pink grapefruit line air during primetime in programming geared toward the target audience including Pretty Little Liars, Switched At Birth and Teen Wolf. Magazine ads appear in Glamour, Seventeen, and Allure which also attract the right readers. 

The creative is great, too. Neutrogena’s campaign for the pink grapefruit line features young female celebrities within the age range of their target audience as brand ambassadors. These include Hayden Panettiere, Vannessa Hudgens, Emma Roberts and Bella Thorne.

These celebrities are shown using the line’s products across all media vehicles. They are role models for the young women who idolize them and see them doing what they do and using the products they use. Having celebrities as the face of this campaign reaches a large audience because of the huge following within the target demographic.


Neutrogena’s campaign is fully integrated. It utilizes dominant media vehicles coupled with celebrity endorsements to promote products and connect with young women — ultimately leading to brand awareness and success of the pink grapefruit line.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

War Theory Behind Tim Cook’s Coming Out

Today's guest blogger from my NYU class is Pingchuan Ma, who finds ancient strategy behind a well managed modern announcement. 

Recently Tim Cook came out as gay. The social responses were generally supportive. “Thank you Tim for showing what it means to be a real, courageous and authentic leader,” wrote Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg as he shared Cook’s essay with his Facebook followers.

In SUN BIN’s Art of War, an ancient Chinese work on military strategies, there are three essential conditions to win a war—favorable timing, geographical advantage and popular support. The success of Tim Cook’s disclosure demonstrates this theory.

Timing: In the light of Apple’s recent launches, Mr. Cook has managed to walk out from the shadow of former CEO Steve Jobs. Now is a favorable time to come out without annoying investors. At least, it is a safe play with low risk. 

Geographical Advantage: California is one of the most socially liberal parts of the country. Every year in San Francisco’s gay pride parade, major tech companies field large contingents with some top industry leaders, including Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Cook, personally leading their companies’ marchers.

Popular Support: Before his public statement, it has been an open secrete around Apple that Mr. Cook is gay. “Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me,“ Mr. Cook wrote. He already had good reason to anticipate gaining popular support.

From ancient strategy to modern public relations, Mr. Cook’s speaking up may shed light on the gloomy and muddy field of issue management.


Ping describes herself as a trilingual PR professional, a hidden wanderer from China, who is now exploring the jungle of New York City.