That’s Not So Vogue

April 27, 2008 at 6:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This will be my tenth post and my last required post for my PR Online class. Blogging has been a great learning tool, and I really hope to jump back into it–if not on this blog then on another. But for now, how about Teen Vogue?

Starting Monday, the Teen Vogue fitness messageboard will be removed from the magazine’s site. The decision was made when the editors saw “the alarming number of posts regarding eating disorders over the past few months.”

Rachel Richardson (The F-Word) called the site a “psueudo pro-ana.” Richardson’s definition of a pro-ana/mia:

“These sites promote eating disorders as a ‘lifestyle choice,’ not diseases, and do not encourage recovery from these conditions.”

The issue of pro-ana/mia sites has been floating around the news(particularly in France)and blogoshpere for a while.  Richardson and Jezebel criticized Teen Vogue last fall for its similarity to the weight-obsessed pro-ana/mia sites.

From a PR standpoint:

Good call ending this. This type of community could damage the image of the publication. But just pulling it is not enough. Vogue is sweeping the problem under the rug. These girls need help.

“I also love the feeling of hunger. I feel so clean and light and empty.”

See what I mean?

After Vogue announced it was shutting down the forum, one of the users, Chloe9, commented:

“perhaps the next step is to reform your magazine, which is CAUSING all this body anxiety…teenvogue doesn’t want to be held accountable for the state of the fitness forum, but removing it isn’t the best solution.  this is a magazine geare toward teens, and their mission should be to HELP them.  not pretend eating disorders don’t exist so as to shirk all responsibility.”

Well said, Chloe9.

Perhaps an image overhaul is needed at Teen Vogue. Obviously its audience is interested in the subject, and theses young girls need somewhere to turn to with professional advice on living healthy.

I see Vogue as the premier publication for high-fashion and beauty, not a health and fitness publication. But with the controversey surrounding super-skinny supermodels, a fitness push would set this magazine above the rest on a whole new level.

Brought Together in Peace?

April 15, 2008 at 12:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I could have blogged about healthy lifestyles and Web 2.0 again, but anyone who visits my blog gets the point –online communities are becoming a huge factor in the health and fitness markets. Web tactics are essential to almost any campaign. So I won’t beat the dead horse this week. There’s much more interesting news. And besides, the Olympics are related to related lifestyles, right?

At the Olympic Games, Athletes are brought together in peace to respect universal moral principles, says its Web site.

But as far as I can remember, the Olympics have always been more about controversy than peaceful athletics. Unless you’ve been living under a log this April, you know that 2008 is not any different.

The Students for a Free Tibet protests have overshadowed the opportunity for China to shine as this year’s host, filing the  media with stories of extreme protest.

An article in yesterday’s New York Times  breaks down who is using PR to its full advantage–and it’s not China. Instead, China is headed into a serious PR crisis. Or as John Bagratuni of the Bangkok Post put it “A PR disaster of Olympic proportion.”

The Times article says:

“The Tibet groups, though, have courted the media. ‘The approach these groups have is spectacular in terms of public relations,’ said Richard Funess, president of Ruder Finn Americas, a public relations firm. While China has not mastered the art of the grass-roots publicity campaign, its government — with the Olympics in mind — has been exploring American-style public relations approaches.”

Exploring? I think it’s probaly a little late in the game to be exploring public relations approaches for an event so notoriously controversial.  And now, the world has a negative opinion about the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, months before the games start.

How did the student groups pull this off?

Training, planning and communication

Every other month, the protesting groups have been meeting for media training sessions. Four times a year they have “action camps,” where they learn to organize protests and deal with police. They also train in guerilla street theatre. Events such as last week’s highly publicized Golden Gate incident has been in the works for a long time.

But, I didn’t write this post to get deeply involved in the human rights issue at hand.

 Students are overshadowing a government here. Whether it’s keeping the peace or causing the unrest, this PR stuff — it’s pretty powerful.

For the First Time Since Happy Meals—I’m Lovin’ It

April 6, 2008 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Famous for its milkshakes, cheeseburgers and super-sized fries, McDonald’s has taken the next step toward changing its image. This time around, the restaurant is doing a little more than throwing some fried chicken on top of a bed of lettuce and calling it a salad.

 

 It’s newest efforts manifest themselves in a yearlong food-credibility campaign.

 

The campaign will battle misperceptions about the quality of McDonald’s food. So how will McDonald’s get its word out? It’ll spread the word using the PR professional’s newest favorite tool, Web 2.0. Read more about it in a recent Ad Age article.

“We wanted to have an open dialogue instead of broadcasting a message like advertising in the [fast-food industry]. We wanted to take a different approach,” said Jaime Guerrero, account manager at Tribal DDB.

 

(Finally – people are beginning to think more like Al Ries).

 

I spent some time exploring the “Food, Nutrition and Fitness” section of McDonald’s Web site—and I have to admit, McDonald’s is winning this girl over.

 

The site encourages viewers to:

 

  • “See what we’re made of,” offering Q&A on everything you could want to know about every product, right down to what kind of seasoning is in the sausage.
  • Seek tips from three Wellness Experts
  • Learn from Moms’ Quality Correspondents in a microsite that features moms who will have “unprecedented access to the McDonald’s system to see how McDonald’s serves millions of customers quality food every dayross the country.” Other moms can join a community or ask questions.

 

The “From Farm to Restaurant,” “Meet our Suppliers” and “Meet the Crew” areas are coming soon, the site reports.

 

The new McDonald’s mind-set may be a big step in dismantling its reputation of the villainous fast-food joint that uses the horse meat in its burgers and pumps Americans full of grease.

 

It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Burger King and Wendy’s to

discover that broadcasting bacon and extra cheese might not be the key to selling more burgers.

Put Out Your Cigarette and Register to Be an Organ Donor!

March 31, 2008 at 5:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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The Donate Life Ohio Do It Now campaign at Kent State has been my life this semester. One of our upcoming tactics is a flash mob. A flash mob is simply a group of people freezing in place for five minutes. Our team, comprised of seven PR students, is using the opportunity to spread the word about our cause (which I’ll describe a bit later). At our last meeting, we compared our guerilla tactic with the Truth campaign–a campaign we all agreed has done a phenomenal job reaching its audience.

Tr48x48_sunnydark.gifuth, a campaign to discourage teen smoking, was launched in 2000 by the American Legacy Foundation.  Several things set this campaign apart from the “smoking is bad” speeches and pamplets we’ve received all our lives. The Truth Campaign presents it’s audience with puzzling ads, commericals and guerilla tactics. And they’re making a difference.

According to research recorded in the American Journal of Public Health, in 2002, there were 300,000 fewer young smokers because of the Truth Tour. My generation, as young adolescents at the campaign’s launch, has had full exposure to this campaign, and we see the results first-hand. I can count friends and family that smoke on one hand–that’s pretty good if you ask me.

Some of the campaign’s recent tactics, despite a shrinking budget, included:

  • In Aug. 2007, teaming up with the Warped Tour in Pittsburgh
  • In 2008, launching of the “Sunny Side of Truth,” including the much talked about “Magical Amount” commercial. It’s all sarcastic digs at tobacco companies. Watch it, you’ll laugh.

The guerilla tactics filmed in many of Truth’s commercials is exactly what we want to accomplish in our flash mob. We want to grab attention and provide information at the same time.

Okay–so our objectives are rather opposite. Truth wants to decrease smoking in youth across the country. Donate Life Ohio wants to increase the amount of registered organ donors in Ohio. But we’ve got the same idea.

do-it-now.jpgSo here’s a little bit about the Do It Now competition.

Kent State is in a statewide competition against 13 other schools. The challenge is to register 400,000 donors across the state (Kent State’s goal is 14,571 in three counties). We’ve been holding drives across campus all year to get people to sign up, and we’ve caught on that we have to do more than sit at a table and wait for people to ask us about organ donation.

We need to draw attention to the cause easily and effectively –oh yea, without blowing our budget. We’re mocking Truth’s tactics to do that. We want to make people curious. The curiousity, we hope, will result in people asking questions about what we’re about. This video will give you a better feel for what a flash mob is.

Unlike the Truth campaign, the Do It Now campaign has the obstacle of driving to people a Web-site or getting them to fill out some paper work after the event.

We’re hoping that that Facebook, our tool for recruiting flash-mobbers, will help drive people to our Web-site. On Facebook alone, 45 freezers have confirmed participation in the the mob. Aside from Facebook, we’re getting people on-board by stopping in classrooms and working with student organizations. I think there’s quite a bit of buzz about it. Read what Rob Jewell, a PR professor at Kent State, had to say about the campaign.

Buzz is good, but the real success is measured by how many people we register by May 14.

So wish us luck, and if you have 5 minutes to spare, show up at Risman Plaza at 2:15 p.m. this Wednesday.

My time in Italy…and healthy lifestyles…and PR

March 25, 2008 at 10:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

After spending 10 days touring Italy, the only worries I’ve had have been catching trains, communicating without knowing much Italian, and dealing with the disappointing exchange rate of the American dollar. Because of limited access to the Web while jumping from one city to the next, I wasn’t able to research any trends regarding health and PR. But I think my exposure to an entirely different culture will give me more than enough to write about both…and I’ll try not to not brag too much about the amazing time I had.

On Health

Suprise, suprise…Icinque2.jpgcinque2.jpgtalians beat out Americans regarding healthy lifestyles.

Food: At restaurants in America, pasta dishes can feed a family of four, whereas portions in Italy fed me. I was never stuffed, but satisfied. Gelato places every 20 feet compensated for the saved dinner calories. But again, a large gelato equals a Dairy Queen small. Coffee was very un-Starbucks like.  A coffee in Italy wasn’t 16 ounces of espresso,sugar and sugar—and never To Go. I was a little disappointed about no coffee on the run, but it was nice to truly relax and drink a cappuccino.

duomo.jpgExercise: I climbed to the top of the Duomo in Florence, top of the St. Peter’s Cathedral, and hiked the st-peters.jpgmountains of Cinque Terre. Aside from the work outs from those three, the walking alone is a work out itself. With the gas prices rising at home, I’m half tempted to get where I need to go like the Europeans do—with my own two feet!

Alcohol and Smoking: Drinking alcohol, which is a larger part of the culture over there than it is in the U.S, is much calmer. Many people order wine with dinner, but the only stumbling drunk people I saw were American students who were overseas studying abroad. Looks real good for Americans eh?

Smoking is the only area of health that the Italians disappointed me in. Seeing cigarettes dangling from lips was just as common as seeing Italian leather.

On PR:

I wasn’t given much time (or that cared too—c’mon it was spring break!), to evaluate PR in Italy. The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communications Management called PR in Italy “multifaceted and strong in development.”

cinque2.jpgMy trip to Cinque Terre, five beautiful villages on the coast of the Ligurian Sea connected by hiking paths, proved to me that Italy is behind the U.S. with its PR, or communications in general.

This word-of-mouth place had a lack of communication which was actually refreshing. In America, this place would have turned into an commercialized tourist hub selling over-priced meals and souvenirs. Instead, Cinque Terre, which is called one of Italy’s major “tourist spots” appeared our own secret vacation spot.

One place where a lack of communication wasn’t good was when we set out hiking from village to village. There was no distinction about the intensity of the trails we hiked. One book we read (after the fact) noted that some of the trails required the endurance of an Olympic athlete. I’m guessing the book was referring to the trail we ventured to on day one.

I’ll arrived back to the communications-overloaded States last night—to the sound of constantly ringing phones and nuisance of replying to 50 e-mails a day. Call me a work-a-holic, but I missed it. I just hope Italy remains the same–healthy and little behind the times on communication. So next time I need an escape, I know where to go.

 Until then…back to the grind.

Dieting and the Web

March 9, 2008 at 8:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In public relations classes at Kent State University, we learn a lot about social media (obviously)—how to use it, how other people have used it, where it works and why it works. I’ve found using social media in a campaign really depends on who you are working for and what you’re trying to accomplish. With some clients (for example, ma and pa places), social media is probably useless, and in others it is absolutely critical. One area where I found that social media is working is in the dieting world.  

With the demise of dieting slogans and jingles such as “1-800-94-JENNY,” “TrimSpa Baby!,” and “Eat what you want and still lose weight—without exercising!” came the rise of a healthier dieting—Web 2.0 style. images.jpg Where did those “eat all you want and still look great” ads go?  Did people just catch on that yo-yo dieting was no solution to a healthy life—or did the industry realize that healthy lifestyles aren’t about getting skinny by unhealthy means? Whichever it is, companies are using this new lifestyle mentality to their advantage.  

The best example of an effective web dieting use is the National Body Challenge hosted by Discovery Health.

The National Body Challenge goes beyond offering tips for flat abs. It offers a community. (Ahhh–the blogging health-nut’s dream!) After signing up, visitors can: 

  • Customize their plan (to lose weight, maintain weight or lose weight)
  • Join the conversation
  • Read popular items
  • Write a blog
  • Set up a profile
  • Take surveys

  • Watch fitness shows
  • Get healthy recipes

People share their stories of success and frustration, and others in the community leave comments of support.

I am so impressed by Discovery Health’s community.

bodychallenge1.jpgLike the popular Facebook and MySpace, the National Body Challenge is all about the user. The community user creates a profile and customize a plan to fit his/her lifestyle. Being healthy isn’t about getting four weeks worth of over-priced, reduced calorie meals shipped to your house, or chugging Hollywood’s latest liquid diet. 

It’s about creating a plan that works for you. The National Body Challenge is all about the user, and that’s the way it should be.  Check out my classmate, Bill Burgess’ post on You Bar–another example of how the industry is making it all about YOU. Successful dieting includes customizing your plan to what fits your lifestyle. And the support of others makes it all that much easier…even if it’s someone you don’t even know.

Healthy Lifestyle Trends – Count Fido In!

March 2, 2008 at 9:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I spn25802052_33924097_97471.jpgoil my dog (the Cocker Spaniel below) with treats, squeak toys and ice cubes in his water. But fortified water? I don’t know how soon we’ll be running to the store for that one.  

After 18 months and $80 million invested in research, Cott Corporation‘s Fortifido, the first ever fortified water for pets, debut last month at the Global Pet Expo. It hit the ground running as far as publicity goes. Watch the Ad Age video about Fortifido, it sums up the whole campaign.

 The impetus behind the product is market success in similar beverages for humans. dogwater.jpg

“Consumers are moving toward what they perceive to be healthier, better-for-you-type solutions. … We’ve been able to take advantage of that on the human side. And we know that trends in the pet category quickly follow trends in the human category,” said Charles Calise, Cott’s director-innovation for North America 

The combination of industries for this product is perfect. In 2005, Mintel projected that the sale of wellness/functional beverages is expected to grow to $12.8 billion by 2009.

Think that is a big number? How about this one:

Last year, Americans spent more than $40 billion on pets in 2007, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.

 I don’t doubt that the owners of the most pampered pooches will pay a pretty penny for Fortifido (there are such things as dog earrings and sunglasses). Who knows, maybe the extra vitamins will reduce those vet bills that constitute for $19.7 billion of the spending. 

The Cott Corp. saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.  They were even smart enough to publicize that Fortifido will not hurt your child if they accidentally consume it. Crisis diverted, before people could even question about it. 

My budget is telling me that my dog, Dusty, will stick to his ice water (and toilet water he is notorius for drinking). But it will be interesting to see if people who aren’t on a college student’s budget catch on to Fortifido.

College Programming…Sans Pizza

February 24, 2008 at 10:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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One thing changes on Kent State’s campus the weeks before spring break—and it’s not the air temperature.  With spring break on the horizon, the Student Recreation and Wellness Center turns from looking like an abandoned warehouse to looking like a shopping mall in December. SRWC

Kent State has a great facility, the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, for students and faculty to do whatever they need to do to keep their minds and bodies in good condition. 

By mid-February, when the New-Year’s resolution-ers give up, the spring break-ers flock in. To help the February-fitness-fiends meet their goals, the rec offers an incentive program, called Destination Spring Break.  

The program involves students logging hours to earn points. The points convert into “miles” and students try to make it to their chosen spring break locations (with a time limitation of 90 minutes). It also offers weekly classes held for bonus miles. Patrons who attend the bonus classes get double points for their minutes. Those who reach their destination will receive a T-shirt, and those finishing in the top four receive a prize bag with vacation necessities.  

It is so refreshing to see a program on a college campus rewarding students for being healthy; not feeding them pizza and wings for participating in another lame program (sorry RAs).

If the rec really wanted to beef up participation in this program, perhaps they beef up the incentive. A free spring break trip would be affective but seems unrealistic. Yes, I know about a little thing called a budget, but the rec could cut some of its less popular programs to make this one more appealing. If the prizes were large and highly publicized, a lot of people would participate. The bonus classes, which count as double points for participants and cost money, could help fund the prize.

I’m not trying to investigate where the rec’s money goes–or to say that the rec is doing a bad job.

This program has a lot of potential to get people hooked on this healthy thing. Rewarding participants for a few weeks of hard work  might SUNhelp them realize the benefits of sticking to a healthy lifestyle after the spring break sunburn fades.

Kent State should consider year-round incentives for those who commit to working out. Like many companies that offer incentives for improving health and wellness, colleges and universities too can create the same healthy culture, by offering year round incentive programs for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Heck, Kent State makes a point to show off its state-of-the-art facilitity to every student touring the campus, imagine what the creation of a successful healthy culture can do for its reputation. With a little research I didn’t find a school labeled “Most Healthy.” Wouldn’t it be nice to no longer be known as “the school where four kids were shot” and be known for “Most Healthy University?”

As for now, as it goes every year, once spring break becomes a memory not a destination, visits to the rec will be something of the past as well.

Thanks, Salad Sisters

February 18, 2008 at 4:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I was excited and bewildered at the essentially useless Apple desktop computer my family got in the mid-90s. At the bottom of the box the computer came in was the Dole 5 A Day Adventure CD-ROM. And my life would never be the same…really. 

The 5 A Day Adventure CD-ROM was no Oregon Trail. It was my first interactive computer experience. The fruits and vegetables talked to you. They had personalities and names (Bobby Banana and Salad Sisters, to name a few.) The characters starred in music videos.

dole-pic.jpgOkay, the CD-ROM is pretty amateur by today’s standards, but in 1995, this was high-tech stuff. I watched the music videos over and over. I mastered every game. I fought with my sisters over computer time. What I didn’t realize then was that I was learning. As soon as it would have turned too obviously educational, that would have been the end of my 5 A Day Adventure.

I received Dole’s CD-ROM as part of its 5 A Day campaign, which has been on-going since 1991. A lot of Dole’s efforts targeted elementary schools with the CD-ROM. I received it through a partnership with Apple Computers.

I want to say thanks, Dole.

My parents didn’t force me to eat healthy as a kid. I ate just as many hot-dog and mac n’ cheese meals as every other kid in the 90s, but I make good decisions about what I eat as an adult. Maybe Dole didn’t cause a healthy eating revolution with its 5 A Day Adventures, but I think they helped shape the way I eat.

Dole couldn’t have done better in targeting our generation. With Nintendo, TV shows and computers, we wouldn’t bother to pick up a pamphlet or listen to the school nurse. We needed more and we got more.

But the problem in child obesity still exists. Many blame the advertisers who market their high-sugar products on TV stations like Nickelodeon. Last year 11 companies in the food industry agreed to stop advertising products that do not meet certain nutritional standards to children under 12.

Susan Linn, co-founder of the Boston-based group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said in the New York Times article:

            “This is great public relations for the companies, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.”

 Linn is right. Steps are being taken toward a healthier future, but it’s still not enough.  

Solution? more PR. 

Task: Creative, healthy eating campaigns that will educate and entertain children of the new millennium. 

From the look of Dole’s 5 A Day Web site, it plans on doing just that. Jennifer Grossman, Vice President and Director of Dole Nutrition Institute, addresses the change in a letter saying:

 “ Several factors helped us wake up to the need to revamp our program. Perhaps the most obvious is the fact that the new 2005 Dietary Guidelines now recommend far more than just ‘5-A-Day,’ but rather, depending on age, urge up to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Second, much has changed in the twelve years since Dole 5 A Day was first launched. Obesity has surpassed malnutrition as the main challenge facing today’s children. Parents need to take on a greater role in preventing obesity — and therefore need to be more actively included in this site. Diversity and shifting demographics cry out for increased access to nutrition education resources for Hispanic populations. Incredible technological innovations have opened up opportunities for us to deliver content in new, more interactive and cost efficient ways.”

Parents can also take an online survey, to help Dole determine what should be on the updated site.

Props, again to Dole.

Starbucks- nonfat faux pas?

February 11, 2008 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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starbucks-logo.gifmary-kate-and-ashley.gifSomething happens to me when I pass the little brown and white building on the corner of Lincoln and Main streets in Kent, Ohio—the home to Starbucks.

I forget my New Year’s resolution to spend money wisely, forget that I have to be somewhere in five minutes, and I find myself standing in the line to pay four dollars and some odd change for a grande nonfat Cinnamon Dolce Latte, with the occasional extra shot of espresso.

starbucks-logo.gifstarbucks-logo.gifSo like many other Starbucks’ customers I was pleased to hear about the Skinny Platform, introduced this January. The Skinny Platform is comprised of three nonfat lattes made with sugar-free syrup. The perk is easy ordering for customers wanting to skip the extra calories.

mary-kate.jpgWhile wishing I had a latte on my early morning commute, I got to thinking about the Skinny Platform. Something  about “skinny” being used for a food product bothered me. I couldn’t help but picture tabloid magazines labeling high-profile celebrities as “super skinny,” with a chilling photo of a frail, young celebrity. Remember the Mary-Kate Olsen eating disorder days?

Is there a better name Starbucks could have chosen other than “skinny?” My brainstorming didn’t bring me to anything much better, but hey, I’m a student and Starbucks probably dishes out the big bucks for experienced PR people. I’m sure they there are some really creative minds somewhere in the mix.            

Most people overlooked the Skinny thing—a few remarks on blogs here and there. One angry barista gave her opinion on the Skinny Platform. She says that, “Without question, people will be leaping at the opportunity to file a lawsuit against the Starbucks Corporation for discrimination.” A month has passed since the Skinny took the spotlight and I couldn’t find any lawsuits as of yet.

 I don’t like the Skinny Platform, but I won’t lose sleep over it, and I won’t jump on the Starbucks-hating bandwagon.

So if I am:

  • Mildly offended by the Skinny Platform
  • Too poor to buy Starbucks
  • Too busy to stop and order it 

Why will I continue to drink it? 

I will continue to drink it because Starbucks does a good job of catering to its customers. Starbucks gave me free music downloads this fall.  The baristas never mess up my drinks. It offers nonfat options and a cozy atmosphere.

And you know what? The employees are really, genuinely nice to me.  It goes to show how Starbucks has done a good job of establishing relationships with its customers. It is allowed to make me a little angry, and I’ll keep going back.

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