PW Clients Mistic and Rentrak Score Top Honors at PRSA Awards

PondelWilkinson clients Mistic and Rentrak recently received top honors at this year’s PRSA-LA PRism awards.PRSA awards

A client since 2013, electronic cigarettes brand Mistic® was recognized with the 2014 PRism Award for news release writing for its 2014 American E-Cigarette Etiquette Survey. Earlier this year, PR Week did a feature highlighting PondelWilkinson’s work on Mistic’s IndyCar campaign.

“This year’s award represents the second time this year that the Mistic team has been recognized by the PR industry,” said Todd Millard, Mistic co-founder and COO. “Not coincidentally, George Medici and the team at PondelWilkinson have been a key partner in working with our leadership to develop and implement Mistic’s strategic PR program, which has helped us in our on-going efforts to expand awareness of our company and products.”

Rentrak (NASDAQ:RENT), the entertainment and marketing industries’ premier provider of worldwide consumer viewership information, received the 2014 PRism Award  of Excellence for Annual Report – Corporate. The award was especially gratifying for the PondelWilkinson account team, who have worked with Rentrak for more than six years.

“It was a great honor to work with Rentrak’s talented marketing team on this year’s annual report,” said Laurie Berman, managing director for PondelWilkinson. “I enjoyed collaborating with the team to develop messaging that complemented the original report design they created in-house. Working together, we created an annual report that not only was visually impactful, but meaningfully communicated Rentrak’s corporate progress and achievements to its stakeholders.”

Congratulations to all of this year’s PRSA PRism winners!

– E.E. Wang, ewang@pondel.com

Glassdoor: Half Full or Half Empty?

glassdoorDuring the last couple of years, a website called “Glassdoor” has steadily garnered more credibility as a Yelp-like resource for job seekers, as well as a recruiting arm for employers. The former is what really drives attention to the site because you can easily search for information about average salaries, benefits, and CEO approval ratings at almost any company you can imagine.  The information is supplied by current and former employees and can be quite illuminating when formulating an opinion about a particular company.

For example, Walmart has been reviewed more than 8,700 times on Glassdoor, with 44 percent of reviewers recommending the retail giant as an employer, 47 percent approving of the CEO, and 31 percent having a positive business outlook about the company. Walmart’s overall rating: 2.8 stars out of five.

And then there is Facebook, which has an overall rating of 4.5 stars, with 89 percent of reviewers recommending the company as an employer, and a staggering CEO approval rating of 96 percent. Not sure about you, but if I had to pick one of these employers simply based on Glassdoor reviews, I’d go with Walmart. Not.

The point is, Glassdoor has become a powerful force in shaping a company’s online reputation, and it is not only job seekers who are leveraging the information – try customers, potential business partners, and, yes, investors. Think about the implications of a publicly traded company growing like gangbusters and then a former or even existing employee posts some sort of harrowing tale about the sausage being made.  So now what?

You call PondelWilkinson. OK, maybe that sounds too self-serving.  Yes, we can help put together a communications strategy on how best to deal with errant Glassdoor reviews, but more importantly, companies cannot ignore Glassdoor.  For good or for worse, it is shaping reputations faster than a viral video of a laughing snowy owl.  And it is not going away.  As of last month, Glassdoor had more than 6.5 million company reviews.

Quick tips for dealing with Glassdoor:

  • For starters, take a look at what people are saying about your company. Some of the information may be constructive and some of it, complete rubbish. Glassdoor apparently reviews all content before it is posted, but if something looks completely off, you should contact the site immediately.
  • Consider engaging in the conversation. Companies are able to respond to what is being said about them, but be forewarned, this could be a slippery slope once a precedent is set that you will actually engage with folks.
  • If you feel positive about your company and you know others do, too, post away and drive your company’s ratings up.

Interestingly, Glassdoor does profile itself on the site. The company has an overall rating of 4.7 stars, and CEO Robert Hohman’s approval rating is 98 percent.

Guess Mark Zuckerberg has some competition.

– Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com

Scholarship Defines Firm’s Legacy

Cecilia Wilkinson, who died in 2006, was a founding member of PondelWilkinson Inc., having joined the predecessor firm following her graduation from the University of Southern California, and enjoying an illustrious investor relations and corporate public relations career that spanned 25 years.

A nationally renowned industry leader, Cecilia has been honored since 2007 with an endowed scholarship fund in her memory for graduate students at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

Dale

Dale Legaspi, recipient of the 2014 Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship, during a staff meeting at the offices of PondelWilkinson in Century City.

Each year, the Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship is awarded to a first-year strategic public relations graduate student with an interest in corporate/investor relations and reputation management.

We recently had the pleasure to meet this year’s recipient, Dale Legaspi, a graduate student at Annenberg, who is now studying to obtain a master’s degree and merge his professional communications experience with a new set of expanded capabilities.

“We are delighted to be able to continue Cecilia’s legacy by helping talented individuals such as Dale, who are pursuing advanced careers in our sector,” said Roger Pondel, the firm’s CEO since 1986, who worked with Cecilia for nearly her entire career. “We are uniquely positioned to mentor these students who are studying a specialization that encompasses traditional and social media, along with Wall Street and financial know-how, as we help tell our clients’ stories to key audiences, both on Main Street and Wall Street.”

Legaspi already has nearly a decade of professional experience, having worked at two boutique agencies and as a freelancer, representing a variety of companies across the technology industry, including mobile and wireless, carrier and enterprise networking, cloud, data center and security.

Wilkinson earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Annenberg, where she later taught undergraduate and graduate classes as an adjunct professor. She was honored with the school’s Distinguished Journalism Alumni award, served on the Board of Governors of the USC General Alumni Association, and was a former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

– George Medici, gmedici@pondel.com

Here’s Lookin’ Atchya

“Yorp photou don’t want to hear from us, since nothing good is going to come out of it.”

If those sound like fightin’ words, they are. They were spoken by Jay D. Hanson, one of five members leading the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), www.pcaobus.org, affectionately referred to in corporate circles as “Peek-a-Boo.”   Like in “Peek-a-boo, I see you.”

Hanson spoke recently to an almost standing-room-only crowd at a half-day conference for audit committee members and CFOs of publicly traded companies, sponsored by PondelWilkinson in conjunction with the University of California, Irvine.

The PCAOB was established by Congress in 2002, following passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), to oversee audits of public companies. SOX required that auditors of U.S. public companies be subject to external and independent oversight for the first time in history. Previously, the profession was self-regulated. The Board was created in response to the increasing number of accounting “restatements” (corrections of past financial statements) by public companies during the 1990s, plus the high profile accounting scandals and record-setting bankruptcies by large public companies, notably those in 2002 involving WorldCom and Enron.

“We cannot put people in jail, but we can end careers. We often ask candid questions that make executives squirm.” Hanson said. “Our focus is on internal controls. The most prevalent problems involve guidance, revenue recognition and fair value issues. It is surprising how many CEOs admit they have taken their eye off the ball when it comes to these matters.

“Particularly for small and medium-size companies, being on an audit committee is the hardest job in the boardroom today. Members increasingly are being targeted for lawsuits. And don’t forget cyber threats, as we all see more regularly on the news, impacting millions of people,” Hanson added, seemingly out of context as a thought he did not want to forget to convey. He duly noted that CFOs and audit committee members can also be seen as responsible for such maladies as well.

The Board’s mission is to protect the interests of investors and further the public interest in the preparation of informative, accurate and independent audit reports. It also oversees the audits of broker-dealers, including compliance reports filed pursuant to federal securities laws, to promote investor protection. All PCAOB rules and standards must be approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and although the Board has no authority over public companies, PCAOB work has wide implications for public companies and their audit committees.

Hanson’s parting advice: “Go beyond minimal requirements and make good use of these three verbs: explain, clarify and disclose.”

Other sponsors of the conference included independent auditing firm Squar Milner; law firm Paul Hastings; financial printer RR Donnelley; and insurance brokerage AON.

– Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com