“Find Your Beach”: Popular Beer Brand “Beached” Amid Coronavirus Outbreak: Guest Post by Austin Davoren and Savannah Giammarco



Background

With the word “corona” being in so many headlines amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Americans are taking precautions to stay safe and isolated from potential infection by the deadly virus. However, a recent study featured on CNN by 5W reports beer drinkers might think twice about ordering the virus’ shared alcoholic namesake during the pandemic.

“38% of American beer drinkers surveyed this week said they wouldn't buy Corona "under any circumstances" at the moment. It's worth noting that, among regular Corona drinkers, only 4% said they would now refrain — that raises questions about whether the virus is, in fact, affecting consumer attitudes toward the brand.”

In response to this study, Maggie Bowman, Senior Director of Communications for the beer division of Constellation Brands, the parent company of Corona, responded to the accusations of brand distortion with the following statement in an interview with PR Week:

“Despite the misinformation circulating, consumer sentiment and sales remain strong. Consumers understand there’s no linkage between the virus and our business.”

5W CEO Ronn Torossian responded to Corona’s statement in response to their study via email saying, “SORRY, UNTRUE, WHAT SPECIFICALLY IS UNTRUE?”

COVID-19 has also sparked many online users to create memes linking the novel virus to the popular brand, Corona. According to Jeff Beer from Fast Company, people are using memes as a coping mechanism for the fears that come with the rising pandemic. Corona beer has not responded to the online meme phenomena. (Figure 1).

The famous brand has fallen victim to something no company has had to deal with before. Simply sharing a name with something or someone negative - in this case, the coronavirus pandemic - will impact the success or failure of a brand based upon the company's response. This unique situation brings up the concern of identity and brand preservation in a time of crisis in addition to the almost forced role of engaging in some kind of corporate social responsibility.

How does a brand in the rare situation as the Corona beer company handle a situation in where they share a name with a novel virus killing hundreds of thousands of people globally?  How do companies, in respect to a situation such as the pandemic, keep brand identity separate and still show respect toward a sensitive situation?

Current Brand Climate

When it comes to crisis management, one of the first questions a brand should ask itself, according to the Institute for Public Relations is: “Do we need to send a [message]?” and “Just because an organization can, does that mean it should?”

While it may still be early to judge how the famous beer brand is handling sharing the name of the novel virus; its current patterns suggest that the beer company is taking a hint from the Institute for Public Relations by being selective with their responses via social and traditional media. 

The company continues to discredit negative claims such as the 5W survey and simply ignore any negative social media attention. Corona beer also seems to have taken on a subtle approach to tackle the effects of COVID-19 and is publicizing their efforts and contributions modestly.

By utilizing the official Corona website and official Twitter account, Corona continues to update select markets that are in areas most affected by the virus or government regulations (Figure 2). In recent weeks, certain states have had to define what essential businesses are, including Indiana, who had determined that the production of beer is non-essential during the pandemic. Decisions like these have prompted companies such as Corona to post updates for these areas on their designated COVID-19 update page.

Corona beer continues to remain positive and steadfast in remaining one of the leading brands within the beer market. While the company itself has not made an official statement directly to its consumers in regards to sharing the name with the novel virus, the beer giant continues to play an interesting role in this COVID-19 era.

With the beer company sharing the name and now having to halt production in some areas globally due to Coronavirus pandemic, many speculate that Corona beer will see a major decrease in sales despite their claiming otherwise.

Parent Company, Constellation Brands, released a statement providing factual information on current sales trends increasing in the U.S market amidst the virus outbreak.

Yet, despite their claims that the virus has not impacted business, CNN reported on April 3 that beer production would be halted in Mexico. Though rumors swirled it was due to the downward trend of sales in response to the virus and its association with the Mexican beer, Grupo Modelo - the company that produces the beer in Mexico, ceased operation due to a national order by the Mexican government to close all non-essential businesses.

Constellation Brands (the company responsible for distributing Corona products) CEO Bill Newlands told CNN, the company has an "ample supply (of products) to meet consumer demand" and they are not expecting to see shortages due to Grupo Modelo’s temporary COVID-19 related closure.

Constellation has also reported that their sales have increased during the pandemic, noting that sales of its beer brands have increased 8.9% in the first quarter of 2020, and calling attention to the fact that Corona specifically is one of their biggest sellers. Constellation also shared that Corona sales had shown a spike in the first few weeks of March, averaging 24% higher than they did this time one year ago.  Also mentioned was their success with the recent release of the “Corona Hard Seltzer” line - a new product designed to compete with other popular hard seltzers in the market such as White Claw, Bon and Viv, and Truly.

However, consumers did not take kindly to the release in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. USA Today reported that the timing of this product release was getting negative attention on social media as coronavirus fears globally continue to escalate (Figure 3). Corona Beer continues to not respond to consumers directly via social media.

Bowman also made a statement on behalf of the release saying, “While we empathize with those who have been impacted by this virus and continue to monitor the situation, our consumers, by and large, understand there’s no linkage between the virus and our business.”

Basic Situation Recap

Corona Beer is under scrutiny for a variety of reasons. In addition, they face the challenge of consumers that may be ill-informed by media outlets who are not reporting factual information about the company’s current state during the pandemic. One of the largest variables of this misinformation simply stems from the fact that the beer and the novel virus share a name. Corona beer has taken a stance in only communicating what is needed in order to maintain consumer loyalty and maintain a positive brand image. They have attempted to achieve this through conservative public relations strategies and tactics including:

Releasing information related to increased sales numbers to debunk misinformation that leads consumers to believe the company will fail as a result of the virus.
Updating markets most affected by COVID-19.
Making official statements and reinforcing the notion that there is no scientific, or plausible link to the novel virus and the beer
Ignoring social media backlash.
Only responding to criticism via official statements to traditional media outlets such as CNN and USA Today.

Recommendations

A more aggressive way the company might have combated negative press would have been to take advantage of the situation and find a way to spike sales further.  This goal could have been achieved by instituting a campaign along the lines of “Drink a Corona to Stop Corona” where a percentage of the purchase of Corona products would be donated to COVID-19 relief funds to help fund research, aid and community access during the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, the campaign would have made light of the naming coincidence, given an incentive for consumers to want to purchase the product during the pandemic and demonstrate company sensitivity and corporate social responsibility to the beer giant’s publics and therefore setting themselves aside from any other beer in the market for good reason.

Yet despite speculation, it is early on in the pandemic for the final judgement to be made on how Corona is responding to COVID-19 and its position in the market. As the novel virus continues to spread, it is recommended that the Corona beer brand continue to follow a well structured public relations plan in order to show sensitivity to the situation, and engage in a call to action such as the “Drink a Corona to Stop Corona” campaign. Further positive press would be achieved by allowing parent company Constellation Brands to continue making official statements on their behalf and subtly publicizing their contributions to the fight against COVID-19 on their website.

Like W.C. Fields once said, “Everybody’s got to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another beer.”




Cybercriminals Taking Advantage of the COVID-19 Outbreak: Guest Post by Stephanie Nizzari


Government officials and healthcare professionals are working extremely hard to contain the global outbreak of COVID-19, which is defined as "a mild to severe respiratory illness that is caused by a coronavirus." Meanwhile, online criminals are increasingly making efforts to take advantage of the current outbreak and they are adding strain on efforts to contain the virus. 

People worldwide are at risk of malicious emails, attempting to exploit them by sending them spam mail disguised as helpful resources. Criminals know people are scared and seeking information to stay safe. Knowing this, they are using emails that seem as though they have been sent by legitimate companies to get people to share their information.  

In the blog post "COVID-19 Outbreak Prompts Opportunistic Wave of Malicious Email Campaigns," the author provides examples of a COVID-19 themed scam campaigns. This is useful because most of the malicious emails and messages being sent look very legitimate at first glance. The author mentions that hackers are using "a range of tactics in a bid to evade detection, such as using a variety of email templates along with heavy randomization of subject lines, “From” addresses, IP addresses, and URL domains."

Here is an example of a COVID-19 themed scam email the author provided:



Companies like Forbes have recognized this harmful trend and, in response, have put out warnings on their website about cyberthreats. In the article "Coronavirus Scam Alert: Watch Out For These Risky COVID-19 Websites And Emails," they called out the following domains as potentially dangerous:
  • coronavirusstatus[.]space
  • coronavirus-map[.]com
  • blogcoronacl.canalcero[.]digital
  • coronavirus[.]zone
  • coronavirus-realtime[.]com
  • coronavirus[.]app
  • bgvfr.coronavirusaware[.]xyz
  • coronavirusaware[.]xyz

Additionally, the Forbes author includes research that "shows crooks and snoops have been rapidly registering vast numbers of potentially-malicious websites and sending out masses of scam emails as they try to make money from the pandemic."

Media outlets are also educating viewers on malicious emails. NBC News put out the story "Coronavirus scammers are seeking to profit off the deadly virus," the reporter's example to their viewers that "Criminal hackers, scammers, and even governments have been sending fake coronavirus-themed emails designed to trick people into opening attachments that download malicious software, allowing access to their data, experts told NBC News.”

How to Recognize and Stay Protected from Scams:
Cybercriminal activity during this global pandemic can result in financial damage and the promotion of false and potentially dangerous guidelines for people to follow. Knowing the facts about how to recognize malicious emails, can help protect you from falling victim to scams. Here are some ways to recognize scams:
Þ   Unknown email addresses
o   This one is easy, don’t open the email if you do not recognize the sender.
Þ   If they ask for personal information
o   Legitimate business will never ask you for information such as your social security or credit card number via email.
Þ   Spelling mistake
o   This is one of the best and easiest ways to spot a scam. Legitimate companies send out well written contact. If the email contains spelling mistakes it may be a hacker.
Þ   Install anti-virus software
o   Anti-virus software can detect spam emails as they come in and flags them as spam.

Strategic Communications Health Crisis Response to COVID-19: How are Hospital Communications Departments Handling the Outbreak? Guest Post by Suzie Gil and Ellie Stamp


People from all over the world are currently facing a pandemic they could never have imagined having to fight in their lifetimes; COVID-19. The contagion has taken the world by storm since its first case of the virus in November 2019 in the Hubei province of China. The virus is so deadly that over 33,876 people have died from the pneumonia-causing illness as of yet and it has reached 199 countries. The coronavirus has created widespread fear on a global scale, as people are afraid to leave their homes. People have been forced to act against the virus as they are stocking up on groceries and necessities to last them months as well on top of wearing surgical masks and gloves to protect themselves from the spread in public settings. Citizens across the globe are practicing social isolation and working or attending school from home until the spread of the virus is contained, as the majority of businesses and schools have been shut down indefinitely. There are a number of blogs on how to handle the stress of the coronavirus, such as the Harvard Health Publishing Medical School Blog.
 
Medical facilities are overwhelmed in each country. In China, the government responded quickly to this crisis, building hospitals made to only treat the coronavirus to treat their citizens efficiently and effectively.  The countries Italy and Spain have seen an extreme rise in coronavirus cases, their hospitals are packed with citizens who need treatment for pneumonia (). There are not enough doctors or pieces of medical equipment to treat the number of patients coming in with the virus. Funeral homes and morgues have become overfilled in both Italy and Spain. The Italian military has used their army trucks as makeshift morgues, and Spain has used an ice rink as a morgue. Medical professionals in Spain have had to leave sick patients to die in their beds at home because of the growing cases.

The United States has seen significant growth of coronavirus patients and it has become a national epidemic. The cities of Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, and New York City are the new centers of the virus. Both the cities of New York and Los Angeles are running out of hospital beds and equipment. Hospitals have reached out for help to the government. The Navy hospital ship, Mercy, has 1,000 beds on board and it has been docked in Los Angeles to help with the overwhelming number of patients. The USNS navy hospital ship is set out to sail to the epicenter of the virus to New York City (McLaughlin & Martinez, 2020).
Hospital communication departments are providing COVID-19 updates on their home websites. The hospitals are posting alerts to their homepages with directions on what to do if a person thinks they may have been exposed to the virus and what symptoms of the virus look like. Hospitals are also releasing information on how to avoid contracting the virus with health tips on their websites, as well as informational infographics on how to stay safe.

Hospitals are providing public service announcements on television channels to reach local residents to keep them informed on the virus spread in their areas. The CEO of Yale New Haven Hospital, Marna Borgstrom, relayed the message for the hospital PSA, on how Yale is handling the virus. Using the one voice principle of public relations where one spokesperson represents the organization, Borgstrom explains what equipment the hospital is using and how the hospital is keeping their patients and employees safe (Smith, 461). Yale New Haven hospital is having doctors share information with quick videos on the virus. Hospitals are also providing links to call centers for people who may have questions about the virus and resources and videos for those experiencing anxiety from their psychiatry departments. Hospitals are also using their platform to ask for help from citizens to donate resources to hospitals for them to use the donations to create equipment in New York City.

Hospital employees need everyone to stay inside and practice social distancing in order to help flatten the curve. Hospitals are also asking those with 3-D printers to help make personal protective equipment such as face shields for local hospitals. Make sure to wash your hands and avoid touching your face, and to use multiple pairs of disposable gloves in public places.

Coronavirus and Tito's Vodka: Guest Post by Alex Segar and Christian Casagranda

The first case of the Coronavirus can be traced back to November 17, according to the South Morning China Post. Now, four months later, there are nearly 200,000 confirmed cases and 8,000 deaths worldwide, causing the United States to declare the Coronavirus outbreak as a nation-wide pandemic. The created rule of thumb, for those confirmed with the virus, is they must be quarantined for at least 14 days. To take extra precaution, employees from businesses have transitioned to work from home, restaurants can only be open for delivery and take out, and grocery stores are only open for civilians aged 60 years and older for a few hours in the morning. As fear is striking the world's population, people are emptying store shelves of food, water, medicine, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and face masks. (Figure 1)

Along with face masks and sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer has been one of the most in-demand items. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says hand-washing with soap and water is the most efficient way to clean your hands, but when that is not an option, it is advised to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.  

However, where it isn’t sold out in convenience stores or on websites like Amazon, third-party vendors are selling bottles for more than $100, according to Business Insider. On March 2, every Purell product on the brand’s Amazon storefront was sold out. A disclaimer next to each sold-out Purell product read: “We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.”

The unavailability and the inflated prices of hand-sanitizer across the country have prompted some civilians to turn to “do-it-yourself” (DIY) hand sanitizer formulas that have been going viral online. These DIY sanitizers usually combine two-thirds of a cup of 99% rubbing alcohol or ethanol to kill germs, and one-third of a cup of aloe vera to protect your skin from drying out.  Nevertheless, when hand-sanitizer products were swiped clean from the store aisles, many misinformed civilians flocked to their local liquor store to purchase vodka, such as Tito’s Handmade Vodka, to make their own sanitizers. Many of these uncertain success stories were celebrated on Twitter. 

Not so fast….

Given that Tito’s Handmade Vodka contains less than 60% of alcohol, which is the minimum percentage required to make a hand-sanitizer effective, the company immediately issued a statement on Twitter warning the public that their product could not be used to create an effective hand sanitizer. Titos tweeted (Figure 2): “Tito's homemade Vodka is 40% alcohol, and therefore does not meet the current recommendation of the CDC."  In an attached statement, Tito’s cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by noting that washing hands is the most effective way to combat the virus.

With this statement, Tito’s was able to address the issue head-on while also supplying its users with informative materials during this pandemic. During a crisis, it is important for any public relations team to act quickly and effectively to communicate with consumers and ensure that the organization’s reputation is well protected. Moreover, it is important to use this climate of fear as an opportunity to build trust with your consumers. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 71 percent wanted their employees and CEOs to respond during challenging times. As the COVID-19 situation continues to progress, Tito’s should continue to look out for the well-being of its consumers to ensure that their company not only secures its reputation, but also enhances it in the minds of key decision-makers, employees, and valued consumers. As stated by Laskin (2013), enhanced reputation leads to better financial performance.

Human trials for the Coronavirus vaccine will begin in April, but many virologists are not predicting the vaccine to be ready for another 18 months (Figure 3). A further issue is that as soon as the vaccine is approved, it is going to be needed in extensive quantities and many of the organizations in the Coronavirus vaccine race do not have the required production volume. While we can be hopeful that the end to this pandemic will come sooner, the likelihood of people living in fear will continue which will lead to the constant sellout of supplies such as hand-sanitizer, forcing people to find other solutions.

To stay up to date on the coronavirus visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/.

In the Wake of Daytona: How NASCAR Handled a Violent Crash on its Grandest Stage: Guest Post by Scott De Bell and Cullen Ronan

“It’s time, once again, to put the danger and risk back at the front of our minds and continue to find new ways to make NASCAR the safest of all professional sports.” NASCAR blogger James Dunn, as well as many others, have shared similar concerns following the horrific incident that quickly captured the nation’s attention on February 17, 2020. In front of a sold-out Daytona International Speedway crowd of 101,500, and 10.925 million viewers nationwide, veteran NASCAR driver Ryan Newman was involved in one of the most violent crashes in recent history during the final lap of the prestigious Daytona 500

Though Newman ultimately survived with non-life threatening injuries, the shocking display of carnage on such a grand scale brought the safety of NASCAR drivers back to center stage. Both viewers and media outlets alike were quick to criticize the sanctioning body for putting its drivers at risk. Prominent disapproval of NASCAR regulations was levied against the organization, with critics voicing that NASCAR values viewership over driver safety and expressing the wreck was potentially an avoidable occurrence. NASCAR’s overtime regulations (extending the race past its advertised 500-mile distance) as well its decision to not issue a caution flag following Chase Elliot’s final lap crash in turn 2 are viewed as choices that could have ultimately prevented the vicious wreck in the final moments of the race.
In the immediate fallout of the accident, NASCAR was quick to employ standards of crisis communication in their responses by promptly engaging in the “Principle of Full Disclosure.” According to Strategic Planning for Public Relations, when adhering to this principle, organizations should provide as much information as possible during a crisis, under the presumption that everything they know should be made available with justification for not-releasing certain information. Upon receiving an update on the condition of Newman, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell issued a statement on Twitter updating the public on the status of his health, despite federal laws keeping O’Donnell from detailing the specifics of his injuries. Concurrently, O’Donnell held a press conference in front of media personnel sharing a statement on behalf of Newman’s team, Roush Fenway Racing, as well as saying, “going forward we (NASCAR) will provide updates as we can, but at this time our thoughts are with Ryan and his family”.

Furthermore, NASCAR instituted the “Media-as-Ally” principle in an attempt to quell concerns regarding the response time of its emergency services. Within a crisis, Strategic Planning for Public Relations notes that organizations are “best advised to treat news media as allies,” as they provide the opportunity to communicate with necessary publics and shareholders. NASCAR used the media not only to provide updates on Newman’s status but give detailed explanations of its safety procedures as well. In a press conference addressing the media, O'Donnell shared the calculated response times of first responders on the scene, highlighting how adept NASCAR’s safety personnel is when responding to any incident, let alone one of this magnitude. He also used this opportunity to taut NASCAR’s in-car protection, saying the safety systems all worked as were designed," but re-emphasized the importance the organization places on driver safety by stating “...again, we're never satisfied with what took place.”


NASCAR instituted crisis communication principles to combat the negative publicity faced by the sanctioning body in the aftermath of this incident. By highlighting its safety efforts and issuing timely updates on behalf of Newman and his organization, its publics were kept adequately informed in the hours and days following the crash. Utilizing a strategy of compassion in the wake of Newman’s wreck also helped express empathy on the organization's part — a necessary tactic in retaining NASCAR’s reputation. These steps provided an adequate defense to the brand as a result of this shocking incident. However, if the on-track product continues to subject drivers to wrecks of this nature, then the organization must prepare much more exhaustive reputational efforts in the face of inevitable public and media scrutiny.


Shot to the Nuts: Guest Post by Mara Cray and Becca Durante

On January 22nd, 2020, the official Planters Mr. Peanut Twitter account announced the death of the beloved Mr. Peanut, the iconic mascot of Planters Peanuts since 1916. A corresponding commercial featured the character’s death. The tone was darkly comedic, following an absurd series of events which ends in Mr. Peanut making the ultimate sacrifice.

This move was surprising, but it pushed Planters to the forefront of pop culture, flooding social media platforms (primarily Twitter) with the hashtag #RIPeanut. The company announced that Mr. Peanut’s funeral would air during the Super Bowl. Along with Mr. Clean, the Kool-Aid Man, and other mourners, America witnessed Baby Nut’s wondrous resurrection. Grief turned into joy as the wizened Mr. Peanut was reborn into a cherubic legume...who makes dolphin sounds...

Immediately after the ad aired, Planters launched an aggressive (many would say overly aggressive) social media campaign. This included a live stream of Baby Nut in his nursery.

Some loved Baby Nut, praising the miraculous rebirth of the beloved character. However, others expressed violent urges towards the cartoon infant. It was a derisive campaign, but in a delightfully satiric kind of way.

The campaign has also faced backlash for going severely overboard. In addition to selling Babynut merchandise, Planters was also forced to take down several Baby Nut meme accounts on Twitter after violating the platform's user agreement. However, the brand did exhibit some restraint. Planters put a halt on the campaign following the tragic death of NBA star Kobe Bryant. This was undoubtedly the right move since tongue-in-cheek grieving would not have played well next to the death of a beloved hero.

This polarized buzz will continue for Planters as long as they continue to publicize Baby Nut. While the campaign achieved massive engagement, Planters must understand their publics’ feelings towards this new mascot and plan their future communications strategy accordingly. Likewise, Planters must assess how these opinions impact their brand’s public perception.

As stated in Strategic Planning in Public Relations, public perception is a confluence of reputation and visibility, so it is important for organizations to understand what campaigns can do for their reputation (Smith 2017). For instance, the Baby Nut Campaign garnered thunderous exposure for the company, but this will not last forever. Eventually, the Baby Nut mania will fade away, and the visibility of Planters will fade with him. Case in point, the Twitter conversation around Baby Nut has all but silenced, despite the brand’s earnest efforts to keep the concept alive.

Since the Baby Nut campaign has limited longevity, it will be important for Planters to take steps to establish deeper connections with their publics. In order to remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds and maintain a positive reputation, Planters will need to launch more campaigns, either with or without Baby Nut in the future in order to foster those relationships, as well as maintain a positive reputation with the public.
  

Barnes & Noble and Black History Month: Guest Post by Kaitlyn Masler and Stella Vlastakis


To celebrate Black History Month, Barnes & Noble created a campaign that changed the covers of classic novels calling them “Diverse Editions”. The cover art on books such as Romeo and Juliet, The Secret Garden, Frankenstein, Moby Dick, and many others were altered to depict the characters as black. Books were planned to be displayed in store windows located at the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, according to NPR.

Controversy quickly followed the launch of the campaign and the sale of all new books was suspended just a day after. Author L.L. McKinney offered her perspective on what Barnes & Noble could have done instead in an interview with NPR stating, “Feature black people, that’s the beginning and the end of it. If you’re wanting to put a spin on classics, feature classics that are by black and brown authors.”

News coverage of the campaign called the idea “literary blackface” including in an article by the New York Post. According to a CBS News article, Barnes & Noble stated they chose the classic novels because they are in the public domain, and the authors would not receive profits from the “Diverse Editions” campaign. In addition, Barnes & Noble used artificial intelligence to find novels that did not explicitly describe the main character as white, and that is how they chose the twelve books. This brings up another issue of when we should use artificial intelligence and when artificial intelligence is not enough to deal with sensitive topics. Instead of relying on artificial intelligence, Barnes & Noble should have had people from diverse backgrounds evaluate the idea for this campaign before it began. People shared their strong opinions about this campaign and what it represents on Twitter. Many arguments are made against the campaign in the comments of a tweet by Publisher’s Weekly which announced the campaign on February 4, 2020.
           
According to Strategic Planning for Public Relations, the beginning stages to a campaign or strategic plan is to identify the situation and publics. Barnes & Noble did not accurately complete this step of the strategic planning process. As described in the book, analyzing the situation and publics directs the goal, so if that step is not done thoroughly, the goal is not clearly identified. The campaign was criticized very quickly by many different publics, including consumers and authors, and it shows Barnes & Noble did not do the necessary research before creating the “Diverse Editions” campaign.

Following the controversy, Barnes & Noble launched a new campaign to celebrate Black History Month by showcasing authors on their website, such as Toni Morrison and Michelle Obama. Their website included copy that stated, “Join our booksellers during Black History Month as we celebrate and showcase contributions to the arts, to society, and to history, from her (Toni Morrison) and other standout voices.” They also offered consumers of all ages with resources to discover a wide array of books and media to learn more about the history and honor Black History Month. This initiative was a better strategy for Barnes & Noble as it showed appreciation for those who have already made an impact on the black community and the literary arts. The intended purpose of the campaign was to show the value Barnes & Noble places on diversity, and having a sufficient understanding of their publics was the right way to reach this goal.

Should Brands Tag the Competition: A Case of Wendy's vs McDonald's: Guest Post by Katie Kresic


On February 2nd, 2020, Wendy’s Twitter profile released a post that directly tagged rival chain, McDonald's, in an initial tweet for the first time in the companies’ social media history. The fast-food chain, who is well known for being sassy on Twitter, launched this risky campaign strategy to introduce a new breakfast menu being released on March 2nd, 2020. Not only did they tag a competitor, but continued to quote-tweet their original post by commenting, “Yeah, we wouldn't wake up for your breakfast either. Don’t worry, on 3/2 there will be something worth waking up for. #WendysBreakfastWhat followed was even more intense: the posting of a Twitter thread featuring former McDonalds’ Corporate Chef, Mike Haracz, taste-testing Wendy’s new “Breakfast Baconator”.





While Wendy’s is known for its’ tongue-in-cheek references and witty responses on Twitter, public relations professionals are debating whether this risky choice to directly tag a competitor was worth their reputation. But Wendy’s has always trolled McDonald’s on Twitter, right? Sure, Wendy’s has never been an organization to let a chance for a humorous moment pass by. The difference is that this launch’s outright tweet tagged the competition directly and in a negative connotation right from the drafting board, which has never been seen before from the feisty brand.

So, why did Wendy’s public relations team make this strategic choice to start a food-fight on Twitter? According to a recent article from PR Week, “Jimmy Bennett, Wendy’s VP of media and social said that Wendy’s chose to challenge McDonald’s to a ‘breakfast’ battle on social media because the Golden Arches are "the poster child for a tired, stale breakfast and this is [Wendy’s] opportunity to make that comparison as visible and recognizable as possible." (Bradley, 2020). The team decided to directly compare the two companies’ breakfast items through visual advertisements, and what better way to compare than to get the inside scoop from the former McDonalds’ Corporate Chef himself. However, this bold tactic may be detrimental to maintaining their Twitter reign.

Let’s look at the last time a fast-food joint executed this style of social media campaign. Back in January, Burger King attempted to take on Wendy’s when the company posted an initial tweet image of its mascot in front of a Wendy’s location holding up a sign that said, "Roses are red, violets are blue, patties are round" — a reference to Wendy’s square patties. Wendy’s clearly has a prepared social media team, as not long after, the sassy chain retweeted the post with the comment, "Look who dropped by to see what Spicy Nuggets were supposed to taste like." While this instance of banter seems all in good fun, Burger King’s initial tweet only had 9% of likes compared to Wendy’s clap back post, suggesting that the initial banter was less successful than the response. With the response gaining 113,000 likes, Burger King’s strategic decision actually set their competition up for social media success. This pattern could prevail in Wendy’s new launch if McDonald’s decides to take action. This strategic decision provides the risk of handing an opportunity for a viral social media moment to a direct competitor. It also threatens Wendy’s image by being too direct or assertive, which provides a threat of the development of a negative image amongst their publics if played out too much.


Wendy’s has lucked-out so far, because McDonald’s has never once responded to any references made by the Wendy’s account in the past. As long as McDonalds continues to fail to create a comical reaction, this strategic choice made by Wendy’s social media managers may have been effective overall. Ultimately, by developing a viral moment, Wendy’s has succeeded in gaining attention for the product launch, yet the question still remains: Will McDonald’s decide to take part in this social media opportunity?

Female Influence on the Public Relations Industry: Guest Post by Kristin Impallaria

As society continues to progress, the PR industry becomes more well known. Public relations is a profession that is refreshingly different from others, because of its female dominate approach. Nearly 80 percent of the PR industry is comprised of women. This profession gives women the opportunity to earn leadership roles over men, and excel in many aspects of the industry based off of female qualities and importance.

Women are more likely to be unsurpassed in the industry than men for many reasons. Women aren’t afraid to express themselves and their opinion of a topic or issue at hand in great detail. This skill can be used as a great advantage when gaining the attention and support of people, while working in a PR industry.

PR daily’s article Are Women Better Communicators than Men? Sarah Skerik, the vice president of social at PR Newswire, says that women possess empathy, and empathy is key in the PR industry.

“The best communicators, in my opinion, are people who have a lot of empathy for their audience, and can deliver what their audience needs,” she said.

For Skerik, this means being aware of body language and adjusting how you’re communicating accordingly.

“This can mean shifting from a highly analytical, ‘just the facts’ delivery in a meeting with your CEO to considering the potential emotional responses of online audiences as when planning a digital communications campaign,” she explained.

“Are women better at this than men? Possibly. But it seems to me that empathy is more crucial to communication effectiveness than a tendency toward chattiness.”

The Public Relations Institute of Australia (Pria) also published an article titled Women in PR: Why they win with similar content on empathy, along with much more information on female dominance in PR.

One reason being, that women are better than men at sharing power. Instead feeling the need to be in charge, women are content with working together as a team, and sharing the role and responsibility of empowerment. Women notice hard work and dedication and like to acknowledge hard work, as well as be acknowledged when appropriate.

Another reason women are more successful in the industry is conversation. Women are more likely to ask in-depth questions, and dig deeper into a topic than men, who prefer to cut to the chase. Women enjoy speaking and listening, and tend to use these skills to their advantage. One-way women use their positive skills, is with networking. Women make networking a key tool when working in the PR industry. They use it to gain more of an understanding of a topic, and to help them stay updated on their information. The Internet is a powerful thing, and could be used by the PR industry to communicate faster and better to others, than any other resource. Using this tool frequently is of extreme value in the PR profession.

There are many noticeable differences between men and women. But there is one difference in particular that contributes towards women’s success in the profession. The difference is the use of creativity. For women, the sky is the limit. Women don’t face a challenge, when it comes to being creative. Women have the ability to come up with new ideas at any time. The mind of a woman has no limitations or constraints. For women, the world of opportunity is endless.


PR daily’s 12 Things PR Women can’t live without explains a lot about a woman working in the PR industry.