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January 30, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Something Positive for the NFL

If you are a crisis communications enthusiast, the NFL has been a gift that keeps on giving in the past year, with a steady drumbeat of scandals providing ample fodder for commentary.  2014 was not a kind year for the NFL…or should I say, the NFL did its best to skewer itself in 2014? From incidents involving former fan favorites Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson to Commissioner Goodell’s mishandling of each situation, the hits just kept on coming for the league.   In some cases, the bad behavior turned fans off, others like #deflategate became a rallying cry and unifier about the team you love to hate. With each new headline, you could practically hear loyal fans groaning and public opinion plummeting. As we get ready for the Big Game, and the plethora of marketing stunts that accompany it (Puppy Bowl, anyone?), let’s take a break from the hate, and look at how NFL owners and players have been working to rebuild trust, one player at a time (with perhaps a twinge of hope that some of this would “go viral” – which has replaced “be on Oprah” as the single common wish of any client at any agency today). Exhibit…

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January 29, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

What A Headscarf Tells Us About the Power of Twitter

I had a colleague who used to challenge every reporter that he felt was off base with the question, “What is it, a slow news day?”  Back then, reporters would try to uncover stories by calling you on the phone, testing a theory, a rumor and sometimes just fishing for news.  It was pretty easy to identify the rumors about your company before they became pervasive.  And while we didn’t know it at the time, it was a lot easier to contain them. We’ve observed for years now that social media has fundamentally changed the news cycle.  This is particularly true in a crisis, where social commentary can take on a life of its own.  And while we may long for the days when a response within 60 minutes was considered the gold standard of crisis communications, in the current environment, it is more like 60 seconds. But the rise of social media and the plethora of easily accessible opinion makers have also fundamentally changed the news business.  Today, it’s better to be first than to be right.  And often, no one will ever know if you are right because the race to join the conversation creates a lot of…

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January 28, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , , , ,

The Anti-Vaccine Movement and the Power of a Narrative

Social media is exploding with infographics and articles about vacciners v. anti-vacciners, fueled by a measles outbreak traced to Disneyland.  And while the experts argue about herd immunity, and the fact that we’ve forgot, as a society, what it was like for most families to bury at least one child due to diseases like measles, mumps and rubella, PR people can take a lesson about the power of a narrative, and the power of third parties. Not too long ago, a narrative developed around the connection between vaccines and autism, based on fake science.  In short, mistrust of big pharmaceutical companies — who are vaccine advocates, presumably to sell more vaccines with no interest in saving lives (sarcasm intended) – and amnesia about childhood morbidity enables a shift in our society’s fear.  We began to fear autism more than we feared death of our children.  And as diagnoses of disorders on the spectrum increased exponentially, we needed someone to blame.  Throw in a couple of celebrities who adopted an anti-vaccine stance, and a few scientists who assured us that herd immunity would protect us, and voila, the anti-vaccine movement took hold. This Wag the Dog-like manipulation of the public psyche…

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November 14, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

In Wake Of Blackfish Backlash, SeaWorld Takes A Plunge

  The verdict is out on the impact of “Blackfish,” the 2013 documentary that put SeaWorld’s treatment of orca whales in the line of fire: SeaWorld reported another disappointing quarter this week, with its profit falling 28 percent and its stock price down more than 50 percent from its 2013 April IPO following the news. We’ve been waiting to see how SeaWorld’s unconventional, public refutation would play out…and now we know. Customers and investors have spoken by closing their wallets. While SeaWorld attempted to counter the flood of harsh criticism from animal rights activists, lawmakers, celebrities, and media, its response was not well received. The amount of coverage about SeaWorld’s reputational and financial fails only increased, and the entire counter-campaign has become a spectacle and learning lesson for corporations and communications counselors. With a complaint to the Labor Department, an open letter to movie critics claiming that the film was misleading and false, and its “truth about Blackfish” website that frames the documentary as propaganda, SeaWorld has boldly played the defensive since the film’s debut at a time when companies would usually be holding their breaths. As I stated in another post, there’s a time to speak and there’s a…

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September 23, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , , , ,

Advice to the NFL: Talk Less, Do More

If you are a reputation blogger, the NFL is a gift that just keeps on giving. I tried to root for them, I really did. I listened to Roger Goodell’s news conference and gave him the benefit of the doubt….apology (check), outline action & timeline (check), do something good for the issue of violence (check, check). Sure, Goodell fumbled badly when he had to go off script. And his delivery was hardly inspiring. But I hopefully (naively?) called it a first step toward reputation recovery. I was wrong. Perhaps the reason Goodell couldn’t manage well when he went off script is because the script wasn’t even his. It was written for him by a political operative (Because politicians are the gold standard in earning trust?). And how about the performance of Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti’s lame apology for the Ray Rice bungle? His delivery was moderately better than Goodell’s, but does he think admitting “it didn’t occur to him” to press for the video was a good reason? How about his idea of giving Ray Rice a six figure job with the team in “player development” – because we need more players who behave like him? The best advice…

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September 23, 2014 | admin |

Growing Up MWW: A 15 Year Lesson in Life, Business and Self-Discovery

A Note from Carreen Winters: From time to time we feature guest posts from clients, industry experts and other MWW leaders.  Today, we feature a post from Joe Cohen – who is a legitimate leader — of our firm, and our industry (he’s the National Chair of the PRSA).  I remember Joe when he joined us – an eager, earnest high energy Account Coordinator.  I was lucky enough to have Joe as a direct member of my team for more than ten years.  And I am so proud of all he has accomplished, and thankful for all he has contributed to MWW over the past 15 years.  As Joe gets ready to begin a new chapter in his professional life, he offered to provide his advice to PR professionals, from the hardest working man in PR.  Sometimes the student becomes the teacher.  And there is no better teacher of professionalism, passion and integrity than Joe Cohen.  I feel lucky to call him my colleague, and my friend.  I hope KIND knows how lucky they are to have Joe on their team.  Joe, MWW is a better agency because of you. ### “Our careers, like our lives, somehow divide themselves into eras, into…

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September 22, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Is Paid Media the Final Reputation Frontier?

Reputation is one of those amorphous things that people struggle to define, yet seek to protect at all costs.  Famous quotes about the importance of reputation abound, and companies generally accept the notion that reputations are worth protecting. Over the two decades I’ve been working in reputation management, the practice has evolved from an earned media-centric model that was driven largely by the client asks for “positive publicity about the Company, featuring the CEO, please” to a more integrated approach and an understanding that reputation begins with your actions – it is something you demonstrate, more than you discuss.  Clients increasingly acknowledge the importance of internal culture to reputation, as employees are the universal touch point to all of your other constituents.  With the rise of social media, reputation managers embraced content and owned media as an effective tool for enhancing reputation and worked to be prepared for the power and speed of social when a crisis threatens a company’s reputation. Recently, there has been a noticeable uptick in the use of paid media for reputation efforts.  And while “brand advertising” has long been an accepted practice – these campaigns take a more substantive approach and highlight the Company’s values,…

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September 19, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Move the Chains: Roger Goodell’s Fumble Recovery

Just as the calls for his resignation reached a fever pitch, Roger Goodell pulled off a fumble recovery with his news conference today  (Although I’d throw a flag for the late start!). While the NFL, and Goodell, are far from being out of the woods, today marked an important first step in reputation recovery. What did the NFL (finally) get right? Goodell Manned Up – he took responsibility for bad processes, bad decisions and bad outcomes.  And promised to do better.  Never underestimate the value of an apology. Prescriptive and immediate actions were unveiled – education and training for all personnel will begin this month. NFL shed the block and pivoted to how the NFL can be a force for good – supporting credible organizations to tackle the larger societal problem of domestic violence.  They didn’t do it as well as NFL sponsor (and MWW client) Verizon – which made a similar call to action before the NFL did, and has been supporting domestic violence for years. Brought his potential adversary under the tent – the NFLPA by stating that they both agree that “There is no room for violence in the NFL” while outlining the need for change to…

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September 18, 2014 | admin | Tagged ,

The NFL in Crisis – How Can Its Reputation Be Saved?

The biggest news from the NFL over the first three weeks of the season has all been off the field with player arrests and suspensions relating to domestic and child abuse. EVP Carreen Winters recently appeared on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” to discuss what PR issues the NFL is facing and what the league needs to do to restore the trust in the shield. See Carreen’s interview here.

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September 9, 2014 | dlauer | Tagged , , ,

Becoming a lifestyle brand, the Apple way

I’ve led corporate branding and narrative development for companies in every industry, from start-ups to the Fortune 100.  At one point in each and every audit, when asking executives who they most want to emulate or be aligned with, they all say the same thing: “I want to be Apple.” It has happened so often that I have had to specifically re-engineer my question to include a caveat – Apple doesn’t count.  Nor does Nike or Starbucks. These are the go-to brands that transcend their categories. Their very names have become known as widely-accepted verbs by everyone from Wall Street Analysts to Main Street Millennials.  These companies have created such strong emotional connections with their customers that they now serve to validate their identities and customers reciprocate by voluntarily tattooing their cars, computers and even bodies.  Because for their audiences, they are not corporations, they are a lifestyle. Lifestyle brands do more than achieve cult-like status among their followers. They successfully break away from the commodity space.  They command a price and loyalty premium unavailable to competitors. And the secret sauce? After researching and following so many of these brands, including those that have had success on a humbler stage,…

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