FedEx Takes a Tumble

When I first saw this video of a FedEx employee throwing someone’s computer monitor package, I didn’t think there was much to it. I was dead wrong. Like my fellow members of the Y-Generation, there is nothing a like a viral YouTube video-turned-scandal to lift your spirits. However, even with all my psychic powers (that I believe are a direct result from watching Practical Magic too much), I could not have seen the public relations bomb that was about to hit this mega courier company. Eight million hits later, FedEx realized that they have a crisis at hand.

Let me give the back story: a stupid employee, in a rush for ‘outstanding’ service, simply tosses a flat-screen computer monitor over a customer’s gate, without even bothering to ring the bell first. Clearly, foolish people will always have jobs. I mean, Paris Hilton has her own business. Need I say more?


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FedEx took what seemed to be the ideal route: address the problem upfront, and simply apologize.


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Now while Matthew Thornton, Senior VP of FedEx Express U.S. Operations, did hit the necessary points in his web address, I would not call this a victory for FedEx as some of my fellow PR professionals have. Yes, Thornton was upfront. Yes, he apologized as soon as the video started to go viral. These points were all good things for FedEx. But many consumers and employees alike feel the video is too scripted and inauthentic. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t want this guy to give the speech at my wedding, no matter how many luxury homes in Spain he offered to buy me (hint, hint family and friends). The fact of the matter is that many employees and customers are taking these videos as opportunities to vent their intense frustration with the company. While this video cooled some of the fire, it hardly extinguished it. For many, Thornton’s apology pissed them off even more, because it was so contrived and, to them, not genuine. Many have stories of their own about how FedEx has done them wrong.



What seemed to really bother many users was lack of disciplinary action they believe the employee received. Thornton only vaguely alludes to the fact that the employee won’t be directly dealing with customers. So now he’s just throwing the packages around where we can’t see him? Hmmm…

Did FedEx’s apology help? Yes. Was it necessary? Of course. Did the entire situation end in a victory? Now that might be going too far. Sometimes, you just can’t win, even with a great PR team, and especially with a poor public speaker.

What do you think? Do you consider Thornton’s video a victory, or even helpful at all? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet to us @451heat


-Ryan Schreiner, 451 Marketing Public Relations Intern
Ryan is a Junior at Boston University



Google Social Search & Pinterest Pointers for Brands

Top Story: 
Google Integrates Google+ into Search Results

As I was scouting out a chili recipe online the other day, I was somewhat surprised to see so many Google results from people I actually know. Who knew that blogger’s chili was so popular that their image is the first result to come up on Google Images? That’s when I realized it had begun: Google had integrated Google+ into search. Up until now, I, like many other Google users, trusted that the search results I was getting on Google really were the top search results. But the other day, I quickly understood that the results I was getting for my chili search were showing up because I was logged in to my Google account. Results were showing up personalized just for me, not only from users I follow on Google+, but also for users it is recommended I follow on Google+. The thing is, I’m not very social on Google+. The social content that’s important to me can be found on Twitter and Facebook and most of the people I trust to get me that top chili recipe aren’t on Google+ just yet. Will the promise of your Google+ content showing up in the searches of others encourage you to use Google+ more actively? That’s certainly what Google hopes.

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Many are upset that Google is choosing to promote content from its own service, despite the fact that it’s not necessarily the most relevant content to them. And if Google wants to be trusted as the most reputable search engine, they need to be providing the best results; not the results that cater to their own commercial means. Google will argue that Facebook doesn’t make its content publicly searchable and that Twitter ended their contract to incorporate real-time tweets into search results. But most of that information on Twitter is public, which means Google’s crawlers could easily be bringing relevant tweets to us in their results, too. But they’re not.

There is a bright side, though. Yes, if you’re logged into your Google account, personal search results will automatically show up. But you can easily toggle personal results off with just the click of a button. And I have a strong feeling that’s what most users will be doing.


Under the Radar: Google and the FTC

Speaking of Google, according to a report by Bloomberg, they may be in a little hot water with the FTC. Basically, Google’s expansion into the social space and the implications social search implications raise concerns about anti-competitive behavior – a.k.a. all Google, all the time. Other companies and agencies, including Twitter and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, have spoken out about the narrowing of search results caused by the Search plus Your World feature. We’re looking forward to seeing how this plays out. Google has been criticized before for having selective results, and this could definitely have an impact on the results the search engine returns in the future.


Around the Hub: We Take it Back, MBTA

Last week we wrote about the MBTA missing out on a big PR and social opportunity by not endorsing a Tufts graduate student’s project to improve the design of an upcoming new T station location. Well, a few days after writing about this, the MBTA proved us wrong, launching its own initiative with Hubway.

Together, Hubway (the bike rental service) and the MBTA have launched the ‘MBTA + Boston Bikes Developer Challenge‘ that crowd-sources the creation of 2 different applications and a ‘visualization’. There will be a winner picked for each of the three categories, and the winner receives a one year membership to Hubway, a year of riding free on the T and passes to two food truck festivals. Those are some awesome prizes if you ask us!!

This is exactly what we thought the MBTA was missing out on doing – accessing Boston’s existing creative talent to build cool new stuff while gaining positive PR for working with its customers. The more initiatives the MBTA creates like this, the less the will be slammed on social media.

The three categories are as follows:

  • Applications Challenge: This challenge calls on developers to create applications using MBTA data such as real-time and schedules bus, subway, and commuter rail data, together with New Balance Hubway Live Station Inventory Data to create an app, website, or other software application that provides an innovative way to access MBTA and New Balance Hubway information in real-time.
  • Visualization Challenge: This challenge calls on developers to create a visualization of, “A day in the life of the MBTA and New Balance Hubway” using both MBTA and New Balance Hubway data such as  historical vehicle location, for the MBTA and Hubway origin-destination data.
  • Bonus Challenge Bikes, Lunch, & T Challenge– This Challenge calls on developers to create innovative applications that help hungry residents learn about, locate and get to Boston′s food trucks. This app, for web or mobile, would ideally include locations of the trucks, menus, and routing information on how to get to them by walking, T or New Balance Hubway.
So, if you’re a developer and want to travel Boston free for a year, get to work!


Tool of the Week: Pinterest

We’ll admit it: we’re addicted to Pinterest. In fact, it’s an obsession for some (we won’t name names) in our office. When it first came on the scene as a social tool to share images and ideas with our friends, we were on-board immediately.  Its integration with Facebook made it an awesome way to have a new conversation with existing contacts. And, due to its overwhelming popularity, Pinterest recently joined the illustrious list of the top ten social networks.

The mission of the company is simple enough: to connect everyone in the world through shared tastes and “things” they find interesting.  More recently, we’ve begun to think of Pinterest as a social tool for companies.  As an agency that focuses on consumer brands, having the ability to share images of your products and ideas that complement your brand in a visual way is a very appealing way for our clients to engage with their audience and help them picture their products in the home/in their closet/on their dinner table. Mashable recently released its top list of brands on Pinterest.  We put together our list of the top things we’ve seen brands do to leverage the hot new tool.

  1. Clearly Defined Boards: the brands do a great job of dividing their content into themed boards, allowing users to easily follow the types of content that they want to see from the brand.
  2. Stunning Images: people pin things they think are pretty.  Having high quality, beautiful images definitely make your pins more re-pinable.
  3. It’s All In the Details: well-written descriptions explaining the content and context of an image makes it easier for pinners to add to your pin and share with their followers.
  4. Complementary Content: just as with any good social media communication, adding complementary content in-line with the theme of your brand is a good call.  Don’t only talk about yourself: include content that contributes to the topic as a whole.
  5. Encouraging Users to Pin Brand Content: Some brands have started to run promotions and contests that ask entrants to pin content from the brand to their own boards for a chance to win a prize. We’ll likely be seeing more and more brand promotions on Pinterest in the near future.
  6. How-tos: Many brands are using Pinterest to show users how their fans use their product. For instance, Chobani has boards devoted to photos of dishes fans have created with their yogurt.
Whole Foods Market’s Pinterest page

What do you think of the new Google social search results? How does your brand use Pinterest to engage with customers? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet us at @451heat.


How Much Time Do We Actually Spend on Social Media?

Last week I found an interesting article on Social Media Today, “How Much Time Should I Spend on Social Media,” posted by Rachel Strella. I posted it to the @451Heat Twitter feed and was surprised at the feedback it received. There were a lot of comments with a range of opinions – a couple of people said that they spend their whole day using social media while others said that they really couldn’t measure how much time they spend.

The conversation really got me thinking – for many people in our increasingly digital world, social media is part of the daily routine. There are so many tools and tricks of the trade to make the process of engaging in social media easier and faster.

Personally, I spend about three hours a day on social media. I have a routine where I seek content in the morning to schedule though Hootsuite, my favorite platform for streamlining Twitter, Facebook, and now Google+. The majority of my time is spent on gathering content. I have a process where I like to ask questions and engage our followers rather than just giving them a link to view. This allows me to build and maintain relationships with them.

Certain tools, like the Hootlet extension and the Evernote extension, help to make my time on social media more efficient by creating an ‘easy button’ that gathers the important information while giving me the option to add my own thoughts.

Social media can be fun – but it can also be distracting. I like to Google everything. If there is something I see that might not be the right fit for @451Heat and it’s something that I can post to my personal Twitter or Facebook, email to the whole office, or it’s something that a client can post to their social media feeds, I’ll share it because it’s more efficient to get it off my plate right then and there versus going back to try to find it later. While that may add more interruptions to my day, it’s important, because for those of us who spend our whole day on social media – it is key to be timely, relevant, and consistent.

Since social media is an integral part of my day, for both work and personal engagement, I found the data below to be an interesting find. The report, which was released yesterday by comScore, shows what percentage of time is spent on social media throughout the world. According to the report, we spend an average of 1 of every 5 minutes on social media.

There are certain tools that can help you work smarter, track your time spent, and monitor your engagement with your audience. The key to managing your time spent on social media is balance and quality. Balance between a streamlined process, quality content, and building and maintaining relationships. This could be all or just part of your day depending on what you do.

What is your favorite social media site and how much time do you really spend on that site? We would love your feedback!

451 Holiday Party

451 Marketing Looks Back at 2011

2011 was a crazy year. Earthquakes, Japanese Tsunamis, Royal Weddings, London Riots, and the capture of Boston’s mythical James “Whitey” Bulger. There were many things that also rocked our world here at 451. In a moment of reflection, we thought we would share some of our stand-out moments from the past year.

Things that rocked the 451 Team in 2011

  • I became a first-time Dad!
  • Laura, Max, Halley, Meredith, Taylor, Jessica, Emily, Susie, Francis, Nicole, and DeAnna joined our team
  • Jess made the “list” for Boston Common Magazine, directly under Kanye West
  • Nick got to eat at Frank McClelland’s Apple Street Farm (Frank is Nick’s hero)
  • Karyn finally met in person Courtney Cachet from the Huffington Post
  • Our office tasted the best Southern fried chicken in the world courtesy of 451’er Elizabeth Bond
  • No one drowned at our summer outing at the Beachcomber
  • Tom bought his first tux
  • Glen didn’t get crushed by a car that flipped over in the North End
  • Karyn took her first cruise ever and tried para-sailing for the first time
  • Max ate at Wai Wai for the first time (and found a lucky chicken foot!)
  • Tom and AJ got to meet Bill O’Reilly
  • Francis and AJ actually had pitch meetings in Napa
  • Nikhil went to Jamaica and got to see Manchester United play the New England Revolution
  • Alice brought us back chocolates from Belgium
  • Halley moved to Chinatown, became the mother of a Tripawd, and developed a hot pot addiction
  • Emily had another year for her un-boring list (ask her!)
  • Jess got an amazing Crayola coloring book page… And a stalker!
  • Nicole didn’t get sued this year by a former boss
  • Taylor got her parents as roomies
  • Alice started a new music Blog and has kept her desk plant alive for three months
  • DeAnna met Kenny Chesney at Jerry Remy’s Seaport

All joking aside, we couldn’t do what we love doing without our amazing clients. We are thankful to all of our new clients that rocked our world by choosing our team to help achieve their goals and honored by all of our existing clients that continue to place their faith in us.

We would love to hear from you. What rocked your world in 2011?

25% off registration for What’s Next DC Conference with our code!

What: What’s Next DC Conference
When: Monday, January 24 | 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where: The George Washington University, Marvin Center, Grand Ballroom, Washington, D.C.

Kick off 2011 with fresh thinking and new approaches to marketing and communication. What’s Next DC has cut the fat from your typical bloated business conference.

There are no sales commercials masquerading as presentations here, or sleepy Q & A sessions where only 1 of 8 questions apply to your business. What’s Next DC is about brainstorming, case studies, energy, networking, strategy and – best of all – personalized solutions to your company’s most important challenges.

How will we accomplish this? By jamming as much information into the day as possible. We’ll have floating experts in a variety of fields available, so if you hear something you like and want to bounce ideas around right there on the spot, you can! We’ve scheduled group brainstorming/strategy sessions and niche learning sessions where you can discuss your areas of interest and expertise. There will also be an area dedicated solely to networking all day long.

This is not just a conference, it is an experience. Come prepared and energized to learn and share with other Marketing, Public Relations, Advertising, and Communication Professionals!

** use coupon code: 451marketing to get 25% off registration **