Who Had the Worse Week?

Quote of the Day

I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all this.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, thanking his supporters for helping him become a modern-day Sputnik dog without realizing that it is making most of us rethink ever ordering anything from Amazon again.

NPR Examines Racial Tensions Inside 9News

National Public Radio is the latest media outlet to follow up on Westword’s coverage of racial tensions inside 9News:

“According to two people who attended the National Association of Hispanic Journalists meetings, the association demanded the firing not only of (9News’ top news executive, Tim) Ryan, but also of his news director and the corporate official in charge of hiring. The company made no such promises, though it did direct stations to no longer use the word ‘illegal’ when discussing immigration. (The station and the company declined to comment on the calls for dismissals.)

“The outcry has focused an unwanted glare on Tegna, one of the nation’s largest and most prominent owners of local television stations, just as the company faces claims of racial bias from a dissident investor. Tegna and KUSA declined to comment on what happened to the Latina journalists and the criticism that has ensued, saying those are personnel matters.”

Who Had the Worse Week?

  • Chik-fil-A stopped donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations several years ago, but that hasn’t prevented ongoing protests. The latest issue putting the fast-food chain in the spotlight is students from Notre Dame opposing an on-campus franchise. Adding fuel to the fire, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham pledged to “go to war” on behalf of Chik-fil-A, turning the protest into a national story.
  • Johnson & Johnson recalled five of its six Neutrogena and Aveeno spray-on sunscreens after the potentially cancer-causing chemical benzene was discovered in some samples.
  • Pundits are trying to determine whether Haiti’s presidential security detail is corrupt or just incompetent after Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was shot 12 times and killed in what appears to be an attempted coup. None of the members of the security detail engaged with the assassins as they entered the presidential palace.
  • The U.S. men’s basketball team lost back-to-back tune up games – first to Nigeria and then Australia – as it prepares to head to the Tokyo Olympic Games. America has dominated international basketball since the days of the 1992 Dream Team that featured Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and another half-dozen legends, so expectations for any U.S. Olympic team are high. It’s usually gold or bust, but at this rate it feels like bronze would be overachieving.

So, who had a good week?

Agencies Feels Squeezed as Corporate Marketing Budgets Drop to Lowest Levels in a Decade

Corporate marketing budgets have dropped to 6.4% of revenue this year, down from 11% last year, according to Gartner’s annual CMO Spend Survey. This is the first time the percentage has dipped below 10%.

Marketing executives under pressure are continuing to try to reduce costs by taking over work that they used to outsource to vendors such as advertising and marketing agencies, said Ewan McIntyre, co-chief of research and vice president analyst in Gartner’s marketing practice.

‘Breaking up with Journalism’

Durango Herald sports editor John Livingston shared his thoughts for why he is leaving the media industry, and his thoughts are as illuminating as they are heartbreaking:

“Because of all the cuts, I no longer have the ability to live up to the standards I set during my early days … that were only elevated when I arrived at The Herald in 2014 and was surrounded by a vibrant newsroom full of incredible journalists who opened my eyes and fostered my intense love for the profession.

“Despite the staff reductions at The Herald, not unlike those seen at print – and digital – media companies across the globe, I have worked tirelessly to do the job the way I feel it is supposed to be done, even after the sports staff was cut from three to two in 2016, and again when it was reduced to one in March of 2020.

“I doubled and tripled down on my commitment and refused to lower the bar after each of those cuts. … On top of added daily duties, I frequently spent scheduled days off covering our athletes and their ever-growing list of accomplishments. Often, those were some of the best stories to write. But it became a burden on friends and family each time I broke out the laptop to write another story or conduct another interview.

“The expectation of continually doing more with less is not attainable. Burnout is rampant, and there is a greater emphasis on page views and story counts than quality journalism. I will always fight for the latter.

Who Had the Worse Week?

It was a tough week for a number of sports-related figures. Among them:

  • ESPN and Rachel Nichols overshadowed the NBA Finals when a long-simmering story involving covertly recorded and shared racial remarks went full boil.
  • USA Track & Field found itself heavily criticized after it declined to include superstar sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson on the 4×100 U.S. Olympic Relay team. Richardson had previously been disqualified from the individual 100-meter race due to a positive marijuana test, but she was technically still eligible for the relay race.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ star pitcher Trevor Bauer has been suspended by MLB following unbelievably brutal rape allegations. MLB had to step in after the Dodgers inexplicably planned to continue playing him.
  • John McEnroe was criticized for his tone-deaf remarks about the metal health of Wimbledon player Emma Raducana, an 18-year-old Londoner playing in the intense spotlight of her home country. McEnroe’s brand is tone-deaf, of course, so don’t expect any significant fall-out from this one.

There were also a few non-sports related ones as well:

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill managed one final self-inflected wound when journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones spurned it for Howard University after a months-long tenure battle that put the university and its values in the national spotlight. Making it an even bigger win for Howard, it also announced that well-known and widely respected author Ta-Nehisi Coates was also joining its faculty.
  • ExxonMobil’s lobbyist broke the cardinal rule of lobbying, which is don’t make your client’s job tougher by becoming the story.
  • Declan Kelly, the CEO of PR and Public Affairs firm Teneo was forced to resign after allegedly getting drunk and inappropriately touching women at a client event that included Meghan Markle and Prince Harry as honorary co-chairs.

So, who won the week? That’s easy – National Spelling Bee champion Zaila Avant-garde. The 14-year-old is the first African American to win the spelling bee, and if you weren’t completely charmed by her response to winning, I don’t even want to know you. And, it turns out, spelling is just one of her many talents.

Photo by Scott Mc Intyre for The New York Times

‘Financially Hobbled for Life’

Melissa Korn and Andrea Fuller at The Wall Street Journal: “Recent film program graduates of Columbia University who took out federal student loans had a median debt of $181,000. Yet two years after earning their master’s degrees, half of the borrowers were making less than $30,000 a year. The Columbia program offers the most extreme example of how elite universities in recent years have awarded thousands of master’s degrees that don’t provide graduates enough early career earnings to begin paying down their federal student loans, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Education Department data.”

Howard University Offers Masterclass in Changing the Subject

Last week, Howard University was floundering after the dean of its College of Fine Arts (and former Cosby Show actress) Phylicia Rashad publicly celebrated Bill Cosby’s release from prison. Cosby has been accused of sexual assault and rape by more than 60 women, and his release was due to a legal technicality. Much of the media coverage noting Rashad’s support for Cosby included that Howard itself has a checkered history of addressing on-campus sexual assaults, and the university and Rashad were forced to quickly apologize. The Independence Day long weekend could not come fast enough.

This week, the conversation has shifted. Howard announced this morning that it has hired embattled University of North Carolina journalist/professor Nikole Hannah-Jones following her well-documented tenure dispute, as well as the journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates. Over the course of one long weekend, Howard changed the conversation and recast itself from villain to hero.

The Seedy Underbelly of Professional Tennis

As we approach the midpoint of tennis’ premier event, Wimbledon, The Washington Post’s Michael Steinberger explores the differing fates of tennis players you know and those fighting to become the tennis players you know. Steinberger writes:

“The match was a case study in contrasting fortunes as well. Tennis had left (Vasek) Pospisil very comfortable, with more than $5 million in career earnings. He was happy just to break even in Charlottesville and could afford certain luxuries, such as the presence of his coach and meals from Whole Foods, not available to many players on the Challenger circuit. (His) 25-year-old (opponent Chris) O’Connell, on the other hand, had made less than $200,000 as a pro and had cleaned boats and worked in a Lululemon shop to sustain himself financially. Heading into the match against Pospisil, he was ranked No. 139. He had recently won a Challenger event and reached the semifinal of another. He would go on to finish 2019 having won 82 matches in total, more than any other man or woman on the pro tour. Yet, after expenses, he would earn just $15,000 or so.”

Photo courtesy of the USTA

Matt Moseley Hosts Book Launch at the Denver Press Club Tonight

Matt Moseley is hosting a launch event for his new book, Ignition: Superior Communication Strategies to Create Stronger Connections, tonight at the Denver Press Club. The book includes extensive interviews with a wide variety of experts, including fighter pilots, business leaders, attorneys, and astrophysicists. Through those, Moseley tests universal communication principles, teases out new provocative ideas, and anticipates how forming stronger connections will help us address today’s greatest challenges.

Details of the event are:
6 pm, Wed., June 16, 2021
Denver Press Club
1330 Glenarm Place
Denver, CO 80204

ColoradoBiz Appoints Jon Hauber as Publisher

ColoradoBiz has named Jon Haubert as publisher, replacing Sylvia Young who had served as publisher for more than a decade. Hauber is the owner of H.B. Legacy Media, a strategic communications firm “designed to tackle complex and difficult-to-message topics.” Among its projects was the launch of Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED), a pro-oil and gas advocacy group that was highly visible during recent election cycles.

“Jon will be a tremendous asset and fit in perfectly with our talented team,” said Dan Wiesner, owner of ColoradoBiz parent company WiesnerMedia. “He’s proven that he holds that right mix of thought-provoking story ideas, businesses and people to profile, and the advertising support needed to maintain business operations that any successful magazine needs not only to survive, but to thrive.”

Colorado Republicans’ Secret List of Media BFFs Leaked

It’s hardly a secret that communications professionals have a mental ranking of journalists. Those rankings usually reflect various factors such as influence, objectivity*, responsiveness, and the overall experience of working with them. (And, spoiler alert, journalists have similar mental rankings of communications professionals.)

Most of us have the God-given sense to keep those lists in our heads rather than on paper. But Jesse Paul at the Colorado Sun obtained a list distributed recently by Colorado House Republicans that rated media outlets according to “friendliness.” And based on journalist feedback on Twitter, it was a barn-burner.

The happiest journalists were those at outlets deemed “not friendly,” and the most ambivalent journalists were those at outlets described as “friendly.” The unhappiest were journalists at outlets that didn’t even make the list (I’m looking at you, Denverite, Aurora Sentinel and Colorado Community Media).

An interesting quirk to this list: the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel is listed as friendly to Republicans, but its politics reporter Charles Ashby can’t even get a return phone call, much less a comment, from his U.S. House Rep. Lauren Boebert. Maybe Charles should email the list to the Congresswoman.

(*”Objectivity” actually means more likely to be receptive to the opinions of the communications professional)

Massachusetts Sues PR/Advertising Firm that Helped Purdue Pharma Market Opioids

Attorneys General across the country have lined up to sue Purdue Pharma, and the members of the Sackler family that own it, for the manner in which it distributed opioids. In an interesting new development, the state of Massachusetts has now filed suit against the public relations and advertising firm Publicis Health (a division of Publicis Groupe) for helping Purdue Pharma market opioids in what the state says is an irresponsible manner.

Lecia Bushak at Medical Marketing & Media reports:

“Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has filed a lawsuit against Publicis Health over its work for Purdue Pharma during the opioid epidemic. The complaint filed Thursday alleges that Publicis Health worked with Purdue between 2010 and 2019 – the years encompassing the height of the opioid crisis – on a variety of marketing campaigns aiming to make doctors prescribe more opioids to patients, and at higher doses.” 

“This decade-long marketing scheme had clear goals: to sell more OxyContin, make a profit and manage Purdue’s reputation as the opioid epidemic was raging,” Healey said during a press conference. Healey argues that Publicis Health created marketing strategies that aimed to reduce hesitancy among prescribers to give patients OxyContin. The agency planned campaigns to “humanize” the OxyContin brand to doctors, with the goal of getting more patients on higher doses, she alleges.

Westword Publishes Annual ‘Best of Denver’ Issue

Westword is out with its annual “Best of Denver” issue, and the winners include:

Best Talk-Radio Host
Ryan Warner, Colorado Matters, Colorado Public Radio

Best Podcast
City Cast Denver hosted by Bree Davies

Best Serial Podcast
The Syndicate by Chris Walker

Best Local TV Morning News Show
CBS4 Denver

Best Local TV Evening News Show
Denver 7

Best Local TV News Anchor
Tom Green, 9News

Best Local TV Weathercaster
Matt Makens, Fox31/KWGN

Linhart PR Announces Several Promotions

Linhart PR announced it has promoted four team members:

  • Kelly Brown was promoted to Management Supervisor. She has been with the firm for seven years, and she will continue to lead communications strategy, community engagement and media relations programs for clients in the energy, utilities, infrastructure and healthcare industries, as well as support firm new business efforts.
  • Emily Rado was promoted to Account Supervisor. She will celebrate her five-year anniversary this month and she delivers strategic counsel and leads media relations, digital and influencer strategies for consumer brands including Chipotle Mexican Grill, Nature’s Heart, and the NCBA’s “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” campaign.
  • Shannon Hughes was promoted to Account Supervisor. She joined the team in 2016 and she provides communications counsel, plans community engagement activations, and leads media relations strategies for clients in the energy and utilities, professional services, and multi-unit restaurant industries.
  • Jenny Nailling has been promoted to Account Executive, after joining Linhart PR in early 2020. She executes local, national and trade media relations programs, develops content, and helps to manage social media and influencer activations for several of Linhart PR’s clients across a range of industries.

Denver PR Firm SilversJacobson Handling Colorado Supreme Court Controversy

If you have been following The Denver Post‘s exhaustive coverage of the issues at the Colorado Supreme Court (conveniently tagged “Colorado Judiciary Scandal” on its website for easy reference), you know that it has been a tough few months. It could have been much tougher, though.

Word on the street is that the Colorado Supreme Court hired Steve Silvers and Paul Jacobson from SilversJacobson shortly after David Migoya at The Denver Post broke the story about allegations of widespread sexual harassment, discrimination and unethical behavior throughout the Colorado Judiciary Branch. The result has been some positive developments – Chief Justice Boatright took full ownership of the situation, asked the other branches of government to oversee an independent investigation, and has hammered the idea of wholesale culture change.

Silvers’ crisis and controversy consulting goes back to the 1993 Aurora Chuck E. Cheese murders and the building of Denver International Airport, and Jacobson spent years on Capitol Hill and in corporate communications director jobs, including the largest corporate bankruptcy reorganization in U.S. history.

Colorado Sun, in Partnership with National Trust for Local News, Acquires Colorado Community Media

Colorado Sun Editor Larry Ryckman: “The Colorado Sun is now part owner and operator of 24 suburban newspapers in the Denver metro area. The Sun has partnered with a new nonprofit called the National Trust for Local News, which is using this endeavor with us as a pilot project to show that national funders and local journalists can collaborate to keep newspapers in local hands.”

“Together, The Sun and the National Trust have purchased Colorado Community Media, which has 24 weekly and monthly newspapers serving eight counties including and surrounding Denver. Some of these newspapers are more than 100 years old (the Golden Transcript alone is 153 years old), and they range from Castle Rock to Brighton, Evergreen to Arvada, Parker to Denver’s Washington Park and beyond.”

“This is a bit of a departure for The Colorado Sun, which has been an all-digital news site since our founding in 2018. But our entire staff has extensive experience in the print newspaper world, so we’re confident we still remember how it’s done. And the preservation of these newspapers is absolutely part of our mission of public service.”

Pour One out for the Rockies’ Bridich, and then Throw the (Empty) Can at Him

The Colorado Rockies have been on a tear lately – winning five of their last seven games – and yet they still find themselves with the worst record in the entire National League. That is especially surprising given that the architect of the current Rockies is none other than self-described super genius Jeff Bridich.

Bridich didn’t win a lot of friends when he argued that beat reporters and the general public were too stupid to be considered fair criticism. And what little support he had teetered when he signed Daniel Murphy rather than re-signing D.J. LeMehieu (who went to the Yankees and immediately became an All-Star). But it was the Nolan Arenado “trade that ultimately collapsed Bridich’s house of cards – only the Rockies would trade away their best player of all time and pay another team $50 million for the pleasure of doing it.

Rockies owner Tricky Dick Monfort faced the obvious, finally, and Bridich has “mutually agreed” to not be allowed to be the GM any longer. So, if you are a Rockies fan, or even just a fan of Karma, enjoy a beer tonight to celebrate the end of the Bridich era.

Cision Survey Finds Journalists Have Love-Hate Relationship with Press Releases

Natasha Bach at PRWeek: “Journalists are overwhelmed by the number of press releases they receive, but underwhelmed by the content. That’s one finding from Cision’s annual State of the Media report, released on Thursday morning, which surveyed more than 2,500 journalists. However, journalists do like to receive press releases, according to the report. Seventy-eight percent listed them as the type of content they want to get from PR pros and brands, followed by original research (68%).”

“The report makes the case for more targeted media lists to ensure that reporters and editors are receiving relevant releases, noting that journalists are overstretched and under a lot of pressure, with many covering several beats and under pressure to generate traffic. To help them do their jobs, and get coverage for announcements, PR pros should anticipate, monitor and quickly act on trending stories, according to the report.”

Gov. Polis Appoints Alvina Maria Vasquez to Western Colorado University Board

Joey Bunch at ColoradoPolitics.com: “Gov. Jared Polis has appointed well-known Denver politico Alvina Maria Vasquez to the Western Colorado University Board of Trustees, the school said Tuesday.

“Vasquez was the political director on the governor’s 2018 core campaign team, building his network of key leaders and supporters. Vasquez is the founder and president of strategy and public relations firm Power Map Ltd. She is the former senior vice president in the Colorado office of Strategies 360, where she lengthened her resume on a variety of local and national campaigns. She was listed among the Denver Business Journal’s ’40 Under 40‘ in 2016.”

National Agency Havas Formula Opens Denver Office

Aleda Stam at PRWeek: “Havas Formula is set to expand its U.S. footprint with a new office in Denver. The Mile High City location will be led by SVP Alexis Anderson, who manages work for some of the firm’s high-profile clients such as RE/Max and JPMorgan Chase, and Amy MacFarlane, account director for Havas Street, the firm’s activation division. MacFarlane leads its Beam Suntory business.”

“Denver is the sixth location for Havas Formula, which is headquartered in New York City and has offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Diego. Havas Formula is working virtually amid the pandemic, but will choose a physical office in Denver once the agency returns to in-person work.”

The Hits Keep Coming for DPS Board Member Tay Anderson

It has been a terrible past 30 days for Denver Public Schools board member Tay Anderson, and it keeps getting worse. Following allegations of sexual assault and confirmed retaliatory behavior while an employee of DPS, Anderson has now shared an apology with Westword related to his behavior while leading Never Again Colorado (NAC), a gun reform organization.

The apology follows a new complaint by six female NAC members that Anderson “created a work environment that made them feel unsafe by, among other things, ‘talking in code about female board members in front of them (with romantic/sexual subtexts), daring female board members to perform sexualized actions, having conversations comparing the attractiveness of female board members, and making lewd comments in private to female board members,'” according to Michael Roberts at Westword.

Anderson has always been a self-interested narcissist who clung to a veneer of legitimacy obtained by basking in the reflected light of real leaders like state Rep. Leslie Herod and community activists Elisabeth Epps and Brother Jeff Fard. Interestingly and tellingly, none have had a word to say about Anderson since the allegations surfaced.

Does 9News Have a DEI Problem?

This column – “LatinXed: 9News Got Rid of Three Latina Reporters This Past Year, Including Me” – by former 9News journalist Lori Lizarraga is all over social media today, and it is primarily journalists, including many of color, who are sharing it. It seems to have struck a chord.

You may remember Lizarraga for her comments in February 2020 calling out her colleagues at 9News for doctoring her headshot to make her “look whiter.”

The Power of Visuals

Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority wanted to show the world that it jumped into action to free a cargo tanker that became stuck while traversing the canal earlier this week. After all, every second that the ship blocks traffic, the global supply chain becomes that much more impacted.

However, I don’t think the official photo the authority released conveys exactly what they wanted to:

Photo courtesy of the Suez Canal Authority

Why Gaslighting Shouldn’t Be Part of Your Crisis Response Plan

General Mills is a 154-year-old company that has $17.6 billion in annual revenue, a $35 billion market cap and 40,000 employees. That’s all to say, it should know what it is doing. But even big brands make stupid decisions when they are caught off guard.

Yesterday’s reaction to a consumer complaint – shrimp tails allegedly found in a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch – only served to infuriate the customer, escalate the issue, and draw media and social media attention. And it has cost the company about $1.7 billion in market cap today.

What can we learn from General Mills’ response? First, you have to understand what you are dealing with. If a customer – especially a high-profile customer married to a Hollywood actress – claims they found shrimp tails in their breakfast cereal, use some of your $17.6 billion in annual revenue to hire an investigator to grab the box and interview the individual to understand what is going on.

Second, don’t rely on a superficial understanding of the situation to try to gaslight the customer. Claiming shrimp tails were “accumulation(s) of the cinnamon sugar” is the type of colorful detail that only escalates media and public interest. The only thing worse would have been to try to claim the shrimp tails were the special toy included in every box.

And third, try to end the situation as quietly and quickly as possible. This story is now a mystery the country is watching to see how it turns out. The customer has sent the box to a lab be tested to confirm what was found in it. It will be an entire new chapter in this saga when he announces the findings. Which will then lead to the “whodunnit” phase of the story. All of this could have been handled in the background by General Mills if they had taken the appropriate steps from the start.

Denver Post Story Prompts Interesting Disclosure

One of the cardinal tenets of journalism is not to accept items of value from sources or individuals whom you are covering, That’s what makes a Denver Post article today interesting.

Reporter Shelly Bradbury, along with photographer Kathryn Scott, reported on a COVID-19 vaccination event at the Colorado Muslim Society. The news hook was solid – the event was “part of the state’s larger effort to remedy racial inequities in vaccine distribution. There have been more than 100 such ‘equity clinics’ across the state aimed at all sorts of communities,” Bradbury reported.

But the disclosure that was added to the article was interesting:

Editor’s note: The reporter and photographer on this story received extra vaccine doses, after reporting this story, that clinic representatives offered because they needed to be used before going to waste.

There’s no question Bradbury is eligible for the vaccine according to 1B.4 guidelines, and the value of the shot is technically $0 since it is free to everyone. But as Coloradans scramble to try to gain access to the vaccine, is it ethical for a reporter to leverage a source relationship – presumably just hours after reporting on a story – to get access to a vaccine?

It appears the Denver Post is comfortable with the situation since it simply added a disclosure rather than pulling the story. I am curious where the line is, though. If, say, Centura Health offered reporters covering it access to hard-to-find COVID-19 vaccines, would that violate the paper’s guidelines?

Update: The always thoughtful Drew Kramer raised a few points in his comment to this post, and I wanted to acknowledge in the body of the post that “leverage” is probably too strong a term. Shelly is a respected reporter – a member of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team and an individual finalist for another Pulitzer Prize – and I did not intend to imply that she shook down a source. Fundamentally, my point is that I don’t know where that ethical line is. I’m genuinely interested in understanding what journalists think. I traded emails with Corey Hutchins, who teaches journalism at Colorado College and writes for the Columbia Journalism Review, and he is thinking about addressing the issue in his weekly column. I hope he does, because I’m very interested to learn what he thinks. If you want to subscribe to Corey’s weekly Colorado media newsletter – and it is great – you can do so here.

German Soccer Coach ‘Ordered’ to Train Women’s Team as Punishment

Heiko Vogel, a coach of the German professional soccer team Borussia Monchengladbach “was ordered to train the women’s team as punishment for ‘unsporting behaviour’ toward a referee during a match,” Stephan Uersfeld of ESPN reported.

Nicole Selmer of the Frauen im Fussball (Women in Football) network criticized the decision, saying it sent “a fatal message.”

“This punishment for the Gladbach coach puts coaching a women’s team on a level with social work,” Selmer said. “Women’s football is a sport and those who participate in it are as professional as their male counterparts. If you strip away everything and give it to them they have good intentions, it is still sending a fatal message as coaching a women’s or girls’ team is part of a punishment for a misconduct.”

Prominent Black Attorney Declines Board Seat at Tegna after CEO Confuses Him for a Hotel Valet

“Media attorney and consultant Adonis Hoffman has withdrawn a bid to be a board member for broadcast company Tegna, citing a conflict of interest and that CEO Dave Lougee assumed he was a hotel valet at an industry event,” Thomas Moore at The Hill reports.

“That incident Hoffman had recalled (and which Lougee acknowledged in an SEC filing) happened in 2014 when he was seated at an industry dinner with Lougee. Though they had a significant discussion at the table, Hoffman said, after the event ended Lougee handed him his valet ticket thinking he was a hotel employee.”

“’The incident was a matter of principle as I thought about it if I was elected to a board and had to be in meetings with a man who I had interesting encounters with over the years,’ said Hoffman, who is Black.”

Three Comms Professionals Honored as ’40 Under 40′ Winners by Denver Business Journal

Congratulations to the 2021 Denver Business Journal 40 Under 40 award winners who come from the communications industry:

Kayla Garcia – Kayla is the community affairs director at Molson Coors. A Colorado State graduate, she previously worked at Mile High United Way and Denver Inner City Parish.

Maria De Camba Gonzalez – Maria is the director of communications and community engagement at the Colorado Governor’s Office. She previously was a senior associate at Hilltop Public Solutions, and she is a former mayor pro-tem of the Westminster city council.

Leanna Clark – Leanna is a former 40 Under 40 award winner who is being recognized as this year’s Hall of Fame award winner. She is the CEO of Girl Scouts of Colorado, but most of us know her as the former vice chancellor of University Communications and Marketing at the University of Colorado Denver and a principal at Schenkein.

Media Lessons from Oprah’s Interview with Meghan and Harry

The dust is still settling on Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Royal free agents Meghan and Harry, but Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy at CNN have assembled a list of media and PR lessons:

 – Don’t give it all away ahead of time. “If anything, all of the hype underestimated just how revealing this interview would be,” Brianna Keilar said to me on CNN. She’s right. The teasers generated a week’s worth of attention ahead of time but didn’t spill any of the tea. Oprah’s team ensured that nothing leaked. As a result, the palace couldn’t prebut the interview and the special contained maximum shock value.

 – Let it breathe. The interview “really showed the power of the long-format interview, which is almost totally gone from TV nowadays,” THR’s Alex Weprin commented. “Everything is crunched into tight, fast-paced segments now, to the detriment of all involved.” 

 – Follow-up questions make all the difference. “Oprah best displayed her interviewing chops by relentlessly circling back to emotional or newsmaking comments like a heat-seeking missile,” WaPo’s Margaret Sullivan wrote. But Winfrey didn’t rush or interrupt. She sometimes waited half an hour before circling back “to clarify, to get the specifics, to nail down the news.” And that, of course, is the luxury of a taped interview.

 – Leave something on the cutting room floor. Winfrey’s announcement at the end of the broadcast that additional clips would air on Monday’s “CBS This Morning” was a nice bit of synergy…

 – Broadcast TV still has juice, but it’s getting harder to squeeze. Legacy networks still have the ability to convene large numbers of people, but it takes something huge – something like Oprah, Meghan and Harry.

 – History has an echo. “It was hard to escape the eerie parallels between Princess Diana’s 1995 Martin Bashir interview and this one,” Brian Lowry wrote. “And give Netflix an assist, since ‘The Crown’ has brought that back to life for millions…”

 — Don’t forget about the streamers. On Sunday I encountered lots of complaintsfrom cable-free households who wanted to watch the special but seemed lost. Networks that are constantly promoting their streaming services need a plan and proactive outreach for moments like this. (The special is now streaming for free on CBS.com.)

Denver PR Salaries Lag National Averages, According to PRWeek Survey

PRWeek is out with its annual salary survey, and the results showed a mixed bag during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the survey’s findings:

  • Denver saw the median PR salary increase 11% to $85,000.
  • Denver’s median annual salary significantly trails markets such as San Francisco ($153,000), Chicago ($110,000), Boston ($122,000) and Washington, D.C. ($127,000), but is ahead of markets such as Atlanta ($76,000) and Seattle ($80,000).
  • PR agencies saw salaries rise 6.8% on average nationally, while corporate positions saw a 4.2% increase. Non-profit salaries languished, with an average increase of 0.6%.
  • 23% of respondents said their salaries were reduced at some point during the year due to COVID-19.

2021 Off to a Tough Start for Jeep

It has been a tough month for Jeep. The auto manufacturer had one of the most talked-about Super Bowl commercials with its spot featuring music legend Bruce Springsteen, only to have to pull the spot from the post-Super Bowl rotation less than a week later when reports of The Boss’ arrest on DUI charges surfaced (a blood test showed he was at about one-fourth the legal limit and the DUI charges were later dropped).

More recently, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation demanded that Jeep stop using the term “Cherokee” in the names of its SUVs – a demand that affects Jeep’s best selling (Grand Cherokee) and third-best selling (Cherokee) vehicles. Jeep parent company CEO Carlos Tavares announced yesterday he is open to dropping the Cherokee name.

Independent Investigation into Elijah McClain’s Death Points Finger at Aurora Police & Fire Departments

Elise Schmelzer at The Denver Post: “Aurora police officers did not have a legal basis to force Elijah McClain to stop walking, to frisk him or to use a chokehold on him, an independent investigation commissioned by the city found. The initial investigation into the incident led by the department’s detectives in the Major Crimes Unit was also deeply flawed, the investigators found. The detectives failed to ask basic, critical questions of the officers involved in McClain’s death and instead ‘the questions frequently appeared designed to elicit specific exonerating ‘magic language’ found in court rulings,’ the report states.”

“The investigators also found that Aurora paramedics failed to properly examine McClain before injecting him with 500 milligrams of the sedative ketamine — a dose based on a ‘grossly inaccurate’ estimation of McClain’s weight. Paramedics estimated he weighed 190 pounds but he actually weighed closer to 140 pounds.”

“’Aurora Fire appears to have accepted the officers’ impression that Mr. McClain had excited delirium without corroborating that impression through meaningful observation or diagnostic examination of Mr. McClain,’ the investigators wrote.”

Seattle Mariners Exec Resigns after Comments Showing ‘Pathological Levels of Arrogance, Hubris’

Seattle Mariners CEO Kevin Mather resigned this afternoon. Why? From ESPN:

“Over the course of a 45-minute chat to a local Rotary Club in early February, Seattle Mariners CEO Kevin Mather disparaged a Japanese player for not learning English, belittled a star prospect from the Dominican Republic for his language skills and derided another top prospect while admitting to manipulating his service time. He called his team’s best pitcher ‘very boring’ and embellished the pitcher’s actions in a clubhouse incident, told another falsehood about a well-respected veteran and complained that the franchise’s best player over the past decade was ‘overpaid.'”

“Any one of these blunders is incalculably foolish. Together, they expose pathological levels of arrogance, hubris and myopia. This was one of the 30 people entrusted to run a Major League Baseball franchise before Mather resigned from his position Monday afternoon.”

Variety: ‘Crisis PR Fails the Celebs Who Spin Their Sins’

“Rarely a day seems to go by in recent weeks without a celebrity seeing their career threatened by the social-media uproar attending either their own poorly chosen words or allegations about appalling behavior,” Andrew Wallenstein at Variety reports.

“From Morgan Wallen to Gina Carano to Armie Hammer, Hollywood executives are getting frequent reminders lately about the considerable risk that comes with associating their investments with unpredictable talent. … No one feels the weight of that burden more than the crisis-PR practitioners fighting on the frontlines on behalf of their clients. If there’s any silver lining to this rash of incidents, it’s that they offer a wealth of best and worst practices from which to learn how to most effectively handle these sticky situations.”

Natalie Tysdal’s Departure from Fox31/KWGN Coincides with Husband’s Court Date

Former Fox31/KWGN anchor Natalie Tysdal’s recent departure from the affiliated stations has been presented as just another case of a journalist getting out of a tough business. But as Westword’s Michael Roberts reports, her husband’s impending court date to answer for “70 counts connected to alleged financial malfeasance” may have also had something to do with the timing.

Among the charges Tyler Tysdal is facing are violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, multiple counts of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and one count of theft. All are felonies. Among the alleged victims are former NFL quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Cassel.

Natalie Tysdal is just the latest media figure to get tripped up by her husband. Last fall, the husband of former 9News sports anchor and current KOA NewsRadio Broncos sideline reporter Susie Wargin was accused of sexual assault by a Colorado State University student. Pro tip to female journalists: you may want to consider staying single.

GBSM Adds 3 Team Members

Denver PR firm GBSM has added a senior associate and two associates:

Abby Abel, formerly Chief Marketing Officer for GE’s global renewable-energy business and a consultant with policy and civic innovation firm Cityfi, has joined the firm as a senior associate.

Sam Haas has joined GBSM as an associate. She specializes in the planning and execution of authentic and impactful communications, public and stakeholder engagement, and organizational strategies. She brings a tailored focus on meaningful collaborative–process design, consensus-driven decision making, and facilitation.

Kaylie Showers, also joining GBSM as an associate, has worked in both the public and private sectors to strategically engage diverse communities, navigate complex government processes and leverage legislative policy. Most recently she worked for the City and County of Denver’s Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships where she managed multiple citywide efforts.

Vic Lombardi: Altitude TV Partly to Blame in Carriage Dispute – for Not Better Explaining how Comcast is Entirely to Blame

Michael Roberts at Westword reports: “Vic Lombardi is frustrated. Everywhere he goes, the Altitude TV host and multiple winner of Westword‘s Best TV Sportscaster award runs into fans upset about not being to see most Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche games on Comcast because of a fight over broadcasting rights that began in the summer of 2019 and shows no sign of being resolved. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of those fans blame Altitude TV for the deadlock. After all, the network (as well as the Nuggets, Avs, Colorado Mammoth and Colorado Rapids) are owned by billionaire Stan Kroenke, who, by their way of thinking, could simply write a check and make the problem go away but is obstinately refusing to do so.”

“According to Lombardi, the situation isn’t nearly so simple. He feels that both parties (plus DISH, which isn’t airing the channel, either) are to blame, with Altitude shouldering some responsibility for failing to clearly communicate the issues that have led to the standoff. As for Comcast, he thinks the cable giant is essentially getting a free ride despite what he sees as it overcharging customers for regional sports network coverage they haven’t gotten for nearly a year and a half.”

Chiefs-Bucs Super Bowl Draws Lowest Ratings Since 2007

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ lopsided win over the Kansas City Chiefs combined with a pandemic that prevented many from attending big viewing parties in homes and bars led to the smallest audience for a Super Bowl since 2007,” Joe Flint at The Wall Street Journal reports.

“About 96.4 million people watched ageless wonder Tom Brady lead the Buccaneers to a 31-9 Super Bowl victory over the defending champion Chiefs on CBS, a 5.5% decrease from the 102 million that saw last year’s much closer and coronavirus-free match between the Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers on Fox.”

‘Ryan Haarer: Why I Left 9News for the Real Estate Industry’

Michael Roberts at Westword talks to former 9News reporter/anchor Ryan Haarer on his decision to leave the business to pursue a career in real estate:

“Viewers may assume that reporters and anchors on TV are making a king’s ransom, but that’s not the case for most local talent. Back in 2019, when he announced his own exit plan (one that was followed by a return to the airwaves and then a controversial dismissal over a pointed tweet), former 9News weathercaster Marty Coniglio told us, ‘There are a lot of schoolteachers who are making more money than some on-air people here. That’s the reality of the business.'”

“For his part, Haarer confirms, ‘If you’re asking if I want to increase my pay, I think every journalist would say they do. There are few people who work in the newsroom who are paid sky-high salaries. That’s no secret. I was well-paid at 9News; I had no issues with my pay. But these are lean and tough times for a lot of journalism outlets, and TV is no exception as the industry looks to redefine itself and determine what the future will be.'”

Amber Alert ‘Malfunction’ Puts Texans on the Lookout for Chucky the Killer Doll

Due to a “test malfunction” (translation: human error), the Texas Department of Public Safety broadcast an Amber Alert for the horror-film doll Chucky.

Bryan Pietsch of The New York Times reported, “The alert said that Chucky and (the doll’s owner) Glen were last seen at a residential address in Henderson, Texas, a city about 130 miles southeast of Dallas. A woman who answered a call to a phone number associated with that address on Wednesday said, ‘Yes, I’m aware’ when asked about the alert before hanging up.”

“Don Mancini, the director and screenwriter who created the Chucky character, shared a news article about the alert on Twitter, saying, ‘PLEASE FIND THEM.’”

SSPR Rebrands as Next PR

SSPR, a national agency with an office in Denver, is rebranding as Next PR. The change, the agency says, highlights its ability to “push the boundaries of traditional PR that enables brands to meet new challenges and opportunities head on.”

“As difficult as it was, 2020 was also a powerful learning and growth experience for us as an agency,” said Heather Kelly, Next PR CEO. “We proved that we’re not a one-size-fits-all firm operating out of a traditional PR playbook. Any agency can tell you what to say; we make sure your brand is also living up to that promise. We’re not afraid to push our clients to think outside traditional PR boundaries. 

SSPR was founded by namesake Steve Simon in Chicago in 1978.

Efforts to Build Individual Brands, Express Opinion Create Tension Between Reporters and Management

Ben Smith at The New York Times reports, “David Carr, the legendary Timesman who made this column a destination, told me back in 2012 that he kept a ‘helicopter on the roof’ of The New York Times Building in case he needed to escape. After all, he had been taking shots at media moguls, including, occasionally, his own bosses. That helicopter, he said, was his Twitter account, and it gave him the power, if needed, to flee The Times and take his followers — more than 300,000 when he died in 2015.”

“Twitter has occupied an uncomfortable place between journalists and their bosses for more than a decade. It offers journalists both a newswire and a direct line back into the news cycle. But it has also set off a tug of war between the voice of the brand and of the individual.” …

“The other, and perhaps more ominous, tension for the big newsrooms is the one that Mr. Carr spotted in 2012. Social media has shifted the balance of power in the same direction it has long been moving in everything from entertainment to sports: away from management and big brands, and toward the people who used to be called reporters, but now sometimes get referred to as ‘talent.’ Reporters have every incentive to build big social media followings. It’s a path to television contracts, book deals, job offers and raises. And that can be in tension with what their employers want.”

Subway Breaks its Own Record for Earliest PR Crisis with “Tunagate” Lawsuit

Congratulations to the team at Subway, which managed to break its own record for earliest PR crisis. A lawsuit filed against the ubiquitous sandwich chain in mid-January alleges that the tuna it advertises is “not tuna and not even fish.”

Tim Carman at The Washington Post reports, “The star ingredient, according to the lawsuit, is ‘made from anything but tuna.’ Based on independent lab tests of ‘multiple samples’ taken from Subway locations in California, the ‘tuna is ‘a mixture of various concoctions that do not constitute tuna, yet have been blended together by defendants to imitate the appearance of tuna,’ according to the complaint.”

Subway has a long and distinguished history of PR crises, including:

‘How Alvin the Beagle Helped Usher in a Democratic Senate’

“The dog had a lot of work to do. He was co-starring in a political ad that had to showcase the candidate’s good-natured warmth. But the ad also needed to deflect an onslaught of racialized attacks without engaging them directly, and to convey to white voters in Georgia that the Black pastor who led Ebenezer Baptist Church could represent them, too,” Shane Goldmacher from The New York Times reports.

“’The entire ad screams that I am a Black candidate whom white people ought not be afraid of,’ said Hakeem Jefferson, a professor of political science at Stanford, who studies race, stigma and politics in America.”

“While there is no singular factor responsible for victories this narrow — Mr. Warnock won by less than 100,000 votes out of roughly 4.5 million and the other new Democratic senator, Jon Ossoff, won by even less — there is bipartisan agreement that the beagle played an outsized role in cutting through the clutter in two contests that broke every Senate spending record.”

‘Visit Denver’ Optimistic About the City Hosting Conventions Again in Second Half of 2021

Ed Sealover at the Denver Business Journal reports: “Visit Denver President & CEO Richard Scharf said he believes the organization can salvage most of the large conventions and meetings planned for Denver in the second half of 2021 following the state’s release of the Colorado Convention Center from serving as an alternate hospital site.”

“Event planners and hotel officials have greeted that news warmly, even if its effects aren’t expected to play out immediately. Scharf estimated that the events canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 — both those to be held in the convention center and in nearby hotels — cost the city 450,000 visitors and $800 million in economic impact.”

“But the biggest impact of the state’s decision is that Visit Denver can work with convention planners who have yet to cancel events scheduled for the facility in the summer and fall to assure them they can move forward, Scharf said in an interview Thursday. That likely means that the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market — a show that previously was estimated to generate a $57 million annual economic impact — could stay on the calendar in June and that other gatherings of large professional associations and consumer shows may move forward.”

The Apple Commercial that Ended the Company’s Super Bowl Run

Most people are familiar with Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl ad that helped launch the company. Today, however, is the anniversary of a much more ignominious event. It was 36 years ago today that the sequel to “1984” – titled “Lemmings” – premiered during the 1985 Super Bowl.

Never heard of the sequel? You are not alone. While the “1984” ad is widely considered one of the best and most effective in television history, the “Lemmimgs” ad went down in flames. A senior Macintosh executive quit on the spot after seeing the ad, and Apple was accused of exploiting the Holocaust to sell computers. The ad ended a short-lived era – it was the last time Apple aired a commercial during a Super Bowl.

Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Comms Director Resigns After 2 Weeks

Two weeks after being named communications director for Rep. Lauren Boebert, Ben Goldey has resigned. Lachlan Markay at Axios reports:

“Ben Goldey’s resignation cited last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which followed efforts by Boebert and lawmakers to block certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. The Hill veteran’s departure highlights the deep divide among Republicans over President Trump’s conduct.”

“Goldey said in a statement to Axios: ‘Following the events of January 6th, I’ve decided to part ways with the office. I wish her and the people of Colorado’s Third District the best.’ … Boebert is a strident Trump supporter firmly on the right flank of the House GOP caucus. She was clear about her views during her campaign, but they have suddenly become politically toxic following last week’s attack.” …

“Goldey, by contrast, has a more establishment pedigree. He was the press secretary at the Department of Interior until this year, and previously worked for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.”

Great Moments in Repeating the Negative

“Saying that I have ‘contributed nothing of value to support the ideals of either the Benson Center or CU Boulder’ is preposterous …,” said John Eastman, CU Boulder’s visiting conservative scholar, to the Boulder Daily Camera.

Professor Eastman caused controversy for his remarks at the Washington, D.C., rally for President Trump prior to the attack on the U.S. Capitol. His spring classes at CU Boulder have since been cancelled due to low enrollment.

Novitas Communications Promotes Krista Crouch to VP

Denver-based Novitas Communications has promoted Krista Crouch to vice president. Crouch has more than 15 years of experience in communications, public relations and digital media, and she manages clients in a number of industries, including finance, healthcare, tourism, government, oil and gas, and associations.  

Crouch has worked with media internationally including top-tier media outlets in the U.S. such as the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, CNN, ABC News, Bloomberg, Reuters, Cheddar, and many other national and local media outlets.

Chaotic Year Undermines Trust in Businesses, Government & Media, According to Annual Edelman Report

Edelman has released its 2021 Trust Barometer report and the bottom line appears to be that the COVID-19 pandemic, among other 2020 challenges, has sent trust in government, business and media on the fun part of a rollercoaster ride.

“Trust declined across all institutions… . Only 59% of respondents said they trust businesses to do the right thing; 57% felt that way about the government and 56% about NGOs. Only half of those queried said they trust the media to do the right thing,” reports Thomas Moore at PRWeek.

Edelman CEO Richard Edelman cited three takeaways:

“The first is that business has become the most trusted institution. That is a significant change from May when we did the spring trust update and when we saw the government leading the pack for the first time. Now government has fallen off significantly.”

Second, “the data shows people distrust the information they’re being given from most sources. … You saw the result of [this] last week in the Capitol being stormed with false hopes. You also see it in vaccine hesitancy.”

“The third story here is the real fall from grace of the U.S. and China. The Chinese because of being the place where COVID-19 started but also because they kept the story under wraps and people were irritated by that. And then the United States, because we’re the worst country in the world in terms of managing the pandemic, and we’ve lost a lot of ground that way.”

CU Denver Names Marie Williams Vice Chancellor for Communications

The University of Colorado Denver named Marie Williams its new vice chancellor for communications. From the announcement:

“Williams has served in senior leadership roles at public relations agencies and within higher education, most recently as vice president of marketing and communications at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. At CU Denver, Williams will lead the 18-person University Communications team responsible for external and internal communications, media relations, marketing, brand strategy, social media, and web development.”

“Williams began her public relations career in editor roles at the University of Pennsylvania (her alma mater) and Temple University. For the next six years, she worked in the private sector, in communication and marketing positions for Pennsylvania companies, including PECO Energy and The Pep Boys. From 2007-18, Williams held leadership roles for the education practices at two New York-based public relations agencies, serving as senior managing director at RF|Binder Partners and senior vice president at Edelman. Most recently, at Saint Joseph’s, she transformed the Office of Marketing and Communications into an in-house creative and strategic consultancy that has enhanced the visibility and reputation of the university.”

NBC Hockey Analyst Quietly Dropped Following String of Insensitive Statements

Emily Kaplan at ESPN: “NHL analyst Mike Milbury is out at NBC after 14 years with the network. The news came on Monday as NBC unveiled its game and studio commentary lineup for the 2021 NHL season, and Milbury was conspicuously absent.” […]

“Milbury, the former Boston Bruins and New York Islanders coach and GM, was pulled from NBC’s Stanley Cup playoff coverage in August after his on-air comments about players not being as distracted in the league’s bubble because no women were there in the league’s bubble.” […]

“Milbury had been flagged for insensitive comments several times during his tenure at NBC, including other instances last season. In a qualifying-round game between Pittsburgh and Montreal, Milbury said playing in an empty arena was like being at a college women’s hockey game.”

Advertising Powerhouse Crispin Porter + Bogusky Latest Marketing Firm to Leave Boulder for Denver

Dan Kika at the Boulder Daily Camera: “Crispin Porter + Bogusky is in the process of moving from Gunbarrel to a 20,000-square-foot office in McGregor Square in Denver’s LoDo District, according to a statement from the company. The move is expected to end in July.” […]

“Doyle Albee, the president and CEO of Boulder-based public relations agency MAPR, said CP+B’s move isn’t a large immediate loss for Boulder because the majority of the agency’s accounts are national. … He pointed out that Denver and other cities in Boulder County can offer far lower costs of living while providing the Front Range lifestyle that companies in the region leverage for recruiting employees.”

“’I’m not worried about Boulder becoming a ghost town by any stretch … but it underscores the fact that we are facing some very serious economic and lifestyle issues here that we need to proactively address on a daily basis, or we’re going to see more of this in the long run,’ Albee said.”

Savvy Public Relations Strategy Helped Make ‘James Bond’ an Icon

The James Bond movie franchise reached iconic status with the release of its third movie, “Goldfinger.” What was the secret to becoming one of the most beloved movie characters in history? Why, public relations, of course. Oscar Holland at CNN reports:

“In a then-unprecedented publicity move, journalists and photographers were invited to the Swiss Alps for the seven-day shoot, where they mingled with cast and crew members. The strategy appeared to work — ‘Goldfinger’ became, at the time, one of the box office’s highest-ever grossing movies.” 

“‘Almost every day was a press conference’ said Peter Waelty, co-author of the new book ‘The Goldfinger Files,’ over a video call. ‘The idea was to get into the newspapers before the film was even made.’ Reporters were also given detailed plot information, even though the movie was months away from release, he added. ‘They knew exactly who was going to die, who was going to win, what was going to happen. It’s unimaginable that this could happen nowadays.'”

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts Are at ‘War’

The Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts are in a “ground war” for the hearts and minds of America’s youth, and, as is the case in most of these situations, it is the lawyers who are winning.

Amid declining enrollment in 2017, the Boy Scouts changed its program to just “Scouts” and opened its ranks to both boys and girls. The Girl Scouts sued, alleging that the Boy Scouts are marketing its program in a way that infringes on the Girl Scouts’ trademark.

Great Moments in Journalism

The Hill: “Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo told viewers Wednesday that her show had been ‘punk’d’ after she interviewed an animal rights activist who claimed he was the CEO of the pork producer and food-processing company Smithfield Foods.”

“The segment earlier on in the show was presented as an interview with CEO Dennis Organ on the process of coronavirus vaccines being distributed to food workers at the company, which had an outbreak of coronavirus cases at one of its plants.”

“However, as it was later revealed, Bartiromo was actually speaking to Direct Action Everywhere activist Matt Johnson, who remained in character as Organ for the nearly six minute interview.”

Defying Expectations, Corona Beer Holds Steady During its ‘Eponymous’ Pandemic

One of the early predictions of the pandemic was that Corona was in real trouble because beer drinkers would associate the brand with Coronavirus. Stuck in a position that didn’t really have a playbook, Corona even tried to lean into the association last spring, only to quickly realize that it was a bad idea.

Good news for the brand, however. A Wall Street Journal article headlined, “Echo of Coronavirus Didn’t Keep Beer Drinkers From Corona” reports that its sales are doing just fine:

“In-store spending on Corona-branded beer and hard seltzer in the U.S. comprised 6.78% of the category this year through Dec. 6, essentially unchanged from the equivalent period a year prior, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.”

“Excluding fast-growing spiked seltzers—such as Corona Hard Seltzer, which was introduced during the pandemic—the story was the same: Corona’s share of in-store beer sales through Dec. 6 held steady with a year earlier, IRI said.”

“’There wasn’t really any kind of negative impact on Corona sales,’ said Vivien Azer, managing director and senior research analyst at investment bank Cowen Inc. ‘That’s clear in the data.'”

Boulder’s MAPRagency Partners with Stryker-Munley Group

Boulder’s MAPRagency is partnering with South Carolina-based Stryker-Munley Group (SMG) in an arrangement that gives MAPRagency additional resources and capabilities, and SMG additional geographic reach.

SMG is a national integrated public relations and marketing communication agency, and now has nine independently owned offices in Boston, Boulder, Charleston, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Knoxville, Portland and San Antonio.

Great Moments in College Bowl Games

Army had a great football season – it went 9-2 while winning the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy for head-to-head wins over both Navy and Air Force. So which bowl game will it be attending? None. Army has been left out of any bowl game due to a number of them being cancelled and byzantine contracts between bowls and conferences.

Adding insult to injury, the Armed Forces Bowl selected 6-2 Tulsa and 3-7 Mississippi State.

UPDATE: Army will now face West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl after the University of Tennessee had to withdraw due to positive COVID-19 tests among players and coaches.

Denver’s Dominion Voting Systems Retains D.C. PR Firm to Combat Fraud Allegations

Daily Beast: “A voting machine company baselessly accused by President Trump and pro-Trump conspiracy theorists of illegally tipping the 2020 presidential contest is working with one of Washington, D.C.’s most prominent public relations firms to beat back the allegations.”

“Shortly after the election, (Denver- and Toronto-based) Dominion Voting Systems hired the firm Hamilton Place Strategies to coordinate a public relations campaign responding to the outlandish claims by the president, his legal team, and their supporters, according to Michael Steel, a HPS partner and former spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.”

Critics Accuse Tattered Cover of ‘Highjacking’ BLM Movement Amid Minority Ownership Claims

“The local and national investors who bought Denver’s Tattered Cover book stores have watched as reactions roll in to their purchase, ranging from joy at the local chain’s apparent salvation to fury that its owners would dare claim it as the nation’s largest Black-owned book store,” John Wenzel from The Denver Post reports. …

“However, skeptics of the deal say the Tattered Cover invited this scrutiny for claiming to be the largest Black-owned book store in the United States despite Pearson being the only Black person in the mostly white, 13-member investment group.”

“Shortly after the sale was made public, Black booksellers across the U.S. denounced the Black-owned claim as an insulting marketing ploy that ignores their work, at best, and at worst, cynically hijacks this year’s Black Lives Matter progress for commercial purposes.”

PRWeek’s ‘Best Places to Work’ Overwhelmingly Excludes Non-Coastal Firms, Companies

PRWeek is out with its annual ranking of its Best Places to Work, and it identified 23 winners in five categories: Small Agency, Midsize Agency, Large Agency, Extra Large Agency and In-house Teams.

As has become common for PRWeek’s various lists, non-coastal firms are largely excluded. Here’s how the “Best Places” list broke down geographically:

  • 0% – Denver
  • 0% – Colorado
  • 0% – Rocky Mountain Region
  • 4% – Midwest
  • 22% – San Francisco Bay Area
  • 26% – West Coast (Calif. & Wash.)
  • 39% – New York City area
  • 61% – New York City area & California
  • 70% – East Coast (NY, NJ, DC, Va., Fla., Ga.)

The only winner not located in a coastal state was Belle Communication in Columbus, Ohio.

2020’s Biggest PR Disasters

It has been quite a year, one that I doubt any of us will forget. We had a global pandemic, an unprecedented economic crisis and record unemployment. We witnessed widespread protests against racism and racial injustice, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1960s. We saw the impeachment of a U.S. president, and the shocking deaths of the Black Mamba (Kobe Bryant) and the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).

All of that certainly overshadowed the PR disasters we experienced this year. In fact, if you were going to have a PR disaster, this was the year to do it. Below are some of the most high-profile mistakes that were made this year. I hope you enjoy them. And, as usual, I excluded most political ones because there are just too many and we are so polarized that everyone views them through a partisan lens.

Jeffrey Toobin
Lawyer, author and cable-news legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin reminded everyone that there are worse things than mindlessly scrolling Twitter when you are on an interminable Zoom call (you’ll have to read the details for yourself). Unfortunately for Toobin, the New Yorker fired him immediately. Fortunately for Toobin, CNN took a much, ahem, softer approach, allowing the analyst to take a leave of absence to address a “personal issue.” 

Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo has made a lot of bad headlines the last few years, such as the $3 billion fine it paid after illegally targeting senior citizens and retirees for services they did not request and providing substandard investment advice. With that speed bump in the rear-view mirror, the company was free to look forward to new opportunities to make headlines. And it did just that in September when its CEO blamed the bank’s lack of diversity on the “very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from.”

Tyson Foods
Managers at a Tyson Foods plant in Iowa allegedly ordered employees to report for work while they secretly wagered money on the number of workers who would contract COVID-19. The details were shared as part of a lawsuit against Tyson, and specifically alleged that the plant manager “organized a cash-buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers.” 

The founder and CEO of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, resigned after making inflammatory comments online about the death of George Floyd. The comments caused high-profile CrossFit sponsor Reebok to drop its affiliation with the organization, and dozens of local CrossFit franchises quickly rebranded without the CrossFit name. 

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) regulates, not surprisingly, the oil-and-gas industry in Colorado, and part of that job requires carefully balancing the needs of the industry with the needs of the state’s communities. Building trust and credibility with all its stakeholders is critical. Alas, in November, the COGCC was forced to apologize after sending an inappropriate email ridiculing the very companies it regulates. Staff members testing a new e-filing system inadvertently sent an email to hundreds of oil and gas workers statewide that referred to fictitious companies such as “‘Snake Oil Inc.,” its law firm “Blah Blah Blah,” and its cause or case number “666.”

Continue reading “2020’s Biggest PR Disasters”

Fox31 Presents Corporate Press Release on DISH Dispute as ‘News’ on its Website

Fox31’s parent company, Nexstar, is in a carriage dispute with DISH, and it has put the editorial staff at the station in an awkward position as to how to cover a story the station is involved in.

It appears, however, Nexstar has solved that conflict of interest by letting its public relations staff cover the issue rather than its reporters. This morning, Fox31 posted a press release from Nexstar as a news article in the “News” section of the Fox31 website.

Father Woody, Former PR Director for Archdiocese of Denver, Implicated in Sexual Abuse Scandal

Arguably Denver’s best-known priest – the late Father C.B. Woodrich, better known as “Father Woody” – is the latest Catholic Church figure to be caught up in Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s investigation into sexual abuse, according to Kevin Vaughan at 9News.

“For years, he was in essence the church’s public face in the metro area, serving as the archdiocese’s director of public relations from 1969 to 1986 and as editor of the Denver Catholic Register from 1972 to 1986.”

Coalition of Activist PR Professionals Targeting Agencies that ‘Greenwash’

Kevin McCauley at O’Dwyer’s reports: “PR firms have been put on notice that their ‘multimillion-dollar greenwashing and misinformation campaigns’ for fossil fuel clients that delay action on global warming are going to be outed, according to the Clean Creatives organization, a group of communications professionals supported by Fossil Free Media.”

“Launched Nov. 19, CC aims to reveal the relationships between PR firms and fossil fuel clients, organize staffers who ‘feel conflicted about making propaganda for oil and gas companies’ and contact sustainability-minded clients who might feel unhappy that their firm is actively undermining progress on climate change, according to a statement from Jamie Henn of Fossil Free Media.”

Quote of the Day

“What’s interesting is you have to always be on, which is tough. You would like to just have general conversations, but at the same time you have to understand this new-age media is a different age. It’s not just print as it might have been before. There’s a lot more people who want to get their name out there and build their base of followers. You have journalists who are brands now.”

– Former Denver Nugget and current Miami Heat player Andre Iguodala describing the evolving nature of his interactions with media to The Athletic.

PRSA Colorado Announces 2021 Board

Congratulations to the 2021 members of the PRSA Colorado board:

Executive Committee
• President: Michelle Ellis, Ellis Communications Marketing
• President-elect: Jose Salas, Denver Water
• Immediate past-president: Geoff Renstrom, Attune Public Relations
• Secretary: Emily Rado, Linhart Public Relations
• Treasurer: Jennifer Tilliss, Purpose Communications

Assembly Delegates
• Sam Aspnes, APR, CIG Public Relations
• Michelle Balch Lyng, Novitas Communications
• Marissa Pooley, APR, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
• Whei Wong, Metropolitan State University of Denver

• Brook Gabbert, PennStreet Communications and Study.com
• Liz Kamper, CBRE
• Stacee Martin, APR, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
• Liz Viscardi, APR, LV Events and PR
• Kelly Wagoner, The Piton Foundation

In-N-Out Burger Wins the Week

This week, In-N-Out Burger leveraged scarcity marketing to heights of success not seen since Coors convinced Burt Reynolds to make a movie about smuggling 400 cases of its signature beer from Texarkana to Atlanta.

In-N-Out opened its first two locations in Colorado – Aurora and Colorado Springs – and media outlets around the world reported on the 12 to 14 hours Coloradans were apparently willing to wait in line for a shot at a fast food cheeseburger. (Bonus points to Britain’s Daily Mail for capturing a fist fight that erupted in the line.)

Locally, reporters and media outlets were quick to roll their eyes at the wait times, but they still contributed to the avalanche of media coverage. Mitchell Byars at the Boulder Daily Camera noted that you could drive all the way to In-N-Out’s Las Vegas location in less time, and Westword used the opportunity to showcase its list of 10 Best locally-owned burger joints.

Photo: Christian Murdock/The Gazette

Lawsuit: Tyson managers bet money on how many workers would contract COVID-19

“A wrongful death lawsuit tied to COVID-19 infections in a Waterloo pork processing plant alleges that during the initial stages of the pandemic, Tyson Foods ordered employees to report for work while supervisors privately wagered money on the number of workers who would be sickened by the deadly virus,” Clark Kauffman at the Iowa Capital Dispatch reports.

“The lawsuit was recently amended and includes a number of new allegations against the company and plant officials. Among them: … plant manager Tom Hart organized a cash-buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many plant employees would test positive for COVID-19.”

State Agency Plays Defense After Mocking Oil-and-Gas Companies it Regulates

Shaun Boyd at CBS4: “The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is apologizing after sending an inappropriate email ridiculing the very companies it regulates. CBS4 has learned that staff members at COGCC were testing a new e-filing system when they inadvertently sent an email to hundreds of oil and gas workers across the state.”

“The email called the companies they work for names that you don’t expect from people who are supposed to be fair and unbiased.”

“The email arrived early Sunday morning with a list of oil and gas companies that had upcoming hearings. The names of the companies included ‘Snake Oil Inc.,’ it’s law firm ‘Blah Blah Blah’ and its cause or case number ‘666’ – a designation for the devil.” …

“A spokesperson for COGCC released a statement late Wednesday afternoon saying: ‘We apologize that some of the names used during this testing were not professionally chosen. The employees involved in this situation have had this addressed by their supervisors. This unfortunate incident does not reflect upon the quality of work that has been and will be conducted by COGCC for all its customers. COGCC has more than 70 years of experience working with our industry partners in oil and gas operations. We are committed to continue to uphold the oil and gas regulations in a transparent, fair and legal manner.’”

‘If she weren’t such a great PR person, no one would have known about her breakdown’

Nobody understands how to sell a comeback better than a PR executive. On a related note, The Washington Post profiled the woman who went viral for destroying a COVID-19 mask display at a Target – she’s the CEO of a Phoenix PR firm and she grew up in Denver.

As you might expect, she’s actually a super-terrific-yet-tragically-misunderstood person who was reacting to the stress of COVID-19 that caused her to miss her annual summer vacation in Greece. You try missing a year in Greece without destroying display racks – I dare you.

If you would like to know more, she currently is authoring a memoir titled You Can’t Cancel Me — The Story of My Life. I’m not making that up.

Photo: Dominic Valente for The Washington Post

Colorado Agencies Recognized in PRSA Silver Anvil Awards

PRSA announced the winners of its annual Silver Anvil awards for outstanding campaigns, and there were a few with Colorado connections:

  • Silver Anvil Award: Turner PR
    “Space City: The Moon Landing 50th Anniversary” campaign for Houston First Corporation
  • Silver Anvil Award: M&C Communications
    “Hate Speech, Guns and Potential Lawsuits at a Small-Town High School” campaign for City of Manitou Springs
  • Award of Excellence: Ayers PR and Sukle Advertising & Design
    “Generation Wild” campaign for Great Outdoors Colorado
  • Award of Excellence: Fyn PR
    “Love Locks Lead to Valentine’s Day Tourism” campaign for Visit Loveland