Weiner Sacrificing his Reputation for a Chance to Become NYC Mayor

anthony-weiner-loses-campaign-manager-suffers-a-brutal-day-on-the-sunday-talk-showsAfter months of ridicule spawning from leaked photos of Anthony Weiner exposing himself to multiple women via Twitter, he’s recently made the decision to continue his New York City mayoral campaign. The man’s got more balls than I do, (see what I did there?) but his choice to stay in the race is unwise on many fronts. He’s surrounded himself with yes men, and he has no business running for mayor with all of this negative publicity affecting his personal and professional life.

His situation is dire. Ultimately it’s his call on whether to ride out the storm or drop out of the race, but at this point he should be more concerned about repairing his severely damaged reputation. Weiner’s dilemma can be compared to a PR firm working with a client in a time of crisis. The client may think they know what’s best as far as goals, strategies and tactics to implement, but a forward-thinking client will take a PR consultant’s advice seriously to eventually agree on an effective crisis communications plan.

Weiner is acting as the client who is disillusioned, uncooperative and stubborn. Dropping out of this race in his eyes would be a blow to his pride, but sometimes you need to swallow that pride and make the selfless decision to cut your losses. If I were his publicist, I would strongly urge him to put the mayoral campaign on hold and focus on stabilizing areas of his life outside of politics. The countless hours he’s spent on the campaign trail could have been better spent improving relations with his wife Huma or attending sessions with a therapist to eliminate his embarrassing problem.

The title of my post says it all. By staying in this race, he’s digging himself into a deeper hole by choosing short-term success over long-term happiness. In order to save his political career, Weiner must take care of personal matters first to show his family, friends, supporters and the voting public that he’s ready to be back in the limelight.

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The NFL and its Lingering PR Problem

nflThe National Football League is arguably the most popular sporting league in the world, but it will never reach its full potential unless there’s a concerted effort to rid the league of players who continually damage the NFL’s reputation. Roger Goodell & Co. conduct business as usual with a “too big to fail” mentality, but if they don’t address this pressing issue soon it could lead to damaging consequences for the league and each of its 32 NFL franchises.

Since the Super Bowl in February, 27 active NFL players have been arrested for a number of different crimes. Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is one of those 27, pinned with murder and five related gun charges just two short weeks ago. I thought the Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick incidents would be enough to push the NFL to make drastic changes to its player misconduct policies, but apparently not.

The league’s public relations crisis can be analyzed from a strategic communications perspective. The NFL has a reputation to uphold, and as of now the decision makers have been reactive instead of proactive in combating off-field player misconduct. To salvage the league’s image and restore credibility with the fans, media, and other invested stakeholders, these steps should be taken by the NFL commissioner :

  1. Set an overarching goal that will be the main focus of your efforts. In this case, ” Decrease the number of off-field player incidents.”
  2. Establish strategies, which are the broad approaches you’ll take to achieve the goal. Revising player misconduct policies and enforcing stricter penalties and repercussions are a few good examples.
  3. Identify measurable objectives that will be used to see if the chosen strategies are being met. Banning or suspending players who act out could be an objective that’s easily measured to see if player misconduct decreases due to increased player bans and suspensions.
  4. Tactics need to be implemented to identify the tools you will use to achieve the already set strategies and objectives on a day-to-day basis. Working with the press to get the message out about revised policies and forcing players to seek professional help to fix behavioral issues are a few useful tactics that will aid in achieving long-term goals.

This problem is not going away anytime soon. Regardless of what the NFL decides to do, it’s imperative to take action and communicate goals, strategies, objectives and tactics with those who have a vested interest in the long-term success of the National Football League.

Yahoo Can Keep Buying, But It Won’t Help Their Image Problem

yahoo_purple_large-prvYahoo is vying to stay relevant in this social media centric world, and the company’s recent Tumblr acquisition is proof of their desperate efforts to keep up with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google. So desperate in fact, that since Marissa Mayer’s takeover as Yahoo CEO in July 2012 she’s acquired 11 companies including the $1 billion Tumblr.

While Marissa makes it rain in hopes of getting Yahoo her groove back, she’s failing to realize how far behind Yahoo is in every aspect of contemporary web culture. When I think of Yahoo, AOL comes to mind. They are massive tech companies with the resources needed to make a resurgence, but they missed the window of opportunity to jump on the social media/mobile bandwagon.

I’ll go out on a limb and say the Tumblr takeover was counterproductive at most. It may appeal to advertisers in the short term as far as reaching younger, coveted demographics, but it won’t change the perceptions younger generations have about the company. Brands like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Pinterest, Instagram and Reddit have found their niche and are successfully building their respective brands and users. These companies weren’t afraid to meet the changing digital landscape head-on, and Yahoo’s complacency during this time of rapid change is one of many reasons why they lost their competitive edge.

To ultimately fix this image problem, I’d first avoid making any other $1 billion acquisitions. Embrace the existing and acquired products and services you now have, and focus on improving these products to meet the changing needs of your users. If the products and services you offer are the best they can possibly be, the image problem will eventually fix itself.

Jason Collins And The NBA’s Unique Branding Opportunity

adcf2291e8d33807121fcabed6e692b8If you haven’t heard of Jason Collins before today, you’re not alone. He’s kept a low profile during his 12-year stint as a professional basketball player in the NBA, but today he became the first openly gay male professional athlete in a major American professional team sport.

For the professional sporting community, this announcement couldn’t have come any sooner. While American society becomes more accepting of equal rights and treatment for the LGBT community, there’s been this social stigma surrounding homosexuality within professional sports. The barrier that once stood is diminished, and today Collins will go down in history not as a professional basketball player, but as a  Jackie Robinson type who forever changed the face of professional sports.

With this story of courage and strength pulling at the heart strings of fans, players and supporters of equality, the NBA possesses a unique opportunity to build on this narrative and strengthen their global brand. I’m not encouraging the NBA to exploit this man’s heroic story for financial gain, I just believe it’s a great opportunity for Collins, David Stern (NBA Commissioner) and the NBA to lead the conversation surrounding this highly controversial topic. Organizations are continually searching for a worthy cause to stand behind, and the NBA should use this inspirational story as a way to align its brand with progressive values that are becoming more prevalent in modern society.

It’s 2013, public sentiment is shifting in support of LGBT equality and the NBA is a brand that has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Strongly supporting Collins and the overarching cause will show the world that the world’s most prolific basketball brand is synonymous with authenticity, acceptance, fairness and equality. Branding aside, this story surrounding Collins and the NBA is something special. Collins finally gets to live the life he’s always wanted, and the NBA has a once in a lifetime opportunity to redefine its brand for the better.

Publicists and Unethical PR Pros Abuse Reddit’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ Feature

FailIf you’re unfamiliar with the popular social news site Reddit, chances are you have no idea what my headline  suggests. For nonusers, Reddit’s functionality is relatively simple. Users post content, whether it be pictures, news articles, memes or gifs, then registered Reddit users have the option of upvoting or downvoting content based on how funny, interesting, creative or relevant each submission may be. The best content on the site will normally acquire a lot of upvotes, which in time will push the best content to the front pages of Reddit. Each post is divided into subreddits, which essentially are categories where similar content is posted. If your post is meant to be funny, (most aren’t) then you would post it to the r/funny subreddit.

Now that we have the nonusers up to speed, I want to bring up an issue within the confines of Reddit that is smearing the reputation of publicists, press agents and the public relations industry as a whole. The subreddit, IAmA, or Ask me Anything, gives Redditors the opportunity to interact with celebrities, thought leaders, musicians and anyone with a great story to tell by asking them questions on a live feed within the subreddit.

A great example that comes to mind is comedian Louie C.K’s recent IAmA, which can be found here. His genuine responses went over well with the Reddit community, and his honesty and integrity with each reply shows how much he values his fans. If used correctly, the platform is a great way to gain exposure by nontraditional means.

But if you ask Morgan Freeman or Woody Harrelson how their appearances on Reddit went, they may have different stories to tell. These men are two excellent actors, but the way they handled their AMAs resulted in a PR shit storm when it was all said and done. Each of their lazy, thoughtless responses to fan’s questions made it seem like a publicist was on the other end churning out bullshit response after bullshit response with genuineness nowhere to be found.

The worst part about it is we will never know if a publicist is acting unethically by doing these AMAs on behalf of the actual celebrity or musician involved. Either way, it’s hurting both parties involved. The actor catches flack for dishonesty and an overall lack of transparency, and the public relations industry suffers because there are publicists out there with terrible morals who ruin it for those of use who work with a sense of integrity.

If we ever want to be respected and trusted as an industry, these practices need to stop. We have a code of ethics for a reason, and it needs to be followed and enforced for the long-term stability of our profession.

Changing Perceptions of a Misunderstood Profession

The negative and often misunderstood perception of public relations professionals and the entire industry has been the thorn in our profession’s paw for decades. We’re managing the reputation and image of clients we represent, but what’s being done to manage the reputation of our own industry?

The C-suite is starting to realize the value of public relations toward the overall success of an organization. If we want the respect we deserve as a profession, PR executives must be included in strategic business decisions made by top executives. The tides have slowly been changing, and it’s exciting to see the influence public relations has garnered in recent years.

It boils down to an industry’s damaging image that’s been shaped by the media, television and the ethical wrongdoings of days past. There’s a common misconception about what we do as PR professionals. For a thorough, accurate explanation of what we actually do as practitioners, this PRSA article sums it up perfectly.

If we’re hoping to improve our industry’s reputation and gain influence atop the corporate ladder, we must:

  • Prove our worth by using appropriate measurement standards to tie in PR plans and strategies to the bottom line of a company
  • Not let publicity define public relations
  • Highlight and enforce our Code of Ethics to ensure the profession continues to be positively perceived in the eyes of consumers and other professions.
  • Change the stigma of PR pros being viewed as flacks or spin doctors. Transparency and openness is crucial toward the success of our profession for the long term.
  • Practice corporate social responsibility by supporting the communities and people you serve. These good deeds humanize our industry and make it clear that philanthropy, not profit, is at the heart of what we do.

This is clearly not an extensive list, but surely a  proactive vision toward a fresh start. The work we do for clients is invaluable, and our good practices and efforts should be better recognized and appreciated.

Psychographics: The New Buzz Word

Why can’t practitioners no longer use demographics to tailor a message to a target audience?

Segmenting is about the feelings, attitudes and perceptions of a consumer that drives purchase decisions. Focusing solely on demographic information will result in a failed campaign, and here’s why. Consumer’s personal attitudes, beliefs and morals are becoming more important when identifying key messages. Demographics only scratch the surface when it comes to identifying a target market.

Consumers have lives that are shaped by personal experiences, and they’re searching for brands that closely align with their values as human beings. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can play a big role in building trust with publics that appreciate companies that are not solely focused on their bottom lines. Grassroots campaigns, community involvement and compassion toward others will go a long toward placing your client in a positive light with the people who matter most.