Category Archives: PR

A Night of Inspiration at Nat Geo’s Further Front

Upfronts are about celebrity and entertainment – and rightfully so. Media buyers are roused to make investments based on innovative television programming and big name talent that the networks trot out in a show of what’s to come next season.

Traditionally, upfront season is packed with (predictably) great parties and good business but last night, National Geographic’s Further Front raised the bar and took the typical upfront, well, further than we’ve ever seen before.

Stationed throughout Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room was breathtaking photography of mountains and oceans, of climbers and divers. Morgan Freeman, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Katie Couric, Harvey Weinstein and scores of other celebrities walked the yellow carpet – It was an elegant, beautiful, star-studded event. But it was the evening’s programming – celebrating the explorers, photographers and geniuses that grace the pages and the programs of National Geographic that inspired all attendees in a way no other upfront DGC has ever attended has – or could – before.

Further is all about pushing ourselves. To achieve. To learn. To go outside the borders we place on ourselves – both literally/physically and figuratively/mentally. The day’s programming reflected that – with presentations from Morgan Freeman who explores how our beliefs connect us all in The Story of God, as well as Jane Lynch who will host Earth Live, a two-hour live broadcast that is described as the “Super Bowl” of the natural world.  The Further Front wasn’t simply about celebrities and pictures, it was about celebrating those who were pushing themselves to do more, not just for themselves, but for the world. It’s a mantra that is woven throughout the culture and reverence of National Geographic and always has been. Through the National Geographic Society, 27% of all proceeds are used to support any number of good causes, including the fight against climate change and wildlife preservation.  It was simply impossible to walk away from last night without wanting to do, see and achieve more.

A key tenant of the Further ethos is that there’s an explorer inside all of us. The message was loud and clear last night – and a rallying cry to brands that are always seeking ways to forge authentic connections with their audiences. Tap into the explorer inside, and go further together.

Ariana Grande’s Privacy Breach

Photo Credit: E! Online

Photo Credit: E! Online

Poor Ariana Grande. She became the “hate” girl du jour earlier this month when she was captured on video in a California donut shop saying she hated America and Americans.

It’s important to remember that the pop singer, who was born in Florida in 1993, and is in fact, American, had no idea her image or voice were being recorded at the time of the incident. Grande was in the shop with a couple of friends, and her actions and words appear to have been recorded by a camera mounted behind the counter and perhaps not visible to customers.

She and a male companion appear to take turns licking, or pretending to lick, some donuts on a tray that was placed on the counter. When a worker comes into frame and tries to place another tray of donuts on the glass counter right in front of Grande she disgustedly remarks, “[WTF] is that? I hate Americans. I hate America.”

Although it happened in a public place, hers was not a public pronouncement but an off-the-cuff, reaction to a friend.  Once released online, the video went viral. No surprise there.

The whole kerfuffle that ensued raises a number of important questions and observations:

First the observations:

  • There is no privacy for anyone no matter where you are.
  • Retail stores are recording your every move.
  • If you’re famous, say nothing beyond please and thank you when out in public.
  • In private, put your smartphone in another room and make any companions do the same if you intend to have a conversation or do anything you’d rather not have appear on the Web.

Now for the questions:

  • Why did the donut shop release this video?
  • What did they hope to gain?
  • Do they hate Ariana Grande?
  • Why were Grande and her male friend pretending to lick the donuts?
  • If she’s so disgusted by the site of a tray of donuts, why was she in a donut shop in the first place?

The whole situation is a publicist’s nightmare. But then the tables turned. The Health Dept. in Riverside County investigated Wolfee Donuts for incorrectly placing trays of donuts on the counter where they could be tampered with.

But then, even the donut shop came out smelling sweet after this promotion.

Maybe there really isn’t any such thing as bad publicity.

To PR a ‘Mockingbird’

Today’s release of Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s second book following the American staple of  literature To Kill a Mockingbird, signifies a landmark in a widely considered “dying” industry of book publishing. In the book world, this “new” novel is comparable to any hit summer blockbuster movie.

Underneath the fans’ passion lies a heap of controversy and ethical question marks. Among them are concerns over Harper Lee’s health and whether she actually agreed to publish this book, years after vowing to never publish again. Lots of Lee’s close friends point the finger at her lawyer, Tonja Carter, citing she’s taking advantage of Lee in her old age. In a savvy PR move, Carter provided her story in an op-ed to the Wall Street Jounal of how Watchman went from being stuck in a safety deposit box to being made available to millions of excited fans today.

The public may never know the true story behind Lee’s change of heart or if Carter is telling the truth, but we recognize a valiant effort by Carter to take control of her message in hopes to set the record straight.

With summer season upon us, it’s always a great time to catch up on a new book. Our colleagues are voraciously consuming new, non-fiction, best sellers and best-beloved books.

If you’re looking for a good book to while away the hours until Labor Day and beyond, you might find some inspiration here:

 Kendra Peavy, General Manager, Director of Development

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf 2013)
Fiction

Kendra says, “Americanah covers race, relationships and identity. It pulls you into the politically complex world of Nigeria at the turn of the 21st century and the love story of Ifemelu and Obinze. It takes an interesting approach to storytelling that is direct, but still descriptive. You feel the energy and emotion of the characters and fall in love with their process of discovery. My sister made the recommendation and gave me her copy of the book. She thought I’d enjoy it.”

Maryliz Ghanem, Vice President

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer (Doubleday 2015)
Non-Fiction

Maryliz says, “Krakauer reports on a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana. He shares the stories of the victims, the accused and law enforcement in a beautiful narrative that brings to life this serious issue. This isn’t an ‘easy’ summer read but anything Krakauer writes is brilliant. He’s an amazing storyteller, even when he’s reporting on such a tough subject. He draws you in, makes you question everything and leaves you wanting more.  This book was recommended for me on GoodReads.”

Theresa Piti, Office Manager

1Q84, Haruki Murakami (Knopf 2011)
Fiction

From the cover blurb: “A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —‘Q is for ‘question mark.’”

Theresa says, “It’s a dual narrative story and as of yet, I’m not sure where it will converge. I’m a fan of Japanese fiction. A friend recommended it and off I went.”

Scott Berwitz, Vice President

Inferno, Dan Brown (Doubleday 2013)
Fiction

Scott says the book involves “a famed Harvard professor who wakes up in a strange hospital after having survived an attempt on his life.  He has to make sense of his predicament while being hunted down by his would-be killers – a task made ever more difficult by the short-term amnesia he suffers from the attack.  What results is a fascinating journey through Florence and the underworld depicted in Dante’s Inferno. It’s sort of a cerebral thrill ride, a really exciting read. I’ve loved other books by this author such as, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.

Claire Higgins, Account Executive

The World According to Garp, John Irving (1978, republished 1999 by Ballantine)
Fiction

This story chronicles the life of T.S. Garp, the bastard son of a feminist, following him from infancy through all the pivotal moments in his life.  Claire says, “It’s very long, and a little long-winded, but John Irving is a favorite of mine so I had to pick it up and am determined to finish it. Once I hit the most climatic moment in the story, I haven’t been able to put it down. It’s very realistic, heartbreaking at times, and dryly and subtly funny, which I like. I liked John Irving after reading A Prayer for Owen Meany (William Morrow 1989), but both were recommended to me by my aunt and grandma. Irving is a fave of theirs, too.”

Can We Go “Off The Record” ?

There are three little words that, when improperly construed, can get an executive in a lot of trouble when talking to the media.  What are they?  “Off the record.”

Just exactly what does that mean?  The phrase is one of the most misunderstood in journalism and is open to some degree of interpretation.  As such, executives doing interviews with the press must make sure everyone at the table is crystal clear as to its meaning before any sensitive information is imparted.

The most popular definition is that it means the information a journalist is given in an interview cannot be included in the reporter’s article under any circumstances.  The information is strictly for the journalist’s edification and for contextual purposes to help him/her understand the nuances of the story being reported. They can’t use it directly or indirectly. Period.

But not everyone agrees with that interpretation.  Some reporters (and their editors) believe “off the record” means they can use the information as long as they don’t attribute it directly to the person who is giving it to them.  In other circles, that definition falls under going “on background” with the reporter.  And that opens another door that could be troublesome.  If a reporter does use the information, exactly how is it attributed, and to whom?

Some reporters say “according to a source” while others might attribute the information to “a source with direct knowledge of the situation.”  And that leads to another potential pitfall—what if only three or four people have “direct knowledge of the situation”? Then it becomes possible to narrow down the possible source, and that can lead to finger pointing among the people being covered in the story.  And that can damage business relationships.  Another scenario occurs when the information is attributed to “an agency source” or “a company source”?  Again, that can lead to the source being narrowed down and more easily identified.

The best course of action is to make the rules of engagement perfectly clear from the outset.  If at any point in the interview a reporter asks to go off the record, or if the person being interview decides it’s best to go off the record for whatever reason, make sure each party defines the term immediately.  If it is agreed that the information can be used, then both parties also must decide exactly how it will be attributed.

One final, crucial tip–always remember that all these negotiations must take place before any delicate information is given to a journalist.  It’s exceedingly bad form and totally unfair to give a reporter an important piece of information and then tell him/her it’s off the record after the fact. That’s not the way the game is played and it’s the mark of a rank amateur.

DGC Roundtable: Taylor Swift Versus Spotify

The DGC Roundtable is moderated by our fall intern, Jamie Kurke.

It’s no secret that Taylor Swift has been the hottest artist on the planet (and DGC favorite) since she released her smash single “Shake It Off” near the end of the summer. Between the highly anticipated new album, upcoming tour, and overall Taylor-mania, she’s run an effective launch strategy to keep herself in the news — and this time it has nothing to do with ex-boyfriends.

The big headline of the week was Taylor’s abrupt decision to pull her entire music catalog from Spotify, one of the popular streaming services. There’s been several theories and reactions for why, but nothing definite from her camp.

With that in mind, our question this week was:

After Taylor Swift pulled her entire music catalog from Spotify, what are the implications for the industry – from Spotify’s response, Taylor’s reputation, and the future of digital music distribution?

Erin Donahue Tice, Vice President, Group Account Director

taylor-swift-jkl-2014-billboard-650-01Taylor can do no wrong, especially when it comes to knowing her own personal brand, and how to connect with her fans. She’s a savvy marketer with strong PR inclinations, and her choice to pull her entire catalogue from Spotify is only causing more intrigue and excitement around her new album, which will in turn drum up sales. Much like Beyonce’s decision to release her new album last year on itunes without any pre-publicity, Taylor is at a level in her career where she can do what she wants, on her own terms. There are a multitude of ways to get music in the hands of consumers these days, and by omitting her songs from Spotify, Taylor isn’t hurting her career; if anything, she’s breeding more “Swifties” who love her sense of honesty and integrity, and will pay whatever it costs to hear her tunes.

Sara Ajemian, Account Director

Taylor’s not the first to buck the trend and make her own rules (hello, Beyoncé). Removing her music catalog off of Spotify will have no negative impact on her career. Clearly she’s doing something right: 1989 went instantly platinum. I think more artists are going to follow in her footsteps, but only if they can afford to.

Pat Wentling, Senior Account Executive

This comes down to an art versus distribution conversation which is anything but apples to apples.  Music is an art form, and digital distribution platforms like Spotify have devalued that art but provided it on a grander scale. It’s a debate that has valid arguments on both sides. In this case, Taylor has to do what’s best for her. It’s not going to hurt her or Spotify. She’s one of the few artists who can rise above it. For digital distribution’s sake, I do hope there is a conversation on fair pay for artists who spend their time developing the music we love. In the meantime, Taylor’s just gonna shake.

Lexi Hewitt, Account Coordinator

I think that Taylor Swift pulling all of her albums from Spotify could have interesting implications for the music industry. However, I don’t think that it’s the end of the world for Spotify.  I think Spotify means different things to artists on different levels.  For an artist not as well-known as Taylor, Spotify could be an opportunity to get their name out there and get exposure to people they may not initially be able to reach.  It will be interesting to see what implications Taylor Swift’s decision has as new albums from bigger acts come out and to see whether or not more artists follow suit.

Jamie Kurke, Intern

My visceral reaction of this whole situation is how brazen it is on TSwift’s part. Spotify is, in my mind at least, in the top tier of music streaming services and it seems to be a huge snuff on her part to declare that she doesn’t need or want them. Furthermore, I’m sure there are plenty of enraged fans out there that now have to choose between their go-to music app and their favorite It-Girl. That said, however, it could prove to work marketing wonders for Taylor. She’s always been vocal about her independence and makes a big deal about having gained fame all on her own; this is certainly a power move that pushes out that message even further. Hopefully, her fans will remain loyal and respect her choice, Spotify will continue to be respectful and graceful about their loss, and balance can remain intact in the music biz.

DGC Roundtable: How to fix Uber

The DGC Roundtable is moderated by our Fall Intern, Jamie Kurke.

Uber has been a hot brand ever since its inception but as of late, they’ve been in the news for all of the wrong reasons. With that in mind, this week’s question was:

In light of recent bad press, what, if anything, should Uber do to clean up their brand image and regain trust from the public?New-Logo-Vertical-Dark

Maryliz Ghanem, Vice President:

Uber needs fixing and they need to show the public the measures they are willing to take to protect their customers. They need to put into action strict measures and guidelines, for example: third-party background checks, suspension and review of drivers with a spotty record, and dedicated customer services. They need to show their riders that they are serious about safety and put these protections in place.

Pat Wentling, Senior Account Executive:

Uber clearly is a hot brand with an in-demand product – it’s practically become ubiquitous for traveling in New York City. The recent bad press, not to mention a satirical look from the writers at South Park, proves that Uber needs to commit to keeping their consumers safe and comfortable. The Uber team needs to publically promote a rigorous training and background check on each and every driver they employ, as well as a clear algorithm behind their pricing methods. If that means having fewer drivers in the interim, it’s worth the price of regaining consumer trust.

Lexi Hewitt, Account Coordinator:

it is hard to ignore all of the negative attention Uber receives.  Uber needs to be more responsive to the bad press that they’re getting.   Ignoring it is not going to make it go away, and they need to be proactive in their public relation efforts by getting ahead of negative stories.  They should sympathize with their customers when they are unhappy and realize that what the media is saying about them does matter.  Their business may be doing fine now, but I think that the negativity will inevitably catch up to them.

Claire Eisenberg, Senior Account Director:

  • Be transparent – Many complaints from consumers are tied to being told that the ride would cost one amount and ultimately being charged astronomically more.
  • Be reachable – Riders can’t seem to get through to customer service when they have a problem. This typically leads to consumers airing their grievances in much more public forums.
  • Take Action – With the most recent claim that a rider was kidnapped, it’s shocking that the customer service tried to convince her otherwise. Are you kidding? Take this feedback seriously and take the appropriate legal actions.

For now, I’ll stick with cabs.

Jamie Kurke, Intern:

Uber has been in hot water, it seems, since their dawn of time. Unless they conduct a serious overhaul, one of these times will be the last straw for their customers. I already have friends deleting the app and complaining about bad service or being afraid—especially when using UberX. While they do have a great business model, my advice would be to stop the expansion for now and focus on their existing customer base. A heartfelt apology from a high up exec and the promise of some driver training and more extensive screening would probably be the best way to gain back rider trust. It would certainly put me more at ease about requesting a black car instead of hailing a Yellow Cab.

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