Category Archives: Strategic Communications

The Biggest PR Disasters of 2017 – Part 2

Last week, I shared Part 1 of my Biggest PR Disasters of the Year, which included United Airlines, the American Red Cross, Pepsi, Facebook, Papa John’s and former Denver Post sports reporter Terry Frei. Here is Part 2 of the look back at 2017’s biggest PR debacles.

Oscars_Logo-1002x326THE OSCARS AND PwC … If you are like me, you went to bed on the night of Feb. 26 thinking that La La Land had won the Oscar for Best Picture. It wasn’t until the next morning that I learned Moonlight had actually won. So what went wrong? In short, star-struck auditors at PwC. The duo assigned to the Oscars was more focused on celebrity selfies than their jobs, and they blew it by giving the wrong envelope to presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. In an instant, an all-time Oscars moment was created and an 80-year relationship between PwC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was frayed.

MenMEN … Between Silicon Valley and Hollywood, it has been a year when many powerful men have been outed as lecherous sleazebags. In June, The New York Times wrote a definitive piece on sexual harassment by employees at Silicon Valley venture capital firms, and it seemed like we had hit a tipping point. Women throughout the technology industry quickly shared their stories of harassment, and some of the worst offenders found themselves fired. Not to be outdone, the entertainment industry showed that when it comes to harassment, Silicon Valley is a bunch of amateurs. From Harvey Weinstein to Louis C.K. to Kevin Spacey, the #MeToo campaign helped Hollywood prove it really can be the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

kathy-griffin-featureKATHY GRIFFIN … Infamous for her place on Hollywood’s D List, comedian Kathy Griffin has always pushed the boundaries of good taste. But in May, she accomplished what few others have been able to do – she made Donald Trump a sympathetic figure. Her photo shoot that featured a bloody, severed Donald Trump head was evocative of ISIS beheadings and immediately made her a pariah among both the political left and right. When she sensed the magnitude of the backlash, she quickly apologized, but it was too late. She lost her annual CNN New Year’s Eve gig with Anderson Cooper, and her planned comedy tour was cancelled.

USAGymnasticsUSA GYMNASTICS … Every four years, the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team wows America with its gold-medal-winning Olympic performances. What goes on between Olympics, however, is far more sinister. Team doctor Larry Nassar was accused by 125 female athletes who said he abused them them during medical appointments. While nearly none of the original accusers was a household name, superstar Olympian Aly Raisman announced earlier this month that she was also a victim. The governing body named a new CEO this month, as it tries to reform a culture that was focused more on medals than the safety of its athletes.

NikonLogoNIKON … Nikon is known the world over for its professional camera equipment, and in 2017, the company launched its latest innovation – the $3,200 D850 DSLR. To create awareness of the launch, the company hand picked 32 photographers to get an advance look at the camera and share their experiences on the company’s website. Despite picking photographers from Asia to Africa, all the photographers had one thing in common: they were men. As The New York Times reported, “It was a baffling oversight to many female photographers, who have no shortage of challenges finding opportunities in a notoriously male-dominated industry.”

Cheerios-logoCHEERIOS … It’s no secret that there is an issue with the world’s bee population. Their numbers are declining, and scientists aren’t exactly sure why. As a breakfast cereal with a cute bee mascot, Cheerios seems like a logical product to help bring attention to this issue, and it did just that by distributing 1.5 billion wildflower seeds to help with bee habitat restoration. Unfortunately, the promotion quickly caused controversy when it was learned that “the packets Cheerios sent out included seeds for plants deemed invasive in some states and outright banned in others.” Cheerios pushed back on the accusations, but the damage was already done.

Read the entire series of 2017’s biggest PR disasters:

Part 1: Includes United Airlines, Facebook and Papa John’s Pizza
Part 2: Includes Kathy Griffin, the Oscars and Men
Part 3: Includes Uber, Equifax and Nivea

Back to School Offers Good Habits For All of Us

Back to School Inspires Good Habits For All | GroundFloor Media PR Agency

Photo credit: freestocks.org

Whether you’re a recent grad or preparing for a milestone high school reunion – there’s something about the “Back to School” season and quick change of seasons from summer to fall that drums up nostalgia for many people. And while my own children have been back to school for a little bit now, the very recent prospect of new backpacks, fresh notebooks and un-sharpened pencils really brought me back to that annual feeling of the chance for a fresh start.

Early New Year’s Resolutions

I recently read an article in Real Simple that offered “5 Excellent Habits to Start When School Does.” As adults, we often look to New Year’s Resolutions to start something new, but this article got me thinking that Back to School is a good time, too!

Start Assignments Immediately

My favorite tip from this article is to adopt a “read and discuss” policy. How often have you put off a project to the last minute, only to find that it actually would take only a few minutes to finish? I know I’ve done it before, and I love this tip for diving in to understand the components immediately. If it’s easy, just get it done! If it’s going to take a little more time, the “read and discuss” approach allows for some time to ponder the best plan of attack. Read more after the jump…

When A Private Crisis Strategy Session Becomes Front Page News

Crisis Communications Lessons: When A Private Crisis Strategy Session Becomes Front Page News | GroundFloor Media PR Agency | Denver, COAs part of crisis communications training with our clients, we emphasize that unless you are in a closed-door office or in a private location, anything you say in public can be used against you. This lesson, once again, resonated loud and clear in a Sunday New York Times scoop.

Last week, Denver attorney Ty Cobb who now works for the White House to coordinate its response into investigations into Russia’s connection with President Trump, was having a strategy lunch with the president’s lead outside attorney on the Russia investigations, John Dowd.

Little did they know, a Times reporter was also having lunch, at the next table.

Read more after the jump…

Will Corporate Directives Undermine Fox31’s Credibility?

SinclairLast week, I wrote about the increased levels of credibility that local media have compared to national media. Readers and viewers trust local media more because they perceive them to be less biased and to have fewer agendas.

One Denver television station that seems poised to test that theory, however, is Fox31. The Tribune-owned station has been on a ratings tear over the past year, but it is in the process of being acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, a conservative-leaning ownership group that is one of the largest broadcast companies in the country.

One of Sinclair’s signature components is its “must run” segments – short video segments that are centrally produced by the company that all stations are required to broadcast. Local news directors and producers do not have the ability to determine whether they should appear.

As The New York Times reported:

“Critics … cite Sinclair’s willingness to use its stations to advance a mostly right-leaning agenda. That practice has stirred wariness among some of its journalists concerned about intrusive direction from headquarters.”

The Sinclair approach threatens the credibility and trust that Fox31 has built up over the past decade. And the fallout has already begun. Fox31 news director Holly Gauntt, who drove the station to No. 2 in the ratings locally in just one year, has just left the station to take the same job at 7News.

Now the question is whether local viewers will also abandon the station if they feel they can’t trust its credibility.

Creativity, Strategy Top Reasons Companies Work with PR Firms

Knowing the value you provide for clients is critical if you work for a public relations firm. It can be easy to fall into the trap of providing the services that you think they should value instead of taking the time to listen to them to understand how they view their needs.gfm-painting

I was reminded of that recently when I read the Global Communications Report 2017 from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The report examines a number of agency and in-house public relations issues, and one chart chronicled the top reasons companies choose to work with PR firms.

Among in-house public relations professionals, the highest-ranked reasons for working with a PR firm included:

  • Creative thinking (69%)
  • Strategic insights (69%)
  • Specific practice areas (62%)
  • Digital and social media (61%)
  • Specific geographic markets (56%)
  • Objective, independent perspective (53%)

Every client is different, but seven in 10 are looking for creativity and strategy. That’s a great reminder to take a step back when you feel like you have been in the tactical weeds too long. Neglecting the big picture to accomplish smaller things may allow you check action items off a list, but it may not be what the client values most.

The Future of Content, and What it Means for PR

usc-annenberg-logoThe USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism recently released its Global Communications Report 2017, and it offers a number of interesting findings that affect the public relations and marketing industries.

One trend that has profound implications for public relations specifically is PESO – paid, earned, shared and owned – content. Historically, public relations has lived in the earned content box, but more than half of PR executives believe that in five years the average consumer will NOT make any distinctions among content that is paid, earned, shared or owned. Read more after the jump…

Sources for Social Media Ideas

Social Media Ideas ResearchWhere do you get your social media ideas? When you hear the words “brainstorming” or “creativity,” you may not immediately associate them with science and research, but I do. When I see a calendar invitation to a brainstorming session, I make a note to make time for some research. I’m not talking about what competitors are up to, though that too is important. I’m talking about finding a LexisNexis log in and doing some digging to see what the scientific community says about the topic. You’d be surprised what exists out there to inspire your work.

Most recently, I did some work with a child abuse prevention nonprofit and stumbled across the amazing Frameworks research that studied how people in various demographics responded to different message framing related to child abuse prevention. This research is widely used amongst nonprofits working on this topic. It has great insights like “because so many frames have the effect of lifting support for child abuse and neglect policies, child welfare advocates on this issue have the opportunity to create some synergy across child development issues by using frames that also elevate other areas of child development.”  To translate, there are many ways of talking about child abuse that can be effective, but a few strategic ones will also help everyone else working on the topic. In coming up with ideas for this April, which is child abuse prevention month, we kept that research in mind.

The child abuse example is just one of many. If the topic relevant to you doesn’t have extensive existing research there can be more broad ways to investigate, such as looking for research related to online giving and social pressure for nonprofits. Or even understanding theories related to how people choose what to buy. This study tested whether people offered a coupon for jelly bought more when they could choose between 26 flavors or 6 flavors. More people were attracted to the big display, but more people actually bought jelly when there were fewer choices.

If you want to propel your agenda, build a movement, and change the narrative, you’re going to need some powerful social media ideas for content. Why not start with a Google search to leverage psychology, cognitive science, and the latest social science research to help lead you to success?

Top Presentation Tips From SXSW

It’s been just over a week since I returned from South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) where – in addition to learning about the latest in social media strategies – I had the opportunity to attend dozens of presentations in a variety of formats. I learned a few new presentation tips and enjoyed some effective presentations that inspired me to share some helpful pointers.

Stories Beat PowerPoints Every Time

The Science of Storytelling | Leo Widrich via Flickr

The Science of Storytelling | Leo Widrich via Flickr

In a panel focused on the power of storytelling, neuroscientist Shonté Taylor noted that storytelling engages the right side (aka, the more creative side) of the brain. Specifically, she described how the body releases reward hormones such as dopamine when the right side of the brain is positively engaged, as can happen when a person is enjoying a great story. She went on to describe those reward hormones as “lighting up” the brain in a positive way, and left me with the point that if you light up the brains of your colleagues and customers, they’re going to remember you.

Reflecting on the various presentations I attended during SXSWi, the most memorable really did include great storytelling elements. Speakers from National Geographic and Outdoor Afro shared compelling stories and – often – images that took me beyond bullets on the screen. One week later and I can describe in detail the stories they told and the lessons they shared in a way that I cannot for other speakers who didn’t weave personal stories, images or testimonials into their presentations. Read more after the jump…

In The Mood: Creating The Perfect Climate for Creativity

Whether it’s dreaming up the perfect copy for a social media post, crafting a pitch for a key reporter, or strategizing how to report metrics to executives – the daily life of a communications professional requires a lot of widely-varied creative ideas and solutions!Rethinking the Creative Process | GroundFloor Media

Some days the creativity flows like a river and other days the creative process takes a little longer to get going, which is why I read two recent articles with great interest!

Creativity Isn’t About Talent, It’s a Mood

If you’re a fan of Monty Python, you’re a fan of co-founder John Cleese who – it turns out – is obsessed with creativity. This recent article describes some of Cleese’s best tips for setting the right mood for creativity which include:

  • Creating a space/time oasis where you can get away from daily distractions and disturbances
  • Sticking with problems just a little longer than when the “easy way out” appears… the alternative is almost always more creative
  • My personal favorite: making mistakes because “while you’re being creative, nothing is wrong”
  • Embracing humor, because it’s essential to spontaneity and playfulness, two key ingredients to creativity
  • Keeping a light hold of the problem you’re pondering, as you’re likely to be rewarded with a creative solution when you least expect it

Read more after the jump…

Journalism and a Trump White House: What are the PR Takeaways?

Saturday Night Live Sean Spicer Press Conference SkitNo matter what side of the aisle your political beliefs fall, it’s hard not to watch the very public antagonistic relationship President Trump and his administration are having with the media.

While President Obama had his fair share of scuffles with the media, they didn’t get the kind of attention President Trump’s school-yard battles are getting now. After several decades during which the media has lost trust, credibility and interest among Americans, will the new President bring back the Fourth Estate to its former glory?

I recently came across a Politico article titled: Trump Is Making Journalism Great Again. According to the article, there’s always been a quid pro quo in Washington, where journalists groom sources, but sources also groom journalists. “There’s nothing inherently unethical about the back-scratching. When a reporter calls an administration source to confirm an embarrassing item, the source may agree to confirm as long as the reporter at the very least agrees to listen sympathetically to the administration’s context.”

Read more after the jump…