PR Roundup: Top TikToks, MarCom Blurs, Barbie’s Missed Opportunity

Tik Tok application icon on iPhone screen. Tiktok Social media network.

This week's PR Roundup features how we can learn from the top TikToks of 2023, Muck Rack's latest survey on the blurring lines of marketing and PR, and Mattel's release of an Indigenous Barbie to mixed reviews.

TikTok Releases Top Posts of 2023

What happened: One of the questions we always receive at PRNEWS is if organizations and brands should be on TikTok. And if so, how can they build their presence? Well, TikTok just provided a great example for any communicator to learn from.

This week the platform released its “Year on TikTok 2023” report, which includes not only top posts from trends throughout the year in the United States and throughout the world, but it also focuses on top songs used in TikToks, breakthrough stars, top educational content posts, top recipe content (#FoodTok) and more.

Communication lessons: One of the best ways to encourage engagement with your brand or organization—if it is applicable—is to release a year-end wrap-up, review or annual report. (See Spotify Wrapped.)

Curiosity dwells in everyone, whether they are familiar with the brand or eager to learn more. Everyone—from music lovers to home cooks to parents wondering what their kids are into—can find something to care about in TikTok’s year-end report.

"Year on TikTok 2023 is a way for us to honor some of the standout moments that have happened on TikTok throughout the year,” says Adam Presser, Head of Operations, TikTok. “It's a window into stories that have inspired, entertained and educated over 1 billion people around the world. Thank you for another year of bringing joy to our community and sharing your creativity with us."

So take a few minutes to scroll and learn a thing or two about why everyone was talking about the Roman Empire, Grimace, cottage cheese and girl dinner in 2023. You may pick up some creative tips on how to start or expand your own TikTok account in 2024.

Muck Rack’s State of Marketing and PR Leadership Report

What happened: On Nov. 29, Muck Rack released its first-ever State of Marketing and PR Leadership report, which surveyed 193 marketing and communications professionals to examine the evolving landscape of marketing and communications leadership.

According to the report, approximately 70% of respondents say their role is a mix of both marketing and communications, which is something we have learned from many of our PRNEWS readers as well. However, this indicates that these leaders also don’t have clearly defined roles in many organizations, which may lead to some confusion.

Other highlights include:

  • Human resources or another non-marketing function (38%) and communications (37%) leaders are most likely to oversee internal communications
  • Communications leaders expect their budgets to stay the same, while marketing (42%) and marcom (49%) leaders are more optimistic about an increase in 2024 budgets
  • Priority metrics: Marketing leaders value lead generation; communications values number of stories placed; and marcom values lead generation and number of stories placed

Communication lessons: As the economy continues to spur uneasy tensions within organizations occasionally resulting in layoff and more being done with less, Gregory Galant, co-founder and CEO of Muck Rack, says it’s important to continue to invest in distinct communications strategies.

“This data shows that communications and marketing leaders don’t have clearly defined roles in many organizations,” he says. “While there will always be overlap, especially when it comes to brand management, fostering media relationships, storytelling and spotting risks are skills that require the expertise of a seasoned communications professional.”

Galant notes that businesses looking to expand should continue to emphasize the need for separate communications specialists.

“Businesses looking to grow market share should consider investing in building successful communications and marketing teams that partner closely on brand initiatives, but operate separately under two distinct leaders.”

Barbie Introduces New Cherokee Nation Doll, Resulting in Mixed Reviews

What happened: Barbie can now add Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation to her long and winding resume.

In November, as part of its ongoing “Inspiring Women” doll series, Mattel released Wilma Mankiller Barbie, commemorating the lifelong social justice advocate for Native American and women’s rights. The doll is inspired by a 2005 photo, taken by her husband Charlie Soap, in which she wears a black dress with colorful stripes and carries a woven basket.

It seems to be a success as it’s currently sold out online, and the Cherokee Nation commemorated the release with a celebratory event.

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. even acknowledged the importance of the Barbie in a statement.

“When Native girls see it, they can achieve it, and Wilma Mankiller has shown countless young women to be fearless and speak up for Indigenous and human rights,” Hoskin Jr. said. “Wilma Mankiller is a champion for the Cherokee Nation, for Indian Country, and even my own daughter. She truly exemplifies leadership, culture and equality and we applaud Mattel for commemorating her in the Barbie Inspiring Women Series.”

However, not everyone was happy with the design and rollout. Julie Reed, an associate professor of Native American and American history at Penn State University and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, told CNN Mattel took some missteps when creating the doll. For example, Reed says the basket that comes with the doll was not woven in a traditional Cherokee pattern, and it lacks Mankiller's signature jewelry.

Onlookers also noticed a typo on the doll’s packaging which said “Chicken Nation” rather than “Cherokee Nation.”

Mattel told CNN that it worked with Mankiller’s estate, but not The Cherokee Nation.

Communication lessons: The release of a product which honors a culture should always be taken very, very seriously. There can never be enough consults and opinions when it comes to displaying a piece of heritage, particularly to a public market.

Kacheena Naytowhow, National Indigenous Platform Coordinator, University of Saskatchewan, and subject matter speaker at The Rise Journey, a DEIBA consulting firm, says it’s a win for the Indigenous community, but the brand team fell short in not having a full consultation with the Cherokee Nation.

“Misrepresentation is such a common theme for Indigenous people and shows a lack of respect,” Naytowhow says. “There was an opportunity to create strong relations with the Cherokee Nation respectfully that has now turned into a learned experience of what not to do for Barbie.”

Naytowhow says she hopes other Indigenous Barbies can be released with proper consultation and approval with the representative Nation.

“This way Barbie will teach the world about Indigenous women with their representation of clothing, jewelry and hairstyle of the Nation they choose with proper consultation,” she says.

Naytowhow also notes that a proper apology to the Nation is in line for Mattel.

“Honestly, for Barbie, it would be great if they approached the Nation and apologized directly,” she says. “Then have the Nation or a representative from the Nation comment to say they have been approached by Barbie with an apology and accepted—this way it shows consultation with the Nation, where they should have been with to start.”

Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal.