Mar 2 2010

Pepsi: A bad social media day at the office


The Pepsi Refresh Project is a good study in social media campaigns. Pepsi has had multiple communication issues and technical difficulties. As a result, the company has received bad press from a wide range of news and information sources–from Tech Crunch to The New York Times.

Tech Crunch headlines Pepsi’s campaign as “Social Media Gone Awry.” The New York Times says, “Pepsi Charity Contest Trips Over Its Own Submission Rules.”

Why, if you’re a company the size of Pepsi, with the best possible resources at your feet, would you fumble like this? Common sense (and several failed/bad social media campaigns) tells us that the last place you want to mess up is among a bunch of social media enthusiasts who, by the way, are also consumers. Extremely vocal consumers.

Besides the communication issues and technical problems, I am suspect of the number of people who post comments saying, “Pepsi is the best soft drink ever” and “I love Pepsi.” This one is good: “I’m drinking Pepsi right now. I love it!”

Anyway, I have personally been involved in the Pepsi Refresh campaign. I have been working with the Boise Public Schools Foundation and a BSU PR student to vie for a grant for Boise public schools. Our idea is called “Refresh Boise Public Schools.” We submitted it on Feb. 1 for voting in March. But we found out yesterday that the submission had not been accepted. Pepsi said we would know one way or the other two weeks after submission. Then it became 3 weeks. Then it became Feb. 28 at 11:59 p.m. We weren’t notified until March 1 at 3 p.m. By that time, it was too late to resubmit our application for the next round of voting! Worse yet, we aren’t able to access our application to make modifications. So, we’ll have to start over. Other people have had similar problems. And, several are complaining about celebrities being able to vie for the grants, etc. Go to the Pepsi Refresh Facebook fan page and you’ll see what I’m talking about/can make your own assessment.

I expect we’ll hear more about this-through every medium imaginable. Time to pay attention, Pepsi, or the bad day you’ve had could turn into a year.

Feb 10 2010

A little help from my friends


Last week, I asked journalists and communications experts to weigh in on one of my favorite topics–media relations. I’m teaching a media relations course this semester at BSU and wanted the students to get a variety of tips from a variety of people in varying roles, so they could see that while tactics and styles may differ, basic principles apply.

I received several comments, a sampling of which I’ve posted below. If you’re new to PR, this will be helpful. If you’re not new to PR, it’s a good refresher. Sometimes we forget that even the smallest gestures are important. Enjoy!


Dani Grigg, Reporter, Idaho Business Review: Give me a solid news hook–something that happened or some milestone that makes the story timely, not just “ABC Co. is awesome.” Also, develop a relationship with me outside the story pitches–meet me for coffee, interact w/ me on Twitter, etc.

Jill Kuraitis, Editor, Don’t hesitate to propose what may seem like a wacky story. A good editor may help you think it through, so be open to modifying your original idea.  Also, perfect grammar and punctuation absolutely matter. Format of your pitch, not so much.

Melissa McGrath, journalist turned PR pro: Always call back – even if you don’t have an answer. Let them know you’re trying. That’s my #1 tip.

Niki Forbing-Orr, Editor/Local News, Idaho Statesman: Know who you’re pitching stories to. Be relevant. Most successful pitches I get tell me quickly why and how I might use the info. But don’t waste my time by telling me it’s a great story — tell me what the story is and what’s the impact might be

David N. Compton, Principal, Compton Communications: Condense your thoughts. Don’t waste their time wit too much explanation. Keep your thoughts to about three short points and make sure one of them is a nugget think about. Journalists are like raccoons, you don’t want to give them too many shiny things to play with.

Wendy Knorr, Communications Guru, Reno, NV:  Be honest. Gaining their respect as a truthful professional can make all the difference.

Syd Sallabanks, Principal, Gallatin Public Affairs: I agree with Jill: Be creative and flexible and a great story may develop. Know the news agency’s interests and don’t call during deadline.

Steve Stuebner, Writer, PR Pro, Outdoor Enthusiast: Know the media outlets that you’re pitching; make sure you have a solid story to pitch; and write a good pitch; TV is kind of a different animal in that they have a super short attention span (because of the pace), and you need to make followup calls to ensure that they read your email or paid attention to the event details.

Julie Fanselow, Journalist, Freelance Writer: We’re all media now. Will you use your superpowers for good or evil?