In the Public Eye

It’s often said, the camera doesn’t lie. Nor or does it blink. The same can be said of social media.

Recently Mrs. Louise Linton Mnuchin, the new since-June wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin documented her posh summer lifestyle in Italy and France publicly on Instagram, complete with a parade of designer tags…”#TomFord,” “#Valenrinorockstudheels,” and #HermesScarf.” However, a brand spokesperson said these were not free products or compensation, The New York Times reported, for her “label-loving shoutout.”

Photo Courtesy of Business Insider

But the public arrogance begged for a defacing of her Wikipedia page, which can be edited by anyone. Following this criticism, Mrs. Mnuchin’s Instagram post featured herself as she and her husband and Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell disembarked from a government jet.

Commenting on the public posting, a 45-year-old mother of 3 from Oregon criticized her photo op, “Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable.”

Grammatical error

Mrs. Mnuchin fired back defensively without the benefit of a grammar check….

“Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?” she wrote.

“I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day “trip” than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours.”

And finally, “You’re adorably out of touch.”

Touché.

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.

 

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

A Winner in our Hearts

One of the youngest professional golfers at this summer’s British Open,  22-year-old Jordan Spieth, ended his chances of winning all four major titles in a single year by finishing one stroke behind Zach Johnson. However, with a handshake and a hug, Mr. Spieth was the first to walk over and congratulate Mr. Johnson on his win.

 

Photo courtesy of www.concordmonitor.com

Fans across the globe cheered his gesture.  All in all, he stated that he was happy for his role model and friend, Zach Johnson, to win the title. Viewers immediately took to social media complimenting Mr. Spieth’s grace, and stating that he is a champion … ” a truly stand-up guy.”

“We gave it a great effort. Ideally, par-birdie is a perfect way to finish out here, and that would have gotten the job done, so it stings a little bit. Ultimately, I thought we gave it a pretty good run.”

Good sportsmanship always plays a part in winning the media game. If Mr. Spieth had shown anger at himself or a lousy attitude toward his opponent,  he would not have received the high praise that he did.

In media training at READY FOR MEDIA in Los Angeles. we coach our clients that Courtesy is one of the C’s of Communication, along with Candor. And Mr. Spieth showed another of our C’s of Communication, as well. Class.

Twitter: The 140-Character Soundbite

Social media has become every publicist’s nightmare. Rather than carefully formulating and crafting media responses through interviews, phone calls and media training, it is now possible for a moment of lapsed judgment to spiral into a media faux pas. Actor Alec Baldwin is the most recent example of this growing trend with a tweet from his car in New York City traffic.

Last week, a protest for a $15 minimum wage converged in Manhattan, slowing traffic to a crawl. The protest included thousands of single mothers, fast-food employees, home health care aides and others hoping to raise New York’s minimum wage to battle the city’s increasing cost of living.

While driving through New York City, Mr. Baldwin encountered a patch of traffic directly caused by the protester’s disruptions. In response, he tweeted, “Life in NY is hard enough as is. The goal is to not make it more so. How does clogging rush hour traffic from 59th St to 42 do any good?”

Photo courtesy of www.nysun.com

Photo courtesy of www.nysun.com

Instantly, many turned on the actor for insensitivity regarding an important issue. “Life in NY is hard,” wrote Rachael L. Swarns in the New York TIMES, “not because of driving in traffic,” but “because of struggling to pay the rent for even a single room,” or, “relying on Medicaid and food stamps to help support 3 children!” She went on to condemn the actor in her article with, “when protesters crossed the Selma bridge, no one asked how the traffic was disrupted.”

“Remind yourself that if traffic is your biggest problem … you’re probably fine.”

This is yet another instance in which Mr. Baldwin has gotten in trouble with social media. He originally deleted his Twitter account last summer after a tirade on Twitter lashing out at a journalist.
With the speed and ease in which Twitter and Facebook publish information, it is important to take a breath and think about what soundbite you are authoring.