PR Roundup: the Power of Age, Ohtani’s Non-Presser and Observer Called Out

This week’s PR Roundup features a look at Edelman’s lean into the power of age, a callout for more diverse PR representation and the aftermath of Ohtani’s non-press conference press conference.

Edelman Launches Longevity Lab

What happened: At a time in which age seems to cause a lot of media chatter, Edelman announces the formation of The Longevity Lab, a resource for communicators and marketers designed to leverage the influence and economic potential of those aged 55-plus.

Launched in partnership with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) and its global VOICE network of more than 4,000 active citizens, The Lab will lend expertise, insights and perspective—counseling clients on the untapped market potential of this generation of consumers and how best to reach and engage them. 

The idea of The Longevity Lab comes from the success of Edelman’s Gen Z Lab—launched in June 2022 to help marketers more effectively engage the Gen Z consumer. This Gen Z Lab produced a core insight that inspired the formation of its longevity counterpart. Across Edelman’s generational research, the generation that has proven most similar to Gen Z in terms of consumer behavior, discerning nature, and expectations for brands has consistently, and shockingly, been the boomer generation.  

Communication takeaways: There’s no ignoring the growing numbers of the 55-plus contingent. And age 55 doesn’t exactly mean what it used to be years back. Boomers are living longer, working longer and enjoying the rewards of that hard work. These things all make them an essential part of the communications and marketing ecosystem. 

Jackie Cooper, Edelman’s Chief Global Brand Officer, and co-leader of The Lab says Edelman launched The Lab to open the industry’s eyes to the power and potential of this demographic. 

“At 2 billion-plus, there are more people aged 55-plus than children under 5,” Cooper says. “By 2050, that number will double. We are moving from an aging society to a longevity society. This group, of which I am a part, is living longer, amassing more wealth, and willing to spend, and yet our industry has a massive blind spot where it concerns this generation. Only 5-10% of marketing dollars are allocated towards us.”

Prof. Lynne Corner, Chief Operating Officer of NICA, and co-leader of The Lab sees the data discovery as vital to our societal future.

“Where Gen Z may drive the cultural zeitgeist, the Longevity generation drives its economic undercurrent,” Corner says. “Those 50+ are responsible for half of all global spending. NICA has unique expertise in developing and introducing societal and economic innovations in support of longer, healthier lives. Together with marketers, we can accelerate the delivery of services and products to a population mostly forgotten or stereotypically portrayed. We want to challenge that and lead the change both for return on investment and on society.” 

PR Advocacy Group Calls For More Diversity In An Open Letter To Media Outlet

What happened: This week PR advocacy group, Hold the PRess, called out Observer for a lack of diversity and representation in the media company’s annual PR Power List. This is the second time since 2022 that Hold the PRess put Observer on blast for its failure to recognize Black talent and Black-led agencies. 

A group of over 150 Black PR professionals, agency leaders and allies signed an open letter to Observer, advising them that they are instructing clients not to participate in Observer-related events and interviews until the organization takes concrete, meaningful steps to address the lack of diversity in its annual PR list.

Hold the PRess noted some stark data in regards to the Power List: 

  • Total # of Firms 
    • 80 public relations firms nominated/recognized 
    • 0 Black owned firms highlighted or recognized
  • Total Individuals nominated/recognized
    • 138 individuals recognized in total 
      • 134 non-Black individuals recognized,
      • 4 Black professionals identified on the list; of which only 1 was in leadership.

Communication takeaways: While the PR industry has worked diligently in recent years to address a lack of diversity, progress remains slow. 

According to the Diversity Action Alliance (DAA) 2021-2022 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Benchmarking Report, the overall representation of Black professionals in the industry remained at 10.0%, despite Black professionals making up 13.4% of the U.S. population. And only 3.8% of senior-level leadership positions were held by Black Professionals.

And it’s not for a lack of qualified candidates. The open letter cites a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, showing that Black students earn 9.5% of all bachelor's degrees in communication and journalism, yet they remain underrepresented in the PR industry.

Tequilla White, Principle Publicist, TWPR, says Black PR professionals must continue to push for equity and inclusion in tangible ways, not just empty platitudes. 

"Upon seeing these numbers year over year, it’s hard not to feel that something is amiss, as there are Black-owned agencies out there meeting metrics and doing impactful work,” White says. “The only plausible explanation for their absence is a lack of care and attention from those compiling these lists. It exemplifies the industry’s tendency to pay lip service to diversity without following through with meaningful action. This glaring omission is unacceptable and sends a clear message that the contributions of Black professionals and Black-led agencies are not valued or recognized by Observer."

White suggests these organizations take steps to ensure selection processes do not have biases or barriers that contribute to the exclusion of Black talent and agencies. 

“That includes, application fee requirements around not limiting applicants to agency models which leaves out consultants or smaller teams,” she says. “Another way to ensure there is diversity in sourcing would be the inclusion of Black PR professionals and agency leaders in the list selection process to ensure a more diverse and representative perspective.”

Ohtani Statement on Gambling Creates More Questions than Answers

What happened: Major League Baseball celebrated its official opening day on Thurs., March 28. However, the day, while joyful for baseball fans, emerged tainted by the recent Shohei Ohtani gambling scandal. Ohtani, pitcher and designated hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, enjoyed superstar status in the league until this past week, when a confusing rollout of events regarding payment of a $4.5 million gambling debt emerged. 

According to a thorough explanation by CBS Sports, Ohtani's lawyers said he had allegedly been the victim of "massive theft," accusing his now-former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, of taking funds from Ohtani to use for illegal gambling. ESPN reported that $4.5 million in wire transfers were sent from Ohtani's bank account to a California bookmaker who is now under federal investigation. The Dodgers promptly fired Mizuhara, and the MLB launched an investigation into the allegations surrounding Ohtani and Mizuhara. Monday, Ohtani publicly read a statement, denying any betting or knowledge of Mizuhara’s gambling. Ohtani did not take any questions at the press event. 

Communication Lessons: Even though the story focuses on one major sport superstar, many other stakeholders are impacted by this ongoing investigation, including the Dodgers organization. 

Arthur Solomon, a former journalist and SVP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller who worked in sports and other sectors says if he were advising this situation, he’d issue the following simple statement.  

"This is a situation that is under investigation by legal authorities. Mr. Ohtani and the Dodgers are cooperating with the authorities and until the investigation is completed we will have nothing more to say about it.”

Solomon believes that because the Ohtani investigation is in its infancy, sometimes the best strategy during this sort of PR crisis is to say nothing until the details of the investigation are released by the investigating legal authorities.

“Rushing out a statement before all the facts are known is a "no no" as far as I'm concerned,” Solomon says. “At this stage of the situation there have been conflicting statements from Ohtani and his former interpreter. Only the investigation by law enforcement will reveal the truth. The worst thing a person or entity can do is make a statement that doesn't hold up when the facts are in.”

Solomon also believes Ohtani’s statement was released in a controlled environment to protect him from negative press and put him in the best possible light.

“He read a statement that obviously was vetted by the Dodgers and his personal reps, and then refused to answer questions from the press,” he says. “By refusing to take questions from reporters, it showed that it was an obvious move by both his personal team and the Dodgers to protect him from having to answer any hard questions.”

Regardless of the current situation, fans came out on opening day in L.A. to support Ohtani, warmly welcomed by the sold-out crowd. Time will tell to see how this ongoing investigation affects Ohtani’s play or the Dodgers organization.

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