Lizzo Apology

For me, keeping up with celebrity and influencer news is everything. Not in the sense that I am completely involved in their lives like reality TV but in the sense that I am intrigued by what they’re doing and how their choices or actions change public perception of them. Lizzo (Melissa Jefferson) has been a champion for body positivity and has been a welcome face in the music industry. Ever since her first hit Truth Hurts, she has skyrocketed in her fame. Recently Jefferson has come under fire for a lawsuit that was served to her by former dancers who worked with the singer. The lawsuit covers allegations of sexual assault and harassment, religious harassment, the creation of a hostile work environment, body-shaming, and many other allegations that painted the singer in a very negative light. The internet, mainly TikTok from what I witnessed ran with the story with many people reading over and explaining the lawsuits, restating accounts of the dancers who served the lawsuit, and people generally shaming Jefferson for her hypocrisy.

After the news was released Aug 1, 2023 Jefferson released a statement to her official Instagram account on August 3, 2023. The statement is a gallery-style post with multiple slides with text on them. The statement attempts to do three things: Displace blame from Jefferson onto her former employees, blame her employees for their own ‘unprofessional’ behavior, and overshadow this controversy by trying to invoke her previous good work. Jefferson’s apology was only posted to Instagram and no official press release or statement was made by her PR team. The apology was not received particularly well by the jury of public opinion, nor was the apology well written by any means. There were strategic points to release a statement after the official lawsuit was released, but the apology did entirely fall flat because of the attempts to displace Jefferson’s blame onto the Plaintiffs. Overall, Jefferson’s response was in general ill taste, and she did not actually provide an apology for the allegations set before her.

Twitter Blue: Crisis or Opportunity?

Elon Musk is no stranger to crises occurring within his businesses. From exploding Tesla cars to failed SpaceX rockets, the billionaire is all too familiar with dealing in crisis management. With his recent acquisition of the Twitter company and app, he’s been seeing more and more criticism regarding his handling of these situations. With his most recent decision to monetize the blue verification check on Twitter through a new subscription called Twitter Blue, users have been in uproar. But the question remains: Is the tumult surrounding these changes truly a crisis, or will Musk’s already tainted reputation remain unaffected?

Before delving into the complexities of crisis communications, it’s necessary to understand what a crisis truly is. Defined in terms of management, a crisis is any urgent situation or circumstance that affects a company’s stakeholders. That is to say, a crisis is dictated by stakeholder opinion and reaction. As the CEO of Twitter, Inc. and self-acclaimed businessman, Musk does not have the capacity to claim an incident as a true crisis or not, but often uses his own platform to unabashedly share his opinion about the arising situation regardless.

When Twitter Blue was launched, the app’s users were divisive. Some believed that verification was a process used to protect celebrities and influencers as well as their audiences from fake accounts, and should not be bought and sold. Others thought that the subscription was a smart business move and that something as important as verification should be a paid service. Many verified users decided to, after the launch, remain un-checked in revolt of Musk’s new rule. Some users, despite not having a public following, purchased a verification check as soon as they were able.

Musk himself has been using his personal account to communicate with both sides of the issue, arguing with those who find this new subscription ludicrous, and praising those who purchased it. There have been suspicions of Twitter Blue subscribers being algorithmically prioritized on the Twitter feed and underneath Tweets, although this has not been confirmed. Musk’s personal beliefs have also seemed to influence users to leave the app and create discourse surrounding things such as his political beliefs and past/current relationships. All of this turmoil has led to a drop in users, with many deleting their accounts and/or moving to different yet similar apps.

An important question to ask as a crisis communicator while analyzing this case is: Who are Musk/Twitter’s stakeholders? A stakeholder is anyone affected by a company’s decisions, so one could assume that includes any and all Twitter users, checkmarked or not. However, many could argue that those who are not paying for the service should not be considered stakeholders, and it is this section of users that seem to be considering the Twitter Blue launch a crisis.

Musk’s image has been in a downward spiral for years now, without major financial effect on his many businesses and corporations. His stock has been unreliable and ever-changing, making it difficult to discern how his stakeholders truly view him and his choices. He is seemingly untouchable, making it through fiasco after fiasco and still managing to come out on top. So, are all of these situations actually crises?

I believe that it is a matter of opinion. The general perception of Musk and his companies are negative, but my view might be biased based on what media and content I personally consume. He still has a huge audience of supporters who worship him and his mind, regardless of the negativity that may cloud his name in certain parts of the Internet. Public perception of an individual is always factored into crisis communications and management, but it is not the end all be all for whether or not that person is facing a crisis.

In the end, there are still thousands of users who have subscribed to Twitter Blue, some who even openly oppose Musk and his antics, but still valued the verification over their personal issues with the CEO. At the end of the day, Twitter is lucrative and still one of the most popular and long lasting social media apps that we have today. It, and its dejected billionaire owner, will not be going anywhere anytime soon.

Arcadia Campus Renovation Pictures Spark Controversy Among Students and Alumni

American college campuses are somewhat of a unique type of place in which the students’ tuition and alumni donations funds the university but those groups are often left out of important decision making processes. It can often manifest in a serious disconnect between the community of students and staff and the executive departments that advance changes which affect students and their on-campus experience. Arcadia University recently had to reckon with this disconnect when the university’s instagram posted some before and after images of renovations that had been made to various campus spaces prior to the start of the Fall 2022 semester. The renovations included changes to the first floor of Landman Library, the renovation of Stiteler auditorium into a space for a Physical Therapy program, and the installation of a new student lounge and computer lab in Murphy hall. The images, posted on November 4,  consisted of several slides of photo grids that showcased the recent “upgrades” to those spaces. The post amassed over 350 comments from current students and alumni expressing deep disappointment, anger, and confusion with the changes made. The overwhelming amount of lengthy comments stand in stark contrast to the normal 1-3 comments that can be found under all other posts on the Arcadia Instagram page.

The first slide shows the before and after of Landman Library’s first floor where the older wooden tables and bookshelves were replaced with rows of newer work tables and a variety of funky and organic shaped chairs, stools and couches. The “after” images however seemed to lack intention as they left the space looking incredibly empty and not conducive to a productive workspace. The second slide shows the renovations made to Stiteler auditorium which cannot really be classified as an auditorium anymore because all the seating was removed and the stage cut in half. This was the point of most contention in the comments but before delving into the contents of those comments, there was also the final slide that showed an inaccurate before and after depiction. The before pictures show images of Murphy Hall’s photo lab on the second floor and the after images show pictures of the newly installed student lounge and updated computer lab on the first floor, an entirely different part of the building. This caused confusion as many students and alum thought that the photo lab had been removed altogether. Several commenters also pointed out how the library no longer looked like a workspace but rather an empty lounge area. Yet, it was the changes to Stiteler auditorium, also in Murphy Hall, that caused the most uproar from current students and alumni alike.

The commenters were overwhelmingly upset for several significant reasons. First, it’s important to know Arcadia University considers itself a Liberal Arts School and Murphy Hall is home to the Media and Communications Department, and much of the Visual and Performing Arts Departments.  Murphy Hall is also the oldest building on campus and has held a long history as a community space. Actually, Stiteler Auditorium was originally a chapel and up until the renovation had beautiful stained glass windows along the wall that looked out into the Murphy courtyard. The historic stained glass windows were removed during the renovation and not properly handled so when delivered to the Gallery staff who were in charge of archiving the windows, there were many broken pieces. As the comments explained, students and alum all expressed how much they loved and enjoyed the space during their time, their fond memories of seeing performances and club meetings. The overall feeling among the students was that their space and community as students of liberal arts had been disregarded and replaced with a space for something that isn’t a part of that community. Many current students also talked about how their times for performing arts classes and activities are being frequently interrupted by the new users of the space. Students also pointed out a variety of other updates that were truly needed in other parts of campus, especially the need for more accessibility on campus, and the low quality of the housing buildings. Another point of contention was the recent purchase of Bishop McDevitt High School which shut down a few years ago. The property has been a point of interest for the University for a long time but it wasn’t until the school shut down that they purchased the property. Many commenters pointed out that this massive purchase should have been considered as a location for the PT facility rather than taking away the already small space belonging to liberal arts students.

Several alumni even commented that they were no longer interested in making donations to the University because of this oversight. The Arcadia University account made one response in the comments which directed students to read the article with more details about the renovations. The comment was met with more outrage and accusation of disregarding the true feedback from the commenters. Then, about four days later on November 8th, Arcadia University released a statement. Posted to their Instagram page, the statement was directed to the University Community and apologized for their “poor communication and engagement on this issue”. The statement clarified that there is no intent to close or minimize any of the arts programs, and that  President Nair met with faculty leadership to plan listening and campus planning sessions for community members. It’s unclear who exactly runs the Universities instagram as in the past it’s often been run by media and communications students but not currently. In any case, the social media channel is one of the largest online representations of the University and it was interesting to see what their strategic response would be to the intensity of the comments.

Their key plan of action was to put together the listening sessions to show genuine concern for the thoughts students and alumni had but judging by the comments left under the statement, many felt it was too little, too late. From what I’ve heard the online listening sessions were poorly attended and people felt like there was no point in discussion because the damage was already done. Since the listening sessions, attention to the issue seems to have faded into the background of campus activity. It’s yet to be seen whether the issues of performing and visual arts students using the Stiteler space will be compromised any further. It’s unlikely that this will be the end of the controversy surrounding Stiteler in particular as the University has made a point of deeming it a “multi-use space”. For now, Arcadia can shift focus elsewhere but it will be important to see how they manage decisions surrounding renovations and especially the use of the newly purchased Bishop McDevitt High School space going forward.

The UFC’s Successful PR Tactics During the Pandemic

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is one of the fastest growing sports in the industry currently. Through the pandemic the UFC transformed from targeting a niche sporting audience to becoming a mainstream sport, and an industry leader in PR tactics. So how was the UFC able to pull off this rapid increase in attention and revenue?

On May, 9th, 2020 The UFC hosted the first major United States sporting event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. UFC President Dana White was unrelenting in his pursuit of bringing back sports during this global tragedy. He saw an opportunity with the lack of sports media during that time, and took advantage of the circumstances by continuing to host fight cards with extensive COVID protocols. As a result of this PR tactic, White and the UFC had the entire sports industry completely focused on their organization, as it was the only source of current sports media coverage.

White’s diligent efforts during the pandemic helped the UFC begin many major partnerships with Industry conglomerates. A few of the UFC’s current partners include: ESPN, Draft-Kings, Monster Energy, Modelo, and Harley-Davidson.

Although hosting events during a deficit in sports content was a huge factor in the organization’s industry growth, their PR strategies before and after this event are a major factor in what made their organization successful. The UFC has one of the best, if not most consistent PR teams in the industry, and their strengths shined during the pandemic, as they had the opportunity to not be outshined by larger sports organizations.

The UFC uses social media as one of their main PR tactics. Their Instagram has 28.9 million followers, their Twitter has 8.7 million followers, their Youtube has 12.3 million subscribers, and their Facebook has over 28 million page likes. So it’s safe to say that their social media has a pretty strong outreach.

The organization uses their social media to post content that advertises their fighters, upcoming fight cards, announcements, and incorporates advertisements into their content. They have an extremely consistent and engaging social media presence that effectively keeps fans coming back to their pages.

Arguably one of their most successful PR strategies is their utilization of “hype videos” for each fight card they are advertising. The purpose of these videos is to get fans excited enough about a fight card that they are willing to pay for it, especially in the cases of Pay-Per-View events.

The UFC targets their PR strategies to convince fans to invest in two financial avenues. First is to encourage fans to purchase an ESPN+ subscription. This subscription gives subscribers access to the weekly “Fight Night” cards for $6.99 a month. The second avenue is using their PR to encourage fans to purchase their Pay-Per-View events (having an ESPN+ subscription does provide a discount for these events, but you still need to pay a one time fee of $69.99).

Their PR tactics, and social media content to “hype” fights get fans so excited that they are willing to spend money to be able to watch different fighters each week. The promotion videos are not only fun and exciting to watch, they are extremely persuasive in convincing fans that this is a once in a lifetime event, and they can’t miss it. The use of their social media and “hype videos”, even before the pandemic, has allowed the organization to build its brand up to this point.

The UFC’s social media also allowed the organization to showcase the strengths of their event management team. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is not a sport like basketball, where teams have a season schedule that is predetermined months before they start playing. MMA matchmaking is ever changing, as schedules depend on injuries, weight-classes, wins/losses, championships, etc. Hosting an event during the pandemic was not an easy feat, but hosting weekly events, especially given the burden of constantly changing fighter schedules and availability, is even more unheard of. The UFC has been able to pull off incredible event management for years, the pandemic just gave them an opportunity to showcase their strengths with the sports industry’s full attention. They continue to set the standard for how effective and efficient organizations need to be with how they schedule and promote events.

Whether or not you believe the UFC hosting events during a global pandemic is ethical, the success of their PR strategies by finding opportunity during the rapid decline of sport content was business savvy. Their PR and event management teams had a chance to shine, and they definitely took full advantage of the opportunity.

Fun Virtual Activities to do with Friends

The one thing I have struggled with the most during the pandemic is maintaining my relationships with people I cannot spend in person time with. Just like most people, I have been stuck in a house with my family for the last couple of months. While I love my family and am used to spending a lot of time with them, seeing as I spent 18 year with them, but this is the first time I have not been able to spend time with anyone else. The short trips I take to the store does help a bit but with our masks covering our faces and at least six feet between us, it is hard to get any honest human connection that way. FaceTime and Zoom have kept human connection alive during a time it feels impossible for it to exist, yet talking to someone through a screen with no activities can get a bit old. I began to look for ways to spend time with my friends even though we have run out of things to talk about, especially since there is less to experience stuck in your house. Playing video games is the easiest thing to do virtually with the creation of gaming consoles, online gaming and digital platforms like Discord. Yet, it is not easy to spend thousands of dollars on a console, online gaming membership and the video games themselves.  Here are a couple of free/cheap activities you can do over the phone with someone you no longer get to spend in person time with.

1. Teleparty

Watching television shows and movies is probably the number one thing people spend time doing together. Of course, since the pandemic started we have all done our fair share of Netflix binging but it is always more enjoyable with company. I have found a browser extension that allows you to watch the same thing as your friends at the same exact time. You simply find the show or movie you want to watch, can be on Netflix, Disney, Hulu or HBO, click the Teleparty extension in the top right corner of your browser, copy the invitation link and send it to your watch partner. When your partner clicks the link, it will bring them into the Teleparty watch room where the show or movie will be synced perfectly. If one of you pauses or skips, the video will do the same for the other person. Amazon Prime Video has their own version of this on their website, but it only works for things on available on Prime Video.  JellyParty is just like Teleparty but it allows you to watch anything from anywhere together. So if there is something on YouTube you may want ti watch together, I would recommend JellyParty. But be warned that while all these extensions are wonderful, JellyParty can be finicky at times. 

2. Skribbl

Pictionary is a game that most people have probably played at least once in their life. Skribbl gives you the opportunity to play this with your friends even when they aren’t with you. For this to work, you will need to visit skribbl.io and create a room. After you have done that, you simply need to copy the invitation link and send it to however many people you would like to play with. Once they receive the link and click it, they will be transported into your created room. After that all thats left to do is press play!

3. Jackbox

This is a great website for someone who likes playing comical games with friends. It is a lot like Kahoot but with the raunchiness of Cards Against Humanity. There are multiple games to play on Jackbox and all of them are hilarious. Quiplash is a game to see which of your friends can come up with the funniest joke on the spot. Fibbage helps you figure out which of your friends is a horrible liar in a humorous way. And Drawful is a lot like skribbl but with a slight twist that results in hilarious drawings. Trivia Murder Party is a lot like Jeopardy, if Alex Trebek constantly made fun of you and and killed whoever lost.  All these games are available on JackBoxgames,com and all you need to do is pay less than $10 for any game you want, create a room and send the rooms code to your friends!

Social Media During a Pandemic

Social media has been a prevalent platform during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Its use reaches countless purposes. It is a connection to family and community, an escape from the reality of the world, a marketing tool, an awareness promoter, and also a spreader of misinformation. These aspects of evolving social media usage cross the boundaries of both beneficial and detrimental. Learning to adapt to the constantly changing climate of social media is important to understand, in order to maneuver through work as a public relations professional.

Connection

During the time of the pandemic it’s been hard for many to connect with friends, family, and their communities. Social media is just one of the many ways that people are working to stay connected to each other when they can’t be together physically. One form of social media that has acquired a larger following since the pandemic is Tiktok.

The D’Amelio’s- TickTok Famous Family

Tiktok hosts a wide array of different communities, including but not limited to, Cottage Core Tiktok, Witch Tiktok, Alt Tiktok, and Dance Tiktok. These offer large communities between strangers and friends, and create an opportunity for people to feel less alone during the pandemic. Many older relatives are also turning to social media for the first time in order to connect with the older and younger members of their family. So much so that in a recent study 64% of those ages 35 to 49, and 34% of those ages 65 and up stated an increased social media following from March to May, with March and May being the months that had the most strict lockdowns during the pandemic.

One family, The McFarlands even rose to fame by filming their antics on Tiktok as a way to keep from being bored in the house during COVID-19. Among these antics they’re most well known for their group dancing videos. This form of content’s main purpose is to serve as a vehicle for smiles and laughter- something needed during tough times.

Escape

Not only has social media been used to cure loneliness during this pandemic, it has also provided a sense of escape. Something that many have struggled with, during the lockdown period, was finding things to do. For many, the solution was to log into social media and endlessly scroll through status updates, short videos, selfies, memes, and inspirational posts. The endless stream of content that is available on these platforms can cause the time to go by, and distract people from the real world. More bad news comes in every day of 2020. Some people chose to focus on real life updates, and others ignore it, by concentrating on the feel-good side of social media.

Information and Misinformation

For those who choose to tune into every update in current events, social media became the hub for quick briefings. Across all platforms information is shared nonstop about current events. For many users, their social feed is where they get a majority of their updates. This can be good, as it is a quick way of receiving important information. During the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, many relied on their social media for the quickest updates. Unfortunately, some of this news has not always been factual, and with the spread of information being amplified, it has led to a lot of division on where groups of people stand on the same issues. One example of this, in relation to COVID-19, is the anti-masker agenda. It has widely been spread on social media, through the attention it has gained, by people against wearing masks, and also people for it. By mentioning this issue on social media, both parties are amplifying how frequently it will show. This is done by using hashtags, follows, and shares to spread its relevancy in the algorithms. In this niche, there are vast amounts of misinformation about COVID-19, including vaccines, guidelines, and mask usage, that can be detrimental to how the public has reacted to the pandemic. Not only does it affect the health and safety of the public, it has also caused a lot of division between people. Recently Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have been fighting against this issue by creating misinformation warnings on posts that seem to include unfactual content. While misinformation can often get mixed in with the actual truth, there is a great amount of guidance that social media has made available. One instance that sticks out the most is the addition of a COVID-19 Response segment that has been added to Instagram’s Search Page. This page includes the accounts for CDC and WHO, which are two large organizations, that have taken on the brunt of information delivery during the pandemic.

Altogether, social media has largely been impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. It is easy to say that the effect social media has had on connectivity to communities will permanently change the way we communicate with others, and help to minimize the divide between generations, and their usage of social media. This is a lasting effect that will probably continue to strengthen past this pandemic. It has offered an escape to so many, when it feels like there is so little to do, or that can be done. The vast amount of communities available to people on social media helps to offer this escape from the real world, and can affect how people interact with each other. Another issue that has been impacted by social media, and the pandemic, is division caused by the mass-spreading of information. It is fair to say that this large-scale amplification of ideas is going to continue past the pandemic, but it definitely has come to a forefront with current events, because it’s something that so many can relate to worldwide. Overall, social media has formed a sense of community for so many, during a time when people can’t actually be together. This is something that public relations professionals will have to maneuver around in the future and adapt to, as the world of social media is constantly evolving to fit consumer needs.

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