Monday, June 25, 2012

Reddit Hands You $600K: Now What?

The Internet do-gooders prevail again. In another spectacular display of the power of the online community to rally behind a worthwhile cause, Reddit has successfully raised over $600,000 to donate to Karen Klein, the victim of abhorrent bullying at the hands of a gang of pre-teen miscreants. When the video went viral on YouTube, Klein received an outpouring of emotional and financial support, as a PayPal account was established to send her on a much-deserved vacation in light of the torment she received. There is an interesting debate developing, however, as the donated funds quickly mounted beyond the organizer’s imagination. These events lend to two questions in particular: is raising north of $600,000 (and climbing) for a bullying victim overkill, and what unique PR problems are in store for Karen Klein?

In spite of what’s widely perceived by the public as a noble undertaking for a woman who was needlessly verbally abused, Karen Klein’s situation will undoubtedly be the source of scrutiny. What began as a genuine attempt to raise $5,000 to send her on a nice vacation has increased exponentially to a life-altering sum of money, leading many to question if the amount of donations were unnecessary. As someone who was unwittingly thrust into the public eye, Klein now has a distinct set of public relations circumstances that she will have to manage.

Klein has been rather mum on what she intends to do with the funds, and as is her right; she did not come to the public seeking handouts or sympathy, her life changing circumstances were the direct result of a viral video and compassionate benefactors. Unfortunately, the court of public opinion has no regulation, and some op-ed writers are now calling for her to give the money back.

Being thrust into the spotlight immediately opens you up to the media microscope, and with public relations, this presents an innate set of issues. If unprepared, as Karen Klein unequivocally was, it’s entirely possible to step on your own toes and turn the public against you.
An interesting story will unfold as more details emerge as to the final monetary tally and Karen’s intentions, and certainly many news outlets will provide their own opinion as to what they feel is the right path to take. Whether you agree with online users’ graciousness or not, we can all agree that what Karen Klein was subjected to is a wretched testament to the state of our society, and should never, under any circumstances, be tolerated.

-Carter Breazeale
PR/PR Public Relations

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Tip of the Cap to the PR/PR Dads!

Dads are stereotypically modest when it comes to Father's Day, but we couldn't let ours off the hook that easy! Here's a tribute to the dads of PR/PR!

Russell Trahan:

My dad turned 75 this year, less than a month before Father’s Day.  I’m so grateful he is healthy and happy.  Since his retirement, nearly 15 years ago, he is particularly happy when he and my mother are at their winter home in the Palm Springs, CA area.  This is a great retirement community, with all kinds of activities and friends his age.  Being there keeps him physically and mentally active.  He was very active as a father; for example, he was the leader of my Boy Scout troop while I was earning my Eagle Scout award.  One of my favorite memories around that time was when dad announced he was stepping down as Scout Master just prior to my Eagle Court of Honor.  He wanted to be just my dad for the event.  All my life he’s been much more than ‘just my dad,’ he’s been a friend, a mentor and the best joke teller I know.  I pray he continues to be so for many more years.
Amanda Tucker:

When I think about my favorite memories of my father, I think of our family road trips. Whether our family of seven was driving the hour to my grandparent's house or making the long trek from Florida to Massachusetts, he always did his best to keep everyone happy. He started a family rituatl we call "The Candy Game" where when we stopped for gas, he would buy a random selection of candy and surprise us with it. My four siblings and I would pass the bag around and choose one and once everyone had something, we would all rave about what we picked. As silly as it may sound, the anticipation of seeing my dad walk out of the store with a bag was always so exciting to us. Even though my siblings and I are all adults now, he still surprises us with "The Candy Game" every now and then and we get just as excited now as we did back then.

My father taught me one of the most important lessons...that family comes first and that we should always be there for each other no matter what. From simple things like "The Candy Game" or big things like guiding us through important decisions in life, he's been there for us and set such an example for how we need to be with each other and our future families. I'm so thankful for that.

Lindsay Durfee:

"Most people think that my mom and I are very much alike, and while they are not wrong, I am also SO much like my dad.  My parents decided to only have one kid, so I grew up learning how to shoot, going hunting and fishing, and occasionally playing a random sport with my dad – which has become a legendary story in my family.”

“My dad taught (cough, forced, cough) me to play badminton.  He was a tennis superstar in his youth and can pretty much pick up any sport and excel.  I, however, cannot.  But, every afternoon for a year or so, he dragged me outside to play in our backyard.  It was a love/hate experience: there were always things I would rather do instead, and he can have a tough-love approach to teaching (a.k.a. hitting the shuttlecock so high I couldn’t see it anymore, and then I had to try to field the shot back!), but I always had fun.  And, I have to say, when my high school P.E. class got around to badminton, it was the only time I was ever picked first!  So, I must thank my Dad for my stubbornness, my drive to succeed (or, at least to be right!), and my perfectionism.  Also for teaching me to be pretty good at a sport almost no one plays!

Carter Breazeale:

My Dad and I have always shared a passionate affinity for Atlanta sports. Many times it’s to our detriment, as our diehard allegiance to the Atlanta Braves and their seemingly inevitable collapses have ruined many a summer (but that’s another tale.) Every year, Dad and I take a mini-vacation to a ballpark that we’ve never attended before and catch a weekend Braves series. This tradition of ours began three years ago, where Dad surprised me with weekend tickets to check out Atlanta play in St. Louis for my birthday. Our goal is to eventually make it to every National League park, but the games are often just the backdrop to my Dad and me spending quality time together and enjoying each other’s company. I cherish these weekends because life has a tendency to get in the way, and often it’s the only time my Father and I can kick back and enjoy some one-on-one time.

The above photo is from my first Falcons game two years ago, where we spent an afternoon throwing a football around and heckling Tampa Bay fans. Even nearing 60, Dad can still talk trash with the best of them. It was definitely one of my fondest memories with Dad!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Social Media: HBO's Marketing Lifesblood

The creatures and inhabitants of Bon Temps are back for the summer, and with last night’s True Blood premiere, it appears we’re in for another couple of months teeming with over the top violence and gore, adult situations and Jessica Hamby.

Admittedly, an ex-girlfriend of mine fought by hell or high water to convince me that the HBO staple was more than gratuitous visuals and campy nonsense. I avoided it like leprosy or liver and onions; only daring to peer into the living room to see if the opening sequence to Entourage had begun rolling and it was finally safe to assume my position on the couch. Then something strange happened. Whether it was Twitter or Facebook, I could not escape the allure of these Louisiana vampires. After being inundated online with True Blood to the point of saying ‘uncle,’ I gave it a shot; and like every previously skeptical American: I loved it. By dominating the social media stratosphere, the PR department at HBO has made it virtually impossible to escape True Blood, and it’s one of television’s most successful shows because of it.

@TrueBloodHBO, the official handle for the show, maintains a prolific presence on Twitter that has contributed to the show’s continued success. With a sage-like mastery of frequency and repetition on the social media platform, the folks on True Blood’s team have tweeted over 8,500 times. Updates include engaging the audience with recaps and retweeting users’ usage of show-specific hash tags such as ‘#tbmoments,’ and on the eve of the premiere included links to a live Q & A with cast member Rutina Wesley.

By making audience awareness and participation an integral piece in their marketing model, True Blood has enjoyed a CDC-alert level of viral success. What many newcomers seeking to increase the visibility of themselves or their brand online fail to realize about social media marketing is that blanketed self-promotion is the antithesis of what makes utilizing outlets like Facebook and Twitter so successful. The key is subtlety and engaging and fostering a conversation about you or your product, not forcing promotional tidbits onto the streams or newsfeeds of your followers. This is where HBO’s staff excels, and it reflects in their annual ratings.

Last night’s online figures support this assessment. With over 242,000 combined comments across Facebook and Twitter during last night’s premiere, True Blood broke records is poised to dictate the flow of social media trends this summer. The vampire-drama has had a firm impact on pop-culture, in the real world and the Internet, and as much as it once pained me to admit, it boils down to the series and its dedicated promotion just being bloody good.   

-Carter Breazeale
PR/PR Public Relations

Monday, June 4, 2012

Don't Read This While Driving

Carter is on a well-deserved vacation this week, so the blog post is being written by the boss.  Bear with me.

It’s a working vacation for Carter … not working for PR/PR, but working to help a friend move cross-country.  Carter flew to Los Angeles to help his friend drive to Florida.  Having made the trek myself many years ago, I’m envious of the adventure Carter is having.  When I did it, there were no smartphones so we didn’t have texting or Angry Birds in our car.  Fortunately, there are two of them so they can trade off the driving and avoid the distraction of our electronic age.

The story of the young man on trial for allegedly texting while driving, causing a head-on collision and the death of the driver of the other car, has been discussed in the office recently.  Many Americans would scream to the heavens if you try to pry their cell phones from their gearshift-holding hands.  Many states already have hands-free cell phone use laws and others have no texting while driving laws.  The National Transportation Safety Board has called for a nation wide ban on all cell phone use in cars, while Chapel Hill, NC has already implemented this.  The state of origin of this story reminded me of another American institution which has waned in use in recent years. 

The parallel that popped into my head was the protests of tobacco users when the ban on smoking began.  Being of an age that remembers ashtrays at the isle ends of grocery stores, I also remember the Marlboro Country citizens’ outcry as their areas allowing exhaling shrank and eventually disappeared.  If you had told children of the ‘70s they would see a country where smoking was the exception, not the norm, they’d tell you you were crazy.  Yet as public opinion turned the popularity of puffing began its dénouement.

Popular opinion dictates what is socially acceptable and what is not.  Perceptions of common activities change over time and generations.  Consider these social norms no longer viewed through the same filters: views on sexual orientation, violence and nudity on television, tanning and sunscreen use.

Is it possible we are seeing the beginning of the end for cell phone use in cars?

- Russell Trahan
President, PR/PR Public Relations