Is This PR? The Sports Scandal of the Decade

By now, everyone has heard about Tiger Woods’ tarnished image thanks to the car crash outside of his home on Nov. 27 and the several women who have stepped forward in describing his infidelity since then. At this point, Tiger has admitted to the “disappointment and hurt that his infidelity has caused to so many people, especially his wife and children.” Also, several of his sponsors have dropped him from the ad campaigns, two of the major ones being Gatorade and Gillette – Gatorade has decided to discontinue Gatorade Tiger Focus and Gillette has decided to limit his role in their marketing. Even AT&T has stated that they are “presently evaluating their ongoing relationship with him.” For these companies, their decision to discontinue their relationship with Tiger is good PR. They don’t want consumers to think that they support a man who is most famous right now for being a bad husband.

Obviously, PR plays a major role in Tiger’s future and in the future of his current endorsers as well. The question is – how can Tiger save his wholesome image (if possible)? The most recent move from Tiger himself is to “take a break” from golfing to concentrate on his role as a father, husband, and a good person. So is this good PR? In my opinion, I think it is a good move for him. The best thing he can do at this point is keep his family together and his fans will respect that decision. He has already accomplished so much as a golfer, he must try to resolve his personal life at this point.

Is This PR? ‘Lights… Camera… Scrub!’

SSM Health Care, a system consisting of 15 hospitals in 4 states, has sponsored “Lights… Camera… Scrub!” the first video contest of its kind featuring hospital staff members washing their hands. The contest was created to put a creative and fun spin on a mundane topic – handwashing. Despite its boring aspects, handwashing is the most important act in disease prevention and is crucial in a hospital setting. The video contest was great PR for the SSM Health Care system because it illustrated to everyone how important basic policies that may go overlooked in other places are to the hospitals within the system.

The video contest was an exciting way to reach 23,000 employees within the system and assisted in preventing the spread of H1N1 and other contagious diseases. This was a crucial time for hospitals to show its patients that they care about cleanliness because of the swine flu scare earlier in the season.

The winning video entitled “Get Smart, Get Clean!” was from SSM St. Joseph Hospital West in Lake St. Louis, MO.

The health care system has recognized that contests like this can not only generate good PR but also create better morale among employees. In 2010, they will be hosting another video contest that asks employees to create a commercial explaining why their department or their hospital is exceptional.

This is a great example of utilizing Web 2.0 tools to generate good PR.

Is This PR? Palms Casino’s Poker Face

Just yesterday, it was posted that the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas will use Lady Gaga’s hit song “Poker Face” in its new ad campaign.

Some are concerned that this was a poor decision on the casino’s part because of Lady Gaga’s explanation of the song in a recent interview with Barbara Walters. In the interview, Lady Gaga says the song is not about a poker game, as the title and video would make you assume, but rather about her fantasizing about women while she’s with her boyfriend. Had the statement never been made, the ad campaign probably never would have been under the scrutiny it is under now.

However, I don’t think the ad campaign is bad PR – in fact, I think the pairing of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” with the Palms Hotel and Casino is a good one. The song is a hit and is recognizable by the age group that the Palms would be wanting to reach. In addition, the Palms is known for its controversial image. In fact, that’s what attracts a lot of partygoers in Las Vegas to the hotel and casino in the first place. And let’s not forget that the infamous Playboy label is already strongly associated with the hotel. Finally, Lady Gaga is a talented artist with a very strong fan base – adding the song to the commercials will make the ads more memorable in most people’s minds. In the end, the people offended by Lady Gaga’s comment are not the ones attracted to the Palms Hotel and Casino in the first place. “Poker Face” will only add to the ad campaigns main appeal.

Is This PR? AT&T’s mistake

As you may have seen, Verizon has launched an ad campaign of commercials that have been airing for several months now featuring a “map” comparison of AT&T coverage versus Verizon coverage. The blue AT&T map scarcely covers the country in comparison to Verzon’s red map.

After the commercials really caught on, AT&T saw how detrimental the images may be to their consumers’ happiness. So, AT&T tried a futile attempt at suing Verizon for the ad campaign, citing the ads as misleading to the average consumer that’s not very tech-savvy. Since then, a judge has ruled in Verizon’s favor, saying that the ads can continue to air on television, and in response, AT&T has decided to fight back with a new ad campaign of its own. The commercials feature actor/comedian Luke Wilson illustrating some differences between the two companies, showing that the differences are in AT&T’s favor. However, word of the accusations made by AT&T followed by its inferior ad campaign does not raise consumers’ confidence in the company. The suit, followed by the commercials, is an example of bad PR. Rather than fight back in a more mature way, AT&T resorted to suing its rival in a case that ended up being rather flat and filled with evidence in Verizon’s favor. Also, the new campaign features a new face (…why Luke Wilson?) but not much of a new argument – “we’re the leader in smart phones, blah, blah.” Instead, I would suggest that AT&T talk about its strong points while also demonstrating that they are steadily improving their technology and coverage. This, instead of a futile attempt at discrediting Verizon, would install confidence in AT&T’s users.

Is this PR? Hyundai’s golden opportunity

Recently, a security camera perched atop a fitness center parking lot near Toronto, Canada recorded a woman accidentally ram her SUV into a parked car. The woman accelerated when she should have braked and essentially flattened a Hyundai Elantra with her BMW. The video recorded by the security camera leaked onto YouTube and was seen by over 1 million viewers. Once word of the video caught on over at Hyundai, the car company saw a golden opportunity to not only give back to one of its customers but to also generate some really great PR. Hyundai gave the driver of the original 2004 Elantra a brand new 2009 Elantra and videotaped the entire surprise interaction…

This videotape was also leaked onto YouTube. I think this is a good example of PR because not only does Hyundai show appreciation for its customers but also is able to advertise its new 2009 Elantra. The Hyundai people delivering the car even ask the victim of the accident what he thinks of the 2009 version and it says its nicer. Hyundai seizing this golden opportunity for good PR was a smart move because it generated the kind of buzz that the typical car commercial can’t. In addition, Hyundai is not known for making really great or powerful vehicles (as you can see in the video, the Elantra is flattened by the BMW), but this video can help create an image of integrity and goodwill. That’s the kind of PR that every company hopes for.

CSR in Real Life

Apple, Inc. is known around the world as a powerful and influential company in the computer and technology field. In the past decade, no other company has really been able to parallel its advancements and success. That being said, Apple had to take steps to engage in CSR in order to not be seen as a profitable, yet irresponsible company.

One of the ways Apple has participated in CSR for quite a few years now is through endorsing (PRODUCT) RED through selling Red iPods. When someone purchases the red iPod, the proceeds go directly to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS in Africa.

In addition, Apple has had to participate in CSR to help save its reputation. Apple has received criticism from Greenpeace because some its products have high levels of PVC and BFRs, both of which can have negative health effects. Apple has also scored low on Greenpeace’s “Guide to Greener Electronics,” which rates companies on chemical-disposal and waste-reduction practices. Initially scoring a 2.7/10, Apple has steadily increased its score year after year, now scoring a 4.1/10. One of the ways Apple combated its low scores and criticism was by revealing the MacBook Air, which reduced the use of PVC and BFRs.

The Role of PR in Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is becoming more and more important to businesses in my opinion. With the rise of the “green” movement, companies are expected to do more than just make a profit and keep their publics satisfied. Now, they must show that they care for the community they are a part of, and that they use their power in a positive way. In his blog, Fabian Pattberg describes CSR as “a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment in all aspects of their operations.”

Talking about CSR reminds me of a Economics class I took in high where the class was split up into groups and each group was in charge of a company that was represented in an economics simulation program. We had to manage our product, think about the role of supply and demand, and hopefully turn out a profit each quarter. There was one group in the class that was very successful throughout the semester and no other groups could figure out why their sales were so much higher. It wasn’t until the end of the class that it was revealed that the leading group had been distributing a significant portion of their profit into “community development” and giving money to charities. In the simulation program, this form of CSR made their sales skyrocket because the consumers wanted a company that cared about social responsibility.

PR practitioners must play a significant role in CSR for their company:

The PR people must make sure the publics are aware of the company engaging in CSR. While it’s the thought that counts, if the publics don’t know about what good is being done, then the company will not benefit from it as much.

A PR practitioner may need to come up with a crisis plan in case a company gets in trouble with lack of CSR.

A PR practitioner must research a company’s publics to learn what particular values are most important to them, thereby maximizing the impact of the CSR.