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Jimmy John’s data breach extends a PR crisis

It took them seven weeks to confirm it, but Ronn Torossian says that’s not nearly the worst thing wrong with the data breach at Jimmy John’s.

First, the bad. Nearly two months ago, tech watchdogs and business sites broke the news of a possible credit card breach at the Jimmy John’s sandwich chain. It took the company that long to acknowledge the breach … an infiltration of a payment vendor that impacted 216 stores. Now, that’s not to say Jimmy John’s was hiding anything. These things take time to investigate. And you definitely don’t want to come out and say, “There’s a problem, but we don’t know where or how much of one.”

When you make that statement you need to be able to answer that question. So, wisely, they waited until they had the information. It was bad news, but it could have been worse.

Well, it was … worse, that is. Not only had the breach happened, it happened over a 3 to 4 month time period in which people were going blissfully about their business, unaware they could be or were about to be victims.

And that, Torossian says, highlights the larger PR issue here. These breaches keep happening, and people often don’t hear about them until months after the fact. Had they known sooner they could have taken care of the issue and never become a victim.

That puts the onus back on ALL retailers to calm their customers’ legitimate concerns about cyber security while also enjoying the benefits brought by paying with plastic. See, retailers understand very well that people who “put it on plastic” tend to spend more. But if that easy breezy confidence goes out the window, you may find sales dropping at retailers that never had a whiff of cyber security problems.

That’s the unfortunate reality, and the growing PR problem. It’s not about a single retail victim, it’s about damaging consumer confidence and corroding consumer culture. How many breaches will it take before a large segment of society just pays cash “just in case.”

That will likely never be a majority again, but consider how many industries would be impacted if these breaches keep happening. Particularly if they happen and go unreported for months on end. It won’t be everyone, but there will be a significant percentage of the consumer population who will decide the convenience isn’t worth the risk.

Retailers need to make a concerted PR effort to stop that momentum …because the rumblings have already started.

Investors Recipe to fix Olive Garden is nearly endless

Once billed as family friendly authentic Italian, Olive Garden has been taking some PR lumps in the past few years. The butt of running jokes about it being more prefab suburban eatery than authentic Italian kitchen have come fast and furious. But according to 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian says that is not the only thing critics say the Garden needs to get right.

Businessweek recently reported on a hedge fund’s interest in “fixing” the restaurant chain. A nearly 300-page report that is as detailed as it is damning.

Some reported highlights? Olive Garden doesn’t know how to cook pasta, soaks salads in too much dressing, forgets to offer wine and sells menu items no one in Italy would touch with a ten-foot breadstick. Did we mention this was a report published by people who WANT the chain to be successful?

Yep. That tough course of bad news was cooked up by Starboard Value, a large shareholder who believes that, despite the current shortcomings, Olive Garden can rise again, bigger and tastier. But only if it makes many changes to nearly every aspect of its operation.

No aspect is safe or sacred. The report criticizes limo rides, jet trips, straw size, and chicken preparation. Not to mention the quality of the take home containers. Oh, right, it also calls for the entire board to get the boot.

Extreme? Well, maybe, but consider, according to sales numbers, Olive Garden is “forgetting” to sell one of the most important aspects of any Italian meal experience. Wine sales have plummeted.

Not quite as blatantly miscalculated, but still a high source of waste, Olive Garden is tossing out baskets full of breadsticks with nearly every meal. An issue Bloomberg reported the report as calling a “massive, unnecessary waste.”

Oh, and they taste like hot dog buns. And the pasta is terrible. Ouch.

The report delivers hit after hit after hit … but really nothing detractors of the chain have not been saying for years. The only difference is that now, the naysayers have a document that they can assert “proves” their complaints are valid.

Tough to argue with that. Tough as reheated breadsticks.

The Ray Rice Crisis: A PR Nightmare for the NFL

ray rice crisis prUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last month, chances are you are aware of the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal that has shaken the NFL to its core. After discovering that Rice, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, had punched his then-fiancée in an elevator and knocked her out, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave Rice a two-game suspension, setting off a firestorm of outrage from women’s groups and people everywhere.

Just when the NFL thought things were starting to settle down, along comes TMZ to release a more extensive videotape of the elevator incident. The tape, showing Rice actually hitting his now-wife with a left hook to the head, then dragging her out and putting her face-first on the floor outside the elevator, prompted more outrage, forcing the Ravens to cut Rice and the NFL to suspend him indefinitely. However, now the questions loom as to who knew what, when did they know it and did the league have access to this videotape when Rice was given the two-game suspension. A PR nightmare for the NFL, there are several steps the league needs to take to weather the storm.

The league has already taken a strong first step by appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation into how the league handled the incident and how evidence was handled. By bringing in an independent party with Mueller’s credentials, the league is sending a message that it wants a quick and thorough resolution to the matter.

A critical part of how this will play out for Goodell and the NFL will be how well they appear to accept responsibility for any missteps along the way. As with most PR crisis situations, being honest often goes far in helping to resolve the matter. The current question most are asking is whether the NFL had the newest tape in its possession at the time they gave Rice his two-game suspension. Law enforcement says they did, while the league disputes that claim. If it’s found the league did have the tape, standing up early as possible and accepting responsibility will help.

To regain the public’s trust in the league, many possibilities exist. Some have called for Goodell to step down as Commissioner, but others think if the league takes a strong stand on the issue of domestic violence the crisis may be resolved. Several other players are currently dealing with domestic violence charges, so the league has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to protecting women and deterring this behavior in its players. As for Rice, opinion is mixed as to whether he should be allowed to play again. Most experts believe if he stays out of the league for a year or two, completes the appropriate counseling programs and works with domestic violence groups he can restore his image enough to get a second chance. However the situation plays out, it’s a black eye for the NFL that may take longer than anyone wants to heal properly.

Volvo catching up with BMW

volvo-vs-bmw

Volvo has been struggling with sales over the past several years, but the launch of a new luxury SUV may put the brand back on top. Ronn Torossian says that sales for the new SUV may even rival Volvo’s long-time German competitor, GMB. Excitement for the new vehicle is already at a fever pitch after a tantalizing marketing campaign that only revealed portions of the new XC90. Now, the SUV is hitting the market and already gaining momentum on its climb to the top.

According to Torossian, the furor from the XC90’s launch could reverse the downward slide that Volvo has had since being owned by Ford Motors from 1999 t0 2010. Now owned by a Chinese company, Volvo is returning to its roots and only using Swedish parts to make its vehicles. The company hopes that the XC90 will help to double sales of Volvos in the United States by the year 2020.

Volvo began to reveal the XC90 with a tantalizing marketing campaign that featured photos of parts of the new SUV, but never unveiled the entire vehicle. Back in June, the interior was finally revealed. A big flatscreen in the console, blonde wood trim, and all the bells and whistles make the XC90 a top of the line luxury SUV, and the recently revealed exterior is just as attractive.

One of the major selling points of the XC90 is that it is the first car in fifteen years to be made entirely from Swedish parts. It is a complete relaunching of the Volvo brand after the legacy left by Ford Motors. After being purchased by Chinese company, Geely, Volvo has undergone several changes including an all-new, ultra efficient engine that will be cleaner than the Toyota P
rius.

Such advances, however, do not come cheap. The XC90 is priced at $66,000 dollars initially with a limited edition version that jumps to $91,000. Only 1,927 of these will be sold. The price may seem steep for what Volvo has done in the past, but the company is confident that the new SUV will compete with other vehicles in the same price range such as the BMW X5.

Torossian says that Volvo has made huge strides in rebranding itself and earning back a share of the American market with the XC90. A slow marketing campaign was key for intriguing potential buyers, and now Volvo is confident that they will be able to compete with car companies such as BMW.

5 tips for Online Fundraising

Increasingly, nonprofits are finding a ready market of willing donors online. The days in which giving was suspect are over. Nearly everyone pays almost exclusively with plastic these days, and eight out of ten consumers are accustomed to making transactions online.

Given this trend, many nonprofits are looking for ways to expand their donor base online. But if you are just getting into this game you have missed the early days where you get to make the rules. Online donors now have expectations. If you don’t meet those expectations, you should expect to lose out on otherwise willing donors.

Saturation

Donors are not interested in hunting for your “give” button. Put it in a “top third” spot, prominently but not obnoxiously displayed on every single page. Viewers realize you are a nonprofit and you need funds. If you make it convenient without being rude, they will understand. And they will respond accordingly.

Offer options

If your group or organizations gives to different causes or supports various different aspects of a single cause, let people know. All donors have a basic desire to give, but this charity is also motivated by a specific internal call to action. They want to make a specific difference, not just a difference.

Make it mobile friendly

If anything about your donation process is not mobile friendly you are losing a huge percentage of Internet users. Desktops, and even to an extent, laptops, are a dying technology. Everyone is on a mobile device these days. You better be ready, or your donor will move on.

Monthly donations

If you don’t already have one, create a program for which donors can make monthly donations. Sure, you love those big ticket corporate sponsorships, but, increasingly, people are opting for smaller, monthly donations. They never miss the money and it can make a big difference for you.

 

Be grateful

Always remember to say thank you, both in your landing page and with every opportunity you get. Any chance to say thank you is an opportunity to touch that donor one more time, keeping your group nearer the front of their mind.

While these tips cannot guarantee a nonprofit organization will increase their donations through online means, better digital communication makes this much more likely.

3 ways to Get Ahead Without Burning Bridges

If the statistics are right, and in this case, they are overwhelming, you will not end your career where you began it. By some measures, the average Millennial will have around 14 different jobs between college and their mid-thirties. Why? Well, there are a lot of different reasons, but that’s a topic for another article. In this article, you’ll discover some ways to move on without burning bridges behind you. Because if there’s one universal truth in business, it’s this: “Who you know, and what they think of you, matters.”

But what happens when it’s time to move on? When there is more opportunity for you somewhere else, but you still appreciate and value the people where you are currently working? How can you move on without setting fire to the bridge you crossed to get you to that place?

Here are 3 proven ways to answer that question:

Plan ahead

If you are planning a change, it is almost always better to know well ahead of time. If you are not “one of those people” who plans six months to a year out, you need to change. You will never succeed long-term in business until you can project where you will be in a year and work backwards. So set a date and get those plans in motion.

Offer notice, even when you don’t “need to”

That’s not to say you should tell your bosses immediately once you have a date set. That could easily backfire on you. However, if you know six months out, don’t wait until the week you are leaving to let someone know. Give them 3 to 6 weeks notice in order to get the right person in to replace you. Offering to help train your replacement will also bode well for your future relationship with those leaders.

Don’t let vision cloud your vision

If you are like every other entrepreneur on the planet, then you have big dreams that cannot be contained in your current position. Fine. But understand, you are at work to be at work. Work on your master plan on your own time. Focus on one job at a time. Take the time to build your enterprise correctly, so, when you do tell your bosses you are leaving, you won’t be back in six months, hat in hand, begging to get your job back.

Now, I have to say, these methods are not foolproof. If either you or your employer chooses to behave foolishly through the separation process, you might end up sparking a blaze without intent. That being said, these procedures can help protect you and prevent that possibility.

GM stuck in an extended negative PR tailspin

gm-crisisWhen your public image continues to take body blow after body blow, you need to stop the damage before you start taking shots to the face. Unfortunately, some brands just can’t seem to get that. Instead, they stand there like a punch drunk boxer, taking a beating without ever trying to defend themselves. Then, when the opportunity comes up to get free, they try to slip the jab only to get caught with an uppercut that sends them to the mat. Ronn Torossian says GM may just be falling for that same ol’ rope a dope.

Just when General Motors thought they were beginning to get clear of the ongoing ignition switch crisis, a Georgia state judge reopened a case. The decision came after GM tried to stop the case brought by victim Brooke Melton’s parents.

A little background…

Last fall, Melton’s parents settled with GM for an undisclosed sum. The settlement came after an accident involving Melton’s Chevy Cobalt, which claimed Melton’s life.

Then came the recall, and the admission that at least some GM employees knew about potential issues leading to the recall years ago. The Meltons allege GM knew about the flaw and lied about it to get out with a smaller settlement. They have sued to overturn the settlement, and proceed to trial. Melton’s father admits his daughter was driving over the speed limit and was probably moving too fast for conditions, but there is no doubt that, given the current climate, sympathy is definitely on the side of the victims.

GM responded by saying it was “disappointed,” and said it believed the Melton case had been reached “in good faith.”

While that’s pretty much all that GM can say at this moment, they do understand an extended trial, including the case that eventually helped blow the lid off the ignition issue to begin with, could be disastrous from a public relations perspective. And an extended one. The case is not expected to even see the inside of a courtroom until spring 2016. That means more than a year of snowballing negative PR from a string of poor decisions that began several years ago.

GM’s consumer PR standing may very well ride on what happens next with this case. The Meltons do not seem to have any interest in backing down or in settling this time. They are fighting mad … and at this point, GM may not have an answer.

Layoffs May be Good for Business, but Bad for PR

layoffsMacy’s announces 2,500 layoffs and five store closings; their stock increases eight percent. Sony slashes 5000 jobs and sees a 3.9 percent stock increase. Hewlett-Packard reveals another 11,000-16,000 job cut, in addition to the 34,000 previously announced. They are rewarded with a six percent stock jump for the quarter and 27 percent increase for the year. Barclays will deliver another 19,000 pink slips in the next three years. Wall Street cheers, and their stock rises seven percent.

While this is great news for investors, “job killing” is not great for PR. As Ronn Torossian points out, the court of public opinion does not wait to pass judgment. In order to thrive, or sometimes just survive, some companies must eliminate jobs. When a small number of individuals lose their jobs, even though those workers survival is at risk, the public can understand a few job losses. When the layoffs number in the thousands however, people are not so forgiving.

Layoffs are often necessary, but never pleasant. Strategic planning and effective messaging can help minimize the negative PR that layoffs generate. Large job cuts are rarely ever a spur of the moment decision. Companies need to utilize the time before the announcement to put a PR strategy in place. Offering decent severance packages and help finding future employment will help lessen some of the impact.

The message should show that management realizes the hardship of the layoffs to both the terminated employees, and those staying with the company. The business should not sugar coat the severity of the job losses, but should highlight the positive outcome for the health of the company. It should also stress any sacrifices that top management makes.

When Barclays announced its restructuring, part of the message it broadcast let people know that the CEO, Antony Jenkins, had not taken a bonus in two years.

Ronn Torossian explains that the company also needs a clear, well-defined vision of the company after the layoff and communicate this effectively. When Macy’s CEO, Terry Lundrgren announced their layoff, he had specific details on departments and stores affected. Macy’s also relayed information that all 2500 employees would receive severance.

In order for the public to forgive such massive layoffs, the business must focus on the health of the company and not the bottom-line for investors. Otherwise the risk of seeming uncaring multiplies, which could ultimately have a very chilling effect on the bottom-line.

Australian TMNT Poster Baffles and Enrages

australia-tmntWhen it comes to movies that make a political statement or cause national controversy, you may not think a film about mutated ninja turtles who learn karate from an anthropomorphic rat would be in the running.

But, Ronn Torossian said that’s exactly what happened when the promoters of the live action sendup of the 1980s cartoon released their promotional collateral in Australia. One of the most prominent posters included the four titular turtles leaping from an exploding inferno of a skyscraper in NYC.

Not a big deal, right? I mean, how many summer blockbusters blow up sections of New York? Only … pretty much all of them. But, did we mention that the movie opens in Australia on September 11.

Yes. They. Did.

If your action movie opens on September 11, you would think that someone – SOMEONE – would suggest that your promotional art not include the heroes leaping from an exploding, burning skyscraper. You might think that, but this failed to occur to a room full of creatives promoting the movie. However, it almost immediately occurred to the denizens of the internet, particularly on Twitter.

The reaction to the poster and online advertising featuring it was visceral. They shared and reshared and reshared again, all the while growing increasingly enraged. What started as passing upset and mild offense at oblivious PR people snowballed into a frothing discontent. Will all that anger stop people from seeing the movie? Probably not. In fact, MORE people might go because of all the controversy.

So, is this a case of all publicity is good publicity, or have these promoters crossed a line that should be chiseled into granite?

What do you think? We’d like to get your take. Leave your comments below.

Upsells may not be a Slam Dunk for Dunkin’

dunkin-donut-upsellTrying to upsell a customer is nothing new. McDonald’s made a cliché of the practice by asking billions and billions, “Do you want fries with that?” And, their success has hardly gone unnoticed. From grocery stores to coffee shops, polite – and sometimes not so polite – nudges to add a bit to your order are commonplace. But, Ronn Torossian says, even if they are expected, upsells are not always the best PR move. A lesson Dunkin’ Donuts may soon learn about.

Now, it should come as a shock to absolutely no one to learn that Dunkin’ Donuts does most of its business before lunch. Sure, the afternoon crowd will pop in for an iced coffee on a regular basis, but the cash crop flies off the shelves in the AM hours. In response, Dunkin’ Brands CEO Nigel Travis has told reporters he directs his employees who are taking orders to upsell to afternoon customers. Because most afternoon customers are in no rush to be anywhere, employees have more time to engage them in conversations, most of which begin: “How about a donut or cookie along with that drink?”

While franchisees might be excited about this news, consumers might not be so pleased. Sure, they expect it at McDonald’s, but sooner or later the practice wears thin. Mainly because the strategy works so well, so often. The average person might feel they are above such emotional manipulation, but the numbers say otherwise.

And, let’s be honest, when you go into a coffee shop or fast food joint, do you find yourself glancing back up at the menu board or into the case long after you have decided what you planned to order? That acknowledgment of temptation, according to research, translates into being more susceptible to a friendly suggestion from a smiling cashier.

So, will this new edict turn customers off? Well, we’d like to think so, and some of us may even say so. But, the reality is much different. We will still go, and we will still buy. Because they may make it feel like it was our idea.