Tag Archives: public relations

Public Relations in Action

Students often wonder how public relations can used as a promotional tool. Compared to advertising – which is very transparent – public relations and press releases are hidden from the view of most consumers. Yet, public relations is a critical tool in the marketing toolbox. It is relatively inexpensive, can be targeted to specific news outlets, can be easily sent to any geography and industry, is a simple way to “influence the influencers,” and it lends an aura of credibility when we read a story in the news.

In reality, although public relations looks like news, all of the efforts are initiated by marketers. Let’s look at an example in the news recently about autonomous-driving trucks:

  1. An article in Wired magazine recently highlighted the efforts by Embark Trucks with its autonomous trucks hauling Frigidaire refrigerators 650 miles from El Paso, Texas, to Palm Springs, California. No driver operated the trucks while they were on the expressway.
  2. While the information in the article is good, the point of this post and discussion is to examine how press releases impact business news.
  3. For that, start with the article, then examine Embark’s Web site, YouTube, Business Wire, and the press release (see below for links).

Where do students think business news comes from?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Start by discussing the value of public relations.
  2. A video of the process can be seen at http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/welcome/
  3. Article on Embark and Frigidaire: Wired magazine online:

https://www.wired.com/story/embark-self-driving-truck-deliveries/?mbid=nl_111317_daily_list1_p4

  1. Embark Trucks Web site: http://embarktrucks.com/
  2. Video from Embark also posted on YouTube: https://youtu.be/3yPMxV11KaA
  3. Link to how Business Wire works:

http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/welcome/

  1. Link to press releases about Embark:

http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/search/?searchType=all&searchTerm=embark%20trucks&searchPage=1

  1. Specific press release that informs the article:

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171112005077/en/Embark-Frigidaire%C2%AE-Ryder-Partner-Pilot-Automated-Drivin

  1. Have students find business articles in the news and trace the articles back to information provided by companies.

Source:  Business Wire; Embark Trucks; Davies A. (2017, Nov. 13). Self-driving trucks are now delivering refrigerators. Wired.

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How to Not Handle a Crisis: United Airlines

While companies plan for success and upbeat public relations stories, most companies do not plan for crisis situations or public relations snafus. But, they all should do so, as was recently experienced by United Airlines.

First, there was a ‘leggings scandal’ when the airline refused to seat “pass travelers” (employees and dependents traveling free on a standby status) who were wearing leggings, and thus not judged to be dressed appropriately. This one was noteworthy on social media, but not troublesome.  Puma jumped on the social media trend and offered 20% off leggings at its U.S. stores to anyone who brought in a United Airline ticket!

However, the next situation was much more serious as United Airlines had a man dragged off a flight when he refused to give up his seat (due to overbooking), so that a United employee could fly instead of him. The man suffered a broken nose, concussion, and lost two front teeth, according to lawyers representing him in a lawsuit against United Airlines. There was no transparency into how customers were selected to be bumped off the flight.

The company was slow to apologize to the man, and the entirety of the plane’s passengers. It now faces a crisis communications situation. What should it do?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the role of public relations and crisis communications in a brand’s promotional mix.
  2. Discuss the problem that United Airlines faced. Various videos of the event are available online: https://youtu.be/VrDWY6C1178
  3. What are the student opinions of this incident? Are these actions legal, or ethical?
  4. Divide students into teams and have each team prepare a crisis communication plan for the above situation.
  5. What elements and needed in the plan?
  6. Teams can also research other public relations disasters to see how each was handled. (Remember Chipotle, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Wells Fargo?)

Source:  New York Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, other news sources   

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Love is in the Air – and so are Tacos!

Taco Bell has been expanding its offerings the past few years as it competes with other fast food outfits. But still, how can a fast food outlet truly differentiate from the competition? What could a company do that would be first-to-market? Hmmm….

Taco Bell has an idea on an offer that is really unique – weddings! That’s right, weddings!

Beginning this summer, Taco Bell will hold weddings at its new Las Vegas Cantina restaurant. For only $600, couples can get a wedding ceremony held inside the restaurant, including an ordained minister, with as little as four hours advance notice. And that’s not all! There is also a private area in the restaurant for a reception with up to 15 of your closest family and friends. And, if you forgot to buy a gift, there is a selection of custom merchandise including sauce packet garters, bow ties, champagne flutes, and a Taco 12-pack along with Cinnabon Delights cake for dessert. Forgot the bouquet? No worries. A sauce packet bouquet is also available for brides.

Located on the Las Vegas strip, the new restaurant features two-stories, modern design and art work, VIP lounge, DJ booth, open-kitchen viewing, and serves beer and Twisted Freezes 24-hours.

Ready to tie the knot?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Where was the last wedding they attended?
  2. Show the Taco Bell site: https://www.tacobell.com/loveandtacos
  3. Poll students again: Who would consider getting married there? Why or why not?
  4. Discuss the various promotional tactics that can be used for launching a product.
  5. Have students come up with tactics and list all the tactics on the white board (ex: billboards, print, direct mail, etc.).
  6. Divide students into groups to work on this exercise.
  7. For Taco Bell weddings, have each team select three different tactics. For each tactic, explain why it was selected and how it will be used.

Source: Time magazine, Mashable, other news sources  

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