Communicators probably prefer a press-friendly CEO as opposed to one who’s media-averse. On the other hand, when the CEO’s mouth overshadows the brand and damages its reputation, communicators often reach for aspirin. An example, of course, is “Papa” John Schnatter. Another is Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk, who recently spent a weekend deflecting stories.
Stories by Seth Arenstein
The distinction between misinformation and disinformation is at the heart of Mark Zuckerberg’s thinking about why Holocaust deniers’ material can remain on Facebook. He’s likely debated this thorny question with his senior team. Unfortunately, his comments this week and his subsequent walk back muddled the distinction. In terms of walking back, though, he had plenty of company from other prominent people.
There was a gathering of editors from leading D.C. publications whose job includes evaluating op-ed submissions from outside writers. Their tips on how to get published amounted to a clinic for authors. A major takeaway was that while editors want jargon-free submissions with strong points of view, each publication has certain preferences. This means the road to success for media pitchers is to know those preferences.
Sacha Baron Cohen recently completed a series of scathing videos where he captures politicians saying questionable things. Then it turned out the videos were both publicity for a new series on Showtime and part of its content. Now it appears statements the politicians made on camera might not be what they seem to be. Perhaps pranking can go too far. Do the ends justify the means in PR?
A tenet of internal communications is that whatever you say internally eventually will leak externally. That dictum probably applies to nearly everything that happens in corporate America. Anything an executive says, writes or does is liable to be discovered, savvy PR pros would argue. But what about media training sessions? The Papa John’s case opens a can of worms.
Newsjacking, or piggybacking, on a news story or event about another brand to generate publicity for your brand, is a perfectly acceptable practice in PR. Yet it must be done with care and insight. A soy sauce brand managed to do this well on 7-11 Day. Fear not, though, the brand, Kikkoman, was savvy enough to dis the idea of a soy sauce-flavored Slurpee.
It’s possible the world has become immune to emissions-cheating scandals. The latest perpetrator, Nissan, hopes so. Still, it’s practicing nearly picture-perfect PR to reduce its chances of a long-term scandal erupting. Little doubt it has taken notice of steps Volkswagen failed to enact when Dieselgate erupted in September 2015.
President Trump’s selection of William Shine as deputy chief of staff for communications is another example of how the commander-in-chief continues to rewrite traditional PR tactics. For the most part, the revisions have served the president well. The same cannot be said of their effectiveness for ousted EPA chief Scott Pruitt.
Scarlett Johansson’s in hot water for accepting the role of a transgender character in the upcoming film “Rub & Tug.” Critics on social media and elsewhere contend the role should have gone to a transgender actor. The water temperature rose considerably after Johansson issued a curt reply to critics. Traditional PR recommends a more apologetic approach. Will Johansson’s rejoinder work?
Each month we ask communicators to unload their toolkits and tell us what falls out. In other words, What do you use to do your job? There are few better to talk about Facebook marketing than Ryder Meehan, principal & strategist, Meehan Digital, and a former social marketer at Fossil and Samsung, among others, and James Nickerson, lead instructor, digital marketing at General Assembly.