Three Most Memorable PR Moments of 2018

Remember that time IHOP, the pancake ruler of the world, caused a nationwide frenzy by announcing it was changing its name to IHOb, International House of Burgers? Yeah, me too. While it may feel like that happened years ago, it actually took place in 2018.

 

Whether you loved the publicity stunt or hated it, you have to admit it caught your attention and made for good conversation.

 

As we gear up to enter a new year, let’s take a look at three of the most noteworthy marketing and PR moments of 2018.

 

IHOP Fakes a Name Change

While some called it stupid, others called it genius. Either way, the world was captivated at the idea that the 60-year old International House of Pancakes would be known for anything but sweet and delicious breakfast food. The stunt did exactly what it was intended to do: get the world talking about the brand and thinking about it as more than just a go-to breakfast joint.

 

IHOP has served burgers since opening its first location in 1958. However, with casual dining and family dining becoming less popular with the proliferation of restaurant delivery services, the restaurant needed to get more diners coming in its doors for lunch.

 

While the marketing stunt certainly created a ton of buzz this year, it did also create some confusion. Many consumers were left wondering if the company was moving to a burgers-only menu and whether the signature pancakes they loved would continue to be served. There are still online news stories about the IHOb name change—but with no mention that it was all a hoax. The stunt even helped brands like Wendy’s and Waffle House draw some extra attention by generating Twitter wars full of witty banter and friendly trolling.

 

But it seems to have worked…at least for now. The stunt generated millions of social media impressions and extensive media coverage in just about every national consumer outlet. In the weeks following the launch, the pancake chain’s parent company said burger sales quadrupled for a short period. More recently, the company says it has doubled comparable burger sales since before the promotion.

 

Starbucks Racial Sensitivity Training

On a Tuesday afternoon in May, 8,000 Starbucks cafes closed for a four-hour anti-bias training seminar. More than 175,000 baristas participated in the training following an incident in Philadelphia that tested the company’s value of standing firmly against discrimination or racial profiling. The company announced the training soon after two black men were arrested at a store in Philadelphia while waiting for a friend.

 

In a situation where a lot of things went wrong, Starbucks (and its PR team) did a lot of things right. When it comes to preparing our own clients for crisis communications management, the steps that were taken by Starbucks are something that Dittoe PR prides itself on doing as well.

 

The company issued a public apology on Twitter two days following the incident, giving the organization enough time to gather the basic facts. Kevin Johnson, chief executive of Starbucks, then went on to issue a statement in which he articulated empathy and regret to the two men who were innocently at the heart of the controversy. From there, Johnson vowed to fully investigate the facts of the matter and make changes at Starbucks to prevent a similar incident from ever occurring again.

 

While some criticized the lapse in time between Johnson’s public statement and the disheartening incident in Philadelphia, many others praised him for accepting accountability and injecting himself into the conversation.

 

Johnson reiterated that “Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling,” and offered a face-to-face apology to the two men. He promised that company-wide meetings and trainings would take place to underscore Starbucks’ commitment to treating one another with respect and dignity.

 

Starbucks’ executive chairman Howard Schultz went on CBS This Morning to discuss how the company intended to handle the incident by closing 8,000 stores for racial sensitivity training:

“It will cost millions of dollars, but I’ve always viewed this and things like this as not an expense, but an investment in our people and our company. And we’re better than this.”

 

While there’s rarely a “perfect” way to handle crisis communications in an incident of this severity, Starbucks deserves a lot of credit for a great job in crisis management. The company acknowledged the problem, apologized, addressed the intended solution, and most importantly, followed up on the promise they made.

 

Payless’s Unexpected Influencer Campaign

More recently, Payless pulled a PR stunt with a brilliant influencer campaign by opening their high-end alter ego: a luxury shoe store called Palessi. The low-price shoe store sold the same shoes found in Payless shoe stores—but with a major price hike.

 

Social influencers visited the store and spent up to $400 on a pair of shoes in Palessi, which sell for less than $40 at Payless. The influencers, who didn’t have a clue of the stunt, and even commented things like, “Palessi is just such high-quality, high-fashion brand” and “I could definitely wear this shoe to the Met Gala dinner.”

 

Following the campaign and stunt reveal, Payless CMO Sara Couch told Adweek, “The campaign plays off of the enormous discrepancy [in the fashion industry] and aims to remind consumers Payless is still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion.”

 

Payless’ clever campaign proves PR has power. After this story grabbed headlines and gained millions of social media impressions, everyone was talking about Payless. It’s certainly not every day a low-price shoe store gets national attention.

 

Does your company want to make a big splash in the media in 2019? Contact Lauryn Gray at lauryn@dittoepr.com to set up a consultation and learn more about our services.

Top PR Trends for 2018: Part 1

When I first joined the Dittoe Public Relations team in 2006, one of our go-to research methods was thumbing through the paper-thin pages of the 10-lb printed Bacon’s Media Directory (maybe a slight exaggeration, but that thing was heavy). It took way too much time flipping through its thousands of pages just to find one good contact.

I can confidently say I don’t miss those days. I’m so thankful for the evolution of public relations over the past 12 years and the tools and tactics that make the lives of PR professionals easier, so we can produce amazing results for our clients.

Today’s blog post is part one of a two-part series that will look at four trends shaping PR in 2018. Part two will be posted by Dittoe PR VP and Partner (and PR phenom) Lauren Sanders.

 

Continued rise of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing has grown significantly over the past few years. It’s no longer a nice-to-have for PR pros and the businesses they represent, but a must-have. It should come as no surprise considering that 88 percent of people trust online recommendations as much as they do endorsements from family and friends, according to data compiled by NoGre.

 

Social influencers are now just as important to consider in your PR strategy as coverage in traditional media outlets. Stories on Instagram, Snaps on Snapchat, a post on a blog or a video review on YouTube all have the ability to change the way people feel about a brand and influence purchasing decisions.

 

On a personal note, the LIKEtoKNOW.it shopping app has changed the way I buy clothes. Instead of trying to decide what I think is cool to wear, I now rely on the best-dressed social influencers to tell me—and purchase what they recommend. I’d venture to say that three-quarters of the clothes I bought last year were because someone on social media told me to (sad, but true).

 

In 2017, Social Media Today reported that the average person spends nearly two hours on social media every day—that’s a total of 5 years and 4 months over a lifetime. In 2018, these numbers will only increase, and influencer marketing will be more important than ever.

 

Often, businesses aren’t strategic in their decisions about the influencers to partner with and end up wasting time, money and resources. There are several key considerations to evaluate before relying on influencers to drive meaningful business results, including:

 

  • Think quality over quantity. Just because an influencer has 1 million followers, doesn’t make them the best fit for your brand.
  • For sponsored Instagram posts, consider micro-influencers, or those with followers in the 10,000-100,000 range, as they often have a more highly engaged following that is more inclined to purchase your brand’s products or services.
  • What is your brand image and how does that align with the influencer’s?
  • Who is the influencer’s audience and are they relevant to your own?
  • Does the geographic location of the influencer and his/her followers matter to your business?
  • What are the terms of the agreement? Many influencers charge a fee for a meaningful partnership. Be clear about your expectation for frequency of posts and engagement.
  • How can you track the impact of the partnership? Customized promo codes are one idea to measure the results.

 

Evolution of the press release

For years, many PR professionals have said that the press release is dead, or less dramatically, on its way out. While I think there’s still a lot of life left in the press release, I do agree that it has gone from always-necessary to a good supplement for a great media pitch.

At Dittoe PR, we stopped encouraging our clients to distribute their press releases via wire services several years ago for a few reasons. The links aren’t permanent, unlike earned media stories that we pitch and obtain for our clients, which stay online indefinitely. Also, press releases distributed on wire services aren’t usually picked up on quality news sites. Quite frankly, it’s also quite expensive to use a wire service. In short, wire services rarely guarantee lasting, meaningful, organic media coverage.

Personalized outreach to the media is the way to go to get the best earned media coverage, and it’s what we do best.

In 2018, the press release will evolve beyond text-heavy Word docs with lengthy paragraphs that no one reads entirely. Instead, PR professionals will think digitally and start embedding more videos, images and graphics to bring their client’s news to life. Copy will be minimal and only include the most pertinent details of the announcement.

Press releases do still matter, but in 2018, we need to give them a much-needed makeover.

 

Come back to our blog next week for part two of this series on the latest trends shaping PR in 2018. In the meantime, if your brand could benefit from working with social influencers and generating meaningful media coverage, we’d love to talk with you!

Twenty-four hours, 223,000 impressions and a heart-warming initiative

TCC RileyIn August 2015, TCC, the largest Verizon Premium Wireless Retailer in the U.S., made a commitment that would forever impact the patients, parents and administration at Riley Hospital for Children as well as the company’s own employees. During a special presentation, TCC CEO Scott Moorehead announced a $1 million donation and multi-faceted 5-year partnership with Riley Children’s Foundation that is creating life-changing opportunities for the kids at Riley Hospital. A great story in People—secured by Dittoe PR—told the story of how TCC brought smiles and tears of joy to so many faces that day (the article was shared 8,500 times on social media alone).

Fast forward to March 1, 2016, when Dittoe PR had the opportunity to join TCC, a client of six years, in kicking off Child Life Month at Riley Hospital. The two organizations hosted a ribbon cutting for the new TCC Rainforest Activity Center, an area solely dedicated to therapeutic play for patients and families on the 7th floor of the hospital. TCC equipped the room with art supplies, tablets and a multi-media projector, in hopes of giving young patients a place to take their minds off their health issues and allow them to just be kids.

TCC Riley 3While TCC did an incredible job of outfitting the room, it was up to Dittoe PR to get this wonderful story told across Central Indiana. In just 24 hours following the event, Dittoe secured media placement on WRTV-TV (ABC), WTHR-TV (NBC) and WTTV-TV (CBS) as well as in Current in Carmel. The ad value of the TV spots alone added up to more than $8,200 with a total viewership of 223,000.

Needless to say, the day was a success for all in attendance. TCC’s ongoing investments in the local communities in which it does business are made possible through its Culture of Good program. At Dittoe PR, we’re thrilled to play a role in telling the story about all the good that TCC does.

Need help telling your story? Contact us for a consultation.