Fall 2016 3

This week in class we’ll be discussing one of my favorite topics in PR, corporate social responsibility. And typically it ends up one of students’ favorites, too.

For me, it’s because there are no easy answers when it comes to corporate social responsibility. Most people can agree that doing good is a good thing, but deciding “good for whom” is much harder. Is paying workers in other countries what we’d consider to be incredibly low wages inherently “bad”? What if it helps those workers’ families afford things they never could before? If wages are raised, what if that means low-income Americans can’t buy those products?

I think students enjoy exploring these dilemmas. But also, I think it resonates because studies show Millennials expect businesses to do good. According to a recent Fortune magazine article, “Millennials are more likely than Gen X’Ers and Baby Boomers to say it matters if American businesses give back to society.” Millennials also expect to “shape the giving behavior of brands,” according to Entrepreneur, which creates all sorts of PR opportunities and challenges.

Courtesy of Bookishgifts.com

Courtesy of Bookishgifts.com

By chance, or perhaps because corporate social responsibility issues is really everywhere, many of the insPiRation articles this week touch on it. From alleged “pink washing” by the NFL to a mom of a child with Down Syndrome pressuring OshKosh B’Gosh to make its ads reflect children with disabilities, the news is rife with stories of companies struggling to balance the new triple bottom line: people, planet and profits.

Hyperlate: Elon Musk and Tesla Delay Their Next Big Product Launch (Salon)
What effect, if any, do you think this will have on potential Tesla buyers? How do you think the  the publics (customers, investors) of a traditional car company would respond to a delayed product announcement with no real explanation? How does Elon Musk’s and Tesla’s brands buffet the company’s PR? Can other car company execs learn from Musk’s use of Twitter or would that  ring hollow?

Breast Cancer Victims Should Be Pissed at Getting More Pink Than Green From NFL (Sporting News)
This article is a great example of how tricky corporate social responsibility is. “Pink washing” is a real thing and this article accuses the NFL of it. So how might the NFL PR team respond? Do you think the NFL should change its strategy around breast cancer awareness month? Discuss the awareness-attitude-action continuum in PR and whether the NFL should react to the ongoing “October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month” or take a different tack focused on action.
Nonprofits… entertainment… 
Ashton Kutcher: My Organization Found 6,000 Trafficking Victims This Year (FighttheNewDrug.org)
When celebrities found nonprofits does it create good PR for them or make them look insincere? Can celebrity involvement hurt a nonprofit? How might nonprofits working on the same cause view a nonprofit started by a celeb? When someone like Kutcher says he will “eliminate child pornography from the internet” and then is unsuccessful, how does this affect their reputation?

Teal-N-Treat: Teal Pumpkin Homes Offer Safe Alternatives For Kids With Food Allergies This Halloween (Spotlightnews.com)
How did FARE build from a local awareness project to national PR campaign in two years? How are food allergies changing PR for food companies and brands? What PR opportunities are there for food brands as awareness of food allergies grows?

Nonprofits… Ad & PR
‘Guns Don’t Kill People, Toddlers Do’: The Shocking New Gun Control PSA Focused on Children (The Washington Post)
How is the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence using an ad to drive PR (and perhaps catch media)? What are the PR opportunities and challenges for this nonprofit in terms of its publics? Do PSAs that try to scare people or inspire people achieve better outcomes? (Answer, it’s very complicated and depends on prospect theory – feel free to research this or discuss it with me if you’re interested.) How can satire work as a PR strategy?

Ad & PR…Fashion…
Megan Nash Asks OshKosh B’Gosh to Include Her Son, Who Has Down Syndrome, In Its Ads (the mighty.com
So what do you do if you’re OshKosh B’Gosh? If you say no, what are the PR consequences? What new publics might the company attract? If you say yes, what happens the next time something like this happens? How does social media create headaches and opportunities for ad and PR teams at major brands?

Fashion… foreign policy…
In Versace, Michelle Obama Sends Powerful Message at Her Final State Dinner (The New York Times)
Do you think “political dressing” matters? What messages do you think Michelle Obama was trying to send?

Foreign policy…
Sympathetic Canadians Have a Message for Americans: You Guys Are Great (The New York Times)
Would the “Tell America It’s Great” campaign been possible in the days before social media? Discuss how everyday citizens of a country can take foreign policy into their own hands now that there’s social media. What other ways is social media changing foreign policy? And humor aside, what might the campaign say about Canadian fears about how the U.S. election could impact the countries’ relationship?

Cosmetics & Skin Care…
Do You Even Moisturize, Bro? (The New York Times)
Why is the time right for men’s skin care to erupt? How did these publics – generation, race, country of origin/heritage – become important to cosmetics companies? And how do those publics change the acceptability of more traditionally feminine types of grooming for men?

One of Your Favorite Feminists Just Score a Major Beauty Campaign (New York Magazine)
How is Boots No7’s signing noted feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi a change for the makeup industry? Why is it a savvy PR move? Can you imagine a more established, traditional brand, such as L’Oreal, doing this – why or why not (from a PR standpoint)?

Kesha Went to Court Against Dr. Luke, Now, the Tables Are Turned (The New York Times)
Regardless of what you think of the validity of either side’s argument or the legal issues in the case, how does today’s PR landscape – with its emphasis on social media – make this case different from similar cases in year’s past? How has each side – Kesha and Dr. Luke – used PR strategies and tactics to advance its message?


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