IS TWITTER THE NEXT NEWS NETWORK?

After the tragic Boston Marathon bombings took place, everyone within our nation and abroad was immediately aware of what took place. Within just a week’s time, authorities, officials and the media worked around the clock to solve the crime and inform the people. Now that we can reflect on what took place, there is definitely some discussion on what news sources were the most credible throughout the whole process. Where did you turn to for your news on the Boston Marathon bombings?

If you paid close attention to the news reports throughout the crisis, you probably noticed that you were receiving information at a much faster rate than any other previous crises. Not to mention, you were probably seeking/receiving it from multiple sources, including social media. In the age of social media, we are used to getting our information now. In situations like the Boston bombings, the added pressure of the rapid pace at which social media churns information had traditional (and respected) news media all a flurry.

In the rush to be the first to report breaking news, the Huffington Post said, “Whether the coverage was on television, in print or online, facts were misreported, suspects were misidentified, and presumptions were made about unknown motives.” The online news source even admitted its own fault by saying, “The Huffington Post slipped up grappling, like many other outlets, with the sheer volume of information that was posted online and shared through social media within seconds.” The misreporting of the Boston bombings became so bad, that this situation ended up being news in itself. Among some of the false reports, CNN had reported that there was a third bombing at the JFK Library, which ended up being an unrelated fire. The Wall Street Journal had reported that five additional explosive devices were found around Boston, which turned out to be false. Some of the most respected media in the business today found themselves slipping up on facts to beat their competitors to the punch or uncover news that had not been reported yet.

Aside from the lack of journalism ethics in the reporting during the Boston bombings, we saw how powerful social media has become in playing a role in crises. People tuned in to live streams of police scanners, furiously reporting every play-by-play on Reddit and Twitter. They also took to Facebook and Twitter to send their condolences, express their anger and form discussions about what had happened during the bombings. Even the Boston Police Department has a Twitter handle, @Boston_Police, and used that as their communications channel to report that the second suspect had been captured. The tweet read, “CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody.”

In terms of social media, the Boston bombings teach all of us that the use of social media is at an all-time high and in some cases, has taken the place of traditional media. If your business or company does not have a social media presence, it is important that you consider joining today. We have to accept that social media is yet another channel we need to be mindful of when crises occur. If a crisis occurs at your company, you want to be in control of the facts that are being disseminated and part of that can be accomplished through social media, just as the Boston PD did. Rumors and misinformation can spread at a rapid pace through social media and you need to be on there to monitor. This helps you correct wrong reporting, prepare statements and gauge overall public reaction.

Social media isn’t just for crises though. It helps companies connect with their audiences, disseminate information, reach people it can’t through traditional media and get public reaction. However, it is very easy to get carried away on social media. At the basic level, your company needs to decide exactly how it wants to use its social channels. Do you want to use it for recruiting talent? Deals, discounts or sales? Company announcements? Once you decide what kind of information you want to share through your social channels, the next decision is how often will you post on your social channels? If you have a dedicated social media strategist, it is easy to update your social channels several times a day. Whatever timing you decide, keep it consistent.

After you start your social media channels, there are so many creative ways on how to fully utilize each channel to your benefit. Don’t wait a moment longer. Start creating your company’s social media presence now!

Article contributed by Shelcie Takenouchi

LEVERAGING OBAMA-MANIA

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations
Only 21 days after Barack Obama won the presidential election, the Hawai`i Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) launched a new micro-website at www.gohawaii.com/Obama. The site, entitled “Barack Obama’s Hawai`i,” highlights Hawai`i activities President-elect Obama and his family have participated in, sites they’ve visited, and the local food and eateries they enjoy. The site also provides a mini-biography of our President-elect and explains succinctly how his time in Hawai`i has shaped him.

Over the course of the last year, President-elect Obama has received worldwide attention bordering on adulation, millions of votes, and over $500 million in political donations. This has resulted in the term “Obama-mania,” which the HVCB has smartly leveraged in its new website to market Hawai`i to the world.

Are there positive trends or hot issues related to your business that you can leverage? If so, plan the right way and the right time to utilize them to your advantage. If you’re dealing with an individual, as in the case of the HVCB with President-elect Obama, be sure you are respectful of the individual and get their permission for mentioning them in relation to your products and services.

PHELPS’ EPHECT ENOUPH?

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations
“What is the value of eight golds in Beijing before a prime-time audience in the U.S.?” Michael Phelps’ agent told Associated Press (AP) that would be about $100 million in endorsements over the course of Phelps’ lifetime. In the same article, AP reported that Phelps is “getting up to 50 pitches a day” but “Though all these companies are clamoring over Phelps, it’s still not clear how persuasive a pitchman he’ll be.”

John Sweeney, director of sports communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication said that Phelps has “…earned this shot at a very elite tryout. And now we’ll sit back and watch.”

Breaking swimming records and winning more gold medals in a single Olympics than anyone else won’t guarantee Phelps’ continuing fame and success outside of the pool. The same goes for businesses. If your business achieves greatness, don’t assume that other successes will automatically follow. You need to maximize this position to ensure positive results or your opportunity will be gone forever. PR planning and strategizing are key to this.

To make PR work for you in these instances, first, create a plan. Consider your goals, target publics, key messages, etc., and then develop tactics or specific ways to meet your goals and reach your publics. An important part of your plan requires identifying that nebulous but powerful “It,” that connection with your target audiences that makes them love you and your business, and want more of your products and services in the long term. How do you know what your It is? Ask your biggest fans (or Phans as the case may be) what they like most about your business and why, and then do more of that. Remember to write down your plan so that you’ll stay focused.

Next, act quickly. For Phelps, he will be pitching his advertising personality in the midst of the Democratic and Republican conventions and the upcoming presidential election. Competing news rises to the forefront every day and the public memory is short so timing is critical. With your plan in place you’ll know when and how to take the right plunge, and all should go swimmingly.

PREPARE FOR PEACE

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations
It’s difficult to think about the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech and come away with any feelings but sadness and despair. Every time events like these occur, the world asks, “How could this happen?” We’d like to suggest that we start asking a different question: “How can peace happen?” When you look at crises from that angle, it changes the way you prepare for the future. And, focusing your communications on your ideal outcome is good PR.

It would be impossible to consider every disastrous scenario, though many businesses and governments attempt to do so. They create emergency preparedness plans for fires, floods, hurricanes, etc., do drills, have violence in the workplace trainings, and otherwise prepare for the worst. Of course this needs to be done, especially on Kaua`i where we have been in the path of several hurricanes. How would things be, however, if in addition to preparing for the worst, we were to prepare for the best?

Preparing for the best is two-pronged. It includes prevention and planning. For example, on the prevention end, look at your workforce to assess what problems can be prevented right now. Are there relationship issues that need to be ironed out, an employee who might need counseling, or an unfairness that needs to be righted? As for planning for the best, are there programs you can implement now to make for a happier work environment? How can you infuse fun and local style into your business? Simple gestures like handwriting mahalo notes, having an employee contest with a nice prize, or treating your employees to lunch can make a big difference and go a long way towards peace in the workplace. And although sometimes it feels like peace, in the grand sense, is a long way away, we can prepare for it in many small ways every day.

A SHORT PUBLIC RELATIONS LESSON FOR BRAD PITT

By Rahel Kramer
This month’s column is brought to you by Rahel Kramer, an exchange student from Hamburg, Germany. Rahel is pursuing her master’s degree and interning with Fujita & Miura Public Relations through the first quarter of 2007.
“Brad Pitt unhappy as Vanity Fair splashes semi-naked photos,” was the Yahoo News headline a few weeks ago. They reported that Brad Pitt had his photo taken wearing only a pair of boxer shorts and socks. The irony is that Pitt signed a release authorizing the use of the photos. Still, “he was oblivious they would end up on Vanity Fair’s cover more than a year later.” Needless to say, Pitt probably now realizes how important it is to understand the approvals he signs. This can be a PR lesson to any one of us, and applies to all kinds of instances.

From a PR perspective, approvals are critical for professionals to secure and sign because they keep everyone on the same page and reduce liability. If you need to use a photo of a person for your business or organization, have them sign a photo release. The Publishing Law Center notes, “…it is advisable to always obtain a written release from any individual that would be recognized in a photograph.” Templates are available on the Internet.

Approvals are also useful in other business interactions. Have your boss read a letter for a customer before it’s sent. Get a client’s final copy approval on a brochure before it goes to print. Have a HR person review a classified ad before it runs. Whenever possible, have a second set of eyes look at and approve important communications. Put it in writing so there’s no question about who asked for what, when, why, and from whom. Be specific about the kind of feedback you are requesting. Also, give a deadline. And as always, be gracious in asking for and receiving feedback and approvals.

Releases and approvals are essential to keeping relationships with bosses, employees, clients, and the public strong. With informed consent, no one, including Brad Pitt, will get caught with their pants down (so to speak).

HITTING IT OUT OF THE PR ROUGH

By Shelcie Takenouchi
This month’s column is brought to you by Shelcie Takenouchi, an associate with Fujita & Miura Public Relations and student at USC pursuing a major in public relations.
For all those who love the game of golf, hackers and pros alike, the Sunday round at the 2006 United States Open was dramatic and entertaining. Phil Mickelson, the third ranked professional golfer in the world according to “Golfweek,” began the day tied for the lead and was expected by many to be the next U.S. Open champion. As a little background, the U.S. Open is one of the PGA tour’s most prestigious tournaments in golf history and has also been known to be one of the hardest titles to obtain on the tour. Phil held onto the lead going into the 18th hole, but somehow had a slip of concentration when trying to be too aggressive with a shot out of the rough. In an instant, the title slipped from his grasp as he double-bogeyed the hole.

Rather than focusing on the winner of the tournament, every media venue zoned in on Phil’s defeat. What made Phil’s loss so captivating to the press is that he lost the tournament for himself; the winner did not win from playing spectacular golf. “Golfweek” quotes Phil as saying, “So it hurts because I had it in my grasp and just let it go.” Geoff Ogilvy, the Aussie who won the tournament even admitted, “I think I was the beneficiary of a little bit of charity.”

The PR tip here for professional athletes, CEOs, employees, and companies in general is that no one person or entity is perfect or has the market cornered on making mistakes. Some mistakes may be more costly than others, but the important thing is to acknowledge the mistake, accept criticism graciously, and take responsibility.

This is always easier said than done though right? When you goof, your publics like to know that you have admitted and accepted your faults rather than generating excuses or blaming others. The media and public in general is tough on those who make mistakes, so accepting failure, especially publicly through the media, is a hard thing to do. No one wants to seem weak or incompetent. However, you will always be admired (like Phil was) if you demonstrate honesty and resilience. Show your publics that you can move beyond the mistake, grow stronger and better, and have a positive outlook on the future. In other words, if you find yourself in the rough, hit it out onto the fairway and focus on nothing but the flagstick.

DA VINCI PR CODE

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations, LLC.
According to Sony Pictures, “The Da Vinci Code” became the second-largest worldwide film release after “Star Wars: Episode III,” grossing some $224 million worldwide. The box office success of the film, along with the fact that Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” novel is a worldwide bestseller with more than 60.5 million copies in print, is a solid example of the size and influence of the faith-based public. Though “The Da Vinci Code” moviegoers and readers were certainly not limited to the faith-based sector, audiences were largely compelled to read the book and see the movie to satisfy their curiosity about the religious controversy the story ignited. As a result, follow-up news stories were done, documentaries were made, and books were written. A lot of folks have ridden on the coattails of Dan Brown’s story since the book’s release.

The PR lesson here is to remember faith-based communities when identifying target publics for your PR efforts. They may not be top-of-mind because religion and personal beliefs are not liberally discussed at work, in public school, on TV, or in social settings, but when it’s appropriate, the faith-based public is a great segment to reach out to and communicate with.

Faith-based communities are large, active, and influential. In many instances, they are well organized and have regular methods of communicating via websites, newsletters, direct mail, and face-to-face interactions. But focusing on these groups must be done carefully and with great respect. Like any other group, learn about them first and only reach out to them when it makes sense and if you have reason to believe that they’ll benefit from or have interest in your product or service. For example, if your restaurant is near a church, make sure your hours and staffing can accommodate parishioners before and after church services, and let the church leaders know you are happy to serve their members. If you are near a Jewish temple, you may want to offer some authentic Jewish and kosher food items. You get the idea.

When communicating with faith-based communities, stay within your boundaries as an outsider. Be sensitive to and informed about the reason that they exist, whether you agree with their principles or not, and be sure your staff follows suit.

KAUAI’S PR FLOOD

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

Sometimes, it takes a disaster to remind us who we really are. The good news is, even amidst the loss and suffering so many experienced in the Kaua`i floods, our local community is a tight one defined by open communication, cooperation, generosity, and love. All of these qualities were the basis for the relating our government, land owners, media, service organizations, and residents were doing with their publics.

This column is not about how things could have been done better. It’s simply an observation of how well things were done. Photos and stories were submitted to and posted by the newspapers, which brought the Westside and North Shore somehow closer together. The radio stations kept us informed and worked around the clock to let us know what roads to stay off of, how to be safe, and what was open and closed. Even the O`ahu TV world came to Kaua`i and made the rest of the state aware of our plight. Those who used the media to inform and help, including the County, State, utilities, shelter workers, volunteers, reservoir owners, and regular, everyday good Samaritans, gave us all a sense of comfort that they were handling whatever came along.

We honor all of those who worked together with a sense of selflessness, flexibility, and trust to make Kaua`i a model in terms of natural disaster response. Once again, the true nature of Kaua`i and her people shone through, even in the darkest days and heaviest rains. Kaua`i aloha at its best.

CHENEY’S PR OFF-TARGET

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

Remember when you were a small child and accidentally broke your mom’s special vase and didn’t tell anyone, but mysteriously, Mom found out and then scolded you for not telling her in the first place? Think of the public and media as Mom if your business ever makes a big mistake. A good PR rule of thumb is to tell your story swiftly, wholly, and truthfully or you’ll be criticized not only for the wrongdoing but also for your lack of disclosure.

ABC News summed up the most recent example of this PR lesson on Feb. 15 in their story, “Cheney Controversy Persists.” They said, “Questions about why Vice President Dick Cheney did not tell the public that he had accidentally shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington during a quail hunting outing in Texas on Saturday continue to persist. Now the White House is under fire for not releasing information on the Cheney shooting quickly enough.”

The story continues, “When you hold it back, you raise a whole series of issues of why you’re holding it back and what else happened and really what else is going on in the government that you’re not telling us,” said Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary under President Clinton to ABC News on Feb. 15. “It is PR 101, and they failed PR 101 here.”

There are numerous other instances of information withholding, none of which turned out well, from the Exxon Valdez oil spill to 9/11. There are a few exceptions to the disclosure rule including issues dealing with minors, maintaining military security, or because it’s personal business (i.e., it’s nobody’s business), though even these lines are very blurry. Use your best judgment and don’t make the decision not to tell because you think that withholding information will protect you and your business. Nine times out of ten, being close-lipped will backfire and Mom will find out. If silence hasn’t worked for superpowers like oil companies and governments, it probably won’t work for you.

CRUISING OUT OF CONTROL: LOYALTY SAVES THE DAY

By Taren Fujimoto
This month’s column is brought to you by Taren Fujimoto, an intern with Fujita & Miura Public Relations.
Up until recently, Hollywood A-lister Tom Cruise upheld a shining image. With a stellar acting career spanning two decades and counting, a reputation as one of the friendliest celebrities to fans, and an unswerving smooth, charismatic conduct off-screen, he easily established a secure place in the public’s heart. Then, the unexpected happened.

After giving the boot to his long-time publicist, Cruise appeared to have aborted all sense of PR control. And so began his outlandish couch-hopping, Scientology-preaching, Katie Holmes-worshipping streak, shocking everyone the world over. In what some considered out-of-hand, rude behavior, he publicly criticized actress Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressants to address her post-natal depression and got into a tiff during an on-air interview with a reporter, “Today Show” co-host Matt Lauer, a definite PR no-no.

To that end, Cruise has been torn to shreds by merciless media and the butt of late night show jokes. Many have questioned if his new persona is simply a PR ploy to boost his appeal in an industry where fresh “it” stars pop up daily. Since he has built a strong, gleaming reputation over many years and his wild antics have only recently emerged, Cruise hasn’t suffered irreversible PR damage yet. In fact, as a testament to his PR foundation, Cruise fanatics rallied behind their hero, landing his summer thriller, “War of the Worlds,” at the top of the box office during its opening week. This says a lot for the power of loyalty in the PR mix.

This same concept of loyalty (minus the controversy) can be applied to all businesses who feel compelled to undergo a transformation in order to survive amongst tough competitors, who may be newer or bigger or have swankier promotions. Whatever competitors’ draws are, well-established businesses can leverage the loyalty of their customers to their favor. In addition to providing a valuable product or service, how do you build a loyal clientele PR-wise? Consistently informing them about your company and latest offerings is a smart way to keep the lines of communication open and your business top-of-mind. This could be done through a newsletter, website, personal letter, etc. You’ll want to be sure to hear them out too, either through formal processes, such as focus groups or customer feedback forms, or by just “talking story” so that you know how best meet their needs. Furthermore, treating your consumers with respect and appreciation go a long way, and high-quality customer service will deliver these directly and effectively. Finally, reward these folks for their loyalty by offering them exclusive discounts, bonuses, or anything special that they will value.

Keep in mind that loyalty can only go so far and must be maintained. If Cruise continues to show a lack of respect for his colleagues and the media, his attractiveness will surely wane. But, for now, loyalty has saved the day.

NEW POPE, NEW BENNIFER USE MYSTERY PR

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

When the Vatican chimney puffed white smoke and Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, it was both a beginning and an end. Of course, it was the beginning of a new reign for the Roman Catholic Church. But, it also marked the end of a savory mystery that had romanced the world (Catholics and non-Catholics alike) for weeks.

What was happening inside those hallowed walls? What were the cardinals saying to each other and thinking in their private moments? What did they eat and drink? What kind of paper and pens did they use for the ballots? We’ll never know the answers to a good number of those, and many other, questions.

There are two communications lessons at hand here. One is that mystery can be used to your business’ best advantage. If you have a good news story to tell, withhold a bit of information and keep people wondering until the right time, all the while remaining positive and optimistic in your tone (wear a Mona Lisa grin if you must!). When your announcement is ready to be released, do it with as much pomp and circumstance as possible. Make it a celebration worthy of the mystery you created, at a time when you can tell your whole tale to a public waiting in baited breath.

The second PR lesson is an extension of the first, that, in most cases, you are only obligated to tell the public as much or as little as you like, at a time of your choosing. Just because there’s good news to tell doesn’t mean everyone should know all about it. So it is with Ben Affleck and his new love, Jennifer Garner. Some say they’re engaged, some say they aren’t. According to E!online, “Garner is said to have warned the very famous ex-fiancé of Jennifer Lopez, ‘The one thing that will kill this relationship is overexposure.’” The story continued, “‘She was really adamant,’ confided a Garner confidante regarding the 33-year-old action vamper’s desire to keep her current romantic life on the down-low. ‘She made that very clear to Ben.’”

There are some things we should all keep on the down-low until we’re ready to face the positive and negative consequences of public exposure. What does “ready” mean? It means that once you let the white smoke out of the chimney or place a diamond ring onto a left finger, you’ve thought carefully about your story, you’re sure about the details, and you’re ready to carry out your promises and intentions.

Please note that these same tactics don’t work if there’s bad news to tell. In that case, it’s usually better to be open and up front before the coconut wireless inserts its own details into your story, even if you have to say, “I’m not sure what happened, but I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.”

ASIA TSUNAMI A COMMUNICATIONS DISASTER

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

“We tried to do what we could,” said Charles McCreery, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Honolulu center. “We don’t have contacts in our address book for anybody in that part of the world.” This quote was reported by Reuters on Dec. 29 three days after the catastrophic tsunami hit Asia.

It is difficult to comprehend that by the time the dust settles in post-tsunami Asia, the body count will be roughly double Kauai’s entire population. Why? It wasn’t that no one knew the tsunami was coming. It was just that the people who had the critical information couldn’t get it to the people who needed it. And even if they had, the level of awareness about the relationship between earthquakes and tsunamis and what to do in the case of a tsunami was reportedly very low.

Natural disasters happen but their impacts can be diminished significantly when effective communications systems are in place.

As a result of the Asia tsunami disaster, Reuters reported that “ India became the first nation stricken by the Indian Ocean tsunami to vow on Wednesday to set up an early warning system, despite the expense and the fact it may not be needed for a generation or longer.” Though much of the Pacific Ocean is covered by a tsunami monitoring system, Reuters said that along with India, “Japan, one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, also announced plans to build a system next year to monitor tsunamis in a wide area of the north and west Pacific currently not covered — including parts of Indonesia — and said this could expand to cover the Indian Ocean.”

We hope so. India’s new system will cost about $29 million. The cost of having had no communications mechanism in place for this tsunami is immeasurable. Our hearts and prayers go out to the countries and survivors that have lost so much, and to the courageous volunteers who will be working tirelessly on recovery efforts for many months to come.

TEEN POWER SELLS LIVESTRONG

By Shelcie Takenouchi
This month’s column is brought to you by Shelcie Takenouchi, a senior at Kaua`i High School and an intern with Fujita & Miura Public Relations. Mahalo to Shelcie for providing invaluable insight about reaching out to today’s youth.

In case you haven’t had your daily dose of MTV, you might still be in the clouds when it comes to what has been attracting the younger public these days. The Livestrong wristband created by the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Nike has become a huge hit, especially with teens. The yellow elastic band sells for $1 and the proceeds from the sales go to a great cause: helping youth cancer survivors and their families. Armstrong, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, started the Lance Armstrong Foundation to “help people with cancer around the world get the practical information and tools they need to live strong.”

The wristband, and the larger purpose it’s connected to, have become so popular that celebrities like Matt Damon, Bruce Willis, and Robin Williams all own one. The yellow Livestrong bracelets even peeked out under George Bush’s and John Kerry’s suit cuffs during the campaign season. Seven million Livestrong wristbands have already been sold and now with demand up, supplies low, and backorders bulging, 1.8 million more are being made.

Teens are attracted to this new wristband for several reasons: the proceeds go to a good cause, it looks cool, and well, it’s cheap. The Livestrong bracelets are just one way that the power of today’s youth is being noticed. According to a 2002 study by research firm U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, “ Teens spend an average of $135 per month on apparel and related products. Teen girls spend 36% of their disposable income on clothes.” How much spending is controlled or influenced by young people?

  • Teens personally spend over $200 billion annually for items like snacks, soft drinks, entertainment, and apparel.
  • Teens directly influence over $300 billion worth of spending annually for food, snacks, beverages, toys, health and beauty items, clothing, accessories, gifts, and school supplies.
  • Teens indirectly influence over $500 billion of spending annually for recreation, vacations, technology, the family car, and the family.

These statistics and the Livestrong bracelet craze are powerful reminders to businesses to not underestimate the youth consumer segment. Modern teens have disposable income, spend money like never before, and influence trends and attitudes. Find a way for your product or service to appeal to young people, and remember to provide high quality service to teens. Pleasing this consumer segment is well worth the effort.

MIND YOUR MONEY OR ‘YOU’RE FIRED’

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations
Fans of NBC’s “The Apprentice” will recall that a recent episode featured the Apex team nearly losing their shirts over a mis-negotiated price quote from a vendor. The team went $5,000 over their $50,000 budget and ultimately lost to team Mosaic.

Each team was given $50,000 to “create a buzz” about Procter & Gamble’s new Vanilla Mint Crest toothpaste. According to NBC’s “The Apprentice” website’s episode recap, “The candidates were surprised to learn that the fliers cost much more than they had thought – putting the team $5,000 over budget. Maria told the printer that she had given him a price that they could not go over, but the printer said that there were overtime costs. In an interview, Ivana said that the team went over budget because there wasn’t clarity in the negotiations with the printer…In the boardroom, Trump told Apex that while P&G liked their product launch best, Apex went over budget by 10%, no small amount.”

Having a great PR or marketing concept and plan is an important step in promoting your business. However, cost counts too, and when it’s your business, or your livelihood at stake, you can’t afford – literally – to miscalculate the numbers. Apex missed out on the prize of eating filet mignon aboard the Queen Mary 2, but your steaks, or stakes, may be a lot higher.

It’s often difficult to create accurate cost projections for marketing projects, unless you have years of experience doing so, and unless you know and trust your vendors. Maria clearly stated what her budget was, but didn’t know her vendor, and didn’t go the extra step of asking whether they could meet that cost within the allotted timeframe. That last part is key: many marketing budgets go the way of the Apex team’s because shipping, rush and overtime charges are not considered.

Once you have a promotional plan in place, take the time to talk with all of your vendors in detail about your deadlines, expectations of quality, and budget. Do not assume anything, and discuss all particulars. Use your active listening skills to repeat to them your understanding of what they will deliver, when and for how much. And finally, it’s always best to receive estimates in writing so that if problems arise, you can refer to the document and it won’t turn into a “he said, she said” situation.

PR BASIC IS HEART OF OLYMPICS

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations
It is ironic that the summer Olympics in Athens, Greece are underway in the midst of the war in Iraq. In one instance talented athletes from all around the world have traveled from afar to compete in the Olympic Games while our brave soldiers of the 299th battalion, and thousands of others just like them, have been deployed to Iraq to fight a war. This irony emphasizes the importance of peace not only abroad, but also in our own backyards, and thus illustrates a PR basic.

Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, President of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, said in the 2004 issue of Global Agenda Magazine, “If we want a demonstration of peaceful competition and human interaction…then we should look no further than the Olympic ideals. Since ancient times, peaceful competition on the athletic and sporting field has served as a useful metaphor for how human interaction ought to work in other spheres – from business to politics.” Well said.

The Olympics are steeped with history, philosophy and symbolism that not only countries, but also counties, businesses, even families can model. According to the 108-page Olympic Charter, the goal of the Olympic Movement is “to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” Sounds like PR 101.

In wartime or when relationships are stressed, a truce comes in handy. The tradition of the Olympic Truce dates back to the 9th century BC, in Ancient Greece when during the Truce period, the athletes and their families, as well as ordinary citizens, could travel in total safety to participate in or attend the Olympic Games and return afterwards to their respective countries. According to the official website of the Olympic Movement, “Taking into account the global political reality in which sport and the Olympic Games exist, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to revive the ancient concept of the Olympic Truce …Through this global and symbolic concept, the IOC aims to raise awareness and encourage political leaders to act in favor of peace; mobilize youth for the promotion of the Olympic ideals; establish contacts between communities in conflict; offer humanitarian support in countries at war; and more generally to create a window of opportunities for dialogue, reconciliation and the resolution of conflicts.” Can’t argue with that.

The lesson on the small-scale is that when conflicts arise in business, it can serve us well to step back (or forward) and play another game, one with clear rules, impartial judges, and awards for excelling. In the process of playing the game well and fairly, peace could be the result. And ultimately, peace is the basis for all good relationships, and all good PR.

PR STUDY: POLITICS TARGETS RELATIONSHIPS

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

The political season is upon us and offers a fascinating study in public relations. Political parties are vying for the spotlight and looking to capture voters’ attention and support. Candidates within those parties are developing their platforms and messages, and working to get them out to their constituents.

If you own a business or are in any way involved in developing an image for your workplace, pay close attention to how politicians are acting and faring in this election time. Most everything in a political campaign is well thought out, from the yard signs to the giveaways, even down to what events candidates attend, how they comb their hair, what they say, who they shake hands with, and what they wear.

Somewhere amidst the campaign plans, convention themes, political icons, donkeys, elephants and rhetoric is a very basic lesson in public relations. When the pundits analyze what determines why a voter votes a certain way they come up with all kinds of reasons from party loyalty to fear to a desire for change. In the end, we think that more often than not, votes depend on a real or perceived relationship with the candidate. That is, voters tend to vote for people they can relate to, people they think understand them. Likewise, business success starts and ends with connecting to your publics including your customers, employees, investors, and community at large. Establishing that connection takes a lot of work.

For a number of reasons, political candidates, especially new ones, generally have a short period of time to communicate with their potential constituents. In order to win over voters, candidates use a good portion of their campaign budgets to “talk” to voters in a variety of ways, over and over again. Really, they are wooing voters in a whirlwind romance of sorts.

As a business, you may have a little more time than a political candidate to cinch the sale, but note the great effort it takes to not only communicate with members of your public, but to also call them to action. If you work even half as hard a political candidate, you will surely see business results.

MAKE SHREK YOUR BUSINESS IDOL

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

On June 14, Reuters reported that “Shrek 2” became “the highest-grossing animated film of all time in the United States and Canada,” having sold $354 million worth of tickets. E! Online called “Shrek 2” a “mean green money machine” and an “ogre-iffic sequel.” While we all know and love Shrek, Donkey, and Princess Fiona, and while we appreciate the top-notch scripting and animation in the movie, there are many great animated movies on the market today. What pushed “Shrek 2” over the top? The answer is in cross-promotion.

Cross promotion is a buzz phrase among marketing professionals these days and for good reason. Just as collaboration is the trend in government, business and community service, it is also the hot new thing in the art of promotion. So, how did cross promotion work for “Shrek 2?”

Those who marketed the film smartly made a ton of partnerships. When the movie was released, we suddenly began seeing a plethora of TV ads featuring the “Shrek 2” characters. A Dial Soap commercial features Shrek pulling a green blob out of his ear and placing it on a sink where Donkey subsequently mistakes the ear goop for hair gel, and slicks it through his forelock (ala “Something About Mary”). The commercial ends with Dial’s tagline, “You’re not as clean as you think.” The cartoons also made their way through Burger King, Baskin & Robbins, M&M, Sierra Mist, Hewlett-Packard, and many other ads. On the “Shrek 2” website, 11 promotional partners are listed, including the United States Postal Service. It wasn’t just about appearing in TV ads though. Each partner product featured games, toys, or contests that pushed the collaborative and promotional envelope.

The success of “Shrek 2” teaches us that today it’s not necessarily enough to offer a great product or service. We have to work together to pull consumers off their couches and compel them to buy our widgets and our partners’ widgets as a whole, better, more alluring package. Think about who you can team up with to give your business the edge you need to succeed, and be sure to integrate both marketing (sales) and public relations (relationship-building) tactics.

THE JASMINE EFFECT PACKS THE HAWAIIAN PUNCH

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

“You better hope that every household in Hawai`i has at least five telephones, because you’re going to need all the support you can get.” That was what “American Idol” judge, Simon Cowell told a tearful Jasmine Trias on May 11.

On May 16, the Associated Press reported that “Of the 29 states in Verizon’s local territory, only New York and California logged more calls on its network than Hawai`i after the show… California and New York are among the most populous states in the nation; Hawai`i is among the least.”

If you’re one of the 25 or so million “American Idol” viewers who voted for Trias placing her among the top three finalists and sending La Toya London packing, (to the judges’ dismay), you were one of many who did so not just to support Trias but to prove to Cowell and the rest of the country that Hawai`i may be small but we are a force to be reckoned with.

There are a few PR implications at hand here: First, it is the nature of all underdogs to want to wield their power and when push (Cowell) comes to shove (Hawai`i), the underdog will bite as hard as it can. If you are dealing with an issue that involves an underdog, proceed cautiously and respectfully to avoid getting bitten.

Second, “Pacific Business News” reporter Howard Dicus said it well in an “American Idol” chat room when he wrote about “the priceless free publicity that Jasmine’s appearances on ‘Idol’ have given Hawai`i, and the possibility that those will translate into some extra visitors.” Hawai`i residents had good reason to vote for Trias beyond her singing ability. Talented local people, if given major public exposure, can have a huge positive impact on our visitor industry and economy. When “American Idol” televised the top three contestants’ trips back home, Diana DeGarmo’s and Fantasia Barrino’s paled in comparison to Trias’ (in our unbiased opinion…). This, coupled with the recent announcement that the Recording Academy has added “Best Hawaiian Music Album” as a new category for the 47th Grammy Awards proves that Hawai`i packs a good punch for its size, and local artists are making a strong impact nationally and globally.

Third, Hawai`i people truly make the best fans, hands down. Whether it’s UH Wahine volleyball, UH Warriors football, or Trias, we stick together through thick and thin. Build your business’ foundation on the local market if at all possible. If you’ve already got a strong local consumer following in your business, make sure to emphasize your unique selling point that garners their support. And, steward them well because local customer loyalty will serve you well.

IS ALL PUBLICITY GOOD PUBLICITY?

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

“I apologize to anyone offended, including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL.” Yes, that quote is from Janet Jackson, the Superbowl flasher two days after her controversial halftime show.

According to RollingStone.com’s Feb. 3 story, “Though much of the coverage of the halftime flash has focused on angry reactions, TiVo, creator of digital video recorders for television, claimed that the partial strip was met with some viewer enthusiasm.” (Surprise, surprise.) The story continues, “According to the company, the stunt prompted the largest spike in replays that the service has ever measured.”

On Feb. 11, the same publication reported that Janet Jackson, “…released a new single, ‘Just a Little While,’ on February 2nd, the day after the Super Bowl. More than 120 radio stations immediately picked it up. The same day, there were more Web searches for ‘Janet Jackson’ than anything else on a single day in Internet history…”

That was the upside. The downside was that the FCC reported receiving more than 200,000 complaints and according to RollingStone.com on Feb. 11, “The irony is that pop stars often don’t profit from publicity stunts. Recent round-the-clock coverage of Britney Spears’ Las Vegas wedding didn’t make a blockbuster of her latest album, In the Zone. Madonna’s smooch with Spears at last summer’s MTV Video Music Awards failed to make a hit out of American Life; the album didn’t crack SoundScan’s top-200-selling albums a week after the incident…’Expectations for Jackson’s album have been high,’ says Dave Alder, senior vice president of product and marketing for the Virgin Megastore chain. He adds that Jackson’s exposure could backfire if it’s seen as ‘an attempt to compensate for lack of quality. But at the end of the day,’ he says, ‘it’s the quality of the record that’s going to matter.’

Here, here. Once and for all, let’s quash the adage, “All publicity is good publicity.” If you are ever desperate for public exposure (no pun intended) and it occurs to you to do something a little “bad” in order to get big publicity instead of good publicity, think again. Whether Janet Jackson’s record sales boom because of her flash is yet to be seen, but our rule of thumb is always “quality over hype” and from that, good publicity will come.

JESSICA SIMPSON: PR BLUNDER TO PR WONDER

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations
This summer, MTV launched “Newlyweds,” a reality series documenting pop singer Jessica Simpson and her new husband Nick Lachey, member of the boy band 98 Degrees. Early episodes presented Simpson and Lachey settling into “holy matrimony” and working on their new albums. From an initial PR aspect, this was an innovative, yet trendy way to promote their music.

But as new episodes aired, Simpson began receiving criticism for being a spoiled brat and a dimwit. She mopes around her new luxury house not wanting to clean it. During one show, Simpson asks her husband if Chicken of the Sea tuna is chicken or fish. In another, she refuses to eat Buffalo wings because she thinks they are made with buffalo meat. Negative stories began circulating on Internet chat rooms and even “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at Simpson.

The reality series that seemed like a wonderful idea was becoming a potential threat to Simpson’s reputation, but the pop songstress didn’t miss a beat. Her newest music video features Simpson making light of herself by appearing with a tray of Buffalo wings and eating tuna. ABC News reported that she also visited the Chicken of the Sea headquarters where the company’s Senior VP of Marketing is considering making Simpson a company spokeswoman.

Simpson has illustrated a brilliant way to turn a PR blunder into a PR wonder. When it’s appropriate, making fun of yourself can help turn the tide so that people are laughing with you, not at you. This method can easily be applied to many situations. Just make sure to maintain tasteful humor and communicate your “self-deprecation” to the right publics in the best ways. Maybe you too can transform your fish (or is that chicken?) into filet mignon.