Social Media Fail of the Week

By: Peter Girard

This week’s social media fail is brought to you by US Airways!  As you may have heard, US Airways took A LOT of heat yesterday for tweeting out one of the most graphic things a brand has ever tweeted.  Now airlines automatically get a pretty bad rap on social media, mostly because delays happen, the accommodations are uncomfortable, there’s long lines, it’s expensive, etc., but what happened yesterday is likely to go down as one of the biggest social media blunders of 2014. The whole fiasco started off as a pretty regular exchange between a customer and the airline:


So far so good right?  Delays happen, they’re not ideal, but they happen.  US Airways response to the first tweet, I would argue, is spot on.  The first response tweet from US Airways shows they monitor their social accounts, and engage with their customers when they’re less than thrilled.  Good job! Unfortunately, here’s where things take a horrible, horrible turn for the worse:


The tweet was coupled with a picture, an extremely NSFW picture.  How NSFW?  Well, so NSFW that I won’t even be including a blurred out version of it in this blog post.  That should give you some idea how NSFW this picture was.  The tweet and image has since been deleted by US Airways but I caution and warn you, if you go googling for it, you will find it, and it will be no less NSFW when you do, so be warned.

With the NSFW tweet and accompanying image deleted, US Airways has since issued an apology via twitter which looked a little something like this:


Now, what happened?  We’re not quite sure yet.  Maybe an employee who was having an awful, awful day or the mishap could have been the result of an employee who recently found out they wouldn’t be working for US Airways any longer but still had access to their social account.  At any rate, there’s an important lesson that can be learned from these social media fails.

For brands, be careful who you put in charge of your social media accounts.  If there’s high turnover, take steps to prevent employees who are either on their way out the door or worse, already out the door, having access to your social media accounts.

For individuals, just think back to the whole Justine Sacco situation we blogged about just before the beginning of the new year.  Always be mindful of what you’re posting.

What do you think about the US Airways NSFW fiasco? What do you think about social media #fails in general? As always, feel free to connect with me via Twitter!


Let’s Get Tradigital

By: Peter Girard

PRSSAURILast week, fellow Account Coordinator Tim Viall and I attended an event hosted by the University of Rhode Island Chapter of the PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America).  It was an odd feeling being back on campus.  Not sure if my colleague Tim feels the same way, but there’s a certain strangeness to going back to a place you work so hard to leave.

The event was sponsored by the Harrington School of Communication and Media and consisted of a main speaker, a panel discussion, and an ice cream social/networking to end the event.  (How could we not go? Networking and ice cream? It’s a PR person’s dream…)

The main speaker was great.  Rafael Sulit is the Director of U.S. Brand Strategy and Implementation for National Grid and was a pleasure to listen to.  Now, when you think National Grid, your mind probably doesn’t jump directly to social media, but they’re active on a lot of platforms and doing it really well.  From my point of view, the most beneficial aspect of the entire event was the networking afterward.  But for the students, I’d have to say they got the most out of the panel discussion, which was “unfortunate”.

Let me first say that the panel was great. Moderated by Adam Roth, an awesome professor in the Communication Studies department, the panel consisted of Rafel Sulit, Giselle Mahoney – manager of communications and media relations for the Tech Collective, Lauren Bettencourt – brand manager charity by design for Alex and Ani, and Kerri Hicks – manager of web communications for URI. Audience members had the ability to ask questions out loud or submit them via tweet through a live-tweet wall.  All the speakers were very knowledgeable, possessed different strengths, and worked in different environments.

But it was the networking after where students would have gotten the most bang for their (free) buck.  Please understand, I came out of URI, by definition I am a product of URI and the Communication Studies department specifically.  I understand probably better than most that of the students who attended, there were those who really wanted to be there, saw it for the opportunity that it was and took advantage of it.  Then, there were likely students who were either asked or told to attend the event for a class they’re taking, write a paper likely shorter than this blog post about it and hand it in for some points.

As soon-to-be new grads, I think the better value for them would have been to stick around after the event and network.  Here’s where the blog post opens up and becomes applicable to everyone.  The bottom line is you’re never too old to continue growing professionally.  While networking events can sometimes be hit or miss, if you make even one contact or exchange business cards with just one person, it’s worth it. Specific to this event, I held a conversation with three out of the four panelist, including the main speaker, and exchanged business cards with all of them. You never know if the contacts you make at an event like the one I attended last week will yield anything but it’s always better to have them than not.


Aside from ultimately making new connections, networking events provide a lower pressure environment to socialize with other professionals and this is undoubtedly a required skill whether you’re about to enter the work force, or you’re already a professional.  ESPECIALLY in public relations. I would rather attend 10 networking events to hone in on my networking and socialization skills than underperform say, at a trade show or in a new business meeting.  Use networking events as an opportunity to spread your social butterfly wings and flex your gift of gab and the return on investment could be tremendous.

If you have any questions about networking, or are looking for some tips, please feel free to connect with me via Twitter.


Go where the trade show is

By: Tim Viall

I’m not even going to try and say that I’m a “master of trade shows” because honestly, I’ve only been to one since joining the Caster Communications team (the 2013 CEDIA Expo). However, overall at Caster, we probably average more trade shows per year than you can count on your fingers and toes. More self-disclosure, I didn’t realize before joining Caster just how many trade shows are out there and are still going strong, across ALL industries! Sure, I’ve heard about car shows, Comic-Con, SXSW, etc… but never as a young public relations professional did I think that a company’s whole PR and marketing plans, and product launches, still revolve around these shows. As I’m writing this, I’m a bit envious of two of my colleagues who are at ISC West, the largest US security event, as there are several reasons why I feel they’re a great benefit to both companies and PR professionals. You may say, “How does he know – he said he’s only been to one…” And to that I say, I’ve researched, prepped, and made press appointments for at least half a dozen, and again, my colleagues go to shows extensively. So here’s why trade shows still matter:

CEDIA is only one of several trade shows our clients exhibit at each year.

Connect Face to Face

On an average day, how many members of the media do you talk with face to face, or even on the phone? Close to zero, right? Even add your clients to that mix. Despite the weekly or bi-weekly conference calls and the constant barrage of emails, when’s the last time you met in person with your client? Most PR agencies don’t have the pleasure of working in the same town, city, or state as their clients, and with technology, obviously there’s no need for that to be the case. Trade shows provide a great opportunity to connect, reconnect, and socialize with clients, media members, and anyone else you happen to meet on the show floor. Sure, there’s this thing called Skype that exists, but how many people have actually Skyped their clients? Trade shows are the perfect environment for some good ol’ fashioned human interaction.

Show Off Your Best Side 

You never know what might happen at a trade show, like meeting rapper 50 Cent…

It’s fair to say, that no matter the trade show, people go to them to be “Wow’d.” Consumers and anyone in your industry expect to see the best of the best companies, with their best products, announcements, demos, etc… It’s necessary for a company or PR professional to bring their ‘A’ game to every trade show, especially multiple throughout the year or a few months-span, but it really has to be done. For the most part, you have reign over the trade show, in the sense that you can prep messaging points, accept or decline certain press appointments, the company controls what it’s putting on display, etc… It’s a cliche I use a lot, but with trade shows, the ball’s in your court – and it’s up to you and your company to deliver.

Plan A Whole Year 

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I was shocked and somewhat naive to learn that companies plan multiple assets of their business strategically around trade shows. It makes perfect sense now: trade shows demand new products, ‘new’ news, people, time, money and a lot of effort. However a company does it, one major trade show in a year, one trade show a quarter, a few regional and one national a year, etc.. it can really help plan and establish PR and marketing objectives and goals around trade shows. For planning news announcements, trade shows are great because media members will be LOOKING for all of those things and related stories, opposed to a random announcement made at an irrelevant time in the industry. Capitalize planning around trade shows and you’ll very quickly see the company’s calendar year take shape.

Scope the Competition

This is pretty self-explanatory so I won’t go too deep here, but trade shows provide the perfect opportunity for scoping out your competition! As I said above, companies bring their ‘A’ game to trade shows, so it’s extremely helpful to see how you stack up against them. Trade shows are also a great place to gather and observe new ideas for booth set up, publicity stunts, you name it.  Also, I’m sure it’s a great feeling to be having a super-successful trade show, only to find out that your competitors aren’t even there! (We can wish, right?)

No matter the size of the show, there are bound to be some VIP’s there (like our own Pete & Nick!)

Networking and New Business

Trade shows are busy, noisy, sometimes stressful, and definitely tiring, but if can survive the days on the show floor, they’re also tremendous opportunities for networking and making new business connections. I’d say my boss is a certified “master of trade shows;” I can’t say how many new business leads she’s gotten from trade shows, and I’m not sure even if she’d remember (because there’s a lot!). As a young PR professional, my first trade show was a great experience because again, I got to meet face to face with people I’ve only communicated with digitally, as well as meet new people through networking. I miss college because if you asked me who to go to for X, Y, or Z, I could refer you to someone I knew who helped me out in the past. I know it’s only a matter of time until I get to that level professionally, and trade shows will certainly help.

Do you have a favorite trade show? We’d love to hear about it!