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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How Burger King and Jeep got screwed in social media... and how MTV took advantage.

It's been a rough week in social media for some major American corporations.

On Monday, hackers broke into Burger King's official Twitter account and proceeded to tweet out inappropriate messages to the company's thousands of followers. Among other things, "Burger King" claimed to have sold to McDonald's. Mass confusion, and hilarity, ensued.

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The account was eventually suspended, and when it was restored a short time later, things were back to normal.

Not too long after, a similar situation befell the official Jeep Twitter account, saying they were "sold to Cadillac." Perhaps learning from the Burger King debacle, the account was restored relatively quickly.

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And since these things tend to occur in threes, the official MTV account appeared to be hacked shortly thereafter. However, it was later revealved that the MTV hack was just a promotional tactic to advertise a new MTV program, titled, appropriately enough, "What the Hack." MTV used a potentially disastrous scenario to promote their programming, in a tongue-in-cheek method that's consistent with their tone and messaging. Well played, MTV.

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Some are saying the three hacks were connected from the start as part of an elaborate ruse to promote MTV. Judging by some of the racier tweets from Burger King, however, I wouldn't be so sure.

So, what do you think?

Do the advantages of social media outweigh the potential disasters? Did these hacks damage the Burger King and Jeep brands? And was the faux-MTV hack clever marketing, or a risky move with little pay-off?

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Super Bowl, Ugly Beyonce, and Propagandhi.

Well, it's that time of year.

The time of year when assignments pile up, deadlines approach menacingly, and students everywhere start losing their collective minds.

I, of course, am no exception to this rule. And while it's a shameful excuse for neglecting my blogly duties, I must say that maintaining a weekly blog has unfortunately fallen to the bottom of my priority list. For shame, Laina Hughes! For shame indeed.

And what has happened in the world of PR over the past few weeks? Enough to make any PR maven's head spin (get it? Spin? Har har).

Here's a small smattering of the excitement:

The Super Bowl was blacked out.

Beyonce was ugly.

Applebee's fired an employee because she (gasp!) went against policy, and the Internet got enraged.

And my boy Lance Armstrong continues to do what he do.

In personal news, I'm in the process of self-publishing my very first book, promoting it, and planning a launch party. Find out more about where most of my blood, sweat, and tears have been going these past few months at and the event listing at McNally Robinson.

It's a tricky part of human nature that seems to make the brain (or at least my brain) shut down and lose motivation right when things get hectic and it's most needed. It doesn't help we're in the depths of winter here in Winnipeg and it's cold and gloomy outside. I've found one foolproof method of combating this, and while I've only used it a few times, it's always worked like a charm.

When in doubt, I listen to Propagandhi's Failed States and drink a pot of coffee. It's a definite departure from my usual mellow acoustic guitar jams and green tea, but it always equals instant energy and motivation.

It works for me, but what works for you? Tell me your secrets, readers! What do you do to stay motivated while stressed?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

...I still like Lance Armstrong.

I don't know why I care so much about Lance Armstrong.

It's not like I have much invested in all this. I'm not a competitive cyclist. I'm not a cancer survivor, nor have I ever had a close relationship with one. I've never donated money to the Livestrong foundation. I've barely even watched the Tour de France, even though my dad insisted on it when I was growing up and would often force us all to gather round to absorb it for hours on end.

I ride a bike. I think I appreciated the fact that this guy came along - a somewhat average-looking, normal kind of guy - and made a traditionally dweeby sport somewhat less dweeby for a short time.

But that's not it, really.

What it is, is I love a story. I love a really great, sink-your-teeth-into-it story. And that is exactly what Lance Armstrong was.

Lance Armstrong was the American Dream. He came from nothing growing up. He was diagnosed with a terrible, life-ruining disease, and he beat it.

Lance Armstrong beat cancer and went on to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles. The world's longest, toughest bike race, won by an American guy with a hard life and the world cheering him on.

I'm not even American, but I guess I'm close enough to it that this sort of stuff really gets to me. But then - it's not even a traditional American dream story. Lance Armstrong wasn't a quarterback, or a point guard. He was a skinny guy who rode a bike (something I have a bit of a soft spot for).

And then, alas. We know the rest.

I can't condone what he did. I know he raised millions of dollars for cancer research, but I know he stepped on several peoples' backs to do it. He was a bully. He was, in his own words, "an arrogant prick."

All I can say is, at least he finally admitted it. In a venue, I think, appropriate for his story - an interview with Miss America herself, Oprah Winfrey. Oprah is a sympathetic, no-nonsense sort of interviewer  - which is why I think he went to her instead of the Wolf Blitzers, Anderson Coopers, or various sports journalist pundit-types of the world.

In that interview, I appreciated his straightforward answers. I appreciated that he didn't throw anyone under the bus, and the only person he insulted was himself. I appreciated how nervous he looked, how small he seemed hunched over in his chair, while Oprah sat tall and regal.

And yes, I appreciate that he probably went through hours of media training to get that combination of remorse and self-disgust just right. I fell for it, so sue me.

To be honest, though, I didn't watch the whole thing. I felt like I got the gist of it after half an hour. So if I missed something vital/juicy, please let me know.

I can't say I'm not disappointed, or a little embarrassed for falling for the story for so long. But I also can't say that I hate him, and maybe that makes me silly and naive.

I still like Lance Armstrong. Maybe not for long, but for now. As the story continues to unfold - and indeed, it seems everyday there's some new development - it's inevitable my feelings will change. But for now, I just can't hate him.

Back in September, at the beginning of the school year, I told my PR instructor I wanted to do a presentation on Lance and how he'd dealt with having his titles stripped. I wondered if the topic was still relevant enough, and my instructor told me that she thought it would be topical for a good, long time. How right she was!