Lessons Learned: It was late last year and Mike Watson, a VP for Durham-based LED lighting company Cree Inc. was talking up the brand’s agreement with a celebrity athlete who “represents who we are so well.” This athlete had “brute intellect,” Watson told us, “part Stephen Hawking, part Mike Ditka…that’s [Cree].” The athlete had revolutionized a sport, Watson said, and is “unafraid” to be different. Similarly Cree feels its approach to lighting is innovative and the brand is unafraid to be different.
As the specter of Jared Fogle and Subway was more top of mind at the time than it is now, we asked if there was any reluctance to engage a celebrity spokesperson. Brands were rethinking the wisdom of celebrity endorsers in Jared’s wake; they’re too risky was the argument. Watson’s response was memorable: “You can’t predict the future…You have to live with risk. I don’t think celebrity spokespeople are any more or less risky than anything else we do.” He added that Cree’s responsive social media team was a benefit. “We listen and respond…usually within a few hours…If you’re paying attention to what you do, you can mitigate risk better than people who don’t.”
The celebrity athlete in question is retired soccer great Abby Wambach, who was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants two Sundays ago near her Portland, Ore., home. Police stopped Wambach when the vehicle she was driving went through a red light. Wambach subsequently failed a sobriety test. It was her first offense. She later told police she’d tried cocaine and marijuana in her younger years. Wambach apologized to her fans via Facebook immediately after being released from jail. “I have let myself and others down. I take full responsibility for my actions. This is all on me.” When her attorney entered a not guilty plea, she tweeted it was “standard procedure. I am owning this. Nothing has changed.” Her next court date is April 26. During a speech Saturday in Washington, D.C., she accepted responsibility for her actions. “I made a mistake and I’m owning it,” she said. Mini, the BMW-owned car brand that Wambach endorses, told The Washington Post Wednesday it is “re-evaluating” Wambach’s “association with the brand” as “the safety of everyone on the road is a priority here at Mini.” It’s also pulling content that features Wambach from its marketing. Other brands with ties to Wambach include Nike, Gatorade and Panasonic. Cree has remained silent since Wambach’s arrest. PR News contacted Cree through a FleishmanHillard rep to check in. “There’s nothing for Cree to share at this point. We’ll keep you posted should that change,” the Fleishman rep said.
News Bits: MWWPR launched HerVoice, a practice focused on serving female leaders “as they establish their internal and external profiles.” HV will serve as a specialty focus within MWWPR’s Corporate Reputation practice. EVP Carreen Winters will lead HV, MWWPR said. Key areas of focus will include strategic platform development, influencer engagement, social profile development, awards, lists and rankings and media strategy, MWWPR said. – PRSA said astronaut Scott Kelly will launch its 2016 conference in Indianapolis, Oct 23-25. -- Interpublic Group agency Golin formed a joint venture with sister agency GGH MullenLowe in Germany, allowing both to offer integrated services to the German market. The Golin brand will launch in Hamburg. Managing director Uta Behnke will lead the group. – WE Communications acquired a majority stake acquisition in Buchan of Australia. The agency now will be known as WE Buchan.
- Trust Me: Has there been a time when employee engagement has been more cherished? Employee perks, company pride and awards for “best place to work” abound. Yet trust in employers is declining rapidly, Edelman concludes in its 2016 Trust Barometer study that polled 33,000 people in 28 countries. Edelman found one in three employees do not trust the company that employs them. And trust falls the lower you go in a company: 64% of executives, 51% of managers and 48% of rank and file workers trust their organizations. Not surprisingly, those polled feel change comes from the top. CEOs must refocus their actions, Edelman concludes, and “stand for more than profits and short-
term financial gain with their internal and external audiences.” The kicker: building trust in leadership and CEO trust particularly “can raise productive outcomes such as employer advocacy and recommendation of products and services by 30-40 points.”
- People: There are few we know better qualified to navigate the intersection of news and new media than Vivian Schiller, former global chair of news at Twitter and GM of nytimes.com. So we’re happy to see her named editor-in-chief and head of North America for Weber Shandwick’s branded content unit Mediaco. – JConnelly named former Entrepreneur editorial director Ray Hennessey chief innovation officer, a new position.