Author Archives: ellaclausen

The Trust Game: Who Wins?

yoga-mat-sandwichPeople tend to trust the government with matters of their health rather than big business. Makes sense, right? Government is driven to pursue the goals and interests of the people. Businesses are driven by profit margins, as well as investors, shareholders and a whole slew of factors that does not revolve around consumer health. The Gallup “Trust in Institutions” Poll from June 2013 has big business far down on the list, only slightly more trusted than congress, HMO’s and organized labor.

In a modern, internet-centric age, this is should no longer be the case. Big business is now-more than ever-accountable to the people in a faster, more efficient way than government.

Food Babe is an investigative food blogger who discovered that Subway was using a harmful chemical in their bread . This ingredient, Azodicarbonamide, is also commonly used in shoe rubber and yoga mats.  Although approved by the FDA, Azodicarbonamide is illegal in many countries in Europe as well as Australia due to its proven health dangers.

Within 24 hours of Food Babe releasing her petition against this ingredient, 57,000 people had signed her online petition. Within three days Subway issued an announcement that they were “already in the process of removing Azodicarbonamide as part of our bread improvement efforts” and that “the complete conversion to have this product out of the bread will be done soon.”
Meanwhile, the FDA says there is “a reasonable certainty of no harm” when an additive is used and has made no significant actions.

Subway, while maybe reacting swiftly just to save their image, is creating a beneficial change that may take Congress and years of lobbying to do. With the power of her blog, Food Babe was able to exact change with a corporation as large, and a supply chain as long as Subway’s within days. A little blog was able to take on a big corporation and win, which teaches us a lot about how communication can be effective if you use the right channels. The little guy won, because they knew exactly how to attack the problem.

Top TED talks for Social Media Buffs

Great ideas are worth sharing– this is the premise behind the TED conference, which hosts people withurl-1 innovative ideas to speak at conferences worldwide. TED conferences practice the ideology that all good ideas are worth sharing. The internet has enabled TED talks to be shared worldwide.  The creation of the internet has enabled people to share thoughts and ideas in ways they never could before.  I have selected three relevant, and relatively short, talks from innovators in the social media landscape. For those who have never listened to a TED talk before, these are a great introduction to a network of ideas that are free, short, and highly acclaimed.

Johanna Blakley’s “Social Media and the End of Gender”

 8 minutes

Though the title idea may seem a bit ridiculous, listen as Johanna Blakley, Deputy Director of the Norman Lear Center (a media-focused think tank at USC), argues the potential consequences of women outnumbering men on most social media platforms. Blakley sees that social media’s personalization of internet advertising renders demographics, and therefore gender, an inapplicable tool to advertisers who determine our media landscape.

Kevin Allocca’s “Why Videos Go Viral”

7 minutes

Kevin Allocca, trends manager for Youtube, speaks to why he believes certain videos that are placed on the web are chosen to go viral. Allocca explains that this process is combination of three key factors: 1) the attention of tastemakers 2) communities and participation, as well as 3) unexpectedness.

Alexis Ohanian’s “How to Make a Splash on Social Media”

4 minutes

Alexis Ohanian is famed for co-founding the popular social news website Reddit. In this brief illustration, Ohanian describes a Save-the-Whales campaign by Greenpeace, which was taken wildly out of hand due to the power of social media. He suggests that for success like that of Greenpeace, communicators must genuinely participate the target audience via online communities, know how to cater to the taste of said audience, and also accept that by nature of the internet you are no longer in control of what happens, and that this loss of control can be a good thing.

Should You Trademark Your Name?

Everyone is branded: the swoosh on your sneakers, the logo on your coffee cup, even the white headphones through which youskd181668sdc listen to your music- they brand you. The same goes for our homes, our clothing, and even our social presence.

Through a strange turn of events, branding has quickly turned from a businesses tool to a personal practice. The emergence of the “personal brand” is where people seek to build the key aspects of their identity into a business.

Personal branding is about building a presence. It is about differentiating what is unique and talented about you from a loud sea of communicators. Through tools like Youtube, Linkedin, Twitter, WordPress, and many others, it’s simple to define yourself in cyberspace.

Does have a nice flow? Communicators are increasingly urged to build websites in their own namesakes and write their own blogs. Is it necessary for every PR professional to have their own website? Does this mean I should trademark my name before another Ella Clausen is born?

Some may argue yes.

In a world where giant companies like Comcast and Google eat up any promising start up and spit them into a massive conglomerate, new media has given the individual unheard of opportunity. We as individuals have, for the first time, the chance to make a global name for ourselves with no connections or resources besides the use of a computer.

In a tough job market, the ability to sell yourself online is quickly becoming one of the most important tools an applicant can have.

Young PR Professionals need to keep ideas like the personal brand in mind whilst moving forward into the world of career professionals. Although building your domain may not be necessary today, start by building content with your personal brand in mind. For some tips on how to get started, read one of our older posts here:

It’s a brand new world. Take part in it.

Recap: 5 Takeaways From The Young Alumni Panel


Thursday, November 29th, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Boston University PRSSA’s Young Alumni Panel to learn from the experiences of recent BU graduates working in the PR industry.  The panel was an easy-going conversation between Allison Morris, Mark Nolan, Ginny Soskey, Rachel Sprung, and Chris Wilcox. While there was so much great advice tossed around, here are some highlights that could be of value for current students to know:

  • You go to a school that prepares you really well. “BU is really good at stimulating interest in the field,” Allison Morris shared. “And that is something that’s really important to have outside of college.”  Morris also said that the passion that BU instilled in her for the public relations field, technology, and social media was a lasting advantage that she had over peers who became disillusioned with their jobs.
  • Don’t put blinders on COM. Take advantage of those liberal arts credits to get experiences and gain knowledge about other fields. Ginny Soskey shared that her psychology background helped her to have a more insightful look at content strategy, and recommended a social psychology class for burgeoning PR students. Rachel Sprung agreed, adding that her SMG classes were useful in understanding the business side of her current work. Take advantage of being required to take classes in other subject fields, rather than taking all COM electives.
  • Utilize your peers.  The people you are surrounded by now will be your connections in the real world. They will be useful to you when you all are in separate places and you need a favor, or need help obtaining information. Build connections and friendships, and maintain them. Not so coincidentally, the entire panel noted that they did not get the current job they had by traditionally applying, but by knowing someone who was hiring.
  • Use Twitter to join the conversation. Twitter is one of the most important tools you can use to get a job. The alumni stressed the importance of getting into “the conversation,” meaning it is important to tweet your educated opinions about topics of interest to you or a company you want to work at.  The importance of creating original content, whether that’s developed through thoughtful tweets or blog posts, is universally agreed upon.
  • Don’t forget about the importance of culture. “I love those comfortable meetings where you can have a big belly laugh,” Chris Wilcox, marketing associate at Communispace, chimed in. The panelists felt that when applying for jobs many people get too caught up in the job itself and forget to look at the culture of the company they are looking into. This is important to do, because as an employee if you feel that the culture, or media policy, of your company is stifling, it will inhibit your work.

Are you successful alumni and have tips for communications students still in college? Share them here by leaving a comment below! 

The Truth: What Consumers Want

Do you believe that large corporations are truthful to people? Yeah, we don’t blame you, just about nobody does. In a poll conducted asking 100 Boston University students whether they felt they could trust product advertisements, a mere 3% said “yes.”  The majority felt that they would trust the opinions of friends over ads. Would a brand be more successful if it could gain the trust of consumers?

As a general business rule, it is important to be honest. The truth sells. Companies such as Toms, Whole Foods, and Stonyfield Farms have made great success from their transparency. The bottom line is that companies who: (1) have good practices and (2) disclose these practices effectively are the ones that do well.

A Business News Daily survey reported that people are willing to pay for products manufactured in sustainable ways or that are more environmentally-friendly — a lot more. Respondents offered to pay 15- 20% more money for sustainable and ethically produced apparel. The catch is that companies must be able to prove it.

The world of social media has turned disclosure into something that is not only useful, but necessary for a brand to thrive. We as consumers expect two-way symmetrical communication from brands; we expect to be informed. Web 2.0 has created an environment where malpractice can be discovered and spread to large audiences with a few clicks. It is where information about a brand is often sought and can be easily found.

McDonalds is a corporation that spends more time and money hiding truths than disclosing them. This brand is generally viewed as deceptive by the public, with many consumers skeptical as to what the ingredients in McDonalds’ food really are. McDonalds’ advertising during the Beijing Olympic games included Michael Phelps enjoying Big Macs and French fries with a smile. These ads were an attempt to say something along the lines of “It’s okay to eat Big Macs because Michael Phelps does!” Disclaimer: If you burn 5,000 calories a day, you can afford to eat at McDonalds. The rest of us, however, probably cannot afford to load a plate with cheeseburgers. McDonalds is a company that could benefit from being truthful with their customers about their brand.

Not only, in most cases, are sales better for brands that are truthful, but these brands also fare better in times of crisis. When a corporation has a history of being truthful, consumers are more likely to trust them in crisis, and move on.

No surprises here. The truth sells.