The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s often said that the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink. But until recently, the camera has always been in the hands of responsible and professional photographers, videographers and journalists. Not in the hands of passengers documenting airline brutality or murderers recording their own deeds as selfies.

cell phone picture

Photo courtesy of: Time.com

Now everyone with a cell phone, and that’s pretty much everyone, is a documentarian, taking cameras and matters into his or her own hands. And thanks to social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, et al, there is no shortage of airtime.

Traditional print media like the New York TIMES, which narrowcasts to only those who choose to pay for it, advertises its policy of “all the news that’s fit to print.” But these social media publishers have yet to restrict the freedom of their presses.

According to Wikipedia, Clint Eastwood’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was one of the greatest and most influential Westerns of all time. But today’s citizens offer cowboy justice at its best and worst because there are no filters on these cameras.

In our Los Angeles media training and social media training world, this is the phenomena of loose cannons. Executives  must be Ready for them. It cannot be the “shoot from the hip” approach taken by United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz recently. There must be a sensible crisis plan, designed, prepared and practiced in advance.

Crisis training would have explored whether it is the best policy to boot paying customers to make way for employees.  Then, not defend employees’ actions in the face of excessive force without being aware of the details: a passenger being beaten seriously enough to cause a concussion, two broken teeth and a broken nose.

Then, after a deluge of negative traditional and social media not abjectly apologize saying Dr. David Dao “did nothing wrong.” A more appropriate response would have been, Dr. Dao was badly mistreated. But for the safety of all the passengers on my airline, everyone needs to follow the orders given by my people, even if you think those orders are stupid or unfair. And for that, I will not defend his actions either.

The cost to United Airlines in dollars and reputation is impossible to estimate. Each passenger on that flight is now being reimbursed for the price of his or her ticket, which may set a precedent that other companies will be forced to follow every time someone pictures and posts a misdeed. Finally, the passenger who was documented being dragged bloodied and broken down the aisle by countless cell phones is very likely to sue and is from Asia, an important market for the company.

The lesson, of course, is to get in front of a crisis, but to do it correctly. As the victimized doctor’s code would suggest, “First, do no harm.” And not respond impulsively without planning or design.

The world wide web offers the broadest of broadcasting possibilities to everyone who holds a cell phone. And that’s pretty much everyone.

 

Are You Ready For Your Close Up?

The score is tied 72 to 72 with 38.8 seconds left in the game. The Rhode Island Rams’ defense is giving it their all to stop Tyler Dorsey of the Oregon Ducks from scoring again and taking the lead.

Tyler Dorsey comes up inches behind the three-point line and SWOOSH! He drains it for 3, putting the Ducks in the lead in the final few seconds!

 

The star of the game, Tyler Dorsey, is being pulled every which way with congratulatory words and questions from the media.  So, what’s a student athlete to do when a journalist wants an interview? Emotions are high, excitement is in the air, and everyone wants to hear from him. But is he Ready for his close up?

According to CBS Sports NCAA roster analysis, the average age for each team ranges from 19-23 with 20 being the most common. Like most student athletes, Tyler Dorsey has little experience with the media and how to give an interview.

Mr. Dorsey scored some READY FOR MEDIA points by shooting a few charismatic smiles during his March Madness TV interview. Being conversational, i.e. looking at the journalist while answering her questions, could’ve helped Mr. Dorsey follow through and score some extra credibility for himself and the University of Oregon.

Tyler bounced back from his teammates water-dumping foul by hitting an “and-one” with his cool and collected attitude. BEEF- a mnemonic often used to teach proper shooting form- can be used when conducting an interview, too.

B- Balance (Position yourself strategically)

E- Eyes (Make eye contact with the journalist)

E- Elbow (Elbow the conversation in the direction you want it to go)

F- Follow Through (Stay on your interview agenda)

While these athletes are there to play,  they’re also creating a brand for themselves, impacting the university’s publicity, and representing the team as a whole. Are your athletes Ready for their close ups?

 

 

Mexican Standoff

Nordstrom and Ivanka Trump find themselves in a Mexican Standoff following Nordstrom’s decision to drop her fashion brand from their stores.

Mexican Standoff Blog

Photo Courtesy of: bittersweetaspects.wordpress.com

A spokeswoman for Nordstrom insisted that the company made the decision based on plummeting sales and not as a political statement following Nordstrom’s company wide pro-immigration email. “For us, the two were not connected.”

As expected, President Trump gunned-down Nordstrom in a defensive tweet. “My daughter, Ivanka, has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person – always pushing me to do the right thing.” Terrible,” he whined.

Despite Nordstrom’s explanation that this was a logical business decision, both sides remain at a stand still. Neither Ivanka Trump, the brand; nor Nordstrom, the retailer dare to make the next move and must wait until it’s made for them by their customers. Those responsible for sales!

Unfortunately, large and small companies alike, are facing boycotts and backlash from Trump supporters and non-supporters.  Some boycotted Nordstrom for selling Ivanka Trump, some for not selling Ivanka Trump.

But as the owner of one e-commerce site wrote, “for every customer I’ve lost, I’ve gained one.”

 

The Best Defense

The best defense…is a good offense. What’s a multi-national company to do when the quarterback has turned against your fans? Some companies tackled the country’s quarterback with Super Bowl ’17 commercials in an end-run.

Know your Audience photo

Photo Courtesy of: bustle.com

In the era of hashtags and social media,  Coca-Cola and Airbnb reached out to defend their international audiences in the wake of ethnic exclusion. #WeAccept was the tag line for Airbnb’s commercial featuring multicultural faces which advocated that: “The world is more beautiful, the more you accept.”

Airbnb’s co-founder, Brian Chesky, made extra points relying on hosts to volunteer their homes to stranded travelers. He announced on Twitter that the company would “provide short term housing over the next five years for 100,000 people in need.”

Coca-Cola had similar skin in the game with a commercial featuring “America the Beautiful” being sung in multiple languages calling for a fair catch from the new travel interceptions our country is enforcing. Although the commercial was revived from its original airing in 2014, the powerful play was now received with a different meaning.

In an environment of exclusion, Coca-Cola and Airbnb scored ads advocating for inclusion. Both companies’ knowledge of their international clientele was utilized to make a statement. An audible expressed that these American companies stand with the world.

Knowing your audience is a game changer in effectively conveying a powerful message. Airbnb has many clients that stay in American homes when visiting from abroad, while Coca-Cola is a touchdown all over the world.

Strategic uses of the media is beneficial to all companies. Even when you are blocked, strategy and preparation are key. Use communication strategy and media coaching to be Ready when it’s your turn to take the field.

 

 

 

 

It’s a Dog’s Life

“When I die, I want to come back as your dog,” is a compliment often paid to dog owners who spoil their dogs with a lavish lifestyle that is anything but a dog’s life. And we humans tend to have more than one dog in our lifetimes. Both reincarnation and the role that dogs play in our lives are the subjects of a recent movie, A Dog’s Purpose that has been met with surprising controversy.

Its a Dog's Life image

Photo Courtesy of: BrilliantDogTraining.com

The movie that intended to display the unique love we share with our dogs was targeted in an excerpt of a German Shepherd appearing to be forced into rushing water despite the dog’s reticence. Members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) the largest animal rights organization in the world and animal lovers alike reacted by dragging A Dog’s Purpose under rushing waters of criticism leaving the filmmakers in a fight to stay afloat. The conveniently-timed video release forced the studio to cancel the press junket and premiere prior to releasing A Dog’s Purpose in more than 3,000 locations following PETA’s urging of a boycott on social media.

In an attempt to regain the trust of the public, Dennis Quaid, the star of the film, expressed on NBC’s “Today” Show that the video was manipulated and spliced to look as if the dog was being abused. The presence of the American Humane Association during the filming of this scene was offered as defense that the dog could not have been abused. The AHA responded by saying that the video was “misleading and edited.”

Both parties, the filmmakers and protesters alike, used the media to advantage in a battle attempting to defend or destroy the film and their points of view.

Despite the activists’ attempts to drown the film and perhaps, unintended publicity,  A Dog’s Purpose was able to tread water and broke the 18.4 million dollar mark as the #2 movie in its debut weekend. Decide for yourself!

Do Your Homework!

Oscar Wilde, Will Rogers and Mark Twain all quipped, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

President-elect Trump’s candidate for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, failed to make the grade and tested the patience of yesterday’s Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.

Photo Courtesy of: Blog.Ted.com

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) a longtime proponent of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) confessed to MSNBC that she was very concerned that Ms. DeVos seemed confused or unfamiliar with the fact that the IDEA is a federal law that the Secretary of Education would be charged with enforcing! It is a law that hits close to home for many, including Senator Hassan.

The prospective Secretary of Education continued to display her lack of Readyness when she repeatedly asked Senator Al Franken (D – Minnesota) for clarification on a policy of measuring proficiency vs. growth that he deemed, “a subject that has been debated in the education community for years,” then proceeded to say, “it surprises me that you don’t know this issue.”

Not only was Ms. DeVos vague on her answers, she failed until the very end to bridge to points she should have come to make : her qualifications, her passion for “children and education with 30-years as a voice for parent, uh students, and to empower parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, primarily low-income children.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D – Conn) who’s been very vocal on gun control since the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary, asked, “Do you think guns have any place in or around schools? You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?”

“Well,” Ms. DeVos responded, “I will refer back to uh, Senator Enzi” (R – Wyoming)  “I would imagine there are guns in the schools there to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Clearly, this applicant failed to educate herself on the questioners, learn the questions that would be dearest to them and give honest, informed answers. Why didn’t she research the subject? Why didn’t she hire a “tutor” to practice mock interviews with video feedback and constructive critique? Why didn’t she do her homework?

The most telling question of all came from recent Presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders (D – Vermont) who challenged her as the teacher’s pet: “If you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions to the Republican Party, would you be sitting here today?

Ms. DeVos’ admitted, “Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility.”

Be Ready

“Be ready,” is the lesson marketing executives must now take, according to a recent New York Times article, “Planning for Unexpected Criticism by Trump.” Crisis consultant Andrew D. Gilman, who has counseled such brands as Johnson & Johnson, General Motors and Pepsi during crises advises “prepare for Mr. Trump as you would for a natural disaster — an event that is highly unpredictable but poses a big risk if it happens.”

Photo Courtesy of: bceforensics.com

Photo Courtesy of: BCEforensics.com

Mr. Trump’s trigger-finger tweeting is prompting some brands to preemptively draft informal contingency plans, and others, like H&R Block, to spend money shoring up their reputations. One contingency is to line up a third-party spokesman who can help if the brand’s image is dinged. That is essentially what H&R Block did in signing Jon Hamm, the “Mad Men” star and an H&R Block customer for years.

“The fit between H&R Block and myself,”  Mr. Hamm commented, “seemed copacetic and natural. And the tone of the creative was clever and outside the box for something as humdrum as taxes.” Even before the election, Mr. Trump offered to “put H&R Block out of business” with his plan for a simplified tax code.

And what if your company is trampled?

Scott Farrell, a specialist in corporate branding and the president of Golin Global Corporate Communications, said “The only thing that applies, no matter what the issue, is speed. Slow kills companies fast in a Twitter conversation.”

Vanity Fair’s swift response after Mr. Trump reacted to a negative review of a restaurant in one of his buildings by saying the magazine was “dead” could be an example for others to follow. Mr. Farrell explained, “its message — including banner ads on its website calling itself “The Magazine Donald Trump Doesn’t Want You to Read” and asking for subscriptions — captured the magazine’s voice and identity. More than 40,000 people signed up for new subscriptions.”

“If you’re a CMO, Mr. Gilman, concluded, “you need to put another filter on your plans. Normally, you’d never have to worry about a president singling out your company. Now you do.” Amen.

 

 

If the Shoe fits …

A number of media faux pas (literally false steps) were made recently at the Footwear News Achievement Awards in New York City.

puma

Photo Courtesy of: HIGHSNOBIETY

Winning the Retailer of the Year award, Ronnie Fieg, a New York footwear and clothing designer had “no comment” when asked about his collaboration with New Balance, the brand that “put its foot in it” in November. Their spokesperson seemed to endorse President-elect Donald J. Trump and the comment prompted shoe burning and trashing by its young customers. The moral, know your audience.

“I’m not going to speak on that,” I don’t get political,” Mr. Fieg said. Media coaching would have helped him be more positive about his sponsor.

Cuba Gooding Jr., the actor, was more prepared for the media, putting brands in a positive light. Given that the Shoe of the Year was a sneaker, he was asked whether he was a sneaker man.

“No, but I used to be,” he said. “I used to be a breakdancer back in the ’80s, and you weren’t worth your weight unless you wore Converse high-tops.” Now, however, he’s all about the work boot. “I live in my Blundstones,” he said. “I have eight pairs. They’re all black.”

And the whole point of having a celebrity spokesperson is, well, that she is a spokesperson. Rihanna, who received the Shoe of the Year award for her collaborative project with Puma, the Creeper (above) refused interviews. That put the shoe on the other foot for Puma’s Director of Brand and Marketing who offered glowing reviews of the singer-cum-designer, noting that the partnership had cast the brand in a new light.

But one attendee, the Icon Award winner, Iris Apfel, 95 (interior and fashion designer and business woman) left a footprint of levity on the evening’s festivities.

Stepping up to the stage with the help of Michael Atmore, the editorial director of Footwear News, and another younger man, she noted: “It’s nice to be old and have two pieces of beefcake escort you … whomever they voted for.”

In My Own Words

It’s said that justice is blind. But justices can be blindsided, too.

Courtesy of: Sebastian Kim, for Time Magazine

Courtesy of: Sebastian Kim, for Time Magazine

Recently, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg promoted her new book, My Own Words in an interview with Katie Couric. Seeming not to have availed herself of media training before her book tour, Justice Ginsburg found herself giving an opinion on a topic with which she was unfamiliar. Famous for her outspokenness on the Court, the justice was asked to comment on several athletes’ refusal to stand for the national anthem at the beginning of their games. She acknowledged their right to protest, but added that they would only exercise that freedom “if they want to be stupid.”

An opinion heard round the world, more for its source than for its sentiment. Justice Ginsburg was one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People of 2015,’

Ms. Couric did exactly what an investigative journalist is meant to do: elicit answers to provocative questions. Being Ready for an interview means preparing answers ahead of time (Why I wrote My Own Words) (Some of my more controversial decisions have been …) (How the world and the court have changed since I went on the bench in 23 years ago in 1993) to smoothly address to questions.

After learning more about the athletes’ reasoning and intentions from a different bench, Justice Ginsburg swiftly apologized for her “harsh” comments. Because, even a Supreme Court Justice can sound unjust in the court of public opinion.

Pro-testing!

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” became Paul Newman’s mantra in his 1967 movie, Cool Hand Luke.

Recently, popular San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick failed to communicate his reason for taking a knee vs. standing to observe the national anthem. Protesting police brutality of blacks is a justifiable cause by the football star who finally was quoted as saying “I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

colin-kneeling

Photo courtesy of: USA Today

But Mr. Kaepernick failed to announce his stand (or in this case, not standing) beforehand, perhaps in a press conference or media interview and, therefore, his protest was totally misunderstood.

Notably, during the 28th annual salute to the military hosted at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, retired Navy Seals parachuted into the stadium to present a giant American flag to a crowd filled with former and current military. But Mr. Kaepernick continued to not stand. An angry fan described the action as, “extremely disrespectful,” and even argued that the quarterback “shouldn’t be playing football if he can’t stand up for his country and support the men and women who put their lives on the line.” Additionally, Mr. Kaepernick’s retaliation against police brutality exists within city justice systems, and does not extend to the military on a national level.

Other athletes have used their position of fame and influence to speak out against these same issues. NBA superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul used presentation skills of poise, humility and persuasiveness to stand together at the opening of the 2016 ESPY Awards and verbally deliver a call to action.

“Kap” hasn’t had the media training that savvier pro-testers have … to know how to use the media as a communications tool. It’s all part of learning the media game and how to play it!