News and Updates from 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian

Tag: Public Relations

Intergalactic PR: Space Tourism Become a Reality

space tourism public relations

As SpaceX continues to surge ahead in the consumer race back into space, its competitor, Virgin Galactic is doing its best to get off the launch pad.

Virgin Galactic’s latest initiative – which should be revealed next week – is a second generation of its previous space tourism rocket, SpaceShipTwo. The rocket is the first to roll out since an accident in 2014, which destroyed its predecessor and killed the pilot.

It was a rough setback for the industry, and Virgin Galactic’s owner, Richard Branson, wisely pulled back out of the spotlight, going back to the drawing board and allowing SpaceX to get some – though not too much – of the positive press.

At the time, Branson told the press he was having second thoughts. “When we had the accident, for about 24 hours we were wondering whether it was worth continuing, whether we should call it a day.”

An investigation into the incident blamed pilot error on the mishap, and Branson said both astronauts and others made it clear that space travel is much too important a dream to abandon after one tragic accident.

Now Branson and Virgin Galactic are back to attempt wresting control of the modern space race away from its competitor. SpaceShipTwo is designed to carry a crew of eight – two pilots and six passengers – and climb to an altitude of about 62 miles. It’s a suborbital flight, but will allow guests to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and get a higher than a bird’s eye view of earth.

The project is still in the testing phase and quite a ways from actually taking consumers into space … but Virgin is officially back in the space business.

Both major competitors have suffered losses in this process to date, and public perception remains hopeful. History proved that going into space the first time was not ever simple or easy, and even when shuttle flights had become relatively routine, accidents could occur.

At this point, though, the best way to re-establish full consumer confidence is to succeed – and succeed in a big way. That will take risk. A factor with which Branson is intimately familiar.

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Youth Football Facing New Scrutiny

youth football

It’s a constant controversy in today’s concussion-conscious environment: how young is too young for tackle football?

There are injuries, but even most doctors are fairly tolerant of the injuries kids sustain in what is, undeniably, a violent sport. While anti-football groups continue to challenge public opinion, the American Academy of Pediatrics proposed more adult supervision, not fewer youths playing tackle football.

Detractors argue this is more about than actual medical evidence. Football is an American obsession, they argue. From the NFL on down to pee-wee league, adults invest huge amounts of time and energy in this game. They love it, give it their time and their treasure, so it stands to reason they also give it their children.

Proponents counter, of course, we love it. Football teaches discipline, competition, fair play and how to both win and lose gracefully. More so, football encourages kids to push their boundaries, to excel where they think they cannot. and earn rewards for tasks previously thought impossible.

Football insiders – coaches and veteran players – credit youth football with a better appreciation for and understanding of the game. They argue kids who start to learn the game early are less likely to be injured than those who take it up late, in high school or as adults.

Detractors fire back, pointing out that younger kids are more vulnerable to injuries, particularly of the head and neck, which can have lifetime consequences. They point to startling statistics: 13 percent of all injuries are head or neck injuries, and 11 high school players died playing football last year. Of course, these stats don’t point out HOW the kids died, which is a point tacitly pointed out by youth football proponents. At least some of the kids suffered injuries due to heat stroke, which could happen during any athletic activity.

Anti-football crusaders aren’t buying that argument. They want pro-football factions to acknowledge the risk and take steps to restrict youth football activities. It’s an unpopular position at the moment, partly because of the universal regard for football and due to the unsuccessful PR campaigns pushed by the opposition.

One popular pro-football initiative, the Heads Up program, encouraged coaches and youth leagues to require “heads up” football camps, clinics and training for all players. This step mollified parental fears and put another layer of protection between youth leagues and disgruntled critics. So far, the detractors have found no way to crack that wall of public sentiment.

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Zuckerberg’s vaccine comments ignite a firestorm

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has never been shy about expressing his socio-political perspectives on . Recently, the FB CEO chose to sound off while taking his new daughter in for her first round of vaccinations.

While the post may have been meant to simply be the sort of Day In the Life picture just about everyone uploads to Facebook, the photo and caption: “Doctor’s visit – time for vaccines!” ignited a firestorm.

To date, nearly 100,000 comments piled up on the picture, most from anti-vaccine apologists hoping to show others (and science) the error of their ways.

One particularly harsh anti-vax crusader put it this way: “Injecting newborns and infants with disease and neurotoxins is disgusting… Shame on you…”

Of course, while it’s clear this poster neither understands vaccines nor the science supporting them, there’s no use trying to tell her that. Though many did try. Ad nauseum.

One man posted in support of Zuckerberg, thanking him for supporting vaccine science. “As someone with autism, as someone who is constantly watching good people put their own children at serious risk because of old, fraudulent fears of vaccines … thank you for being sensible.”

As for Zuckerberg, people who follow his page already knew his stance. “Vaccination is an important and timely topic. The science is completely clear: vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community,” Zuckerberg has previously written.

So, the world is clear on where he stands and free to agree or disagree with that stance. But what if you haven’t waded into that debate? How can you be sure your innocently intended social media post will not ignite a PR nightmare?

The answer is indicative of the new reality we all face in today’s digital age. Much of our lives are played out online, for better or worse. A quick missive meant for a select group of friends can be shared with others, drawing many more voices into the net. Suddenly, a simple comment meant for a specific audience becomes a billboard for anyone with a bone to pick.

The solution? Be cautious of what you post online. Always. Understand that, on the net, privacy is nonexistent. Don’t let your next interaction with the internet turn into an unexpected PR crisis.

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When to use Rapid Response in PR?

rapid-response

Rapid response is one of the true boons for entrepreneurs and the businesses they represent. The ability to respond quickly on with a response to questions, comments, or news worthy developments is one of the greatest gifts that the age of instant communication has brought us.

Used judiciously, this ability can be an excellent tool that places an individual or company directly at the center of breaking news and events. However, this is one media technique that must be used with restraint, caution, and a well developed sense of timing if it is to be fully effective.

Does Every Single Question Or Event Require A Response?

Perhaps the first question that will occur to the reader of this post is, “Does every single question or comment from a viewer require a response?” This might be quickly followed by another question, namely, “Does every single breaking event require a response?”

The answer to both questions is an unequivocal no. You don’t need to be on top of every single question that pops up on your Twitter feed, nor do you have to register an automatic response to every late breaking news event, particularly if the event in question has absolutely no relevance to your company or your brand.

Never Try To Turn A Tragedy Into A Marketing Opportunity

For example, if a tragedy occurs that gains immediate media coverage, do not try to turn your recognition of this event into a marketing opportunity. You are not required to post anything in response to a school shooting or disastrous fire or flood. If you feel the need to register a response, keep it brief, general, and purely personal, with no mention of the products or services you may have on sale at your physical location for that week.

What Are Your Qualifications To Make An Official Response?

Another important question to consider when debating whether to make an official response on your company’s official social media account is whether or not you are truly qualified to make any statement at all. For example, if a client posts questions concerning your company’s official cloud computing account, and you yourself don’t know anything about the process of cloud computing, it’s an excellent idea to let another, more experienced and knowledgeable, individual post a response.

Failing that, you might simply refer the client to your company’s FAQ page concerning cloud computing. In the end, it’s far better to post no response at all than to post a misleading or ill informed answer that proves you have no idea what you are talking about.

Never Post A Response In A Hurry Or Under Duress

The absolute worst time to post a response to a question or comment is when you feel you are being pressured by that client, or by other circumstances, to give a quick answer. In such cases, your response is guaranteed to be rushed, piecemeal, and probably very badly worded. In addition, the tone of your post could come off as abrupt or rude, thus creating a very bad impression of your company and its media skills.

It’s always better to carefully plan each response you make to a client, as well as each fresh new post that you make on your various social media accounts. What you lose in sheer spontaneity you will more than make up for in coherency and accuracy of expression. Remember always that every post you make to social media represents your company and its brand, whether in a positive or negative light.

It’s therefore to your advantage to always weigh your words carefully when speaking before an audience of millions.

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Walmart continues to defy convention

Walmart sloganWalmart is known for many things, but, when it comes down to it, innovation really isn’t one of them. Sure, you can find just about anything you want at any given store, some at any time you want it … but when’s the last time Walmart did anything really, truly … NEW?

Well, they were one of the first national store brands to be open on Thanksgiving. And, if that counts as innovative, then grab a seat, because they’ve done it again. Walmart recently announced plans to stay open until 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve … because nothing says I love you like rushing into the mouth of a retail gauntlet mere hours before Santa lands in your living room.

Of course, this decision has less to do with satisfying customers and much more to do with holding the line against Amazon. Now that the online retail giant offers same-day delivery in some places, Walmart and other brick and mortar stores have to pull out all the stops to keep up with the pace set by Bezos’ behemoth.

In Walmart’s case, this includes changing up delivery dates on online orders to allow as late as possible and still get there well in advance of Christmas morning. For example, regular shipping will make it on anything ordered by December 20, while rush shipping gives customers up to December 22 to get their orders in. That beats UPS (December 18) and FedEx (December 16) by several days.

In this golden age of consumer choice, retailers must do anything to abide by the expectations set by online retailers. Expectations – like same or next day delivery – that may have been laughable not that long ago. Things are different now, and they got that way in a hurry.

Retailers who can’t keep pace can expect to find themselves on the receiving end of some very nasty consumer PR, followed by sharply declining sales numbers.

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Bigger is, once again, better!

bigger smaller marketing public relations

There was a time, not long ago, when American consumers were thinking small. Smaller cars, smaller portions, even smaller homes. Those days are over. If the Small Movement was ever a trend, consider it done.

When you ask retail CEOs, they will all tell you, Americans want Bigger along with their Better. Those two modifiers go together in the American consumer brain like peanut butter and chocolate. This newfound return to excess crosses just about every consumer segment.

In consumer electronics, as tech gets increasingly more advanced, wireless and communicative, consumers are back to wanting bigger TVs and other devices. Sure, iPads are still selling, but the “mini” experiment? Not going as well as expected. And when it comes to TVs, size does matter. Expect consumers to be shopping for something in excess of 55 inches.

But bigger isn’t just about size. Consumers are after big ticket items this year as well. Expensive vacuums, kitchen tools and sound equipment are all selling well – from mixers retailing for hundreds to headphones selling for twice that.

Part of the trend, according to retail PR managers, is a healing economy. More people are back at work, and everyone seems to have a better opinion of where the economy is headed. More enthusiasm nearly always translates into better consumer sales.

Another popular More Is Better campaign: food. Organic and specialty foods are no longer only for boutique grocers. Even the most mainstream grocery stores have expanded the organic sections. Twice the price for milk and eggs? Half again as much for cereal or fresh fruit? Consumers don’t seem to mind.

The biggest aspect of this good consumer PR outlook is the attitude. Buyers aren’t looking at these Bigger And More expenditures as luxuries or splurges. They are making them part of their basic spending routine, spending on quality and convenience rather than price. Aside from anything else, that is the trend retailers wanted most to see. When people stop worrying so much about pennies and start spending dimes to get what they really wanted all along, that will keep going until consumer confidence begins to flutter. Which, at this point, may be a long time coming.

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Did Crest Mislabel their Product?

Few people noticed, but Crest’s mouthwash once featured one very questionable label. Whether it included an actual error, or left meaning open to interpretation, the phrasing was dubious. On the label, Crest promised customers 24-hour protection, but required them to use the product twice per day.Wouldn’t the need to use the product twice in 24 hours mean that it only offers 12-hour protection? Anything can offer 24-hour protection if you take enough of it, or use it several times per day. However, it seems unlikely that this was the message Crest wanted to bring across to the masses.

Even so, that is how the company chose to phrase it. Whenever Crest got the chance to elaborate on the benefits of the mouthwash, it phrased it as “24 hour protection against plaque and gingivitis when used twice per day”. This brilliant re-working showcased creative PR work. In fact, not even internet trolls saw through the mistake and the brand remained basically untouched. Still, the company took no chances, as it quickly introduced a new label for the next batch of Crest’s Pro-Health Invigorating Clean Multi-Protection Mouthwash. In fact, Crest removed the product with the old label from the website and even threw in a new bottle. Today, the new front label only informs that the product fights plaque and gingivitis.

It no longer provides directions on how often the product should be used. It also no longer states how long the protection lasts from using the product. This radical re-design to remove such bold claims implies that Crest made the original label in error. While this shows creative ways to handle the problem, other companies can handle this issue differently. Aside from attracting internet trolls and bad press, mislabels can create legal problems if it makes false claims. Companies may also face legal troubles if labels do not include ingredients that may prove harmful or lethal to users.

In these situations, and legal teams advise companies to recall the product to ensure the safety of users. If customers suffer harm from using the product, the company may easily face expensive civil or class lawsuits. However, the mislabeling of the Crest mouthwash did not threaten the safety of any customers, so there was no immediate need to issue a recall.Companies can also utilize good old honesty in this situation. Customers do not take kindly to companies making mistakes. Ironically though, they like to see companies take responsibility for their errors, especially when they didn’t even notice one was made. This paints the picture of a proactive company, which prides itself on honesty and transparency. In short, it builds trust.

Crest could also easily turn the situation into a humorous one by featuring ads that might show comic versions of how the mistake was made. Maybe a villain from a competitor broke in, or a worker with bad allergies sneezed and hit the wrong button. This would make for quite an interesting campaign which both admitted to the issue, but offered a comic apology.The company could also use ads which showcase that “doubling up just in case” remains a more effective method of doing almost anything than just relying on the bare minimum – including using their mouthwash. This too could use comic ads to express the message.

Ultimately, Crest used neither of these methods and managed to cruise through undetected with the help of a good marketing and public relations team. With their help, the company weathered a storm the rest of us didn’t even know was brewing. This shows not just stealth, but a keen knowledge of their consumers and how the market works.In essence, Crest demonstrated the importance of knowing their customers. They knew that most people never spend a great deal of time reading labels, when most mouthwashes promise the same thing. They banked on this hope, coursed through the error, and quickly issued a new design – just in case the label failed to escape the keen eyes of that one person, likely to blast the company for its mistake.

Good going, Crest!

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VW’s New Boss thinks his Brand is Only Headed Up

VW PR Crisis

Fall has not been kind to Volkswagen. An international scandal rocked the brand on two continents. While the literal price tag has yet to be tallied – VW expects it to cost them billions – the PR price tag has led to immediate changes at the top and among the rank and file. As expected, newly installed VW CEO Matthias Mueller says there’s nowhere for his company to go but up. He expects a shining new VW brand inside of three years. That’s an optimistic timeline, considering they will probably still be tabulating damages at that point, but, hey, a guy can dream.

In his recent address to company managers, Mueller said the company needed to grow leaner and make decisions faster. Hmm. Interesting take considering VW is in the process of recalling 8.5 million cars in Europe and 2.4 million in the U.S. due to some fairly hasty decision making. Seems like the message ought to be not just quick decisions but “right” decisions.

While that statement may not quite be a misfire, other recent decisions have definitely kept VW in the PR loss column. According to German media reports, the KBA rejected Volkswagen’s proposal encouraging customers to bring their vehicles in “voluntarily” for repair. It would have saved VW a bundle and been much less of a logistics headache, but the governing body was having none of that.

So, in addition to digging out of this and other subsequent messes, what is Mueller’s action plan going forward? Here’s what he said: “We will significantly streamline structures, processes, and (decision-making) bodies. We must become leaner and make decisions more rapidly. Our competitors are only waiting for us to fall behind on technology matters because we are so preoccupied with ourselves. But we won’t let that happen.”

While this may have been what his workers and leaders wanted to hear, it strikes a particularly tone-deaf chord where the consumer public is concerned. They are not interested in VW keeping up with the Joneses … particularly those customers who will be forced to turn their vehicles in for mandatory repairs and retrofitting. They are – justifiably – angry … and no amount of “technology” is going to salve that wound.

And, as already mentioned, the idea of streamlining infrastructures and making faster decisions does absolutely nothing to address the problem consumers face when considering whether or not to buy a VW. It’s almost as if the company knew what it was doing, got caught, and is now hoping to reframe the situation without actually addressing the problems they caused for their consumers. If Mueller doesn’t get on that “quickly” … he may be the next VW CEO going out Hindenburg style.

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The Facebook dislike button could spell doom?

FB Dislike

Communication on Facebook has always had its pitfalls. Do you “like” a post if you agree with the sentiment but hate the situation described? What about a tragedy if you want to offer support and the person posting asks for support? Should you take the time to write out a message in the hopes of avoiding an uncomfortable situation … but you don’t really know what to say … or you feel the original post said it best?

Ah, life in the mobile communication era. We talk as little as possible but try to say as much as we can with each keystroke. Now, Facebook revealed it is working on something people have been asking about for years … a DISLIKE button. Some reacted to the news with a shout: “FINALLY!” Others just sighed, and not a few people suggested this might be the end of any lingering civility online.

Then Mark Zuckerberg weighed in. According to Facebook’s CEO, the new tool will be a way to “express empathy” on status updates. Possibly a dislike button, but probably something a bit more complex. Zuckerberg admitted finding the right approach has been complicated. He said, surprisingly so. “We didn’t want to just build a ‘Dislike’ button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts.”

So… what then?

Well, so far the CEO is not saying much, but it’s a cinch it’s probably a step in some direction. Though if it’s the right one only time will tell. Some users want no more “like” style buttons. They want people to be forced to communicate in something other than the digital equivalent of grunting or smiling. Others look forward to the opportunity to say even more while tapping even less.

There are those who believe additional “empathy” buttons simply gives trolls more ammunition. But when did a troll ever content themselves with clicking a button or an emoticon when a rambling, long-winded diatribe about ten unrelated topics would do?

From a public relations perspective, more opportunities should create more engagement, the key factor in the success of social media platforms. How that engagement evolves will, as always, be up to the users.

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Tiger Woods no Longer Roaring

tiger woods - Ronn Torossian Update

Recently Forbes listed the highest paid athletes in the world. CNN took a look at the list and dubbed golfer Tiger Woods the “Most Overpaid Athlete on the Planet.” Tough title to bear … especially if it’s earned. But is performance in the game as important as name value, or is brand opportunity a more equitable measure of pay scale?

The CNN piece came on the heels of a particularly disappointing round of play on Thursday at the British Open. Tiger’s day was an unmitigated disaster that put him in danger of missing the cut in the contest altogether. While some are saying everyone has bad days, others are calling Nike fools for continuing to contribute to Woods’ approximately $50 million annual income.

The doomsayers may not be wrong. Woods only won $600,000 last season, a pittance compared to his days at the top of golf. Then he went and missed the cut at the US Open. As his performance stalls, many other golfers have stepped up to steal the spotlight.

Still, those doomsayers may also be wrong. Star power and brand value are calculated based on more than wins. The would-be News Kings of Golf have failed to capture the imagination of the fan base the way Tiger did at his prime. Even the guys who constantly vied against Tiger at his best have failed to excite the crowds. And that, more than anything else, matters when it comes to branding. That’s why a long-retired Michael Jordan is still scoring endorsement deals. Why Shaq is still a draw, too. People aren’t looking for athletes, they are looking for heroes.

Tiger, despite his failures and lackluster performance on the links, still offers name recognition and star power. While this dynamic is more often seen in women’s sports, the guys are hardly immune. Just ask Tom Brady. Even in his off years, the New England QB remains in the spotlight. Meanwhile, other Super Bowl winning QBs with less photogenic faces languish in relative anonymity.

That brings us back to Tiger. Woods is not just a player, he is a symbol. He broke as many perceived racial barriers as he did expectations. He rocketed to the top of a sport where people his age, who looked like him, were not supposed to become superstars. That success will always be a part of the Tiger mythos.

In his wake, a new cohort of younger players have won big contests, but they have failed to win the crowd. Sure, they all have a relative handful of faithful fans … but players – and brands – need something more, an “it” factor of some kind to make it from big to huge. Tiger has that, in more ways than one. At least, he did … and his fans remember.

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