Inside the Profession Thought Leadership

Friday Five: Caught On Camera

When people ask me what it’s like doing PR for the Public Relations Society of America, I have one of two standard responses. The majority of the time I’ll explain that it’s like taking a master class in public relations being taught by every single great mind, leader and creative in Friday Five Logothe profession. At PRSA, not only do we learn a great deal from our members, volunteers and board leaders, we’re also constantly scrutinized and judged on our own work, knowledge of the industry and its inner workings (ethics, best practices, recent news, etc…). We share our insights through both PRSAY and ComPRehension while also addressing best practices and taking a stand on recent news that affects our profession. Each week we learn more and tie that knowledge to weekly industry-related happening from the news.

In this week’s Friday Five – PRSA’s analysis of the week’s biggest public relations news and commentary – we explore key takeaways from recent public relations news and examine the good, bad and ugly of public relations responses. We consider why all publicity isn’t always good publicity, examine SeaWorld’s slow sink to the bottom of the pool, discover how going “viral” cost one man his job and take a look at a video that caused another bad media day for the NYPD.


Anti-Gay Indiana Pizza Place Earns the Very Best Yelp Reviews (PRNewser)

Indiana’s “religious freedom” law has been less than popular with a broad swath of the US population. Companies and governments have implemented travel bans to the state, businesses have pulled plans to do business there and there is a general agreement that the law is a social and PR disaster for the Indiana.

In light of the negative backlash, for some reason, Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana decided to make it clear that they not only stood behind the unpopular bill, but would be using it to justify not catering a gay wedding if ever asked.

ABC57 News – See the Difference Michiana

As you can probably imagine, the public recoil against the pizza place was both swift and severe. Along with negative Yelp reviews flooding their profile, the business received a number of threats that included at least one threat to burn the shop down.

Why a “mom and pop” pizza shop would use such a controversial national issue as a way of drumming up local business is beyond understanding, but it is an obvious sign that if you can’t afford professional PR services, you should probably not wing it.

Interestingly though, after being forced to close in the few days since making their failed PR move, a GoFundMe account to support the company has made more than $800,000.


SeaWorld blasts ex-trainer’s character (U-T San Diego)

SeaWorld is known for many things, but at this point one thing it’s not known for is having a great public relations strategies. Backlash from the Blackfish film resulted in the resignation of CEO, Jim Atchison late last year, the loss of more than 40% enterprise share in 2014 and while attendance at rival parks increased in 2014, it dropped at the aquatic theme park.

After a delayed PR effort to address the concerns raised by the Blackfish doc, last month SeaWorld doubled down on its public relations push with a multi-million dollar campaign that will include social, media engagement and original videos.

Possibly as part of that campaign, last week SeaWorld went on the offensive against its critics by releasing footage of a former worker, John Hargrove, who has released a book following up on the Blackfish film. The video shows Hargrove having a conversation where he uses racial slurs several times. (Note: video is NSFW and contains extreme language and expletives)

While the video is undoubtedly damaging to Hargrove, it’s unlikely to win SeaWorld any positive reputation points. As you may recall, an Uber executive suggested digging up dirt on members of the media to use against those who are critical of the company; not a tactic that won much praise.

Let us know your thoughts about SeaWorld’s more reverent public relations tactic in the comments below.


Cop who berated Uber driver is stripped of badge and gun (New York Post)

The New York Police Department recently found itself on the wrong end of a social media firestorm again when an Uber passenger posted a video of his driver being berated by an NYPD officer.

I’ll let the video speak for itself:

The officer’s tirade has been labeled both an abuse of power and borderline racist. As the NYPD continues to fight against negative criticism stemming from social media flubs, controversial policies and deadly public interactions, one can only imagine that their communication teams are working overtime to find a way to manage what seems to be an endless string of issues. One thing is for sure, since cameras and recording devices have become omnipresent, public relations teams must adapt to deal with issues that go beyond word of mouth.


Stance against Chick-Fil-A costs Arizona man $200,000-a-year job, now living in an RV on food stamps (VIDEO) (New York Daily News)

Many of us have a few issues which we’re adamant about, but not many of us make videos admonishing fast food workers as we attempt to prove our point. Adam Smith did, and for that he lost his 200K/year-job as a CFO of medical manufacturer.


After the above video went viral, Smith lost his job and has been unable to find another that will look past his internet fame. As the article states “Now, Smith and his family are living in an RV, scraping by on food stamps.”

Asking a fast food worker “how do you live with yourself” while they’re probably just hitting minimum wage is no way to win friends.

Smith’s wrote a book about his far fall as a result of the incident, but you may not be shocked to learn that it’s not doing so well due to numerous negative Amazon reviews from people who likely never even read it.


Joke’s on you: Brands play the fool for April 1 (Digiday)

In the way of “PR Wins,” many brands took advantage of April Fool’s Day last week by producing funny and effective videos for fake products.

Audi’s is probably my favorite because of how much I’ve wished for “Supervisor Avoidance Technology” throughout my career…not in this job, obviously. (wink, smiley face, #pleasedontfireme)

What’s great about the public relations and marketing efforts of the majority of April Fools “pranks” that were released this year is that although they were almost all for non-existent products, they still reflected the sensibility of the companies which produced them. Additionally, unlike many of the stodgy trendjacking efforts that we’ve seen in the past couple of years, these were all well thought-out ideas and produced engaging results.

Let us know your favorites.

Laurent Lawrence is the associate director of public relations for the Public Relations Society of America

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Laurent Lawrence, APR

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