Category Archives: Social Media

Sony Movie Profit Destroyed by Cyber Attack

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Sony was hoping for another comedy hit in their stocking this Christmas. Maybe they will get the box office magic they are expecting from the Seth Rogen – James Franco comedy “The Interview.” But any profit will be mitigated by the fact that they are getting annihilated by a cyber attack that has opened the books of the company in an unprecedented way.

Reporters are saying that “it’s very clear” a nation state has committed this cyber crime. Some tech experts are blaming the Sony hacking scandal on North Korea.

Why would North Korea care about another slapstick yuckfest from these guys? Well, the plot of the movie is simple: Two reporters are hired to interview the head of North Korea. Then the CIA recruits the idiots to kill him. Hijinks, reportedly, ensue.

While most nation states would look at that plot, roll their eyes and get on with life, North Korea is NOT most nation states. First, they are totalitarian in every sense of the word. Next, their leader is not a political official. He is revered as a deity. In fact the current leader, Kim Jong Un, is the third in a theocratic line. Folks over there don’t take too kindly to anyone poking fun at their godlike president.

Of course, all that could be nonsense speculation. Nobody is currently certain who pulled off the worst cyber attack…ever. Well, at least nobody who is talking to the media. Somebody certainly knows. And that somebody could include various nations’ cyber crime organizations.

But that’s neither here nor there, really. The real lesson for everyone here is that you truly don’t know who’s listening in when you do what you do online. Could almost literally be anyone. Including a national government with a chip on its epaulette-bedecked shoulders.

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Ford and the F-150 – how a top seller became a PR Drag

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It is a fact, the next F-150 will be made of aluminum. While Ford designers and promoters are over the moon about this purported advancement in truck manufacturing, not every pickup fan is feeling the love. In fact, as CEO of 5W PR Ronn Torossian points out, the new design and supposed upgrade has triggered a chain of PR hurdles for Ford to overcome.

When the F-150’s new feature was first announced, conventional PR wisdom decided that the new shell design would be the sticking point of the redesigned F-150. The thick, heavy steel frame which so many truck guys love about the F-150 will be replaced with a lighter aluminum version. Ford claims that the aluminum frame will be equally sturdy to that of the steel frame while also offering vastly increased fuel efficiency. Will truck aficionados buy that selling line? While the jury is still out on that particular question, another PR issue looms large for Ford.

When Ford’s PR team announced their most aggressive new lineup of Ford updates, upgrades, and model improvements, pickup lovers across the country rejoiced. Who is not cheering? Dealerships coast-to-coast which are stuck with aging 2014 models that are, as of that announcement, obsolete. Of course, they may sell a TON of new Fords NEXT year, but with Ford’s sixteen new vehicle launches in 2015, most customers considering a new Ford are apt to wait for the new look.

It’s a problem familiar to that of the mobile device marketplace. The moment Apple or Samsung announces a new model, customers push pause on their desire to purchase the current model. Suddenly, retailers are faced with a conundrum. They have stacks of presently outdated stock that need to be moved, in order to make way for the latest and greatest models.

Torossian observes that it’s an interesting paradox for both the marketplace and for consumer public relations. On the one hand, discounts and fire sales associated with clearing out the old models can be a huge boon for cost-conscious consumers. However, if those incentives overlap the promotions for the new and exciting upgrades, the reasons to buy last year’s version can get lost in the cacophony of noise surrounding the latest and greatest.

It’s not a totally foreign challenge in the automotive industry, even for Ford. When the manufacturer released the new and classic inspired Mustang model a few years back, the glut of the old style model was massive. While flipping sports cars every few years is typical, truck fans are often in it for the long haul. Ron Torossian forecasts that the parallel PR campaigns Ford will have to run when it rolls out the new 2015 F-150 will be interesting to watch.

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Facebook Makes an About Face on Profile Privacy

facebookNot long after blocking the profiles of hundreds of users, social media powerhouse Facebook is apologizing – to drag queens. These flamboyant ladies may not be your typical political standard bearers, but they found themselves thrust into the position of being the tip of the sword in the fight for privacy online.

While stage names are considered A-okay for Hollywood A-listers, popular radio personalities, and music superstars, Facebook was accused of targeting transgenders after deleting hundreds of accounts for supposedly violating the real name clause of its user agreement.

The resultant social media uproar was met with sincere apologies from Facebook leadership, who moved quickly to right the acknowledged wrongs. In a released published by the BBC, Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said, “I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we’ve put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks.”

Subsequently, a planned protest in San Francisco was quickly turned into a celebration. Spokesmen representing transgender groups said it was clear that “Facebook was apologetic and wanted to find solutions so that all of us can be our authentic selves online …”

However, this incident highlights a greater debate concerning both Internet privacy and what people can consider to be their authentic self online. Where is the line exactly, and does that gray area only apply to public figures and professional performers?

Facebook may not have a ready answer, but members of the transgender community whose protest turned into a party certainly do. Mark Snyder, of the Transgender Law Center told the BBC that “judges, social workers, teachers, entertainers, and victims of abuse” were all justified in using aliases.

Apparently, it seems, Facebook is coming around to this point of view. Initially the social media platform required users to keep their given name. Now the company has relaxed its stance, allowing “everyone to use the authentic name they use in real life.”

Next on the agenda: Who decides the meaning of authentic?

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Effective Communication in the Healthcare Industry

healthcare-prOne of the most valued qualities in a job candidate is the ability to speak, listen and write effectively. Organizations that communicate effectively with their internal and external stakeholders benefit in many ways than those that view communication as an internal matter. Effective communication in the healthcare industry encompasses many factors.

Structure

This is one of the most important components of good communication. Professionals in the healthcare industry should organize information in a logical, easy-to-understand manner. For example, avoid using technical and medical jargon when relaying information to people who are not in the medical field.

Transparency

Effective communication in the healthcare industry should be transparent. For example, in a hospital setting, transparency refers to how much information should be revealed about the hospital, its dealings, policies and developments. Honesty and integrity are important elements of effective communication in the healthcare industry because they inspire trust between the industry and its internal and external stakeholders. Transparency in communication also ensures that everyone has the information they require to make the right decisions.

Accuracy

Many factors in the healthcare industry affect people’s lives directly and indirectly. Inaccurate information in research and other factors in the healthcare industry may even lead to loss of lives. Accuracy in communication can be enhanced mainly through research.

Sensitivity

The workforce in the healthcare industry is highly diverse. Therefore, the ability to practice sensitivity in communication is highly valued. Sensitivity in communication involves taking account of cultural differences in communication styles and adapting your messages so that they can be well received by your intended audience.

Effective communication in the healthcare industry is a broad field that encompasses many factors. Many companies are now hiring public relations managers to handle their internal and external communication. There are many benefits of hiring Public relations managers to handle communication for businesses in the healthcare industry.

• By hiring public relations managers, you receive experienced professionals who can brainstorm and tell the story of your company in a unique way.

• An external PR firm provides third party objectivity in communication. Effective communication may involve stepping back, assessing the situation and offering fresh ideas and perspectives.

• Public relations managers have the expertise to tailor creative messages that can break through misunderstandings and negative public opinions.

• PR managers have established communication with the media. While internal PR managers may be more passionate about their firms, news coming from them may seem biased and non-credible, which the media may not buy.

• Experienced PR managers work with company spokespeople and teach them how to deliver catchy sound bites, answer tough questions from the media and stick to important messages.

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Filed under Education, Juda Engelmayer, Public Relations, Social Media, Technology

McDonald’s is Having a Tough Summer

mcdonalds-summerFrom Super Size Me to health crusades to flawed product releases and minimum wage battles, McDonald’s has faced its fair share of negative PR in the past. But Ronn Torossian says this summer McDonald’s is facing a very different sort of negative news.

According to Businessweek, McDonald’s has been ordered to pay $27 million in compensation to the families of two dead Texas teens. The judgment comes as a result of guilty verdict that alleged a Houston area McDonald’s of operating with “lax security.”

 The incident in question happened back in February 2012. Denton Ward, an 18-year-old college student, was beaten to death by a mob at that McDonald’s location. His girlfriend, 19-year-old Lauren Crisp, was killed in an accident while trying to get Ward medical attention.

While the single incident may not have prompted such an award, the families’ attorneys argued that the restaurant had a “horrible history,” with over 200 complaints during three previous years. The attorney argued that McDonald’s knew about the issues but failed to act. The jury agreed, though the case will likely go to appeal.

This is a very different sort of negative Food PR that comes on the heels of several recent national issues that have dragged the Golden Arches through the muck. McDonald’s has been on the forefront of the minimum wage and living wage debates for months now, an easy and highly visible target, much like Walmart. In addition, McDonald’s is almost always mentioned when reports are made about the “American diet” or obesity or unhealthy eating practices.

When PR scenarios are coming at you like this, constantly and from different directions, you need a positive PR game plan in place to counter them. But, as this story shows, you also need to be prepared for something horribly different. When the story first ran back in 2012, countless local news stations went looking for the “most dangerous” McDonald’s in their towns. Suddenly, a single tragic series of events took on the feel of a national pandemic.

Now that the verdict is in, expect the cycle to start all over again. McDonald’s may be able to appeal the verdict, but their approach to public opinion is not so easily challenged.

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GMOs vs. Ben & Jerry’s? The war is on

ben-jerry-gmoWhile most companies in the U.S. seem not to favor the hot issue of GMO labeling, one company is stepping up (again) in support of natural ingredients and better food. According to Businessweek, Unilever CEO Paul Polman and Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim recently shared a meal with Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. Two days later, Shumlin signed the nation’s first GMO labeling law.

Businessweek called the move a “swirl of savvy public relations, financial backing, and grassroots activism.” I have to agree.

There is no doubt that this move puts Ben & Jerry’s squarely in the crosshairs of some of the world’s largest food companies. And, while Unilever has repeatedly come out against GMO labeling, the company seems content to allow its subsidiary to become the face of the movement.

By taking this stance, Unilever can play both sides of the fence to a point. First, it can protect its larger interests by fighting GMO labeling where it is unlikely to fly, while also allowing Ben & Jerry’s to support it in places – like Vermont – where the cause has established grassroots support. It’s an undeniable PR win-win.

And, of course, the alternative – trying to keep Ben & Jerry’s, a traditionally environmentally active company, away from this issue could have disastrous PR results. That’s not to say Unilever can keep this up for too long. Eventually, someone will point out the fence-sitting and call them on it.

And, that could lead to some truly interesting public relations scenarios. If activists decide to really ramp up the pressure on Unilever to publicly back its subsidiary, things could get ugly, quick. Pushed into a corner and forced to decide between its overarching interests and entertaining the PR reputation of one of its more popular subsidiaries could put Unilever into a proverbial “tiger by the tail” situation. You don’t want to let go, but, eventually, you might have to.

 That’s when you get bit.

 

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Velveeta Recall has Kraft Answering Tough Questions

velveeta-recallWal-Mart is in the news again, and, once again, the news is not being kind to the massive international retailer. Then again, according to Ronn Torossian this time it’s not Wal-Mart’s fault. According to reports, Kraft Foods is recalling nearly 300 cases of Velveeta cheese sold to Wal-Mart stores across twelve states. Those included in the recall are Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

While the recall is voluntary, and being for a quality control issue that would likely not harm consumers, the issue raises an important consumer PR question for any company who might face such an issue. People read or hear “recall” and they simply stop thinking. They react instinctively, almost violently. Trust is damaged and the absolute worst is expected. They don’t want to hear that, given mass production, recalls are almost unavoidable. And, they certainly don’t want to hear that recalls are actually the system working. Even though that is technically true. Recalls are a necessary, and in most cases, an effective quality control mechanism.

And, even though customers with recalled batches can return them to the store for a full refund or an exchange, they are still leery of the product for some time in the future. Given this consumer tendency, consumer recalls can present some difficult PR necessities.

Brands MUST communicate the recall, and they must do so in a manner that both complies with the law and cares for their customers while mitigating any ill will or public loss of trust. Waiting doesn’t work – just ask General Motors – but being too trigger-happy can also have a detrimental impact. The best strategy tends to be offering enough facts to get the message across while also assuring consumers that steps have already been taken to correct the issue. This needs to be followed by letting consumers know that they can have their affected product replaced at no cost to them. Working the problem in this way, the focus is on a company that has already fixed its mistake and it taking care of its customers, rather than a shoddy producer, or worse, one that puts profits ahead of people.

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