IRTA’s Virtual Convention

Virtual Conference, September 23-25, 2020

Featuring Michael Terpin, (Keynoter), Top Crypto/Blockchain Influencer 

Virtual Convention Live Website: https://irta.pathable.co/

IRTA has brought together the brightest minds in the barter, trade and alternative currency industries to discuss how the industry transitions during, and after the worldwide pandemic, to provide real economic solutions for businesses and the public at large.

Welcoming remarks will be provided by the Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam and internationally renowned speakers will include:

 * Michael Terpin, (Keynoter), Top Crypto/Blockchain Influencer, CEO Transform Group   

* Giuseppe Literra, Founder of Sardex & Local Pay, Sardinia, Italy

Will Ruddick, Founder of the Grassroots Economic Foundation

Dr. Lee Oi Kum, Founder Houde Foundation, Director of Taiko Group, Perak, Malaysia

Caroline Macdonald, COO, BBX, Artamon. Australia

Tom Greco, Author & Expert in Private Exchange Networks & Community Currencies

Dariusz Brzozowiec, Founder, Zelony Local Currency, Poland




BitAngels Las Vegas to Host Second Virtual Blockchain Investor and Pitch Event

BitAngels Network

BitAngels Las Vegas, a digital currency investor network to expand the blockchain investment ecosystem globally, announced their next pitch event will take place August 20 at 10 am PST online. Free tickets are offered for a limited time on the event page.

Confirmed presenters include:

  • SupraFin – a smart WealthTech platform for crypto assets
  • Numio – bridging the traditional banking infrastructure with DeFi solutions globally
  • Blockstation – a digital asset Trading Platform providing end-to-end, plug-and-play support for listing, trading, clearing and settlement of digital assets
  • Tradery Labs – a decentralized, autonomous hedge-fund that helps investors avoid the emotional turmoil of day trading volatile crypto-assets

“Virtual events allow us to bring blockchain startups from around the globe to the Las Vegas community and BitAngels network,” said Erika Zapanta, BitAngels Las Vegas city co-leader. “They provide flexibility and aren’t bound by geographical limitations, allowing us to help investors and entrepreneurs from anywhere foster valuable connections.”

BitAngels Las Vegas will feature startup pitches and networking with like-minded professionals. This will be the first of many BitAngels Las Vegas events. Those interested in fintech, blockchain, payments and more are welcome to attend.

To learn more or RSVP for the Las Vegas event, visit the event page.

To apply to present or sponsor an upcoming event, submit the application form.

Source: Blockchain Wire




Disney Quietly Kills 20th Century Fox TV

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR 

Nearly everyone who’s been to the movies or who owns a TV is immediately familiar with the brand: A massive monolith of stacked letters and numbers spelling out “20th Century Fox.” Now, Disney, which owns 20th Century Fox Television, is altering this household-known brand, again, to better fit the plans the company has for the future. 

Press reports about the change indicate that Disney plans to excise “Century” from the studio’s brand, several months after the studio initially dropped “Fox” back in January. This will leave the brand representation as “20th Television.” Viewers will begin to notice this change when it debuts in the fall, but only attached to new episodes of current or debuting 20th Television TV series. Older shows will retain the familiar branding. 

The impetus behind the change, which may seem awkward to viewers and fans at first, makes sense. Disney now owns several Fox properties, and the company wants to avoid any confusion the splitting of Fox properties may cause. As it currently stands, Fox Corporation still owns Fox Entertainment, Fox Sports, and Fox News. 

This is only the first of several similar moves Disney will make with previously-owned or newly acquired properties, including ABC Studios, ABC Signature Studios, and Fox 21. Speaking about the branding changes, Disney TV studios president, Craig Hunegs, said: 

“Our new studio names and logos mark a new day for ABC Signature, 20th Television, and Touchstone Television while honoring their rich histories and the creative power of The Walt Disney Company…” 

The move also reflects the tectonic shifts in entertainment media over the past few years. While networks had been silos and monoliths for decades, forays into streaming and changes in consumer demand, have led to media company mergers and new ideas on how to turn a profit in the business of small-screen entertainment. 

That flurry of mergers and changes leaves many brands either diluted or blended, which consumers may find confusing. It’s incumbent, then, on these brands to re-establish their name and likeness in the small screen marketplace, whether their programming is on traditional TV or through mobile devices. 

From a consumer PR and entertainment PR perspective, these dynamics highlight why it’s a good idea to review where a brand is in the market, how the audience understands and defines it, and where it stands in their perception versus the competition. This should be done on a regular basis, as well as when any major changes are made that might alter the market perception of a brand image.


RONN TOROSSIAN - HOW MANY FOLLOWERS DO YOU NEED ON INSTAGRAM TO GET PAID?About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.




PR Masters Series Podcast, Episode #33 – Ron Culp

Overview

The Stevens Group has been presenting the PR Masters Series Podcast for almost two years now.  This series is part of the ongoing partnership between The Stevens Group and CommPRO to bring to PR,digital/interactive and marketing communications agencies the wisdom of those who have reached the top of the PR profession.  Today’s special guest is Ron Culp, PRAD Professional in Residence, Instructor and Professional Director, Graduate Professional Program Director – Public Relations and Advertising at DePaul.

 

 

About Our Guest

Prior to joining DePaul and becoming an independent public relations consultant, Ron Culp held senior public relations positions at four Fortune 500 corporations and two major agencies. Ron’s career spans a broad range of communications responsibilities in government and industry sectors including business-to-business, consumer products, pharmaceutical and retailing.

Ron’s two agency stints include being partner and managing director of Ketchum’s Midwest offices and head of the agency’s North American Corporate Practice. Prior to Ketchum, he opened and served as managing director of the Chicago office of Sard Verbinnen and Company, a leading financial communications firm.

Previously, Ron was a corporate officer and senior vice president, public relations and government affairs, at Sears. During his Sears career, Ron managed internal and external communications, marketing public relations support, state and federal government affairs, community relations and the Sears-Roebuck Foundation. Earlier in his corporate career, he held senior communications positions at Sara Lee Corporation, Pitney Bowes and Eli Lilly.

Following graduation from Indiana State, Ron began his career as a reporter for The Columbus (Ind.) Republic before moving to the New York State Assembly where he served as director of member services (the public relations support unit) under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Ron is active in several civic organizations including the Economic Club of Chicago where he is a former board member and past vice chair. Culp serves on the board of Gilda’s Club Chicago, Public Relations Museum and Library, PRSA Foundation, Indiana State Foundation and the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, which he also chaired for five years. He was listed in Crain’s “Who in Chicago Business” from 2009 to 2017.

Culp is the only individual to receive both the Distinguished Service Award and the Hall of Fame Award from the Arthur W. Page Society, which is comprised of senior communication professionals, agency heads and leading academics. In 2011 he was honored with the John W. Hill Award by the New York Chapter of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and a year later he received the PR Professional of the Year from the Chicago chapter of PRSA. He also is featured in the PRSSA book, “Legacies from Legends in Public Relations” (2007) and was named to the PR News Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2012, Ron received the David Ferguson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Public Relations Education by a Practitioner, and in 2017 he received PRSA’s Gold Anvil, the organization’s lifetime achievement award.

Ron and his DePaul colleague Matt Ragas are co-authors of a business basics book for PR professionals entitled “Business Essentials for Strategic Communicators” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and they jointly edited “Mastering Business for Strategic Communicators” (Emerald, 2018). Also in 2018, Ron compiled and edited an eBook entitled, “The New Rules of Crisis Management.”

Ron and his wife, Sandra, fund a scholarship at their alma mater, Indiana State, for first-generation college students. In addition, Ron sponsors an annual PRSSA scholarship for student mentors.

Visit Ron’s career blog, Culpwrit, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.




Interviewing Mistakes: Small Ones With Big Consequences

Marie Raperto, The Hiring Hub

Interviewing is a hard process and first impressions can win or lose you a job. No matter how many times I counsel my candidates, they still make the same mistakes. Now, Anne Corley Baum has given us the bible of interviewing mistakes with her new book, “Small Mistakes, BIG Consequences for Interviews.”

Her book not only identifies the problem, she offers solutions for both the interviewer and candidate.

While written in an easy-to-read, witty style, the author accurately captures the issues that many candidates cannot see in themselves.

Ms. Corley-Baum covers such mistakes as:  The Late Arriver, The Overconfident Overachiever, The Messy Dresser, The Dining Dunce, The Interrupter, The Downlooker, and the Nervous Nellie just to name a few.

She is on-target identifying the problems, offers practical advice on how to avoid them and gives the interviewer insight into what might be going on and when to move on to another candidate.

This book is a must for anyone interviewing as well as those doing the interviews. It’s basic advice but it’s so needed. As someone who interviews and sends candidates out on interviews, I can truly say this book will be a great help.  Thank you, Anne!

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/small-mistakes-big-consequences-for-interviews-anne-corley-baum/1137064174




What’s Missing From Your Inbox

Rachel Cantor

Graduating college amid the pandemic has been nothing short of easy. After four months, I felt lost. I had just graduated from Northwestern University. I was stuck at home, and job opportunities paused due to the lockdown.

I took a leap of faith and launched my own weekly newsletter. What originally started as a passion project turned into so much more – freelance writing, new connections, job opportunities and life-long learning.

Since April, every Thursday I share my Gen-Z perspective on media & marketing as well as my recommendations for recipes, podcasts and interesting reads.

Thanks to social sharing and my network of family and friends, the newsletter audience has grown. Now, communications and marketing professionals, entrepreneurs, bloggers and Gen-Zers all follow.

Today, Gen-Z is your business; tomorrow, Gen-Z will be your business too. In today’s day and age, all communications professionals need to understand this audience – their behaviors and their pain points – as well as their perspective. What Gen-Z thinks matters for you, for your clients and for your brands.

If you want to be in the know and keep up with the times, this is the newsletter for you. And if you’re looking for a fun read in your inbox, you’ll definitely want to subscribe.

If you’d like to check out past issues and follow along, subscribe here: https://www.rachelmaecantor.com/newsletter


About the Author: Rachel Cantor is a recent graduate of Northwestern University, where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in French. She also holds a certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications from the Medill School of Journalism. Rachel served as the Executive Co-Chair of Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM), one of the largest student-run philanthropies in the nation, and raised over $1 million for non-profits in the Chicagoland area. She has interned at both Digitas and Refinery29, and she recently launched her own newsletter. She is currently looking for full-time Product and Marketing roles at startups and tech companies. 




Reflections on Working During a Pandemic

Laura Kane, Head of Communications for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)

As I enter the 6th month of my quarantine, it seems like just yesterday that I started remote working.  Early on, I enjoyed the short commute and the perks of working from home. After May 15, 2020, working from my apartment seemed to get harder.  Somehow, I had in my mind this would end by the summer. By July, I realized not only would I be working remotely for a while, I was going to need to change many of the processes that I relied on in the past, because they were no longer working.

Nothing Replaces Human Interaction

I am the first to concede that having face time with your people and your boss is not as important as I once thought. It is possible to get a lot of work done without ever seeing other team members. However, you lose the humanity and connection that enables spontaneous brainstorming, serendipitously putting together pieces of information that lead to greater understanding of a business challenge, and most importantly the connection among team members.

Miscommunication happens. It seems to be happening with greater frequency when I rely too much on email. In order to work more effectively, both leaders and team members need to be more proactive and take greater responsibility for ensuring that the goals and expectations are clear to all of those involved. When in doubt, I pick up the phone to either ask questions or confirm mutual understanding.

The stress of team members missing deadlines is greater when I start to think of colleagues as email or a voice on the phone. While, video conferencing isn’t perfect, seeing kids photo bomb calls reminds me how grateful I am not to have to re-learn geometry. But, more importantly, that my team members need a little extra help and empathy because they are juggling a lot.

What Got You Here May No Longer Work

For those of you who have not read Marcus Goldsmith’s book “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There,” I highly recommend it. I read it years ago when I was going through a management change at work. The book taught me that people often hold on to the behaviors that got them where they are, without realizing that those behaviors may no longer serve them in their new environment.

The pandemic has made me think about what skills and habits my team and I will need in the come year. The pandemic definitely changed the way I work and how I consume information. With limited access to people and experiences, I rely more on online resources and apps than ever before. I have come to realize that I can learn to do almost anything by watching a YouTube video. Yet, there are probably only 5-6 YouTube videos on my marketing communications plan. Prior to the quarantine, I had never heard of Zoom, Chime or many other platforms that have become a part of my new work routine.

While I have always believed that integrated communications is the future of our business. The coronavirus has accelerated the need for me to find ways to ensure that my organization’s messages are on the right platforms. Even, if it means that I need to up my coding and graphic skills.

Fail Fast, Learn Faster

In times like these there are no obvious answers. So, I have come to understand that learning takes much more humility, mental agility, and people skills that I would have thought in the beginning of this year.  But, since none of us have a crystal ball or can know with any certainty what will happen next it’s time to embrace the possibility of embracing failure and try new things. I’ve learned so much more in my life by failing than have through succeeding the first time. Ironically, I have grown to a place where I enjoy figuring out plan B, and C, more than getting things right the first time. I have come to appreciate the opportunity to try new things and understand that failing is only a problem if you don’t learn from it.

There is always an opportunity to get back up and try something different. I am not sure what the new normal has in store for us. In fact, given the rate that the new normal is accelerating, I am pretty sure that “new normal” will be the old normal by next month. But, through all these changes I have learned that curiosity is a trait worth cultivating, bravery is mandatory and the ability to adapt is essential.


About the Author: Laura Kane is an acclaimed strategist, trusted advisor and creative problem solver who helped organizations of all sizes find their voice and increase brand value by generating meaningful stories that were widely covered and shared. Laura is currently the head of communications for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and has previously worked with Disney ABC, National Geographic, Aflac, Intel, Marsh and PRSA.




Interviewing: 3 Tactics For An Effective Interview

Interviewing Dos and Don'tsMarie Raperto, The Hiring Hub

Interviewing is difficult. With the pandemic, I’m seeing less in-person interviews and more  over the phone or on video.  Limited time, online delays, not seeing facial features etc., all make the process even harder.  For hiring managers, the most important step is to plan out your interview prior to the call.

  1.  How much time do you have? To structure your interview, allow at least 10 minutes for candidates questions and about 10 minutes to talk about the opportunity. Then allow the most time to question backgrounds and direct experience with the remaining time on personality/culture questions.
  2. Ask specific questions:  What have you done; Do you have experience with; How did you/would you handle this situation; On your resume, you said___, can you explain what you did.  With limited time, you want to find out as much as possible.
  3. To find out personality/culture matches ask questions like:  Tell me about; How did you handle; Did you ever see a situation like; In your opinion; What do you like/dislike about a particular situation/job.

Preparing in advance will help you get the most out of the interview.  Both candidates and interviewers need to be prepared!




Black Communications Professionals Disparately Impacted Due to COVID-19, New Survey Finds

CommPRO Editorial Staff

COVID-19 is uniquely impacting Blacks in communications due to organizational shifts brought on by the virus combined with the heightened social justice climate. Recently, Media Frenzy Global, in partnership with the National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS), released its 2020 survey, COVID-19’s Impact on Black Communications Professionals, highlighting challenges faced by Black professionals during COVID-19.

The survey administered online from June 9, 2020, to July 6, 2020, analyzed insights from communications professionals with connections to seven (7) regional affiliate NBPRS chapters encompassing agency, corporate and independent practitioners in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

The study intended to uncover potential roadblocks experienced by Black Americans working in communications-related professional settings during COVID-19’s arrival in the United States and subsequent spread between January 2020 and the present. In exploring the experiences that black communication professionals have faced since the onset of COVID-19, the research sheds light on several factors:

  • More than 52% of respondents said they felt more pressure to perform at a higher level than their white counterparts during the pandemic;
  • Almost 72% of those surveyed said they felt stressors from the surrounding community impacted their job performance;
  • An increase in stress and a decline in productivity were common findings, with 76% percent of respondents revealing anxiety at their jobs increased during the pandemic, with perceived declines in productivity even across the board.

As of Spring 2020, over 33 million Americans lost their job during the pandemic. A recent report from Pew uncovered Black workers with bachelor’s degrees continued to lose jobs in May 2020, even as the relaxing of coronavirus restrictions led to job gains for white professionals.

“COVID-19 has a grave impact on the Black community, especially in the professional realm,” says Katie Kern, Partner of Media Frenzy Global. “There is a clear need for data to be compartmentalized and addressed so that we can take the necessary steps to find and create resources to assist our most vulnerable communities,” adds Kern.

Black communications professionals are not unlike other American minorities navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Blacks are five times more likely to be hospitalized by the virus than Whites. Job loss and insecurity, underemployment and increased stress are also among the significant impacts felt by this group and reported in the survey.

“As black media professionals, we are constantly under pressure to perform at a higher level than anyone else,” said Neil Foote, president of the National Black Public Relations Society. “Now, the COVID-19 pandemic only reveals that we are getting hit hard. This survey provides us important data that reveals the hard truths of this disruptive period, and how black professionals must take the necessary precautions to stay healthy to manage the stress and get the help we need to be successful at our jobs.”

Further findings from the survey are available in full, HERE .

To schedule an interview with spokespeople from Media Frenzy Global and Black Public Relations Society of Atlanta, please contact Tawanda Carlton at Media Frenzy Global at tawanda@mediafrenzyglobal.com or 910-358-7224.




McDonald’s Sues Easterbrook, Alleging Inappropriate Relationships

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

Last year was not a good one for Steve Easterbrook. The former CEO of McDonald’s was fired by the company after reports surfaced that he engaged in “inappropriate relationships” with staff members then lied about these relationships. At the time, Easterbrook said the relationship was consensual, and he was given an outgoing paycheck for roughly $40 million.

Now, Easterbrook is back in the news because his former employer is looking to recover that payout after it has been reported that Easterbrook actually had multiple “inappropriate” relationships with staff members, about which he lied to the board. While these employees were all of age to consent, McDonald’s has a strict policy against “any kind of intimate relationship between employees in a direct or indirect reporting relationship…”

The reason for the initial payout was that, at the time, the company says it only had evidence of one “non-physical, consensual relationship, consisting of intimate text messages and video calls…” This led to the termination of Easterbrook’s contract “without cause” so as to avoid both a lengthy court battle and the accompanying media scrutiny.

Then came a tip that sparked a second investigation. This second investigation, reports say, revealed “indisputable evidence” that Easterbrook engaged in much more than a single non-physical relationship. One of the most headline-grabbing allegations is that Easterbrook “approved a grant of company shares worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to (one of the employees) … shortly after their first sexual encounter…”

McDonald’s says if the company had that information at the time, Easterbrook would not have been granted the multi-million-dollar settlement. Further, company spokesmen said Easterbrook violated his duty to the company when he misled investigators about the nature of his relationships with employees. He did so, they allege, to secure a larger severance offer, which, the company contends, was an “act of fraud.”

While the legal issues will be decided by the system, the issue drags Easterbrook back into a harsh spotlight, dredging up negative PR that he likely believed well in the rearview. At the time of his dismissal, Easterbrook said, “it was time to move on” as the values of the company did not align with his “mistake.”

The ignoble departure and, now, additional negative headlines put an asterisk next to what was, for Easterbrook, a solid term at McDonald’s. He is largely credited with updating the company’s menus, improving the quality of the food by using better ingredients and investing in updating the look of the stores. These improvements contributed to an over doubling of McDonald’s share price during his term as CEO.

As this issue is now back in the spotlight, with more salacious details coming out in the press, both McDonald’s and Easterbrook will have to address media questions that pertain to their brand awareness in the consumer public. And, unlike last time, the issue may not be settled quickly.


About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, leading PR agency.




Aspire Technology Launches First Secure Public Blockchain for Creation of Digital Assets

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Aspire Technology, developer of digital asset creation technologies, has launched the mainnet of its first-of-a-kind digital asset creation technology. Digital assets have been a key part of the growth of the blockchain, including the rapid growth of digital collectibles and new public blockchains during the pandemic.

Simply put, the Aspire platform consists of Aspire (ASP), which is currently only available through its airdrop campaign, with the first 10,000 users receiving sufficient Aspire and Aspire Gas (GASP) to create one full-fledged digital asset, each of which can comprise up to 92 billion tokens. Aspire Gas acts like bitcoin does for Counterparty, which was the platform for 30 of the top 100 tokens by market capitalization in 2014-15.

The Aspire platform improves upon the standard Counterparty open-source code, but grafts in an automated checkpoint server to prevent 51 percent attacks that have caused many other blockchains to be attacked and lose funds, including two successful attacks on top 25 token Ethereum Classic this month, resulting in the loss of nearly $2 million. Aspire is also not subject to miner attacks, as recently happened to top 100 token Ravencoin, where an attack that exploited a weakness in the mining algorithm allowed for hackers to create and then steal nearly $6 million of Ravencoin by artificially expanding the block reward. Many other platforms have suffered one of these two common exploits that Aspire is immune from; even bitcoin can theoretically be 51 percent attacked, but it would cost an extraordinary amount of energy to pull off.

“As we move into the second decade of cryptocurrency, there is still no easy solution for non-technical or technical users to create and customize a digital asset quickly and put it on a highly secure blockchain,” said Jim Blasko, CEO and co-founder of Aspire Technology and core developer of the Aspire platform. “Aspire solves this problem, and the Aspire Gas blockchain that it is teamed with solves the problem of excessive fees and slow throughput on most major blockchains. We believe Aspire is poised to be a leading creator of digital assets globally.”

Source: Blockchain Wire




When You’re the Only Woman in the Room: Lessons from the First Female CCO

 

Free Virtual Event: On-Demand Video

REGISTER

Event Overview

 

Join a unique panel discussion exploring the rise of women in PR, focusing on the life and career of Marilyn Laurie, the nation’s first woman CCO. The panel will feature Dick Martin, author of “Marilyn: A Woman in Charge,” (to be published in September); Prof. Karen Russell, Univ. of Georgia; Prof. Pat Ford, Univ. of Florida, and Prof. Denise Hill, of Elon Univ. Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, will moderate the panel. The panel will explore how students and professionals can learn from Marilyn Laurie’s example, in reputation management, crisis communications, leadership and ethics.  We will also discuss the progress women have made in the industry since Marilyn’s time, and what the future holds for women, in agencies, corporations and academia.

With Appreciation to Our Sponsors…

Moderator

 

Deirdre Breakenridge

CEO, Pure Performance Communications

Deirdre K. Breakenridge is CEO at Pure Performance Communications. She’s a career-long storyteller and media expert, helping brands and professionals to ignite energy and engagement, lead pressing conversations and grow their influence in the market. Deirdre has worked with senior leaders and organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, JVC, Kraft, Nasdaq, NBA Events & Attractions and the Public Relations Society of America.

Deirdre is the author of six business books sharing stories and advice to navigate changing consumer behavior and an evolving media landscape. Her most recent book, “Answers for Modern Communicators,” was published by Routledge. Her seventh book, Answers for Ethical Marketers, will be released by Routledge in January 2021.

For 15 years, Deirdre has taught PR and social media courses, online and in the classroom for NYU, UMASS, Rutgers, and Fairleigh Dickinson University. She took her passion for teaching to LinkedIn Learning, and as one of their instructors, she has developed eight video courses on PR and marketing. Deirdre has been blogging at PR Strategies for over 10 years and she’s also the host of the podcast, Women Worldwide, which is celebrating its 5th anniversary in 2020.

 

Panelists

 

Dick Martin

Author, “Marilyn: A Woman In Charge”

 

Dick Martin writes about public relations, marketing, and ethics. He has authored four books for the American Management Association and articles for such publications as the Harvard Business Review, Chief Executive, and the Journal of Business Strategy. Capping a 33-year career with AT&T, from 1997 to 2003, he was Chairman of the AT&T Foundation and executive vice president responsible for the company’s public relations, employee communications and brand management worldwide. The Holmes Report called his first book, Tough Calls, one of the 5 best PR books published in the first decade of the 21st century and “by far the best book about the realities of working in corporate communications for a large American corporation.”

He is a frequent speaker to business groups and has conducted ethics workshops for the Institute of Public Relations, the Arthur Page Society, Rutgers University, and other organizations. He co-authored Public Relations Ethics: How To Practice PR Without Losing Your Soul, with Donald K. Wright, chair of the public relations department of Boston University’s College of Communications.

Most recently he wrote a biography of Marilyn Laurie, his predecessor at AT&T and the first woman to become a policy-making officer at a Fortune 10 company. Marilyn: A Woman In Charge will be published by the PR Museum Press on September 8, 2020. Martin  was one of the first recipients of the Arthur W. Page Center’s Award for Integrity in Public Communication.

 

 

Pat Ford

Senior Advisor, Burson-Marsteller & Professional-in-Residence at the University of Florida

 

 

Patrick Ford is a senior advisor for Burson-Marsteller and serves as a Professional-in-Residence at the University of Florida for the 2017-18 academic year. In 2012, Pat became Burson-Marsteller’s vice chairman and chief client officer, following six years of driving extraordinary growth in North America as Burson’s regional president and CEO. He also served as chair of the firm’s Asia-Pacific region for nearly three years (2012-2015).

Mr. Ford specializes in corporate reputation management, senior executive communications, media strategy, and issues and crisis management. His clients over 26 years at Burson-Marsteller have ranged from world-class companies in industries as diverse as automotive, energy, express delivery services, financial services, food and beverage, management consulting, technology, and telecommunications, and also government clients in the U.S. and Asia.

Before joining Burson-Marsteller, he served as vice president for external affairs at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, one of America’s leading policy think tanks, in Washington, DC, following a brief career as a journalist.

Mr. Ford serves on the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Public Relations, an international organization that supports PR research and education, and the Board of Directors of The LAGRANT Foundation, whose mission is to increase the number of ethnic minorities in the fields of advertising, marketing and public relations. He also is a member of the Advisory Board of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton University. In 2014, he received the prestigious Milestones in Mentoring Legacy Award from the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama.

 

Dr. Karen Russell

Associate Professor at University of Georgia

 

 

 

Karen Miller Russell is Jim Kennedy Professor of New Media and Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, teaching public relations and media history and advising the college’s Integrated ADPR master’s program.

Dr. Russell studies media history with an emphasis on public relations and is interested in qualitative research, such as ethnography and case studies, on PR. She is the author of two books, “Promoting Monopoly: AT&T and the Politics of Public Relations, 1876-1941,” and “The Voice of Business: Hill and Knowlton and Postwar Public Relations.” She has published articles in the Journal of PR Research, Public Relations Review, Business History Review, Communication Yearbook, Journal of Political Marketing, American Journalism, and Journalism and Communication Monographs. She served as editor of the Journal of Public Relations Research from 2009 to 2015.

Dr. Russell teaches public relations core courses in both the undergraduate and graduate programs, with a particular interest in social media, globalization, and corporate social responsibility initiatives. She also teaches media history and is a member of the UGA graduate faculty. Dr. Russell is a former PR writer for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, former PR specialist for the American Camping Association and former photography and publicity assistant for Common Wealth Development.

 

 

Dr. Denise Hill

Assistant Professor at Elon University’s School of Communications

 

Denise Hill is an assistant professor at Elon University’s School of Communications, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in strategic communications. Dr. Hill is a former chief communications officer with more than 30 years of corporate communications and public relations agency experience.

Before joining Elon University, Dr. Hill was vice president of corporate communications and public relations at Delhaize America, the U.S. operation of global Fortune 500 grocery retailer Delhaize Group. She previously held chief communication officer positions at Quest Diagnostics and a business unit of Wyndham Worldwide. In addition, she served as a vice president of communication at Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Cigna. She started her career at a Carl Byoir/Hill+Knowlton public relations agency in Philadelphia.

In addition to her Elon University teaching experience, Dr. Hill was an adjunct instructor of corporate communications and public relations at New York University. She also taught communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in communications from Temple University, and a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her academic research focuses on public relations and social change, how public relations was used to help marginalized groups in the United States gain civil rights, and African American public relations pioneers.

Dr. Hill is a member of the board of directors of the Public Relations Society of America. In addition, she is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society, where she serves on the new member liaison subcommittee. Dr. Hill is a member of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the American Journalism Historians Association, and an advisory board member of The Museum of Public Relations. She also serves on APCO Worldwide’s International Advisory Council as a member of its Corporate Communications Strategies subgroup. Dr. Hill serves on the board of directors of Easterseals of North Carolina and Virginia, and she chairs the organization’s development and communications committee. She is a former member of The Seminar, the premier organization of chief communication officers. She also is a former member of The Executive Leadership Council, the preeminent organization of African American business executives.




Conversations with American Legends: Civil Rights Leader Amb. Andrew Young

Free Virtual Event: On-Demand

 

 

 

Click here to watch the broadcast on-demand:  https://bit.ly/3hlxsxy

Overview

Amb. Andrew Young, 88, an early leader of the Civil Rights movement, who served as friend and confidante to Martin Luther King Jr., will discuss the alarming new era of racism in the US in an exclusive interview Aug 21. He will be interviewed by PR leader Richard Levick, Esq., Chairman & CEO, LEVICK, communications scholar and historian Prof. Denise Hill, PhD, Elon University and Bill Ide, III, Partner, Corporate GovernanceAkerman at 2 pm over the CommPRO network.

Young, who served as the nation’s first Black ambassador to the UN, will also offer views on America’s declining reputation and influence on the world stage, and what that portends for the U.S. in the years ahead.

In this historic discussion, Amb. Young will also provide perspectives on the upcoming presidential election, including the emerging new “birtherism” and the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.

Special Guest

Ambassador Andrew Young

Andrew J. Young has earned worldwide recognition as a pioneer in and champion of civil and human rights. Ambassador Young’s lifelong dedication to service is illustrated by his extensive leadership experience of over sixty-five years, serving as a member of Congress, African American U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, mayor of Atlanta, and ordained minister, among other positions. 

During the 1960s, Young was a key strategist and negotiator during civil rights campaigns that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Appointed as an ambassador to the United Nations in 1977, Young negotiated an end to white-minority rule in Namibia and Zimbabwe and brought President Carter’s emphasis on human rights to international diplomacy efforts. As two-term mayor of Atlanta, Young brought in over 1,100 businesses, over 70 billion in foreign direct investments and generated over a million jobs.

Ambassador Young has received honorary degrees from more than 100 universities and colleges in the U.S. and abroad and has received various awards, including an Emmy Lifetime Achievement award in 2011 and the Dan Sweat Award in 2017. His portrait also became part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

Ambassador Young also serves on a number of boards, including, but not limited to, the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Social Change, Morehouse College, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State and Americas Mart. In 2003, he and his wife Carolyn McClain Young founded the Andrew J. Young Foundation to support and promote education, health, leadership and human rights in the U.S., Africa, and the Caribbean. Young currently serves as the a chairman of the Andrew J. Young Foundation.

In 2012, Young retired from GoodWorks International, LLC, after well over a decade of facilitating sustainable economic development in the business sectors of the Caribbean and Africa. Young was born in 1932 in New Orleans, and he currently lives in Atlanta with his wife, Carolyn McClain. He is also a father of three daughters and one son, a grandfather of nine and a great grandfather of one.

Speakers

Richard Levick, Esq., Chairman & CEO, LEVICK

Richard Levick, Esq., is chairman & CEO of LEVICK, representing countries and companies in the highest-stakes global communications matters: the Venezuelan crisis; Qatar; the Chinese trade war; the Gulf oil spill; Guantanamo Bay, the Catholic Church, and many others.

Mr. Levick was honored multiple times on the prestigious list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the Boardroom” and has been named to multiple professional Halls of Fame for lifetime achievement.

He is the co-author of four books and is a regular commentator on television and in print. Mr. Levick speaks all over the world—at West Point, The Army War College, and teaches at Fordham Law School

 

Denise Hill, Ph.D., APR Assistant Professor Elon University School of Communications

Denise Hill is an assistant professor at Elon University’s School of Communications, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in strategic communications. Dr. Hill is a former chief communications officer with more than 30 years of corporate communications and public relations agency experience. 

Before joining Elon University, Dr. Hill was vice president of corporate communications and public relations at Delhaize America, the U.S. operation of global Fortune 500 grocery retailer Delhaize Group. She previously held chief communication officer positions at Quest Diagnostics and a business unit of Wyndham Worldwide. In addition, she served as a vice president of communication at Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Cigna. She started her career at a Carl Byoir/Hill+Knowlton public relations agency in Philadelphia. 

In addition to her Elon University teaching experience, Dr. Hill was an adjunct instructor of corporate communications and public relations at New York University. She also taught communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

She holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in communications from Temple University, and a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her academic research focuses on public relations and social change, how public relations was used to help marginalized groups in the United States gain civil rights, and African American public relations pioneers. 

Dr. Hill is a member of the board of directors of the Public Relations Society of America. In addition, she is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society, where she serves on the new member liaison subcommittee. Dr. Hill is a member of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the American Journalism Historians Association, and an advisory board member of The Museum of Public Relations. She also serves on APCO Worldwide’s International Advisory Council as a member of its Corporate Communications Strategies subgroup. Dr. Hill serves on the board of directors of Easterseals of North Carolina and Virginia, and she chairs the organization’s development and communications committee. She is a former member of The Seminar, the premier organization of chief communication officers. She also is a former member of The Executive Leadership Council, the preeminent organization of African American business executives.

 

Bill Ide, III, Partner, Corporate Governance, Akerman

A veteran corporate strategist and trusted advisor to public and private companies, nonprofits, and public sector agencies, clients turn to William “Bill” Ide for counsel on crisis response, corporate stewardship, reputation and risk management strategy and corporate governance.

With an extensive history of representing boards and senior leadership in crisis and risk situations, Bill’s practice focuses on providing independent counsel to clients by investigating facts, providing critical legal guidance and, when appropriate, objective remediation recommendations. A leader in the business and legal communities, Bill previously served as senior vice president and general counsel at Monsanto Company, counsel to the United States Olympic Committee and president of the American Bar Association.

Within the business community, he serves on the boards of MetaJure and Rimidi Diabetes, and previously served as a member of the board of directors of Albemarle Corporation (NYSE, ALB) where he chaired the Governance Committee and served on the Audit and Compensation Committees. He also served as a member of the board of directors of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. (NASDAQ: PLKI), where he chaired the Executive and Governance Committees, while also serving on the Audit Committee.

Committed to thought leadership and education, Bill is co-chair of the Advisory Board to the Conference Board’s Governance Center and Program Chair for the Conference Board Chief Legal Officers Council. Bill was a senior fellow and co-founder of Emory University’s Directors Institute. He currently serves on the Audit and Governance Committees of the Clark Atlanta University Board of Trustees and is general counsel and secretary of the EastWest Institute, where he also is chair of the Executive Committee.

 

CLICK HERE TO WATCH ON-DEMAND: https://bit.ly/3hlxsxy 




Richard Levick Asks: ‘What’s a Director to Do?’

“Are directors even relevant anymore?”
– Fortune 150 Board Member

 

Today we release the fourth eBook in our series on challenging issues facing companies and institutions, this one on our thoughts about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. We are planning a number of additional broadcasts soon, including a new series we have developed with CommPRO and the Museum of Public Relations entitled Conversations with America’s Legends, kicking off with Ambassador Andrew Young, which will be added, along with others, to the eBook.

Over the years, I have had the honor of working with and speaking to many boards, public and private, and with many individual board members. Never was I simultaneously impressed and surprised by a question more than the one above. And that was three years ago. The world has only gotten faster, transparency more weaponized, political challenges more divisive. Into the breach, though always there, come sexual and racial issues. Certainly, there is no going back, nor should there be. There’s not even hiding. Leading is the only option.

The number of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion speeches, matters and meetings we have participated in has only escalated in the past number of months, resulting in this new eBook. At each meeting, executives and, particularly, directors, are asking, “What should we be doing?” I find that when I speak about history, trends and what’s next, it all seems too big. Understandable, as we have reduced so many of our board responsibilities down to lists, so here is one to make it more tactical, though these actions all require wisdom, grace and indefatigability, as DEI is not a destination but a journey that never ends.

Crisis Abhors a Vacuum – There are three notable periods in American history prior to the current pandemic where the federal government has utterly failed to assert leadership (James Buchanan, et al., on secession, Andrew Johnson on Reconstruction and Herbert Hoover on the Great Depression). When leadership is absent, others will or are forced to fill it, among them governors, mayors, city councils and CEOs. Companies are now expected to lead on the public health and social issues of the day. Covid-19, #MeToo, #BLM, climate change. As in 1909, corporate neutrality is dead and mercantile activism is expected.

#BLM is Here to Stay – As a director, do not think “this too shall pass.” The Black Lives Matter and associated new Civil Rights movement inspired the largest series of demonstrations in the history of the United States, with 12 to 26 million Americans taking to the streets – during a pandemic – in over 500 cities, far overshadowing the street protests of the anti-war movement in the 1960s and 70s. Activity on social media is 12 to 120 times greater than any of the other high-profile political issues of the day such as climate change, #MeToo, immigration and abortion. Inactivity in the face of an immovable object is a miscarriage of responsibility.

Prepare Rather Than Respond – As challenging as this moment is, it is far easier at this very moment than it will be when the klieg lights are on your company, board or you. Prepare now for leadership.

It Is Not About Symbolism – A diverse advertisement, hire or CSR donation won’t work anymore. Instruct executives to conduct an audit of the full spectrum of the company’s engagements, all the things that make up its profile. This includes political donations, advertisements, brand and social activities, IR, CSR, ESG, legislative priorities, etc. Failure of consistency in one area (e.g., financially supporting a hostile politician) will overwhelm much if not all of the corporate good works.

527s Are No Longer Opaque – Companies have long enjoyed a more neutral approach to political funding activities and, in more recent years, “527” funds (so named for their IRS designation) when a funding position is more likely to be controversial. Until very recently, 527s were hard to track. No longer. When you are doing your corporate housecleaning, fully appreciate that 527s will become transparent.

Ask Simple Questions – I am always amazed at the amount of code used in large companies for critically important decisions. Rather than engage in an open discussion about risks, acronyms and buzz speak takes over and everyone assumes all is well. Digital is but one example. It speaks its own language that few board members understand yet most are reluctant to ask for clarity for fear it will expose what they don’t know. The same is true for other enterprise risks, and this sea change, if not addressed, will certainly turn from opportunity to risk. Ask simple questions and demand simple answers. “Why is our DEI recruiting healthy and yet fails to dent our executive ranks in any meaningful way? How do we fix that with a long-term, institutionalized approach?”

Offer Real Help – Tweets about DEI commitment are powerful and useful, but hollow when not combined with more. Ask executives how they are leading through this challenging period. Are we recommending meaningful financial and mental health recommendations? Have you conducted the audit recommended above so that the company commitment is consistent? Are we showing, not telling?

This Is Going To Get Personal  Change activists – Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Saul Alinsky – never wasted their time in jail. Gandhi wrote My Experience with Truth; King wrote Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and Alinsky wrote Rules for Radicals which, whether they realize it or not, has become the rule book for a new generation of change activists. “Make it personal.” Doxing, call-outs on social media and protests at the homes of executives and board members. You are likely to get called into the public fight one way or the other. If you are standing on the right side of history, bolster your courage and stand firm; if you are standing in the way of history, similarly bolster your courage and lead the change.

It is Now About Stakeholders, Not Just Shareholders – Whether you are publicly traded or not, you have shareholders and stakeholders. Measuring profit through maximization is a great strategy for the quarter, but it increasingly leaves companies antiquated in the future – likely the very near future. What investments, financial and otherwise, can companies make in their expansive view of communities to empower the brand and its evangelists, which build for the future? An expansive view of this is provided below in an article I co-authored with former Monsanto general counsel and private attorney Bill Ide.

Don’t Rush In With “Fixes” – Don’t rush in with the thought of a “fire sale” on DEI. These problems took hundreds of years to get to where we are today. They will not go away with instant fixes, command authority and a few hires. This will take time. And you will get it wrong along the way. Plan for an institutionalized approach that is as sensitive to people who fear they will be displaced as those you are welcoming. This is really difficult stuff where even the language is so loaded and trust so low that missteps are easier than modest leaps forward.

Recruitment and Advancement – We will not fix the DEI challenges with hiring opportunities alone. Saying you recruit from the “Ivies” is a brand, it’s also exclusive. Look at the world differently. Challenges are historic and deep rooted. Look to form close, deep and long term relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and develop training and support programs for years. As directors, don’t just ask about diversity numbers, break them down and study the patterns, then lead.

Silos are Dead – For over 70 years companies have operated as silos – HR, GR, PR, Legal, Brand, etc. But problems, particularly social justice challenges, are fully integrated. Activists look for the weakest point and leverage. As media coverage escalates a recruitment problem, heretofore assigned to HR alone, is now a legal, brand, GR and PR problem, to name a few. Directors should be looking for ways for their companies to integrate their silos so companies think holistically, just like their critics.

If Biden Wins – I am not going to prognosticate, but it is a scenario well worth considering as there is at least a 50% likelihood this may happen. If there is a sweep and the Senate turns over for an entirely Democratic alignment, it creates a moment that occurs only once or twice in a generation. I am not speaking of political power, but the historical kind. Change comes in waves. Prior to 1964, Lyndon Johnson was no Civil Rights leader. Yet, in the wake of the Kennedy assassination and the televised Civil Rights movement, the mood of the country changed radically and quickly. It became Johnson’s raison d’être. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Over 240 new laws were enacted during the first few years of the Johnson Administration because the country was ready. We may be entering a similar moment; as directors, you should be considering it, if not expecting it.

No Company is Exempt – Business-to-Business and Business-to-Government companies luxuriate in the opaqueness of what they do because their customers aren’t usually also activists-citizens. If Takata and Foxconn taught us anything, operating in this sector is no longer a shield to citizen activism. Expect to be in the limelight and act now to do the right things.

Have a Strategy, Not Whack-A-Mole – Think long term and proactively. Develop an approach that will put you in a leadership role. Responding to one problem after another without the systemic approach leads to bad decisions and weaker boards. Activists – unions, #BLM, plaintiffs, etc. – need the Internet to build alliances, support and to communicate direction. Ask questions about how the company is tracking these trends and, just as importantly, how they are evaluating it. Are there potential allies? Thoughtful critics who can provide opportunities? Nascent but critical information that can be corrected before it passes for “truth”? The Internet is where social movements are born. Why wait until they are adults to address them?

Read – This may sound passive, but understanding the historical swings – the Hegelian Dialectics – of business and politics, gives us both understanding and vision. We are in 1918, 1929 and 1968 all at once. We might as well learn from them – reducing errors along the way – and have them serve as our guides.

Courage – Patience, vision, integrity, honesty. These are all needed to exhibit courage. Be willing to question and if necessary sacrifice the board member who stands in the way; the short-term profits that will lead to future exposure; the self-righteous and inflexible leaders; and those that counsel hiding. There is time for reasoned, wise and calm discussion followed by action. Overwhelmingly fear is an emotion which rules us. Fortunately, courage is needed in short supply. But it is, of course, needed now.

Happy reading.

Richard Levick

Download the eBook




The History of Tech PR with Larry Weber

Editor’s Note:  The Museum of Public Relations  presents Larry Weber, one of the “pioneers of  PR” (and founder of Weber/Shandwick). Larry shares some of the turning points in tech PR.

Larry Weber, Chairman & CEO, Racepoint Global

Larry is a globally known expert on public relations and marketing services, founder of several successful public relations and interactive marketing agencies and author of six forward-thinking marketing books. Recognized as a thought leader on the convergence of technology, the Web, and communications, Larry has helped both enterprise and emerging companies become powerhouse brands; his client experience includes ARM, AT&T, Boston Scientific, Coca-Cola, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, John Deere, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, PTC, Panasonic, the Pittsburgh Steelers, SAP, and Verizon Wireless.

Larry has nearly 40 years of experience as CEO of both mid- and large-scale companies. He is co-founder and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX), the largest interactive advocacy organization in the world. Additionally, he sits on the Board of Directors for Pegasystems, Inc. (PEGA) in Cambridge, Mass. and Macromill Group (TYO:3730) in Japan. In January 2019, Larry released his latest book, Authentic Marketing: How to Capture Hearts and Minds Through the Power of Purpose, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Authentic Marketing discusses the need for all companies to have a corporate purpose in order to capture the hearts and minds of today’s audiences.

 




Are You Too Attached to an App?

 

Dr. David Hagenbuch, Ethicist and Professor of Marketing, Messiah University, Author of Honorable Influence, Founder of MindfulMarketing.org 

Of all the dangers facing the United States—natural disasters, terrorism, racism, a global pandemic—who would have thought a social media app would be mentioned among them?  China’s TikTok has aroused the ire of the Trump administration because of its apparent threat to national securitybut is addiction to the app an even greater cause for concern?

For the past year or more, TikTok has been on my radar screen, mainly because I try to keep tabs on what’s trending with the Gen Zs I aim to engage.  Last fall, the topic of the hugely popular social media app came up in one of my marketing classes, which inspired me to ask the question: “Should I be on TikTok?”  Several students immediately yelled “Yes!” while a seemingly equal number shouted “No!”  I wondered if either group had my best interest at heart.

Still not a user, the app gained more of my attention throughout the spring as several of its most popular videos made their way into mainstream media and marketers began talking of TikTok strategies.  Meanwhile, accusations of Chinese spying surfaced, and at least one U.S. firm asked its employees to remove TikTok from company mobile devices.

President Trump then threatened to ban TikTok, only to reverse course a few days later when global tech icon Microsoft indicated interest in buying the meteoric app.  Most recently, the President signed an executive order that will result in barring TikTok from the U.S. market unless an American company buys the app, which has led parent company ByteDance Ltd. to sue the administration.

Each of these intriguing developments has kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering what will happen next, but no news sparked my interest as much as a blurb in an August 4th email blast from marketing tech guru Shelly Palmer, who stated that “TikTok is already near (or at) the top of the list of the most addictive [emphasis added] social media apps.”

Surveillance by a foreign state has seemed like TikTok’s biggest threat, but is Americans’ addiction to the app an even greater concern?

To answer this question, it’s essential to understand exactly what TikTok is, as well as what it’s so rapidly achieved—some of us above a certain age may need a primer.  Steve Wright of Learn Online Video offers a nice overview of the app.  He shares a few of its endless stream of 15-second videos, in which their usually young creators often dance and/or lip sync to popular songs.  Wright describes the content, which is extremely varied, as “a smorgasbord of [the most] weird, creative, amazing, bizarre videos I’ve ever come across.”

Apparently many find the eclectic selection of “simple, goofy, irreverent” videos appealing.  Since its launch in 2017, the app has been downloaded more than a billion times.   According to Liv Benger, writing for Medium, “over 682 million people downloaded TikTok in 2019 and [spent] an average of 50 minutes a day” using it.

Those stats certainly suggest rapid growth and near saturation of specific population segments, but do they actually indicate addiction?  Most of us know how hard it can be to put down our smartphones or other devices and stop checking email, playing games, texting friends, etc.  For some people, those behaviors become compulsive, but do they really rise to the level of addictions?

According to Cornell student Niko Nguyen, the answer is ‘yes.’  In February, The Cornell Daily Sun published an essay in which Nguyen described that the main reason for his difficult decision to delete his TikTok account was that he had found himself “sucked into its addictive grasp.”  He went on to explain why he believed TikTok is addictive:

“The app itself is designed to keep us glued to our screens. With most other social media platforms, the majority of content is derived from accounts that you follow. And although you can follow and “friend” a lot of accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, there’s eventually a point where all the “interesting” content runs dry. With TikTok, that isn’t the case.

Nguyen’s explanation might sound like someone at a buffet who can’t stop filling his plate because, “Everything tastes so good.”  In that case, we’d probably tell the patron he needs to control his own eating; we wouldn’t blame the restaurant for his overindulgence.

TikTok, however, isn’t the ‘typical restaurant.’  It uses something that most other apps don’t, at least not in such a sophisticated way.  Nguyen alludes to that something, which several others identify directly: artificial intelligence (AI). 

Palmer, mentioned near the onset of this piece, is one person who claims AI is at the root of TikTok addiction.  He say, “TikTok is a remarkably sophisticated AI model that literally tunes itself to your behaviors with a single goal: addicting you to TikTok.”

Others have further unpacked how AI might accomplish that objective.  In a New York Times article, John Herman identified the technology underlying each TikTok user’s very personalized For You page as “an algorithmic feed based on videos you’ve interacted with, or even just watched.”

Unlike other social media in which users have a significant say in the content they receive by virtue of who they friend or follow and what those people post, TikTok’s AI notes what users actually like to watch, regardless who shared it, then sends them more of the same, making TikTok “more machine than man.”

A piece in Fixing Port supported the same assertion:  “The TikTok algorithm can be blamed for this [addictiveness] to an extent. The algorithm sees what type of content you are watching (particular uploaders, particular genres, etc.) and then customizes the upcoming content to that liking.”

In The New Yorker, Jia Tolentino detailed her own ‘addiction’ to the AI-driven app:

“I was giving TikTok my attention because it was serving me what would retain my attention, and it could do that because it had been designed to perform algorithmic pyrotechnics that were capable of making a half hour pass before I remembered to look away . . . The algorithm gives us whatever pleases us, and we, in turn, give the algorithm whatever pleases it. As the circle tightens, we become less and less able to separate algorithmic interests from our own.”

In her article on Medium, Benger identified a psychological phenomenon, random reinforcement, that explains more precisely what TikTok users experience:  Although not every video provides the same level of reward, like playing a slot machine, the periodic payouts come often enough that users keep pulling the lever/swiping their screen because the next clip could be a real winner.

The way TikTok employs AI does seem to put the app in a different category in terms of possible addiction.  Whereas traditional methods of generating engaging content eventually run dry, the app’s AI-based video selection seems to know consumers better than they know themselves, allowing an endless array of just-often-enough, captivating content.

Notwithstanding these authors’ insightful analyses of the app, two important and closely-related questions remain that none has appeared to answer:

  1. What exactly is addiction?
  2. Just because something is enjoyable, is it addictive?

Most people would likely easily answer the second question, ‘No,’ as there are many things that are very enjoyable to consume (i.e., eat, use, do) that are probably not ‘addictive,’ for instance:  take-out from a favorite restaurant, a round of golf, a concert, ice cream!

Over the years, I’ve often written about potentially addictive products, some of which have included:

  1. Alcohol
  2. E-Cigarettes
  3. Gambling
  4. Pornography
  5. Online shopping
  6. Smartphones
  7. Video games

​In researching to write these and similar pieces, a few things I’ve learned are:

  • People tend to play fast and loose with the word addiction.
  • Genuine addictions tend to occur in relatively large percentages of the population, not with just a few people.
  • There are specific clinical criteria for classifying substances and other things as addictive:

             – an overpowering need
– a tendency to increase consumption
– a psychic dependence.

Although it’s common to hear people say things like, “That cake is so good; it’s addictive,” it’s unlikely that any of the clinical characteristics of addiction apply to eating cake.  For these reasons, when I wrote the blog posts above, I concluded that numbers 1-4 are often true addictions, while Numbers 5-7, though problematic for certain people, really aren’t.

TikTok, seems to fit best with the second set of products as a non-addiction.  That doesn’t mean that the app isn’t a time sink for some, or that it doesn’t present other potential problems.  Most people, however, likely can control their use of the app by setting time limits and mustering some will power.  Also, as Nguyen showed, it’s not that hard to close one’s TikTok account—it’s certainly much easier than dealing with a drinking problem or stopping smoking.

TikTok appears to provide its target market with inexpensive entertainment while also inspiring creativity and collaboration among users.  Although some of us may not understand its appeal and there could be other issues with its content or use, at this point the app should be ‘swiped up’ as “Mindful Marketing.”


About the Author: Dr. David Hagenbuch is a Professor of Marketing at Messiah College, the author of Honorable Influence, and the founder MindfulMarketing.org, which aims to encourage ethical marketing.




Has Time Gone Out the Window When Pitching Editors and Reporters?

Kristine Maloney, Assistant Vice President, TVP Communications

Cristal Steuer, Senior Strategist, TVP Communications

Many higher ed communicators have not had the opportunity to proactively pitch faculty experts, op-eds or feature stories recently because issues related to COVID-19 and systemic racism have necessitated a constant focus on crisis communications.

Neither of these issues are going away soon, but as the new semester begins (whether online or in-person), and a new crop of high school students begin the college application process, it will be increasingly important to find ways to highlight institutional mission, faculty expertise and successful solutions to the situations currently facing campuses.

We consider ourselves among the lucky ones who, in the midst of colliding crises, have been able to continue to pitch faculty expertise and op-eds. And we’ve noticed some changes. For most of our careers we’ve worked by rules based on newsroom schedules that guided when to send pitches. But with most reporters now working from home—juggling news that is changing by the minute with family obligations—the mid-morning pitch may have gone out the window. Barring breaking news, is there a new best time to pitch editors and reporters?

For one particular piece, we had luck corresponding with an editor at 7 a.m. We also had an editor get back to us at 2:30 a.m., in the same time zone. Normally, we would never pitch on a Friday afternoon, but recently late Friday pitches receive responses that day or over the weekend. We recently asked a few of the journalists we work with regularly how their work has changed and how we can best help support them during a time of furloughs, layoffs and working from home.

One editor at a national business outlet said she is trying to keep normal 9-5 work hours and shares that she likes receiving pitches during regular work hours rather than late in the evening.  Another commentary editor said he’s getting more pitches than before. “That means it’s doubly important to make sure the crux of the pitch is at the top of your email and it’s easy to understand. And as always, I want to know what the piece will be about, not the headline/teaser,” he shared.

A reporter at a national education outlet said he finds himself responding to inquiries later in the evening now than he might have done in the past. “The lines between ‘work time’ and ‘home time’ do seem a little more blurred than in the past,” he shared. A commentary editor at a national publication said, “Editors (probably just like communications people) always feel like they are working all the time. Personally, I’m sticking pretty much to my normal hours but doing some more work late at night because there’s a child at home during the day,” she explained.

As one higher education reporter put it, “My work hours are all over the place. I guess I am more likely to see an email that comes early in the day, but [time has] all gone out the window.”

One thing is definite, editors are being inundated with pitches and written pieces. Op-eds we would have expected to place in a couple days are taking weeks as journalists catch up with their inboxes. This has been the case since the earliest weeks of the pandemic and requires written pieces to meet an even higher bar, as we wrote about in this piece for Inside Higher Ed’s Call to Action blog. 

We both work from home with children and understand time constraints; we have started to feel like sending a pitch at 7 a.m. is fine if it works for us, and editing a piece after the kids go to bed works if it will make our next day a little easier. While adjusting to new hours, we are just happy faculty and staff with expertise and possible solutions to the issues we are facing continue to share their scholarship.   


About the Authors:

Kristine Maloney

Kristine has forged strong relationships with members of the national print and broadcast media on a wide range of beats. Her work with college administrators and faculty has helped to establish them as leaders among their peers and in the media. And her passion for sharing student perspectives and stories has contributed to measurable enhancement of their institutions’ national profiles.

In her role at TVP Communications, Kristine also serves as a co-editor and contributor for the Inside Higher Ed blog, Call to Action, which explores the marketing and communications for higher education and the collegiate experience through a variety of industry voices.

Prior to joining TVP Comms, Kristine built and managed a comprehensive media and public relations program at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. She also served for a time as the associate web editor at Holy Cross, where she was responsible for strategic content planning, branding and message development.

 

Cristal Steuer

After spending four years as a writer and producer—and a stint running the teleprompter—in television newsrooms in both Boston and Springfield, Mass., Cristal entered the world of higher education media relations and never looked back.

Cristal brings more than 15 years of experience in higher education media and public relations, strategic communications, and storytelling to clients of TVP Communications. As one of the agency’s star pitchers, her tenacity and timeliness help her find success when sharing trend stories and research and scholarship of faculty and senior administrators with a wide range of journalists and editors across the country. With a good sense for compelling narratives and the ability bring faculty expertise to the forefront, she has secured placements with ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fortune.com, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, Inside Higher Ed and the Associated Press, among others.

Prior to joining TVP Comms, Cristal set new standards for the strategic media relations and communications team at the College of the Holy Cross. For six years she worked as the media relations manager beside Kristine, and eventually took over the national media relations and communications program for her last three years on campus.




Political Lessons Learned From The Primary Season (And How They Apply To Agency Situations)

Arthur Solomon

It seemed like it would never end. It was a victim of the coronavirus. But unlike the still increasing, devastating, and deadly coronavirus it finally did, when on August 11 Connecticut held the last scheduled Democratic primary of the 2020 presidential campaign, even though it was known months ago that former vice-president Joe Biden would be the Democratic candidate. (Note: The Puerto Rico primary on Sunday, August 9, was suspended in mid-voting because there weren’t’ enough ballots delivered to polling sites. The remainder of the primary was tentatively rescheduled for Sunday, August 16.)*

During the primary season, before it was evident that Biden would be the Democratic candidate, I wrote a column after each TV debate on this web site giving my analysis of the situation, importantly including lessons learned that could be applied to agency non-political accounts. More on those later.

But first politics: The most important lesson learned from the primary season is that it’s time for the caucuses to go the way of the five cent ice cream cone. The caucus, helped by media reporting that exaggerates their importance, proves nothing. They give the winner of a caucus bragging rights for a few weeks, nothing more. They provide the political pundits with story lines that have as much validity as the advice provided from a race track tout, nothing more. 

The caucuses are dominated by the few voters who have time to kill, like the ladies who lunch, or the men who tune in to sports talk radio for countless hours, arguing the merits, or lack of, of the designated hitter role, or, maybe, if Joe DiMaggio was a better center fielder than Mickey Mantle. Not participating in the caucuses are the 99.9% (maybe more?) of voters who cast a ballot in a primary and then get on with their daily life. 

Those who benefit most from the caucuses are not the winners. It is the local economies that cater to the influx of visiting political activists and media reps. The caucuses have been dying a slow death. In 2020, Kansas, Maine and Hawaii ditched their caucuses and switched to a primary voting system. It’s time for the few caucus states remaining to discard this undemocratic method of selecting a candidate and open up the voting with a primary election that makes it easier for everyone to participate.

The great majority of PR people will never be involved with political campaigns, as I was. My first PR job was with a political agency, where I worked on local, statewide, and presidential campaigns. During that time, I learned lessons from political PR pros who threw away the text books used in communications schools. I encourage all PR people to pay attention to the political scene; better still, consider volunteering your services to a campaign. It will provide a Master Class in dealing with the media. 

Here are some of the most important PR lessons from the primaries that can be applied to non-political agency life:

Let’s begin with the most important take-a-away from the primary season that applies to accounts you’re most likely to work on during your career: PR people should not assume that an early success when launching a new program means that the end results will be what you promised a client. In the Iowa caucus, the first Democratic nominating contest of the 2020 primary season, Pete Buttigieg was the winner; Joe Biden finished a poor fourth. Point proven.

Here are other lessons to remember:

Assumption: In the early days of the primary season, many pundits proclaimed Sen. Bernie Sanders as the ultimate winner: Many PR people proclaim a new program a success when the launch of a program gains positive media the next day or for several days later. Both assumptions are wrong. In the Sanders’ situation he was proclaimed the presumptive winner of the presidential nomination by pundits before the primaries commenced. But in April, Sanders discontinued his campaign, partly because of the coronavirus outbreak, but mostly because of his lack of support by voters. Relation to Our Business: It’s not unusual for a new PR program initiative to receive coverage during the first few days after the launch, and then fade away. Lesson: A few early hits do not indicate a successful program. Success or failure will not be known for many months. Advice: Don’t write self-congratulatory memos to the client about the success of a program until results over many months are in. Important to Remember: What an account team might consider a success, a client might not.

Assumption: Because of his popularity with young voters, Sen. Sanders believed that they would overwhelmingly support him in the primaries. They didn’t. Relation to Our Business: Many PR people believe that because they have good relations with journalists, a reporter will do them a favor when needed. The days when reporters would do “favor” stories are largely gone because of technology. Many reporters never go to the office and have to continually update stories. Thus it is more difficult than ever to form a “buddy” relationship with a journalist. Lesson: As Sen. Sanders found out when his Bernie Bros didn’t vote for him, never count on a pal to bail you out by writing a story. Too many eyes are watching. Also, because of layoffs and the discontinuation of pubs there are less print news outlets that clients care about. Advice: The best way to assure media success is to pitch stories that work for the media and the client. Important to Remember: Too often, media friends have told me, because I was a journalist prior to joining the PR business, the majority of releases from PR people are tossed, as are pitches, because they are client-centric, making them useless. And because of that pitches from PR people who continually send “no news” pitches are not even read. 

Assumption: Former New York city Mayor Michael Bloomberg assumed that he could gain the nomination by spending considerably more money than the other presidential hopefuls. Relation to Our Business: Many PR people blame lack of a sufficient budget for their program’s failure. Lesson: Just as spending money on an expensive dog and pony show press conference doesn’t assure media success, neither did Bloomberg’s massive expenditures during the primaries work. Advice: Because of the 24 hour news cycle, and reduced staffs, the days when a press conference was sure to attract a large number of journalists has largely disappeared. They are a waste of money that could better be used to help clients in other ways, like arranging round table discussions with beat reporters who cover the topic. Important to Remember: The size of a budget does not guarantee media success. It’s the content of your pitch that that matters.

Assumption: The larger the budget for a PR campaign, the greater the success of the campaign. Relation to Our Business: Account people always strive for larger budgets. Lesson: Joe Biden had much less money to spend during the primaries and had trouble raising money. (While other candidates had considerably more money to promote their campaigns, no one came close to Sen. Sanders; Bloomberg’s efforts were self-financed.) Advice: If a PR effort falters, never complain to a client that it was because of a limited budget. If a budget was not sufficient, the client should have been notified before the beginning of the campaign and different tactics should have been suggested. Important to Remember: As the Biden’s primary victory showed, the size of a primary budget does not guarantee media success. The same is true with PR initiatives. It’s the newsworthiness of your PR campaign that determines success or failure.

Assumption: Long-planned strategies by candidates before the primary season began and detailed planning by PR agencies for their initiatives will assure successful roll outs of plans. Relation to Our Business: The best planning does not assure the success of a program. Lesson: The coronavirus epidemic disrupted the plans of both primary candidates and PR firms. Advice: Always have a back-up plan. Important to Remember: As Robert Burns wrote in his 1785 poem “To A Mouse,” “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ MenGang aft agley.”

Assumption: Television debates during the primary season will help little known candidates break through the clutter. Relation to Our Business: Good publicity will not necessarily help a client to stand out. Lesson: The media pundits loved the debates, but the debates had little affect on voters. Advice: Wasting your client’s money by suggesting programs that have little chance of advancing you client’s goals is a malpractice of PR. Never suggest a program you don’t believe in because the clock is running out or because you believe it will be easy to get reporters to cover the story. (Example: Using well-known celebrities who are not adept on delivering client talking points during TV interviews or whose own stories dominate the interviews.)  Important to Remember: The Democratic candidates during the primary season dropped out of the running early, throwing their support to Biden, probably fearful of doing what the Republican presidential candidates did during the 2016 primary – squabbling among themselves instead of rallying behind one candidate until it was too late to prevent Trump from gaining the nomination. Never think you have all the answers to a client’s problem. The best plans are conceived by incorporating other people’s good ideas into programs.  And never act as if you’re the smartest person in the room, even if you are.

Assumption: Responding promptly to reporter’s questions is always a good media strategy. Relation to Our Business: I always believed, and practiced, that rushing an answer before you are prepared to do so should never be done, especially during a PR crisis situation, when the facts are still murky. Lesson: Because of  the Covid-19 situation , which curtails his travel,  the Biden campaign seemingly has added a new twist to not giving in to reporter’s endless questions, which began after the  Super Tuesday primaries, of who he will choice for vice-president. He kept them guessing. As a result, the campaign gained weeks of national publicity, even though Biden stood at home. Advice: If you can’t handle the media pressure, there are many other aspects of public relations that you may be better suited for than dealing with the press. Important to Remember: During a crisis, once the facts are known, disseminate the bad news ASAP. Conversely, try to dribble out good news as long as possible in order to gain consistent favorable media coverage.

There are also two important lessons that PR people should heed from the pandemic pressers of President Trump and Gov. Cuomo, some of which were held during the primary season. 

Assumption: A press conference featuring the CEO of a major corporation will impress the media. Relation to Our Business: Some PR practitioners feel that the CEO of a company in crisis should lead the response to the media. Lesson: The coronvirus epidemic magnified an important lesson that PR people should heed. The higher a speaker is in the corporate structure, the more closely what is said will be checked for accuracy. (Everything President Trump said during his daily pressers was fact checked for accuracy, sometime in real time, and his many misstatements, to phrase it politely, were reported on). Advice: Always fact check every statement by a client before meeting with the press. Important to Remember: The CEO of a company and its size will not deter the media from pointing out inaccurate statements, exaggerations and outright lying. The same goes for PR people no matter which agency you’re employed by or what your title is. Be careful of what you and your clients say when talking to the media. The “gotcha” journalists will point out your fibs on TV and in print. As they should.

Assumption: The loftier a speakers title the greater press coverage a press conference will receive. Relation to Our Business: Some PR people still think that reporters are anxious to interview corporate CEOs and presidents. Lesson: It’s the news revealed at press conference that determines the coverage, not the speakers. Advice: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pressers provided a template for PR people on how to prepare clients for an interview. Cuomo would begin each one by announcing new facts. But he quickly transitioned to working in his most important talking points early in the presser, not waiting or hoping that reporters would bring up the subjects. PR people should use the same technique. Important to Remember: Unlike years ago, when editors would eliminate talking points from reporters’ stories, saying they were too commercial, most will permit them, but it’s up to the client to work them in smoothly.

In conclusion, I found all of the Democratic primary debates boring. It’s time for a new debate format in which only hard news boots on the ground political reporters, who really know what they are talking about, ask the questions, instead of the high profile studio cable stars, who only ask top of the shelve questions, whose answers viewers already knew from tuning in political news shows or reading the morning newspapers. Especially evident during the made for TV show debates was the lack of journalistic ability of questioners not being able to change their prepared questions or ask follow-ups depending on the candidates rehearsed answers. 

In comparison, the 2016 Republican debates were much more interesting because you never knew what would come out of Donald Trump’s insulting mouth. But after nearly four years of his administration we now know: A totalitarian-admiring, divisive egotistical, racist “how can it help me and the heck with everyone else” president who is incapable of leading the country during a crisis. (I’ll take boring any day.)

Finally, my advice about listening to the pundits on TV during any election: If you are really interested in the political ups and downs ignore 99.9% of what is said on the cables.

Here’s why:

  • Cable reporters often parrot “inside” polling information from a candidate’s campaign. Question: Do you really think bad news about a candidate would be divulged? Not a chance. (As someone who has worked on political campaigns, including at the presidential level, I can attest to that.)
  • Much reporting by the cables begins with the lead-in, “Our sources tell us.” See above bullet for my answer.
  • Pundits often say, “So and so is leading, but here’s why it might not hold up.” Question: How do they know? They’ve been wrong so many times in the past. Check their track records. Ask Al Gore and Hillary Clinton or all the GOP presidential candidates during the 2016 primary season.
  • Political pundits are paid by the networks to give an opinion, even if it’s not based on information they’ve investigated. (Being correct and opining on something new is not a requirement That’s why all the expert pundits who declared Hillary Clinton the winner in 2016, until the votes came in, are still on the job.) Their opinions are formed from the same information you can get by reading a newspaper like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or other respected journals.

Soon the presidential debates will begin with their ridiculous format of having the candidates answer questions in a few seconds, instead of giving them sufficient time to fully state their positions. 

Even worse, after each debate TV pundits will criticize the demeanor, if not the replies, of the candidates and wonder if they “can recover from their poor performance.” (Question: Who elected the TV pundits to decide which candidate was better? Answer: They elected themselves. ) But the main reason these presidential debates, as were the ones held during the primaries, are ridiculous is because too many people think the way a candidate can answer a question is the determining factor on how he will govern as president. And TV is to blame for that preposterous assumption.

There’s a simple way that the cable networks can improve their election night coverage: Do away with the multi-tiered panels of pundits, where each one has a different opinion, and just report the votes tallies as they are known. (But I have a better chance of becoming president than the cables doing that.)

Candidate’s remarks should be fact checked for accuracy as they make them. Period. Exclamation Point.

In this election, voters will have a living history on how the candidates will govern if elected because both Trump and Biden’s records are known. Voters should decide for themselves and not be swayed by the comments of TV pundits or the candidates’ surrogates. 

But if you prefer comic-relief, tune in the cable channels, especially the programs hosted by Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham and the other fabulists on Fox News, all of whom must have majored in creative commentary at Trump University.

*(Based on my experience working on all levels of political campaigns, including presidential ones, if I was advising Joe Biden, I would have suggested that he delay his announcing his vice presidential selection until the day before, or on the day of the Democratic Convention, when the suspended Puerto Rico primary will probably have been concluded. Doing so would show respect for the Puerto Rico citizens in the U.S., whose votes could make the difference in states like Florida, which an estimated 1,128,000 Puerto Ricans call home. I also would advise Biden to not make the Hillary Clinton mistake and neglect “sure thing” states, or run on a “stronger together” campaign, as Clinton did.  Each day, Biden, his veep and surrogates should concentrate mostly on the inept handling of the coronavirus by Trump, especially emphasizing how the president has disregarded the advice of medical scientists throughout the pandemic, how doing so has affected all facets of life and is now urging schools to reopen, essentially using children as guinea pigs and campaign fodder. That’s probably the one issue that Americans of different political beliefs can agree with. All other issues are secondary. )

Now that Biden has selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate, you can bet the house, condo, co-op or farm that for the next week or so the TV pundits will be discussing winners and losers among the other contenders. Here’s my opinion: Among the losers were all the other female Black hopefuls. But the biggest loser of all is a male who was pleading for voters to support him during the primaries – Sen. Cory Booker, because if the Biden-Harris ticket wins, Sen. Harris will be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2024, and the possibility of her choosing a Black veep is as likely as me growing younger, not older, every tick of the clock.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.




McDonalds Does Crisis Management the Right Way

David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

McDonalds stands out for handling its latest crisis with former CEO Steve Easterbrook right.  The fast food giant let Easterbrook go last year after discovering that he had had a consensual relationship with an employee.  When McDonalds terminated Easterbrook last year it said it had evidence of only of a non-physical, consensual relationship, consisting of intimate text messages and video calls.  The company agreed to terminate Easterbrook “without cause” fearing a protracted legal battle with him over his severance package.  Normally that would have been the end of the story. 

Yet in July, following a tip from an employee, , McDonalds started a second investigation, which uncovered “undisputable evidence” of three other sexual relationships.  Investigators found nude photographs sent from Easterbrook’s company email account as well as messages showing that he approved a grant of company shares worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of the employees “shortly after their first sexual encounter”.  Today, McDonalds announced that it was suing Easterbrook to recover its payout of reportedly $40 million.

McDonalds actions shows the new environment that we are operating under in the aftermath of the #metoo movement.  The aftermath also calls for brands to take a different approach in dealing with any form of misconduct and managing the crisis.

The new rules for brands in dealing with a crisis dealing with issues of sexual misconduct are:

  1. A full and transparent investigation of the allegations
  2. Making a swift decision on how to act based upon the findings
  3. Being proactive in getting the story out first
  4. Being totally transparent with the findings of the investigation
  5. Announcing the path forward

McDonalds has handled its crisis out.  By dealing with the allegations that surfaced in a swift manner and announcing this lawsuit, McDonalds has set a standard that other companies are sure to follow.


David JohnsonAbout the Author: David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group.  Additional information on him and his company may be obtained at www.strategicvisionpr.com




Jeter Speaks Out On Reports About Marlins COVID Outbreak

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR 

After several days of continual reports and an ever-increasing number of players reported exposed or positive for COVID-19, Miami Marlins officials sat down with members of the media. These decision makers included Baseball Operations President Mike Hill, Manager Don Mattingly, and CEO Derek Jeter. 

During the virtual news conference, these officials acknowledged that 21 members of the team’s traveling party, including 18 players, were sick. Jeter made it clear that the players who had tested positive were “doing okay” physically, some showing no symptoms, others only showing mild cold symptoms. 

Responding to the findings of a Major League Baseball investigation, Jeter said it is “impossible” to know when and where the infection entered the clubhouse or how the players became ill. Media put together a timeline showing that the Marlins played two exhibition games in Atlanta, then opened their season in Philadelphia. Sometime, during that trip, the first members of the travelling party probably contracted the disease. Jeter put it bluntly: 

“Guys were around each other, they got relaxed, and they let their guard down… They were getting together in groups, they weren’t wearing masks as much as they should have… They weren’t social distancing… The entire (group) got a little too comfortable.” 

To that, though, the CEO and perennial baseball all star added a strict caveat, contradicting rumors that players had been out gallivanting all over Atlanta. “Our guys were not running around town… We did have a couple leave the hotel to get coffee or clothes. One guy left to have dinner at a teammate’s house. There was no hanging out at bars, no clubs, no running around Atlanta…” 

Mattingly showed obvious frustration at the rumors of “recklessness,” telling the media it was frustrating trying to push back at all the rumors, because they couldn’t respond to every assumption and rumor being passed around. So, one purpose of the press conference was clearly to magnify and amplify this message, in an effort to squash the rumors. 

The team made the decision to suspend the Marlins’ season temporarily, as members of the team’s traveling party were left stranded in Pennsylvania. Later, these team members were allowed to return to Miami, where they remain quarantined as of this writing. 

Jeter assured reporters and frustrated fans that he is “optimistic” that players will more closely follow the MLB virus protocols for the remainder of the season: “We’ve been given an opportunity to hit the reset button… I hope people look at what happened to us and use that as a warning to see how quickly this is able to spread if you’re not following the protocols…” 

In the meantime, the Marlins are in the process of calling up several players from the minor leagues to help them fill out their roster until the quarantined players can return.


Long-term Investigations Create Two Specific PR Challenges - Ronn Torossian CommentaryAbout the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading NY PR agency.