I’m Sorry

30 09 2011

Apologies have been a discussion in PR and crisis communication for years. When do you apologize? How do you apologize? Through what communication medium do you apologize?

Recent news has brought this topic into mainstream discussion once again. One example is Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and how he is trying to muddle through the thousands of complaints Netflix customers have about its newest business operations. A recent Washington Post article, The Science Behind Saying Sorry, discussed how Hastings’ effort to address his angry customers is following a familiar script.

In the past individuals have reacted differently to  apologies. Some are effective and some crash and burn. Is there a specific formula for the perfect apology? How do you repent while managing the fact that you are confirming blame? Personally, I would appreciate a sincere apology; one that doesn’t utilize scapegoats. According to a leadership text-book when leaders fail and lose credibility the 6 “As” of leadership accountability should be utilized. Accept responsibility, admit mistakes, apologize, take immediate remedial action, make amends or reparation and pay close attention to the reactions of your followers. This is where Hastings’ apology failed. Although he did say I’m sorry. He was apologizing for not explaining his recent business decision to charge Netflix customers more, but customers were mad that he did not make any remedial action to solve the problem. He did not pay close attention to the reactions of his followers.

Another recent example includes College of Charleston Student Body President, Ross Kressel. Kressel faced impeachment from office for tweeting offensive comments about gays, women  and some of his colleagues. After surviving impeachment he issued an apology via email to the student body. Below is the email sent.


This letter is an apology from my heart for the actions you may have recently read about.  As Student Body President I acted inappropriately and for that I apologize.  I apologize for whatever embarrassment, pain, or suffering I may have caused any of you in my capacity, because that is obviously not why you elected me your Student Body President.  I pledge to continue to work for you, represent you, and create the College environment you desire.  I as well as my colleagues in the Student Government Association welcome your call or email in the future to let us know how we can better serve you.  In the coming days, I will contact you to inform you of some of the major issues that will be addressed during the school year. 


Ross Kressel, President of the Student Body


After receiving this apology by email I began to question if this medium was the most effective means to deliver an apology for such an offensive act. How should apologies be delivered to their publics? Does delivery medium have an effect on the perceived effectiveness of the apology? I would argue that the medium does have an effect of the perceived effectiveness of the apology. As a communication master’s student I can’t help but apply a media theory to this example. According to media richness theory, individuals should match the communication channel to the content of the information. The second major consideration of this theory is the nature of the message that needs to be sent. The scholars that created this theory centered the nature of the message on ambiguity – the possibility of multiple interpretations or confusion. Therefore, the more ambiguous and sensitive the message the richer the medium that should be utilized (with face-to-face being the richest medium). I would argue that Hastings and Kressel should have used a richer form of media to communicate their apology. Would their apologies have been perceived differently if a richer medium were chosen? Do you think email and social media sites are effective mediums to deliver apologies? Does if depend on the situation?

Email Marketing Campaigns 101

27 04 2011

Last week I went to a Constant Contact Informational session with Anissa Starnes, the regional development director for Constant Contact.  For those of you unfamiliar with Constant Contact, it is marketing tool that helps you create email campaigns, surveys and event marketing campaigns.  At this event Anissa spoke about how to create a successful email marketing campaign and how to increase the number of times that your brand touches a potential or current customer. Below are my take-aways.

Email marketing can not be thought of as simply selling a product.  It should be used to connect with your audience and build connections with them.  This takes trust. You should use email to inform, educate and share something with your audience.  Email campaigns that simply try to sell a product will be deleted from inboxes.

Why do I need to use email marketing? What id my clients are not using email? Email campaigns can be used by any business, no matter the subject matter.  Statistics show that 147 million people across the country use email and most of them use it every day.  Therefore, your audience is using email and so should your business! Email marketing is also cost-effective and easy to measure.  When using an email campaign site like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp you can get reports on every email you send. 

Building your Email List

Step 1 to starting an email marketing campaign is to build your email list.  There is no magic number necessary to start a campaign; start where you are and keep adding emails to your list.  Remember, that email marketing is permission based.  You MUST gain permission from someone before you start inundating their mailboxes with email.  Also, after you add them to your list confirm that they wish to join by sending a welcome email.  In this email list how frequently they will receive emails and what they will consist of.  Example: monthly newsletter. Here are some ideas on how to build and add to your list:

  • Add a “Join My Mailing List” link in the signature of your email.
  • At networking events and meetings ask people if they would like to be added to your mailing list. 57% of consumers said that they would fill out a card to receive email alerts when asked by a small business.  It doesn’t hurt to ask!
  • Have sign up on your website.  Make sure it is on the front page so people can access it quickly.
  • Add a sign up on your Facebook.  The new business profiles on Facebook allow you to add a tab where fans can also sign up to receive emails. 

Anatomy of an Email Campaign

Your email should inform, promote your company and relate. Only 30% of the content should be promotional material.  The other 70% should inform and relate.  Please make sure that your content is concise.  Included links where people can opt to read more on your website, blog, Facebook, etc.  The email should be short snippets of information.  If it is too long or wordy it will just get pushed down to the bottom of in boxes or deleted. Here are some content ideas:

  • Think of the top frequently asked questions (FAQ) for your business.  Pick one and write about it.
  • The information you choose doesn’t always have to be about your company.  If you find something that applies to your field of work or even something that you think your audience might enjoy, include it.
  • Look at other newsletters for content ideas.
  • Add information tips and inspirational quotes.
  • Be personal!  Tell about yourself in your newsletter.  Your audience will want to get to know the person behind the company. Include information about yourself, your family, your interests, etc.  Also, include information about your staff.
  • Add videos, pictures and customer testimonials.

Email etiquette

Here a few things to note when sending emails.

  • Be aware of when you send emails and the frequency of emails. Never deliver an email blast on Monday or Friday.  Studies show that Tuesday or Wednesday have the highest open rates. Also, make sure that you are not flooding in boxes with emails.  I would recommend no more than 2 blasts a month.
  • Have a ‘from line.’ Studies recommend that the e-blasts should come from someone at your business.  This makes it more personal.
  • Subject lines are very important!  This can often be the reason someone deletes or opens your email. Subject lines should be short and sweet!  5-8 words is sufficient.  Make them interesting. The subject line should be a teaser of what is inside the email. If you have trouble writing subject lines, write the email first then come back and write your subject line. Punctuate and spell everything in your subject line correctly.  This will help to ensure that your email is not marked as spam.
  • When sending an email, personalize it with a first name.
  • When sending an email to more than one person blind copy the email addresses to protect the privacy of all in your list.

Tips for Finding a Job

2 02 2011

Today’s job market is not the easiest place for recent graduates who are looking for a job.  I have a few tips and suggestions that I feel are helpful.  Please comment and let me know if you have any other tips.

  1. Network, network and network! This is the most important thing that I learned in my college career.  Knowing someone can help give you that push that you need when finding a job. Most employers hire someone who has interned for them or someone they know. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Set up an informational interview with an employer or ask if you could set up a time to ask them a few questions about their career because you are interested in pursuing something similar.
  2. Perfect your resume.  Make sure your resume is one page and is free of gramatical errors.  Choose a format that makes it easy for an employer to scan.  There are numerous online examples and tips for perfecting resumes.
  3. Join your college of university’s local alumni club.  Most schools have these and this is the best way to network with local professionals in your area.  These people will be willing to help you in any way possible because they too are alumni.
  4. Become active on professional social media sites like Twitter or LinkedIn.  I highly recommend starting a LinkedIn account.  This site allows you to create a virtual resume and connect with people who are also on the site.  It gives you the opportunity to list skills, past employment history and acquire recommendations from other LinkedIn users.  Twitter is also a very effective way to connect with future employers and make connections that may be helpful down the road.
  5. Be professional!  Make sure that the phone number you give out to employers has an appropriate voice mail/answering machine message. I would recommend not having a ring back on your cell phone if you give this number to employers or list it on your resume.  They do not want to listen to your music, especially if it is obscene. Clean up your Facebook.  Remove pictures or wall posts that are inappropriate.  You have complete control of how you portray yourself online.  Although Facebook is a social site, it is being used more and more by businesses to keep in touch with employees. Last, ditch the cute email address or email signature.  When looking over your resume a serious employer is not going to want to email sccutiepie@aol.com for an interview. How you conduct yourself via email is just as important as how you would conduct yourself in an interview.
  6. Get involved in your local community.  Join a club, organization or volunteer.  This is a great way to network and meet people.

Social Media Best Practices: PR Group Project

29 11 2010

This semester my PR class is working for a client, Safe Harbor.  In addition to the Pepsi Refresh Project, the class has split up into groups to produce deliverables for our client.  My groups is working on a social media best practices guide including a calendar of when to post to Facebook, Twitter and the blog and a section on how to launch a social media campaign.  We are also creating a document with recommendations for their website including the addition of a press room and a discussion forum.  The first step in completing these deliverables was research.  We looked extensively at Safe Harbor’s Twitter, Facebook and blog.  We also looked at other nonprofits and specifically domestic violence shelters to see how Safe Harbor compared to the competition.  We found that the American Red Cross was a great example for nonprofit organizations hoping to get involved in social media.  This organization is very active with social media and even has a social media plan and how to for its branches.  We are using this organization to help us give suggestions to Safe Harbor.  Safe Harbor is doing a fairly good job with social media.  We have just a few suggestions on how to make their Twitter, Facebook and blog more effective and align them with each other.  We think that these social media sites need to be more conversational and work as a team to promote Safe Harbor and domestic violence.  Many of our tips include marketing their social media accounts, how to make posts on these sites more strategic and how to increase followers, friends and comments.  We hope that our suggestions help Safe Harbor to become more involved and a better networked nonprofit.

Pepsi Refresh Project: Do Some Good

8 11 2010

The Pepsi Refresh Project is a single year-long marketing campaign that was launched January 2010.  Instead of participating in Super Bowl advertising, Pepsi has allocated that money to embark on this project.  By the end of the year Pepsi estimates that it will have given $20 million in grant money to winners of each monthly competition.  I think this has been a bold and successful strategy for Pepsi.  It has used this online campaign to build new relationships and strong ties with the groups who have received the grants.  To read more check out this article.

Our class is competing to win $25,000 for Safe Harbor, our class client.  We are utilizing all of our social networks to ask friends, family and acquaintances to vote for our project.  If we win we will use to money to purchase new mattresses, carpet and playground equipment for the 2 shelters located in upstate South Carolina.  To learn more about our project and to vote please visit: http://www.refresheverything.com/studentsforsafeharbor

Internship Reflection

11 06 2009

This summer I am interning with Rawle Murdy, a marketing communications firm.  I told myself that I was going to try and document my daily experiences on my blog, like a journal.  I did not realize how busy I would be.  So I am making up for all the blog posts I missed with a giant summary.

Since beginning my internship, I have already learned a lot.  I have written news releases, pitched those releases, compiled media lists and have done research for clients.  I have learned a lot from completing these tasks.

One of the most important lessons I have learned thus far is that flexibility is essential.  There are days when you are working on an assignment and something very important comes up and you have to switch gears to focus your attention on that.  You must be able to jump on that task and complete it with the best of your ability.  This is something that is harder for some than others depending on work ethic and personality type.

Also, you need to be open to criticism.  An internship is a learning experience.  Soak up all the advice and critiques you are giving so you can use this information to learn.  I feel like I am constantly asking for comments and criticism.  “Tell me what to do differently.” “Tell me what you think.”  This has really helped me to further my learning and make me feel more comfortable completing certain tasks.

I am going to continue to update you on my learning experiences during my summer internships.  If you have any questions or suggestions for me please comment.