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
Directors • 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
This Thanksgiving ad for East Coast grocery store chain Giant Food feels like it was created by a passive aggressive art director who has had it with people ignoring stay-at-home orders. For those doubting its authenticity, Giant Food apologized for the ad, saying that it had gotten caught up in the “pre-holiday excitement.“
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.)
“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.”
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.’”
Nobody understands how to sell a comeback better than a PR executive. On a related note, The Washington Postprofiled 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.
To create the list, Forbes partnered with Statista to survey “more than 12,700 experts and 20,500 customers who nominated more than 5,000 firms. Participants were asked to indicate how likely they were to nominate a particular agency on a scale of zero (very unlikely) to 10 (very likely).”
The biggest PR disasters often are those that are self-inflicted, and the Girl Scouts are the latest organization to prove this point.
For the record, I love the Girl Scouts. My daughter was a card-carrying member, and who doesn’t love their cookies? But tweeting about the confirmation of arguably the most controversial U.S. Supreme Court Justice in the past century one week before one of the nastiest presidential elections in modern times is just asking – no, begging – for trouble.
Unsurprisingly, it turned into the usual three-act play:
Act 1: Tweet something controversial about a 50-50 issue.
Act 2: Feel the withering backlash from 50% of the people; try to back away from the issue.
Act 3: Incur the wrath of the 50% of people on the other side of the issue for trying to back away from the issue; slowly realize that you have pissed off approximately 100% of people.
The Girl Scouts is a beloved organization that will withstand the criticism because of the strength of its reputation (see Susan G. Komen Foundation). But it was an unforced error, and displayed a stunning lack of understanding about today’s political climate.
“Just an astoundingly irresponsible decision to publish this, by someone so naive and out of touch with reality that they don’t realize that they’re actively helping endanger a fellow journalist. For the past two weeks people associated with the rally have been actively threatening journalists in general and (Kyle Clark) specifically, something that the state’s largest newspaper in effect just co-signed. Just when you think the bar for that opinion section can’t get any lower.”
Daniel Cole writing in The Denver Post: “9News would have problems in the wake of Lee Keltner’s killing regardless, but the station’s problems are worse because its most prominent anchor frequently targets for ridicule the same kind of person Matthew Dolloff targeted with his gun.”
“Two weeks ago, Kyle Clark’s tweets were cute enough, if you didn’t mind seeing your neighbors bullied by the local newscaster. Now, a growing number of Coloradans are reading Clark’s commentary differently: as inexcusably hostile toward the Lee Keltners of our state, who deserve better than the treatment they receive from 9News’ anchors and security guards alike.’
“Certain other journalists have long recognized that Clark damages the brand — both his station’s and their profession’s. The Colorado Springs Gazette in an editorial identified Clark as ‘a liberal political activist.’ Veteran Colorado reporter Joey Bunch said, ‘Kyle is kind of a quasi-newsman.'”
“But while others have critiqued, Clark’s superiors have been content to watch him transform the 6:00 news into half-an-hour of preening sanctimony, and his social media channels into bloody political bludgeons. As Clark abuses his position under their watch, they richly deserve the problems he has created for them now.”
I’ve worked with a lot of engineers over the years, and they are almost always challenging from a marketing perspective. They tend to believe that marketing and public relations are superfluous. If you build the best product, they reason, the market will recognize that and your product will become the market leader. Marketing is a bastardization of the natural process.
I was reminded of that this week when I saw that Elon Musk has eliminated Tesla’s PR department. Sadly, Musk is confusing Tesla’s market cap for reputation and his Twitter account for marketing. That could spell in trouble as Tesla begins to be known more for failed customer service than being the only high-performing electric vehicle manufacturer.
Longtime Denver meteorologist Marty Coniglio was fired by 9News for a social media post that compared federal troops policing cities to Nazis. He explains his reasoning in a bylined article in Westword today:
“Better to be a good American than a good employee. Distilled to its most elemental expression, that is the reason why I blew up a 35-year career in broadcast media to add my voice to the alarms sounding about the current state of our Republic.”
“My former employerdid the right thing in firing me. They set the rules, standards of conduct and guidelines for content. Break them and you pay. I did and I did.”
“To anyone gleefully saying that I got what I deserved, I agree, so let’s move on…back to our imperiled democracy.”
I don’t know who woke up the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese marketing team, but they are on fire lately. The company unveiled a cheeky #SendNoods campaign today and it has quickly blown through its allotment of free Mac & Cheese.
This stunt marketing campaign follows several recent other ones – two months ago, Kraft relabeled some of its Mac & Cheese boxes as “breakfast food” for parents running short on patience during the pandemic, and last month it released a limited edition Pumpkin Spice Mac & Cheese because, you know, fall.
From Edward Ongweso Jr. at Vice: “For over six years, one Wikipedia user—AmaryllisGardener—has written well over 23,000 articles on the Scots Wikipedia and done well over 200,000 edits. The only problem is that AmaryllisGardener isn’t Scottish, they don’t speak Scots, and none of their articles are written in Scots.”
“Since 2013, this user—a self–professed Christian INTP furry living somewhere in North Carolina—has simply written articles that are written in English, riddled with misspellings that mimic a spoken Scottish accent. … On a page about the movie Million Dollar Baby, AmaryllisGardener wrote ‘This film is aboot an unnerappreciatit boxin trainer.’ This sort of language is repeated across all 23,000 articles they wrote, as well as in the articles they edited; because they are an admin of the site, they have the ability to control much of what ultimately stays on it.”
“Ireland’s Supreme Court has ruled that bread sold by the fast food chain Subway contains so much sugar that it cannot be legally defined as bread. The ruling came in a tax dispute brought by Bookfinders Ltd., an Irish Subway franchisee, which argued that some of its takeaway products – including teas, coffees and heated sandwiches – were not liable for value-added tax.”
In a sign of how COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement are creating fundamental, long-term changes at public relations agencies, Weber Shandwick has hired a Chief Workforce Innovation and Operations Officer. From Aleda Stam at PR Week:
Weber Shandwick has hired Brian Offutt as chief workforce innovation and operations officer. Offutt starts in the newly created position on Thursday, reporting to Weber Shandwick president and CEO Gail Heimann. He will be responsible for evolving the firm’s workplace and workforce, focusing on preparing the agency for a hybrid work environment and ensuring inclusivity and equity.
“‘It became clear to us during the coronavirus pandemic that we needed to approach innovation with the same rigor and vigor that we approach our client work,” said Heimann. ‘We recognize that talent is the soul of the firm, and building our workforce in a hybrid situation with inclusion is critical to our continued leadership in the industry and beyond.'”
“Edelman is restoring staff salaries cut due to COVID-19 and is making hires and investment again, as the agency begins to bounce back after being forced to make mass redundancies in June,” Maja Pawinska Sims at Provoke Media reports.
“Edelman also said that the world’s largest PR firm was ‘making hires again in fast-growing areas like financial PR and healthcare.’ … Edelman described the firm’s performance over the past six months as ‘like a coffee cup’ with a steep decline, a flat base and now starting to rise again.”
A Colorado State University student has filed suit against the school after she claims she was sexually assaulted by Michael Best, the husband of former 9News sports anchor and current KOA NewsRadio Broncos sideline reporter Susie Wargin, CBS4 reports.
“(The student) said she loved her job working as a waitress at the CSU football stadium. She had worked there for a year, and said it was a great experience. That all changed in fall of 2019 when she claims prominent donor, Michael Best, husband of local radio personality and realtor Susie Wargin, touched her inappropriately and called her vulgar names while she was serving him in his private loge box.”
You would think a hospital system would be the least likely organization to support anti-maskers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Centura Health’s St. Anthony Hospital remains a sponsor of one of the state’s largest organizer’s of anti-mask protests – Bandimere Speedway.
Bandimere and Jeffco Public Health are locked in a legal battle over the county’s health orders requiring masks and social distancing. Earlier this week, Bandimere hosted a “COVID Chaos” protest event in which more than a thousand non-masked participants violated the county’s health orders and stood on the track shoulder-to-shoulder for a group photo as an expression of defiance.
And, despite this month’s long public health battle, St. Anthony Hospital remains listed on Bandimere’s website as one of its sponsors.
Politico: “As the presidential election fast approaches, the Department of Health and Human Services is bidding out a more than $250 million contract to a communications firm as it seeks to “defeat despair and inspire hope” about the coronavirus pandemic, according to an internal HHS document obtained by POLITICO.”
“Several weeks ago, the department sent out to a number of communications firms a ‘performance work statement,’ which lays out what work will be expected of the winning firm. The document says that the vast majority of the money will be spent from now until January.”
“The document also lists the goals of the contract: ‘defeat despair and inspire hope, sharing best practices for businesses to operate in the new normal and instill confidence to return to work and restart the economy,’ build a ‘coalition of spokespeople’ around the country, provide important public health, therapeutic and vaccine information as the country reopens, and give Americans information on the phases of reopening.”
Local sports radio host Darren “D-Mac” McKee appears to have avoided termination following his posting of the N word on Twitter last week. Several current and former colleagues of color, including Alfred Williams and Chad Brown, gave McKee air cover by coming to his defense and offering character references.
Six years after floating an idea that Clarity Media might relaunch The Rocky Mountain News and challenge The Denver Post, conservative Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz’s media company is going for it. Kind of. The company will launch what it’s calling an “interactive newspaper” in Denver but it won’t be in print. And Clarity didn’t revive the Rocky, though it owns its name and intellectual property. Instead, beginning next month with staff from the Gazette in Colorado Springs and ColoradoPolitics, along with some new hires, the company will launch The Denver Gazette, a daily digital news outlet. …
The Denver Gazette will be led by Publisher Chris Reen, Editor Vince Bzdek, News Editor Jim Bates and Digital Editor Chuck Hickey. Among the newspaper’s staff and contributors are familiar names to Denver including Lynn Bartels, Woody Paige, Joey Bunch and Paul Klee.
“Why do we keep opening news outlets based in cities that already have a robust media presence tho? All I can think of is the large swaths of Colorado that hardly get covered (or are complete news deserts) and how much good 50 reporters could do in those parts.”
If you saw the news this week that KFC is dropping its “Finger Lickin’ Good” tag line, you might think they are a little slow given that it has been five months since the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores. But give KFC’s marketers credit – they know how to make the most of a challenging situation.
Rather than quietly mothballing the tag line and moving on to something else, they have embraced the need to change it. And the result is a clever marketing campaign.
Webb Strategic Communications, one of the bigger names in Denver’s public relations community in the 1990s, is shutting down. Pete Webb and business partner/wife Ginny Williams are retiring and handing the business to employees Taunia Hottman and Andy Cohen, who will rebrand as Clermont Eliot. Ed Sealover at the Denver Business Journal has the details.
“Reports confirmed by Westword reveal that three on-air personalities at the sister stations have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. If all three cases can be traced to 100 Speer Boulevard, the shared headquarters of the outlets, the space could be declared an outbreak, since the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s most common benchmark for such a designation is two positive diagnoses. The CDPHE’s weekly outbreaks update is scheduled to be published this afternoon, August 12.”
“We can find no evidence that either Fox31 or Channel 2 have reported on their staffers’ infections to date. Granted, doing so in detail would be difficult, since disclosing workers’ private health matters is restricted by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, shorthanded as HIPAA. In order to be identified, the infected individuals would have to publicly announce their condition, as did CNN’s Chris Cuomo. Nonetheless, two insiders who contacted Westword used the word ‘cover-up’ to characterize how the challenge has been handled to date by the stations.”
Maverick Public Relations has added 20-year agency veteran Stan Wagner as a managing partner. Wagner will lead the firm’s marketing communications for professional services. He is based out of Maverick’s City Park office in Denver.
Wagner joins Maverick from urban-gro, Inc. where he served as Vice President of Marketing and was responsible for the marketing and public relations efforts of the company as it grew from five people to over 60 went public. He also spent a decade at Sterling Communications, a West Coast technology-focused PR agency.
“Sources in Denver tell FTVLive that an Anchor on Nexstar’s KWGN Daybreak newscast tested positive for COVID-19. Word is that the station told the co-anchor to stay home and self-quarantined. The co-anchor has tested negative for the virus.”
“But, insiders say that the Traffic Anchor and the Weather Anchor were not told to self-quarantined and were deemed ‘low risk’ despite the fact that they shared the same studio. Word is the two decided to get tested and sure enough they have the Rona.”
” ‘This is where I have a problem. Why wasn’t the whole team quarantined and the studio completely cleaned?’ said one station insider to FTVLive.”
A top Colorado GOP strategist is helping Kanye West to get on the ballot in her state, the latest in a series of Republicans who have stepped up to help the hip hop star in his odd presidential bid.
Rachel George, a longtime Republican operative in Colorado, sent an email to at least one other local GOP strategist on Tuesday asking them to sign West’s Presidential Electors’ Acceptance of Nomination form so he can appear on the ballot. …
George is a longtime Republican operative in the state who now runs her own firm, RBG Communications. She’s previously held a variety of positions with Republican campaigns and operatives, including a three-year stint as communications director for then-Rep. Cory Gardner. Gardner is now a senator facing an uphill battle for reelection in the blue-trending state. She’s also married to Andy George, another longtime GOP operative in the state. Both have spent more than a decade immersed in Republican politics.
The Denver Press Club will honor PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff at a virtual Damon Runyon Award Banquet from 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12. Tickets can be purchased online.
Laura Frank, executive director of the Colorado new collaborative CoLab, will interview Woodruff in a 35-minute Q&A while also taking attendees’ questions. In lieu of a dinner, attendees will receive a gift box containing an event program, a Denver Press Club-engraved highball glass and a selection of Colorado-sourced snacks.
“We considered all possibilities to avoid this outcome,” said Denver Press Club president Daniel Petty. “Given spikes in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks throughout the United States and concern from public health officials that a second wave of infections may come in the fall, we believe this is the best decision to keep you and all of our guests safe.”
The advertiser boycott of Facebook took a toll on the social media giant, but it may have caused more damage to the company’s reputation than to its bottom line.
The boycott, called #StopHateForProfit by the civil rights groups that organized it, urged companies to stop paying for ads on Facebook in July to protest the platform’s handling of hate speech and misinformation. More than 1,000 advertisers publicly joined, out of a total pool of more than 9 million, while others quietly scaled back their spending.
It’s earnings season again, the first that involves a quarter that was fully impacted by COVID-19. So what effect did the pandemic have on the Q2 earnings of large public relations firms?
O’Dwyer’s: “Omnicom’s PR group suffered a 15.3 percent drop in Q2 revenues to $295.8M as the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on its travel, lodging, entertainment, energy, retail and automotive clients. Organic growth slipped 13.9 percent.”
Wall Street Journal: “IPG reported second-quarter net revenue of $1.85 billion, a decrease of 12.8% from the same time period last year. Organic net revenue—a measure that strips out currency effects, acquisitions and disposals—fell 9.9%, IPG said, citing the impact of the global economic contraction during the quarter.”
O’Dwyer’s: “FTI Consulting posted a 3.8 percent dip in Q2 strategic communications revenues to $56.8M, while operating income slipped 3.7 percent to $8.8M. First-half revenues fell 1.2 percent to $115.3M and operating income declined 15.5 percent to $16.3M.”
AdWeek: “In the U.S., Publicis Groupe’s organic growth declined 6.8% for Q2 and 3.3% for the first half of the year, aided by positive growth in Q1. Sadoun pointed out that organic growth was still positive on the year going into May, which he said showed the strong headwind the holding company had enjoyed heading into 2020 in the region.”
The Aurora Sentinel has named Kara Mason as its new managing editor. Mason had previously served as a reporter covering local government and politics, a beat that will now be covered by reporter Grant Stringer.
Congratulations to the nearly 150 winners of the 2020 Heartland Emmy awards. Breaking news coverage of the STEM school shooting and the I-70 runaway truck crash/explosion helped Denver-area journalists take the lion’s share of the awards.
According to SSPR CEO Heather Kelly, the agency “has made a strong effort to stay connected during the global pandemic as the entire company works remotely. The organization schedules time for weekly all-company video happy hours, morning mediations, a version of MTV’s ‘Cribs’ to show off work-from-home spaces and regular lunch chats.”
Love him or hate him, 9News’ Kyle Clark calls them like he sees them, and former Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Executive Director Dudley Brown was on the receiving end of that recently when RMGO-backed candidates went 1-5 in the Republican primaries.
After that debacle, Brown stepped down as executive director and Clark posited that Brown had been demoted based on his general lack of effectiveness accomplishing the one thing RMGO promised its contributors – getting gun-friendly representatives elected. Brown didn’t care for that:
Fast forward a week, and Brown was still smarting. After Clark announced he would take a few weeks off during the summer slow news period, Brown popped back up:
It has been almost a decade since Bazi Kanani left 9News to join ABC News to cover Africa, and in the intervening years she has been stationed all over the world. While abroad, she clearly has not been following Denver real-estate prices because she and her husband have made the decision to return to Colorado from Mexico where she currently lives. As part of her return, Bazi has joined SE2 as the firm’s new Director of Content.
I hope Wyoming residents who like to start their work weeks with a cup of coffee and the local newspaper aren’t too attached to the ritual. Because it’ll soon be impossible.
The Casper Star-Tribune announced yesterday that it would no longer be a true “daily” paper, eliminating its Monday and Tuesday print editions next month. …
On its own, that’s not unusual, or particularly worthy of note to people outside Wyoming. Lots of daily newspapers, seeking to cut staffing and production costs, have eliminated print days, with Mondays and Saturdays being the most common victims.
But the Star-Tribune’s decision will mean that across the entire state of Wyoming, all 97,914 square miles, there will no longer be a single local newspaper printed on Monday mornings. Zero.
If your reaction after watching the currently available four straight hours of NBC’s Today morning show is, “Well, that’s a good start,” then you are in luck.
NBC, as part of its new Peacock streaming service, is launching Today All Day, a new 24-hour/day channel with content created specifically for viewers who are spending more time at home “focusing on domestic activities from crafting to finances to summer cook-outs.”
NBC News President Noah Oppenheim, grasping for adjectives, said Today All Day represents “a big and fun new chapter” for the Today show, and will feature Today personalities such as Hoda Kotb, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Carson Daly, Craig Melvin, Willie Geist, Jenna Bush Hager, Sheinelle Jones, Kristen Welker, Dylan Dreyer and Peter Alexander.
ESPN has suspended reporter Adrian Wojnarowski for his four-letter reply to a press release U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley distributed via email criticizing the NBA’s stance on China. Regardless of your thoughts on Sen. Hawley, one of the cardinal rules of being a grown-up is don’t use your work email to engage in petty feuds.
Forget dashing foreign correspondents and “All the President’s Men”: Daily journalism often comes down to local reporters like Mr. Brandt. Overworked, underpaid and unlikely to appear as cable-news pundits, they report the day’s events, hold officials accountable and capture those moments — a school honor, a retirement celebration — suitable for framing.
But they are an endangered species being nudged toward extinction by the most important news story in decades. The coronavirus.
The economic paralysis caused by the pandemic has clobbered a newspaper industry already on the mat. With revenues plummeting, substantial layoffs, furloughs and pay reductions have followed in newsrooms across the country.
Meanwhile, the hedge funds and private equity firms that own many newspapers often siphon away profits rather than reinvest in local journalism. Frequently associated with this business model is the Alden Global Capital hedge fund, which controls The Mercury, Mr. Brandt’s employer for 23 years.
More than 13,000 Colorado companies received Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the list of marketing agencies is a Who’s Who of those in our state. In order of money received and jobs retained, the list includes:
Sterling-Rice Group – $2M-$5M, 107 jobs retained
Heinrich – $350K–$1M, 54 jobs retained
Vladimir Jones (Praco) – $350K–$1M, 48 jobs retained
SSPR – $350K–$1M, 45 jobs retained
CIG PR – $350K–$1M, 38 jobs retained
GroundFloor Media – $350K–$1M, 24 jobs retained
Amelie – $350K–$1M, 24 jobs retained
CSG PR – $350K–$1M, 24 jobs retained
Cohn – $350K–$1M, 21 jobs retained
Room 214 – $350K–$1M, 18 jobs retained
Cactus Communications – $350K–$1M, unknown jobs retained
B Public Relations – $150k–$350K, 13 jobs retained
Colorado State University has appointed Yolanda Bevill as vice president of Communications, replacing Tom Milligan who resigned 18 months ago, Kelly Lyell at the Coloradoan reports. Bevill joins CSU from Prairie View A&M, a historically Black college located about 50 miles outside of Houston
interestingly, Bevill accepted the position at CSU without ever visiting Colorado due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everybody tells me how beautiful it is,” she told Lyell. “I’m really looking forward to seeing it for myself.”
The union representing The Denver Post employees reached an agreement to extend the contract with management that expired a year ago. The terms include having employees take an additional three weeks of unpaid time off – on top of the three weeks that were already required – before the end of the year. That means the staff will have spent 12% of this year on unpaid furloughs.
It is a travesty what is happening to the journalists and staff at The Denver Post. I know the Denver PR Blog is a popular read with billionaires, so could one of you please buy it and return it to what it once was.
It is nice when the good guys are recognized, and that happened today when Jeremy Jojola from 9News was honored with the Don Bolles Medal that is awarded to reporters whose work subjects them to threats of violence and intimidation.
Jojola’s series “Homegrown Hate” investigated white supremacists and extremist groups in Colorado and resulted in members of a local neo-Nazi group showing up at his home while his wife and newborn were inside.
It is sad that such an award is necessary, but it is heartening that recognition is given to reporters for the sometimes extreme challenges they face.
The start-up’s staff includes editor Quentin Young (formerly of the Boulder Daily Camera) and staff members Moe Clark (formerly of the Colorado Sun), Faith Miller (formerly of the Colorado Springs Independent) and Chase Woodruff (formerly of Westword).
Seizing on the national protests against systemic racism and injustice, Brooklyn agency Praytell has launched a new practice group to “help brands promote diversity, equity and inclusion both internally and in the range of dealings with the public,” Diana Marszalek at PRovoke reports.
“The people, culture and allyship practice aims to help brands define their role in the current racial justice movement, and follow through with actions and communications aligned with it, bringing in multicultural experts, artists and activists for a top-to-bottom assessment and plan.”
CBS4 News Director Tim Wieland announced that reporter Dominic Garcia will now co-anchor the local CBS4 This Morning show with Britt Moreno. Garcia replaces Alan Gionet, who is moving back into a reporter position. Moreno returned to the studio just this week after giving birth to her first child in March.
“I’d also recommend that up-and-comers go to work for a major PR agency as the experience is second to none. Don’t be afraid of hard work and be passionate about excellence. When I worked at large PR agencies, I frequently worked 12-hour (or longer) days. While it could have been easy to be frustrated by working 50% more than my peers, it also meant that I was becoming better at my job 50% faster and I was given greater responsibility sooner.”
Some 9News staffers were unhappy that anchor Kim Christiansen was selected to host the station’s “Racism and the Road to Change” special instead of a person of color, according to Scott Jones at FTVLive.
“Christiansen is white and while the show used a number of black leaders, some in the newsroom thought that a journalist of color should have fronted the special. Sources tell FTVLive that a number of people attended a Zoom meeting with management to ask questions about this and about other diversity issues with the station.”
Nothing says “avoiding controversy” like picking the non-scientific side of a divisive public health issue and announcing it to the New York Times. Theater chain AMC’s CEO, Adam Aron, appears to be playing checkerstic-tac-toe thumb war in a chess world. The New York Times reports:
“Adam Aron, chief executive of AMC Entertainment Holdings, said that moviegoers would not be required to wear masks at the company’s theaters when they reopen next month after a shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic.”
“Mr. Aron also said that AMC Theaters, the largest movie theater operator in the world, would not perform temperature checks on patrons, a practice some businesses have adopted to screen for fever related to the virus.”
The Associated Press has apologized for using a quote from Jefferson Davis, president of the short-lived Confederate States of America and inspiration for the name of Dukes of Hazzard villain Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg, in its daily “Today in History” feature.
The quote — “Never be haughty to the humble; never be humble to the haughty” — was included as the feature’s Thought for Today on June 3, Davis’s birthday.
“We are embarrassed that this happened and we apologize,” an A.P. spokeswoman said.
PRWeek: “Los Angeles County is defending its decision to hire Mercury Public Affairs and Fraser Communications for COVID-19-related work that has been criticized as wasteful.”
“The county brought on the two shops in mid-March to help manage crisis communications for the pandemic, said Lennie LaGuire, director of county-wide communications for Los Angeles County’s chief executive office.”
“The initial contracts with the two agencies cost the county $200,000 each, LaGuire said. However, the county has spent approximately $1.9 million for their services, according to reports from Los Angeles TV station Fox 11, which LaGuire confirmed.” …
“Specifically, the two firms augmented county comms staff by maintaining websites and social feeds, creating external video content and photography and translating content, she said. They also helped with outreach to stakeholder groups like professional organizations, chambers of commerce and faith-based organizations and provided capabilities the county lacked, like the ability to create motion graphics for Instagram.”
A little more than three years ago, Westword used the departures of then-Denver television newscasters Drew Soicher, Kyle Dyer, Kirk Montgomery, Gregg Moss, Susie Wargin, Molly Hughes and Ed Greene to put together a career Deadpool list of personalities whose expensive contracts could make them expendable. As it turned out, Westword went 1-14:
“Like the nation itself, news organizations across the country are facing a racial reckoning, spurred by protests from their own journalists over portrayals of minority communities and the historically unequal treatment of nonwhite colleagues.” …
“The newsroom uprisings are partially about the lack of minority employees in key jobs and leadership positions — but also about how stories about race are reported and framed, and who gets to do the reporting and framing. Some argue that mainstream news organizations are long overdue for a cultural change.”
Two weeks ago, former 9News anchor Bob Kendrick was playing defense over an ill-advised social media post calling protesters “animals.” He apologized shortly after that, but he has not appeared on-air since the incident. Sources tell FTVLive that the station has in fact suspended him.
The New York Times: “Last week, Mr. Glassman posted a tweet that made light of both the coronavirus pandemic and the killing of George Floyd in police custody, and last weekend spoke belligerently to CrossFit gym owners about race and racism in a remarkable Zoom call that was leaked to reporters.
“We’re not mourning for George Floyd, I don’t think me or any of my staff are,” said Mr. Glassman on the Zoom call, according to a recording of the call provided to The New York Times. “Can you tell me why I should mourn for him? Other than it’s the ‘white’ thing to do. I get that pressure but give me another reason.”
The online sports news site The Athletic was a soft landing place for many sportswriters who found themselves out of jobs at traditional media outlets such as newspapers and magazines. The site was backed with $140 million in VC money and promised to fundamentally change sports news with its online subscription model.
Unfortunately, the economy and COVID-19 were too much, and The Athletic today announced that it would lay off 8% of its staff – 46 people – and cut salaries for those remaining by at least 10%. The company cited slowing growth in its number of subscriptions and significantly decreased podcasting revenue as reasons for the layoffs.
Making matters worse, SB Nation, the sports media network owned by Vox, today announced it is laying off more than 100 employees it originally furloughed in May.
Civil, the blockchain backer of a number of emerging digital news outlets including the Colorado Sun, has shut down.
“I’m very grateful for everything they have done for us,” Larry Ryckman, co-founder and editor of the Colorado Sun, told Rick Edmonds of Poynter. “We could not have gotten on our feet without them. And it wasn’t just the money … they gave us technical support and expertise we lacked.”
Edmonds noted, “For the Colorado Sun, launched by Denver Post alumni as MediaNews Group had cut a third of its staff there, Civil’s collapse together with the current recession have required a complete redo of strategic plans. ‘But we’re going to make it,’ Ryckman said.”
“Richard Edelman, president and CEO of the PR firm started by his father in Chicago nearly 70 years ago, sent employees an email Tuesday explaining the decision — a reversal of an earlier pledge to avoid layoffs during the pandemic.”
“‘This decision is gut-wrenching, especially as I told you in March that we would have no job losses due to the pandemic,’ Edelman said in his memo. ‘Despite all efforts, we are beyond the threshold of loss-making and to ensure the long-term health of our business, I must change course.'”
“Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold was caught in a public relations pickle Sunday as the result of a city staff mistake that caused her to appear to wobble between distinct statements on the George Floyd killing that incited protests and riots across America for the past several days,” Sam Lounsberry at Boulder’s Daily Camera reports.
“As marches proceeded in downtown Denver for a fourth straight day calling for justice for Floyd, a black man who died in handcuffs after a Minnesota policeman kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest, the city on Sunday released a statement from Herold criticizing the officer’s actions and acknowledging the suffering people of color have endured at the hands of police.”
“Less than a half-hour later, staff released another. The revised quote from Herold was much different than the original, and less assertive, Colorado public relations experts” (including Doyle Albee and Dawn Doty) suggested.
Mayor Hancock’s Director of Strategic Communications & Media Policy Theresa Marchetta has been mixing it up on Twitter with a who’s who of journalists over the weekend as the peaceful protests followed by semi-violent riots took place. Among those involved have been Jeremy Jojola, Steve Staeger and Marshall Zelinger from 9News; Alex Burness from The Denver Post; and Mitchell Byars from the Boulder Daily Camera.
Former Denver Post editor Greg Moore wrote an insightful opinion piece on what it is like to be a professional black man in America, including describing the 20 or more times he has been stopped by police:
I’m a 65-year-old black man, and I have literally spent most of my life doing everything possible to avoid encounters with police. My mother warned me when I was about 12 to beware of the police because even though I was a good boy, I could be killed with impunity. I’d be just another dead black boy supposedly mixed up in guns, drugs or gangs. …
The history of the police and black people dates back to the slave catchers and overseers. A lot of police officers in our country come to the job generationally with stereotypes and disdain toward black people that has been handed down from the old days. Whether they want to admit it or not, it is part of the DNA of the profession, and it really doesn’t matter what color the person is who wears the uniform. Those attitudes are ingrained in the culture. …
I’m exhausted watching black men die at the hands of police. I hate seeing the fear in my daughters’ eyes from knowing I could die, begging for air, under the knee of a police officer. I don’t hate cops. I fear them. But I’m about to turn 66 years old, and I’d like to exhale for a change.
If you have five minutes, read the entire piece (and then subscribe if you don’t already). It is a fascinating and saddening glimpse into what it is like to be a black man in our society – even if you are one who is among the most successful in your profession. And also interesting is where Moore placed the article for publication – the Colorado Sun.
And speaking of the local George Floyd protests, former 9News anchor Bob Kendrick is taking criticism for a social media post in which he referred to the mostly African American protesters as “animals.” Kendrick is an anchor at ABC6/Fox28 in Columbus, Ohio (the stations have a shared services agreement).
For those of you relatively new to Denver, Kendrick was the original Shannon Ogden – funny, clever and bright, but you were never completely sure he wasn’t actually one of those fancy AI robots that come really close to appearing human.
Last night was a tough one for local television reporters who had to navigate both tear gas and angry protesters while giving live, on-air updates. Fox31 reporter Keagan Harsha seemed to have an average of about 15 seconds on air before protesters invaded his live shots performing their best Kim Christiansen impressions.
From Brian Steinberg at Variety: “More Madison Avenue heavyweights are looking to TV journalists and TV-news outlets to help them land a punch. General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are among the blue-chip advertisers that have recently struck deals to sponsor news programming and align themselves with news personalities – a practice that in a different era might have drawn more scrutiny. …”
“One executive producer at a network morning show says advertisers have ramped up their efforts to tie themselves to the program in recent years. It is all part of larger efforts by Madison Avenueto find ways to weave products and pitches into content as more traditional TV viewers find new ways to skip past ads – or simply ignore them. This producer says news executives often determine whether such advertiser requests are suitable or not. The product and the pitch cannot offend viewers, can’t pose any sort of harm, can’t be off putting, and can’t undermine the standards of the show, this person says. But the ad integrations offer a new stream of revenue for the program, this producer says, and executives work to keep anchors who deal regularly with hard news away from segments that involve a heavier sponsor influence.”
ESPN resurrected Michael Jordan, so why can’t Amazon bring back another relic from the 1990s – the Video News Release? As you can see below, the company is proving that a script and some mildly interesting B-roll is still gold in some media markets.
Colorado-based, Emmy-winning filmmaker Brian Malone released the trailer for his upcoming documentary News Matters: Inside the Rebellion to Save America’s Newspapers. Airing on PBS this fall, the documentary focuses heavily on The Denver Post and the efforts of its staff to push back against its hedge-fund owners at Alden Global Capital.
CU Denver News features an interview with outgoing Vice Chancellor of University Communications Leanna Clark, who is leaving after nine years to join the Girl Scouts of Colorado as its CEO.
At the end of May, Clark will be leaving CU Denver to begin a new endeavor as CEO of the Girl Scouts of Colorado, a statewide nonprofit with 125 full time employees, 20,000 members, and 10,000 volunteers. In her new role, Clark will set organizational vision and strategy, oversee all operations, and work to expand visibility and create opportunities for strategic partnerships. She will be greatly missed at CU Denver, but her skills and expertise will undoubtedly take this preeminent leadership development organization for girls to the next level.
“PRGN is now represented in Denver by Novitas Communications, a full-service public relations firm that specializes in corporate communications, issue management, and crisis communication across numerous industries. Novitas helps clients craft and implement communications campaigns that influence public opinion, enhance brand recognition, and keep stakeholders informed.”
Steve Barrett at PRWeek shares the results of a PRWeek survey “covering infection rates, budgets, layoffs, furloughs, payment terms, financial assistance, offices of the future and return to work.” Among the findings:
“Almost half of respondents have been directly impacted health-wise by COVID-19; 18% have team members or family of team members who have died from COVID-19
Clients: Almost 64% reduced PR budgets, one in three significantly. Agencies: 77% of clients reduced retainers; 90% postponed campaigns, 83% canceled activations
Almost four in 10 clients imposed extended payment terms during COVID-19
One in five agencies laid off staff and instigated furloughs; 11% of clients
Only 30% of respondents applied for Payment Protection Program loans
New world of work will include: social distancing, virtual workforces, daily deep cleaning, screening, temperature tests and work-life balance
More than half of respondents believe they will return to the office in June or July”
About 750 Edward R. Murrow award winners were announced today, and 54 of them went to Region 3 that includes Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. So how did our state compare to the competition? Pretty well, as it turns out:
Colorado – 29 Regional Murrow awards
Arizona – 16 Regional Murrow awards
Wyoming – 6 Regional Murrow awards
Utah – 3 Regional Murrow awards
New Mexico – 0 Regional Murrow awards
The big winners in Denver were KOA NewsRadio, Colorado Public Radio, 9News and KMGH-7. Among the winners:
KMGH-7 for Overall Excellence (large market television)
KOA NewsRadio for Overall Excellence (large market radio)
9News’ Next with Kyle Clark for Excellence in Innovation (large market television)
KMGH-7 Excellence in Social Media (large market television)
Staff Writer Chase Woodruff at Westwordis the latest victim of the COVID-19 pandemic’s assault on advertising dollars. I wrote nearly two months ago about the advertising drought that was hammering Westword’s parent company and sister publications, and unfortunately the financial impact has now been felt here in Denver.
I’ll share the same PSA I shared in the previous post:
Subscribe to every publication you read. Most of us will never notice the $5-10 per month each of them cost, and it makes a huge difference in the ability of those publications to do great work. Imagine what a bleak information landscape we’d have if other news outlets went the way of the Rocky Mountain News.
9News anchor Kim Christiansen takes a few minutes each week to read viewer feedback on the air, and to her and the station’s credit, the feedback often is negative. Unfortunately, Kim didn’t navigate the minefield of expletives as well as she had hoped in this viewer’s feedback.
April 24 Brian Maass, CBS4: “Top executives at Denver Health Medical Center received significant bonuses this month for their performance in 2019, ranging from $50,000 up to $230,000, one week after frontline hospital workers were asked to voluntarily take leave without pay or reduce their hours as the hospital dealt with the financial downturn resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.”
May 4 Brian Maass, CBS4: “A CBS4 Investigation has learned that about 40 retirees from the city of Denver — widows, widowers and their beneficiaries — have been ordered to repay a total of $11 million in retirement benefits. … Denver Employees Retirement Plan (DERP) recently notified Denver Health and a group of DERP members, who are retired and current Denver Health employees, that DERP has discovered an error it made in calculating the retirement benefits of those retirees and employees.”
May 5 David Sachs, Denverite: “Healthcare workers at Denver Health, the medical arm of the city’s public health department, are recruiting fellow employees to unionize in order to secure better benefits and workplace conditions, which organizers say will translate to a better institution. … Hospital employees were … sparked by the revelation that executives were getting large bonuses for their 2019 performance during this turbulent time.”
Cision is out with its annual State of the Media Report, and it is worth a read. It focuses on the impact COVID-19 has had on the day-to-day life of reporters, and there are a few key lessons for those of us in PR:
Keep pitches short: Among reporters’ comments: “Directly tell me in one or two sentences why this is important for the public to know about;” “Put your point in the first five words. Skip all blandishments;” “Wasting prime real estate in the first line saying ‘For Immediate Release.’ Or, ‘I hope this finds you well.’ We need to see what it’s about without having to open it.”
Make experts available via phone: “Respondents deemed interviews the most trustworthy non-brand source.”
Timing your pitches: Reporters receive the most pitches on Mondays, and they decline consistently each successive day through Friday. Waiting until late in the week may give your pitch less competition. And Sunday pitches may work best – no competition at all on the eve of a workday.
The moment is fleeting: Nearly half of reporters do not plan what they will be covering more than a day in advance. They are reacting to events and opportunities in real-time.
Stay focused: Blankety pitches that are not customized generally get nowhere.
We’re all enjoying relaxed dress standards during the COVID-19 pandemic, but correspondent Will Reeve one-upped most of us when he took the opportunity to go full Winnie the Pooh (shirt, no pants) on his segment on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Interpublic Group of Cos. – parent company to agencies such as Weber Shandwick, Golin, FCB and McCann – released its Q1 earnings earlier this week, and Lindsay Rittenhouse at AdAge reported on some of the details about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic:
IPG acknowledged it has implemented cost-cutting measures such as “deferred merit increases, freezes on hiring and temporary labor, major cuts in non-essential spending, furloughs in markets where that option is available and salary reductions where possible or appropriate”
IPG reduced base compensation up to 25% at a number of its agencies
Management team salaries at the holding company level have “are deeper than anything else … seen in the industry”
IPG is planning additional “staffing reductions” at firms who have significant clients in the retail, hospitality and event industries
Denver PR agency Sprocket is closing effective this month as the economic damage to agencies across the country continues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Aubrey Gordon founded the primarily virtual firm 13 years ago, and its clients included a mix of those in the consumer & lifestyle products, real estate, restaurants & hospitality, tech, healthcare and B2B industries.
Update: Aubrey shared that the COVID-19 pandemic was coincidental to her closing Sprocket. She made the decision to shutter the agency because she wanted to get back to marketing strategy rather than running a business, and that she has accepted a position as VP of Marketing at 8z Real Estate.
Congratulations to longtime Denver journalist Mark Harden on being named editor at Colorado Community Media. CCM owns 18 weekly newspapers and two monthly publications across the metro Denver area that have a combined audience of more than 300,000 people. Harden formerly was managing editor of Colorado Politics, and prior to that spent a decade at the Denver Business Journal.