A common strategy in public relations is to relate messages to current events or trends, which can spark interest and attention for the brand’s message. When a message reminds a consumer of a hot topic, they are likely to listen.
The key is to know what topics to play off of and which to leave alone. Unfortunately there can be a gray area between the two. A recent example comes from the “Deflategate” scandal. “Deflategate” is the name given to the 2015 American Football Conference (AFC) championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. During this game, the Patriots allegedly deflated the footballs below the National Football League’s (NFL) regulated pressure. Brands pounced on this opportunity to make a message out of such a highly publicized event.
Should these messages have been created? It’s hard to say. While “Deflategate” isn’t a terrible crime, it could be argued that brands shouldn’t use alleged cheating or controversy as a marketing scheme.
Other messages are easily pinpointed as serious lapses of judgment. Bank of America’s recent faux pas was a weekly email entitled “Je Suis Bullish.” This played off the phrase “Je Suis Charlie,” which was adopted internationally following the massacre of journalists in the office of French magazine “Charlie Hebdo.” The email message, which did not relate to the massacre or to France, appeared incredibly distasteful. Another example is the DiGiorno Pizza’s Twitter fumble of 2014. The trending hashtag #WhyIStayed was used to promote frozen pizzas. If a little research had been done, DiGiorno representatives would have realized that the hashtag was used in a campaign for domestic violence awareness.
Not all brand messages relating to current events spark controversy. Taco Bell’s Twitter message “Taco Bae” earned 29,510 retweets and 22,478 favorites. The important part of using current trends as a public relations message is to think from the target public’s perspective. A public relations professional must ask: “What effect could this message have? Could this be taken in a different way?” A quick reflection on the meaning of the message can balance sensitivity with excitement over current events.
--by Bethany Corne, PRSSA General Member
All blogs are written by general members of UAPRSSA and Capstone Agency.