When the jelly isn’t sweet enough…

PUBLIC RELATIONS AND LISTENING

There seems to be a universal human instinct to try and get rid of anything portraying us negatively. Or really anything portraying us in any way other than how we want to be portrayed.

I, myself, am guilty of this.

So, one of my greatest challenges in learning how to be the best public relations professional I can be has been learning to ignore this instinct. Like I said in my last blog post, honesty is a key element in creating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with your publics.

Part of honesty, is transparency. Transparency means you let your publics see all of you, the good and the bad. Even the “bad” you have no control over.

Including negative comments on social media.

The rapid growth of social media is forcing brands to hold two-way conversations with their publics. This is a great thing. It means consumers have a platform to be heard, and brands, if they want to be successful at this whole social media thing, have a platform to listen and resolve.

But what a lot of brands mess up is the whole “listening” thing. Brands’ social media audiences are often their consumers, and many modern consumers don’t want to consume if they are not being heard.

So one of the worst things a brand can do on social media, is delete comments of consumers criticizing them.

Smuckers really blew it when it comes to this.

In 2014, Smuckers was revealed to be spending a lot of money on Anti-GMO Labeling efforts.

Consumers who were unhappy with this took to the brand’s Facebook page to voice their opinions in an effort to be heard.

But instead of listening to and engaging with their upset publics, Smuckers deleted the comments.

Not cool, Smuckers.

Smuckers broke the cardinal rule. Good PR practices do not equal erasing the bad.

So, Smuckers, here’s what you should’ve done:

Listen and respond.

You could’ve taken this opportunity to listen to what your consumers want and need in terms of GMO labeling, engage in conversation and learn how to be a better brand for your publics.

Instead, you erased criticism in an effort to maintain image.

Now, you’re droning on about how you welcome consumer feedback, as long as it doesn’t contain political commentary and misleading information.

Well, I’m going to help you again, Smuckers. This is what you should be doing now:

Make your consumers feel valued for their comments. Consumer comments are how you grow, even if they’re an argument against you.

So, listen and respond. Social media is a gift to brands, but you should use it wisely. Use it to remain open, honest and transparent. Through the good AND the bad.

Okay, I’m done being stern. Let’s have a good laugh. Here’s some brands who are not doing too hot with social media.

Image from Edward Conde via Flickr, edited with text in Canva.

Realizing the important things…

I have a confession to make.

Up until three months ago, I hated my major.

Every day, I was questioning if Public Relations was really the major for me.

I was frustrated because all I had learned, and was continuing to learn through the spring 2015 semester, was the glossary of terms I apparently needed to memorize in order to be a successful Public Relations professional.

And the class I hated the most? Public Relations Strategies.

Now, I should say I had an absolutely incredible professor for the course, Dr. Sun Lee. She is one of the most kind, helpful professors I have had the pleasure of learning from in my time here at Texas Tech.

So my hatred of the course had absolutely nothing to do with her. I was just sick and tired of learning definitions.

But, since the completion of the course in May, I am three months wiser and three months keen on how useful Public Relations Strategies actually is in terms of being successful within my major.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, thank you Dr. Lee. I owe it all to you.

By this point you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Okay, Dana. What’s the point of all of this?”

Well, audience, thank you for asking. It’s just I have something I need to share with you all. I need to tell you the Top Five Lessons I Learned in Public Relations Strategies.

Because they are proving to be astronomically important as I ascend into courses requiring me to apply skills and gain confidence in myself as a Public Relations professional.

Top 5 Lessons in PR Strategies

1. Public Relations hinges entirely upon honesty.

  • Dr. Lee stressed to my classmates and I on the very first day of the course that Public Relations is NOT spinning the truth to make you, or the organization you’re representing, look better. We must be honest and transparent so the relationships we build with our publics are strong. Which leads me to my next greatest lesson…

2. Know your public.

  • Not knowing your public is kind of like shouting into the void and hoping someone hears what you’re shouting and thinks, “I like that.” When you know your public, you know how to create a conversation with them that will be beneficial for everyone.

3. Before you ever begin, know where you want to end.

  • Poetic, I know. Any and all forms of Public Relations tactics require knowing what you want the end result to be before you start implementing anything. Otherwise, it would be like jumping into that same void and hoping someone is waiting with open arms at the bottom.

4. Listen.

  • Listen to your audience, peers and competitors. You’ll be a better professional because of it.

5. Be quick, but not too quick.

  • Always be ready to react, but take a moment to determine whether your reaction is appropriate for the situation.

Dr. Lee, I am so sorry I didn’t see the value in these things when you first presented them to me. I now appreciate what you’ve given me.

So, what lessons have you all grown to see the value in even though you deemed them frivolous at first? Let me know. I’m interested.

McAlister’s Deli App: I Can Help

Opened in 1989, McAlister’s Deli is a chain of restaurants specializing in the “fast-casual” dining experience. The restaurant has developed a reputation for tasty sandwiches, baked potatoes with all the fixin’s, soups, salads and life-changing (in my opinion) sweet iced tea.

I am a huge fan of McAlister’s Deli, but what on earth is “fast-casual?”

Apparently, fast-casual dining combines the speed and convenience of a fast food restaurant with the food quality of a full-service restaurant.

Ah, yes. That does sound like my beloved McAlister’s.

McAlister’s purpose behind their fast casual dining appears to be genuine hospitality and working as a company and individual employees to give as much as they can, ranging from food to kindness.

If you’ve ever sat down to eat at a McAlister’s (if you haven’t, please get on it), you’ve experienced the eagerness of employees to refill your drink the moment they see it go empty.

And, for me, that’s so special to see in a counter service restaurant where the employees refilling your drink are not a waiter or waitress designated to your table throughout your time at the restaurant.

Something else you might’ve noticed if you’ve ever visited a McAlister’s is the range in demographic of the patrons there.

It seems McAlister’s overall target audience ranges from families to college students to seniors. Their marketing is pretty age-neutral across the board.

But here in Lubbock, Texas, it’s pretty safe to say that their biggest audience for the two storefronts they have here are college students.

The App
For as much as I consider myself to be a huge fan of McAlister’s I had no clue they had an app.

So I went to the App Store on my iPhone, searched “McAlister’s Deli,” and I was greeted with two things.

A McAlister’s Deli app.

deli

And a McAlister’s Deli Deliclub app.

deliclub

Well, which is it? Which is the one that I want?

So, I put the pricey college education my parents are paying for to good use and I researched.

By research, I mean I visited the McAlister’s website from my phone where I saw:
deli site

There, at the top of the screen, was a Call to Action to download the “Online Ordering” app.

So, I clicked “install” from that web page, and once it was downloaded I found that the Online Ordering app I had downloaded was the “McAlister’s Deli” app that initially appeared in my app store search.

OK, McAlister’s, let’s pick a name.

As I opened the app and dove in, I learned that it is truly only meant for online ordering. The app offers nothing else. But hey, that’s great for me, someone who had been calling in orders all this time like I had just come off the Mayflower.
However, while the app only does one thing, it does that one thing very well. The ordering process through the app is one hundred percent painless. Throughout every step, the app invites you to customize your order to ensure you are getting exactly what you want out of your meal, just like you would when ordering at a counter in their restaurant. The app presents a “Rapid Reorder” feature as well as allowing the user to save their favorite orders.

And at checkout, it offered to save my receipt to my photo library. How great is this? I didn’t even have to bring my free hand to my phone in order to screenshot the receipt. Truly, a one-handed process.

I placed my order, received my pick-up time, and started to get excited about my food.

While I waited, I dove deeper into the app. There’s almost no content there because it only does one thing. And while it does that one thing beautifully, I feel there are some missed opportunities for special offers and such to encourage use of the app. If McAlister’s did this, then they might be able to create more brand loyalty. But more on that later…

I decided to look into the Deliclub app that I was presented with in the app store. This is McAlister’s separate app for their loyalty program. The scathing reviews calling for the return of the traditional punch card rewards system and the 1.5/5 star rating immediately deterred me from downloading the app. It’s probably a good idea for McAlister’s to do away with this altogether.

Satisfied with my one McAlister’s app, I looked into their social media. As far back as I looked, there was no mention of the online ordering app or encouraging their followers to use it. The only Call to Action seen is when a user visits their website on a mobile phone and are presented with the option to download like I was.

This really is shame because the app genuinely does add value to their brand. Online ordering is available on desktop computers, but not through their mobile site. The only ways someone can order McAlister’s out of store without a desktop is through the app or by calling in. And while I’ve had nothing but positive experiences by calling in, the app is 1 million times easier.

Secret Shopper

When I went to pick up my food, I was enthusiastically greeted by a young man (probably about 22 years old) who asked if I was ordering or picking up. I told him I was picking up and he waved me over to his spot behind the counter.

He took my name and quickly grabbed my neatly packed bag of food from the shelf behind him and passed it over to me, all without dropping the smile from his face.

He told me my total, and as I passed my debit card over, I asked him what he thought about their app.

He told me he thought the Online Ordering app was fantastic, and I agreed with him. He brought up the point that the app is especially handy when you’re in a situation where you’re hungry, but cannot call in (i.e. sitting in class, anticipating being free).

I then asked him about the Deliclub. He said he didn’t find many people who use it, but when they do, the app has some glitches that prevent easy use (a comment consistent with the iTunes reviews).

If I was an executive of McAlister’s, this young man would be praised for his honesty. I, for one, never appreciate an employee trying to pull the wool over my eyes just to get me to use something the company has created.

A+ to the young man who gave me my food.

The food was delicious as well.

Gosh, I love McAlister’s.

Recommendations

OK, McAlister’s Deli. Listen up. I’m about to drop some grade-A recommendations.

1) PROMOTE THE APP. I, one of your biggest fans, had no idea it even existed until a few days ago. It really is a great app. It streamlines a process that every single person who visits your restaurant has to go through, but nobody knows about. It is so easy to mention the app every time you make a post about your delicious food on any platform. So do it.

2) QUIT CONFUSING PEOPLE. Pick one title for the online ordering app. Don’t let it appear under different guises in different places. Make it consistent. And if you’re attached to the Deliclub app, combine with the online ordering app. This way, guests can order and gather rewards all in one place instead of trying to work through the glitches of the Deliclub app at a face-to-face checkout.

Overall, I highly recommend the McAlister’s Deli Online Ordering app. It is easy to use, nice to look at, and it will get you some delicious food in no time flat.

md4

(Wow. Just… wow.)

All photos are my own screenshots or taken from the McAlister’s Deli Instagram account.

It’s not just for selfies…

By now, most of us have seen Apple’s new iPhone 6 camera campaign. The campaign showcases beautiful photographs and videos all shot on an iPhone 6. And, most of us have probably thought, “No way could I ever do that with a phone.”

But I have seen the light.

Recently, my Texas Tech Public Relations Content and Development class was privy to a guest lecture by Tonja Hagy. Tonja is currently the marketing manager for the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts. Her lecture was unlike any I had heard before.

The topic? iPhone Photo 101.

Yes, we had a guest lecturer instruct us on how to better utilize our iPhones to take quality photographs to develop online content.

And while Tonja did not deliver a single piece of information that could be considered a dud, I am going to share My Top Five Takeaways from Tonja Hagy’s iPhone Photo 101

1. Shoot from a low angle.

  • Shooting a photo from a lower angle will bring the foreground closer and make the photo more dynamic. It will also make the lens of an iPhone’s camera seem much wider than it is.

2. Use negative space as an element.

  • This doesn’t mean blank space (cue Taylor Swift), but instead utilizing unfilled space to frame the subject.

3. Include shadows in the photo’s scene.

  • Fight the natural inclination to eliminate shadows because they can lend to the story without focusing on the subject.

4. Shoot from the level of your subject.

  • Avoid shooting from above or below, but rather at eye level of the subject. This gives the subject dominance and gives the viewer a taste of the wonder of the subject’s world.

And last, but certainly the most important…

5. Keep it simple.

  • The simpler the photo, the stronger the message.

These rules do not strictly apply to those with iPhones, but rather to anyone with a camera phone and no idea where to begin to take a decent picture.

Next time you’re about to snap a photo with that texting machine in your hands, take a few seconds and reconsider how you’re capturing the moment. Like me, you’ll be surprised what you can come up with.

Here are some photos I am particularly impressed with myself for taking. All of them were taken on my iPhone 6. Do you have any pictures from your mobile phone that you’re proud of?

blog1

blog2

blog3

blog4

blog5