Retail Rehab

Retail Rehab

 

The holidays are fast approaching and with them come good food, family and friends and of course shopping! The holidays are a time of year that we all focus on what is truly important to us: Our loved ones. Unfortunately for those individuals who work in customer service this is not a luxury they are afforded.

 

My Father’s family relocated to Texas from Michigan this year to be closer to the rest of the family, who already resided here. This will be the first holiday season that I would have had the opportunity to send time with them in a very long time. I have been working in retail for over five years and normally, because I did not travel to see my family in Michigan, I would work the busiest day of the year…Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving.) This year however, I wanted to spend the holiday with my family, being that it will be their first Thanksgiving in the same state as me. Much to my dismay I was told that I would have to work on Black Friday and there were no exceptions, all employees in the company would be working and failure to show up would result in possible termination.

 

I found this “policy” to be absolutely absurd! Is it ethical or wise from a internal standpoint to require this type of commitment from EVERY employee? I can understand requiring management to work these mandatory shifts because they are paid more and have taken on the responsibility of management. They are able to gain leadership skills as well as benefits that the lonely employees do not. A great example would be the “contest” an unnamed company held last Christmas, rewarding the district managers with Christian Louboutin shoes for the work the lonely sales associate actually completed. As a matter of fact, all management were given “perks” during the holiday season and the sales associates, who do most of the labor and have most of the interaction with customers, received nothing.

 

Several stories I have read over the past few years as well as my own personal experience leads me to believe that retailers are not valuing their employees like they once did. This is a serious indicator that there has been a break in internal communications. The best way to ensure success is to ensure you have happy employees. With the dip in the economy affecting every aspect of American life, obviously the business of retail is one that is essential to the success of the country as well as individuals’ livelihood and must do what is necessary to stay afloat. However, at some point one must consider the ramification of sacrificing the well being and happiness of its employees, especially those who have spent years of their lives working for these corporations. Surely companies could cut back in other areas.

 

It would be my advice to these companies to show some appreciation to their employees’ who trade in their turkey time for folding clothes. Although Black Friday is the busiest retail day of the year, individuals should be hired to work these special occasions exclusively. Treating seasoned employees as moving bodies and not humans with loved one is unacceptable and will one day won’t be tolerated. The retail world should be careful before disgruntled employees are “Occupying the Malls.”


Education Evolution

 

The University of North Texas is growing rapidly. Over the years since I have attended the school I have seen expansions, demolitions and an increase in the student population. This year the school received the largest donation in its history. With such upward movement, I would assume that the school would have increased the recruitment process or has been receiving more media attention.

 

Over the past few weeks, however, I have noticed a growing trend of other universities in the state advertising closer to the UNT campus and more frequently. Stephen F. Austin has become much more visible in North Texas. Many of the billboards throughout the DFW are advertising the many programs offered at the university.

 

Some schools are as far a way as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Temple University now has billboard and transit ads throughout the city as well. One might ask the question “Why would they choose to advertise in a city that is so far away from its main campus?”

 

 

With the explosion of online course and online degrees the possibilities for educational opportunities will soon be unlimited. Soon, advertising within such a small radius around a campus will be the least of a university’s worries.

 

Seemingly, the competition for admission will shift gears and eventually, students will prefer to take classes online and continue with everyday life. As a student who worked, interned and went to school, I know that I would have been a prime candidate for exclusively online classes. I can only imagine how much free time I would have had or how much money I could have saved. On the other hand, having an in-class face-to-face interaction with teachers and other students is essential to having a true college experience. If all classes were exclusively taught online we would lose touch with each other.

 

Communication is growing and changing our world each day. Education has been enhanced greatly by the evolution of communication applications; however we should not lose sight of genuine interpersonal interaction in dealing with education.


McDonald’s Monopoly Scam?

Each fall season begins with the changing of the weather, the introduction of the latest wool fashions and for those of us who are fast food junkies, McDonald’s annual Monopoly game. Each year the international food company partners with different brands and offers prizes based on monopoly games pieces. This year the prizes range from spa packages, to cars to cash prizes. My friends and I are huge fans and collect the pieces every year. Often times throughout the run of the game, we gather and compare pieces, attempting to cash in on one of the cash prizes, seeing as how we are poor college students.

 Recently, as my roommate and I sat in our living room, completely stuffed from the McDonald’s meal we had just devoured, I thought, the companies that partner with McDonald’s are gaining so much advertising from this contest. On every single bag and cup McDonald’s distributes throughout the duration of the game, is a picture of the products up for grabs. This left me wondering… Does McDonald’s reach out to these brands or do the brands seek McDonald’s for endorsement? This is definitely a decision I assume the company would engage the Public Relations department. From an ethical view, the involvement of other brands in this contest could yield both brands, credibility as well as a boost in profits. The magnitude of the advertising campaign embarked upon during this contest is almost as heavy as Super bowl ads (… well at least to food lovers.)

 

Many individuals have claimed that the game is rigged, that the winning combination of pieces is distributed in different sections of the country, making it virtually impossible to collect all the pieces needed to win the grand prize of 1 million dollars. From a public relations standpoint, this theory however can not be true. A company as large and as integrated into American society would not dream of “jipping” its customers… would they? McDonald’s sets the standard for fast food in this country and others around the world.

 

This season, I have been playing pretty consistently (It helps that I have been so busy that I can only eat on the go, no time to cook!) So far I have collected the pieces for several different prizes. I am actually one piece away from the 50,000, 200, Spa package, Nissan Versa AND the 1 million grand prize. It should also be mentioned that today was the first day that I won a prize instantly. McDonalds advertises the game by claiming that 1 in 4 tickets is a winner. I have been playing for weeks, as previously stated, and only today did I actually win something. This is false advertisement! Unless there is something stated in the fine print that negates their claim.  The idea that I am one away from winning so many prizes, but yet I have won nothing, except my free small Frappe, really strengthens the viewpoint of many that this is all a scam.

 

Because McDonald’s is such an important brand in our economy and cultural system, the idea that they would cheat their customers is appalling. I hope I win something else soon or else this faithful customer might not return to the boardwalk next year.


The chicken, the tea and the University

The closer I draw to graduation the more I notice places inDentonthat I have fond memories of. Places I have grown accustom to and will miss once I move away. This last week I indulged in one of my local favorites, Chicken express. Although I am aware that a franchise exists and that there are several locations throughout the Metroplex, I associate the chicken ‘joint’ as being special toDenton. Even my friends who have long graduated want to stop by and get some of their delicious sweet tea before exiting this town. I started to wonder, if there are other locations why do we only associate Chicken Express withDenton,Texas? It became an issue of Marketing and Public relations. Obviously the restaurant (referring only to theDentonlocation) has aligned itself with theUniversityofNorth Texas. Since I began attending UNT I have preferred Chicken Express tea over all other competition. Could it be because they provided the beverages at orientation and I was hooked from day one? Not only do they provide the tea for orientation, they are one of the most visited booths during homecoming. What makes Chicken Express tea so desirable to the student body of UNT? The have quietly marketed themselves as the preferred eatery for UNT. They support the school during Football season by placing messages on there signage, they also provide special tailored to students during finals and mid-term time. It can’t hurt that they are conveniently located on the edge of campus and within walking distance from the dorms.

 

ObviouslyDentonis a college town and many of the business cater to this population. It is also apparent that the businesses in and aroundDentonmarket specifically to the college ages demographic. Do these businesses conduct market research to find out how to appeal to these youth? Since many of the businesses in the area are mom and pop shops and eateries, my guess would be no. Some (including myself) might assume that they use common sense.  Which leaves me wondering, with the new Apogee Stadium and the many endorsements that can be found on and around the new facility, does UNT reach out to local business to garner financial support for them? At one time, Chicken Express ads would display on the scoreboard facing I-35.

 

Speaking ofDenton, the city, which has been trying to claim the number two spot underAustinas the hippest city inTexas, can not deny that its economic system is upheld by the populations of UNT and TWU (Texas Women’s University.) This fact encourages inquiring minds to wonder if the city of Denton and the marketers or individuals in charge of sponsorship, financing, and so forth for the Universities meet and discuss local business ventures; since the success of these economic systems are so closer related or even tied together.

 

Regardless of the correlation between UNT,Dentonand Chicken Express the fact still remains that I will continue to buy the delicious tea I was hooked on my first day on campus, with no shame. There is a strong possibility that I will return toDenton, just for the tea, as my fellow tea-lover friends do.


Irreplaceable Innovator

 

This week the technological world lost one of the most important figures of all times, Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, inc. His impact was not only felt in the technological world but also the world of communications. He changed the landscape of how we as PR practitioners interact with one another and our clients, both over the web and in person. The ideals that Jobs introduced to the world have enhanced so many different faucets of society that it is impossible to think of a world without him or his innovations.

Not only did Jobs inspire new generations of techies, he inspired all Americans to become more innovative; to look at things in the world in a new way. In the realm of public relations, communication is the most important aspect of what we do. Apple has created a seamless method of communicating through different platforms. One of the most revolutionary platforms that has affected an area that is near and dear to my heart is ITunes. ITunes allows anyone, anywhere in the world, to connect through a form of communication that transcends language barriers and geographical ones, music. With ITunes, not only can consumers purchase music in a digital format, which in and of itself is revolutionary, but also it allows every day people to explore new cultures that perhaps they never would have gotten a chance to. Because of ITunes I am now a fan of Fela Kuti, Esperanza Spalding, and Asa; artists I never would have been exposed to, had I not gone exploring.

At the University of North Texas all journalism students are required to learn how to operate a MAC versus a PC. It is an integrated part of our curriculum. (We even had a test over it!) The mac lab is where all journalism student meet, mingle, stress, cry, sweat, create and innovate. Since I have been a student at UNT, the campus has transformed into a primarily MAC operating school. The 24-hour computer lab, Willis, has nothing but IMacs. When I arrived several years ago, the school ONLY had PCs. When PCs were the standard, Jobs made being different cool. Students who have graduated come back to campus and are amazed to see the products showcased throughout the campus. Students in classrooms across the country, from elementary school to research universities are shifting to IPads instead of laptops. The tablet PC’s standard is an IPad. Prior to doing research and watching TV commercials, I actually had no idea that there were other tablets even on the market.

The Ipod has become an item that I can not imagine my life without. It has gotten me through workouts, break-ups and midnight study sessions. Although I have yet to purchase an Iphone or an IPad, they are both at the top of my wish list. My dream office has always (in my mind) consisted of an IMac desktop, Macbook Pro laptop, Ipod (with speakers to boot), and an IPad. All of these items were creations of one man; a man who no doubt will be remembered for generations to come. The legacy that Steve Jobs leaves behind is remarkable and unmatched by any innovator in my lifetime.

One wonders what would the world have been had Steve Jobs never started Apple. I can no longer imagine a world without the I products. It would be a great gesture if the Mayborn School of Journalism would name the lab in honor of Jobs, because in my opinion he has effected the way all journalist work and enhanced our field tremendously.

 

 

 

 


Dart’s Year of Trouble

Throughout my time inDallas, DART, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, has expanded and created many great alternatives for people without a car (I was one of these people until recently.) They have even partnered with Denton County Transit Authority to provide connections for individuals commuting betweenDentonandDallas. I can still remember when the first rail station opened. There was one located a few blocks from my house. My grandmother thought it was a sign of progress, as I do now. However, DART needs to do a better job communicating with the public about issue when they arise.
Over the course of the past year DART has had more PR related problems and seems to never learn its lesson. As the institution grows, its issues with the public’s perception seem to as well. The problems that continue to plague the company are all avoidable; Too bad Dart’s relationship with its public is not up to par! As I stated in a previous blog about ethical behavior, if the public has trust in a company or brand than mishaps are less devastating; but because DART continues to “flub” without communicating with the citizens of Dallas properly there is no room left for error in the consumer’s mind. The instances that DART does public address issue they go about it the wrong way. Earlier this year during the NBA Finals, Dart had a train full of passengers stalled for over an hour, with no explanation, the passengers de-boarded the train and began walking through the underground tunnel to the exit. Apparently this action was done against the direction of the train operator, however with no just cause given for the delay the passengers felt that matters had to be taken into their own hands. Afterwards, the company released a statement condemning the passengers’ behavior. Instead of apologizing and compensating the customers for such a hassle, DART chastised them. This was a terrible move and as a result the company got tons of terrible press!
In 2009, after the highly-anticipated opening of the rail toFairPark and during the Texas/OU football weekend, the institution was unprepared for the number of riders and had to transport travelers by shuttle. DART was only prepared to carry about 25,000 passengers when 60,000 actually showed up. The stranded sports fans were needless to say less than pleased. Ultimately it was a grand disaster. The following year however, DART did do a much better job accommodating the large crowd. They dedicated more buses to the event and also dedicated a traffic lane specifically for the event.
Over the summer as I commuted home from my internship, the train I was on (a red line train headed towardsPlano) stopped suddenly in the underground area between City place station and Mockingbird station. After a 30 minute delay, with no message from the driver informing us of what was going on. We began to move and within 2 minutes we were out of the tunnel at the Mockingbird station. At this point however, the train was evacuated and the platform was full of pissed off passengers. DART did not acknowledge the problem, nor did they apologize for the delay. Fortunately for me my mom came and picked me up from Mockingbird station, but for those passengers who had worked a long hard day and were forced to wait 

 

This week DART stated that they would be laying off about 35 full-time workers even though they were going forward with plans to create/expand the orange line to Irving. They also announced at the same time that they were purchasing several new smaller buses. Many citizens could not understand how the company could afford these new projects but were firing more employees, especially when the economy is so unstable.

 

 


Classical Ethics and Modern Advertising and PR

As the realms of public relations and advertising become more digitally based the idea of having a set standard for ethics within those industries seems to be what many in the public would like to see. Currently, the perception of modern public relations and advertising practice is that the industries are amoral and that their intent is to deceive and mislead.

Due to the fact that so many motives can be hidden behind a great Ad campaign or PR platform and the public’s involvement in these forms of communication has been growing, so grows their demand for transparency. The consumer now wants to know if that blogs that endorses Wal-Mart is getting paid or the mom who pushes a certain brand is being compensated. Corporate transparency is becoming an unspoken expectation in today’s communications world. This ideal is one of the reasons that PR and advertising are moving towards a more ethically open environment.

One of the many ethical theories that modern advertising professionals apply is Egoism. Egoism states that an act is moral if and only if it best promotes the long-term self-interest. Many advertising agencies practice egoism by creating controversial campaigns that benefit the brand or client in the long haul. The idea that enlightened self-interest is the basis for many actions within the advertising world might seem like a stretch at first, but once you think it over you can find many examples of egoism in advertising. One example would be the Groupon fiasco after the Super Bowl ads were aired. Although the campaign was tasteless and offensive to many, the brand was discussed in classrooms around the world; Twitter was filled with commentary about the incident; and articles were written in every major newspaper in the country. It got people talking and inevitability the company saw growth, which was the end goal.

Aristotle developed the golden mean theory or virtue-based ethics. With this theory the fact that something is ethical does not necessarily mean that it is the “right” thing to do. In public relations and advertising, virtue based ethics aims to establish equally beneficial relationships between the client and the organization. This approach applies heavily to the world of public relations. Because PR is about relationship building between a client and the public, trust and transparency are required. Although public relations professionals have gotten a bad wrap over the years as “spin-doctors” or liars, public relations professional attempt to maintain their clients’ image while maintaining a sense of open dialogue with the public. Virtue based ethics allows for PR professionals to do this.

Although the approaches of these two strategic fields are different, the end goal is the same: provide the maximum amount of return on investment for the client. With advertising obviously this involves money, however with public relations this return has to do with the public’s view of the organization/company. Proceeding ethically is important for any company or organization specifically those who are in industries that’s success or validity depend on it, such as non-profit charities.

There are so many ethical theories out there that look at the reasonings behind people or organizations’ actions. New ones are being developed daily. In an industry that’s main purpose is to communication a message, whether an advertisement meant to encourage the consumer to purchase a product or a public relations tactic that aims to create a relationship between client and its publics; the main purpose of these industries is to communicate. It is imperative to the future success of these fields that the public feels a sense of trust.