By: Katie Thompson
I scream, you scream, we all scream for social justice (and ice cream!).
On September 23rd PRSSA Kent sat down with Sean Greenwood, Director of Communications and Public Relations at Ben & Jerry’s. Greenwood discussed the company’s strategies for partnering its love of ice cream with the need to change the world with his presentation titled “When Silence is Not An Option.”
The first Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop opened in 1978 in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. Since its opening, Ben & Jerry’s has operated on a three-part mission; economic, social and product.
“The thought is that they are equally weighted,” Greenwood said, “we want to equally provide support and interest for each of these.”
Ben & Jerry’s takes an active role in fighting for the issues they believe in. “We get out on the streets,” Greenwood explained as he showed photos of Ben & Jerry’s employees marching in climate change marches and pride parades.
But why do it? Why does a company known for its delicious ice cream flavors with wacky names care so much about changing the world? In the words of Ben, “Businesses have the responsibility to give back.”
It’s typical for organizations to focus on cause-related marketing when it comes to selling a product. This means that a company focuses on consumer interest and how it can align its brand with what the consumer cares about to build a brand. Greenwood explained that Ben & Jerry’s focuses on the issues they care about rather than what the consumer wants to reach the goal of progressive social change through values-led activism.
“We look at the change we want to see,” Greenwood said, “how do we take that stance, share what is it that we believe, and take our fans and the public at large with us on that journey.”
Greenwood also discussed how the company speaks out on controversial political issues without being partisan. Rather than promoting a specific candidate, Ben & Jerry’s gets involved with the issues they believe in, but they can’t do it alone.
Ben & Jerry’s expertise is in ice cream making. When it comes to educating and taking a stance on issues such as climate change and racial justice, they make a point to partner with reputable organizations that can coach them through making a real impact.
When talking about these highly opinionated topics, it’s expected to receive backlash. When dealing with backlash, Greenwood explained that he does receive backlash from the press releases he puts out on social justice issues, but those messages are emails from individuals thanking him for his support. Those messages remind him of the importance of the work Ben & Jerry’s is doing.
“When you take values and match them with your own, that’s where you don’t go wrong.”
After hearing from Sean Greenwood, it is clear that Ben & Jerry’s is more than just an ice cream company. Ice cream has become their vessel for sharing their stance on social justice issues and educating the public on these issues. To hear Sean’s full presentation, please view the video below.
By: Sam Farland
I first heard about the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) my freshman year of college. It was my second semester, and Natalie Meek, the current president of PRSSA Kent, visited my Principles of PR class. She spoke with so much enthusiasm about the organization. I decided to sign up, little did I know this student organization would change my student and professional career forever.
I am thankful I decided to get involved in PRSSA Kent. I hardly ever missed a meeting since I joined back in 2018. The meetings were informative and helpful to make professional and peer connections. However, I didn't really start to become passionate about public relations until April of 2019 when I was elected as the Web and Social Media Manager. Through this position, I learned about PRSSA and interacted with other Chapters across the country. I've had other social media positions before, but nothing compared to this opportunity. PRSSA Kent allowed me to be creative and take full reign of the social media platforms. I increased our Instagram's following by almost 200 followers.
PRSSA Kent even brought me global experience by allowing me the opportunity to travel with my fellow members to San Diego, California in October 2019 to attend the PRSSA International Conference. It was an opportunity I’ll never forget. It was a great bonding experience for all seven of us who attended. Being able to network with public relations peers and professionals from all over the country was a special experience. The speaker sessions were also a great opportunity to learn. My favorite session was with Erika Prime, Digital and Social Strategy Lead at Taco Bell. She provided so much knowledge. You can read more about that session in one of my previous blogs.
I am so excited to be elected as VP of Communications for my senior year of college. I’m looking forward to the virtual International Conference this semester. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I left California in October. If you’re a member of our Chapter you should really consider this opportunity! It could help you land a future internship or job and even make friends from all across the country! But I know my experiences with this organization doesn’t stop after this last conference. Even after I graduate I know there are an abundance of PRSA Chapters across the country that I could join. The benefits of this organization spans beyond college years.
I'm very appreciative for all of the experiences, connections and life-long friends that PRSSA Kent has given me. It's really shaped who and what I want to be when I graduate. Without this organization, I would have felt so lost. It has helped me learn so much about the public relations industry, sometimes even more than my courses. I suggest that every public relations, communications or marketing major/minor takes advantage of this organization. It will help you find your place not only at Kent, but in the professional world.
Special mention to our Spring 2020 PRSSA Kent graduates:
Jill Golden – VP of Professional Relations, Leah Marxen – Treasurer, Britanei Eason, Kayla Proctor, Kody Elsayed and Jess Skitzki
By: Jill Golden
Witnessing and experiencing a global pandemic is certainly not how I expected my senior year to end. Six weeks ago, I didn't think I would be in the situation I am in now. For four years I couldn't wait for my college graduation. I've always loved school, but I couldn't wait to start a new chapter in my life.
I was excited to dress in my cap and gown, cross the stage alongside my friends and invite my family to watch me take the next step in my future. This built up excitement has been taken away because of COVID-19. Even though my graduation is supposed to be postponed to an alternate date, I am no longer as excited as I once was. I feel like it just won't feel right to celebrate my graduation after months of finishing school.
I also couldn't wait to take professional photos in my cap and gown on campus. This has been taken away from me as well. Instead, I got my creative juices flowing with the increase in free time and started thinking of a way to still do something similar. I decided to recruit my sister to take photos of me in the backyard while wearing my cousin's college graduation cap and gown. I also took an extra step and found my white high school tassel and dyed it dark red with food coloring to mimic the crimson College of Communication and Information tassel. While this isn't what I had imagined, it'll certainly make for a fun story in the future.
The other difficult part during this pandemic is how I didn't get the opportunity to say goodbye and good luck to classmates and professors, as well as take in the bittersweet feeling of experiencing my last day of school ever. Though for good reason, everything was halted so quickly, that I didn't get to take in my last moments at Kent State. As I type this I am trying to remember what my classes were like, and I am struggling to remember since I didn't know those classes would be the last.
The end of my senior year is definitely not like what I was expecting, but it has given me a different perspective on life. I've started thinking about how thankful I am for the health of my family, easy access to food, water and medical care and a safe and happy home. So while my graduation experience isn't what I was initially hoping for, I've found the good in this situation and it’s shown me what to be thankful for.
By: Lauryn Oglesby
Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic that has recently interfered with the livelihood of everyone since the virus reached the United States, the public relations world has had to majorly adjust to communicate appropriately.
Optics, especially amongst a crisis, is one of the most telling ways for consumers to respond positively to a brand. Thus, there are a few things that can be done to ensure a positive response. Before diving further into those suggestions; the coronavirus, despite its drastic nature, should be seen as simply another public relations crisis and should be treated as such. Changing a company’s usual protocol has the potential to not only insinuate chaos but create panic as well.
As public relations professionals, the best way to handle the coronavirus pandemic within your individual brand is to focus on just that - your individual brand. It is easy to become swept up in the global information that is being discussed on a daily basis. However, according to PR News, with all of the broad information being passed around, informing your consumers of what your brand is doing specifically to create less stress to their lives is the best way to handle a situation such as this.
While it is important to make sure that you are speaking directly to your publics, ensuring that what you are communicating is the most relevant information to your audience is key. PR News also stresses the equal importance to make sure that your information is there to begin with.
In a crisis, despite how much information may be out there, people like to feel as informed as possible in all areas of their lives. If your brand can assist your customers in a way that can bring relief or show signs of support and empathy, that will be what your audience will remember when they begin to feel comfortable enough to spend their money again. It is important to remember that outside of being an effective communicator, we are parents and citizens as well. Texting your audiences with updates should be the first consideration as it is the fastest point of contact. No one will feel as though they are receiving too much information during a crisis.
When distributing information, it is important to remember that the most efficient way to do so is by making it easily accessible to your consumers. PR News suggests to think of yourself as a first-time user to experience both your brand and your website. Will the most relevant and important information be easy to find? If not, you may want to consider switching around your design. During a crisis, people are looking for readily available information. If it is hard to find, it will not be found. Place yourself in their shoes.
Finally, according to PR News, the most important suggestion to keep in mind is do not lie. This is an overarching moral code of public relations, crisis or not; but it is especially important during times like these. Any ethical company knows that your consumers will be able to see right through a lie and it is simply better not to sugarcoat anything when it comes to people’s safety. Knowing the difference between a clever “kumbaya” moment and the truth is your responsibility as a company.
For more information related to COVID-19 and the public relations industry, visit: PR News
By: Amelia Workman
It’s like a scene out of a movie: Times Square is desolate, malls are vacant and animals are roaming the empty streets. Ever since COVID-19 made its way to the United States, it has affected every single citizen. Workers are being laid off, school is cancelled and most states are on a “stay- at-home-order”. As a college student, the virus has had drastic effects on not only my education, but my daily life.
Kent State University announced the institution would be transitioning to all online courses March 13. Many students have returned to their homes, leaving friends and college life behind for the spring semester. The uncertainty has hit everyone hard; many of us don’t know when we will return and many students have found difficulty in online learning. We not only miss friends and college life, but also have a moral obligation to practice “social distancing.” During these unprecedented times, people are struggling not only financially, but mentally. Media has attacked a “selfish mentality,” suggesting to think about others first and stay positive. This often has made many of us wonder, “Is it okay to grieve?” and “Is it okay to feel frightened and stressed?”
It is okay to be disappointed. Don’t feel guilty for being sad about missed opportunities. As someone who struggles with anxiety, this pandemic has been hard for me too. Most of the events and activities I was looking forward to are cancelled, and I often worry about the safety of my loved ones. It’s been hard for me to stay motivated, online school most days often feels like a choice. The constant structure of my daily life is gone and face-to-face contact with my closest friends is no longer an option. News channels are full of disappointing information and everyone seems to be on edge. Although, there seems to be a lot of light in the darkest of places.
Many people have stepped up to help during this pandemic: food banks feeding families, musicians are live streaming concerts and people are writing letters to the elderly who are in isolation. People are bringing groceries to their family members and organizations have been starting to help laid off or furloughed employees.
Being stuck in the house all day has caused me to reflect on not only the fear everyone is feeling, but how this virus has created unity across the world. It has caused many to step into other peoples’ shoes and experience loss and discomfort. We are living at home, no longer going out or experiencing our daily routines. As many of us stay inside with our families and friends, we seem to be making up for lost time. Over these past two weeks, I have cooked more family dinners and went on more bike rides with my dad than I ever have before. I took time to watch movies I‘ve always wanted to see and have bonded with friends over the same sadness we are feeling.
These times are scary for everyone and it’s okay to be frightened. But there is something beautiful about everyone going through a similar situation. We are all unified in some way by this virus and we can use this time to rekindle lost relationships, self-awareness and hobbies. This virus is affecting life as we know it, but it will not break us.