PondelWilkinson’s CEO Roger Pondel was among the speakers of a panel discussion hosted by the Association For Corporate Growth – Silicon Valley that provided keen insight on the impact of social justice movements on corporate brands and reputations. Click to watch the full discussion below.
The Pew Research Center recently announced it would be conducting the majority of its U.S. polling online, much like most other public opinion surveys these days.
Until recently, phone-based surveys were the de facto standard for opinion polls. According to Pew’s own research, the number of surveys conducted over the Internet “have increased dramatically in the last 10 years,” driven by available technology and lower costs.
The paradox is that people respond to online and phone polls differently. Pew calls this the mode effect, when responses to some of the same questions are different depending on the interview format.
For Pew, switching to online polling after years of telephone surveys will have an impact on quantifying historical data. This also may influence how media report on the center’s year-over-year trends.
Online polling methodologies may be shaping a new generation of survey taking. The good news is that trusted pollsters are transparent about these approaches.
Most polling firms and universities use a combination of online and telephone survey methods. It’s essential, however, that online surveys produce statistically accurate data, especially when the results are used by media.
To help ensure reporting accuracy, the National Council on Public Polls published a list of 20 questions a journalist should ask about poll results. The irony is that reporters don’t have time to review questions because of today’s ultra-competitive “real-time” news environment.
General consensus says polls serve a greater good helping define public opinion on everything from brands to policy. Media love surveys too. So much so that The Hill launched “What America’s Thinking,” a Web TV show that focuses on the latest news about public opinion.
As storytellers, we rely on accurate trends to help shape different narratives on behalf of our clients, whether that data is derived from the Web or via telephone.
— George Medici, firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, “Who is Hope Hicks, and What’d she do?” by Virginia Heffernan has struck a chord among PR pros.
Newly appointed Hicks, 29, is the third director of communications for the current White House, and the youngest in history to hold that position.
While news of her relationship with former Trump Staff Secretary Rob Porter was not the subject of Heffernan’s editorial, the author’s portal of Hick’s job as a “flack” is what’s sending shockwaves throughout the public relations industry.
For those unaware, a flack is a pejorative term sometimes used by journalists to label less-than-scrupulous public relations people, not to be confused with a “hack,” which connotes a security breach or taxi driver, and is a term occasionally used to label a “sloppy” journalist. Both have negative connotations.
According to Heffernan, Hicks was born into a “family of high-level flacks, whitewashing the unsavory practices or grave misdeeds of Texaco, the NFL, Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump,” a reference to her family’s work as crisis communications counselors, and now as the White House communications chief, potentially deceiving the public regarding an obstruction of justice charge.
Right, wrong or indifferent, op-eds are opinion pieces. And the author of this one certainly got it wrong when she wrote, “lying to the media is traditionally called PR.”
No, it’s not. It never was and never will be.
Ironically, the PR industry at times may grapple with its own image problem. However, references to spin doctors and flacks only perpetuate a stereotype.
PR pros are essentially spokespeople, not always necessarily quoted in stories, working in the background, assisting reporters to help them do their jobs. Whether representing a brand, association or publicly traded company, PR practitioners are usually the first point of contact between reporters and clients. Building meaningful relationships with journalists based on trust is paramount to effective media relations, and to the livelihoods and careers of many public relations executives.
Although the percentage has slipped from 2016 to 2017, PR practitioners are still the third most important sources of information for journalists, behind subject experts and industry professionals, according to the 2017 Global Social Journalism Study.
One can agree that it takes a certain skill to effectively navigate any crisis communications situation, especially in a hostile media environment. Reporter deadlines coupled with mounting pressure only adds to the stress of providing timely, accurate, and credible information. But that is what makes the PR industry so specialized.
Every profession can have bad actors, or those on occasion that make mistakes, but the PR industry abides by a code of ethics, values vital to the integrity of the profession as a whole. It’s not fair, nor appropriate, to single out one instance to characterize an entire industry.
Lying to media only gets PR practitioners shunned as ineffective communicators, which often leads to loss of clients, loss of jobs, and the end to careers.
— George Medici, email@example.com
Media relations are an integral component to what we do at PondelWilkinson, whether a public relations or investor relations engagement.
Crises aside, generating media awareness of corporate entities, their brands, products and services, among readers, listeners and viewers is critical to the success of any communications program.
Shrinking news departments, fewer beat reporters, and an increasingly tighter news hole, however, are making it harder to get reporters’ attention.
Another caveat to these challenges is that only 36 percent of journalists prefer to get their information from PR/IR sources, press releases, and newswires, compared with 42 percent last year, according to the 2017 Global Social Journalism Study.
The good news is that experts and industry contacts remain key sources of stories for U.S. journalists. For example, while a reporter may not write about a new app or the latest software version, he or she may be more inclined to interview an executive about key technology trends, such as artificial intelligence or cybersecurity.
Media relations 101, right? Maybe not. According to the same study, only 19 percent of reporters say PR professionals provide high quality content, and just 37 percent are reliable.
Learning what’s important to reporters is vital to establishing long-lasting media relationships, essentially, helping them make their jobs easier.
Follow these simple rules for building successful media contacts:
- Do your research, learn about the reporter and his or her area of coverage.
- Customize your pitch, conveying why it’s important to the outlet’s audience.
- Do not blast pitches. Just don’t do it.
- Provide value, such as proprietary content or a unique perspective or point of view.
- Call first, if possible, especially since reporters are constantly inundated with e-mails.
- Be transparent to foster credibility.
There’s no easy way to building better media relationships. It takes time, effort and a good sense of news, coupled with knowing what reporters want and need.
— George Medici, firstname.lastname@example.org
The power of Twitter is unparalleled especially when the “news” is filled with high stakes and lots of drama, such as in the case of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
A slew of actresses and female Hollywood A-listers recently have come out publicly corroborating Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, spurred by actress Rose McGowan, whose Twitter account had been temporarily locked after a series of posts about The Weinstein Co. founder’s sexual wrongdoings, including toward her.
Twitter’s reason for locking McGowan’s account was because one of her tweets violated the platform’s terms of service, which included a private phone number. The account was eventually unlocked and Twitter added, “We will be clearer about these policies and decisions in the future.”
Twitter’s action against McGowan prompted much resistance, including a Vanity Fair article alluding to the platform’s hypocrisy, referencing other tweets from the U.S. president and even white supremacist groups. Twitter contends it “will not ban content that is newsworthy or has public-interest value.”
While the story is newsworthy, a technical analysis can see where Twitter may be consistent in its user policy. Needless to say, celebrities are more inclined to make news.
Take actress Alyssa Milano for example. The “Who’s the Boss?” star jumped into the Weinstein fray by initiating a “me too” campaign, tweeting, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” The tweet went viral, sparking tens of thousands of engagements, while generating traditional media coverage.
The good news is that Twitter gives anyone the opportunity to participate in the public narrative. The not so good news is that outrageousness, conflict, fortune and fame, is what cuts through the clutter, often leaving lesser known individuals and organizations the silent majority.
Twitter is in sort of a crisis, too. Stories like the Weinstein affair keep the social network relevant and included in mainstream media coverage, although it’s hard to determine if this is having a positive impact on ad revenue since the company’s stock continues to languish since its 2013 initial public offering.
Even though 500 million tweets are posted on Twitter every day from 328 million monthly active users, user growth has slowed or even halted, according to the company’s latest earnings report.
The question remains what’s next for Twitter. For starters, it does in fact need to be clearer about its policies and decisions. An effective issues management campaign might just be what the platform needs to foster more users. Getting in front of this issue is paramount to alleviate any concerns about the platform’s so-called hypocrisy.
Messaging is starting to take shape. Twitter’s founder Jack Dorsey recently pledged to “take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them” to safeguard users, particularly women, and in response to a #WomenBoycottTwitter campaign.
And finally, proving Twitter’s relevance in the social narrative to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, not just high-profile individuals and organizations, may be easier said than done.
— George Medici, email@example.com
There was a time not so long ago when healthcare was a huge mystery, understood only by doctors and industry insiders. Today, much of that mystery has been unlocked through the Internet and a curious populace, as billions of dollars are being spent marketing drugs and services to physicians and consumers alike.
The conversation (and controversy) surrounding healthcare in the U.S. continues to evolve at both the industry and legislative levels. With a divided Congress and an influx of emerging technologies, the need for enhanced communication by healthcare companies is greater than ever.
Providers, hospitals, biotech, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, among others, all have distinct reasons and needs for communicating, from securing funding, to FDA reporting and complying with other regulatory processes, to introducing new products or therapies to providers and patients.
Regardless of the reason, communication at the professional level plays a fundamental role in every facet of healthcare. In the last decade, the avenues available for reaching target audiences have multiplied exponentially, ranging from social media to direct communications.
As one example, when the FDA approves a new medication, the message a pharmaceutical company wants to convey to consumers will center around how the new therapy can improve patients’ lives; the message to physicians focuses on the medication’s safety and efficacy, patient indication and reimbursement.
Many factors are at play in a changing healthcare landscape, and uncertainty fosters opportunity. Our industry, whether the focus be investor relations, strategic public relations, product publicity or social media, is likely to see a bevy of communications firms launch new departments devoted to healthcare, according to a recent blog post in PR News.
Communications advisory firms and agencies that will thrive in the new healthcare landscape are those that can help create new narratives for their clients, along with messaging that resonates and facilitates the right exposure for an organization’s products or services among many stakeholders, including existing and potential customers, investors and key opinion leaders.
Change is the constant in the healthcare sector, and smart, effective communication remains paramount.
— Joanna Rice, firstname.lastname@example.org
While Memorial Day is sort of the unofficial start of summer, the holiday is a solemn one, established to honor fallen servicemen and women of the U.S. military.
Too many times, however, brands take exception to the true meaning of Memorial Day, putting them in the proverbial hot seat. One beer company actually tweeted: “Something to remember on #MemorialDay. It’s a LOT better and a LOT more memorable with #craftbeer!”
Scores of companies continue to miss the Memorial Day mark, with some even issuing apologies responding to their own self-induced holiday crises. Much of the trouble occurs when brands try to mix “summer fun” and Memorial Day.
Marketers need to be aware of the potential backlash of being perceived as insensitive to veterans and their families. While tagging #MemorialDay may increase engagement, it may get the kind of attention marketers don’t want, so consider these three simple tips:
- Don’t do it. When posting about honoring military men and women, do not segue to any hint of shopping, sales, BBQs, or anything of the like.
- Enjoy summer. It’s OK to post products or services that showcase summer fun, whether it’s a beer at a picnic, or bathing suit at the beach. Be careful, though, when it comes to hashtags: #MemorialDayWeekend vs. #MemorialDay.
- Traffic talk. Millions of folks will be hitting the road this weekend and that can only mean one thing: traffic! Find unique, interesting and brand appropriate ways to tie into the travel aspect of the long weekend.
There’s a certain finesse when it comes to marketing Memorial Day. Good judgment and not mixing service with sale will make for holiday-appropriate content.
— George Medici, email@example.com
The Oscars are upon us, and while the awards have absolutely nothing to do with investor relations, it is uncanny how many movie titles could actually apply to a film about investor relations. Following is a list of old and new movie titles that hit the mark.
Dances with Wolves
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Up in Smoke
La La Land
St. Elmo’s Fire
Revenge of the Nerds
Bonfire of the Vanities
The Boss Baby
Million Dollar Baby
Add to the list at #IRmovietitles.
Some CEOs are great and offer stellar business advice. Some CEOs are not so great and fall victim to errors of judgment. Today’s blog looks at some of the best and worst (of 2016), courtesy of Forbes (via MSN) and Business Insider.
Best: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett
Worst: While defending a significant price increase for an important medication, a healthcare company’s CEO claimed that the product was fairly priced and blamed high-deductible health plans for the increase. In October 2016, the company “agreed to pay a fine of $465 million to settle accusations that it overcharged the government” for its products.
Best: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk…In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Worst: After last year’s presidential election, the CEO of a cybersecurity startup threatened on Facebook to kill the president-elect. He resigned from the company in November 2016, and later admitted that what he said “was incredibly dumb, perhaps the dumbest thing I have ever said. I really only have myself to blame for this.”
Best: “My mother always taught me to never look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting the energy into another project always amazes me.” – Richard Branson
Worst: When the CEO of a large U.S. bank only shouldered some of the blame for opening new customer accounts without permission in order to meet quotas, and put much of the blame on “the 5,300 low-level employees who had already been fired,” Senator Warren accused him of “gutless leadership.” Later he admitted full responsibility and stepped down from his position.
Laurie Berman, firstname.lastname@example.org
LinkedIn these days seems to be less about posting “business” content and more around publishing selfies, memes and math puzzles.
Ironically, these Facebook-like posts generally get more traction. But all engagement is not always good engagement, just like all publicity is not always good publicity.
Interestingly enough, the Pew Research Center found that more workers ages 18-49 have discovered information on social media that lowered their professional opinion of a colleague, compared to those who garnered an improved estimation of a co-worker from online platforms. So, be careful what you post.
LinkedIn prides itself on “connecting the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” What’s happened, however, is the line between “work” and “consumer” content has been blurred, causing LinkedIn professionals to lambast what they see as irrelevant posts, stating: “This is not Facebook!”
The reality is that LinkedIn is competing with Facebook. Late last year, Mark Zuckerberg’s social network announced it was testing a feature that would let page administrators create job postings and receive applications from candidates. This undoubtedly will put pressure on LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions business, which comprised 65 percent of the company’s 3Q 2016 revenues.
With 467 million members in over 200 countries and territories, LinkedIn, now owned by Microsoft, is growing at a rate of more than two new members per second. This quails in comparison to Facebook’s 1.79 billion monthly active users, but the company’s growth shows more professionals see value in the platform.
So what does the future look like for LinkedIn? Consider the following:
- LinkedIn will become an even more valuable business networking tool among business professionals, surpassing Pew’s estimate of the 14 percent of professionals who use the online platform for work-related purposes.
- “Irrelevant” posts will continue, at least in the short term, but will have an adverse effect on those who publish non-related content.
- Thoughtful, engaging and pertinent posts that resonate with key audiences will generate positive engagement.
- Business organizations and individuals will learn how to leverage this network beyond recruitment and job searches.
Much can be said by the old adage “all work and no play …,” so it’s refreshing to see some brevity in our daily work lives. But these matters may be best suited for Facebook and not LinkedIn.
— George Medici, email@example.com
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PondelWilkinson Inc. is a leading investor relations and strategic public relations firm that has earned a national reputation for innovative, aggressive, professional service.