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Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Uncategorized category.

Gratitude

I’m sure my degree in public relations from University of North Texas will take me far. I have learned so much from each one of my professors, and have decided to highlight a few in my final blog for my final class. 

 

  • Professor Nikhil Morrow, who taught my first journalism writing class, helped me understand how to approach the world with a journalistic mind set. His “little golden nuggets of wisdom” remind me that if something is happening, I should always ask why. He taught me to withhold my own judgments and to be inquisitive and see things objectively.
  • Professor Strutton, who teaches marketing, taught me that in marketing it is all about value. Any message that a marketer, journalist, advertiser or PR practitioner creates must contain value in order to be received by the intended audience. As message senders it is up to us to figure out what our desired audience places the most value in. If we can find it and somehow relate our product to it, the audience will be much more receptive to our product or message. When I learned this, I had no idea how much it would be a part of the rest of my PR degree.
  • Professor Bill Ford taught me many things that I will take into my future. In addition to all of the computer programs that he taught me to manipulate, he also taught me the importance of proximity and white space. Although I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed design, Ford taught me the importance of a critical eye and proximal objects. I don’t believe before him I appreciated just how much a teensy-weensy-little-micro-milimeter move can improve a design.
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  • Professor Kathy Hinnen is a wonderful woman! At first I think I thought “geez this woman is trying to kill us,” but now I understand that she was simply conveying the importance of proper grammar. Anytime I’m talking about her class I say that although I knew the how to make the grammar correct, in Hinnen’s class, I learned why it is correct. I don’t think I would be half of the proof-reader I am today had it not been for professor Hinnen’s awesomeness.
  • My final PR class is the one for which I have started writing my blog again. I was so scared at the beginning of the semester because I had heard how tough Professor Bufkins was, but I can say now that those who complained must have just not gotten it. Everything I have learned from Buf has been awesome, but one of the most important things she taught me is that every single message sent should been crafted and sent strategically.
  • A message, especially one on behalf of a brand or company, has so much impact that it must be made very carefully. Most anything written in this digital age can spread like wildfire if it contains the right components. A mistaken Tweet or Facebook post, for instance, could make the broadcast news if sent by the right person at the right time. That is only a negative reason messages should be crafted carefully, the positive list of reasons why is a whole other blog post. 

I just want to thank these professors for all of their dedication, enthusiasm and knowledge. Everything they have taught me and every interaction we have shared has helped me on this path to graduation and will impact my life for years to come.

 

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The Need for Purpose in an Ever More Aware Consumer Environment

Purpose is becoming increasingly important in consumer buying decisions concerning brand. According to Elderman PR’s blog, “When quality and price are equal, the most important factor influencing brand choice is Purpose.” Elderman has been providing PR counsel for more than 60 years and has created strategies for leading sustainable brands.

Elderman conducts an annual goodpurpose survey in 16 countries among 8,000 adults and measures the adult consumer’s commitment to societal issues including a brand’s social purpose and a consumer’s expectations of brand and corporation. The image below compares the goodpurpose study’s findings for consumers’ commitment to purpose when price and quality are equal.

purpose

 

Social purpose can be defined as actions of a company or brand that support its employees, value the customer over the bottom line and contribute to the society in which it survives. Societal contributions can help the environment, people and economic state of the society. Thinking about sustainability through social lenses will help one understand the need for sustainable actions.

If a brand or company can consider itself as part of the society, it will understand the need to support it rather than simply take from it. The action doesn’t have to be purchasing a big expensive machine that makes operations more energy efficient (although that’s great too); it can be as simple as sponsoring a youth sports team or implementing a work-place recycling program. It can be as great as Ben & Jerry’s Livable Wage program or Patagonia’s Common Threads program for recycling Patagonia products.

Whatever the action, it’s important to talk about it to your consumers. This study shows that more and more if a consumer knows what a brand does for its society they are more likely to choose that brand over a similar competitor.  If consumers don’t know about the company’s actions, they can’t make the choice to choose the more responsible brand.

A print or news media campaign isn’t necessary. Mentioning good-doings on social media platforms is a good way to spread the word and creates an easy way for audiences to share the information with their friends. As always, the more people engage in conversation about sustainable practices, the more common those practices will become.

 


Five Ways to Help Encourage Behavioral Change from Unilever

Green or sustainable marketing is largely focused on behavioral change. Univlever has developed a model with five ways to frame sustainability messaging so as to encourage the behavior change that your brand desires. The infographic below illustrates the five ways.

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The first and most important is Make it Understood. If behavior change is desired, the consumers need to understand why they should change their ways.

The words selected to convey the message need to be well thought out and carefully chosen. The best words will be specific and convey concrete ideas. It is also important to articulate exactly why the consumer needs to change their behavior.

Studies show that people are much more receptive to doing what you ask them if you provide them with a rational reason why. If the message conveys exactly what solution is provided by the changed action, people are much more likely to take part in the behavioral change.

The second is Make it Easy. This one is also very important. After consumers are inspired to alter their behavior, actually getting them to do it is more difficult. If you make the action easy for them, they are more likely to do it.

It’s hard enough to remember to do something new, but if it’s difficult it’s even harder to remember. A great example is of reusable grocery bags. I have about 20 of them, but remembering to take them into the store or back out to my car after I carry my groceries in is a totally different story.

The third is Make it Desireable. Not only should the action or product be socially, financially or environmentally savvy, it should also be something that the consumer actually wants. This is the only way to achieve behavioral change.

Think about your target audience—from what do they derive value?

What competitive advantage does your product hold in the consumer’s eyes? Remind them, and remind them of the action or product’s value whenever possible.

The fourth is Make it Rewarding. This is where you can get creative. As much as everyone enjoys physical rewards, they can also come in the form of emotional satisfaction. The emotional rewards can be the good feeling associated with making good decisions or the confidence that comes with completing an action that you desire to complete, among others.

The fifth is Make it a Habbit.  To truly call the results of your marketing action behavioral change, the desired consumer behavior needs to be sustained over a period of time. Turning new actions into habits can be done with positive reinforcement or simply repition.

Try to determine what specifically encouraged the change. What about that can act as reinforcement or repetition? A wonderful example of an action that builds consumer habits is that of credit card companies that offer points for purchases.

Through rewards, credit card companies can encourage consumers to build the habit of purchasing needs with their card. Consumers derive value from the points they gain and the companies derive value from the consumers experiencing what it’s like to make most of their purchases on their card.


Glorious Uses of Sustainability Reports: How a Company’s Report Can Influence Its Messages

PR practitioners can easily use sustainability reports to communicate the value and benefits of their client’s sustainability initiatives. Reports provide statistics, benchmarking and opportunities to set and achieve goals.

Sustainability reports are full of wonderful data and statistics. These numbers provide practitioners with current data and allow for comparative analysis. This information lends itself to messaging full of concrete data.

Equipped with solid facts, PR practitioners can create press releases, factsheets, backgrounders and position papers that impact audiences and provide journalists with valuable information for their coverage.

Another major benefit of sustainability reports is that they provide benchmarking numbers. Benchmarking is when a company compares its practices and policies to those of the highest performing companies in the industry to which the companies belong. This is often done when a company wants to improve its outcome.

Benchmarking can help a company understand that certain areas within its operations may contain room for improvement. The benchmarking can help a practitioner create messaging that contains comparative data and also provide the opportunity to convey a need for improvement to stakeholders who may be doubting investments or initiates.

Opportunities to improve lead a company to opportunities to set and achieve goals for its future. Once a company knows where it stands and where leading companies within the industry stand, attainable goals become more visible.

These goals are good news for PR practitioners because it provides them with a milestone to brag about. The combination of concrete facts, benchmarking statistics and achieved goals creates a reasonably solid and interesting story for a journalist. If a PR practitioner is familiar with his or her client’s sustainability report, then providing journalists with all of the components of that great story is easy and helps them cover your story.

It has been said by many of my professors that helping journalists in such a way is beneficial to the relationship between those journalists and a PR practitioner. I would think you might as well take advantage of that opportunity, and the coverage would be nice too.

Below is a video in which AT&T discusses its sustainability report. It is a great example of how statistics gained through sustainability reporting can be used to convey the need for benefits of and returns on investments from sustainable initiates and practices within a company.


How to Strategically Choose the Right Promotional Merchandise

Spring is on its way! And with it comes many opportunities for face to face contact with consumers at festivals and expos. Events such as Earth day, Arts and Music festivals and every other festival or expo is an opportunity to target a specific demographic that a company may want to reach. If done well, festivals or expos create an opportunity to gain new consumers.

To make these face to face interactions valuable promotional items are good to have at the events. If valuable, promotional items put a company’s brand in the perfect position to encourage word of mouth advertising. A company with sustainability integrated into its business practices should consider promotional items that best align with its organizational goals.

For instance, many companies have begun giving reusable bags or water bottles as promotional items. You may not be able to get a student to wear a 7Eleven shirt to class, but if you give them a coffee mug, they are a walking advertisement for 7Eleven coffee every time they take it to class or to study in the library. It also can prompt a conversation started by a question such as, “Oh, 7Eleven huh? Do they actually have good coffee?

When I am not at school studying strategic communication or sustainability, I am usually being a brand ambassador a promotional event (a job I thankfully stumbled upon). My experience with this extremely fun job has shown me which promotional items work and which ones don’t work as well.

It has been my experience that items which hold true value, such as water bottles, travel mugs, reusable bags, flash drives, and “get one free” coupons are good at encouraging conversations about the brand printed on them. Another benefit of these products is their ability to encourage behavioral change.

For instance if a company integrates sustainability in their business model, a quality reusable water bottle or travel coffee mug is actually a great item to add to the marketing budget. Not only does this allow the brand to go wherever the item is carried, but it helps the person begin to take sustainable steps on their own.

Enabling the consumer to independently feel the benefits of sustainability will help him or her understand the importance of choosing a company that integrates sustainability into its business. There are multiple options for sustainable promotional items. Green Promotional Items has an online catalog with very cool items for companies to consider.

If the ones your company chooses are valuable, they will help the consumer spread word of your brand and they can improve customer loyalty by highlighting a shared passion. And of course it’s wonderful to help encourage behavioral change by making sustainable choices easier for consumers to make.

Targeting techies?

Targeting techies?

Travel bottles can appeal to consumers from multiple target audiences.

Travel bottles can appeal to consumers from multiple target audiences.

Want to appeal to an athletic demographic?

Want to appeal to an athletic demographic?


Certification and Credibility

I’ve been writing about green messaging and companies that do it well and a few that aren’t as good at it. After comparing them, I have come to realize a key component to those which do a good job.

Credibility is a key factor for an audience’s decision about whether a company succeeds at green messaging. And it should be; in sustainable messaging, actions speak louder than words.

Credibility is gained by implanting socially sustainable business practices, integrating sustainability into operational functions and doing business in an economically responsible manner.  Another way for a company to gain credibility is to gain certification from accredited sources.

Each industry has its own accredited sources and different aspects within the industry in which to receive certification. For instance, a clothing company could have the opportunity to receive the following certification

These are only a few examples, there are many other accredited certifications and many universities also have certification programs. The number of certifications can be overwhelming, but with the right amount of time devoted to finding certification, a business can find the right ones.

In an interview for Green Business Certification, Elissa Loughman Patagonia Corporate Environmental Speacialist discusses Patagonia’s integration of sustainability and certifications. (Loughman’s interview is at 00:06:25)

With just a little bit of research, a company can find multiple accredited certifications to achieve. While learning about the certification, the company learns how to integrate sustainability in almost every aspect of business.

The certification also teaches the company how to measure and report on its ROI from its sustainable initiatives. Including its certification (where the company can improve and where it excelled) in its messages is a great way to generate genuine and credible sustainability message content.


Really Give Them Something to Talk About

Green washing, the practice of boasting about sustainable practices that are either exaggerated or non-existent with the hopes of gaining conscious consumers, is a problem. However, businesses should not let the fear of being accused of green washing deter it from talking about its sustainable initiatives.

Quite a few companies have been criticized for green washed marketing, including Exxon Mobile, BP, H&M and Walmart, just to name a few. Green washing is often achieved by taking a small sustainable initiative and exaggerating upon it to appeal to consumers who want responsibly produced products.

As you can see in the Walmart ad below, the marketer has taken a great practice such as recycling, which can be applied to many areas of business, applied it to one product, and then proceeded to claim that they have, “Budget friendly prices. Earth friendly products.”

If one was to survey Wal-Mart’s product offering to gage how many of the products were actually “Earth-friendly,” they would probably not find as many products as the commercial may lead a consumer to believe. Marketers that prey on their targeted consumer’s environmental and social consciousness such as this one, scare brands that are making genuine strides toward smarter, more sustainable business practices out of talking about those strides for fear of condemnation.

This is a problem. Companies, such as Tom’s, Patagonia, North Face and even Coca-Cola that are truly attempting to make their brand more responsible internally and externally, and they should be able to proudly share their efforts with their consumers without fear of being labeled as green washers.

In a 45 second clip on Patagonia’s YouTube channel, Rick Ridgeway VP of Environmental Initiatives talks about a partnership between Patagonia and Ebay that encourages consumers to shop responsibly, by purchasing quality made items and putting them back into the market.

When a company practices sustainability rather than just marketing it, it tends to be infused throughout the company. When one understands the benefits of using minimal resources (environmental, monetary, etc.), living as a community and encouraging others to do the same, talking about it tends to be genuine.


Your Sustainable Message: Who Knows?

In PR we recognize that interactions at all levels of business should be considered when thinking about strategic communication. This, of course, includes a company’s consumers, but it also includes its employees, stakeholders, and the society in which it functions.

Printing messages of sustainability on packaging and putting them in media is a great way to get the word out, but one should not count out the importance of conveying your ongoing sustainability efforts to your internal publics as well.

Word of mouth advertising is powerful; it allows a company’s marketing messages to be conveyed by a third party source that is often credible to the message receiver. In Anatomy of Buzz, author Emanuel Rosen says that if a person receives a message on an advertisement and heard a different message about a competing product from a friend, that person is more likely to buy the product endorsed by their friend because they trust them more.

This applies in sustainable messaging as well.  If the general public, stakeholders and employees are informed about your company’s sustainable efforts, they are likely to talk about them with people they know, who in turn will hopefully share the information with their friends.

This highlights the importance of having clear, concise and consistent messaging. If a key message has clear meaning and is concise and consistent across all platforms, it is much easier to remember and share. Also the message will be spread more quickly if the benefit is meaningful and clear.

Making sure employees know about the company’s sustainability effort will help them have meaningful conversations with customers who may care to know. It will also allow them to casually bring it up in conversation if they feel it may increase a customer’s loyalty.

Consumers feel good when their money goes to a cause other than consumerism; arming as many publics as possible with the right sustainable messages helps them know that supporting your company is supporting a good cause as well.

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Strategic Storytelling

A strong component of sustainability messaging is the ability to tell a story. Story telling allows the company to connect with the consumer’s emotions, experience or logic. It can turn almost abstract sounding facts to tangible, relatable experiences.

There are multiple kinds of stories to tell and countless ways to tell them, and a company should strategically decide which kind and method is best for each story and each target audience. Some stories may be best told with a video clip for YouTube or a commercial, while others may be number heavy and best convey through info-graphics and shared on a company blog and social media platforms.

As mentioned above, each story and target audience will need to be considered when a company decides to tell its story. The Coca-Cola Company executes sustainable story telling by putting the right information in the right places. For Example, the Stories page on Coke’s website includes a Coca-Cola by the Numbers info-graphic that displays quick but impactful numbers of Coke’s success thus far.

cokefacts

It is an effective way to quickly convey pretty impressive information.

Coca-Cola also has a recycling campaign, you may have seen if you have been to the State Fair of Texas or a recent NASCAR race. The large footprint consists of a live DJ who talks about Coke’s recycling efforts and tells consumers how to participate; a large recycling truck, where consumers can trade their recyclables for coke merchandise and with brand ambassadors on hand, equipped with information about Coke’s recycling efforts.

In the above video, produced by the Coca-Cola Company, the campaign is shown and its successes thus far are highlighted. The video conveys the information in a clear and concise way that is devoid of jargon or facts that contain too much information. The content is interesting and attention-grabbing with clearly organized information and pictures to accompany it.

Coke’s sustainable story telling goes beyond traditional channels one may think of when considering storytelling. Consumers will notice a change from November to February in the iconic Coke can as Coke highlight its work with the Arctic Home project by coloring the cans white. The color was chosen to showcase the plight of the polar bear, a character Coke has used often in messaging.

As Coca-Cola exemplifies, storytelling can be a powerful way to convey a story and call consumers to action. A relevant story told the right way can connect to a consumer on a personal level. The marketer should consider how the target market gets its information and how to best tell a story using their desired channel. Creativity should be implored and new methods and channels considered. Remember, your story should sound genuine- as if told by a person. Try to avoid jargon and speak to the consumer’s higher self.

 

— This is 30 minutes too late to count as a weekly blog post, but better late than never I suppose.


Sustainable messaging should tell a story of your brand and the benefits the consumer stands to gain by choosing it over another.

In searching through the many companies that successfully highlight its sustainability initiatives, I found Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. As a long time fan, I was pleased to find that the value I gained as a consumer went beyond the bold and often delicious flavor combinations.

 Shel Horowitz, green/ethical marketing expert and author of Guerilla Marketing Goes Green, said B&J’s is one of the two companies that occupy up to 85% of the premium ice cream market, and is so largely because of their ability to consistently integrate their message, market and marketing.

Not only does B&J operate as cleanly as possible, it explains how and what that cleanliness equates to in clear and concise messaging. However, as I have said before, sustainability is comprised of economic, social and environmental approaches— B&J’s  considers all three components when incorporating sustainable actions into its business practices and conveying those actions through messaging.

MisSiON

B&J’s mission statement has three-parts: a social aspect, to recognize that business plays a role in society and should build it up; a product aspect, an all natural ice cream made by Earth and environment respecting business practices and a economic aspect, to sustainably grow, increase value for stakeholders and expand opportunities for its employees.

EcOnOmiC Efforts

The B&J website consists of three economic platforms:

  • The Occupy Movement states B&J’s support of the Occupy Wall St. movement and articulates what it believes to be the important issues raised by the movement.
  • The Get the Dough Out campaign states B&J’s stance on corporate corruption in politics and includes a call to action that allows consumers to get involved.
  • Tthe B&J Foundation, which has operated since 1985, grants $1.8 million annually to causes decided on by non-management employees.

SoCiAL Efforts

Along with B&J’s commitment to fair trade, its work with Greyson Bakery (a company leading in social consciousness) and its work with local farms and businesses, B&J’s has three main social programs:

  • Partnershops are stores that are independently owned by nonprofit organizations for which B&J’s waives the franchise fees to allow for community growth.
  • B&J’s is committed to providing employees a Livable Wage and recalculate that wage annually. In 2012 the wage was %15.97, and has been up to two times the current minimum wage.
  • The Community Action program creates a culture of caring within the company by providing an opportunity for employees to participate in large-scale community service projects.

The completeness of Ben and Jerry’s sustainability efforts is complimented by its ability to talk openly and with pride about them. The company’s website delivers messages in an engaging and concise manner, the packaging and design boldly states its ideals, and the social media plan is well executed (a topic I will undoubtedly cover later this month, so heads up).