Tag Archives: PR

Brandemix Bonus Reel: Authentic Employer Branding

How can a company offer an authentic employer brand even during negative publicity? Director of Interactive Branding Jason Ginsburg shows how it’s done.

Brandemix Bonus Reel: Hack Me If You Can

Director of Interactive Branding Jason Ginsburg explains what Jeep and Burger King did right — and wrong — during and after their Twitter hacks.

Bonus Reel: Applebee’s Biggest PR Mistake

Director of Interactive Branding Jason Ginsburg reveals Applebee’s biggest mistake of its crazy Facebook night.

Four Steps to a Successful Rebranding

You’ve read my blog post “Four Signs You’re Ready to Rebrand” and realized it’s time for a rebranding. Now what?

It’s important to have a well-executed, well-timed strategy that generates the most buzz from all audiences – both internally externally. A bad launch can undo much of the hard work you put into the rebranding itself.

Here are four steps to ensure your rebranding is successful.

1. Announce the Change
Every one of your channels and materials should announce the new name, logo, focus, or services. That includes your website, your email signatures, your newsletter, and your blog. Make it clear that your operations won’t be interrupted and that current customers have nothing to worry about. Give a link or email address where customers can ask questions.

I also recommend a press release distributed through PR Newswire or free services like Online PR News and Newswire Today. Here you can go into more detail about the how and why of the rebranding. Accentuate the positive and promise there will be no problems with customer service or product offerings. Include quotes from your CEO. And press releases are great for SEO – especially if you’re changing or adding keywords to your brand.

2. Change Your Social Media
If you’re rebranding is just in the form of a new logo and tagline, it’s pretty easy to change your social channels’ profile pictures, icons, and “About Us” copy. But if you changed your name or even your focus, get ready for more of an overhaul.

You can change your Twitter name at anytime, but your Facebook Page URL can only be changed if you have less than 100 likes. You can request a change from Facebook directly or simply create a new Page, encouraging your fans to follow you there. Then taper off your posting on the original Page.

As for YouTube, don’t worry about uploading all your videos to a new account. Though you can’t change your username, you can create a vanity URL that directs viewers to your original YouTube channel. Personal Pinterest usernames and Google+ names can be changed with only a few clicks. The hardest site to alter your name? LinkedIn, which requires a special email request.

A great example of a blog post explaining a company's rebranding

A great example of a blog post explaining a company’s rebranding

3. Make Corrections in the Field
Personally inform any blogs or publications that have covered you or listed you of the rebranding.

Then do a search for your brand. If you see it mentioned in a blog or message board, write a comment that notifies readers of the rebranding. It can be as simple as “Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC.” Informative without being too promotional.

In fact, you can even enlist your employees. We once worked with a major financial client that held a contest, giving a prize to any worker who found an example of its old logo anywhere on its websites.

4. Do a Final Sweep
Make sure your partners, clients, and vendors are aware of the change and have your new branding on all their materials. Shut down or redirect any legacy sites or links that may confuse your customers. Make sure your Google AdWords or Facebook Ads accounts have your new keywords. Search several pages deep into search engines to see if there’s any website you missed.

Of course, there’s always a small chance that the public won’t respond to your new branding. Look at what happened when the Gap changed its logo. The same thing is happening to JCPenney – but the Gap had the sense and humility to switch back  

As our name implies, Brandemix specializes in branding, rebranding, and employer branding. If the process seems overwhelming, or you’re ready for a major change, I’d love to help

Social Media PR Disasters: #McDStories

This PR crisis may have come and gone within a few hours, but it’s still important. Why? Because it happened to McDonald’s, the sixth most valuable brand in the world. The story demonstrates that no one, not even a global restaurant giant, can control conversations on the internet.

The Response
McDonald’s pulled the promoted tweet within two hours. Social Media Director Rick Wion released a statement that included, “With all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned. The ability to change midstream helped this small blip from becoming something larger.” Wion pointed out that there were around 1,600 negative tweets about McDonald’s that day, out of almost 73,000 total mentions, putting the “disaster” in some perspective.

The Result

Though the crisis only lasted for a few hours, media outlets from the Los Angeles Times to London’s Daily Mail, jumped on the story of such a high-profile PR failure. I find it interesting that McDonald’s #MeetTheFarmers hashtag was untouched in all the madness. A few days later, McDonald’s launched another promoted hashtag, #LittleThings, apparently unaware that it was already being used by DoubleTree Hotels.

The Takeaway
Sure, you’re no McDonald’s. Still – how can you avoid a similar PR disaster?

 – Focus on Your Fans
McDonald’s promoted #McDStories to the entire internet, inviting anyone who visited the Twitter homepage to post their thoughts. While I admire this, there’s no reason the company couldn’t have simply used the hashtag in tweets to its almost 300,000 followers. That audience would have been more likely to share positive stories.

– Manage the Message
McDonald’s second mistake was introducing the #McDStories hashtag without any explanation, and leaving the meaning vague. I bet just about everyone in the world has had an experience with the restaurant, and some of them are bound to be bad. On the other hand, #MeetTheFarmers is very clearly defined, even to the point that it doesn’t really invite people to use it. How many people know the McDonald’s farmers? 

– Know When to Fold ‘Em
McDonald’s could have tried to steer the conversation, allowing the hashtag to continue for hours or even days. Social Media Director Wion saw that, while #MeetTheFarmers was getting the company’s message across, McDonald’s was paying for people to publicly criticize its brand. And there was no dignified way to explain what #McDStories was intended to mean. Rather than fight a high-profile, losing battle, Wion made the right call and chose to end the campaign.

While this crisis is over, it goes to show that social media PR disasters can happen anywhere, at anytime, for any reason. Whose hashtag will be next?

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Social Media PR Disaster: Too Fat to Fly

I’ve received great feedback on my series of Social Media PR Disasters. This week, let’s look at the lessons learned from last year’s “Too Fat to Fly” incident involving one of BRANDEMiX fav brands: Southwest Airlines.

The Brand: Southwest Airlines

  • Over 12 million monthly visits to its website
  • Over 1.1 million Twitter followers
  • 1.6 million Facebook likes

The Backstory: In February 2010, the irreverent filmmaker Kevin Smith was removed from an Oakland-to-Burbank Southwest flight because, the airline claimed, he violated the company’s size policy and would have to buy a second seat, which wasn’t available on that flight. Smith replied that he could put both arm rests down, proving that he hadn’t violated the policy. One flight attendant told him that the captain himself had deemed Smith a “safety risk.” After removing Smith, Southwest offered him a $100 voucher, which he said was little compensation for being humiliated in front of the entire plane.

The Backlash: Smith immediately took to Twitter, where he has 1.8 million followers—about 700,00 more than Southwest Airlines itself. In more than 200 posts, Smith was merciless to Southwest, calling them “the Greyhound of the Air” in one of his less crude tweets. He said the airline tagged him as “Too Fat to Fly,” likening his case to discrimination. He also spent hours recounting the story on his podcast, exposing thousands more of his fans to Southwest’s controversial actions.

Kevin Smith tweeted this humorous photo on his next Southwest flight

The Response: Just as Smith’s fans took up the cause, Southwest fans made sure to alert the company  via Twitter. Southwest responded with tweets like “Hey folks – trust me, I saw the tweets from @ThatKevinSmith I’ll get all the details and handle accordingly! Thanks for your concerns!”

The airline then misstepped by issuing a statement on its blog, which included the line, “Mr. Smith originally purchased two Southwest seats on a flight from Oakland to Burbank – as he’s been known to do when traveling on Southwest.” This is the filmmaker’s private travel information, which the airline released without his approval.

The Result: Linda Rutherford, Southwest’s Vice President of Communications, spoke to Smith on the phone and personally apologized. She posted an entry on the airline’s blog stating “I for one have learned a lot today. The communication among our employees was not as sharp as it should have been and it’s apparent that Southwest could have handled this situation differently. Thanks, Kevin, for your passion around this topic.” However, Rutherford also contradicted the earlier claim that the captain had singled out Smith as a safety risk, illustrating that communication among Southwest did indeed need improving. Between Smith’s rabid fan base and Southwest’s continued stumbling, CNET called the incident “about the worst scenario imaginable” for the airline.

Southwest Airlines’ official blog

The Takeaway: So what lessons can be learned form the incident that Kevin Smith called “Too Fat to Fly”?

– Be Prepared
 Smith’s flight was on a Saturday, and he began tweeting about the problem as he waited for the next flight (on Southwest, in fact) and while he was in the air. Imagine almost 48 hours of uncontested bad press if no one at Southwest had been monitoring the company’s Twitter feed or Google Alerts until Monday. Luckily, a marketing rep was on social media duty and mounted an initial response very quickly.

– Train the PR Department in Customer Service – and Vice-Versa
Where does customer service end and public relations begin? Customer service, previously a private interaction between a company and an individual, now takes place in public, via Twitter and Facebook, and in real time. Southwest’s PR team needed to coordinate with the customer service department in order to evaluate the problem. If the two divisions are destined to become one, your company would benefit from cross-training.

– Admit When You’re Wrong
It soon became clear how much Southwest mishandled the situation. The airline claimed that the pilot made the decision to remove Smith, when in reality the pilot never saw him; it said that Smith’s seatmates complained, when they actually never spoke up; and it claimed that Smith violated its size policy, when he didn’t. Southwest thus had little choice but to apologize. “I told him we made a mistake in trying to board him as a standby passenger and then remove him. And I told him we were sorry,” Communications VP Rutherford wrote in her blog. For his part, Smith described Rutherford as “very sweet, warmly compassionate, and apologetic.” Sometimes the high road is the only road to take.

 Read my recent article about what happened when Chevrolet gave a little too much power to its critics and faced a similar Social Media PR Disaster.