Jason Collins And The NBA’s Unique Branding Opportunity

If you haven’t heard of Jason Collins before today you’re not alone. He’s kept a low profile during his 12-year career 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 sports community, this announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. While society becomes more accepting of equal rights and treatment for the LGBT community, there’s been a growing stigma surrounding homosexuality in professional sports. Collins broke that barrier this week, and he will go down in history as a man and player who forever changed the face of professional sports.

This amazing story of courage and strength should push the NBA to build on this narrative and strengthen their global brand with the LGBT community and its supporters. It’s a great opportunity for Collins, David Stern (NBA Commissioner) and the league to lead the conversation surrounding this controversial topic. Athletes should feel comfortable coming out during their careers and not being discriminated against for their sexuality. An NBA campaign that focuses on LGBT issues would unite players and bring together fans to create a new culture around homosexuality in the NBA. Other professional sports leagues might even be inspired to create their own campaigns and come together as people to address this issue.

Organizations try to identify worthy causes to get behind. The NBA should use Jason’s story as a way to align their brand with progressive values that are more prevalent in sports and society today.

It’s 2013, public sentiment is shifting in support of LGBT rights and equality. Strong support of Collins and the overarching issue will show the world that the NBA values authenticity, acceptance, fairness and equality. Branding aside, it’s something truly special to witness for Jason. After years in the dark, he finally gets to live an honest life and hopefully inspire other athletes to come out and embrace their sexuality.


Unethical PR Pros Abuse Reddit’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ Subreddit

If you’re unfamiliar with the popular social news site Reddit, here’s a short summary. Users post content — pictures, news articles, memes or gifs, then users have the option of upvoting or downvoting content based on how funny, interesting, creative or relevant each submission is. The best content gets the most upvotes and will often make it to the front page of Reddit. The site is made up of subreddits, which are communities about any topic of interest.

The subreddit, IAmA, or Ask me Anything, give Redditors the opportunity to interact with celebrities, thought leaders, athletes, musicians and anyone with a great story to tell by asking them questions within the subreddit. If used correctly, the platform is a great way to gain exposure on the site and interact with fans and users.

But publicists and companies have tried to abuse this power by focusing on promotion and trying to dupe the community into believing the AMA was genuine.

AMAs with Morgan Freeman and Woody Harrelson are prime examples of this abuse by PR people who want the exposure for their client without doing any of the work. These men are two excellent actors, but the way their press people handled their AMAs was unethical, tasteless and disrespectful to the community. Each of the lazy, thoughtless responses to fan’s questions made it seem like a publicist was on the other end pumping out pre-written statements about films each actor starred in.

There is an overall lack of transparency, the first rule you should never break in PR. It ruins the integrity of the profession and makes us work even harder to fix the reputation of this industry. 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 public relations.

Changing Perceptions of a Misunderstood Profession

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

The C-suite is beginning to realize the value of public relations toward the overall success of an organization. We have a seat at the table, but we need to prove we deserve to be there and demonstrate how important the communications function is. If we want the respect we deserve as a profession, we need to take our education and training and use it to improve our own profession’s reputation.

The negative views of our work were molded by the media, Hollywood and unethical practices over the years. There’s are common misconceptions about what we do as PR professionals. We’re not all publicists doing damage control for celebrities and other public figures. We don’t lie. We dont spin the truth.

Our work is very strategic, and much of it involves building better relationships between organizations and the public.

If we’re hoping to improve our industry’s reputation and gain trust and respect among the public, we must:

  • Highlight and enforce our Code of Ethics to ensure the profession continues to be positively perceived in the eyes of the public.
  • Change the stigma of PR pros being flacks or spin doctors. Transparency and openness is crucial toward the success of our profession for the long term. Make people aware of our practices and try to educate and inform.
  • Practice Corporate Social Responsibility by supporting communities and people we work with. These good deeds humanize our industry and make it clear that philanthropy, not profit, is at the heart of what we do.
  • Use appropriate measurement standards to tie in PR plans and strategies to the bottom line of a company. Use data and analytics to show the value of PR programs and how they contribute to business goals.

This is clearly not an extensive list, but surely a good approach toward a new direction for this industry. The work we do for clients is invaluable, and good practices, ethics and deeds will help change the perceptions of a misunderstood profession.

Brands Need to Engage With Audiences on Social Media

Two weeks ago, I sent a tweet to the PRWeek twitter account asking if they had plans to improve the sound quality of their weekly podcasts. Weeks went by with no reply, and my inquiry remained unanswered. We work in an industry that stresses the importance of audience engagement and participation, and as a fan of PRWeek’s content I felt unimportant when my simple question went unanswered.

Social media transformed the PR industry in many unique ways. Never before have we been able to reach audiences in a space where everyone can share content, ideas and opinions with friends, family and complete strangers.

It’s been an absolute game changer in this profession. This experience made me realize that some companies and organizations don’t place enough value on social media and how a short response can create a lasting impression on someone. It’s time consuming for social media managers to sift through each individual twitter mention and send replies, but going the extra mile ensures people will remain loyal to your brand and feel valued as a fan and consumer.

What people want is a sense of belonging and knowing their concerns are being heard. Social media is an effective customer service tool, and brands need to effectively moderate their channels to participate in discussions, answer questions and remain engaged with your brand and its fans online.

The Euros: An American Guide

“Why has there been soccer on every day for the past month?” says the American viewer in search of baseball, SportsCenter and college football.

“It’s the World Cup I bet!” shouts the seasonal soccer fan that becomes a die-hard when the World Cup comes around every four years.

The football inundating your television screens is the UEFA European Football Championship, better known as the Euros. It can be described as the World Cup’s talented, respectable younger sibling. For one month, the 24 best teams in Europe embark on a journey to hoist the Euro Cup Trophy as champions. It’s football, but not the kind you’re used to on the gridiron.

There’s a noticeable difference in passion and enthusiasm when countries gather to compete against each other. The respect, pride and love each player has for their respective country fuels the competitiveness of Europe’s most prestigious soccer tournament. The Euros give the World Cup a run for its money. Most of the top-tier teams in the World Cup hail from Europe. Put those teams in one tournament and you have a great month of soccer starring the best players in the world. You don’t need to be a fan of the game to appreciate and respect nations striving to be the best club in Europe.

Citizens can forget the troubles plaguing their lives and countries and come together as fans and friends of the beautiful game. As hosts of Euro 2016, that’s exactly what France did after the devastating Paris attacks in November 2015. When terrorism tries to tear a country apart, soccer unifies cities and countries with lasting alliances and rich histories.

Social, political or economic troubles can dampen a country’s spirits, but soccer tournaments like the Euros and World Cup are there to keep morale high. The entertainment value soccer and sports provide are unparalleled. But sometimes it’s not about sport. It’s about pride for your country, the place you call home. The Euros are more than just a tournament, they’re more like home.


Droga5 and the After Hours Athlete

David Droga is the creative chairman at Droga5, an independent ad agency based out of Manhattan.

I was familiar with the agency from reading some advertising books over the years, but I never really took the time to learn about the incredible work Droga and his team have done for brands like Microsoft, Kraft, UNICEF, PUMA and many others.

One campaign I’m very fond of was launched back in 2010 to promote Puma’s clothing line. Additional components of the campaign have been launched in 2011 and 2012, and it’s been amazing to see how one single idea can transform a brand overnight.

To appeal to a younger audience and take a different path from competitors like Adidas and Nike, Droga5 came up with a campaign centered around the after-hours athlete.

This was targeted toward people that see a game in everything in life. The pool players, bowlers, darts players, and ping pong enthusiasts that take life seriously, but not too seriously. The campaign included a revamped digital presence, outdoor ads, retail and an entirely new line of products that revolved around this new brand identity.

If you have some time, check out the Puma Social video on Droga5.com.

Fontainebleau: A City in a Hotel

It was my first visit to Miami Beach, and let’s just say it won’t be my last. My girlfriend and I made the decision to spend a few days with her parents at the Fontainbleau, which is an upscale hotel on Collins Avenue near South Beach. We couldn’t afford accommodations at this grand hotel, so we opted to stay at the Holiday Inn within walking distance of the Fontainebleau. Nonetheless, my girlfriend’s parents were kind enough to let us join them at the pool, bar, restaurants, clubs and many other fantastic attractions located within the grounds of the prestigious Miami Beach hotel.

I felt out of place from the very beginning. We met the parents for a pleasant lunch at an outdoor bar and grille called La Cote. They had reserved a cabana for the afternoon, and while I was enjoying a Mahi sandwhich and gazing out into the Atlantic I knew I was living such a painstakingly hard life.

The service, food, people, architecture and just the overall atmosphere of the Fontainebleau made the experience very memorable.

One aspect of this wonderland that grew harder to ignore were the world-class restaurants. On the first night, we dined at Scarpetta, a quaint Italian restaurant with small servings that packed a big punch. We dined at Hakkasan the second night for dinner, and it was simply incredible. The food, service and atmosphere was world class.

I can say that my last spring break as a college undergrad was by far my best. Money won’t buy happiness, but it will sure as hell get me back to paradise that is the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

The Importance of Brand Building

Brand recognition is what every client strives for. The difference is that advertising, public relations and marketing build their client’s brands in different ways.

A brand is more than just a logo or trademark used to distinguish companies from competition. It’s become a reminder of what a particular organization stands for, it’s mission. It’s not a physical distinction between brands, services and companies, but a psychological differentiation of the beliefs, attitudes, goals and aspirations of each individual product or service.

Advertising is typically a paid form of communication used to create brand awareness among audiences that represent a specific target market. The creative side of advertising always intrigues me, and I will intentionally view television spots to analyze ads and familiarize myself with the creative process. Good advertising is never readily apparent. It’s an emotional feeling that comes over you, a nostalgic experience that is more covert than overt.

As I stressed in a previous posting, all of these functions should be integrated to improve the overall effectiveness of communication objectives. In the end, the main goal of any communications objectives should be to get your brand in a consumer’s consideration set (also known as the ‘evoked set’). This is the top five brands that a consumer considers when planning a purchase or getting involved in other ways.

Mutualism: The Relationship Between Reporters and PR Practitioners

Public relations and journalism rely heavily on each other for news ideas, press coverage and so much more. It’s essential to network and build long-lasting relationships with reporters who have the power to generate positive, honest and credible content for your product, service or client. Long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with reporters is key to surviving in public relations. What you know is important, but who you know will get you just as far in this business.

Bloggers and reporters are two very influential sources that the public relies on for information. A PR practitioner looking to pitch a story idea needs to conduct research and find media contacts whose readers or viewers may have an interest in a particular story. Submitting a blind pitch can ruin any professional relationship you could have held with members of the media. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand why a writer may or may not want to cover a particular story. It’s easy to burn bridges, so tread lightly do not step on any toes.

It’s also important to find a unique angle to your news release that targets a particular audience or demographic. We can no longer write press releases like hard news stories or promotional material and expect a response. Humanize, localize and personalize. A well written news release could potentially land your client some much needed publicity and will provide the reporter with content to do his own job.

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