Problems Perpetuate When Blame Circles Back to the Blame Initiator

Tabitha Laser, CSP

Human beings are an extremely intelligent and prideful species.  In many instances, these traits help us innovate, improve, and expand our horizons.  Unfortunately, these same traits have a nasty habit of preventing us from addressing the problems that continue to plague companies around the globe.  Our intelligence often misleads us into believing we have the answers and our pride prevents us from acknowledging that isn’t always the case.  What results is a tendency to place blame because we are reluctant to look in the mirror and hold ourselves accountable for our actions.

All that finger pointing is a direct result of employees not being aligned with the values of the company. According to a survey of nearly 100 HR professionals revealed that only 22 percent said that over 60 percent of their employees know the company’s core values. The staggering number here is that between zero and 40 percent of employees knew their company’s core values, and 29 percent of them in the 0-20 percent range.

This is a symptom of the disease of not building a strong enough foundation to sustain the wear and tear of everyday life.

The root of most undesired events leads back to weaknesses in a company’s foundation and/or leadership, both of which need to be strong to achieve sustainable success. When leadership fails to hold themselves accountable for problems that arise and try to shift blame to others, it’s a lot like replacing a fuse that keeps shorting out with a penny.

Ironically, the blame game quickly morphs into a self-destructive game of duck duck goose!  Nobody wants to be it, so they just keep running around, blaming others, and failing to address the root of the problem.  It’s an extremely difficult habit for most leaders to break because they have various advisors (e.g.: legal, human resources, safety, shareholders, etc.) advising them not to accept fault, and because it tends to be easier to point fingers somewhere else rather than deal with the bigger issues.  For example, it may seem easier to terminate an employee for not following the rules rather than admit that the rules may be flawed and have to go through the hassle of revising them.  As mentioned earlier, getting rid of the employee will stop that person from breaking the rules, but doesn’t prevent the problem from happening again.  Instead, this type of action ends up causing more harm than good by breeding a workplace culture of animosity and fear.   Failing to address the root of the problem combined with a weakened culture is a recipe for disaster.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of tactics that can help leaders fix problems their companies are currently facing:

  1. Acknowledge all of the existing and potential problems facing the company
  2. Assess the risks associated with each problem
  3. Identify the controls that need to be in place to prevent problems from occurring and mitigations that should be in place to lessen the impact to the company in the event the problem arises
  4. Develop long-term plans to address gaps identified and continuously improve

They four key tactics are just the beginning of the process.

In order for your culture and organization to thrive, leaders need to espouse their values at every point. It means living your values; in other words, talking the talk and walking the walk. It means having enough wisdom to stop applying band-aids to a gaping wound. It’s tempting to “fix” a problem and hope it never comes up again, but leaders must resist doing that on a regular basis.

Leaders need to communicate a clear vision, always. They need to implement ideas and drive change. They need to turn away from the crutch that is finger pointing and placing blame on everyone and have the courage to share the credit with every member of the team – top to bottom. If employees feel like they’re under the microscope and will get blamed all the time, it’ll only increase dissatisfaction and turnover rates while decreasing productivity. You don’t need to have a PhD in business to know this is a bad combination.

It’s never too late to turn things around, but we need to start looking in the mirror and having the conviction of sticking to our values to create an atmosphere of growth.

As a leader, you need to break the cycle of blame.

Problems Perpetuate When Blame Circles Back to the Blame InitiatorAbout the Author: Tabitha Laser is a multi-faceted professional with over 25 years of leadership experience in a variety of industries ranging from oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, agriculture, construction and more. Her diverse background has provided her opportunities to work with government agencies and some of the world’s largest companies, including Fortune 500 companies, BP, 3M, and General Mills. Her expertise has fueled her passion to help shape the next generation of leaders, especially millennials, to help avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors and lead beyond best. Tabitha is the author of Organization Culture Killers. The first book in a series of leadership books she calls, “The Deadly Practices.” Follow Tabitha.






Over-50 Market Worth $7.6T, Making Older Consumers a Smart Bet

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Americans aged 50 and older account for 51 cents of every dollar spent in the United States and generate $7.6 trillion in annual economic activity, which makes this demographic equivalent to the world’s third-largest economy.(1) And with the 50-plus population projected to grow from 115 million in 2018 to 132 million by 2030,(2) their financial clout will likely continue to grow. While many brands have made millennials their top target, Chargebacks911—a dispute mitigation and loss prevention firm—advises merchants not to overlook older consumers, whose purchasing power offers a path to sustainable profitability.

A new AARP report projects that as of 2030, adults 50 and over will spend $84 billion on tech products.(2) Computer penetration among this group is 91%, smartphone ownership rose from 70% to 75% in one year, and 49% own a smart TV, with another 9 million planning to buy one this year.(2) Visa forecasts that consumers over 50 will be responsible for 51% of aggregate spending by 2020, while under-35 millennials will account for just 19%, falling to 18% by 2025.(3) In fact, Visa’s 2018 holiday outlook suggested that Generation X and Baby Boomers are already outspending millennials by a ratio of nearly 4 to 1, with the under-35 demographic contributing just 21% of holiday sales.(4)

“As brands rush to win over millennials, many are losing sight of a more lucrative audience,” noted Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder and COO of Chargebacks911. She points out that Gen-X consumers have started moving into the 50-plus age bracket over the past couple of years—a transition that should redefine how businesses approach this population segment. “Rather than focusing the bulk of marketing budgets on millennials and new prospects, merchants would be better served by diversifying their spend and allocating a larger portion to the over-50 crowd and to retention of existing customers.”

PaymentsSource recently identified specific challenges in pursuing younger consumers: “they are costly to acquire, have fewer financial assets and hold little to no brand loyalty.”(5) The publication warns that focusing too heavily on customer acquisition could leave a firm “vulnerable to losing its more profitable, long-term clients—many of whom tend to be older.”(5) An Adweek analysis supports that conclusion, reporting that it is five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain a current one, while the probability of selling to existing customers is 60% compared to just 5% for new prospects.(6)  

Eaton-Cardone cautions that the risk of fraud can grow if merchants place greater emphasis on quantity of customers over quality. If a large proportion of new customers prove to be one-time purchasers drawn by loss-leader deals or if they initiate a high number of returns, refund requests or chargebacks, a merchant’s losses could exceed the value of those sales. This issue appears to be particularly problematic in the online sector. For the retail industry as a whole, 18% of fraud losses are due to chargeback fraud and 20% to fraudulent refund requests; yet for eCommerce merchants, those figures are 30% and 27%, respectively.(7) In addition, fraud costs as a percentage of revenues average 1.8% for all retailers but climb to 2.38% for eCommerce merchants.(7)  

“If brands begin shifting more of their marketing budgets to older consumers and retention of existing customers, it could pay off handsomely over the long run,” asserted Eaton-Cardone. “Young consumers may not be the ‘holy grail’ many believe them to be; it could take years until they develop more responsible spending habits and brand loyalty. In the meantime, it’s critical to identify your most profitable target audiences, invest in your most loyal clientele, and proactively fight fraud and other ‘profit parasites’. Ultimately, these steps offer the most direct path to sustainable profitability.”

Below, Eaton-Cardone shares a few tips to engage older consumers and current customers:

  • Use social media as a lower-cost way to reach millennial consumers, and place paid ads in media that appeal to older consumers with greater spending power.
  • Don’t limit your best offers to new customers only; show some love to your existing customers to encourage repeat purchases.
  • Monitor reviews and social shout-outs to identify your brand champions, and solicit their feedback and suggestions. If you implement their ideas, be sure to credit and/or reward them.
  • Newsletters can help you stay top-of-mind with past customers, but make sure those communications provide value rather than just sales pitches to avoid unsubscribes.
  • Include an upgrade or unexpected gift when you fulfill orders for your best customers, which can boost loyalty and prompt word-of-mouth referrals.


  1. AARP. “AARP, at CES 2019, Showcases $7.6T in Annual Economic Activity From Americans Age 50-Plus”; press release issued January 8, 2019.
  2. AARP. 2019 Tech and the 50+ Survey; January 2019.
  3. Best, Wayne. “Gray Is the New Black: Baby Boomers Still Outspend Millennials”; Visa U.S. Perspectives; December 2016.
  4. Visa. 2018 Holiday Spending Outlook; November 2018.
  5. Moeser, Michael. “Data: How Older Shoppers Use FinTech”; PaymentsSource; January 23, 2019.
  6. Brown, Michael and Kinshuk Jerath. “How the Marketing Technology Landscape Will Transform in the New Year”; Adweek; January 2, 2019.
  7. LexisNexis Risk Solutions. 2018 True Cost of Fraud Study; August 2018.

Video Marketing Trends for 2019

Robert DePalma, Owner of DePalma Productions and Co-Owner of Azure Stages 

As technology continues to expand and grow, so does a business’ need for video marketing to help tell its story. This year, the use of video is trending toward being informative, captivating and effective. It’s important to use professional, high quality video to share your message whether you are communicating to clients, employees, business partners or the general public. Following, are two trends that are helping companies grow internally and externally through the use of video assets.

Trend #1: Turning White Papers into Videos

Turning a white paper into an educational video is a big trend we are seeing for 2019. Millennials are the next generation of decision makers and being that their medium of choice is video, turning white papers into a visual asset is becoming more of a necessity for companies.

White papers are a presented analysis or very detailed report on a specific topic. People read them to stay on top of trends, learn more about a product or service, and help them make more informed purchasing decisions. When white papers are turned into video, they are brought to life, become more engaging and interactive. Videos also help make difficult topics easier to grasp and understand. Since video holds so much power, it can help improve sales for a B2B company, or create better business practices for employees and much more.

Trend #2: Internal “Morning Joe” Type Video Podcasts for Corporations 

We are seeing a trend of weekly video podcasts with executives in corporations. These “Morning Joe” type of videos are casual sit downs with executives that are sent to internal employees. They can include basics like, how they start their day, how they unwind and deal with stress, how they strive for a work/life balance, etc. Videos like this are a great way to have the everyday employee see, hear, and get to know their higher ups. They also humanize “bosses” and help them discover things they may have in common.

Video podcasts with executives are a great way to build up corporate communications. They can help your employees understand how that person got to their level/position, with the hopes of inspiring and motivating employees to strive for their own goals. Videos can also give employees an idea of what other divisions across the company do, to help engage employees across departments, improve communication and collaboration, help enact changes and improve processes across the organization. Professionally producing these video segments is vital because it helps reinforce the company’s high-standards and reputation and also helps engage the viewers more effectively (as no one enjoys watching a grainy, shaky, poorly produced video).

Robert DePalmaAbout the Author: Robert DePalma has more than 30 years of experience in the video production industry via his business DePalma Productions, and recently opened a brand-new professional sound stage called Azure Stages located in Scarsdale, NY.



5 Reasons Why Corporate Brand Isn’t Everything, It’s the Only Thing.

Linda Dunbar, Global PR and Corporate Communications Strategist

Much has changed since the sponsorship of Masterpiece Theater by Mobil was considered corporate brand execution. Authenticity and values are now well-established elements of corporate brand but even that is just the beginning. Values are essential to defining who you are as a company. And while stakeholders are looking at values, they are looking for brand connection. Values must be activated to create brand connection, especially if you are consumer-facing.  Companies must live by the values they set out. Especially today when company values are posted on the company website for all to see and a social media crisis can be just a few tweets away at any time. 

In a world where people are seeking purpose, where everyone wants to make a cathedral, not merely cut stone, customers and employees expect more. Armed with iPhone video, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, they are going to get it! The journey of creating and living this narrative against an ever-changing backdrop is corporate branding today. 

1) The Corporate Contract Has Changed

The contract between companies and stakeholders, particularly the critical core triad of investors, employees, and customers has changed.

Companies are being asked to do more. As BlackRock’s Larry Fink pointed out in his 2018 Letter to CEOs, “We also see many governments failing to prepare for the future, on issues ranging from retirement and infrastructure to automation and worker retraining. As a result, society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges. Indeed, the public expectations of your company have never been greater. Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose…Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”[1]

“Doing more” for employees, customers, the environment, society, the global community, requires prioritizing corporate commitments outside of selling a product while tying these commitments to the business in a sensical way. Hence the rise in Corporate Social Responsibility, Environmental Sustainability & Governance, and Diversity & Inclusion.  All of these initiatives are embedded in values.  Corporate values clarify what are you committed to, why, and how are you going to go about it. A well-crafted corporate brand leverages those values, becoming a critical differentiator.

Other large asset managers like Vanguard and State Street also recognize the need for companies to change their assumptions about how they do business. When BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street, representing a combined total of over $13 trillion in assets under management, are pushing companies to rethink how they engage, that changes everything. 

2) Millennials Require It

While still only 35% of the US workforce, Millennials are now 70 million strong and their influence continues to grow. It’s not always a good idea to generalize about that many people but – Millennials want to be proud of where they work.  Everyone wants to be proud of where they work but for many Millennials, feeling aligned with the values of their employer is table stakes.  As customers, they make purchase decisions based on “buy-cotting” and supporting the brands they like based on values. Tom’s Shoes comes to mind.  As investors, they want to invest in values and societal impact.  And they choose employers based on values.  If they don’t feel resonance within a few years, they are going to move on.

In addition to being digital natives living in a e-world that iterates to their needs and wants, Millennials have come into a real world without pensions or job security. There is little personal benefit to sticking around after bonus time, unless they want to. They saw their parents get laid off during their prime working years. They saw the Great Recession wreak havoc.  They reinvented the gig economy.  With mythic entrepreneurial options always looming and the rise of personalized expectations around their interactions with companies and products, they believe they have no time to waste working in or buying from a place that doesn’t make them happy every day.

3) What Plays in Vegas Does Not Stay in Vegas Anymore

The barriers between what goes on inside a company and public access to that information are lower than ever.  Having a coherent, contemporary narrative about your company for employees and customers, investors, media, and other stakeholders is a must.  The inside-out nature of crafting this narrative will ensure internal alignment– which is also a must today, particularly when the membrane between what is internal and external is now highly permeable because of technology, social media, and general expectations. The “incident” that happened on the work floor of that remote factory outpost you inherited in the last acquisition can be on social media and go viral within a day.

Increased expectations of company behavior and adherence to company values juxtaposed against dissolving barriers between internal and external communications make a clear understanding of the corporate brand critical.  As consumer and employee expectations increase and barriers between internal and external communications and information drop, companies need to have a clear understanding of their corporate brands.  A corporate brand is a promise to customers as well as a clear, defined set of values for employees to live by.

4) Values Help When Things Go Wrong

Consumer-facing businesses are on the hot seat today like never before. Not a day goes by without some kind of social media or other crisis.  For companies with many touch points across the country or the world, the risk of incident is high when thousands of employees are interfacing with customers and the general public around the clock.

Case in point: The incident at the Portland, Oregon DoubleTree by Hilton between a security guard, a manager, and a hotel guest talking on his cell phone in the lobby. The security guard and manager were white. The guest was black. He recorded a portion of the incident on his cell phone.

The security guard and manager called the police, for no clearly-articulated reason. When the guest told the hotel security guard that he was staying at the hotel, the security guard replied, on video for all to see, “Not anymore.”  The security guard, manager, and police then forced the guest to remove his personal items from his hotel room and leave the hotel.

According to news reports, this gentleman then checked into a nearby Sheraton hotel. The security guard and manager at DoubleTree by Hilton were fired seven days after this incident was picked up on social media, and within 48 hours of it hitting the press.  The hotel issued the statement that, “Their actions were inconsistent with our standards and values. We reiterate our sincere apology for what he endured and will work with diversity experts to ensure this never happens again.”

The fact is, the incident never should have happened. But things like this can—and do—happen every day to major global companies.

According to the DoubleTree newsroom, “Every hotel brand claims to care about guests, so we know that it’s in our actions that we have to stand apart. Real. Attentive. Cheerful. Flexible. Thoughtful. Honest. Caring.” 

“[Our] core mission is to find ways to make each day more rewarding for every person who encounters and experiences a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel.”

The good news for the DoubleTree is that their corporate values were clear.  The bad news is seven days is too long to respond but it could have been worse. Circling back to current, clearly expressed values allows the company to focus on handling crisis within a pre-defined context.  When you know what you stand for and you are committed to it, you don’t have to spend precious time creating, re-creating, reexamining, or questioning your approach to your corporate reputation. You already know what you promised. The right values make it easier to focus on resolving a potential crisis quickly and in the right way.  

The question remains as to whether DoubleTree has done enough. In the case of the Starbucks incident in Philadelphia in which a white manager called the police and had two black customers removed from the store, for no clear reason, the company closed stores across the country for diversity training. In addition, the CEO met with the two customers to personally apologize and made it clear that this manager’s behavior was in no way aligned with Starbuck’s corporate values.

In contrast, Papa John’s continues to enable a toxic culture of its own making due to its unwillingness to grapple with diversity issues that include racism and sexual harassment. Antiquated corporate values like focus, superiority, and constant improvement are minimum requirements to do business today and woefully miss the mark ( They also demonstrate a lack of aspiration and humanity which is essential to corporate brand now.

5) Activating Corporate Brand Values is Essential to Differentiation and Brand Preference.

Today, competition for employees and customers (sometimes the same people) is intense.  In the current environment, corporate brand is a critical element of brand preference.  Differentiation is more important than ever and vital in preventing commoditization. And in my opinion, differentiation must be emotional, and must resonate.  To quote Carl W. Buehner, “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.”[2]

In a world where people are looking for mission and purpose, the notion of “personal benefits” associated with corporate brand has emerged.  According to the Corporate Executive Board, a division of Gartner research [CEB], “personal benefits” are the biggest drivers of brand connection. “Personal benefits” drive three times more brand connection than authentic values do.[3]  Today, corporate values are the foundation of personal benefits, not the final destination.

Brand preference is based on perceived “personal benefits.”They are all about self-actualization and include “sense of meaning and direction in one’s life; certainty about one’s life and surroundings, and freedom to control one’s life”. [4]  Interestingly, these benefits look very similar to what employees expected from companies prior to layoffs and lack of pensions became a routine way of doing business. But now, the expectation of “personal benefits” is held by employees and customers alike as the barrier between internal and external communications and expectations continues to breakdown.

What Is the Payoff for Getting It Right?

Getting corporate branding right is worth the effort and yields tangible results.

According to the CEB, creating and executing against a compelling corporate brand promise translates into a willingness by 55% of recruits to switch employers for a flat salary. If the corporate brand resonates, 64% of customers are willing to pay a premium for a product or service.  If the corporate brand can move people from values like “the brand respects my community’s local values and traditions” to personal benefits like “the brand helps me achieve my goals,” 74% of community members and activists are likely to make decisions that are supportive of the company. In addition, 40% of social media users are willing to promote the company if they feel a connection.[5] 

Summing It Up…

Nowadays, customer preference, employee engagement, and shareholder value is all about corporate brand.  Mission, purpose, values, authenticity and trust are the new corporate brand guidelines. If you get it right, you can mitigate risk associated with prolonged crises and create the virtuous circle of happy customers, dedicated employees, and investor confidence that enhances enterprise value.

What do you think?

If this article resonated with you, please feel free to connect with me directly and also comment or share.

About the Author: Linda Dunbar is a global PR and corporate communications strategist, business enthusiast, and lifelong learner. A story telling architect who provides strategic counsel across functions and levels, she has extensive progressive leadership experience in PR, media relations, corporate communications, and international strategic planning at dynamic, top-tier, global Fortune 500 companies.  Her passion is helping companies tell their stories.  Linda has previously held communications leadership roles at organizations including Sterling Bancorp., Dow Jones, Ford Motor Company, the American Institute of CPAs, and Philip Morris International as well as at entrepreneurial PR ventures. She has a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies from Princeton University and a Master’s in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School, jointly administered by Harvard and Tufts Universities. Linda can be reached at

[2] 1971, Richard Evans’ Quote Book by Richard L. Evans, (“Selected from the ‘Spoken Word’ and ‘Thought for the Day’ and from many inspiring thought-provoking sources from many centuries”) Quote Page 244, Column 2, Publishers Press, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Verified with scans; thanks to the librarians of Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah)

[3] CEB Communications Leadership Council, Winning Preference Through the Corporate Brand, November 30, 2017

[4] Ibid

[5] CEB Communications Leadership Council, Winning Preference Through the Corporate Brand, November 30, 2017

Gillette Takes A Stand…Is This the Beginning of a New Trend for Popular Brands?

David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

Gillette launched a new commercial on its website and YouTube on Monday, which is in response to the #MeToo movement.  The ad urges men to hold each other accountable, set a higher standard for conduct then in the past, and step up if they see men acting inappropriately towards women.  The commercial is called “We believe the best men can be” playing off of Gillette’s legendary tagline, “the best a man can get”.  The ad has been viewed millions of times.  It is generating strong responses with many saying they will never purchase a Gillette product again.  Others have praised the company for taking a stand on a highly debated social topic.

Gillette Takes A Stand...Is This the Beginning of a New Trend for Popular BrandsIn making this ad, Gillette broke all of the conventions that say brands never take a stand on social or political issues (true Starbucks, Nike, Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby and a few others have been the exception to this rule) for fear of alienating consumers who oppose the position the brand is taking.  Many are predicting Gillette will suffer with lost sales because of this commercial and other companies will use it as a cautionary tale of why not to take positions on major issues.  They are wrong, the Gillette ad is the future for brands.  In this highly polarized society, we will begin seeing brands take more active positions on politics and social issues.

Why will we see this trend?

  1. Today’s consumers expect brands to take stands on social and political issues.  This is particularly true of millennials who give greater loyalty to brands with corporate social responsibility appeals.  But it is also becoming true for all consumers.  A recent survey showed 59% of American consumers will only purchase from a brand that shares their values and if the brand doesn’t they will shop elsewhere.  This percentage is growing annually.  Brands are paying attention to this trend.  Taking a stand on social issues also allows a brand to stand out from its competitors among consumers.
  2. Social media is forcing brands to take a stand. Just look at the power that a tweet by Parkland survivor, David Hogg had with advertisers abandoning Laura Ingraham or the reaction by corporations such as SanDisk, Samsung, SodaStream, Pfizer Inc., IHOP, Nautilus Inc.’s Bowflex,, NerdWallet, and Pacific Life Insurance after social media lit up to Tucker Carlson’s remarks on his show that immigration was responsible for making the United States dirtier.  Deciding to advertise or not is taking a stand.  But social media is no longer just content with companies pulling ads from shows.  Social media influencers are demanding the brands come out and take a stand on a variety of issues from immigration, Me Too, Donald Trump, and other major political and social issues.
  3. Brands are realizing that America is divided and polarized as no time since the Civil War and the divisions are widening. As a result, with more sophisticated consumers and a more polarized culture brands can no longer avoid taking a stand.  That means brands realize they must come down on one side or another in the great divide.
  4. Employees are demanding their companies take a stand on issues. Just as consumers select a brand based upon its values, employees are opting to join companies that share their values on issues.  This is especially important in the current job market.
  5. Investors are demanding more social activism from brands. This trend is growing and brands realize to satisfy their shareholders and board of directors they must stand up and be counted on key social issues.

Gillette’s commercial whether you liked it or disliked it is the trend that all brands will be following.  Brands can no longer stand on the sidelines on political and social issues.  To do so will mean losing consumers.  Look for more brands to follow Gillette with social issue commercials and stands throughout 2019.

David E. Johnson: Lessons Learned: Let's Rock Public Relations in 2018!About the Author: David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and public affairs agency.  Additional information on him and company may be obtained at

Report Card on “Three Top Tech Trends for 2018”

Norman Birnbach, President, Birnbach Communications

The tech industry lives on trends. For those working in organizations that either develop tech or use tech, understand tech trends has clear business implications. But for those in charge of marketing of tech, it’s important to understand what trends will interest reporters and other influencers to determine how your organization can anticipate and develop story angles to leverage interest in that trend that can position you as a thought leader.

Back in Feb. on, I published an article about three important tech trends for 2018, and this article is intended to review our picks and see how we did, with the goal of better understanding tech trends ahead of 2019.

  1. Artificial Intelligence and robotics will continue to be “hot.” Actually, in 2018, AI became the hottest tech trend, eclipsing Bitcoin as the tech that gets the most attention. (According to Google Trends, Bitcoin was untouchable in 2017 but AI and artificial intelligence now generate more searches than Bitcoin. Cloud computing remains significant as a search term but anecdotally isn’t generating the kind of media coverage it once did.) Industrial robotics as a trend is doing well, especially when connected to stories about AI “hot” technologies, increasingly connected. We expect to continue to see scare stories about a “robocalypse” in which A.I.-enabled robots replace human workers but we also expect articles that debunk the scare stories. We said we expected to continue to see scare stories about a “robocalypse” in which AI-enabled robots replace human workers but we also expected articles that debunk the scare stories. Grade: A.
  2. Millennials’ impact will change how companies market products and services. We said we expected marketers to increasingly cater to Millennials’ preferences and needs in 2018. (After all, we saw some companies like Home Depot offer classes on home care topics to get them in the door and buying.) We also expect millennial preferences to become the default choice; for example, doorbells may become vestigial as millennials text, not ring, when they arrive at a friend’s house. Now, near the end of the year, we still think this is true but this trend did not necessarily generate coverage, which is one way we judge the impact of the trends we identify so our grade will reflect a lack of media coverage. Grade: C.
  3. Smart-Home automation gains acceptance but still is a niche offering. We think that smart home technology, including keyless-and-doorbell-free doors, are the future but we feel we were right in categorizing them as still in the early-adopter phase. The one exception we stated was the market for intelligent personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home. According to some projections, in a few years, there will be more personal assistants than people. Grade: A.

Overall, we scored a B+ on tech trends.

We think it’s safe to predict that these trends, especially AI and personal assistants, will continue to be important. That’s good news for marketers who may be thinking about trends they should embrace and try to optimize as they develop their marketing plans for next year.

Norman BirnbachAbout the Author: Norman Birnbach is the president of Birnbach Communications,, a Boston-based PR and social media agency focused on thought leadership that has been issuing annual predictions for nearly two decades. His blog, PR BackTalk, provides insights and attitude about PR, journalism and traditional and social media. 

National Press Club Communicators’ Summit 2018 – Today’s Biggest Challenges: Technology and Inter-Generational Communications


National Press Club Communicators' Summit 2018

On Wednesday, October 31, the National Press Club will host its annual Communicators’ Summit in the National Press Club, Ballroom — located at 529 14th Street, NW — 13th floor. This year’s program will address new technologies (including Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality) that can help public relations professionals and journalists with effective story telling and reaching audiences. At the same time, because technology has opened doors for consumers to get news and information via numerous platforms, communicators need to reach them not just by those platforms, but by using inter-generational — even multicultural language that resonates and engages towards some action — to buy a product, to vote a particular way, support a POV or even just to inform or educate.


8:00-8:30 a.m. – Registration/Networking/Continental Breakfast

8:30-8:35 a.m. – Welcome remarks

8:35-9:35 a.m.  Francesco Marconi, R&D Chief, The Wall Street Journal, will discuss how Artificial Intelligence is delivering new tools that advance the work of journalists and communicators.

9:35-9:45 a.m. – BREAK

9:45-11:00 a.m. — Session I: Understanding Generational Communications — from Millennials, GEN-Y Z, GEN-Y. How to understand these generations from a communicator and journalist POV and how to reach them with messaging in order to influence and drive change, AND how to work and communicate with these people in the most effective way.

  • Shira Harrington – CEO of Purposeful Hire, Inc
  • Omar Jones – Brigadier General, U.S. Army, Chief of Public Affairs
  • Matt Bennett – Executive Vice President, Corporate Communications, Motion Picture Association of America
  • Karen Addis – President & CEO at Addis Communications & National Press Club member (Moderator)

11:00-11:15 a.m. – BREAK

11:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m. — Session II: How media organizations are using different technologies and re-purposing news content to reach readers across various audiences (be they generational, multi-cultural, etc) and how can communicators help journalists and media organizations make their jobs easier knowing that content is edited to fit various audiences?

  • Mary Nahorniak – Deputy Managing Editor of Digital, USA Today
  • Derek Wallbank – Team Leader, Bloomberg First Word
  • Joanie Vasiliadis – Director of Digital Content, TEGNA
  • Lindsay Murphy – VP, Racepoint Global & National Press Club member (moderator)

12:30-1:45 p.m.— Lunch/Luncheon Speaker: Frank Sesno, Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. Sesno will discuss challenges and opportunities, along with take-aways and lessons for today’s communicators – not just how to use innovation get one’s message out to key audiences (via various platforms), but also what are some issues (be they technological, generational, or even political) that get in the way of good communications. Moderated by Andrea Edney, President of the National Press Club.

1:45-2:00 p.m.— Closing Remarks

Follow the conversation on Twitter: #NPClive


Businesses that Bury the Hatchet

Dr. David Hagenbuch, Ethicist and Professor of Marketing, Messiah College

What’s a fun night out with friends for you? Maybe it’s dinner at a favorite restaurant or a trip to the movies to see a new release. How about throwing axes? Thanks to some adventurous entrepreneurs, more and more people are participating in the pastime once reserved for lumberjacks. Hurling hatchets undoubtedly offers an adrenalin rush, but does it hit the mark for Mindful Marketing?

You can count me among those who had no idea that axe throwing is now in vogue. However, like the return of plaid, the trend is becoming harder to miss, as axe throwing sites pop up in cities such as Austin, Baltimore, Denver, Detroit, and Philadelphia and as news media like USA Today, NBC, and the Washington Post cover the craze.

The name is self-explanatory, but what exactly does axe throwing involve? Participants hoist a 14-inch hatchet over their heads and chuck it at a piece of plywood 12-15 feet away. They earn points based on where their axe sticks in the target, e.g., outer ring, inner ring, bullseye, or blue dot (kill shot).

An axe throwing outing can last anywhere from 60 minutes to several hours, depending on who’s throwing and for what reason, for instance, an individual taking in some target practice or a team competing in a tournament league.

The cost of axe throwing also varies, but Backyard Axe Throwing League’s pricing offers a ballpark: about $20/hr. for walk-ins, $36 per person for parties, and $120 per player for eight-week leagues. The businesses usually supply the axes.

Are there really enough consumers willing to pay that kind of money to throw some hardware at some hard wood? Also, do many people have the physical strength and stamina to endure an evening of axe throwing? Apparently the answer to both questions is ‘Yes.’

First, axe throwing hits the sweet spot for American’s largest age demographic, Millennials, who value experiences (often the wilder the better) over things. These young people have a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out). Also, many of them likely recognize their antisocial tendencies involving digital devices and want reasons to put them down so they can interact in person with real humans.

Such consumer desires have undoubtedly spurred the rapid spread of axe throwing and the success of businesses such as Bad Axe Throwing, Bury the Hatchet, and Generation Axe. Backyard Axe Throwing League, which began in 2006, now has over a dozen locations in the U.S. and Canada and claims to have served over a million people.

Second, as the growth suggests, axe throwing is not just for the big and burly. The axes are fairly light (usually less than 2 lbs.), so success depends more on proper form than brute strength. Women and men of all sizes can excel at the craft.

That sounds good, but isn’t axe throwing dangerous? After all, axes have been used for millennia to chop things, including people. Furthermore, many axe throwing establishments also serve alcohol, which seems like a precarious, if not perilous, combination.

Axe throwing businesses, however, suggest that the activity is completely safe, and they provide some convincing support for that claim. For instance, patrons at Bury the Hatchet receive a “safety briefing and training session before they are allowed to participate.” Like many others, this business also uses cordoned off throwing lanes that are “a cross between a batting cage and a bowling alley.”

Bad Axe Throwing, which claims to be “the biggest urban axe throwing club in the world” says that it has never had a single injury. Apparently that track record is due to safety protocol such as inspecting each axe before every event, making sure blades are sharp enough to stick in wood but not sharp to the touch, and requiring that participants “throw and retrieve their axes in sync with one another.”

Also, while not all axe throwing businesses serve alcohol, for those that do, intoxication doesn’t seem to be an issue. Maybe it’s because people go to these places to throw first and drink second, so their desire to perform well acts a restraint on their drinking.

Meanwhile, axe throwing establishments claim some tangible benefits, namely exercise (a person can get a good workout throwing axes as well as bending to pick them up) and relationship building (fewer things bond people together more than competition and/or shared embarrassment). Bury the Hatchet also says that participants can experience stress reliefand get an ego boost, as social media contacts can’t help but like pictures and videos of their friends throwing axes.

Despite these benefits, some may suggest that spending a few hours hurling hatchets is a waste of time and money. Of course, we don’t all have the same tastes in recreation. For some it’s an opera and for others it’s a minor league baseball game that refreshes the mind and reenergizes the spirit. Still, for others it’s axes.

It’s hard to say how long axe throwing will remain the rage, but many more people will likely channel their inner lumberjack and experience the primal trend. Voice assistants and virtual reality may make it seem risky and passé, but axe throwing for fun is “Mindful Marketing.”

Branding “One and Done”

Dr. David Hagenbuch, Ethicist and Professor of Marketing, Messiah College

Clever t-shirt sayings have long been part of American culture, from “I’m with Stupid –>” to “My parents went to ______and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” Foot Locker’s recent promotion of “One and Done” tees, featuring NBA prospects in an infomercial parody, was a slam dunk, but could such a tagline lead people to fall short of their dreams and drop the ball in commitments to others?

The phrase “one and done” is used in a variety of contexts; for instance, parents with one child and no plans for others might say “We’re one and done.” More often, the expression is associated with college athletics, particularly top-tier basketball players who compete at the collegiate level for a single season before turning pro. Driving this behavior is the National Basketball Association’s (NBA’s) one-and-done rule, which requires that players be “at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school” before entering the league.

This b-ball context was the impetus for Foot Locker’s limited edition “One and Done” t-shirt, which it sold strategically, just during NBA draft day and only online and in its Time Square store. One of the commercials that advertising giant BBDO created for the exclusive offer featured projected NBA draftees Trae Young and LiAngelo Ball, both well-known one-and-done players. Meanwhile, comedian Reggie Couz played the over-the-top pitchman, pushing the tees for $29.99 each.

How did the ads do for Foot Locker? They ‘scored’—the shirts sold out online. Draft night also went well for Young, who the Dallas Mavericks selected with the fifth overall pick before trading him to the Atlanta Hawks. Unfortunately, one and done didn’t work out well for Ball, who went undrafted.

Many have debated the legitimacy and the efficacy of the NBA’s one-and-done rule, which seems poised for change. Some maintain that the policy hurts college basketball, while others argue that no artificial criteria should keep qualified adults from entering employment. Still, others point to the great success of certain one-and-done players like two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP, Kevin Durant.

The aim here isn’t to resolve the complicated NBA one-and-done debate; rather, it’s to raise a question that affects an even wider swath of people—especially young, impressionable ones:

Should a company brand and promote “one-and-done” products?

I can already hear readers groaning: “Loosen up. They’re just t-shirts!” That’s true. What’s more, Foot Locker’s commercials were parodies that made fun of the annoying infomercials we love to hate, so it was hard to take the campaign too seriously.

Still, real shirts were sold thanks to actual ads that promoted them. Most importantly, those shirts shared a message that socially and developmentally is not a very constructive one: It’s okay to stop after one try.

Yes, we need to realize when it’s time to cut our losses and “pull the plug” on efforts that just aren’t working. That approach, however, is pretty much the opposite of one and done, which more accurately suggests things like, ‘I’ve arrived’ and ‘Don’t mess with perfection,’ or in the case of basketball, ‘I’m NBA material.’

Of course, the problem is that very few people have ‘arrived’; most of us are far from perfect. Instead of quitting and moving on, we need to keep churning and grinding: pushing ourselves to get better by finding even small ways to improve. Rather than ‘one and done,’ our mantras should be things like ‘life is a marathon, not a sprint’ and ‘failures are the path to success.’

But does a saying like ‘one and done’ really have that much sway over people? Some of the best advertising slogans do make their way into common language use, influencing people’s perceptions and values. For instance, Wendy’s famous 1984 ‘big bun’ commercial made “Where’s the Beef” a national catchphrase that presidential candidate Walter Mondale even invoked. Or, think of all the times you’ve heard someone quote Nike’s iconic “Just Do It” theme to move themselves and others forward.

Some may still argue that rational adults know better than to take these taglines seriously. Even if that’s true, there’s the issue of who else these marketing messages reach, probably most effectively: young people.

The NBA has one of the youngest fan bases of all sports, with 43% of fans under the age of 35 and 13% between the ages of two and seventeen. By using potential NBA players to promote its One and Done t-shirts on Draft Day, Foot Locker was likely targeting this same youthful demographic.

One problem with this approach is that there has been considerable concern about “children’s ability to fully comprehend and evaluate advertising messages.” Of course, very young children are not the ones online buying One and Done t-shirts, yet they are still exposed to the advertising. Young people of all ages experience the social impact of the slogan as they see peers wearing the shirts in school and elsewhere.

It’s easy for any of us to be overconfident in our abilities. Individuals with less life experience, who are still developing in many ways, need to be especially careful of such hubris. In many ways, young people are the last ones who should be thinking about being “one and done,” and marketers should be especially sensitive about encouraging such misguided notions.

Besides potential individual failure, there’s also possible social fallout from a one-and-done mentality, namely the impact on others affected by a person’s premature decision to move on. Granted, few relationships come with long-term assurances, but a rash departure caused by a lack of commitment can leave a gaping hole in others’ lives.

In his class business book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni identified lack of commitment as the third fatal flaw organizations face. Some believe that Millennials have unique struggles with commitment. In any case, no one needs encouragement to end allegiances or to be disloyal, as the one-and-done message might suggest.

Kenny Rogers famously sang that card players need to know “when to hold ’em,” and “when to fold ’em.” Unfortunately, a one-and-done message encourages many individuals, especially young people, to play their hands too soon. Not everything that people say should appear on a t-shirt. Let’s hope Foot Locker permanently retires its ill-advised tees so its “Single-Minded Marketing” also becomes one and done.

New Rules For Event Marketing

Scott Steinberg 

Communications pros, market leaders, and meeting planners looking to connect with potential attendees and get them excited about upcoming events often turn to traditional marketing and outreach methods such as trade advertising, online banners and direct email solutions. But it also bears noting that a number of additional cost-affordable and easily implemented promotional vehicles are available that can help anyone better capture the audience’s attention and spread word-of-mouth pass-along as well. Following are several event marketing rules to help raise awareness for live events, conferences and get-togethers, none of which requires massive expenditures or effort, yet all of which can drastically boost public enthusiasm and interest. 

1. Connect with your community. Want to get audiences excited and enthused about your event upfront, and hammer home why the special occasion will speak to their specific needs directly? Get attendees involved in meeting programs upfront by inviting them to help steer programs, submit comments and suggestions, or contribute multimedia content via internal, online, social media, strategic partners or other readily available distribution channels. Submissions can be used to help select program and track topics, questions and insights incorporated into speeches and presentations, and content easily saved and repurposed for other initiatives. Similarly, conducting advance surveys and polls, then revealing surprise findings at your gathering, also can be a great way to heighten interest while incorporating participants’ input. All present a wealth of potential opportunities to encourage audiences to speak up, share news about and get involved with upcoming programs, giving them more reasons to engage with your event and tell others about it. 

2. Partner with program speakers. As noted thought leaders and industry personalities, speakers frequently can help drive event awareness and boost potential audience reach. Don’t be afraid to ask them to share blog posts, spread mentions on social networks or provide videos, podcasts and original articles for sharing with guests or for publication and promotion, e.g., in industry trades. Always look for ways to connect presenters with audience members and drive added learning for all parties prior to actual presentations. Meet-and-greets, breakfasts, teleconferences, group videoconferencing sessions, and other live or online programs present ample opportunity for speakers to engage with audience members, share expert insights and gain feedback that can help better shape and inform presentations. All provide a forum for experts and attendees to ask vital questions, interact and get to know each other better before, during and after the big show, helping raise ongoing interest for your programs. 

3. Capitalize on content marketing. Search engines have become the new initial frontline for customer interaction. And in a world where organizations are defined more and more by their online footprint, industry pros must realize that, today, we’re all in the publishing business. Given content’s increasingly disposable nature, the Web’s explosive growth and the boom in mobile devices, content marketing efforts should be an ongoing part of every organization’s promotional efforts. Happily, not only is your own organization filled with subject matter experts who can serve as ambassadors via blogs, newsletters, podcasts or similar outreach channels, events provide the perfect opportunity to tap experts, executives and community leaders for learning, insights and advice, which can be used to generate added value and help raise awareness all year long for ongoing events and special occasions. As part of programs, workshops and events, ask all to share best practices, hints and tips, and offer support or inspiration. Quotes and commentary then can be incorporated back into newsletters, mailers, trailers and more, providing year-long benefit. 

4. Create reasons for attendees to keep up with you and keep coming back. If you want to keep audiences abreast of upcoming events or sessions year-round, give them reasons to voluntarily seek out more information about your programs by giving them a constant stream of value-adding material. Luckily, there are dozens of ways to take content you’ve already been creating via your event programs to establish an ongoing thought leadership position. For example: Already been sharing hints and tips captured at meetings and conferences on your organization’s blog? Compile it into an eBook or guide as a unique takeaway that also cements your organization’s expertise. For added impact, consider updating material and adding new chapters to prior works, then promoting media awareness around the launch of new editions. You might also design an audio or video podcast series hosted on your event or organization’s website that offers new episodes on a running basis. 

5. Collect and respond to fan feedback. Make a point to connect with audiences and build loyalty and word-of-mouth interest after events have concluded as well. After all, the point isn’t just to create satisfied customers, it’s also to keep them coming back. When your event is over, don’t be afraid to promote social sharing and engagement by asking how you can make the next one even better. Go beyond simple surveys and questionnaires by reaching out to participants and speakers via your wiki, Web page, email newsletters, surveys or social channels to find out what they loved and would like to see more of in the coming months. Encourage them to suggest future topics and program setups, provide feedback on their experiences, and brainstorm even better ways to share event highlights and learning. As a key part of any winning communications or event team, it bears reminding — it’s never too early to get audience members involved. 

In short, a little advance planning and creativity combined with everyday off-the-shelf technologies, tools and solutions can help you create more effective ways to market and promote any event. Best of all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat: Mix and match ideas, and you’ll find that many can combine to create heightened awareness before, during and after your special occasions. Communications pros and event planners are encouraged to experiment with any and all of the above ideas. When it comes to keeping audiences interested and excited to spread the word about current and future programs, you may find many of the most effective solutions hiding in plain view.

Award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of The Business Etiquette BibleMake Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty, and Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap. The founder of travel + lifestyle trends magazine SELECT: Your City’s Secrets Unlocked™, and host of Next Up on NewsWatch, his website is

Want to learn more about Content Marketing? Earn a certificate in content marketing from PRSA:

When Personalization Backfires

Michael Smart

A while ago, an earnest, hardworking young PR pro asked me repeatedly during a phone consultation “what not to do.”

She already knows not to rely on generic pitches blasted to the same list. So I talked about how you can inadvertently take personalization too far.

When you’re crafting your pitch for your target journalist or blogger, you know it’s a best practice to prove in the first sentence that you’ve researched her and her audience. It’s usually best to keep this focused on her work. I say that because often you might also see something in her Twitter bio or an Instagram post that you could use to make more of a personal connection.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to make a personal connection. That’s the ultimate goal of great media relations — just not so soon. So save that thought.

Lead off with the professional reference, e.g.:

I’ve noticed your posts connecting millennials’ job-hunting preferences and big-company recruiting tactics tend to get shared most frequently on social …

And then get right into your pitch that propels that connection forward.

There’s been an evolution in the last few years among the influencers I interview for my Inner Circle (a “Today” show producer, an editor for The Washington Post, and writers for USA Today and The Wall Street Journal). When I show them pitches, they still register appreciation for personalization at the top, but now they get anxious and even frustrated if that personalization “drags on” into a second point of reference. They say, “I want to know what he’s offering here.”

So to recap — first professional personalization, then pitch, then call to action. But what about that great personal tidbit you saw that could open the door to a great connection?

Save it for your P.S.

That’s where you note that you’ve visited her alma mater to see your best friend from high school who also went there. Or your quick take on this season of the Netflix show she tweeted about binge-watching.

Just make sure it’s:

  • Sincere — because relationships only work when founded authentically.
  • Specific — because even if you really do LOVE that show she won’t believe you unless you prove it with some detail.
  • Not stalker-ish — no explanation necessary.

These influencers are so strained by all the pressures of their job that they deserve every effort on our part to make our outreach relevant and accessible on their terms. Helping them do their jobs is what helps us.

Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Want to dive deeper into Michael’s tips for landing more media coverage? Register for his Secrets of Media Masters workshop:


Millenials Drive A Key Leadership Trend In 2018

Dudley Slater, Fusion Leadership

Millennials [as the largest generation in today’s workforce] are powerful, and they are hungry! You’re organization and your career as a leader (or prospective leader) literally depends on your ability to satisfy this hunger.

So what’s the cause of the insatiable millennial tummy rumble? According to Whitney Dailey, director of marketing and research at Cone Communications, millennials “see where they work as an extension of who they are,” citing a recent millennial-engagement survey by Cone Communications. This need to self-identify with their employer explains the millennials’ hunger: to connect to their organization’s purpose or cause.

This powerful millennial-driven trend demands that effective leaders in 2018 answer the question “what leadership behaviors attract people to your organization’s purpose and how are those behaviors different from those that drive people away from your organization?” Answering this question will allow leaders to put meals on the table and begin to satisfy that millennial hunger to connect to their organization.

Explaining why the employees of Horizon Airlines banned together, being recognized with the coveted Regional Airline of The Year Award (from Air Transport World magazine), Jeff Pinneo, CEO at the time, explains that “everything you do is visible, and I can certainly affirm that people pay attention to everything,” he said. “I have this rule of thumb that, from the time you walk out of the men’s room stall, you’re on the stage, he added with a chuckle. You need to be aware—not to put on an act or anything—but just be aware that everything’s messaging when you’re CEO.”

This explains why Pinneo, whenever he’d fly on Horizon, after the plane landed, waited for all the passengers to deplane so he could help the flight crew clean out the seat pockets, pick garbage up off the floor, and make sure the baggage bins were empty. “So it didn’t matter how busy I was or what meeting I was trying to get to—I helped prepare the plane for its next flight. Culturally, that was something you could not miss.

At Horizon everybody did everything. For example, we had a very good pilot, one of our best, who wouldn’t think twice about coming out on his days off to paint ground equipment, if that’s what needed to be done. We had an entrepreneurial, we’re-all-in-this-together understanding.”

Pinneo understood that the way to attract employees to your organization’s purpose (to be the best regional airline in the United States, for example) is to constantly evidence your own personal commitment to that purpose; importantly, placing your organization’s purpose above (or at least equal) to your own ego-driven needs. Pinneo and eight other iconic national leaders share real world stories about how to evidence your passionate commitment to your organization’s purpose, thereby “fusing” their teams together in service of that shared purpose. These stories are shared in Fusion Leadership Unleashing The Movement of Monday Morning Enthusiasts, September 2017.

Pinneo and the other Fusion Leadership executives explain how they navigate the constant onslaught of tricky questions that tempt every leader to manage from the wrong side of the line between what evidences your commitment to the organization’s purpose and what leadership behaviors drive employees away from that purpose? For example, Pinneo chose to sacrifice his precious CEO time in order to plan an extra 20 minutes after every Horizon flight to clean out seatback pockets and pick up trash off the floor. By taking this time to evidence his commitment to Horizon’s purpose Pinneo was answering the question- as CEO what level of priority do you assign to working side by side with your front line workers? Other examples include questions like- when you conduct a meeting, who becomes the smartest person in the room? Or, whose job is it to take ownership of the crisis? Or, when you set compensation levels, how much do you pay yourself compared to how much you pay others?

As readers, the decisions we make in answering these and many similar questions communicates volumes to your team as to whether you are truly committed to your organizations purpose. Answer correctly and you earn the following of those in your charge. Answer incorrectly and you drive your team away from your organization.

By thinking through their actions in response to these daily behavioral questions, successful leaders fixate on connecting those in their charge to their organization’s purpose. The Brookings Institute predicts that millennials will represent 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025, adding urgency to stay ahead of this trend. According to the 61 million millennials who will determine which organizations succeed and which organizations fail in 2018, this may be the most important leadership trend for leaders to think about heading into the New Year.

About the Author: Dudley Slater, co-author, with Steve Taylor, of Fusion Leadership Unleashing The Movement of Monday Morning Enthusiasts, co-founded and served as the 15 year CEO of Integra Telecom.

Sorry Not Sorry: Cold Pitching Requires a New Attitude

Michael Smart 

Sorry for posting this, I know you’re busy. I just wanted to reach out and hopefully offer something that might help.

Does this above sentence feel right to you? If you’ve heard me speak or read any of my other posts, you probably noticed something odd about it.  It’s true — I do know you’re busy. And I do want to help. But I’ve learned — over a long period of time and through lots of emotional growth (even occasional anguish) — that the best way I can help is to not devalue what I have to offer by quasi-begging you to read it.

Subtle words like sorryjusthopefully, and might say that I’m not sure of myself enough to expect you to pay attention based on the value of what I’m about to give you. The most common offender of these is just, as in, I just wanted to check in or I was just hoping.

That previous paragraph was hard to write because if you go back to my original pitches, and even to the early days of me blogging about pitching, that’s exactly how I used to express myself. I was bleeding insecurity all over the page. It’s also how most PR pros write pitches and follow-up emails today. Many unknowingly do it in their regular workplace conversations as well.

1. For a cold pitch, the status quo is to start with something like this:

Just wanted to reach out, hoping you can take just a minute to see if there’s something that might interest you here. 

Instead, prove your worth and get right to the point:

I know you cover workplace trends such as managing millennials. Here’s what one company has found after upgrading their IT to match digital natives’ expectations . . . 

2. When following up after initial interest appears to wane, here’s a common example:

Sorry to bug you. Just wanted to check in and see if you might still be interested in this idea?

But you convey the same point with much more power when you simply write:

Checking in to see if this idea is still alive? 

3. After a few follow-ups go by, you want to give yourself one last shot. So don’t water it down like this by hiding behind someone else:

I know you get bombarded with pitches like these and I don’t mean to pester you. Just want to get a feel for your interest level on this one so I can let my [boss/client/expert] know if this might still happen.

Instead, you can still show empathy and acknowledge reality, while still being clear that you believe strongly in your story idea:

I know you are juggling so many stories constantly and can’t possibly pursue all the worthy opportunities you come across. Can you let me know if this is still on your radar, or should I move on and take it elsewhere?

If those specific examples help you, then great. But really, principle is not in the granular semantics of the email; it’s about how you feel when you write it. If you feel like a reluctant pest who has nothing of value to offer, that’s usually how you’re going to come across. If you cover up that feeling by choosing more powerful words, that helps a little. The real change happens when you re-align the way you view the dynamic between you and the journalist.

When you know you have something of value that will help her do her job, that sense of intention will jump off the screen and make you stand out.

Learn more from Michael Smart, PRSA’s national media pitching coach, at the Secrets of Media Relations Course in New York City

Communications Industry Investing More in Technology

Second Annual PRSA/APPrise Mobile Technology Survey Shows Increased Reliance on Mobile Tech, Importance of Rethinking Digital Workplace Strategies

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and APPrise Mobile’s second annual Technology Trends survey found that professionals are ramping up spending on technology, with a focus on mobile and improving analytics.

Companies increasingly recognize the importance of mobile technology, but the survey also found that there is no real strategy behind the use of mobile in the workplace. In other findings, email continues to be the most highly used messaging tool, despite the fact that most respondents believe it is not the most effective form of communication. Compared to last year, there is also greater usage of and reliance on newer communications technologies such as social media, social collaboration and messaging.

More than 700 industry pros responded to the second annual survey, which sought to understand companies’ budget priorities, what technologies are most effective, and what needs to be done technologically to ensure that communicators are best equipped to do their work.

“We’re seeing greater adoption of social and mobile media, without companies relinquishing established strategies and channels,” said Anthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA, 2018 Chair, Public Relations Society of America. “Technology investments are certainly going up, and the next step will be for organizations to assess whether their ROI is growing commensurately.”

“The vast majority of the workforce is now comprised of younger generations like millennials and Generation Z,” said Jeff Corbin, CEO, APPrise Mobile. “They are dependent on the small screens of their mobile devices, so we need to think not so much about what technologies we use, but rather how we effectively use them to get our key messages into the hands of our targeted audiences.”

Key findings from the survey are below. The complete report will be released as part of a PRSA/APPrise Mobile webinar on June 7th. Click here to register.

  • State of Technology Spending
    • 44% of respondents said their company is investing more in technology now than it did last year; 36% said it is about the same.
    • Of those who said their company is spending, 51% said in mobile technology, 51% in analytics and 4% in video.
    • Fewer than half of respondents said their company does an “OK” job in offering digital tools to communicate; 38% said their company should “rethink” their digital workplace communications strategy; and only 9% said the company they work for does a great job.
  • Usage of technology year-over-year
    • Messaging technologies: 14% to 42% (200% increase).
    • Mobile: 8% to 23% (188% increase).
    • Social Collaboration: 15% to 37% (147% increase).
    • Social Media: 26% to 50% (92% increase).
    • Intranets: 53% to 65% (23% increase).
  • Evolution of Mobile
    • Only 44% of respondents said their companies have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy as compared to 48% in 2017.
    • 97% use their personal mobile device for email.
    • 56% use messaging apps on their personal device.
    • 33% access their company’s intranet on their mobile device but 71% said the experience either doesn’t work or is difficult.
  • Fewer employees report that messaging tools have been implemented across their entire company (38%) compared to last year (45%). At the same time, more employees report that messaging tools are used primarily by groups of employees (55%) compared to last year (31%).
    • Skype: 30%.
    • Slack: 14% (down from 41%).
    • Facebook Messenger (12%).
    • WhatsApp (11%).

Survey Methodology 
The survey data was collected via a SurveyMonkey poll largely comprised of PRSA members. In total, 717 communications professionals responded to the questionnaire conducted from January 17, 2018, through March 3, 2018. Communications professionals of varying tenure, industry, age demographic and agency/in-house designation were included.

About the Public Relations Society of America
PRSA is the nation’s largest professional organization serving the communications community. The organization’s mission is to make communications professionals smarter, better prepared and more connected through all stages of their career. PRSA achieves this by offering its members thought leadership, innovative lifelong learning opportunities to help them develop new skills, enhance their credibility and connect with a strong network of professionals. The organization sets the standards of professional excellence and ethical conduct for the public relations industry. PRSA collectively represents more than 30,000 members consisting of communications professionals spanning every industry sector nationwide and college and university students who encompass the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Learn more about PRSA at

About theEMPLOYEEapp 
theEMPLOYEEapp® by APPrise Mobile is an internal communications and employee engagement mobile solution that allows any organization to have its own native app on Apple and Android mobile devices (as well as a web app for any other device that has a web browser). It securely integrates with a company’s employee database and allows for the instantaneous push of messages and distribution of content (documents, multimedia, web links, calendar appointments and live events) directly to an employee’s mobile device. For more information visit To learn more about other mobile communications products by APPrise Mobile, visit

Media Contact:
Rod Granger
Director, Public Relations & Communications

The Business Benefits of Strategic Diversity and Inclusion

Marci Davis, Communications Practice Leader, Jacobs Engineering

E. pluribus unum” graces the back of the U.S. dollar and is Latin for “out of many, one.” 

The phrase captures the original vision of our country, where the differences of the colonies created a greater whole. This concept is also at the core of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) principles, which took center stage at a recent panel discussion co-hosted by PRSA’s Georgia Chapter and ColorComm, a national business community for women of color in the communications industry. 

The panel — comprised of Andrew Davis, chief diversity and inclusion officer at The Coca-Cola Company, Sharon V. Jones, senior vice president, director human resources and director of diversity and inclusion at Ketchum North America, and Anna Stevens, vice president of human resources and chief people officer at HD Supply — discussed everything from D&I’s business value and how to implement successful inclusion practices to the future of diversity in a millennial workforce. 

The group agreed that D&I must be integrated into a company’s strategic plan and championed by leadership across business lines. As a strategy, it can help drive change and encourage innovation. 

Building a diverse team

In the agency arena, it’s no surprise that change is also being driven externally. “Our clients are demanding a diverse team structure,” said Jones. “They’re looking for diversity in every way. When we’re talking to clients, we have to ask ourselves — do we have the right people in the room sharing authentic voices?” 

Davis echoed these thoughts. “D&I is beyond race and gender now. It’s about diversity of thought, experience, industry. It has to match strategic organizational goals regardless of the size of the company. When diversity and inclusion is elevated, it lifts everyone.” 

Diversity can be a recruitment strategy, too. “We put a focus on diverse talent across the board — industry, experience, etc.,” Stevens said. “We tell our associates ‘you are the brand’ and need to make sure we are who we say we are. It also supports our customer focus when they see people who look like them.” 

Measuring D&I

Though the methods of measuring it may vary by company and industry, D&I almost always positively affects business performance and customer satisfaction, the panelists agreed. Jones noted that Ketchum has built-in diversity goals for employees who are eligible for bonus pay, while Stevens at HD Supply said they look at the level of customer engagement as a metric. 

Davis recalled an instance at The Coca-Cola Company when D&I created a direct cost savings for the company’s marketing efforts thanks to one of its affinity groups. “Members of a Hispanic/Spanish speaking group pointed out that some of our materials might read as offensive to native speakers,” he said. “They asked for a chance to translate the essence of the message instead of letting the translators handle it and we said yes.” 

The group used a crowd-sourcing tool as part of a pilot test to translate messages for different Spanish speaking countries such as Chile, Mexico and Spain to help ensure the content would resonate with different communities. It worked and saved millions in translation costs. 

Transcending the workplace

Inclusion can also inform the lives employees lead outside the workplace. Stevens noted that HD Supply has built D&I into their associate promise. “One of our business goals is to improve the lives of our employees and that extends to their families. We work with HR to help our associates see what’s available within the company to help them move forward.” 

Sometimes that means giving employees space to bring their whole selves to work, which can feel challenging when all too often the focus seems to be on divisions between groups. “It takes courage to address difficult topics,” said Jones, “but we have to give a voice to the whole selves of our employees. Build your courage by talking to people who understand your views first before sharing with a larger group. Be persistent. Pick and choose when to have the difficult conversations, but don’t give up.” 

Overall the group is optimistic about the evolution of D&I and expects to see it continue as millennials become the dominant generation in the workplace. “D&I strategy and focus is really hard,” said Davis, “but we’re learning how to reach people where they are to initiate the discussion. Maybe the younger generation will help resolve it.” 

“Millennials like to live out loud,” added Jones, “and organizations will have to change. But when people become truly engaged — feeling like they belong, have a seat at the table, and a voice that is welcome — that creates energy.” 

Marci Davis is communications practice leader at Jacobs Engineering. She is also PR committee co-chair for PRSA’s Georgia Chapter.

To stay current with your skills, check out all the courses, webinars and workshops offered by PRSA:

Want to Know Secrets of Success from Award-Winning Spokespeople? Meet Susann Miller from the Better Business Bureau

Susann Miller, Director of Communications and Consumer Affairs of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona, shares with us how they raised awareness of online scams within their target audience. Susann explains how she got media attention for her campaign, and how to work with journalists to gain more exposure.

As we get ready for Spokesperson Secrets to Build Your Brand, we are releasing exclusive footage from SPOKEies® University. You’ll see our SPOKEies® honorees sharing their tips and best advice to create authenticity as a spokesperson and generate trust among their key audiences. Register to watch all the SPOKEies® honorees via live stream on May 3rd for FREE here. 

Narrator: It’s SPOKEies® University from DS Simon Media, featuring Susann Miller of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona.

DOUG SIMON: Hi, I’m Doug Simon of D S Simon Media and the Founder of the SPOKEies® award, and we’re honored to have with us one of our Honorable Mention winners in a really competitive category, nonprofit education. It’s Susann Miller, and she’s with the Southern Arizona Better Business Bureau. Thanks so much for being with us.

SUSANN MILLER: Thank you. It’s an excitement, and I love being part of this inaugural SPOKEies® award. You guys have done a great job, and it’s just an honor to be a part of it.

DOUG SIMON: Thanks so much. Well, your campaign was really tremendous– 52 television appearances within an area. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the campaign itself?

SUSANN MILLER: We have a lot of scam education that we’re trying to do here in Southern Arizona, and part of it is also for our military, because we have two bases here in Southern Arizona– Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Fort Huachuca, which is army, and they’re a number one target for scams. And we also have millennials, who are also top of the chart, which you are, I’m sure, surprised by. But we actually have the elderly– we have a big retirement community here, and so we’re really trying to do a lot of scam education. And we’re honored that our media are so supportive in trying to help us get out the word and get out some tips that can help them from becoming a victim.

DOUG SIMON: Great. And you’ve obviously made some amazing progress with this. Now, many other organizations are trying to get their story on the media and build up their own spokespeople as influencers, if you can maybe break down your approach to it. Obviously, the story you had is very strong. But how did you, as a team, approach it, to trying to get media attention and even craft that story to make it as compelling as possible?

SUSANN MILLER: The real major pieces of this is really to become relatable, be approachable, and really just be available to the media. They are always on a tight time frame, and they want sources that are trustworthy and have done their research and can fit into their schedule, because it changes moment to moment for them. And so we have to be flexible with being available, and that is really the key.

DOUG SIMON: How do you determine within your organization who ends up being the spokesperson on a specific topic? I know you have that major role.

SUSANN MILLER: Well, we have a pretty small team with 15 people here at BBB, so I’m it. I’m the spokesperson for whatever topic comes up. And it’s really important that I do my research. Sometimes we only have 15 minutes before the media comes in our front doors or we go to their station, so no matter how much time I have, I have to be really on top of the ball, as far as, what are the facts? What’s really going on? And really stay on topic when they do an interview.

DOUG SIMON: Yeah, that’s a real important point about what the SPOKEies® are about, and the idea of honoring the in-house spokespeople. Because if you’re working with a third-party expert, it’s much tougher for them to be fully up to speed on an interview that’s suddenly taking place in 15 or 20 minutes. And we’ve heard that from in-house communications leaders, that that’s one of their major concerns, of actually, are they going to convey accurate information compared to the people who actually know it, live it, work it, every day? How important is it to really leverage your internal resources as part of your communications campaign?

SUSANN MILLER: I think that if the newscasters and reporters cannot trust us and get any kind of negativity from a segment that we do, we just lost them as a partner. And fortunately, I love that they’re constantly calling us and getting information. We had 64 interviews on media, plus we’ve done radio and we’re doing editorial, and that’s all in my wheelhouse, to make sure that we get out accurately in addition to our branding. So, we really try to make sure that it’s all cohesive. And if we lose a part of that with one of our reporters, that weakens our brand. So, it’s really important that we are very cohesive in all of our messaging, as far as a BBB in general, but also that we’re sticking to the facts when we speak on camera.

DOUG SIMON: Great. Well, Susann Miller, congratulations to you for Honorable Mention as part of the SPOKEies® award. Great information, and also the great service you’re doing, helping to safeguard the elderly, the military, and even those pesky millennials that we love so much, to make sure that they’re not caught up in the scams. So, thanks so much for being with us.

Confessions of a Marketing Mom: The Value of Nostalgia

Confessions of a Marketing Mom - The Value of NostalgiaCynthia Ramsaran, Director Content Marketing, TAYLOR

When I became a parent, I had no idea it would impact me as a marketer. All at once, as a new mom, I was hit with many different products that claimed to help with every one of my baby’s needs. As a consumer, I’d forego the ones that didn’t work for us, and stayed loyal to the brands that held their end of the bargain.

There’s a reason why almost every big consumer brand has moms on their list of target demographics. Traditionally, our roles have included doing almost everything and taking care of everyone in the household. Guaranteed we make most of the purchasing decisions in our household, and that makes an impression on our kids.

Now, my five-year-old is brand loyal. Not only does he know the difference between brands, but he also identifies and prefers one company over another based on how they make him feel. It’s not because of the toys packaged with QSR meal purchases or colors, characters, and brand messaging. Certain brands simply remind him of our experiences together.

For example, he associates his love of Pizza Hut with our shopping adventures in Target – barely making it out of the store without a meltdown. I’d breeze through the aisles – throwing the brands we love into the cart – rush to pay, and quickly stop for that pepperoni personal pan pizza on our way out. Much to his excitement.

So of course, his go-to choice for pizza delivery is always Pizza Hut. The choices he makes at his age are always decided upon with fond memories or associations. If this isn’t emotional engagement at its finest, I don’t know what is.

Observing this behavior as his mother reminded me of the value of nostalgia marketing. The experiences we have when we are young and impressionable is what brand marketers try to replicate when building an authentic, emotional connection with their audience. Every experience should be presented in a way that connects to the feelings and emotions we’ve had in our childhoods.

This sentiment about nostalgia couldn’t have been better positioned than Don Draper’s “Carousel” pitch in Mad Men. “It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone,” he says in the video below.



Nostalgia marketing takes the power of the past (wrapped with all those warm feelings) and creates new memories for the consumer, ultimately tying them emotionally to the brand. Some examples of this are:


Coca-Cola’s “Share it Forward” campaign flooded us with memories of our childhoods by celebrating the 100th anniversary of its iconic glass bottle. The goal was to ultimately motivate Millennials to shop for Coke products at Walmart, and the results prove that nostalgic messaging helped encouraged shoppers to purchase the bottles.

Walmart’s 20-ounce Coca-Cola sales growth were double the growth experienced by all other large retailers combined during the four-week program with sales peaks hitting as high as 40%.


Adidas helped consumers take a strip down memory lane with the relaunch of its celebrated Stan Smith shoe. The campaign drew on feelings of nostalgia and also leveraged the power of social media by asking consumers to be a part of the story. The ‘Stan Yourself’ initiative asked users to Tweet an image of themselves for a chance to win a pair of the personalized shoes.

Target/Star Wars partnership:

Good old Target. The super retailer recently used the “Force” to connect with consumers. Target unveiled a tribute to Star Wars featuring an interactive website – that offers users a spot in the galaxy – as well as an in-store shop with exclusive merchandise.

To extend this partnership online, Target also collected Star Wars memories from fans on its microsite ( Users can submit photos and videos to the site from Facebook and Instagram in exchange for a unique set of galactic coordinates indicating where their memories will be housed.

This partnership is a great example of using nostalgia marketing to target multiple generations. Parents shopping with their families at Target stores, much like the example I shared with my son and I breezing through the store, can share their love and memories of watching Star Wars with their kids.

Nostalgia is such a powerful marketing tool. If you take people, and kids alike to a place they, “ache to go again,” their experience with your brand creates good feelings by association. It’s a win-win all around. Maybe not for the tired mommy, but hey, a happy kid is a victory in my eyes. And a happy consumer is always a win for your brand.

3 Reasons Why Hiring Older Employees Is A Smart Decision

Andrew Simon, Partner, Simon Associate Management Consultants

In the 2015 movie The Intern, Robert DeNiro starred as a 70-year-old widower who returns to the workforce as an under-appreciated and seemingly out-of-step intern working for a young boss played by Anne Hathaway.

Initially, Hathaway’s character can’t quite relate to this baby boomer who ditched retirement out of boredom, but by the film’s finale she comes to appreciate his skills and experience.

In real life you’re unlikely to encounter many septuagenarian interns, but it’s not unusual for people to re-enter the labor market or launch new careers when they are well into what was once considered retirement age.

And that can be good for businesses that are willing to take advantage of all those decades of hard-earned experience, says Andrew Simon, a partner in Simon Associate Management Consultants ( who himself is in his 70s..

“Starting a new career after 60 is not for everyone,” Simon says. “But it can be rewarding for those with energy and commitment levels that are high, and who are willing to learn new skills and keep up with the constantly evolving technology.”

The question is whether businesses will balk at hiring workers who, in many cases, are old enough to be the parents of the people supervising them. Sure there are downsides, Simon says, but the upsides can be tremendous when it’s the right fit for the right person.

He says a few things businesses should keep in mind as they weigh whether to hire older workers include:

Experience counts. Baby boomers come to the table with a whole set of experiences, including 30 or 40 years of interpersonal people skills that make them more adept at dealing with unique situations or different types of people. “On the flip side,” Simon says, “some of them could lack the technical skills that we take for granted in today’s workforce. So, be careful what you are asking them to do.”
Self-motivation. The odds are older employees will be self-motivated. “If these potential workers would like to join an organization or start a new career after 60, they probably like the idea of work,” Simon says. “They need to do something every day. Perhaps they view their job as intellectually stimulating.” You do need to make sure of their motivation, though, he says. If they’re just working for a paycheck, that might not cut it.
Different age groups have their own behaviors. Baby boomers often have a very different set of values than millennials. “Different things motivate them,” Simon says. “The culture of an organization is very important and can be tricky. You want to make sure these older workers have an opportunity to thrive in your new environment.” While it’s best to avoid stereotyping the generations too much, in general baby boomers tend to be productive, loyal to the company, willing to put in long hours to get the job done and prefer to have conversations in person.

“Companies that pass on hiring older workers risk missing out on people who could become some of their most valuable employees,” Simon says. “Age shouldn’t be the issue. Instead, as with any hire, the issue is what skills and experiences each of these people can bring to the workforce.”

About the Author: Andrew Simon has had a 50-year career as a senior executive. He founded and ran Questar Assessment Inc., the fifth largest K-12 summative assessment company in the U.S. As a serial entrepreneur, Simon also developed and ran businesses in real estate development and did start-ups inside larger corporations, such as Citibank, Bankers Trust, Norcliff-Thayer and Lederle Labs. Earlier in his career he was part of a team that launched L’Oréal into the consumer-products arena. Simon also is a trained and certified Innovation Games® facilitator and has conducted more than 50 client engagements using Innovation Games methods.

What Blockchain Means for the Future of Business

Arran_Press_What Blockchain means for the future of BusinessArran James Stewart, Co-owner,

When most people think of blockchain, they tend to think of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ripple. Bitcoin has the mindshare advantage of being both the originator of, as well as easily the most famous and successful application of blockchain, offering complete financial decentralization. However, all of its other properties, such as trust, security, speed, and disintermediation, are applicable to making today’s business processes more efficient. In fact, they’re nothing short of revolutionary. Let’s discuss.

Time is money, as the old saying goes. But the current banking system simply wastes money.  Modern centralized banking system use wire transfers that take days to transmit from one bank to another. Payments are delayed and companies lose profits due to transaction costs, currency fluctuations, and the wide range of other barriers put up by centralized money services. If time is money, then we’re looking at an unacceptable loss. Cryptocurrencies, however, don’t have these problems; by removing the intermediaries (i.e. banks) through use of blockchain, cryptos provide more speed and security than the traditional financial services system. Businesses will be paid instantly, wasting less time (i.e. money) in the process, which is the key to growth and efficiency.

But cryptocurrencies are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact blockchain can have on future business. Over the last 12 months, the list of applications for this technology has blossomed with astonishing speed, with nearly fourteen-hundred ICO companies built on the blockchain. Each company offers a different application method for blockchain technology from shared server space to earning cryptocurrency through in-game mining.

Blockchain technology is versatile and provides a level of trust, efficiency and security that our current centralized systems simply cannot compete with.  In the future, everything from ordering takeout to making travel plans will be processed through blockchain. It removes middlemen from the equation, increasing the margin for the end supplier and provide a seamless service end-to -end for consumers. Technology businesses built on blockchain will become a prominent part of the small-to-medium-sized enterprises we’ll know and trust in the future.

Even large software service providers — exactly the people you’d expect — are now looking to place blockchain at the heart of their infrastructure. Facebook, for instance, has already begun exploring the use of this technology to improve their security and stability, while Microsoft has invested heavily in its own blockchain implementation research.  Use in financial services are simply the beginning of a massive shift towards this technology platform.

Put simply, there’s more to blockchain than the insane speculative gains boasted by Bitcoin. It’s the technology of the future, soon to be the basis of the business and tech world. If you want to get in on the ground floor of it, it’s best to start now.


About the Author: Arran James Stewart is the co-owner of blockchain recruitment platform Relying on a decade worth of experience in the recruitment industry, Arran has consistently sought to bring recruitment to the cutting edge of technology. Arran helped develop one of the world’s first multi-post to media buy talent attraction portals, and also helped reinvent the way job content found candidates through utilizing matching technology against job aggregation. Arran is currently launching the first blockchain recruitment platform with – which aims to be the most secure, efficient, and transparent hiring process ever. As a first-mover in online recruitment technology with a decade of experience in recruitment, Arran’s expertise has been featured in Forbes, Reuters, CoinJournal, and HRTechnologist, among other publications. 

2017 Bronze Anvil Award of Commendation Winner Highlight: Find Your Park

Reminder: The Bronze Anvil Entry Deadline is March 23rd!


National parks had 273+ million visitors in 2013, but 75% of those visitors were over 40 years old and were disproportionately Caucasian. As the role of the national parks is to preserve America’s stories and treasured places for the future, it was crucial for the visitor base to reflect the diversity of America today. 

Grey NY created the Find Your Park movement, a multi-year integrated campaign to introduce national parks to the next generation of diverse park stewards – millennials – and inspire them to support, donate and engage with the National Park Foundation (NPF) and the National Park Service (NPS). 

FINDYOURPARKThe groundwork of the Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque movement was set in 2014 by increasing the visibility of parks and demonstrating how people can get involved through proactively generating original news. 

In 2015, President Obama officially announced Find Your Park, calling upon Americans to celebrate our nation’s greatest treasures. Grey’s 2015 and 2016 strategy focused on communicating the importance of the centennial anniversary and Find Your Park initiative. To achieve this, they planned a strategic media cadence that leveraged ambassadors and programs.

Michele Obama and Laura Bush served as Honorary Co-Chairs, and Grey produced YouTube videos about connection to parks and leveraged them for PR opportunities. These included behind-the-scenes footage during Mrs. Bush’s annual camping trip via People. 

Grey used celebrity ambassadors to connect with each pillar of the target audience via personal connections to parks. These included:

  • People en Español (Roselyn Sanchez – Hispanic)
  • The View (Bella Thorne – Young Adult)
  •  Wired (Bill Nye – General Market)
  • Curve (Mary Lambert – LGBT)
  • VIBE (Terrence J – African American)
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s HITRECORD company called on its community of artists to create collaborative projects and merchandise inspired by national parks.

The campaign kicked off at an event at Madison Square Garden hosted by Bella Thorne, the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and the NPS Director Jon Jarvis. 
As part of a U.S. Mobile Tour, a giant wayfinder allowed consumers to interact with America’s 415+ parks in less than 30 seconds, demonstrating the breadth of the national park system. The tour stopped in NYC, Los Angeles and Washington D.C., and was hosted by Find Your Park Ambassadors and NPS/NPF executives.

Blending the creative expressions of parks with urban cultures across the country, the parks came alive with events hosted across the country. For example, as a nod to Thomas Edison Historical Park, New Yorkers worked together, with Celebrity Ambassador Bill Nye, on a giant digital circuit board to control the color of the One World Trade Center spire for the first time ever.

Additional events were held in Austin, TX (hosted by Andy Roddick) and Chicago, IL (hosted by Common). Events inspired by consumer suggestions included Mary Lambert hosting a pop-up concert in front of the first LGBTQ national park, Stonewall National Monument, singing about how national parks provided a safe space for the LGBTQ community. Nye hosted a first-of-its-kind View-a-Thon via Mashable’s Facebook page, to raise awareness for NPF.

Grey also capitalized on seasonality, the news cycle and existing park programs to sustain buzz beyond events and partnerships, including Great Outdoors Month in June and romantic park destinations for Valentine’s Day.

The Find Your Park Movement reached millions of Americans, specifically the target millennial and multicultural audience. For example:

  • The 16 billion earned media impressions in national, regional and local outlets successfully reached the target audience and demonstrated the importance of engaging with and protecting our national parks.
  •  #FindYourPark was a trending topic on Facebook and Twitter in the Centennial Month (August 2016) and featured as a Snapchat Discover Story – social successes that the National Park Service did not see as possible pre-campaign due to their older support system.

To qualitatively measure Find Your Park movement results, Grey NY partnered with Hall & Partners (market research firm) to conduct brand-tracking data over the course of the 19-month campaign. Results indicated that perceptions of national parks and feeling of connection to the National Park Foundation were positively swayed due to the Find Your Park movement. This included:

  • Increasing park visitation by over 20 million visitors
  • Influencing the perception of national parks’ diversity and support of minority groups among multicultural adult millennials 18-35 years old, 85% of who were more interested in visiting national parks after seeing the Find Your Park campaign.

For more information, click here: