On Public Relations

I visited Western Washington University‘s College of Business & Economics today, to speak to a group of students taking a class on Integrated Marketing Communications. The subject of my “lecture” (to use the academic phrase) was Public Relations. I covered a bit about the history of PR, how the media works and spent the majority of the time focusing on the Post-Media World.

Using the recent Oxfam vs. Starbucks kerfuffle on YouTube, we learned that in the age of the internet (in the Post-Media World), entertainment is far more compelling than straight facts. The consensus among the students was that the Starbucks response, while factual and straightforward (and speedy, to their credit), was less than compelling, mainly due to the monotonous spokesperson. The Oxfam video, while clearly sensationalist and one-sided, was, actually, entertaining.

Could Starbucks have improved their response by Putting Howard Schultz on YouTube instead of the forgettable executive who appeared? I would argue that they should have gone with Schultz. He’s known to be a good speaker, and would have lent an air of seriousness to the Oxfam accusations.

To any of the students who were in class today, or anyone else reading this, I’d ask: “What would you have done?”

Thanks for being such a great audience, and I appreciate your comments.


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