Monday, December 3, 2012

Strategic PR Plan - Art in the Exchange

Below you will find my Strategic PR Plan for three art galleries located in the heart of the Exchange District of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hello Canada! Expect More. Pay Less. Is that eh ok?

Target Canada will face stiff competition when it arrives in 2013. I believe that Target  can convince Canadian consumers to chose them over the other guy if they position themselves correctly. That being said,  how can Target accomplish this? Most importantly, can Canadians truly embrace Target as THE new upscale discounter in their fine country?

Similarly to the U.S., Target caters to women. This target audience is characterized as having significant purchasing power, they exercise great influence as opinion leaders and are "multi-minded". As the Canadian economy is quite strong, their purchasing power will work in Target’s favour as they will be instrumental in deciding whether or not their household will shop at Target or continue to acquire their goods at other large  Canadian retailers.

Firstly, Target must ensure that its brand and its "bull’s eye" logo becomes top of mind for Canadian consumers. In order to accomplish this objective, they will need to integrate it into their marketing and public relations tactics and play up its colours as their logo  and the Canadian flag share the same colours. Also, their upscale discounter image can be successful in Canada if Target continuously communicates their strong value proposition of  "Expect More.Pay Less" as part of their overall strategy.

We must also consider Target's competition such as Walmart, Canadian Tire, Sears Canada and JOE Fresh. To counter this threat, Target must continue to position itself as a trendy and hip retailer whose mission it is to ensure its guests live a unique shopping experience while acquiring high quality items at discount prices. This will help differentiate them from Walmart, for example, as they prefer to focus on offering consumers everyday low prices.

This leads us to the exciting part: Tactics! To successfully enter Canada, Target will need  to integrate Canada's cultural diversity into its tactics. As they have never encountered this challenge, I've come up with a few suggestions to help them receive a warm welcome from my fellow Canucks.

My first attempt to create buzz and excitement around the Target brand would be to stage a special event in popular shopping malls across Canada. I would send out press kits to local fashion reporters and invite local bloggers to attend the event.  The special event would feature models wearing Target's designer clothing and Target representatives would give out goodie bags while serving local fare, for example, mini poutines in Montréal.

The main attraction would be a large version of the Target logo. People could potentially win  a variety of Target gift cards by playing darts with the logo. The maximum prize would be $1,000 and presented to people who reached the center of the bull’s eye.

The second tactic will build on Target’s design for all mantra and would be announced a week after the special event. Target would launch a new designer competition and encourage Canadian designers from across the country to create an apparel line for their store. The winner would be awarded $10,000 and their collection would be featured in their own "Shop".

The competition would be promoted through a national TV ad campaign similar to their current commercials yet tailored to engage a Canadian audience. In addition, I would reach out to local fashion reporters as well as local fashion schools. I would also post information on Target's  social media pages and create a Twitter hashtag: #designforcanada to incite participants to share their collections with Target's followers.  

Participants would need to create a full Winter 2013 collection clothing line that integrates at least one revamped traditional Canadian apparel item, i.e. moccasins, or a new Canadian item, i.e. Japanese kimono. The final participants’ collections would be judged by Canadian opinion leaders which would include Jeanne Beker, Marilyn Denis and Flare magazine’s new editor in chief, Miranda Purves. The winner and their collection would be announced on the opening day of Target's first store in Toronto. This will help attract curious consumers and local media who are eager to purchase or view their fellow Canadian's clothing line.

I am confident that by using these proposed public relations tactics to support Target as THE new upscale discounter in Canada that they would not only satisfy Canadian consumers’ stylish and unique tastes but that they would topple their competition in 2013.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Is it too late to say I'm sorry?

Timing is everything in the world of public relations.  The need to juggle multiple priorities, deadlines and budgets for a client may tempt a PR practitioner to immediately create a to-do list. This is a common mistake but it is also a grave one.

Test, test, test….Is anybody listening? 

Companies tend to think they already understand the needs of their customer but do they take the time to assess and re-assess their needs on a regular basis? If not,how can they be confident their communication tactics will be effective? 

"The goals of communication are to inform, persuade, motivate, or achieve mutual understanding," therefore a clear understanding of your publics is primordial.  Once you've determined your audience's needs, you can better craft key messages that will grab their attention and enable you to truly engage with them.

Without having done the back work, it is very unlikely that the dissemination of your key messages will go smoothly.  A major PR faux pas is being out of touch with your audience. “People want to be entertained, informed or alerted to opportunities that can fulfill their needs.”1 Today’s consumers are quite  savvy and can quickly detect a message that is not authentic.  Even worse, they may ignore it.

A botched campaign is not only detrimental to one’s career but you’ll also be left to deal with one angry client.

Netflix: How to lose and alienate customers

Netflix’s PR blunder stemmed from an overconfident CEO who stopped listening to his customers and disregarded their needs.In July 2011, Netflix announced to its customers that they would be increasing their prices in addition to separating its DVDs and unlimited streaming services.

Price hikes are not unusual but in Netflix's case, they failed to explain why they implemented the price hike ? What did this mean for their current or future customers?  What was their strategy? 

The bottom line was : Customers would now be paying more for less.

Netflix may have thought that masking the reason for their price hike through euphemisms would play in their favor but it did quite the opposite. Customers were infuriated and didn’t hesitate to share their thoughts online. Within minutes, Netflix was trending as #FAIL on Twitter and was being slammed all over the blogosphere.

Don't forget to throw in an insincere apology

Netflix chose to stay silent amidst receiving thousands of complaints. In a crisis management situation, listening and responding to your customers’ needs is key.

To make matters worse, when Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, finally decided to respond, his apologize was insincere and he did not address the price hike issue. In fact, he took the opportunity to unveil Qwikster, their sister company who would manage their DVDs by mail. Customers would now be forced to log in to Qwikster and Netflix separately.  

This was not exactly a more convenient way for customers to access their services. Can anyone say #FAIL?

Let us not forget that the owner of the Twitter handle @Qwikster was an avid marijuana consumer and loved to integrate sexual innuendos into his tweets. Netflix may need a refresher course on the importance of research.

Needless to say, Qwikster was abandoned and Mr. Hastings admitted he tried to move forward too quickly. In the end, their lack of transparency and strategy resulted in the loss of “800,000 subscribers, its stock price dropped 77 percent in four months, and management's reputation was battered,” as reported by CNET.

This is a perfect example of what not to do when re-branding. It is evident that Netflix hadn’t done the back work. Ultimately, they alienated their clients and they ended up paying the price.

#be honest, be transparent and be timely.

Wilcox, Denis et al. (2013). THINK Public Relations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lesson of the day: Research, research, and then research some more.

Launching a PR campaign generates quite the excitement among the client and the public relations practitioner. As the client is focused on the end result, there is a lot of pressure put on the PR practitioner to obtain those results quickly and efficiently. In the essence of time, it may be easier to go straight to the to-do list rather than delve into the nitty-gritty sides of things, in other words, research.

Research is an essential part of any public relations campaign. I would dare to say, the most important element of the campaign. It enables you to uncover important details about your publics and the world they live in.

As Donald Treadwell simply states,” to be a successful PR firm, it’s crucially important to understand the economic, political, legal, regulatory, public opinion, social, cultural, technological, marketing, and financial components of the organization you’re working for.”

Sounds simple enough, right? How does one do this? What techniques can we use to gather detailed information about our publics and their environment?

Firstly, you could start with secondary research before conducting your own primary research. This would mean using existing information to your advantage such as reading books, newspaper articles, surfing social media sites and blogs, etc. It is a good way to assess what you’re working with.

Evidently, if you are a #plugged in PR professional, this type of research should be easy. It should be a simple matter of finding and collecting concrete facts.

Once you’ve got a better of idea of what’s out there, you may still have a few questions which can be uncovered through primary research.

Credit: CRNinc.
A focus group could be used to pretest your key messages, slogans and themes. You could uncover buzz words that resonated with them, and ditch those that didn’t.  Your questions will enable you to compile rich and qualitative data based on these individuals' attitudes and motivations. This information can help you define your strategy.

One aspect of research that cannot be overlooked is comparing your organization to its competition.

It is important to understand what the competition is doing and what consumers think of them. Why? You’re most likely both targeting the same consumers. These findings will in turn help you shape your strategy to « counter their strengths and capitalize on their weaknesses »1

At this point, you should be convinced that research is the first step when you want to create  a successful public relations campaign. 

When designing a strategic plan, you will need to determine the answers to some key questions about facts, goals, and audiences. If your research was properly executed, you will already have those answers and you can begin to craft your strategy. Not only should your strategy reflect your findings, but they should also be aligned with your organization’s business, marketing and communication objectives.

Understanding your audience can make the difference between a top notch campaign and a botched PR campaign.

Take the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. It was a bold attempt to challenge our society’s views on beauty. Dove, with the help of its PR agency, Edelman, redefined the way women should feel about their bodies.

No other beauty company had tried this before.

Credit:  Dove

It wasn’t by accident that Dove came to the conclusion that the way beauty companies were marketing to women was all wrong.

As explained by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Dove conducted a survey and found that « 75 percent of respondents strongly agree that they wish "the media did a better job of portraying women of diverse physical attractiveness — age, shape and size." »

Without this information, Dove would not have been able to identify a clear strategy.  They wanted to generate their sales, create dialogue and debate about the definition of beauty and implement Dove self-esteem programs and they did!

It should come as no surprise that the PRSA presented them with the 2006 Silver Anvil Best of Award to fortheir Campaign for Real Beauty.

Lesson of the day: Research, research, and then research some more.


1 Wilcox, Denis et al. (2013). THINK Public Relations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Interview with a PR professional

As a former Université de Saint-Boniface (USB) student, I was thrilled to meet their Communications Coordinator, Monique LaCoste, at a Manitoba IABC networking event this month. I couldn't think of a better person to interview. Without hesitation, she agreed to meet with me at her office the following week.

Monique LaCoste has over 18 years of experience as a CBC journalist. She is a well- known and respected public figure in the francophone community. She started as a radio announcer and transitioned to television in 2002.  She decided to focus on her family in 2006 and started Monique LaCoste Communications. Her initial plan was to take on radio, television and documentary projects but she was often called upon to produce communications materials for her clients’ public relations needs.

Why did she take the plunge and start a public relations career? It was really by accident that Monique made this decision.  She stumbled on a job posting that perfectly encompassed both her skills and her interests. This dream job is her current position at the USB.

She admits the transition was somewhat difficult. I was curious to know if any of her previous skills as a journalist proved to be useful for her current role. Her excellent writing and research skills have definitely come in handy.  "Being able to think fast, absorb important information and organize it in a concise and clear manner is crucial," says Monique. Not to mention she is quite media savvy. Monique understands how the media functions; what makes them cringe and what makes them embrace your story.

Typical is not the best way to describe her work weeks. Unpredictable would be much more suitable. She is currently juggling seven projects, which include an internal and external  fundraising campaign, the annual report, the Sous la coupole magazine, and much more. Oftentimes, she must drop everything to write a press release, a letter or even a speech as requested by other departments.

As we had discussed in class, a public relations campaign can take years of development before it can be successful and deemed to be true for Monique's proudest career milestone.

Her eyes lit up as she described the recent re-branding of the USB. I must admit, as a former student, I was fascinated to hear the details of this lengthy process.


Credit: La Liberté
From left to right, Raymonde Gagné, USB President and Monique LaCoste.

Although the re-branding of the university occurred within the last year, it took years of preparation to create significant buzz around the USB in order to influence public perception.

It began in 2009 with a public opinion poll to determine how familiar Manitobans were with the USB.  They  found that close to 56% of Manitobans knew or had heard of the USB.

Monique had her work cut out for her. A branding budget was set and specific projects were strategically picked to raise overall awareness of the USB brand in English and French media outlets. By 2011, 62% of Manitobans admitted they recognized the USB name.

Monique's efforts were finally paying off and as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press, "USB has seen its enrolment soar by 8.4 per cent, bringing its total enrolment to an all-time record of 1,267 in 2012."

Needless to say, Monique is quite proud of the USB's new brand image. The creation of their new logo was definitely one of the highlights. An outside agency drafted 14 versions but it came down to 2 logos which were presented to a focus group. "It was a unanimous decision. Everybody agreed that our current logo was the right choice," exclaimed Monique.

The result is truly astonishing. The logo encompasses both the rich history of the institution yet incorporates its bright future. Click here to read more about the different aspects of the USB logo. 

As I chuckled nervously, I dared to ask her how one becomes a successful communications coordinator. She stressed that what differentiates an average PR practitioner to a top notch one is how #plugged in she/he is with their respective community. They must understand their publics before they can effectively communicate with them. Being #plugged in does not only mean being in tune with trends in the PR industry but also in the business world.
What a relief for a #plugged in gal like me!

Inspired by her dynamic energy, I asked her if she could provide any advice to a hopeful PR professional such as myself. She immediately shouted "GO FOR IT!  We are in a dire need for public relations practitioners, especially ones that can communicate in French." She assured me that formal training was the right path, and she does wish she would have known this before starting her own PR career.

Her last words of wisdom were simple: Be passionate. She didn’t hide the fact that her job is not a typical 9-5 job. A true PR professional loves to talk about their organization whether they’re on the clock or not. They are constantly looking for new opportunities to relate with their publics. 

She definitely worked some #prmagic on me. This interview solidified my decision to pursue a career in public relations.  It was a delight to meet a such a passionate public relations professional like Monique.


Monday, September 24, 2012


Comment #1 in response to :Correct Your Social Media Behavior, Now Please by Mimi Public Relations

Thanks for this great article!

Your message about a consistent message really resonated with me. I often visit company websites who list their social media accounts. Intrigued by the fact that they are utilizing Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, I decide to check them out. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that many companies are not staying ahead of the game, their Facebook page is quite bare, their content hasn’t been refreshed for months, and I find myself never visiting their page again.

Social media may not be what they consider a huge part of their business, but it can certainly impact consumers’ perceptions about their brand if they aren’t effectively using it. If there is a lack of relevant, interesting content on a company’s online profile, I am lead to believe that they aren’t interested in building a relationship with me as a consumer.

In today’s world, companies need to focus more of their efforts on public relations. The way we communicate and interact has completely changed. As you’ve stated, “We live and breathe the online world of constantly connected, no boundaries social media." Organizations must realize that consumers in 2012 aren't what they were 10 years ago.


Comment #2 in response to: The True Secret of Networking and Making Business Connections by Waxing UnLyrical

I thoroughly enjoyed your take on networking and making business connections.
I recently read that”70 percent of all jobs are found through networking.”  This is a reality I need to quickly get accustomed to if I expect to find a job upon graduation. Getting out there and meeting people at these types of event is crucial for a PR student such as myself.

I must admit that I find networking quite intimidating, I have a hard time “selling myself” to others. I’d love to meet a PR superstar who could share some of their tricks of the trade. My problem is finding the courage to approach them.

My personal goal for the year is to get out there and meet as many PR professionals as possible.

My first networking event was earlier this month with the Manitoba IABC. It was an extremely rewarding experience. I met the Communications Coordinator at the Université de Saint-Boniface and she gladly shared with me her perspective on their recent re-branding. It was fascinating! If I had decided to go home after work, I would have never made this connection.

For this reason, I can definitely agree that “the point is in the meetings. The point is in the people. The point is in connecting, reconnecting, and reveling in connection.”

Thanks Shonali!

Comment #3 in response to: After Sandy, lessons  emerge for corporate communicators by Michael Sebastian


Thanks for sharing some valuable tips after the Sandy disaster.

I find that public relations practitioners are always faced with new challenges and oftentimes they want to get the job done. However, shameless promotion in a time of crisis is never the right choice.

 As you state, peoples’ « emotions are running high » during a crisis. Catching news reporters and consumers when they are vulnerable may grab their attention but it certainly won’t impress them.

After all, as PR professionals, isn’t it our ultimate goal to build positive relationships with our publics? Why would a time of a crisis be a good time to pitch our nonessential news, or even worse, leverage the crisis to our advantage?  

Haven’t we learned our lessons from previous PR gaffes such as Kenneth Cole’s controversial tweet about the citizen uprising in Cairo?

It’s evident that PR newbies like me and even PR pros need to brush up on their crisis management skills from time to time.

Comment #4 in response to:Dating Advice for PR Pros by Jeremy Porter

What an interesting way of describing media relations to a public relations practitionner. Thanks Jeremy!

As a PR newbie, I thought your examples were relevant and I definetly agree that confidence and humour are just as important on a first date as they are during your first interaction with a journalist. Creating a lasting first impression is key to build a long-term relationship and it’s important that it be a positive impression.

I was also intrigued by your suggestion to have a friend set you up with a journalist. It seems simple but it could be quite effective for new public relations professionals who have zero relationships with the media

I never thought dating and media relations could be so similar. I am now convinced that I can use my dating expertise when I start building relationships with my local reporters.

Slackers need not apply

“It starts with, the RIGHT message and the RIGHT preparation.” — PRQ Plan

What I quickly learned was that public relations is not simply for individuals who love socializing. It may sound glamorous, fun and hip but it requires hard work and dedication. A public relations practitioner must be #plugged in to current events, conduct extensive research, monitor the media and craft timely responses  if they ever expect to run a successful PR campaign.

Prior to our class discussion, I didn’t realize how unpredictable public relations could truly be. Countless hours could be spent sending press releases, setting up interviews, planning events and preparing a press kit, but it could take months before it appears in the media.  Journalists can dictate if a PR campaign will succeed or fail in many cases. If a press release doesn't grab their attention, it could get lost in the shuffle.

One thing I know for sure, PR is not designed for slackers; it requires creativity, curiosity, intelligence, excellent writing skills and problem solving skills. There is #neveradullmoment.

Credit: PR Quote

Public relations is a vital part of any organization. When I think of  Canada’s favorite companies, I must say WestJet comes to mind, and I can also vouch for my  80-year old grandfather who rarely travels  yet refuses to fly with Air Canada. As one blogger puts it, “My overall flying with WestJet was a really great experience and should I be traveling to Canada again I wouldn't hesitate to fly with them again.” You can read more about her WestJet experience here. 

WestJet Airlines’ customer service, advertising and public relations departments create a seemingly flawless synergy. This definitely explains how they’ve become Canada’s third favorite company. Way to go WestJet!

Credit: PR Quote

Silence is never an option.

This piqued my interest because some companies would prefer staying silent rather than adding fuel to the fire. That being said, it is much better to release your side of story rather than allowing speculation in the media and blogosphere to run rampant. It only takes a few minutes for rumors to spiral out of control.

 In damage control situations, proper media training is definitely key. Senior management must be able to respond as quickly as possible and it     is a PR professional’s responsibility to ensure they are ready at a moment’s notice.  Acting fast is always the right solution!

As for what I’m hoping to learn from this class, I would have to say I’m quite interested in exploring how public relations can be measured. What would my clients like to hear? What measurement tools are used in the PR world?
Evidently, research is key when it comes to creating a successful PR campaign, but how does one define their publics?  As a public relations practitionner, stakeholders can range from employees to governments as opposed to a marketer who can define a specific market for their company. For example, Banana Republic can easily define their target audience to: men and women between the ages of 20-50 with an income level of $50,000 to $80,000 who have a professional  career.

Lastly, what type of messaging is most effective for a broader audience? What are the best practices for public relations?