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THE STATE OF CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS: BY GUSTAVO CERVANTES ooking for a more challenging client? What about a massive company that waited six weeks to announce a data breach that endangered the personal information of 142 million of its customers? The communications agencies that were thrust into this problem likely felt the same pressure anyone would when looking at these daunting numbers. On Sept. 7, 2017 Equifax disclosed that a “disappointing event” had been uncovered by the company. As stated above, Equifax has suffered a massive data breach that has affected a huge portion of its customers. Unfortunately, in the wake of this crisis, Equifax has failed on two fronts: the protection of its consumer’s data and the effective crisis communication in order to facilitate the recovery of its company name. Many factors have contributed to the firestorm that is still burning strong over at Equifax. One of the major blows to the company’s image was information that revealed that top executives at Equifax had sold many of their shares in Equifax stock upon realization that this data breach had occurred, six full weeks before the public was made aware that their data had been compromised. While Equifax’s disclosure of their massive data breach has also been hyper-scrutinized by the public, it is fair to say that the company referring to their data


EQUIFAX breach as a “disappointing event” shows reluctance for the company to accept their responsibility in the massive breach, a break that has put customers’ livelihoods at risk Finally, another significant blow to the company’s public image came in the form of a Tweet released by Equifax’s “Ask Equifax” account. The tweet reads, “Happy Friday!

You’ve got Stevie ready and willing to help with your customer service needs today!” This Tweet, while likely unintentionally cheery, goes to show how far the Equifax brand is from understanding its consumers and how they feel about their private information becoming tools for hackers. Equifax’s failure to control the narrative of its negligence makes it seem as though doing public relations for a firm as big as this one is functionally impossible; however, the PR industry is mature and

does have strategies for large corporations facing unfathomable crises. Some of these strategies include PR “fire drills,” where a firm might push its communications team to simulate a major, drastic industrysignificant crisis, such as a data breach, and attempt to develop serious strategies for crisis communications. Another tactic that a large firm can employ in a time of crisis is to offer an earnest and comprehensive apology. While Equifax included an apology in its disclosure to the public, this apology fell flat due to the overdue and vague communication. Any firm can improve how much control they have over the narrative of their crises by publicly accepting where the mistakes were made and telling its customers how its failure affects them. Intuitive and comprehensive resources must be available to support customers legitimately affected by the firm’s failure. We can learn much about how crisis communication is executed, even now, by watching how Equifax handles this major burden.



Executive Board



n organization’s success is determined by the uniqueness of individual members who bring diverse experiences and views to the table. Brenna Coyle is one student who has greatly contributed to PRSSA. She is a junior Public Relations major and with a minor in Leadership in Student Affairs. Coyle is also pursuing the New Media Certificate. This summer she had the opportunity to intern at WNC Magazine in Asheville, NC. WNC is a bimonthly publication focused on capturing the lifestyle of the North Carolina mountain region. Coyle was the marketing and graphics intern at WNC. Some of her responsibilities included performing market research and conducting expansion for WNC Magazine, Ashevegas and Asheville Grit. She also participated in weekly executive meetings with the editors and directors and was the lead designer and editor for advertising and the social media contest. By the completion of her internship in July, Coyle increased WNC’s Instagram following by 125 percent.

- Brenna Coyle


PRSSA played a huge part in helping me know what to expect from this position. PRSSA introduces all different kinds of PR initiatives by providing a diverse group of speakers. It helped to have seen the different ways PR is used in a company. Since WNC was so small, it was fun to try out a bunch of those roles of PR at WNC.

Working for WNC over the summer gave Coyle the opportunity to hone a wide variety of skills and roles central to the publications industry. While her daily duties consisted of marketing and graphics, she said, “It was a job where I wore a lot of hats.” This included interviewing citizens for various stories and creating content for the publication’s new podcast. Interning at WNC allowed her to expand her creative style and gain experience with all six of Grand Strand’s magazines. “My favorite part about working for WNC was that I got a lot of handson experience with marketing while collaborating with all different kinds of people,” said Coyle. Coyle said that, “PRSSA played a huge part in helping me know what to expect from this position. PRSSA introduces all different kinds of PR initiatives by providing a diverse group of speakers. It helped to have seen the different ways PR is used in a company. Since WNC was so small, it was fun to try out a bunch of those roles of PR at WNC.” Coyle has served PRSSA as a member of the Publications Committee for the last two years where she specializes primarily in creating graphics and creative content. Her excellent design skills, writing abilities and journalism mindset make her an invaluable asset. Her graphic design expertise and knack with social media have provided her with incredible opportunities outside of PRSSA, and PRSSA is incredibly proud to have her as member!




BY JENSEN STRANDBERG he students at the University of Georgia are surrounded by distinguished academics bustling through the hallways. They teach classes, dive into intense research, and fill the minds of teenagers and twenty-somethings. Students in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication are among the most fortunate; advertising and public relations professors in particular are exceptional. One professor, Dr. Reber, exemplifies what it means to be a leader in this area. In 2017, Dr. Bryan Reber was appointed to Department Head of Advertising and Public Relations in Grady. Originally from Kansas, Reber joined the department in August 2004; he has witnessed its tremendous growth in students, faculty and prestige since then. “I’m really honored to be leading the UGA Grady College Department of Advertising and Public Relations,” Reber said. “Two of the things that makes it great is its faculty and students… Our faculty conduct research that is of interest and relevance to the professional community and we are highly engaged with the professional community as a way to provide opportunities for our students.” Dr. Reber was and continues to be a large contributor to the Public Affairs Professionals Certificate Program, which graduated its first round of students in May 2017. His passion for PR stems from its adaptability; a public relations professional has the ability to work in various industries, from politics to crisis communications to entertainment. This certificate in particular seamlessly blends journalism with politics, a unique but applicable combination for


students who seek careers in political communications or campaign management. He also hopes to assist in the enhancement and growth of Talking Dog, a student-run agency merging the PR and advertising agencies on campus. In addition, he has high hopes of taking advantage of the many international opportunities available to students and faculty. Reber also possesses a passion for research. “I want to continue our department’s tradition as a center for state-ofthe-art advertising and public relations research,” Reber said. The importance of research skills, particularly in social and digital media, are invaluable for graduating students looking to compete effectively in the job market. Outside of the classroom, Reber enjoys working in the yard, parenting his West Highland White Terrier, Weston, cooking, traveling, reading and hanging out with neighbors. He also explores Athens and the many restaurants the Classic City has to offer. “I am really privileged to work here, let alone to lead this program. I am most excited about meeting new people and creating new opportunities for both students and faculty. That’s really what I see as my primary role -- creating opportunities for the program to be better and better. I’m excited by that challenge,” Reber said about his excitement for his new role. Reber’s quick wit, dry humor and willingness to assist students in their journey to obtain a job in PR or advertising are second to none. Anyone who has taken one of his classes can agree; Dr. Reber is going to do great things for Grady.








chosen and trained by Instagram to record first-hand experiences on game day. The “Student Section” has fans watching plays and exclusive behind the scenes footage in real time. This type of access transcends typical TV coverage and provides a way for fans all over the country to engage in game day excitement. The idea gained success in its trial stages last season; now, fifty schools are participating nationwide. The UGA

student representative is PRSSA’s own Brenna Coyle. Coyle has been trained by Instagram and works to make fans feel like they’re in Sanford Stadium. Whether you’re in the stadium or on your couch, check out @UGAAthletics to see what’s going on between the hedges. The hype of Georgia Football doesn’t stop there; the Dawg Nation app provides dozens of articles on all UGA sports. Interested readers can keep up with season projections, recruiting updates and player injuries.

They can also hear directly from Kirby Smart, players and other key members in the program. Notifications sent straight to users smartphones keep fans updated about the latest UGA athletic information. Daily Podcasts on various topics are also available. An interactive feature allows fans to communicate with each other and comment on posts. UGA’s excellent Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication combined with a stellar athletic program creates a recipe for successful promotion and interaction. Students have countless opportunities to get involved in the full UGA football experience through videography, broadcast opportunities, writing and public relations efforts such as social media. The “Student Section” app is just one example of how technology is changing the game.


n general, students are always encouraged to join clubs and take advantage of the opportunities that lay before them. Here at Grady, alumni remain extremely connected and dedicated to their alma mater, a university that presents students with invaluable networking experiences. PRSSA strives to help students build these strong relationships quickly by connecting students to leaders in the world of public relations. Recent graduate and former recruitment committee chair Ananda Costa recently shared some insight on how to use PRSSA as a springboard into the job market rather than just another line on a resume. Ananda is currently working at Lockheed Martin as a Communications Leadership Development Associate. This rotational position allows her to gather experience from several branches of the firm and learn new skills in both external and internal communication. She describes this as an adventurous role, which complements her enthusiastic, cando attitude. She says her experiences as recruitment committee chair and ADPR connection co-director helped her stand out during the application process and have adequately prepared

her for this role. Her ability to be proactive and mitigate conflict has been invaluable in every position she’s held, from PRSSA event planning to internship duties to her role as a CLD at Lockheed. “My PRSSA experiences help me stand out among my peers. How I handle myself professionally is a distinguishing factor and helps leadership take me more seriously. In turn, that kind of credibility helps me gain the trust I need to take on more responsibilities in the future.” Costa joined PRSSA her sophomore year and immediately jumped in. She participated in Creative Consultants, ADPR Connection and a national PRSSA competition. She says the key to her PRSSA success was always taking every opportunity. “Even if you haven’t a clue how to go about executing a task, go ahead and sign up. When you’re lost, ask around for help. Few people will tell you no. The most important thing about getting involved is that you do it.” When it comes to finding internships, Costa advises to be clear and direct about what you’re looking for and to leverage everything you’ve learned, whether in a professional or classroom setting. Additionally, she suggests, “Don’t underestimate your Grady family. Most of the exciting

opportunities I’ve had occurred because a professor or mentor believed in me enough to point me in the right direction or personally vouched for me during the interviewing process. Your professors are exceptional and wellconnected. Take advantage of that.”

My PRSSA experiences help me stand out among my peers. How I handle myself professionally is a distinguishing factor and helps leadership take me more seriously. In turn, that kind of credibility helps me gain the trust I need to take on more responsibilities in the future. - Anada Costa

Costa also credits PRSSA for teaching her the importance of giving back to those who were once in her shoes. “If I hadn’t been fortunate enough to have had support from the chapter president and faculty advisor my sophomore year, I wouldn’t have had the courage to step up and do everything I did. I will never turn someone away who emails me with good questions and genuinely wants to learn.”


ootball season is unavoidable at the University of Georgia. From countdown and pre-season hype videos circulating on social media to podcasts, recruiting developments and season projections coming from all different platforms, it is clear that the Dawgs know how to do football. Football fans everywhere are aware of UGA’s incredible season. Students and Athletic Program representatives are promoting the program, adding to the discussion already surrounding the team’s success. With such a prestigious program, building the UGA football brand is not a difficult task. Recent efforts have revolutionized the way fans keep up with UGA sports. They can engage through social media, the new and improved Dawg Nation App, direct student contact and so much more. UGA Athletics, and the football program specifically, has always kept fans informed and excited though social media accounts, but the use of Instagram to tell UGA football’s story on game day has grown. Instagram’s Live Story feature has turned into a way to give absent fans the same experience people in the stands enjoy. Through a new effort known as “Student Section,” students from popular football schools are





arner Brothers released their W first female superhero movie in June 2017. As expected, the studio

was under scrutiny as moviegoers, critics and marketers curiously examined the marketing efforts surrounding the upcoming release to see how the studio would attract traditional comic book fans and bring in new audiences. Although some were disappointed by the lack of promotion, PR professionals can learn invaluable lessons from the promotion of “Wonder Woman” and the movie’s main character. ONE VOICE CAN BE GREATER THAN MANY “Wonder Woman” did not have a traditional audience. Women were the primary viewers, making up 52 percent of the audiences in theaters around the country. Regardless of demographics, Wonder Woman earned $100.5 million in the United States during its opening week. The main focus

was on the star, Gal Gadot, and the character Wonder Woman herself. Gadot was the liaison for all things involving “Wonder Woman.” DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers highlighted the 75th anniversary of the “Wonder Woman” comic debut. Gadot has been the face of their anniversary campaign, which included events and exclusive previews, for the last year, building recognition of the character and creating excitement about the upcoming film. While there are still people who doubt that the marketing for Wonder Woman was equivalent to “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” “Wonder Woman” compared nicely despite less glamorous and newsworthy promotion. DO THE UNEXPECTED Wonder Woman is the only female superhero; she’s something unique and unexpected. Despite this, the

warm reception by viewers around the world has proven that audiences are ready to disrupt traditional ideas. As PR professionals, pitching interesting stories is key to generating news. “Wonder Woman” reminds us to uncover stories that audiences want to hear. STAND STRONG Just as Diana reminded herself to fight for what she believes in, PR professionals should do this, too. They might not face any physical contact or flying demigods, but they can stand behind their clients. In addition, stand up for the truth, just as Wonder Woman did. Her fierce protection of the truth, symbolized by her golden lasso, and unparalleled confidence are characteristics that all PR practitioners should remember.




edia giant Amazon finalized their $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods Market on Aug. 28, 2017. The merger reaffirms the foreboded intersection of food and tech industries. From the announcement in June to the recent finalization, Whole Foods stores have dramatically dropped top-selling grocery items as one of the first steps of integrating the two companies. Reduced priced items include salmon, eggs, beef, gala apples

Amazon’s press release on the merger brands the move as an innovative, customer driven, crossplatform commerce union that will provide more affordable and accessible high-quality products to consumers (Amazon, 2017). The company’s PR strategy was focused on transparent communication, 24-hour media coverage, customer service, job growth and maintaining Corporate Social Responsibility. They handled the merger seamlessly by first focusing

and more. Organic bananas decreased from 79 cents per pound to 49 cents per pound, a 38 percent decrease in price (Dorfman, 2017). Whole Foods rebranded the labels announcing the lower prices with flashy, bright, orange stickers. In many Whole Foods locations, Amazon has been installing ‘lockers’ which allow customers to order food from Amazon and pick up items in their personal locker in the store. Additionally, Amazon Prime members will begin to see special savings and in-store benefits.


on internal communication. They stressed how there are no plans to fire anyone and inversely promised work opportunities while reaffirming that job growth has continued at Amazon over the years. One of their programs, the Virtual Customer Service Program, allows staff to work remotely while still experiencing the benefits of working at the huge corporation. Media response varied beginning with playful mockery on the ginormous buyout of $13.7 billion. People joked, but most consumer response had an exciting, often

sarcastic, undertone about the prices at Whole Foods.

The impact on the grocery industry has been massive, and neither Amazon nor Whole Foods has commented on this counterblow in the press. This has allowed the media to take hold of the narrative and only reiterate the positive aspects that the merge provides for consumers. Immediately following the merger, stocks at the largest supermarket chains fell. Kroger stocks dropped nearly 8%, Costco Wholesale fell over 4% and Sprouts Farmer Markets and Supervalu each fell 6% (Lunden, 2017). Alternatively, Whole Foods stock ascended from $33 to $42 per share (increasing almost 28%). The integration of online commerce and in-store grocery service has changed consumer behavior, which puts pressure on the grocery sector to innovate and innovate fast. This is “quite likely the future of online grocery shopping,” (Dorfman, 2017). It’s important to note that the Federal Trade Commission approved the merger August 28. Public relations professionals at Whole Foods and grocery chains around the country must be prepared to protect their brands to survive a retail revolution.




n January, Grady College introThis year, students at the University of Georgia introduced a new merger between the student-run public relations agency Creative Consultants and the student-run advertising agency on campus. The result is Talking Dog, an agency that combines the best of both fields to create a competently innovated, integrated professional experience. Talking Dog provides local, statewide and national businesses with a complete advertising and PR plan. The merger was conceived by previous AdPR department head, Dr. Reichert, and faculty to better prepare Grady students for the transforming industry. Student director Reilly Megee explains that, “Now more than ever, advertising and PR agencies are overlapping, and we want Grady students to be prepared for what awaits after graduation. It’s an opportunity to learn from and be inspired by each other, creating unity between the two programs.” Although Talking Dog is still in its youth, it has already developed exceptional results. One of its most successful cases includes the Georgia Theatre’s Rooftop Bar and Grill. While most Athens dwellers were familiar with the Georgia Theatre, many were not aware of the trendy bar and grill located on the theatre’s roof. Talking Dog

conceived and executed a plan to increase awareaness. Tactics included creating a social media channel along with Hooked, a platform that highlighted daily deals on food and drinks. They also produced Rooftop punch cards; visitors could redeem punches for a free lunch combination. Overall, they saw a 1,100 percent increase in Instagram likes and 10,000 total snapchat impressions. One of the key reasons for its success is the prestigious group of students who operate the agency. Talking Dog seeks student employees who possess overwhelming passion for their work. Victoria Zicari, another head student director, claims that, “Not only do we want staff members who can motivate their teammates, but we love a recruit who openly speaks about the inspiration they’ve gained


NOVEMBER 20 - 24 Thanksgiving Break

NOVEMBER 7 Meeting with Director of Public Relations for Mizuno

NOVEMBER 28 PRSSA Holiday social

NOVEMBER 8 Classic City agency tours

from others.” Throughout the 2017-2018 school year, Talking Dog will be working toward creating a bridge for unity between PR and Advertising majors in Grady College and build their staff members’ portfolios for future job and internship opportunities. The agency is also striving toward the long-term goal of conducting Generation Z research through the Fetch Department, a niche group within the organization created to dig up insight on Generation Z’s purchasing habits. Talking Dog is still in its infancy, but with a firm foundation made up of highly motivated and inspired students, it sure is taking giant leaps to success.


DECEMBER 5 Classes end



October 2017 Precedent  
October 2017 Precedent