News and Updates from 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian

Tag: Public Relations

When to use Rapid Response in PR?


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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Old Navy Breakdown Creates Social Media PR sensation

old navy - ronn torossian update

Sometimes you get a win falling right into your lap. That’s what happened with recent events for Old Navy. But they took that win and amplified it – you might even say they supersized it. Louisiana photographer Rachel Taylor recently took a picture of herself wearing an American Flag plus size tank shirt in Old Navy’s dressing room.

Taylor had been shopping at Old Navy that day when she found herself between a mother and daughter discussing the tank top and how huge it was. Her feelings were hurt, and she exited the store. She went directly to her car and cried. Afterward, she decided she didn’t want to leave feeling bad about herself, so she went back into the store, grabbed the tank top and took the picture.

She posted the picture with a thank you to Old Navy for having fun clothes in all sizes so everyone can enjoy the opportunity to look “fierce.”

Old Navy rapidly responded  to this PR windfall. They posted the picture to their account offering their gratitude to Rachel Taylor in turn and sending her a gift certificate for her next shopping adventure to Old Navy. The picture and message went viral getting over 100,000 Facebook likes almost immediately.

Obviously this picture touched on a nerve. One that had people both commending Taylor’s ultimate choice and others calling her something of a cry baby and to just stop being so sensitive. Whatever your personal opinion, Old Navy also came out looking “fierce,” as a considerate and accommodating fashion retailer.

The average American woman is a size 12 by most reports. That means for all the size 0’s there are multiple plus-sized women. Old Navy is savvy to that, and they put themselves into a situation to get some strong, unsolicited PR. While you cannot plan it, you can certainly lay the groundwork by giving your customers reasons to sing your praises . And, when they do, double down by showing a little public gratitude. .

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Walmart vs. Tracy Morgan

tracy morgan  - ronn torossian update
In an interview with NBC’s Today Show, superstar comedian Tracy Morgan thanked Walmart, the company whose truck slammed into his vehicle more than a year ago, severely injuring Morgan and killing his friend, James McNair. The horrible accident made national news, and many people were surprised by Morgan’s response.

Morgan said Walmart “stepped up to the plate in a tremendous way,” indicating they never sought to dodge or shift responsibility for the tragedy that claimed the life of Morgan’s good friend, McNair. Further still, Morgan said the company had taken full responsibility for the accident and had already settled with McNair’s family.

“I’m just happy they looked out for Jimmy Mac’s family. He can rest in peace now,” Morgan said. During the interview, Morgan made one concession that seemed to indicate the issue could have gone a very different way. “In the beginning there was a misunderstanding, but that got squared away. They came through in the clutch.”

Many pundits declared that the “misunderstanding” was likely an attempt by Walmart or their attorneys to sidestep blame or culpability in the accident, though neither Morgan nor Walmart will confirm or deny this. In fact, much the opposite. According to Morgan, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and his attorney Benedict Morelli spoke directly to Morgan to offer their personal apologies and condolences.
Some critics are speculating that, had the victims in this case not included at least one national marquee name, the “misunderstanding” may have continued to court. That sort of cross-talk might make for some entertaining afternoon drive radio, but it’s not germane to the PR lesson at hand.

The lesson here is that message control is key to an optimal outcome. Both Morgan and Walmart wanted this situation to be dealt with quickly and fairly. Walmart wanted its name out of the headlines, and Morgan wanted his friend’s family cared for in the best – and quickest – way possible. Any ugliness in the press would have hamstrung both of those goals, divergent as they might seem.

Another integral factor to the quick resolution? The facts of the case, as presented, were absolutely damning for Walmart. The at-fault driver had reportedly been traveling more than 20 mph over the posted limit … and he had been up for at least 24 hours. The more those numbers were repeated in the media, the more speculation, accusation and confrontation would damage Walmart’s PR brand.
Understanding all of these dynamics before a PR crisis explodes can go a long way toward a Best Possible Outcome.

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Can Hockey and Basketball Gain Some Ground?

sports in america
It’s no secret that professional football and baseball reign supreme in American sports. After that, NCAA football engenders the most fan loyalty – and cash. As far as pro sports go, each year, the NBA and NHL battle it out for which professional sports league will be Number Three With a Bullet. This year, more than any in recent memory, both leagues have a chance to gain even more ground than that.
Ask any basketball or hockey fan and they will tell you one good game is all it takes to get hooked.

The fast pace, athleticism and artistry are more than enough to get past the confusing rules and unfamiliar names. See a truly epic contest or championship series and you can become a fan for life.

In most years, the NBA and NHL finals are fairly pedestrian. In many cases the two best teams have already played and only the die-hards really care who wins the “Big One.” But that’s not the case in 2015. This year, in both the NBA and NHL, the finals have been incredible.

In the NBA Golden State and Cleveland – two teams a fair-weather basketball fan may not even consider – are battling it out game after game. The Warriors are champions of “small ball,” using ball handling, strategy and shooting skill to defeat ersatz Goliaths. That role, this season, is being played by one of the most unlikely of all giants – the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lead by dynamic superstar LeBron James, the Cavs were expected to contend but generally relished the potential to be the Cinderella team. Now two overachieving franchises are putting on a basketball clinic, night after night. It’s a series that largely puts both dedicated basketball fans and potential converts on the same playing field.

Golden State v. Cleveland … really? And it’s exciting? Yes. It. Is. The series signals a turning point in the NBA where the perennial dynasties are overshadowed by teams that always seem to be having a rebuilding year. The only difference is that these teams look built to last.

In the NHL, all the networks were salivating for a Blackhawks v. Rangers series. As was most of NYC. But the brash young skaters from Tampa said no … again. When the Tampa Bay Lightning were formed, did anyone really believe they would have two Cup appearances by now … much less a strong shot at winning both series? Tampa believed. The beleaguered football town has transformed this season into Hockey Town by the Bay.

Tampa fans love their Lightning, and their team gives them great reason. Consider, four games into the Cup series and Tampa has stayed even with the Hawks, who EVERYONE believes is the better team. And they have done it without marquee player Steven Stamkos scoring anything. It has been role players and the enigmatic Triplets igniting this team against the storied Hawks. But there is a better headline buried within that story, particularly for fans on the fence or those looking to get hockey fever.

Those upstarts from the Sunshine State, should they win the cup, will have beaten four of the Original Six. They already beat three, and, like the Warriors in the NBA, the victories fly in the face of league tradition – which could very well be a perfect reason for newcomers to latch on to hockey.
Both series offer exemplary PR opportunities to be leveraged by the respective leagues. It will be interesting to see how they manage that earned goodwill in the offseason.

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