Timbit troubles

I came across a great article in the Globe and Mail today by Carly Weeks.

Everyone has heard the story about the Tim Hortons employee who got canned because she gave a toddler a Timbit.


Well, as Weeks points out, a lot more came out of the company’s wallet than just the cost of the sixteen cent Timbit.











(from the Globe and Mail)


The situation turned into a PR nightmare. Instead of just having to write up a pink slip, there were crisis communications plans to create and execute, external communications with the angry public and angry customers, media relations, internal communications efforts to carry out regarding policies when it comes to handing out “freebies” and communications to calm angry staff members.


Whoever you point the finger at for this mess – the manager or poor internal communications efforts – Tim Hortons’ communications department definitely has their cups filled to the rim with work.


(Any interns in Tim Hortons’ communications department got a crash–course in crisis management).


Long before I began college, I worked as a salesperson at various stores and the one thing every single one of my managers told me was:


“A customer who receives great service will tell a couple of friends, but a customer who receives horrible service will tell everyone any chance they get.”


Living in a world where conversations are taking place online all the time, it is easier for bad reviews to get around to the most people.


You had better believe that an unhappy customer will not forget to write a post about the bad experience they had at a store/restaurant.

 And once people start coming across that strongly–worded post, other people who can relate to it will surely reply in agreement. Then, TIMBER!


Weeks writes:

“While most coffee shops, bars and restaurants across Canada have rules to prevent employees from giving their friends and family freebies, most allow – and even promote – occasional giveaways as a simple way to reap long-term benefits…Freebies can help cement relationships with customers, and it is common for grocery stores, fast-food outlets and coffee shops to regularly dole out free items, particularly when children are involved.”

I agree and I’m sure many people out there share the same opinion.

In terms of PR, not only will the company have to dump money into traditional forms of PR, but because of all of the tools social media has graciously bestowed unto the public, money must also be budgeted to create and execute effective social media relations.


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There’s a reason this information is being shared….think like a PR person

At lunch today, my placement supervisors and I overheard a news report saying that Barbara Walters has come out and spilled the beans about an affair she had with a former US Senator 30 years ago.

Barbara Walters

The first thing we all said (in more or less words) was:
“Who cares?!”

Now, the next question that came after that was obviously why should we care?

Some people may just take the information for what it is without thinking about the reasoning behind why it’s in the news in the first place. But after being in the newsroom and in the media relations room, I’ve started questioning why certain things make the cut and get reported – or why someone bothered writing a release about it or contacting the media.

There are two things journalists and PR people must consider when preparing to share information with their target audiences, they both need to figure out why it is relevant and whether or not their audience will find it newsworthy.

Let’s disect the Walters story….

In an appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s show (scheduled to air this coming Tuesday), Barbara Walters reportedly spills the news that she had an affair with former US Senator Edward Brooke back in the 70’s.

Things to consider:
– Why is Walter’s on the Oprah Show and what is she talking about?
– Why did Walters choose this particular occasion to share this “juicy” news?

Possible answers/reasons:
– Walters is unveiling a new line of products, show, etc.
– Walters is staring in a new movie, television series

The answer:
My supervisor said she’s pretty sure Walters’ publicist “leaked” the story because she’s releasing a book in the near future.


I will no longer take anything I read/see on TV/hear on the radio for face value…there’s usually a publicist or PR person behind the message.

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One month in

So I’ve been an intern at the Ontario Science Centre for about a month now and I have learned a lot – things no textbook or lecture can teach.
Yesterday was the reopening of the CA Planetarium. Dr. Marc Garneau was there, along with Lesley Lewis (CEO of the Ontario Science Centre) and Jimmy Fulton (County manager for CA Canada), students from Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute and the media.


It was quite a busy day. Tom Brown was there to do live hits for CTV News at noon and Dr. Garneau had an interview with CFRB live around noon as well..


Dr. Marc Garneau gives two Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute students a tour of the CA Planetarium at the Ontario Science Centre on May 1, 2008.


Here’s what I learned from yesterday:


Lesson 1: Never schedule interviews too close together because things happen and you can’t always expect reporters/camera men to be on time all the time


Lesson 2: When setting up an interview with a media outlet, make sure you have their contact info just in case (I may be stating the obvious, but it’s the little things you forget).


Lesson 3: Make sure ALL of your team is on the same page. Make sure everyone is reporting/giving out the right information and that everyone know what key messages must be delivered.


Lesson 4: Test run all equipment and make sure you have access to everything you need that day.


Lesson 5: Avoid wearing high–heels.


The event went off without a hitch and everything was on time and in its place.


I love the fact that I know what its like to be at the receiving end of the information tube. As a journalist, I didn’t know how much planning, detail and stress putting on a media preview could be. Though yesterday’s event was a great success, I still got to learn about how important it is to make sure there are no loose ends, that everyone that is part of the event (from building maintenance to CEOs) knows exactly what should be happening and when and that timing is EVERYTHING especially if media is scheduled to do a live hit.




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sticking to the original formula

I set up a blog usuing blogspot about a month ago and started using that one instead.
After finding that it would not come up when I searched my name on Google I decided to continue using this blog.


Because I know future employers will search my name and it would help if they could find my blog…

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Slow news day = PR person’s best friend


This past weekend I filled in as a reporter and it was quite challenging considering the fact that absolutely nothing “newsworthy” was happening. The newsroom can be a morbid place – unfortunately, bloodshed and controversey usually make for great headlines and there was very little of that Easter long weekend.

However, there were tons of events going on. Trying to reach a reporter or editor in a newsroom to pitch a story/event/launch/etc. can be difficult when murders, sex scandal and a possible TTC strike are going on. The newsroom I work in receives so many media releases and phone calls from PR people and most of the time the event doesn’t get covered because there’s just no time in the newscast or the reporters are covering something else.

I love the fact that I work in a newsroom and am a PR student as well. I get the best of both worlds.

This past Saturday I learned that a slow news day is a blessing for a PR person because it means their event/announcement/etc. may be the lead story and/or it gets more coverage than it would have had it not been a slow news day.

There was a multiple shooting that day, but no one died, no one was in critical condition and there was no “new angle” that we could take (ie. young girl is only witness). So my editor didn’t bother sending me to the police division or to the crime scene. What he did do was ask me to cover a story about World Water Day and a program launched by UNICEF called the Tap Project. 

UNICEF’s Tap Project was launched on the same day as Wolrd Water Day (March 22, 2008) and will run until the end of the week. Diners at participating restaurants will be asked to add $1 to their bill for the water they usually receive for free. The money collected during the project will go towards providing third world countries with clean water.

For your viewing pleasure…

I went to the restaurant where the PR people were meeting with media and covered the event. I wasn’t the only person from a well-known media outlet there. I did the interviews, got my tape and went back to produce the piece – at this point it was already 3 p.m.

I filed in time for the piece to air at 4 p.m. and all of my voicers ran until midnight – it was the lead story.
I also filed pieces about the initiative before I left to go to the event – so UNICEF received coverage starting at around 12:30 p.m. (Not bad!)

A slow news day for a reporter means digging through media releases trying to find something “newsworthy.”

A slow news day for a PR person means putting up with phone calls from the media trying to find something “newsworthy.”

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Beware while surfing…someone may be AstroTurfing


What is AstroTurfing?

– AstroTurfing is a formal public relations project launched under the impression of spontaneous, grassroots behaviour. The goal is to fool the public/intended audience into believing the posted material was authored/created by a person/persons who have no ties to the person/service/product/organization in which the post is related to.

Wikipedia’s definition of AstroTurfing:
In American politics and advertising, the term astroturfing describes formal public relations projects which deliberately seek to engineer the impression of spontaneous, grassroots behavior. The goal is the appearance of independent public reaction to a politician, political group, product, service, event, or similar entities by centrally orchestrating the behavior of many diverse and geographically distributed individuals.

Several cases of AstroTurfing have made headlines across North America.
Wal-Mart and Edelman Public Relations launched the Working Families for Wal-Mart organization and portrayed it as a grassroots group in December 2005. The organization was created to counter criticism of Wal-Mart from union-funded groups like Wal-Mart Watch and Wake Up Wal-Mart. The organization’s website posted the following mission statement:

“Working Families for Wal-Mart is committed to fostering open and honest dialogue with elected officials, opinion makers and community leaders that conveys the positive contributions of Wal-Mart to working families. We believe that Wal-Mart provides value to its customers, to its associates and to the communities it serves.”

Working Families for Wal-Mart apparently also sponsored the “Wal-Mart Across America” blog – where a couple posed as “Wal-Mart” fans travelling in an RV to various Wal-Mart locations across the country. It was later discovered that the male was actually a photographer for the Washington Post and the female was freelance writer who worked for United States Department of Treasury.

To read Fortune’s article about the issue click here.

We live in the electronic era, making it easier for companies to form an AstroTurfing campaign. A number of resources and tools are ready at the click of a button and the Internet makes it more cost effective.
PR bloggers Paull Young and Trevor Cook have spearheaded a true grassroots campaign to get PR practitioners around the world to take a stand against AstroTrufing.

AstroTurfing is unethical and – when carried out as a PR campaign – makes the profession look horrible. So how can young PR people help? Pall Young has a couple of tips:

  • Join the conversation – write against astroturfing on your blog or comment on the blog posts listed on the Anti-Astroturfing page on the New PR Wiki
  •  Declare you and/or your agency astroturf free
  • Expose possible examples of astroturfing
  • Link to the Anti-Astroturfing page with the image provided and add your name to the list of supporters below
  • Call on your politicians to take tougher legislative action against astroturfing
  • Call on your industry / professional association to speak out against astroturfing
  • Encourage friends and colleagues to get involved

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Oddly enough…

I found this story on Reuters and thought it was interesting/funny…


No red roses for Saudi sweethearts

Mon Feb 11, 2008 1:18pm EST

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s religious police have banned red roses ahead of Valentine’s Day, forcing couples in the conservative Muslim nation to think of new ways to show their love.

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has ordered florists and gift shop owners in the capital Riyadh to remove any items colored scarlet, which is widely seen as symbolizing love, newspapers said.

“They visited us last night,” the Saudi Gazette quoted an unidentified florist as saying.

It is not unusual for the Saudi vice squad to clamp down ahead of Valentine’s Day, which it sees as encouraging relations between men and women outside of wedlock, the newspaper said.

Saudi Arabia imposes an austere form of Sunni Islam which prevents unrelated men and women from mixing, bans women from driving and demands that women wear a headscarf and a cloak.

Relations outside marriage are strictly banned and punishable by law.

(Reporting by Souhail Karam; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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