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.

 

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!

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.

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!

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.

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.

Not what you say, but how you say it!

“It’s often not what you say, but how you say it.” Look for yourself. The words in this PSA were reflective and respectful, but Johnny Depp’s and actress wife, Amber Heard’s deadpan delivery was not. In it, they used the medium to show true disdain for Australians and their laws.

Video Courtesy The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

The  “apology” video is part of a plea bargain after charges for illegally importing their Yorkshire terriers into Australia in April 2015. In it, the couple are acting more like hostages or prisoners of war  than offering a genuine apology on the issue of  biosecurity. The script was thoughtful and well-written, but overshadowed by the stiff and insincere tone of the couple.

“Australia is a wonderful island, with a treasure trove of unique plants, animals and people. It has to be protected. Australia is free of many pests and diseases that are commonplace around the world. That is why Australia has to have such strong biosecurity laws.  Australians are just as unique, both warm and direct. When you disrespect Australian law, they will tell you firmly. I am truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared. Protecting Australia is important. Declare everything when you enter Australia.”

But at the Venice Film Festival last September, Mr. Depp quipped: “I killed my dogs and ate them under direct orders from some kind of, I don’t know, sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia,” presumably in reference to Australian Minister of Agriculture Barnaby Joyce. The following week on Jimmy Kimmel, he threatened an “assault” on Mr. Joyce  if the Australian government tried to jail his wife.

After threats of dog euthanasia and 10 years jail time, Ms. Heard, an up-and-coming actress with recent roles in Magic Mike XXL and The Danish Girl, was sentenced to a one-month good behavior bond and a fine of $767.

Mr. Joyce mocked the video, remarking that it should be remade with “a little gusto,” but he is happy with the viral status it has attained.

At the end of it, we’ve got a message that is going all around the world right now. It’s going off like a frog in a sock (which Wikipedia defines as being excellent) telling people that if you come into this nation and you don’t obey our laws, you’re in trouble. That’s what this is about.”

He believes, however, that Mr. Depp will “not get an Academy Award for his performance.

When the Media Makes the Mistakes

Recently, the magazine publications of Adweek and Glamour used the power of the press without permission. Adweek featured actress Kerry Washington on its April 2016 cover with her skin lightened and her face photo-shopped. Glamour implied that comedian Amy Schumer is plus size by including her name with actress Melissa McCarthy, singer Adele, and plus-size model Ashley Graham on its “Chic at Any Size” special issue.

The two women objected on social media, taking to their Instagram accounts to address the situations. As a matter of principle, each took a risk by confronting the medias’ mistakes. But both were courteous and polite in their responses, stressing appreciation and positivity above all.

Photo Courtesy www.popsugar.com

Photo Courtesy www.dailymail.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ms. Washington wrote:

“I love ADWEEK. It’s a publication I appreciate. And learn from[. . .] I have had the opportunity to address the impact of my altered image in the past and I think it’s a valuable conversation. Yesterday, however, I just felt weary. It felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror. It’s an unfortunate feeling. That being said. You all have been very kind and supportive. Also, as I’ve said, I’m very proud of the article[. . .] Grab this week’s ADWEEK. Read it. I hope you enjoy it. And thank you for being patient with me while I figured out how to post this in a way that felt both celebratory and honest.”

Adweek editorial director James Cooper replied, calling Ms. Washington “a class act” and clarifying, “We meant no disrespect, quite the opposite. We are glad she is enthusiastic about the piece and appreciate her honest comments.”

Ms. Schumer also posted to Instagram, remarking that her permission was never sought and that plus size in America is considered to be size 16, while she goes between sizes 6 and 8. Glamour’s editor-in-chief, Cindi Leive quickly responded in a series of Tweets:

“…her longtime message of body positivity—& talking back to body haters—IS inspiring. (To me, too!) To be clear, size 6-8 is not plus. (Even size 12—frequent size of “plus” models—is smaller than average American woman!)… But women of all sizes can be inspired by one another’s words. So sorry if implication was otherwise, Amy.”

The two women navigated the media mistakes in such a positive, yet honest manner that everyone seemed satisfied; their messages were heard, and they received the apologies they deserved.

Not what you say, but where you say it!

“BREAKING NEWS: Unconfirmed reports are coming in of an explosion on the North bank of the Singapore Marina.

City Authorities urge the public not to panic, and to not hinder the emergency teams that are converging on the area.

UPDATE: Singapore Authorities have officially announced a state of emergency and declared martial law.”

US game maker, Activision, published this announcement on Twiter as a publicity stunt for the soon-to-be released video game, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, along with pictures of a fictional terrorist attack in Singapore.

Call of Duty

Photo Courtesy http://www.geeksnack.com

This ploy angered Twitter users, worldwide!  Tauriq Moosa tweeted, “Faked news could be and was devastating for those unaware that it was video game marketing. In this case, it’s not only what you say, but also where you say it!”

Considering that its content is being driven with controversial topics, such as terrorism, Activision should have used a more private platform, such as a company website, to avoid misunderstandings by those who are not familiar with the video game.

While it is beneficial to utilize social media as a marketing technique, it is crucial to choose the form of social media that is appropriate for the target audience.