Who Represents Your Brand?

May 27, 2015

by Kim Stangle

When we make hiring decisions, we look for talented individuals who possess the skills necessary to serve our clients.  But beyond that, we look for candidates whose character will accurately represent our brand. 

So, I was surprised to read recently that VP of creative communications at Lilly Pulitzer didn’t do more to condemn the actions of an employee who decorated her workspace with fat-shaming drawings—which were inadvertently photographed for a NYMag.com piece on the company’s headquarters.


Jane Schoenborn told Mashable, the illustrations “were the work of one individual and were posted in her personal work area. While we are an employer that does encourage people to decorate their own space, we are a female-dominated company and these images do not reflect our values.”

“We apologize for any harm this may have caused,” Schoenborn added.

For a brand whose story revolves around sunshine and happiness, it’s hard to believe they could employ someone whose personal workspace talks of being “fat, white and hideous.”

Your employees are your brand ambassadors.  Talented or not, you can’t afford to look away if their personal message doesn’t match your brand’s.

Full Disclosure

May 18, 2015

by Dan Ward

ABC took a big hit to its credibility last week, not only because of George Stephanopoulos’ failure to report $75,000 in donations to a charitable foundation he later reported on, but also because of the network’s pitifully weak response.

As the Poynter Institute’s James Warren discusses in great detail, Stephanopoulos, the lead anchor for ABC who has close ties to the Clinton family, contributed $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation over three years, and failed to report this to either his employer or his viewers.

He should have at least reported this potential conflict of interest to ABC, which never should have let him interview Peter Schweizer, author of a book critical of the Clintons and their foundation.

That is a clear conflict of interest, something that calls his credibility and that of ABC’s entire news department into question.  ABC’s response has been to do nothing, calling it simply “an honest mistake.”  Making a factual error is an honest mistake.  Failing to disclose a conflict of interest is an insult to viewers who put their trust in the network to provide unbiased, objective reporting.

Stephanopoulos, and his employers, could use a refresher course on ethics. I suggest they take a look at the PRSA Code of Ethics that so many in our profession follow, which holds that “avoiding real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest builds the trust of clients, employers and the publics.” Or, since they’re professional journalists, perhaps they could read the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code, which says that journalist should “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and “avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality.”

Stephanopoulos may not be a journalist by training, but he is by trade.  He should know by now that nothing is more important to a professional journalist than credibility.

Mashable’s Not Lovin’ It

May 5, 2015

by Dan Ward

Mashable’s Seth Fiegerman is correct.  The video released Monday by McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook – discussing his growth plans for the company – is “passionless.”

But Fiegerman is off base in attributing this lack of passion to Easterbook’s “even, careful speech” and bland gestures.  I found Easterbrook to be passionate and engaging.

The problem isn’t Easterbrook; it’s the setting and length of the video. Steve Jobs would have appeared boring and passionless if he spoke for 23 minutes in a dimly lit, empty hallway.

If you’re using a visual medium, make it visual, and by all means make it brief.  Watching even an engaging CEO slog through a 20-page script is the equivalent of eating cold fries.

Utilize an Artisan Curator

May 4, 2015

by Kim Taylor

Words are a funny thing in 2015.  Between texts, Twitter and the Apple watch, we’re constantly trying to find ways to say more with less.  The transition from “your” to “UR” isn’t only reserved for teenagers—I’ve read countless texts and tweets from adults that prove otherwise.

But, at the same time we’re downsizing our vocabulary, we also seem hell-bent on overcomplicating it.  Remember when the only curator you knew worked in a museum?  Now, you can’t just create content, you must curate it.

An artisan was typically associated with craftsmanship, but now even McDonald’s has hijacked the term for a chicken sandwich—surely about as far away from the intended meaning as anything could be.

When it comes to word selection, don’t utilize words you think will make you sound smarter. Instead, use simple words to say smarter things.


Let Go in Under 140 Characters

April 30, 2015

by Dan Ward

Houston Rockets Digital Communications Manager Chad Shanks was let go on Wednesday for firing off an incredibly insensitive tweet as his team finished off a playoff series with the rival Dallas Mavericks.

Did he deserve to be fired? After posting emoji of a gun pointed at a horse’s head and a message reading “Shhhhh. Just close your eyes. It will all be over soon,” I’d say the only question is why he wasn’t fired the instant he hit “send.”

Before you accuse me of hypocrisy, yes, I know that last year I defended the digital manager for DiGiorno, who posted an insensitive tweet with a hashtag tied to stories of domestic violence.

But there’s a clear difference in my mind, and the difference is the intent of the sender. In the DiGiorno case, the digital manager made a stupid mistake, not checking the meaning of the #WhyIStayed hashtag before posting. He also immediately apologized, not only to his entire audience but also in individual responses to those who were offended.

It clearly appears Shanks knew what he was doing, knew that an image of a gun to a horse’s head was offensive, and knew that his “just close your eyes” message was demeaning. And his “apology” after being fired, claiming he pushed the envelope too far for some, feels empty when it’s immediately followed by his desire to be hired by an organization “in need of someone willing to take chances.”

Organizations can live with employees who make mistakes. They can’t live with bullies.

No Thank You, and Please Stop Asking

April 21, 2015

by Dan Ward

It’s become a too-common occurrence … I open the iPad and see that I have Facebook alerts waiting.  An old friend looking to connect?  Did someone like or comment on one of my witty posts?  Do I have a private message?

Nope.  Just an invitation to a bridge club tournament (I don’t play bridge) in a town I’ve never visited, hosted by a group I’ve never heard of, posted by a “friend” for whom Facebook has become a default invitation mailing service.

There’s nothing wrong with using Facebook to invite friends to an event. But when using any other invitation service – evite, email, an actual typed or handwritten card – party hosts take the time to review their lists and invite people who they think may have an actual interest in attending. What is it about Facebook that makes people ignore this step and simply say, “Aw, heck, I’ll just invite everyone?”

Instead of sending invitations by shotgun blast to everyone you know, use the power of social networking to identify your targets and their interests, and put a little more time into developing more personal invitations to those who may have an interest in your cause.  The targeted approach works for publicists; it may just work for your bridge club as well.

I’m a People Person

April 15, 2015

by Kim Taylor

I’d place a pretty hefty wager on that phrase being uttered in almost every interview we hold with potential candidates. 

I suppose it’s sort of a given in public relations, right?  Maybe that’s why we find ourselves somewhere between a giggle and a wince when we hear it.  What does being a “people person” really mean, anyway?

If you’re a people person, by definition, you’re a person who enjoys or is particularly good at interacting with others.  That doesn’t mean, however, that you’re suited for a career in PR … you could just as easily be a car salesman.

Sure, to work in our industry, dealing successfully with the public is essential.  But, more essential is your ability to build relationships with clients, media, other stakeholders, peers, and the list goes on.

Convince your potential employer that you’re a connecter, a masterful networker and a skilled relationship-builder.  I promise it’ll go further than being a “people person.”


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