The burgers (and PR) are better at Grill’d.

Messages are not always understood the way they are intended. This, I believe is the most important thing to remember as you do any work in public relations or media.

No matter what the company does, what content they create, what kind of campaign it is, or how good the intentions are, it is never certain that the audience will understand a campaign in the intended way. This is why research, and especially examining case studies are so important. And that’s precisely what we were shown this week.

Just as your Facebook page can show you what you appear as to all your friends (and enemies), I believe every PR campaign should be put through a similar filter. Keep in mind that people have experiences, memories, thoughts and opinions that affect what they take away from a campaign. Semiotics helps us to understand this, but not all companies are successful in just reading their material from a reader’s perspective. For example, an email from Adidas just four years after the Boston Marathon bombing contained the subject line ‘Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!’ I shouldn’t need to explain why that was an issue (click here for more).

To a more positive PR experience, my favourite example from the lecture was the reactive campaign in response to the ‘KFC has no chicken’ scandal (yes, scandal) from earlier this year. Thinking about PR, crisis response is one of the first roles that jumps into my head, and seeing it done well is honestly, quite refreshing. KFC’s main priority were its employees, which showed they really understood and cared about who their stakeholders were in the situation. They closed stores to solve front end issues, and released a clever, confident and clear apology. The way they handled a very time-senstive situation with calmness and coordination was applaudable. I hope their PR team all got raises.

I recently saw a similar situation, although a little less urgent, regarding Grill’d’s vegan cheeseburger. They recently released a second version:

I’m not vegan, but this looks pretty damn good.

Upon seeing the post about the burger, I investigated and discovered that the original burger’s release hadn’t been a huge hit. A quote from the new page said, ‘Everyone deserves a second chance, and we’re here to ask for ours.’ (Read more here!)

Grill’d released a product that didn’t go so well, but rather than hiding it and deleting every trace it existed, they acknowledged the mistake publicly, took feedback into account and re-released it to create something better. I love the way this portrays the two-way symmetrical model, where Grill’d not only listened to and acted upon feedback, but also then pointed this out to their customers, which went a long way towards maintaining relationships with their publics and stakeholders.

As said by Meghan Farren, the chief marketing officer of KFC UK and Ireland in this video,

‘Brands are like people; they’re run by human beings, and if you want people to connect with other people you are authentic, and open, and honest, and humble.’

This sentiment is seen flowing throughout KFC and Grill’d’s responses to their separate issues. They responded sincerely, respectfully and apologetically, as you’d hope your best friend would apologise when they just had the last sip of your drink. But, I know you’re all hanging out for another PR fail, so here you go:

Remember when United Airlines kicked that guy off that flight? For a reminder, have a quick squiz at this article.

United Airlines’ response was arguably inauthentic and feels ‘put on’. They don’t apologise to the man affected, and barely accept there was an issue at all. This isn’t what builds relationships with consumers. Consumers are humans; they want honesty about what happened and a real apology. Neither of these came from United Airlines, and their reputation has suffered since.

From what I’ve gathered these past three weeks, the best PR campaigns show that they care about their publics and stakeholders, use two-way communication systems, and think about what the consumer will see and what connotations might be created. And as you’ve seen today, case studies are an amusing, and very valuable resource for anyone planning a campaign.

The ONLY way to plan your birthday party.


Using only Public Relations Theories

Definitely us in November! Photo from:

My boyfriend Anthony’s 18th is coming up and I have offered to do most of the planning. So when David likened this week’s topic to planning a birthday party, I thought this was a brilliant opportunity to take some initiative and kill two birds with one stone.

*from here on, ‘birthday party’ is interchangeable with ‘public relations campaign’*

The goal for this birthday party is for people to come along and have a good time. But before ordering the cake or showing up at the venue, I needed to know some information. And as we all know, the foundation to any good birthday party is research.


I decided to use Smith’s Strategic Approach (Smith, 2002) to start the process. According to him, there are four steps to a successful campaign.

  1. Formative Research

I needed to analyse the situation, the organisation (me), and the publics (the guests). I knew Anthony wanted to have a dinner in the city and then go out to some clubs. I decided to research the clubs – I wanted to know which had the best birthday deals. So I asked a focus group (of friends in a Facebook chat) what their preferred clubs for birthday deals were. When they responded, I followed up by asking why they held this opinion. Through this method, I gained primary data, collected specifically for the purpose at hand, and I collected qualitative data, which explored the underlying reasons and attitudes as to why one club was subjectively better than another.

From here I went on to directly interview (by messaging their Facebook pages) five of the recommended clubs to learn more about them. I also checked out the websites to learn what kind of music they play, prices and locations. This was secondary data, as it already existed for another purpose.

Another method I could have used to research would be a survey. I could have contacted an amount of young adults, for example, 100, to determine how many of them had been to certain clubs, and ask them to rate them on a scale of 1-10. This would have provided me with quantitative research which I could then analyse more objectively than the qualitative research. However, for my situation, I felt the qualitative research to be sufficient.


  1. Strategy

We needed to be strategic in the way we did this. Our goal was to get people along to the party and for them to have a good time, so we made plans. To make sure everything we said and did followed the same line of thinking, we agreed on a vision, and compared everything we said or posted about the event to this vision.


  1. Tactics

We created a Facebook event to invite everyone and posted all the required information there. This was the best way to reach our target audience (as we learnt last week, the internet is the most used media for ‘Trailing Millennials’, aged 14-28) and was completely free! We were unsure of where to go for dinner, so we decided to ask for input from our guests on the event page, utilising the two-way symmetrical model from week 3. We knew this tactic would reach our audience, as Facebook users get a notification when they are invited to an event. It suited our vision, and our personalities, so we went for it.


  1. Evaluative Research

To know whether or not we hosted a good birthday party (and whether our message outreach tactics worked), some evaluative research will be necessary. The party is in mid-November, but some ways we can tell if we did well include:

  • Seeing what percentage of guests actually show up
  • Holding one-on-one interviews (AKA bringing it up in conversation a week later) and getting some opinions on the night
  • Conducting an online survey to see what we did well and what we could improve on

Thus beginning the research stage for our next birthday party! See you there!


Reference: Smith, RD 2002, Strategic Planning for Public Relations, Taylor & Francis, Mahwah, N.J.

Content with your donuts?

Hey all! Welcome to my first blog post. I’ll be sharing a little about what I’ve taken away from lectures and tutorials in my PR course at UniSA. Who knows, you might even learn something!

This week we discussed content and content management. I likened the idea of content to the filling in a donut. The doughy part is the media outlet it’s published on, for example, Facebook!


Boston Kreme CONTET.jpg

Oh, and speaking of donuts, go do this fun quiz on what donut you are (I’m a Boston Kreme, as pictured). I’ll wait here.

Which Donut Are You?


You back? Okay, let’s continue.

One of the things we looked at was the different ways people from different generations use media for entertainment (reminder – media is the outside part of the donut). We learnt the top four media outlets (donut types) for each generational group, and I was shocked to discover that only the 52+ age group commonly read books for entertainment. Although it’s fairly similar to the fact that only old people like walnut donuts. However, I was surprised that even the generation X-ers (35-51 years) preferred movies (the chocolate donut of the media industry) over reading (less surprising when you think about the walnuts). The younger generations, all the way up until age 35, preferred their media short and sweet from the internet, very similar to sprinkle donuts! It was also highlighted how important to have an understanding of what media different generations use, and how this media is used so that PR campaigns can be targeted towards those specific publics or stakeholders. Essentially, if you want a certain audience to eat your new filling flavour, it helps to put the filling in a donut that they already eat.


Ignoring the donuts for a bit, the next thing we discussed was different kinds of content. I learnt that there are a number of types, including:

Created Content

This is the most basic it gets. It’s content designed and published by the organisation on their own platforms for their own purposes.

Curated Content

This is when previously created material is taken and a bit of the sharer’s own personality or opinion is added. Similar to what one might see on Facebook, such as when my mum shares a picture of a dog and adds a comment regarding how cute the dog’s jumper is and how ‘my dog also lays like that when he’s tired, he’s so cute!’

Contributed Content

This content is written by a hired company or freelancer on behalf of the employer. The hired person/company will then present the piece to relevant outlets for publication. It’s often hard to tell these from other pieces, as you can’t always tell if it was the company, the hired help, or even just a journalist, that wrote the piece.

Commissioned Content

This refers to content created to push certain ideas. The example we were shown was a movie paid for by the Australian government about the tribulations of people smugglers, shown to people smugglers to discourage people smugglers from people smuggling.


The readings for this week mentioned a few strategies that could prove helpful to my hopeful future in marketing and events. The 2012 article by Korosec, ‘Content Creation’, explained that there has been a shift in the way in which marketing is consumed. Consumers don’t want products ‘push’ed into their face anymore, if they want something they want to research it, or ‘pull’ the information themselves. Thus, marketers have to be clever. One example given was the partnering of organisations to create interesting and easily consumable content (short, funny or informative – like our sprinkle donuts) which is related to the business but does not directly promote the product or service.

Since reading this article, I have come across this happening at least 50 times on social media. One of these was an article about avoiding scams while travelling, which I clicked on because I’m going to Bali soon (so excited but am definitely getting sucked into every single article even remotely related to travelling). At the bottom I noticed just one sentence about the bank ANZ next to their logo. What a clever way to get me (the consumer) to interact with the company without feeling as though I was being sold a product. It was also a good example of the marketing and public relations teams working together well, as was recommended in the week 1 lecture.

Does this sneaky tactic remind you of anything? Maybe…the quiz I made you do at the start? Did you notice who it was sponsored by? Clever.



Korosec, K 2012, ‘Content Creation’, Marketing News, vol. 46, no. 2, pp. 8.

About Me

Thanks for joining me in this blog! I’m a first-year university student at the University of South Australia. I’m 19 years old and work as a musical theatre teacher for children aged 3-18, but I am working towards a career in communications or marketing for tourism in South Australia.

In the coming posts I will discuss my learnings from COMM1057 Public Relations Theory and Practise as the final assignment. I hope you enjoy following me on my journey of learning over the next few weeks!

This is me!