There’s not “I” in Team

Last week, I met with one of my project groups for the first time. I’d say we’re a colorful group of people. What I realized, however, is the importance of teamwork. Not only the positive points, but definitely the downside to it as well.

In the PR industry, I honestly don’t see how anyone would find success by working solo. Working in teams and in groups is essential to building an image, and I’ve been realizing that more and more.

But what if there’s a team member who is counterproductive? Who holds back the group instead of helping it move forward?

Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers. But I have heard that, although there’s no “I” in team, you can certainly spell “ME”.

*Note: This post is completely hypothetical. I like all of my group members.

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Going International

There’s this Latin saying that I’ve heard a couple times in my life: Si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more. It roughly translates to, “When in Rome, live like a Roman.”

Although I assume this advice was made to inform people on what lifestyle they should adapt when they visit other countries, I’m sure that international businesses follow this saying to find success in their international endeavors.

It, however, works very much with PR as well. This is a pretty well-known fact, I know. But I’ll just give my perspective on it anyways.

Being a Korean-American, I can most closely compare the Korean culture against the American one. In so many ways, the culture is different (obviously), but I found it to be more so in the entertainment world. 

By all means, disagree if you’d like, but Korea can easily be considered to be much more superficial.You can, then, imagine how different celebrity life might be.

I was watching a show called Strong Heart, which is a Korean talk show dedicated to celebrities who go on air to share stories about their lives. The goal of the show is to find the “strongest heart” who shares the deepest story. In the episode I was watching, a singer, who was famous around the time my mother was in her early twenties, came on the show to share her story. Apparently, when she was young, her family moved to America to find a better life. In contrast to their expectations, however, they found equal, if not worse, poverty in Brooklyn, NY. By fate, she met a Korean producer on the streets who offered to sign her if she ever went back to Korea. In her desperate attempt to change her life around, she went back to Korea some years later with no money, no set place to live, and no other hopes than to meet that producer again. Eventually, she did.

The agency she signed to built her image on luxury, and high-class living. She was made the diva of her generation, and everyone believed it. 

Twenty years later, she broke apart that image on Strong Heart and finally explained to the world exactly who she was and the background she came from.

I remember my mother’s reaction and was interested at how shocked she was. 

In almost every PR class I’ve taken, the importance of transparency was always emphasized. And, if the entertainment world of Korea builds only what sells, I’d imagine the business world there wouldn’t be much different. 

So, which one do you follow? Do you still live like a Roman in a Rome that doesn’t practice or believe in the importance of transparency? Or just assume that there are exceptions to everything?

Teach Me How To Snuggie

In the world of business, I’ve noticed that PR and advertising sometimes mean the same role. In a very simple and short way, I’ve thought of the difference between the two to be that advertising tries to sell a product while PR tries to build the image of the company selling it. As I thought this, a question followed up in my head.

What drives the success of a product? Of course, it is the complicated mixture of advertising, PR, and marketing. But, how much of that mixture is PR?

Sometime in the last 6 months, I worked with a mobile app (I’ll keep it anonymous to reflect neither positively or negatively on it). While working with the app, I had to reach out to several parties including press, fans, schools, and fellow members in the same field of interest. However, while working through the social media posts, the emails, and the articles, I couldn’t help but question why nothing was really working. None of what I was doing made an impact or caused a change.

That’s when I started to wonder if it was because the product itself was un-promotable, which eventually led me to quit.

When you look at things, like the Snuggie, that has become so much of a success without much work in PR, I begin to question how effective the works of PR really is. I mean, just have a ridiculous product, advertise it in an even more ridiculous commercial that clearly matches the level of intelligence of every American, and you have a successful product alongside a name everyone recognizes.

Maybe it’s my lack of experience, or maybe I just don’t get it yet. Or maybe I quit too soon. Whatever the case may be, you can’t help but wonder why everyone was so fascinated about the blankets with sleeves.

Going Mac

Apple.

Today, it seems that the first thing that comes into a person’s mind when they hear the word “apple” isn’t the sweet, crisp fruit, but the company. Apple Mac, Apple iPod, Apple iPhone…

The first Apple product I heard about was the iPod (interestingly from the same person who told me about Starbucks…). He had one of the first models hooked up to his car on the way to church and he excitedly explained the genius idea of mp3 formatted songs. Who knew that such an idea would redefine the entire music industry in the coming years? I certainly didn’t.

This past summer, I read the biography of Steve Jobs, written by Walter Isaacson, and I learned how the Apple company became the world’s best electronics brand. The book explained so much of Job’s eccentric ways, but the more interesting thing I realized was how much of a master he was at branding. It’s true that the marketing techniques he used like the historical “1984” superbowl commercial was created by artists (in this case, director Ridley Scott), but the thing that I feel may have been overlooked is the fact that nothing would have ever happened unless Jobs was completely in love and satisfied with the product, whether it be the ads, the computers, or even the tiniest detail in packaging.

Whenever you look around the classroom (specifically at Syracuse University), depending on what class you are in, you can easily notice which side of the ongoing battle of the Macs vs. PCs your classmates are on.

The winning side? 100% Macs.

Why, you ask? It’s not because there are more of us than there are PC users (quality over quantity, my friends). It’s also not because PCs have been increasingly following the looks of Macs (Note to PCs: you’re not fooling anyone by changing how your keyboard looks).

It’s because whenever I see a PC user, all I can think about is how unfortunate they are to be unable to experience the wonderful ease of a Mac.

Now, that is beautiful branding.

The Image of Coffee

You walk into a coffee shop where you order your usual Cappuccino. You see the variety of different drinks along with the unusual size options: tall, grande, and venti. You pay, and the last thing you do before you enjoy your beverage is tell the person taking your order a name to write on your cup. So, where’d you go? I can bet that 9 times out of 10, the answer would be correctly replied as Starbucks.

For the past three years, I’ve been asked what public relations practitioners really do. Although my answers have ranged from in-depth to vague, I feel that my personal example of Starbucks wraps it up pretty well.

I first heard about Starbucks in middle school by a teacher who expressed his own opinions about their coffee. He said that the coffee was, in fact, mediocre, but the single reason why it has gained its fame was because of the image Starbucks sold attached to their personalized (however incorrectly spelled) cups of coffee.

You can’t help but compare this image to Dunkin’ Donuts, which America apparently runs on because DD sells just about the same exact menu: coffee, sweetened pastries, and breakfast options. It’s clear, though, that they’re different. Why? Besides the obvious physical differences of style and taste, the main difference that portrays the proper effects of public relations is the “Starbucks people”, the employees. Starbucks, well-known for their excellence in employee training, uses the people they hire to embody the specific image of a caffeine experience that would “inspire and nurture the human spirit (Starbucks Coffee Company, 2012).”

For example, Vania, a good friend of mine, shared a story of how she went to Starbucks for their seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte and realized that she had forgotten her wallet. In cases like these, the usual process goes along the lines of a cancelled order and a slightly embarrassed customer. Instead, the Starbucks employee continued the order, and asked that Vania would (please) just come back the next day to pay for her order. In the usual emotion-less world of business, this particular instance of trust isn’t common. In fact, I daresay it doesn’t exist. Vania went back the next day to happily pay for that Pumpkin Spice Latte alongside that day’s choice of a Starbucks beverage.

If public relations can be simply described as “the management of credibility (Stacks) ”, Starbucks shows that people—and the interaction between people of an organization to the people of the public—can be the basis of trust, and consequently, the success of a business.

Works Cited:

Stacks, Don W. Primer of Public Relations Research. New York: Guilford, 2011. Print.