Op-Ed: Hennessey, which ones are the cocktails I’d be proud of?

ImageFor Martin Luther King Jr. Day of this year, Hennessey, a cognac brand, released a press release titled “Mixed Drinks MLK Jr. Would Be Proud Of,” which talked about a list of cocktails that could be enjoyed during the holiday.

Needless to say, there was backlash, proving that this attempt at publicity was, without a doubt, a #PRfail.

The general public understandably shamed Hennessey for having the audacity to affiliate their brand with one of the greatest human rights activists known in American history for the sake of attention.

Despite popular opinion, however, Hennessey’s biggest failure wasn’t their insensitivity—it was their lack of awareness and ignorance to the opportunity their brand had towards creating a public dialogue about diversity and racism, both past and present.  

In essence, Hennessey’s motives weren’t bad. Unless they were socially suicidal, they wouldn’t have gone through the lengths to craft a press release or publish it, accidently or not, with intentions to downgrade any respect MLK rightfully deserves. Rather, they failed to communicate their intentions, which, like ideas, are worthless on their own. In this case, it’s the authentic actions of strategic communications branched off of them that would have resonated with the public.

By listing cocktails that they believe to be something MLK would be proud, they’re indirectly stating that his opinion would have been something to be valued, that the approval of Hennessey’s the mixed drinks by such a public hero would result in a sense of achievement. They, are essentially claiming that they care about what he would have thought, which in hindsight, is quite the opposite of disrespect.

The solution to miscommunication isn’t silence—it’s more communication. I think that brands, including Hennessey, need to be more transparent about both their messages and the intentions behind it, especially with topics as sensitive as human rights and race.

Hennessy’s PR mistake is one of the best examples that prove how important diversity is in such a globalized world made possible by the introduction of social media. It is no longer acceptable for French representatives to be excuses for unintentional cultural misunderstandings. More importantly, however, it is no longer acceptable to ignore the myriad cultures, ethnicities and sexualities that beautifully make up the American identity.



Heidi Chu

Snapchat Review

November 18, 2013


Snapchat, an application that has been gaining much attention recently, is the next generation of communicating. It’s the combination of texting and selfies, with the option to include a line of text in case the picture itself needs a bit of explaining.

And many might. The differentiating aspect of Snapchat is that the sent image doesn’t leave a trace. With the option of having the image or video last up to ten seconds, the sender can take embarrassing videos and pictures without the fear of it ever being resurfaced or shared with those they don’t want it shared with. Some images and videos may be so outlandish that a line of text makes the difference of a random unrecognizable Snapchat and the absolute perfect—though fleeting—capture of a moment.

One slight issue Snapchat faces is the screenshot feature many smart phones have. By screenshot-ing Snapchats, the value of the image never being seen again becomes void and degrades the app’s reason for use. Though the timer for most photos has not been long enough for users to utilize their screenshot option, it is an issue Snapchat must start addressing.

Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy first launched Snapchat in 2011[1]. Initially starting out on an iOS platform, Snapchat was accessible through multiple Apple products without any cellular service[2]. Most importantly, since Snapchat was available through iTouch devices, they were more reachable to an audience that did not own mobile smart phones.

Furthermore, as an INC. article[3] explains, sending Snapchats doesn’t take up as much cellular data as it would take sending images through texts, which makes the convenience of sending as many pictures as the user desires a characteristic that has made the app popular. Moreover, with about 26% of the 26 million users being within the age of 18-29 years, there is a generally impressive user base of Millennials[4].

Recently, Snapchat made news by turning down Facebook’s $3 billion offer, while Google was rumored to have made an offer of $4 billion.[5] Without any obvious ways of monetizing the app, questions arose of whether Snapchat is really worth the offered amount. Through my own experience of using the app, I’ve decided to come up with a conclusion of my own. 

Essentially, to use Snapchat, you establish a username that allows the user to remain anonymous while allowing friends to connect with them as well. Once an account is established, users can take a picture, add in text, and select a friend or a few to send the picture to. But in what way does Snapchat have the potential to progress and advance?

As a personal user of the app, I’ve come to consider it to be a substitute of texting. Rather than sending a text to a friend of what you’re up to, you can send a picture illustrating the actual event or situation, regardless of how grand or boring. Snapchat, in other words, exemplifies the power pictures have of a thousand words. They embody the next generation of one-to-one communication, and so, they have an endless list of possibilities in terms of how they can grow and expand.

Over the 2 years, for example, the app expanded to the Android platform and launched a full Snapchat website highlighting their latest feature, Snapchat Stories, which, I believe, may be the next big medium for storytellers to share their message.

So the verdict? Looks like Snapchat’s potential in and of itself just may be worth much more than Facebook’s offer.

CSR… For real?


Last Friday was Newhouse PR day and I was given the opportunity to listen to some exceptionally successful alumni. One of them was the VP of Starbucks.

In my first blog entry (click here to read), I wrote about the major branding differences between Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. So, it’s pretty obvious to assume that I was very interested in what he had to say. What he actually presented, however, made me cry. Well… tear up, at the very least.

Let’s be honest, being on top of the latest news of a specific organization requires a bit of effort on the reader’s end. I read a study on how identifying with a company allows customers to be more attentive to the appearance of the company in media outlets. But, thats another story for a another day…

What I mean to say is that no matter how many cups of coffee I purchased and consumed from Starbucks, I was pretty embarrassed to find out that Starbucks stood for something much deeper than just coffee and sweet pastries. The company’s efforts to heal some of the pain in America was nothing less than… admirable. amazing. praiseworthy.

And then, it got me thinking about CSR and the different efforts other companies in the world makes to “give back to society”. It’s no secret that when any company does anything to “give back to society”, their true motives are to boost their image and appeal to the public.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the efforts Starbucks made had financial pros to it as well. But, personally? I think they stand for much better than petty corporate CSR. I believe that they’re genuine. That they’re real.

Or maybe James Olsen ’91 was really just that good.

Any PR is… Good PR?

I’m not going to lie, entertainment PR is interesting. You’re building the image and label of an artist, not an organization. It kind of makes the concept of PR almost humanized, because, well, its personal. 

The most common phrase I’m sure everyone’s heard of is “Any PR is good PR.” In the world of entertainment, I’m sure it can hold the most truth, mainly because apparently the greatest fear of anyone in the industry is being forgotten. 

But, really… Is it?

I remember in my COM 107 class, my professor had a thing for entertainment news, and so for our weekly news quizzes, we’d get an entertainment news bonus question. He’d commonly reference  to “LiLo” and “Nicky”. The news that involved these two characters were, as expected, never really in the positive light of things. But, they were always considered to be people we wished we knew well enough to personally call “LiLo”. Or at least, I’m sure my professor back then thought that way.

But thinking about entertainment PR made me realize how different it would be from the other forms of PR (corporate, investor, etc.). In a lot of ways, it must be much more fast paced and a lot more changes on a daily basis.

In fact, it kind of reminds me of political press secretary/PR… interesting.


Re: Media Relations vs Public Relations


It is pretty well known that PR is all about the connections, especially connections in the media. It’s public relations, and how else could you build a relationship with the public without reliable media?

Then, that got me thinking about media relations and how similar, different, or interchangeable it was with PR. Which led me to this blog article: http://www.tangmac.com/2010/12/media-relations-vs-public-relations-whats-the-difference/  

A professor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology explains that public relations is, as I said, building a relationship between an organization and its publics. Media relations, on the other hand is about the interaction with people in the media, including journalists and reporters. They are, as this professor says, completely different, and therefore, not interchangeable. 

However, I see it as that media relations is almost included in the PR job description. So, although they may not be interchangeable, they are certainly interrelated. 

Yesterday, I attended a social media conference with alumni that came in as speakers.

There were about 5 alumni with various backgrounds and different areas of expertise, which made the entire conference a very laid-back discussion.

These days, there isn’t really anyone who hasn’t heard of social media. I even doubt that there are many people who haven’t recognized the importance of social media in pretty much every industry out there, especially public relations.

The interesting part of the discussion was when the panel talked about what social media means in terms of profit. Although businesses and organizations don’t normally get large portions of profit directly from social media, no one can deny that there is a correlation between social media an profit. The question is, however, of how much?

Social media provides a direct line of communication between an organization and its publics. The more likes there are, the more retweets, the higher possibility there is that the information has been spread, that the actions they are taking are in the right direction.

However, I’ve come to realize that organizations have been banking more and more in social media and that essentially buying the amount likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter probably isn’t the most productive or effective means of utilizing social media.

DeafGeoff, one of the panelists, advised that social media should be remembered that it is a tool to success, not the definition of success itself.

The conference discussed other topics like branding and finding jobs through social media.

Keeping it in the Family

In my PR class, we learned about internal communications and importance of it. We also learned ways to effectively manage and promote a healthy organization. Most of it was really easy to understand, but I realized two new things. The first is that small things can really go a long way. Our professor was talking about how holiday cards to employees can really build a more positive working environment. It’s something so small that can have a very general positive impact.

The second thing I realized is that internal communications can be applied essentially anywhere, even outside of professional areas. Although it may be called something else, I realized that communication internally within groups is almost essential for progress. For example, I’m thinking it applies anywhere as small as project groups to as large as countries for world peace.

In the field of PR (in the field of anything , really), I feel that professionals forget about the importance of internal progress. I’ve come to realize that success with the public, success with profits won’t last unless the internal organization is equally as progressive.