Brands and social media

By: Monique Geisen

From Charmin making toilet jokes to Old Spice starting arguments with brands all over Twitter, sassy social media branding is one of the biggest current digital marketing trends.

In April, Wendy’s went viral when they challenged a customer to get 18 million likes on a tweet in order to get free chicken nuggets for a year. The tweet by Carter Wilkerson requesting retweets for nuggets garnered the largest number of retweets in history at 3.7 million and started a hashtag campaign “#nuggsforcarter”.

But what makes these risky social media moves so popular? The answer is tricky to figure out. A study by Sprout Social showed that 72 percent of consumers like when brands are humorous on social media, however only 33 percent of consumers want brands to be snarky. This means brands must walk a fine line between finding the consumer’s funny bone without striking a sour note.

A big part of finding sassy social success is a brand’s established image. Silly social media posts tend to work well for brands that already have a playful reputation, like Wendy’s and its casual image, or Old Spice and its over-the-top commercials already are expected to crack jokes in public. That’s why when Wendy’s tweets,

Everyone has a good laugh. But when the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) account tweets:

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 6.54.47 PM

Many people were upset. FAFSA is a serious brand that people rely on to help them through a tough time in their lives, so by posting a meme disrespecting their audience, they alienated their followers.

In addition, much like a real social interaction, proper understanding of the right time and place is critical. Certain social trends are a great time for brands to show their silly side, but tweeting at the wrong time can destroy a brand’s social following.

For example, when Cinnabon tweeted this insensitive tribute to Carrie Fisher,Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 6.56.07 PM.png

The post received a massive backlash and the company was forced to delete the tweet and issue an apology.

Social media offers the best and most obvious opportunity to show off a little brand personality, but also offers the most risk. Once a comment is posted on the internet, the entire world will see it and even deleting the post won’t erase it from the internet completely.

And maybe the payoff isn’t worth the risk in the first place, Sprout Social found that only 36 percent of consumers will actually purchase from a brand that they think is funny. This means that although a spontaneous clever tweet may land you in the most popular tweets of all time, that internet fame may not actually drive revenue for your business in the long run. Leaving you to ask yourself: Is the risk worth it?


Beauty brands bring diverse ads to the mainstream

By: Elise Barsch

Beauty brands Fenty and Glossier have made headlines this month with their ad campaigns featuring women of color and diverse body types, and Insecure’s Issa Rae was named the latest face of Covergirl.

Fenty Beauty, Rihanna’s new makeup line, offers 40 different shades of foundation, and its ads include a different model wearing each shade.

“I wanted things that I love. Then I also wanted things that girls of all skin tones could fall in love with,” Rihanna told Refinery29. “There’s red undertones, green undertones, blue undertones, pink undertones, yellow undertones — you never know, so you want people to appreciate the product and not feel like: ‘Oh that’s cute, but it only looks good on her.”

Also this month, makeup staple Glossier unveiled a series of ads for its new body care line Body Hero, featuring five models with various skin colors and body types.


A post shared by Glossier (@glossier) on


The brand’s ads and social media posts don’t expand on the diversity of their models, compared to other campaigns explicitly recognizing their inclusion of body diversity, such as Vogue’s Ashley Graham cover earlier this year and Aerie’s ongoing Real campaign.

However, Fenty’s forthright foray into shade inclusivity is actively infiltrating social media conversation. An albino woman’s Instagram post describing her experience using Fenty foundation has gone viral, even attracting the attention of Rihanna herself.

A post shared by Acondria (@acondria) on

Responses like these are testament to the ads’ success in accurately representing women’s bodies. “With the Body Positive Movement, [brands] have jumped on it so much because they see that it’s a moneymaker and it’s a hot buzzword and it can get them attention and a pat on the back. But people can tell when it’s not genuine,” body positive model and activist Tess Holliday told AdWeek this week. “Even if brands mess up, it’s important to say, ‘We messed up and we want to do better’ and ask their actual consumers what they want to see.”


“Of course you’re going to get some people that just say garbage,” she says. “But I feel like the majority of people want to see people who look like them, whether that’s people who aren’t able bodied, fat people, trans people, people of color.”

As PR professionals, we have the opportunity to highlight the voices of consumers and give visibility to their best interests. Let’s look to brands like Fenty and Glossier on how to do so in a genuine and empowering way.

NFL Meets PR

By: Andi DiMatteo

Reparations. Immigration. Affirmative Action. These are terms in the United States that tend to elicit strong responses and opinions. Football, on the other hand? Traditionally, it’s not a very polarizing word. However in the past week, comments made by President Trump have created a painful divide in an arguably quintessential part of America’s culture. He targeted the National Football League (NFL) at a campaign rally with a reference to Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, alleging Kaepernick should be fired for disrespecting the flag. Kaepernick made headlines last year for kneeling rather than standing during the national anthem to protest oppression and brutality against people of color in the U.S.

Trump’s comments created a public relations crisis within the NFL brand, because the range of stakeholders is so diverse. Between extensive media coverage of games, celebrity status of players and now comments from Donald Trump, it’s hard to escape the pervasiveness of the sport in American society. The NFL could not have stayed silent and ignored this issue, especially when it stemmed from the highest office in the nation. However, determining a plan of action was sure to be difficult because it could be easy to seem unpatriotic by disagreeing with the president’s defense of the flag.

Ultimately, the traditionally conservative NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) decided to side with the rights of their individual players, giving them a space to freely express their opinions without threat of punishment. “No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement.

This statement led to more demonstrations across games this week, with players kneeling during the national anthem or, in the case of the majority of players for the Pittsburgh Steelers, even opting to stay in their locker room until the song was over. Even individuals who were previously alligned with Trump made statements of dissent in regard to his actions. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots who has had a close relationship with the president over the past year said in a statement that he was “deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made.”

The #TakeaKnee protests were popularized on social media and drew even non-football fans into the conversation surrounding the national controversy. However, the constitutional first amendment argument and justification by the NFL is not enough to ease the tension between players, the league must issue a more concise statement outlining its sentiments not only solidify the brand, but help to smooth over the controversy. It’s not enough to acknowledge that their players have the right to free speech, the NFL should encourage it.

By prioritizing and creating a cohesive public relations strategy to follow in times of crisis such as this, the NFL will be able to be a stronger and more proactive brand, engaging and maintaining relationships with stakeholders across the country.

PR in the News: Uber’s response to Trump’s immigration ban

By: Allie Schwartz, Shelby Dewberry and Roya Forooghi

Uber, a popular worldwide transportation network, has been experiencing backlash after President Trump’s implementation of a ban of immigrants/green card/visa holders from Iran, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria, including refugees. The company suspended surge pricing after New York City taxi drivers abandoned their posts in order to protest the ban. This suspension was negatively received by a section of the public that oppose the ban, and as a result many people have deleted their Uber accounts and switched to Lyft, who announced a million dollar donation to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over the next four years.

As a response to this, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick tweeted on January 29th that Trump’s travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries is “against everything Uber stands for.” He said that the ban affects thousands of Uber drivers, and as a result of this, Kalanick said that Uber would “compensate drivers for lost earnings if they are unable to work because of the ban.” As Kalanick is an adviser on the president’s economic council, he stated that he would urge Trump to “stand up for what is right.”

Uber is also using public relations to show the world what the company values. Kalanick said, “Ever since Uber’s founding we’ve had to work with governments and politicians of all political persuasions across hundreds of cities and dozens of countries.”  Through this statement and throughout the entire letter Kalanick wrote, it is clear that for Uber business and politics intersect frequently.  Uber prioritizes their employees. The CEO is making this known by using PR and working in the political sphere to make a difference where he can.


FullSizeRender 3The fact that the Uber CEOs have expressed their political views is rubbing a lot of people the wrong way, seeing as #deleteUber is trending all over the internet. Individuals are claiming that the CEOs have publicly stated that they are for Trump’s Muslim ban and they are advocating for people to delete the app to show their distaste for their support of Trump’s policies; however, after looking into the issue further, it became clear that the issue was blown out of proportion by social media users.


Upon Trump’s election, Uber CEO’s publicly stated that they supported Trump and would work with him to promote their mission of furthering global travel and ensuring that their consumers have the best experience possible, yet they never stated support for the recent Muslim ban.

To combat the negative press coming from the issue, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick came out with a more neutral statement on the issue informing the public that they will be helping out their employees who have been negatively affected by the ban pro-bono; however it is unclear how successful this will be after seeing how quickly and fervently the internet took to #deleteUber.

This whole PR disaster with Uber gave us some insight about PR that we can apply to our own campaign with PR day. First, this shows us how truly important PR is in every industry. If Uber had a better crisis communications plan, or if they had dealt with their CEOs’ comments about supporting Trump earlier before it had become a crisis, this whole situation could have gone a lot differently.

Additionally, this shows the power of PR and how it can help repair broken bridges as Uber is offering to help their drivers who have been negatively impacted by the ban pro-bono for the next 90 days.

Finally, this shows how truly powerful PR is in every industry. Lack of good PR and communication about an off hand comment lead to #deleteUber to be trending all over the internet; now the company is trying to use better PR practices to repair their relationships and image through letters from the CEO and efforts on social media.

Public Relations really cannot be put on the back burner of any company, for if it is PR disasters such as this one can tarnish a company’s image and ruin their relationships with consumers beyond repair.

Communication Strategies in Civil War – Offensive ISIS Militants Flee to Syria

By Heather Fissel and Jaime Creager

Here are some takeaways from this CNN article, which reports that hundreds of ISIS fighters are fleeing Mosul in Iraq and crossing into neighboring Syria.

  • To help the refugees, the UN has set up five camps outside of Mosul. All are equipped to house 45,000 people. It’s important for people to be aware of these camps even though the UN’s plan it to keep their locations secret from possible terror threats, but still let innocent people know they exist.
  • Twitter is a good way to report transparency because for the most part, people are reporting on what is happening in real time. Since people can control the conversation on Twitter, reports of what is happening will be unbiased, compared to a news source that may have reason to skew the truth.
  • A sulfur factory was set on fire by ISIS militants 30 kilometers south of Mosul. As a result, plumes of toxic smoke are polluting the air. The toxic air is effecting Camp Swift and Qayyarah West Airfield, both US controlled, which have been advised to wear gas masks.  Publicity is important when these types of events occur. It ensures that constituents will be knowledgeable, especially in times of crisis – regardless if it’s an act of terrorism or online attention for a college Graphic Communication department.  
  • In terms of the Graphic Communication Department, we are looking to broaden the reach. Newspapers published in the Middle East are one of the public’s only source for news, so it reminded us to broaden our spread and still include print media. In dire situations like that of the sulfur factory fire, reaching constituents is very important for safety, no matter what the platform is.

3 Ways a Sound PR Strategy Can Help Win Your Organization Funding

By Marshall Zia and Demitria Castanon

In a world with a myriad of fields and professions, most, if not all, have one same disyllabic word in common: funding.

Last month, San Francisco State University’s STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program) failed to secure federal grant money given to eligible HSI’s (Hispanic Serving Institutions).


photo by Wiki user Webbi1987

Failure to attain funding is disappointing for any organization or function. However difficult the situation, a good PR strategy can facilitate and even expedite grant applications.

Here are 3 ways a sound PR strategy can help you win funding for your organization/function.

  1. Garner Awareness

One way a sound PR strategy can help you win funding is by garnering awareness. Awareness is important as it allows you to gain the attention of your target audiences and publics. This is key as it grants you visibility over your competitors. If placed in the correct communication channels, your organization’s cause/projects/etc. will drastically improve your reputation, giving you more clout.

For example, SFSU’s STEM program could pitch their research or movements towards ethnic inclusivity through specific media channels such as research journals and diversity inclined publications. This allows them to gain awareness within their publics and target audiences, and potentially gives them a leg up for their next grant application.

  1. Builds Credibility

A second way a great PR strategy can help you win funding is by building your organization’s credibility. Credibility is important as if what you have to say seems credible, people will be more responsive to you in the present AND in the future.

SFSU’s STEM program could increase their credibility to the committee handling the HSI-STEM grant by promoting their projects and causes in specifically chosen channels. If SFSU’s program seems more credible, it gives them a leg up over other applicants during the committee’s decision making.

  1. Helps Shape Brand Image

A third way great PR strategy can help you win funding is by helping you shape your brand image. Having a definite brand image allows your audience to know what you do and what you stand for. This can be important when trying to attain funding, as if the committee cannot identify what you stand for within a sea of applicants, there is a low chance that you will be recognized as a recipient for the grant.

One way to develop a consistent brand image is by making sure everything you publish, or everything published about you has a constant theme or message. This is something SFSU’s STEM program should keep in mind and try to strive for in the future.

The importance of PR in spreading hunger awareness

The Fall Food Drive focuses on one major theme and that is helping to lower the amount of hungry in San Luis Obispo County. Every year, the men’s basketball team partners with the SLO Food Bank to give the community an opportunity to give back. According to the SLO Food Bank, “over 46,000 San Luis Obispo county residents are food insecure which means 1 in 6 people face hunger.” Many people may not realize that hunger is still a relevant problem today in the United States.


ABC News recently published an article regarding a small town in Iowa that is facing a major hunger struggle. The article mentions that although national poverty rates are decreasing, that does mean that thousands of children and families are still going to bed hungry at night. Parents in Storm Lake, Iowa, struggle to feed their children and have to turn to turn to their community for help. People in the community are doing what they can to help by donating essentials such as bread and eggs. Not only is there a local charity pantry but community members are also setting up their own curbside pantries in order to help donate.

Just like Storm Lake, San Luis Obispo has opportunities for people in its community to help give back and feed the hungry. Our community can simply donate the cans in their pantry or money to the SLO Food Bank or to the cans located in Mott Gym on Cal Poly’s campus. When one person donates, this has the power to cause a chain reaction and change the lives of hundreds of people.

Cal Poly Men’s Basketball helps spread hunger awareness throughout the community by attending downtown farmer’s markets and letting people know how they can donate. Through public relations and marketing efforts, Coach Callero wants to make sure that the message is put out there and that people realize they can easily be a helping hand in this cause. Whether you’re from a small town in Iowa or beautiful San Luis Obispo, you have the power to make sure a child does not go to bed hungry.

What the Clinton email scandal can teach us about branding

If there’s anything we’ve learned about Hillary Clinton and her emails, it’s that she could possibly take better care in managing them. But besides that, what other lessons can we take from her recent email scandals?

In his article “The power of purpose: what the hacked Clinton emails tell us about branding,” author Nigel Hollis argues that the latest email Wikileaks scandal provides a valuable lesson about branding — specifically, that a brand should never be without a purpose.

Here are three key takeaways from Hollis’ article:

  1. Branding is essential for growth and profit.

Sure, this might seem obvious to most people. But at the onset of Clinton’s campaign, this wasn’t made quite so obvious to her and her team. They struggled to define Clinton’s platform throughout her run for president, which made it more difficult to squeeze by Bernie Sanders in the race and win the nomination.

DEM 2016 Debate

  1. The emails revealed Clinton’s campaign wasn’t clear on exactly why she is running for president.

That’s not great to hear from someone who’s running to become the next leader of the free world. Had her purpose been made clear in the beginning, she would have had a much easier time campaigning against Sanders in the primaries.

  1. The most successful brands in the world have a strong, established identity.

Think Apple and Amazon, and you immediately associate those brands with what they stand for. Bernie Sanders’ branding was equally as strong, as he made clear from the beginning why he was running for president and what issues he stood behind. Pitted against Sanders, the Clinton campaign realized a strong identity was essential and mobilized to establish one.