January was a very busy month in the public relations world. But to start off, we would like to pay homage to Southwest founder and CEO, Herb Kelleher, who passed away on Jan. 3, 2019. Kelleher started the business with a bang, and a phenomenal public relations stunt, fighting a copyright claim with an arm-wrestling match. Read about it here.
Dancing’s Not a Crime, But Is It Controversial?
The day after new members of Congress were sworn in, a video from the college days of the youngest member, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), circled the internet and became viral. People were tweeting this video around, under anonymous names and accounts, in order to shame AOC. People were calling it scandalous and bizarre among many other things.
The ploy to demean AOC’s credibility was not successful
As soon as the video went viral, a staffer from The Hill interviewed AOC, and she said, “It is not normal for elected officials to have a reputation for dancing well and I’m happy to be one. It is unsurprising to me that Republicans would think having fun should be disqualifying or illegal.”
Not only was AOC quoted, she bounced back with a video of her own. Not only do college teenagers dance, but so do congresswomen. This is an important lesson in shaping the narrative. When it is your brand and reputation on the line, you need to take it back to shape how you want to be seen. AOC did not let others control her narrative and perception.
And the Winner of the Golden Globe Is … FIJI Water Girl?
Between “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Roma” and countless more winners, somehow FIJI Water Girl is the talk of the Golden Globes. We all know that product placement and being a sponsor of a mega-event is huge for publicity, and FIJI Water made sure to capitalize on that. This year, at the end of the red carpet and throughout, there were FIJI Water models carrying FIJI Water to give to all of the celebrities. Seemingly normal? They were, except for FIJI Water Girl. She seemed to make every red carpet picture, giving publicity to her and FIJI Water. In fact, FIJI Water Girl now has a soap opera role on “The Bold and The Beautiful.”
It’s all fun and games until ethics get involved
Jamie Lee Curtis brought up an interesting ethical conversation about FIJI Water. She pointedly stepped away from FIJI Water Girl whenever she saw her, later tweeting: “I knew there was a photographer poised & I moved as I didn’t want to be doing advertising for either. The sponsors of events need to get permission from people before they try 2 take their picture with them.”
Toxic Masculinity and Razors
If you haven’t heard about perhaps one of the biggest public relations stories of January, Gillette (parent company Proctor & Gamble) Razors released an ad about “the best a man can be,” tackling issues of toxic masculinity, bullying and sexual harassment. The video has gained more than 65.4 million views since Jan. 13. It is too early to say how sales have been impacted since razors have a long cycle purchase, but Gillette’s retail sales trends are in line with pre-campaign levels, and Gillette Shave Club continues to grow sales and users.
With every piece of praise …
The daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., Bernice King, said, “This commercial is not anti-male, it’s pro-humanity. And it demonstrates that character can step up to change conditions.” People also say that it is a commercial displaying the traits of society while also selling ads, and that “any male who is offended by it is exactly who the commercial should be reaching.” Public relations expert Mark Borkowski added that it appealed to a younger generation that were very aware of the power of advertising and marketing on society. Masculinity is a huge part of Gillette’s brand, and there is a recognition in this ad that the new generation is reworking that concept of masculinity, and it is no longer the cliche it once was.”
There is criticism
People are criticizing this ad in more ways than one. Gillette (or more specifically P&G) is known for animal testing and is guilty of the pink tax — upcharging women’s razors simply for changing the color. People say that due to this, Gillette is not one to weigh in on the conversation of #MeToo and women empowerment. People accuse Gillette of jumping on the boycott and demeaning men.
Elizabeth Frenaye is a senior studying public relations and strategic communications, with a focus on event management as well as international studies, at American University. For her Chapter of PRSSA, she is the service director and in charge of the Bateman Case Study Competition. Follow her on Twitter @eliiizardbeth and connect with her on LinkedIn.