Videos of a man being dragged off of a United flight Sunday night have quickly spread through the web, drawing widespread condemnation and outrage. While United CEO Oscar Munoz publicly apologized the next day and said the company was investigating the incident, he took a decidedly tougher stance in an internal letter to employees. Instead of acknowledging that the company’s “established procedures” might need to be re-examined, Munoz doubled-down, citing policy and effectively passing the buck. Worse yet, the letter went on to shift the blame to the passenger.
In early March, Washington, D.C.’s NFL franchise found itself the subject of scorn. The team fired its general manager a bit more than two years into a four-year contract, despite the club’s improved record on the field after years of futility. In an article covering the firing, the Washington Post quoted a statement from the team’s president wishing the ousted general manager “well in his future endeavors. The team will have no further comment on his departure.” What happened next turned into a PR fiasco.
Al Golin, founder of global PR firm Golin and noted PR luminary, passed away peacefully at the age of 87 on April 8. More than just the mind behind one of PR’s most successful agencies, Al Golin made many contributions to the evolution of public relations, launching groundbreaking socially minded initiatives, mentoring scores of PR professionals and making the greater good a core part of his company’s culture.
Some things never change. That’s true in PR, too. The reasons are many. It’s easier to go with the flow than incorporate new thinking. Supervisors fail to give young staff opportunities to try new technique. Staff fear criticizing the boss. Those who advocate change are seen as mavericks and tend to be ostracized. The result is that, well, things change way too slowly. Here’s a list of PR sacred cows that need to be challenged.
Each April, PR News inducts into its Measurement Hall of Fame communications professionals who have played longtime leadership roles in helping to define and expand industry measurement strategies, programs and standards. This year’s inductees—Elizabeth Rector, John Gilfeather, Richard Bagnall and Mike Daniels—will be honored during a special ceremony April 21 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. during PR News’ Measurement Conference.
It’s probably safe to say that everyone interested in brand communications has watched the infamous Pepsi commercial that was swiftly yanked from the internet after savage criticism on social media. It was deeply bad in several ways, a perfect storm of bad decisions. You might think you’re savvy enough at PR to avoid such a confluence of mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune from making one or another of them from time to time. So let’s break down a few of the lessons we’ve learned.
Storytelling, as explained by Douwe Bergsma, is indeed a different way of looking at marketing communications, one that requires new processes, metrics and staff. Bergsma, CMO of Georgia-Pacific—the paper goods giant behind the Brawny, Quilted Northern and Dixie brands—offers some fascinating details that often separate a good story from a great one, including three secrets to crafting a successful marketing story.
A multichannel structure can be likened to the swim lanes in a pool: We line up our channels, the gun bangs and they each swim off in their own lanes, doing their own thing. The problem is, none of the channels are collaborating because they’re so focused on beating each other. And that creates a “Hunger Games” situation. But if multichannel means staying in a swim lane, then omnichannel is basically one big pool party.
When brands communicate on social media, there’s a built-in trust and understanding gap between professional communicators and a skeptical public. Finding a way to bridge that gap is crucial. Nation Hahn, digital director at Blueprint for Athletes and chief growth officer at EdNC.org, has found that for the right brand and the right campaign, a great way to make the connection is by working with third-party ambassadors to intertwine the brand’s story with the stories of real people.
Few companies are trying to make a Starbucks-like statement in today’s highly politicized communication environment. Many brands want to respect the diverse opinions of their employees and customers and avoid becoming a target of unanticipated backlash. Here are a few ways communicators can help brands navigate today’s highly charged environment. Fortunately, most of them are basic tenets of PR and communications. Brushing up on the basics can be especially useful in today’s climate.