Off the Record

The media is never “off the record,” and now Joe Ledington knows this all too well. He’s the nephew of Harland David Sanders, also known as KFC’s founder and fast food emperor, Colonel Sanders. In an interview with freelance reporter Jay Jones for the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Ledington revealed a handwritten recipe of “11 herbs and spices” on the back his late aunt’s last will and testament.

Mr. Jones was writing a piece about Corbin, Kentucky, the hometown of Colonel Sanders, as part of a travel feature and published the recipe, ingredient for ingredient. He wrote that Mr. Ledington had shared his aunt’s photo album as well as stories of his adolescence working for the Colonel. When they happened upon the recipe, Mr. Ledington confirmed it as the very copy he referenced to mix the ingredients for his summer job.

“These are the original 11 herbs and spices that are supposed to be so secretive.”

Photo Courtesy www.gossipkatta.com

Photo Courtesy www.gossipkatta.com

 

Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, made this statement:

“In the 1940s, Colonel Sanders developed the original recipe chicken to be sold at his gas station diner. At the time, the recipe was written above the door so anyone could have read it. But today, we go to great lengths to protect such a sacred blend of herbs and spices. In fact, the recipe ranks among America’s most valuable trade secrets.”

We have to admit, the “secret recipe” is a clever marketing ploy. KFC claims the Colonel’s handwritten recipe is kept in a 770-pound safe behind two feet of concrete, motion detectors and video cameras. They even order ingredients from multiple companies so no one will crack the blend. But surely feathers were ruffled at the perceived legitimacy of Mr. Ledington, who claimed that the “special ingredient” he remembers from his younger days was the white pepper.

He served as a “loose cannon,” which a brand can ill afford, and why group media coaching becomes so valuable for all concerned.

Although the chickens have come home to roost, homemade Kentucky fried chicken probably won’t beat the price or  convenience of the 12-piece Original Recipe Bucket Meal anytime soon!

Publicity Pitfalls

In today’s media climate, celebrity endorsements can be a slippery slope. Sloppy social media posts are one thing, but how do brands react when the public figures they sponsor receive bad publicity? Olympic Gold Medalist Ryan Lochte made international waves surrounding the scandal of the 2016 Rio Olympics, in which he accused Brazilian police of robbing him and two fellow swimmers at gunpoint. The allegations proved false, leaving Mr. Lochte in hot water with his sponsors!

Photo Courtesy www.eurweb.com

Photo Courtesy www.eurweb.com

But the choice to abandon an athlete is not as simple as it sounds. Internet analysis conducted by marketing technology company Amobee showed that social commentary on the incident was generally neutral and sometimes positive.

Depending on the misdemeanor, it can actually benefit a brand to maintain their sponsorship and support. Earlier this year, tennis player Maria Sharapova received a two-year suspension after failing a drug test, but major sponsors Nike, Head and Evian applauded her as a “role model and woman of integrity” after her public apology–and social media largely agreed.

Gold medal companies Speedo and Ralph Lauren quickly dropped their sponsorships of Mr. Lochte amounting to $1 million. Speedo made the statement: “We cannot condone behaviour that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for.” But such brands must be careful, too, when making statements about actions “counter to the values” for which they stand. Speedo was also accused of “technological doping” with their performance-enhancing LZR Racer suits, banned from the Olympics in 2010.

Renowned swimming teammate Michael Phelps has shown support for Mr. Lochte, long after he was dropped from sponsorships himself amidst public scrutiny–most notably in 2009 from Kellogg’s for a controversial photo in which he was shown smoking marijuana. Mr. Phelps has since recovered his image and made his scandal a thing of the past.

Whether it benefitted Speedo and Ralph Lauren to leave Mr. Lochte or not, he seems to be moving forward as other brands are diving in. Most recently, he has teamed up with Robocopp, a company that produces personal alarms, and this is a commercial you’ll have to see to believe:

Video Courtesy News Views 88,70,423

Even Mr. Lochte must recognize how unbelievable the irony is.

Remembering what’s important

With decades of experience in coaching, we understand the importance of encouragement in the face of struggle and frustration. A touching moment between a coach and a player at the Little League World Series was caught on live television, warming hearts across the country. The coach also happened to be the player’s father.

It was the first game in the series for Pitcher Isaiah “Bugsy” Jensen, who had not pitched much in the Northwest Regional either, but he’d had quite a game on the biggest stage for Little Leaguers. Bugsy pitched four innings with six strikeouts and only two singles. Then, he began to lose control in the fifth as wild pitches walked a hitter from the opposing team: Italy. Joel Jensen, coach for Bend North in Oregon, gave son and pitcher a pep talk that brought him the courage to strike out his next and final hitter. And eventually, his team won the game.

Photo Courtesy www.sportsgrid.com

Photo Courtesy www.sportsgrid.com

I just came out to tell you … I love you, as a dad and a player, okay? You’re doing awesome out here. One more hitter and I’m going to bring in _____ (alternate pitcher). This is your last hitter, okay? You understand? Come right after him… Hey, cheer up, have some fun, come right after him. Okay? Let’s go!

It was a moment not only seen and heard by the crowd of 7,000 at the series, but also by national audiences of ESPN and ABC News. The video serves as a reminder to dads and coaches everywhere: support and validate your children, players, and students. They need it most when they lose faith in themselves–that message may be the push they need to end on a high note.

Unfortunately, ESPN might be seen as Red-Faced after commercializing the touching moment with corporate sponsorship from Kellogg’s. They branded the video as a “Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Let Your Grrrrreat-Out Moment.”

Our disclaimer: No Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes contributed in the making of this moment.

Out of the mouth of babes

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan once said, “The medium is the message,” which could not be more true in today’s modern age. The internet and social media have given voice to so many who would be otherwise unheard. Perhaps the most fascinating voices are those that have a better grasp of the new media than its predecessors — those under the age of 18. Watch this impassioned video of 16-year-old environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.

Video Courtesy Earth Guardians

Youth speaking out on societal issues is not a new phenomenon, Severn Cullis-Suzuki gave a similarly fervent speech at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. But only with the recent advent of social media have their shots been heard around the world.

Perhaps driven by an innocent naiveté, or perhaps by the honest, blunt nature of youth, but the youngest generation is not afraid to speak on controversial topics and to ask the questions many adults would not. Eleven-year-old Matthew Schricker did so recently when he questioned Mike Pence’s “softening” role in Donald Trump’s campaign:

Video Courtesy MiNews

When surrounded by media mistakes and poorly worded soundbites, it is comforting to hear such candidness, wit and substance from the future leaders of America.

In Other Words

There were a lot of firsts at the 2016 Republican National Convention, but Melania Trump’s speech was not one of them. Mrs. Trump’s apparent plagiarism of First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech from the 2008 Democratic National Convention created quite a stir from the public, the media, and the Trump campaign. And the Republicans’ attempts to explain it away challenged the Party’s credibility. The question that remains is not who wrote the speech (though Mrs. Trump claimed in an NBC interview that she did, “with as little help as possible”), but who approved it?

Video Courtesy CNN

Former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, fired in June, is calling for accountability. He says that if current Campaign Manager Paul Manafort approved the speech “he would do the right thing and resign.” Mr. Manafort and Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee Communications Chief, are primarily denying the speech as plagiarism by asserting her use of “common words and phrases,” even going so far as to draw similarities with quotes from singers John Legend and Akon and the children’s television show, My Little Pony.

But the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink. The fact remains that Mrs. Trump was caught using about 60 words in the same phrasing or syntax as the speech Mrs. Obama gave, suggesting that Mrs. Trump probably had more help than she admitted.

With over 30 years experience in helping clients create speeches with authenticity, we know how difficult it is to communicate universal values for those inexperienced in public speaking. That is why speech writing and plagiarism-checking in the White House are such meticulous processes. When in the public eye and without proper guidance, mistakes happen.

After two days of continual finger-pointing within the Republican party, a family friend and writer for the Trump Corporation, Meredith McIver, stepped forward and took responsibility for the mistake. This has created further problems for the campaign because only campaign employees can legally contribute goods and services. A speech was prepared by Republican speechwriters beforehand, but Mrs. Trump rejected this and sought help from Ms. McIver instead.

Our Los Angeles-based media training firm also coaches in crisis management. When a media disaster occurs, it is important for the organization to step back from the spotlight and formulate a credible, unified message. Many components to speech-giving apply: considering context, the audience and why its important to them. And perhaps referencing sources a bit more sophisticated than My Little Pony … but brownie points for originality!

Sloppy spokespeople

There’s a trend among the most recent spokespeople to simply copy, paste and post their sponsors’ social media directions.  In the past two months, Scott Disick of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, model Naomi Campbell, and Real Housewife Ramona Singer were all caught carelessly posting messages from their sponsors instead of their own endorsements. And all three have been victims of online ridicule from their own Instagram inattention.

Mr. Disick (see photo) who is no stranger to mockery as a consequence of the show that made him famous, was met with Tweets like “You know you failed at life when you can’t even copy x paste. @ScottDisick” from @AMstudiio and “Stop making stupid people famous! Scott Disick cut/pasted an email from a marketing team onto his Instagram caption from @loudspike.

scott disick

Photo Courtesy www.usmagazine.com

These sponsored posts typically earn the celebrity thousands of dollars, yet it seems that this is not enough to buy their effort and conscientiousness. At the end of the day, it is the celebrities themselves who lose credibility and are embarrassed by the public reaction, forcing them to correct the post–but not before it is screenshot and pasted all over Twitter.

Though it probably is no great loss to reputable companies like Adidas, they might think twice before continuing endorsement contracts with Ms. Campbell after she captioned her Instagram post,

“Naomi,

So nice to see you in good spirits!!! Could you put something like:

Thanks to my friend @gary.aspden and all at adidas – loving these adidas 350 SPZL from the adidas Spezial range. @adidasoriginals.”

Ms. Singer’s post for Rodan + Fields addressed her in the third person as she was advised:

“Here is the draft with some language for the post – if we could have Ramona add something personal in about why she feels confident going makeup free that would be great. Happy to make any changes you’d like. The link to R+F is linked to her personal page on their site and the Instagram is linked to her acct as well.’

In our Los Angeles media coaching, READY FOR MEDIA advises spokespeople to carefully review and prepare their messages for the most credible representation of themselves and their sponsors. The realm of social media is increasingly being utilized for endorsements to connect celebrities with a sponsors, products and their audiences. Because of the permanent nature of internet content (whether the original is deleted or not), these posts need to be prepared with as much diligence as live soundbites.

Only time will tell if these celebrities and their marketing teams will be asked to continue these sponsored endorsements, but hopefully it only takes once to learn this lesson. One would think that when the caption is already written word-for-word that the job of the poster is simple enough.

Down but not Out

Outnumbered but not outclassed, House Democrats fought for the right to be heard on gun control. A veteran civil rights activist, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) was the spokesperson for the 170 lawmakers who staged a 26-hour sit-in on the House floor before the 4th of July adjournment. He also tweeted this soundbite,

“We got in trouble. We got in the way. Good trouble. Necessary Trouble. By sitting-in, we were really standing up.”

Photo Courtesy www.esquire.com

Photo Courtesy www.esquire.com

According to Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-SC),
“We are going back to our Congressional districts — we are going to engage our constituents on this subject, and we will not allow this body (Congress) to feel as comfortable as in the past. On July 5, we will return, and at that time we will be operating on a new sense of purpose.”

The sit-in became a social media happening after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) banned cameras by labeling the sit-in as nothing more than a “publicity stunt.” Tweets sent by Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA) and periscope broadcasts by Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) were viewed on C-SPAN over 1 million times and the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak and #HoldTheFloor were tweeted over 1.4 million times, according to Twitter. The Republican’s response #StopTheStunt was tweeted about half as much.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), a prominent gun control advocate following the Sandy Hook grade school massacre in 2012 and who led a nearly 15-hour filibuster in the Senate last week asking lawmakers to vote on gun reform, walked over and joined the sit-in. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), llinois Senator Dick Durbin (D) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined the group, as well.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina acknowledged,

“Eventually we’ll find a compromise, because the need is too real.”

Democrats answered by breaking into a rendition of “We Shall Overcome,” changing the lines to “We shall pass a bill, someday.”

Controversy is one of the C’s of Communication we preach to clients at READY FOR MEDIA, along with clarity, candor and confidence. A sit-in is a peaceful yet powerful way to outcry societal issues. With the help of social media and this traditional form of protest, the Democrats gained public awareness on the importance of gun control and what needs to be done to bring about change.

Sometimes, you have to make your own news!

Gloria Steinem: Never Not Controversial

Know your Audience.

In a struggle to re-invent itself, Lands’ End featured an interview with feminist Gloria Steinem (notable for her work in abortion and reproductive rights) in its “Legends” catalog, before considering the audience. The company, popular for its khakis and primary-colored knit sweaters, contracts with many Catholic schools for uniforms and the catalog reached students’ homes. Generating much anti-abortion criticism and many cancelled contracts, the controversy received more attention than the clothes.

Photo Courtesy www.ethicsalarms.com

Photo Courtesy www.ethicsalarms.com

Although the interview with Ms. Steinem did not contain any references to abortion and focused more on equal rights, Lands’ End failed to consider the implications of their choice in interviewees. They removed the feature from their website and issued a public apology on their Facebook page:

“Some customers were troubled and concerned that we featured an interview with Gloria Steinem in a recent catalog. It was never our intention to raise a divisive political or religious issue, so when some of our customers saw the recent promotion that way, we heard them. We sincerely apologize for any offense.”

In this seemingly diplomatic response, Lands’ End alienated another group of customers:

What a terrible message to send to all the women and girls who wear your clothes,” Christina Burrows Refford wrote. “I’m sorry you see equal rights for women as a divisive issue. I see it as a human issue.

It is hard to tell which decision was more detrimental: inadvertently sending a political message or lacking the courage of its convictions amidst pressure from clients. Lands’ End, which has been under-performing since 2011, simply did not consider their audiences when seeking innovative ways to reinvent its brand.

In our Los Angeles-based media and speech coaching, READY FOR MEDIA advises researching your audiences beforehand. What unique perspective are they seeking from you?  This translates into all facets of presentation and media. For example, early morning TODAY Show viewers are looking for very different television content than the afternoon audience of ELLEN or the late-night audience of The TONIGHT Show.

Journalists all know that the lead of a print story needs the 5 w’s and an h: who, what, where, when, why and how. You should know as much about your audience: who they are, what they want, where, when, why and how to reach them.

Kanye can’t keep it concise

Rapper and entrepreneur Kanye West’s appearance on Ellen had an uncharacteristic start with short answers about his personal life, but he lived up to expectations once asked about his business ideas. Mr. West, who recently tweeted Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of Facebook) to invest $ 1 billion dollars in his ideas, began a 6-minute rant after Ms. DeGeneres innocently asked, “Give me one example [of] the ideas because maybe someone watching will give you the money.”

Photo Courtesy www.flavorwire.com

Photo Courtesy www.flavorwire.com

Mr. West’s tirade covered everyone from Michael Jackson to Steve Jobs and everything from his parents’ academic backgrounds to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, leaving the audience bewildered and Ms. DeGeneres speechless, as she searched for an opening to cut to commercial. But despite his erratic train of thought, anecdotes and apologies …

“I’m sorry daytime television, I’m sorry for the realness.”

he seems to be passionate about creating a better world.

I feel that if I had more resources, I could help more people. I have ideas that can make the human race’s existence within our 100 years better. Period.

A television appearance–as well as any presentation–should be focused on conveying a clear message, the importance to your audience and a call to action. In our Los Angeles media coaching, we teach clients that audiences always  listen to station, WII-FM: What’s In It For Me.

Mr. West, who claims he never regrets what he tweets, also should consider what is appropriate for the context of a talk show, as he did in hindsight of his proposal to Mr. Zuckerberg: “I should have put it on Facebook,” he said. “Now I understand why he didn’t hit me back.”

 

Dotting the i’s

Fortune 500 companies sometimes can’t resist the social media mistake of subtle commercialization, which usually backfires. Here, General Mills eulogized their hometown legend, Prince, by being too cute with a Cheerio dotting the i.

Photo Courtesy www.adage.com

Photo Courtesy www.adage.com

In another General Mills advertisement from the brand, Hamburger Helper, their “helping hand” mascot, “Lefty,” a four-fingered, left-hand white glove was pictured and referenced.

Photo Courtesy www.adweek.com

Photo Courtesy www.adweek.com

“Respect for the home team. A glove can only take so much sadness.”

The social media backlash was immediate and intense, criticizing the product-pushing cuteness and insensitivity of these brands as the world mourned an incredible talent’s untimely death. The “tributes” were cancelled.

 “Pay tribute to the man,” Ad Week admonished, “don’t make it about your brand.”

Social media does not call for advertising as usual. It is a game that many established corporations don’t yet know how to play. Big brands must not play cute to push product in tragedy. From September 11 memorials to domestic abuse awareness hashtags, companies have tweeted in bad taste, attempting to jump on the pop culture bandwagon.

In media coaching, we usually recommend branding. But not in response to tragic events. If companies are going to insert themselves into the conversation, it must be straightforward and commercial-free.