March 25, 2013


Issue 12 Vol. 69

Social Media

▶ Contents

Communicators Outline Strategies For Enhancing Brands’ Influence
It’s become a communications mantra: Find the people who influence your space and get them to help champion your brand. But let’s turn the tables. What about the influence that your brand has in the marketplace; perhaps most important on customers and potential customers? For the second year in a row, market research company Ipsos has come up with its Most Influential Brands list. The list is based on five “dimensions” that Ipsos says drives a brand’s influence: engagement; trustworthiness; leading edge; corporate citizenship; and presence. The most influential brand in the world? According to Ipsos, it’s Google. Yet not every company has such a global
Crisis Management

▶How To Prevent Malicious “Twitter Hacking” ▶Quick Study Where is the (Customer) Love? ▶Case Study Old-School Media Relations Wins ▶Tip Sheet Best PR Defense is a Good Offense

2 3 4 8

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footprint as Google. Most strive to be influential within their own industries. To find out what strategies and approaches PR pros use to maximize the influence of their organizations, PR News talked to both B2B and B2C communicators on the topic.

Seven Things You Will Learn in This Week’s Issue of PR News
1. Google was recently named the world’s most influential brand. (p. 1) 2. To prevent the hacking of your brand’s Twitter page, create more complex passwords. (p. 2) 3. Researchers at Cambridge Univ. have been able to extract very personal information from a person’s Facebook “likes.” (p. 3) 4. A quarter of U.S. and U.K. businesspeople admit to only interacting with customers when there’s a complaint. (p. 3) 5. Singer Associates and the City of San Bruno used a press release and a press conference to gain $70 million in restitution from a utility company in the wake of natural gas explosion. (p. 4) 6. Strong thought leadership can be a major driver of brand influence. (p. 6). 7. To change the crisis conversation, have a credible and relevant story at the ready (p. 8)

At software company Apriso Corp., influence is achieved by customers feeling good about

the decision they make to buy Apriso’s products, says Gordon Benzie, the company’s director of public and analyst relations. And make no mistake, the buying decisions made by Apriso’s customers are very strategic and very important for their companies. “It’s often a political process,” Benzie says. “An executive is deciding on software that will have a big impact on operations, and that Page 6 ▶

Lanny Davis’ Crisis Management Rules: Tell it All, Tell it Early, Tell it Yourself
[Editor’s Note: Lanny Davis knows a thing or two about PR crises. He had a few in his time as a White House special counsel for President Bill Clinton from 1996 to 1998. Clinton, for those who remember, had his share of PR challenges during those years. Today, Davis heads public affairs agency Purple Nations Solutions. The following excerpt is from Davis’ new book, “Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping With Crises in Business, Politics, and Life.”] More than a quarter century ago, the Nixon crisis managers in the Watergate scandal made all the fundamental mistakes that make a bad crisis worse: deny, deny, deny; then the “limited modified hang-out” of partial disclosure, then the cover-up; and finally, after the inevitable dribble, dribble, dribble of facts leading to critical mass and the final explosion, the resignation of a president of the United States. The crisis management mistakes made in Watergate have been repeated in the corporate arena—from the mismanagement of the media and message after the Exxon Valdez oil tanker grounded on a sandbar, beginning a massive oil leak that soiled Alaskan shorelines and wildlife, to the difficulties experienced by BP during and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. What is most remarkable is that after so many years of repeating the same mistakes in mismanaging high-profile crises, they continue to be made—denial, delay in getting the facts out, letting the legal concerns trump the brand and media perceptions, and then watching helplessly as the truth inevitably dribbles out in Chinese-water-torture fashion—as if no one has any memory, or has learned anything from the past. There are plenty of examples of this amnesia and blindness to the fundamental rules of crisis management in recent years, through 2012. For example: • During the 2011 Republican contest for the presidential nomination, former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain seemed Page 7 ▶

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ISSN 1546-0193 Editor, Scott Van Camp, 212.621.4693, Group Editor, Matthew Schwartz, 212.621.4940, Editorial Director/Events, Steve Goldstein, 212.621.4890, Community Editor, Bill Miltenberg, 212.621.4980, Conference Content Associate, Sreyashi Kanjilal, Director of Marketing & Event Logistics, Kate Schaeffer, 301.354.2303, Marketing Manager, Laura Snitkovskiy, 301.354.1610, Associate Publisher and Brand Director, PR News Group, Amy Jefferies, 301.354.1699, General Manager, Tony Silber, 203.899.8424, SVP/Group Publisher, Diane Schwartz 212.621.4964, Division President, Heather Farley President & CEO, Don Pazour

▶ How To... Techniques for Protecting Your Brand Against Malicious Twitter Hacking
Social Media Crisis Management



Paul A. Argenti - Tuck School of Business Ned Barnett - Barnett Marketing Communications Neal Cohen - APCO Carol Cone - Edelman Peter Debreceny - Gagen MacDonald Mike Herman - Communication Sciences Laura Kane - Aflac Michael McDougall - McDougall Travers Collins Larry Parnell - George Washington University Mike Paul - MGP & Associates PR Deborah Radman - Senior PR Consultant Brenda C. Siler - Best Communication Strategies Helene Solomon - Solomon McCown & Co. Mark Weiner - PRIME Research

Dave Armon - Critical Mention Andy Gilman - CommCore Consulting Bruce Jeffries-Fox - Jeffries-Fox Associates Angela Jeffrey - Member, IPR Commission Richard Laermer - RLM Public Relations Richard Levick - Levick Strategic Comms Ian Lipner - Lewis PR/YoungPRpros Katie Paine - KDPaine & Partners Rodger Roeser - The Eisen Agency Lou Thompson - Kalorama Partners Reid Walker - T-Mobile Tom Martin - College of Charleston

Protecting your brand is harder than ever in the digital age. Social media gives everyone a “voice” and provides a platform for users to say anything they want about your brand. And, as was the case a few weeks ago, malicious users sometimes take it a step further—not just saying things about your brand, but providing a “rebranding” you hadn’t counted on. Take these recent cases of Twitter hacking. Burger King (@BurgerKing) and Jeep (@ Jeep) both had their Twitter accounts hacked; both were rebranded to a competitor brand and overtaken with a barrage of obscenities and otherwise unseemly messages. And those incidents were not limited to social media. Many media outlets, including the Associated Press and Mashable, reported on the hacks. So how can you protect your brand against being exploited? Here are a few ideas:

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▶ Develop a Social Media Crisis Plan Before Anything Happens. What happens if your brand does fall victim to social media hacking? Having a plan ready—before anything happens—will ensure swift and comprehensive handling of the situation. The last thing you ▶ Know the Risks, Even if want to do is be forced to make You’re Not Active on Social decisions on the fly without Networks. Just because your weighing the consequences, or brand isn’t active on social networks doesn’t mean a social neglect to address an important media crisis can’t arise. Even if audience or platform because you were moving too fast. you don’t have an established Consider adding a social social media presence, anyone could create a fake account and media protocol to your compause your company’s brand in an ny’s crisis preparedness manual or creating a decision tree to unflattering way. ▶ Safeguard Your Passwords. help you determine the best Take this “Hacking Light” This includes creating comcase we recently uncovered for plan of attack if your company’s plex passwords for your social a client: The company itself did digital presence is compromedia accounts, as well as not have a very proactive social mised. regular updating of passwords media presence, but a user creYou may also want to create as needed. For example, did ated a Twitter account using the a checklist of what to do if someone who had access to company’s brand as his handle. and when you find yourself in your social media accounts He was in no way affiliated the position of activating your recently leave your company with the company, but for some social media crisis strategy, or the agency that managed reason chose to hide behind just to ensure you don’t forget your company’s social media the company’s name. The mes- anything in the heat of the accounts? Or is your password sages he was sending were moment. simply YourBrand123? Institute vulgar, and certainly nothing The good news is that a a rigorous password protocol with which the company would little foresight and planning, that will help safeguard your want to be affiliated. When coupled with regular social company against possible the company was searched on media monitoring, can help to hacks, and keep a current list Google, this unaffiliated Twitter inoculate your brand against of everyone who has access to account showed up alongside Twitter hacking. PRN your accounts. legitimate corporate announcements. So, even though the ▶ ABM: Always Be Contact: company had nothing to do Monitoring. In the age of social with that account, any investor, Lisa Zone is customer media, hacking can go viral in customer, prospect or reporter communications practice a matter of minutes. While the who searched for the company leader at Dix & Eaton. She can recent episodes of hacking were also saw that bogus Twitter be reached at lzone@dix-eaton. against large national brands, com. account—and the unpleasant | 3.25.13

there’s no guarantee that your company’s brand might not suffer the same fate. A number of cost-effective tools can minimize the time and money you have to put toward monitoring your brand in the social space. The minimal resources it takes to regularly monitor are a smart investment given the potential brand risk. Diligent social media monitoring can help ensure you will become aware of issues as soon as they arise, minimizing the amount of time a rogue hacker might have control of your message and your company’s brand.

items being sent from it. Our client is working to try to deactivate the rogue account and undo some of the damage. Nevertheless, it’s a good reminder to reserve your company’s name on various social media platforms even if you have no immediate plans to activate the account.


▶ Quick Study Facebook ‘Likes’ are Revealing—Maybe Too Much So; Businesses Are Often Unschooled in Customer ‘Love’
▶ Facebook Data Reveals
Personal Information: On the one hand, the fact that people’s behavior is predictable through “likes” on Facebook means that the social network can suggest very good stories on users’ news feeds. On the other hand, the same data can be used to predict political views or sexual orientation, says a Cambridge University study. The study claims Facebook “likes” may be revealing more about users than they know or knowingly would opt to share, even to friends. This may affect users’ propensity to log onto the site, and hinder a brands’ ability to use Facebook to its fullest. Study highlights include: some details about Facebook users could be derived by anyone with training in data analysis.
Source: Cambridge University

Customer Love in All the Wrong Places: As corporations worldwide seek to differentiate themselves and gain their customers’ admiration, global Source: Strativity Group customer-experience company Strativity Group looked to understand their readiness for such relationships. Collecting the insights of 402 corporate executives and nonexecutives in the U.S. and the U.K. who were sur• Covering 58,000 Facebook users in the U.S., researchers veyed in January, 2013, the verdict at Cambridge were able to deduce personal information is clear: companies are not about people using a comgreat lovers—of puter algorithm to analyze Respondents can belong the personality characteristics customers. The to more than one group Corporate Love of the users. NOTE: Percentages • Algorithms proved 88% true Meter 2013 study may sum to more than highlights: for determining male sexu100% due to multiple responses. ality, 95% precise in distin• Only 29% of guishing African-American Among respondents who support causes online, 65% first hear about them from companies from Caucasian-American friends or family they follow on social media, per the Waggener Edstrom Worldwide are focusing and 85% correct in differenDigital Persuasion study, The next closest information sources for online supporton emotional tiating between Republican ers are online news sites and friends and family in person (tied at 28%). engagement and Democrat. Source: Waggener Edstrom (love and • Researchers discovered that

▶ Corporations Looking for

admiration, for example) with customers. • 37% admit that they have become too comfortable in the relationship. • 25% of U.S. respondents admit that they only speak when they incur customer complaints. • While 52% of survey respondents plan to sweep their customers off their feet in 2013, the study identified

serious gaps between executives and non-executives’ perspectives. While executives who own the big picture believe that they would do something different to rejuvenate the relationship, the majority of non-executives are sticking to business as usual approach. PRN

Social a Key Driver of Cause Awareness

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6/20/12 3:36 PM

▶ Case Study

Public Affairs

Media Relations

Old-School Media Relations Helped Gain Restitution After Devastating Gas Explosion In California City
PR and public affairs agency Singer Associates, it was a back-to-basics approach— media relations 101, if you will—that helped the city of The public relations profesSan Bruno, Calif., move forsional is faced with a multitude ward after a disaster. of choices on how to solve On Sept. 9, 2010, San clients’ problems. Some situBruno, located just south of San ations call for rallying people Francisco, was rocked by the behind an issue with sweeping worst natural gas explosion and grassroots campaigns; others fire in U.S. history. The catasrequire focused online efforts trophe killed eight residents, that may involve reaching influ- hurt 52 others, destroyed 38 homes and damaged another encers through digital chan70. The U.S. Geological Survey nels while others need fully registered the explosion and integrated efforts involving resulting shock wave as a magmultiple campaign components. For San Francisco-based nitude 1.1 earthquake. The
Organization: City of San Bruno Agency: Singer Associates Timeframe: Jan. - Feb. 2012

San Bruno mayor says PG&E ‘stalled’ negotiations

City of San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane addressed more than 30 members of the media at a 2012 presser that played a key role in getting restitution from PG&E following a natural gas explosion in the city.

7 Tips for How To Execute the Perfect Press Conference
Call it high-stakes media relations. In 2012 the City of San Bruno hired Singer Associates to help it get restitution from utility company PG&E after a massive gas line explosion in 2010. The agency decided on a risky press conference as the centerpiece of the effort. The Stephanie Reichin gamble paid off, as PG&E ponied up $70 million for the city. Stephanie Reichin, account executive at Singer, offers tips on how to execute an effective press conference. 1. Ensure the Risk is Worth the Reward: When executed correctly, press conferences can create significant impact. Before deciding to host a presser, ensure that the risk of opening up your client in a public forum is worth the potential reward. 2. Have a Message—and Stay On It: Every press conference has a purpose. Before your start, know your desired outcome and develop your messaging and tone to achieve that goal. Whoever will be speaking at the presser must be coached to stay on that message to ensure the maximum impact. 3. Practice Makes Perfect: Do a dry-run in advance of the press conference to anticipate any issues and to determine how to answer difficult questions from media. 4. Keep it Short: The duration, the speeches and the statements should all be on-point. The media are on tight deadlines—respect media reps by giving them your message in a succinct and stimulating manner. 5. Go Visual: Provide imagery that show your message visually. 6. Provide Materials: Make it easy for media reps. Provide the key remarks of speakers to them at the start of the event along with a news release and background materials that summarize the key points. 7. Don’t forget: Someone needs to be an emcee and announce each of the speakers, and spell their names correctly for reporters who are covering the conference.

aftermath was a scene reminiscent of a war zone. Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board blamed utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) for what one official called “baffling” mistakes that led to a gas pipeline explosion. To start the rebuilding process, San Bruno city officials immediately entered into negotiations with PG&E, which agreed on a trust fund amount of up to $70 million to cover construction, staff support and needed services for the residents affected by the explosion. “At that point, PG&E recognized its responsibility in the rebuilding of the neighborhood,” says Connie Jackson, city manager of San Bruno. Yet, as time went on, city officials recognized that the damage went deeper than just the physical devastation. “The entire community—not just the neighborhood—was reeling from the effects of the explosion,” Jackson says.

“Over time, the damage and the effects on the community had not been recognized,” Jackson says. While individuals affected by the disaster were able to sue PG&E for pain and suffering, the city could not. So San Bruno officials began to negotiate again with PG&E. This time, however, the utility’s reaction was not so positive. After heated talks, it was clear that PG&E was not going to go above and beyond the $70 million it had already given the city. So, some two years after the explosion, city officials, in conjunction with law firm Meyers Nave and financial consultant Prager & Co., called Singer Associates, which specializes in crisis communications. “They said ‘We’re stuck and we don’t know what to do,’” says Sam Singer, president of the agency. Not only was the city stuck, but time was running out, as PG&E was about to get slammed with fines from state regulators over the explosion. If a settlement between San Bruno and the utility couldn’t

4 | 3.25.13

▶ The Press Conference: The date of Feb. 15, 2012, STRATEGY/EXECUTION was set for a press conference. Singer Associates strategy was The message and intent of the to position PG&E’s bad reputa- press conference was much like tion after the pipeline explosion the press release: To address against the public’s natural well how PG&E’s negligence was of empathy towards the City responsible for the biggest natof San Bruno. Essentially, the ural gas disaster in the nation’s message to the media was to history, yet the utility seemed be presented by the city in the unwilling to acknowledge the form of a question: Why was monumental damage it caused. Goliath (PG&E) walking away Meanwhile, working with from David at the negotiating Meyers Nave and Prager & Co., table when clearly Goliath had Singer created talking points wronged David? in anticipation of certain quesThe objective was to demtions from reporters. Media onstrate to the media and the training of Ruane, Jackson public that PG&E was acting and other potential conference in bad faith and refusing to do speakers ensued. its part to provide the restituSam Singer says he wasn’t tion it promised and to help the worried though. “Mayor Ruane devastated community heal and is down to earth and speaks in recover. The execution on that a straightforward manner,” he objective included: says. “His credibility is so high that the media really hangs on ▶ Editorial Board Visit: Singer his every word.” Associates set up a meeting between the San Francisco CURTAIN GOES UP When Feb. 15 rolled around, Chronicle’s editorial board and Mayor Ruane. Ruane explained it was show time. But an hour before the curtain went up, the city’s predicament, and Jackson says there was a very Singer and the city waited to see if the Chronicle would cover good harbinger of resolution: A PG&E representative the situation in an editorial.

be reached, PG&E could state that it had already paid fines for the disaster and therefore owed the city nothing. So the question was what could Singer Associates do to help shine a light on the issue and create a groundswell of social and political pressure on the utility to “do the right thing?” as Sam Singer put it. Interestingly, up until this point, the city had not used the power of the media in a concerted or an aggressive way. “They were not used to going out and being forceful with the news media in making demands and attacking PG&E,” Singer says. But on the counsel of Singer, San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane, city council members and city manager Jackson agreed to take a more forceful media-relations tack. “We took Singer’s advice and ran with it,” Jackson says.

▶ The Press Release: Singer Associates crafted a press release that called upon PG&E to do the right thing by the community it harmed. The lead sentence of the release was blunt: “The city of San Bruno today said Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has abdicated its responsibility to the San Bruno community by stalling negotiations to settle millions of dollars in restitution for its Sept. 9, 2010, explosion that rocked this peninsula city.”

Press Conference Forces PG&E Back to Table

Some two years after a natural gas explosion rocked San Bruno, Calif., old-fashioned media relations—a press release and press conference—helped bring utility company PG&E back to the negotiating table, leading to a $70 million settlement.

called, saying the company was ready to go back to the bargaining table. But you know what they say—the show must go on—and it did. The press conference was attended by every major daily newspaper, radio and television station in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition, the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal as well as other major national media covered the event, as did the leading energy trade media. As the conference began, the presser went national.

On Oct. 18, 2012, three days after the press conference, the San Francisco Chronicle published an editorial that whole-heartedly supported San Bruno’s position. Within one month of the press conference, PG&E agreed to pay $70 million to the City of San Bruno for compensation and restitution for the damage it had done. The initial payment of $70 million was reduced to $50 million, Jackson says.

Meanwhile, in the affected neighborhood, about a third of the 38 destroyed homes have been rebuilt, Jackson says. Singer Associates continues to work with city officials on a variety of initiatives related to the disaster. “We’ve learned an awful lot from Sam,” Jackson says. “He encouraged us to be bold with our message, and coached us on how to articulate our experience in a way that was not inflammatory, but necessary to get public and media attention.” Singer admits it was a gamble to rely on a press release and a press conference for such a high-stakes issue. PG&E could have walked away from negotiations with San Bruno. But the bottom line was this: It didn’t, resulting in a $70 million press conference. PRN


Contact: Sam Singer, singer@; Connie Jackson, cjackson-web1@sanbruno.; Stephanie Reichin, | 3.25.13


Driving Brand Influence
▶ Page 1 decision will affect finance, administration and IT.” Apriso is focused on a single tagline: “Manufacturers make things, and our software helps them make things better,” Benzie says. “We must deliver on this promise.” Once delivered, the executive is confident about the decision, and is ready to share that success internally and externally. Presto: influence earned. Granted, influence is not a metric Apriso specifically tracks. However, indirectly, Benzie says the ultimate objective of every PR campaign is to raise awareness and influence. In the B2B space, a way to increase influence is through another influencer group— analysts. Leading up to the launch of a global “traceability” solution for the airline and defense industries, Benzie tapped some analyst firms to get an inside look on market needs of the product. In turn, analyst reviews of products were a significant part of the buyingdecision process.

At Schlage, the lock and security brand of Ingersoll Rand, influence is largely gained through thought leadership, says Ann Matheis, Schlage’s brand director. “Thought leadership is a big part of how we influence consumers to choose our products,” she says. At Schlage, social media has become a major platform in spreading that influence. Matheis is a believer in social media’s ability to gain influence through content that is shared in multiple touch points on the Web. For a product launch or the announcement of a new product feature, a Facebook post might be the springboard toward influence. From there the message could spread via a third party to a blog, through Twitter and back to Schlage’s website. “If your brand is mentioned in specific content relatable to a product, it invariably will appear in many other online venues,” Matheis says. At Schlage, “how to” content is an important avenue to influ-

Tech Companies Dominate
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Google Amazon Apple Microsoft Facebook Visa Walmart Yahoo! Procter & Gamble (P&G) eBay

State Farm is in the process of migrating those oldschool values into new-school digital/social platforms. “It’s a challenge to take the ‘good neighbor’ values and move MAKING AN IMPACT them into the mobile and social Being leading edge, however, worlds,” Beigie says. isn’t the main driver of influThe company’s Good ence at State Farm, says David Neighbor Citizenship Company Beigie, the insurance company’s Grants program now uses VP of public affairs. social tools to collect requests At State Farm, influence from communities that need equals community and authen- assistance. A record 3,000 ticity, traits that have distinrequests were received this year guished the company for more via Facebook. than 90 years. “Our 18,000 All of this outreach earns employees are very involved in influence for State Farm. Yet their communities,” Beigie says. Beigie sees influence from a “They serve on boards, some different lens. “When I think of hold political office, and others influence, I think of ‘what’s in it are coaches or are involved for me?’” he says. “Since we’re a with charities.” service organization, impact— In terms of influence, Beigie what can we do for others—is feels that customers are hungry more important. It’s not a lot of for old-style values projected flashy communications. Instead by State Farm. “When I came it’s more of a roll-up-yourto State Farm three years ago, sleeves approach.” I didn’t fully appreciate these As we found, there are a values,” Beigie says. “There’s variety of ways communicareal sincerity here—it’s about tors can gain brand influshowing up, turning out and ence. Looking at Ipso’s Most making an impact.” Influential Brand list, being “leading edge”—one of the five dimensions used to enhance 10 Most Influential Brands brand influence—loomed large for companies such as Apple, Global Facebook and Google, says 1. Google Kristen Thomas, director, Ipsos MarketQuest. 2. Microsoft Yet as we discovered, being 3. Apple “leading edge” isn’t the only 4. Facebook path towards brand influence. Thought leadership, social 5. Visa innovation and company values 6. Coca-Cola also play a big part. 7. Samsung Which of the dimensions drive your brand to greater 8. YouTube influence? PRN 9. MasterCard ence. The more information the company has in its installation videos, which are placed on its website and on YouTube, the more the influence. 10. Procter & Gamble (P&G)

Source: Ipsos Google is the world’s most influential brand, according to Ipsos’ 2013 Most Influential Brands study. What is striking is the number of technology companies on both lists—seven of 10 in the U.S. and six of 10 on the global list. This begs the question: Is being “leading edge” a requirement for gaining influence?


Gordon Benzie, gordon.; Ann Matheis, ann_matheis@irco. com; Kristen Thomas, kristen.

6 | 3.25.13

Lanny Davis on Crisis Management
▶ Page 1 a senior official of Komen, Karen Handel, was part of the decision-making process that led to the funding cutoff. And that the same Ms. Handel, an anti-abortion, “prolife” advocate, had stated during her unsuccessful campaign for Georgia governor: “Since I am prolife, I do Lanny J. Davis not support the mission of Planned Parent-hood.” to believe that he could ride surprised that doing so Would it not have been out the specific allegations left the impression that the better crisis management— made public by individuals White House seemed to be “tell it all, tell it early . . . that he had engaged in sexual hiding something? etc.”—for Komen to disclose harassment and personal I am sure, in hindsight, immediately that Ms. Handel, indiscretions and that the that the White House press with a known anti-abortion, media would lose interest office realized that they anti–Planned Parenthood if he just nailed down the would have been better off history, was at least involved hatches and ducked for cover. doing what we at the Clinton in the decision to cut off Of course, as inevitably as the White House called a “docuPlanned Parenthood funding sun rising in the east, several ment dump”—collect all by the Komen Foundation? more shoes dropped—and it the emails and documents, • The 2012 Romney campaign was Mr. Cain’s presidential put them on a conference failed for many reasons, campaign, not the story, that room table, invite in all the but two of the major misdied relatively quickly. reporters, and stand there handled crises that might • Another example in 2011 and and answer all nasty queshave affected the outcome through 2012 was the Obama tions and refuse to leave until were the failure to publish White House’s handling of everyone was done, and then prior tax returns way before the issue of the Solyndra the story can be over with. the 2012 campaign heated government-guaranteed • In late 2011 and early 2012 up—even before the 2011 loan, which ended up in an there was the mishandling of Republican nomination conembarrassing bankruptcy the decision by the leaders tests; and second, Governor after being touted by the of the Susan G. Komen for Romney’s failure to step up Obama White House as a the Cure foundation to cut to the line— “get in front great success story (and one off funding for Planned of the story”—when he pushed by the White House Parenthood. The Komen was caught on a cell phone for media events, including leaders initially were evasive camera at a private fundone involving the president about acknowledging that raiser commenting, in effect, personally). But we saw the the decision had anything that 47% of the eleccommon pattern when bad to do with politics. The first torate were for stories arise, whether in the explanation was that the President Obama White House or corporate funding was cut off pending and wouldn’t suites—first the White House the results of an “investigachange their resisted turning over emails tion” announced by Florida minds because they and other documents to the Republican congressman were dependent Republican oversight comCliff Stearns. (This was the upon government mittee. Was anyone surprised same Representative Stearns to sustain them. that sooner or later these who was subsequently Romney’s strategy emails actually leaked and defeated in an August 2012 was to describe his most had to be turned over, Republican primary when comments as “in-eleafter all was said and done? he sought reelection. His gantly expressed”—and Shocking! Then the White so-called investigation ultithat only caused the story to House press office referred mately went nowhere.) Then blow up on him more, since most questions to the Energy the public subsequently it seemed to confirm that he Department. Was anyone learned from the media that really meant what he said,

“What is most remarkable is that after so many years of repeating the same mistakes in mismanaging high-profile crises, they continue to be made.”

but he just it expressed it badly. On the other hand, I would have advised him— assuming he would have believed these words—to say, simply: “You know, that was a stupid mistake and I didn’t mean it—of course those 47% are composed of voters who have many reasons for not being for me not relating to government, and I want to apologize to them.” I am convinced that the 47% issue would have gone away had he said this or something similar. After all, there were plenty of examples of President Obama making gaffes behind closed doors (such as his famous “they get bitter, and they cling to guns,” during the Democratic nomination race in 2008; or Senator Biden implying that Republicans favor keeping people in “chains”). Gaffes can be excused— Americans are a forgiving lot. But it requires an authentic admission, “I screwed up”— and let’s move on. So, in short, my advice to Mr. Romney—as well as to Vice President Biden and any other politician who makes an embarrassing gaffe—is what I should have told myself when I found myself the subject of a negative story before I was ready, is to “Tell it all, tell it early, tell it yourself.” PRN From “Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life” by Lanny J. Davis. Copyright 2013 by Lanny J. Davis. Reprinted by permission of Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. | 3.25.13


▶ Tip Sheet Why the Best PR Defense is a Good, Solid Offense
Crisis Communications Reputation Management


So why did Lance Armstrong really sit on Oprah’s couch? It is human nature to want to respond to negative accusations. Even the most stoic executive often takes such allegations about his or her company personally and there is a desire to take an aggressive approach to responding. Certainly it is important to correct inaccurate information and keep stakeholders updated as relevant facts become available. This is true whether you are recalling a faulty car or trying to contain a major political scandal. The organizations and individuals that earn the most respect and credibility are the ones who provide regular updates, even when there isn’t much new material to tell. Regular contact with key audiences is even more critical in today’s world of the Internet and bloggers, 24/7 news cycles and social-media platforms that allow anyone to share his or her opinion, without fact checkers or press credentials. And the current media environment often makes companies even more anxious to respond. It doesn’t matter to them that the Facebook post was from someone with only 17 Facebook friends. It was wrong and they want to correct it. Responding to comments from people outside of a company’s group of key stake-

holders that are unlikely to have been seen by those stakeholders is seldom the best use of time and resources. And responding, even to high authority, credible voices, is only half the battle. Playing strictly defense is only half the game and will not fully win the hearts and minds of consumers and shareholders. Companies should be formulating a proactive play while keeping the opposition at bay. It is that positive campaign that will give people something else to talk about, and provide another context each time they see the company name in a story or a tweet. For companies that take the “no comment” route in a crisis, the proactive play also gives them something to do besides bury their head in the sand and wait for things to die down. Granted, it can sometimes be difficult to tell a positive story in the midst of a scandal. Credibility is low and kicking off a new program may be viewed as damage control and not a sincere desire to do good. Even when an individual or a corporation has been building a positive story for years, it may not be enough. Again, think Lance Armstrong. He launched the Lance Armstrong Foundation in 1997 and the wildly popular Livestrong campaign in 2004. The foundation has raised more than $500 million to support cancer sur-

vivors and has served 2.5 million people affected by cancer. The organization does a great job promoting the work that it does and the people it helps. Since Armstrong continued to be connected to the charity that he founded, the good that the foundation does reflected positively on the athlete. Or it used to. After the now-infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey in which Armstrong admitted to years of using banned substances—despite denying those accusations for years—he has removed himself from the goodwill that the charity provided to his personal reputation. And while there are cancer survivors and Armstrong supporters who encourage people to remember the good he has done for those stricken with cancer, for most people it is hard to overlook—and at this point forgive—more than a decade of lies. So what elements are necessary for a credible story that will change the conversation? • It must resonate with the target audience. If a company’s key target is Justin Beiber fans, telling a story about how your organization supports symphony programs across the country may not be helpful. • It must be believable and

tangible. Just to say, “we are doing good,” garners a lot of skepticism. Organizations need to provide metrics of some kind that can illustrate that claim. • It must be interesting enough to be passed on. To get a story to really stick, it needs to be sharable. The story needs to be something that people will talk to each other about, and originate not just from your company but also from other sources. One example of an organization taking this approach is Susan G. Komen for the Cure. After coming under harsh criticism from key audiences for deciding to halt funding for Planned Parenthood (a decision that was later reversed), the organization has been telling stories via its “Voices of Impact” campaign about the women and men who have been helped by its services. While the charity still has ground to make up—with most chapters reporting that donations for 2012 were well below their goals—it is at least a step in the right direction. PRN


Melissa Arnoff is senior VP at Levick Communications. She can be reached at marnoff@

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