A Bad Day for the Sportswriting​ Industry

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.

Colorado Sun Backer Civil Shuts Down

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.”

(Subscribe to the Colorado Sun)

Edleman Reverses Pledge and Lays Off Nearly 400

“Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, is laying off 390 people, or about 7% of its workforce, due to revenue declines during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Robert Channick at the Chicago Tribune reports.

“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.'”

PR Mix-up Exposes Boulder Police Chief to Criticism

“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.

(Subscribe to the Daily Camera)

Mayor Hancock’s Spokesperson Protests Media’s Protest Coverage

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 Westword staff writer Chase Woodruff captured some of the interactions on Twitter.

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Former Denver Post Editor Turns to Colorado Sun to Discuss Challenges of Being a Black Man in the U.S.

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.

Former 9News Anchor Bob Kendrick Takes Criticism for Protest Post

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).

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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.

Variety: ‘Madison Avenue Tunes in TV News Anchors to Help With Hard Sell’

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 Avenue to 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.”

Who Says the VNR is Dead?

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.

 

Update: Legal experts interviewed by Vice say that running promotional content such as this without disclosing who provided it could be a violation of Section 317 of the Communications Act.

Leanna Clark Departing CU Denver for CEO Position at Girl Scouts of Colorado

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. 

Novitas Joins Global PRGN Network

Novitas Communications has joined Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), a global network of independent PR firms:

“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.”

PRWeek Survey Measures Impact of COVID-19 on PR Industry

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”

Colorado Dominates the Mountain​ West Regional Murrow Awards

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)

Westword Lays Off Staff Writer Chase Woodruff

Staff Writer Chase Woodruff at Westword is 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.

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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.

What the %$@# Did She Just Say?

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.

Denver Health’s Bad Two Weeks

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’s ‘State of the Media’ Report Offers Roadmap for Better Media Relationships in the COVID-19 Era

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.

Great Moments in Journalism

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.”

GMA Will Reeves

Layoffs, Salary Cuts, Furloughs Among IPG Agencies’ Response to COVID-19

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:

  • Like its competitor Publicis Groupe did in North America, IPG posted a slight organic revenue increase – 0.8% – but noted that it faces a “very difficult second quarter”
  • 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

Sprocket Shuts Down Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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.

Mark Harden Named Editor at Colorado Community Media

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.

Omnicom Group Latest to Announce Job Cuts, Furloughs

Omnicom Group is the latest agency parent company to warn of impending job cuts and furloughs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a memo to staff, Omnicom chairman and CEO John Wren shared:

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the economy, on our clients’ businesses, and in turn, on ours. While we hope for a swift recovery, we have to respond quickly to the reality of the moment, to ensure the sustainability of our business and our ability to continue to provide our clients with outstanding service. 

Since my last note to you, we have solidified some of the internal measures to adjust our business to meet the changing needs of our clients. Regrettably, this will include furloughs and staff reductions across many of our agencies. We are doing everything we can to limit staff reductions, and to take care of those who are affected.

Publicis Groupe Releases Q1 Earnings Report, Indicates U.S. PR Firms Can Expect Double-Digit Revenue Declines in Q2

French multinational marketing company Publicis Groupe, the parent company of Qorvis/MSLGroup among other advertising and PR firms, shared its Q1 earnings, and the data is concerning, to say the least.

In North America, Publicis Groupe’s organic revenue grew 0.5 percent, but the results in regions of the world further along the COVID-19 curve give some insight into what is headed our way:

  • In China, Publicis Groupe’s organic revenue declined 15.3 percent in Q1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • In Europe, the company’s organic revenue declined 9.2 percent
  • In Latin America, organic revenue declined 10.9 percent

Jay Pattisall, principal analyst at Forrester, notes in the Ad Age article by Lindsay Rittenhouse, “If Publicis Groupe’s first quarter 2020 organic revenue decline in China is any indication for what’s to come for Europe and (the) United States, then the second half of 2020 will be an enormous challenge.”

Denver Prohibition Repealed After 2 Hours of Intense Lobbying

Conrad Swanson and Justin Wingerter at The Denver Post have the behind-the-scenes tick-tock on Denver’s ill-fated, two-hour closure of liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries:

“Denver Mayor Michael Hancock reversed himself twice on March 23 when he ordered residents to stay at home to prevent spreading the coronavirus sweeping the country. Had he stuck to his instinct, the mayor could have avoided hours of intense lobbying from residents, small-business owners, industry advocates and politicians, all of whom urged his administration toward the city’s ultimate conclusion: Liquor stores and recreational marijuana shops should be considered essential and remain open during Denver’s stay-at-home order.”

DenverProhibition

COVID-19 Pandemic ‘Ravages’ U.S. News Media

Marc Tracy at The New York Times reports, “The news media business was shaky before the coronavirus started spreading across the country last month. Since then, the economic downturn that put nearly 17 million Americans out of work has led to pay cuts, layoffs and shutdowns at many news outlets… . Finding a sizable audience has not been a problem for publishers. Hunger for news in a time of crisis has sent droves of readers to many publications. But with businesses paused or closed — and no longer willing or able to pay for advertisements — a crucial part of the industry’s support system has cracked.”

The tally: “Roughly 28,000 workers at news companies in the U.S. have been laid off, been furloughed or had their pay reduced. Some publications that rely on ads have shut down.”

Alden Triples Down on Tegna Furlough Strategy

Alden Global Capital, owner of The Denver Post, the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Times-Call, among other properties, has tripled down on the Tegna strategy of requiring reporters and others to take furloughs.

Boulder Daily Camera reporter Katie Langford shared that reporters at her paper and the Times-Call will be required to take three weeks of unpaid time off between now and the end of June.

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Meanwhile, Alden has informed the Guild representing The Denver Post reporters that it wants a similar arrangement there, an issue that is being negotiated at the moment.

Most 9News Reporters, Anchors Face Unpaid Time Off

You can expect to see a little less of your favorite 9News reporters and anchors over the next few months. The station’s parent company, Tegna, announced that most employees will be required to take one week of unpaid time off before the end of June.

Additionally, “news directors and station heads of technology will receive a commensurate 8% temporary pay reduction and general managers and corporate senior vice presidents and above will receive a 20% temporary pay reduction,” according to a statement from Tegna.

As a reminder, Tegna raked in $140 million in political ads alone in the 2018 mid-term election season, a number that will no doubt balloon later this year with the upcoming presidential election. Do not expect Tegna to reimburse employees for the lost wages once that revenue bonanza hits.

Weber Shandwick’s Hugh Williams Transitions to CMO Role

HughWilliamsHugh Williams, the longtime head of the Denver office of global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, has taken the position of CMO at injury prevention and recovery technology company Addaday. Williams built Weber Shandwick’s endurance sports practice and led the strategy, development and execution of award-winning integrated sports marketing campaigns. He will be based in Boulder.

Williams will be joined by Kristin Goett, who was named Addaday’s Communications Director. She brings five years of in-house communications experience across brands including DISH Network and the University of Denver. She also has been a columnist for Triathlete Magazine.

PRWeek Survey Pinpoints COVID-19 Impact

What impact is COVID-19 having on PR campaigns? According to a PRWeek survey:

  • Consumer and brand campaigns are most affected
  • 40% of in-house respondents said their budgets have already been cut (24% also said their budgets have increased)
  • 26% percent of respondents said hiring is frozen and 16% said layoffs have occurred
  • 43% of agency respondents said clients have reduced retainers (although only 24% of in-house respondents said they have reduced them)

Edelman Trust Barometer, COVID-19 Edition

Global public relations firm Edelman has released a COVID-19 edition of its annual Trust Barometer, and among the findings:

  • Ongoing trust issues with government and media has left employers as the most credible source of information for workers
  • Unsurprisingly, scientists and doctors remain the most trusted spokespeople
  • Employees want regular updates from their employers, with 63 percent asking for daily updates
  • Employees expect businesses to act to protect employees and the local community, including by adapting its operations, including remote working, canceling non-essential events and business travel bans

You can read the executive summary and full report here.

COVID-19 Advertising Drought Hammers Westword

Voice Media Group, the parent company of Westword and other alternative weeklies nationwide that rely heavily on restaurant and other advertising, has take draconian steps to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic. From Travis Waldron and Tara Golshan at HuffPost:

“Every employee of Voice Media Group, which includes Denver Westword, … had their pay cut: 25% for employees making less than $80,000, 30% for those making more than that, and 35% for executives.”

In December 2019, Westword followed the Colorado Sun, which itself followed the model of NPR/CPR, in positioning itself as membership-driven public-interest journalism enterprise. If you want to support Westword to help it and its staff survive this pandemic, click here.

And just a quick PSA: 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.

The Biggest Lesson in Joe Biden’s Big Super Tuesday Win?

Earned media beats paid media. Taegan Goddard at Political Wire:

What Joe Biden has executed over the last 72 hours is one of the most extraordinary comebacks ever. … Biden is crushing his rivals in states that he never visited, where he had no field offices, and where he spent next to nothing on television ads. … In contrast, Mike Bloomberg spent more than half a billion dollars and it looks like he won’t meet the 15% delegate threshold in at least a half dozen states tonight. He only won American Samoa. … The key takeaway is that — at least in a presidential campaign — earned media matters much more than television and other ads.

9News’ Jeremy Jojola Files Restraining Order Against Alleged Neo-Nazis

9News’ Jeremy Jojola is a rock-solid journalist who sometimes investigates people and organizations that would rather remain in the shadows. What kind of personal toll can that professional role take on a journalist? Michael Roberts at Westword reports:

Last December, 9News reporter Jeremy Jojola told Westword about ugly threats he’d received over stories about local neo-Nazis. Now, Jojola has filed temporary protection orders against three individuals affiliated with such groups after they showed up at his home in the wake of him reporting about one of them: Samuel Cordova, who pleaded guilty last week to a misdemeanor bias-motivated crime related to June 2019 vandalism at BookBar over an event called “Drag Queen Story Time.”

Jif Marketing Team Wakes up from 7-Year Nap

Jif CMO (2013): I saw this New York Times article about the debate over how to pronounce “gif.” Anything we can do with it?

Jif Advertising Agency (2013):  …

Jif Advertising Agency (2014):   …

Jif Advertising Agency (2015):   …

Jif Advertising Agency (2016):   …

Jif Advertising Agency (2017):   …

Jif Advertising Agency (2018):   …

Jif Advertising Agency (2019):   …

Jif Advertising Agency (2020): This?

 

JifGif

Denver Firefighters Continue to Test Limits of Local News Media’s Decency Standards

For decades, nurses and firefighters have been the spokespeople of choice when you need to convey trust in your product or service. Perceptions are that doctors are greedy and cops are crooked, but nurses and firefighters have a halo of authenticity and trust that few, other professions have.

The Denver Fire Department is testing those perceptions. though. For the second straight year, firefighters are apologizing for crude sexual jokes and the presence of sex toys at their Annual Gala. And this year, the consequence includes Denver Fire Chief Eric Tade resigning. Perhaps most disconcerting, their behavior resulted in Coloradans having to hear Brian Maass utter the phrase “sex toy” three times in his two-minute report.

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Denver7’s Anne Trujillo Celebrates 35 Years in Denver

Michael Roberts at Westword profiles Denver7 anchor Anne Trujillo as she celebrates 35 years at the station:

Because she’s about as modest and unassuming as television personalities get, Denver7’s Anne Trujillo isn’t one to crow about her accomplishments. But she’s quietly become a Mile High City icon owing to one of the longest runs at a single station in the market’s history: 35 years and counting. In addition, she’s served as lead anchor for the outlet’s main weekday newscasts since 1999, a two-decades-plus stint that makes her the present local title holder in that category, too.

Delta CEO Violates a Cardinal Crisis Communications Rule

One of the cardinal rules of crisis communications is to do everything you can not to become the face of a negative issue that affects multiple people or companies. That is a lesson Delta CEO Ed Bastian apparently doesn’t fully appreciate.

By now, almost everyone has seen the viral “Recline-gate” video featuring two American Airlines passengers:

 

The first 24 hours of the debate centered on who was in the wrong – the women who reclined her seat or the man behind her who repeatedly pushed her seat in protest. That debate quickly changed, however, as people began to realize it was the airlines who created this Stanford Prison Experiment-esque scenario. The airlines are the bad guys here.

American Airlines no doubt was preparing to manage the negative publicity, but then they were given a gift. Delta’s CEO appeared on CNBC and was asked who was right. He weighed in and said that he thought reclining was reasonable, but that you should ask permission first. That answer reignited a new debate. Instantly, Delta became the face of the issue. Even though the viral video was of American Airlines passengers, the general public will associate Delta with the lack of knee room on airplanes.

Meanwhile, you can bet American Airlines CEO Doug Parker will be hiding out for a week or two. He’s more than happy to let media and social media replay the clip of Delta’s CEO over and over again. To paraphrase Napoleon, never get in the way of a competitor who is making a mistake.

 

The Morons of Summer

Colorado Rockies GM Jeff Bridich: Did you see the way I refused to answer the media’s questions? I actually stopped to answer their questions, then refused to answer the questions they wanted to ask, and then lobbed both a “no comment” and a “next question” at them. I own the award for worst off-season press conference!

Houston Astros Owner Jim Crane: You’re cute, Jeff. Hold my beer.

 

This Houston Astros video will be used for years as a media training tool for what not to do in a press conference (and as proof that a press conference is not always a good idea). How was it received? ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said it best:

What a %$#& show. You thought that this team was good at baseball – and it is. And good at cheating – and it was. How can it be this bad at public relations? This was insincere. They had months to prepare for this. And then their owner is out there making a fool of himself because he’s combative and arrogant, and he won’t acknowledge that they got a competitive advantage form one of the great cheating scandals of our time.

 

One-and-Done Mel Tucker Angers Dallas Cowboys Legend

Mel Tucker spent most of yesterday telling the world he was staying in Boulder as CU’s head football coach because he had “#UnfinishedBusiness.” It turns out his only unfinished business was his signature on a Michigan State University coaching contract.

No reasonable person begrudges a coach for changing jobs, but doing it after only a year at the school is pretty weak. Weaker still is waiting until February when you have lured an entire class of freshman to sign with the school. Tucker gets to leave clean. Those kids he tricked have to sit out for a year if they want to transfer somewhere else.

One grandparent of a Buff recruit went public with his anger, and unfortunately for Tucker it was former Dallas Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson:

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Vail Mountain Responds to Viral Ski Lift Line Images

Credit to Vail Mountain COO Beth Howard, who apologized today to skiers caught in the enormously long lift lines that were featured in viral photos and videos earlier this week.

Howard also explained the conditions that led to those lengthy lift lines, saying that 38 inches of snow in a 48-hour period created operational challenges that slowed Vail’s ability to carry skiers and dramatically increased the number of skiers looking to take advantage of the powder.

“I know we could have done a much better job anticipating these situations and communicating with our guests,” Howard wrote (in a statement). “I am well aware that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I truly hope my words here help provide context for what happened.

Give Howard (and her PR staff) credit for actually using the phrase, “I apologize” in her statement, and for clearly explaining what went wrong. While it might have been a couple of days late, it was a human response to a situation that is understandable.

Egg Strategy Latest to Flee Boulder for Denver

PR and advertising firm Egg Strategy is the latest firm to make the move from Boulder to Denver to escape exorbitant rents and long commutes for employees who would rather live in (comparatively) affordable Denver. Egg, which also has offices in Chicago and New York, will relocate to the SugarCube Building at 15th & Blake. Said Egg Strategy President Matthew Singer:

“We’re going to where the growth is to make it easy to attract top talent and to put us in closer reach to the consumers at the heart of our human-centered process as well as the clients we serve.”

Put through the PR-to-English translator:

“Boulder is expensive as %$^#. Until we figure out how to AI our way out of having employees, it’s off the table. So, Denver.”

Dunkin’ Donuts CEO in Fetal Position Under Desk after Snoop Dogg Threatens CBS’ Gayle King & Offers Support to Bill Cosby

It’s not quite the same as finding out that the most recognizable face of your company has been arrested for pedophilia, but Dunkin’ Donuts has to be rethinking its marketing strategy after spokesman Snoop Dogg spent the last 48 hours threatening CBS news anchor Gayle King and calling for the release of convicted sex offender Bill Cosby.

In January – one month after Dunkin’ Donuts’ CMO resigned to pursue “the next opportunity” – the coffee chain launched a national ad campaign featuring Snoop Dogg. Now, less than a month later, it has to make a decision about whether to suspend the campaign entirely.

Those of us old enough to have owned The Chronic on CD marveled at the idea that Snoop Dogg had evolved to the point that he would be the star of a mainstream advertising campaign. And it turns out maybe we were right. I think Snoop himself said it best on Gin & Juice: “With so much drama in the L-B-C, It’s kinda hard bein’ Snoop D-O-double-G.”

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2019’s Top PR Disasters

The year is now officially more than halfway over, and we already have some blue-chip contenders for 2019’s biggest PR disasters. Among them:

BOEING – Boeing, by a wide margin, has had the worst 2019 so far. Following plane crashes by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines that killed 346 people, countries around the globe began grounding Boeing’s 737 Max. Then, air travel authorities worldwide officially grounded the plane in March. Boeing has since been working to fix its flight control software, which is thought to have played a role in the crashes. Four months later, the crisis remains unresolved. The most damaging crises are those where you remain stuck without a clear resolution – think Malaysia Airlines when cable TV news covered its missing Flight 370 for months on end. Boeing finds itself in a similar situation since it is unclear when its 737 Max planes may get the green light to fly again. Meanwhile, media are penning sidebar stories about the history of quality complaints at the facility that produces the 737 Max and whether flyers will trust the plane when it does return.


ROBERT KRAFT – The incredibly successful owner of the New England Patriots saw his personal life turn into a bad made-for-TV movie when he was charged “with two counts of soliciting sex as part of a wide-ranging investigation into prostitution and suspected human trafficking.” The colorful nature of the allegations – a billionaire NFL owner visiting a low-rent, strip mall massage parlor – made the story even more intriguing to journalists. He has fought the legal charges in court with some success, but the underlying facts seem clear: he paid money to women who performed sex acts on him. And with that, his stellar, grandfatherly reputation has vanished.

Continue reading the full list on the GroundFloor Media blog  >>

Athletes Hammer Nike for Lack of Maternity Leave Protection

Nike has gone all in on a marketing strategy that positions itself as a socially progressive company. From Colin Kapernick to Serena Williams to LeBron James, Nike has been aligning itself with athletes who are known for social justice issues as much as they are for their performances on the field or court.

So why are high-profile athletes now hammering the company? Sports Illustrated’s Jenna West reports:

“Olympic runner Alysia Montaño opened up to The New York Times nearly two weeks ago to shed light on the lack of maternity protection given to female athletes in sponsorship contracts. In a video for the Times, Montaño called out Nike for preaching a message of chasing dreams—only until an athlete wants to include motherhood in her journey.

 

 

American & Southwest Still Flying Boeing Jet Grounded in 15+ Countries

More than 15 countries have now grounded Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft due to its auto-crash feature. The New York Times reports:

“Britain, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Oman banned all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes from their airspaces on Tuesday, two days after 157 people were killed on such a plane during a flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya. At least 27 airlines have now grounded the Max 8, which has crashed twice in five months. Boeing stands by the airworthiness of the jet, but it said it planned to issue a software update and was working on changes to its flight controls and training guidelines.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. is not among the countries grounding the jet, and American Airlines and Southwest continue to carry passengers on it.

Nike Sheds $1.1B in Value After Duke Debacle

New York Times: “When the left sneaker of college basketball’s biggest star split open on national television Wednesday night 30 seconds into the biggest game of the season, what spilled out was not only his foot but also questions about the future of a marquee player and about the huge influence shoe companies hold over big-time college basketball.”

“The episode occurred in a game between the archrivals Duke and North Carolina. Zion Williamson, a Duke freshman, pivoted with the ball above the foul line, and the sheer force of his 285-pound frame and acrobatic versatility appeared to cut the shoe almost in two, as though severed by a sharp knife.”

“Former President Barack Obama, sitting on the sidelines at the Duke arena, was seen on video pointing at Williamson and appearing to say, ‘His shoe broke.’ “

Zion Williamson

City Council Tries to Replace DPS as Villain While Denver Teachers Strike

They say timing is everything, a truism that Denver City Council members apparently are not aware of.  While Denver teachers are on strike fighting for what they say is a living wage, council members “voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward a proposal that would raise their own and other elected leaders’ salaries by the maximum amount allowed by law.”

Denver Post: “Under city law, the salaries for elected officials are up for review every four years. Right now, Denver City Council members make about $92,000; the council president makes $103,000; the auditor and clerk make $148,000; and the mayor makes $171,000.” …

“For comparison, Aurora voters narrowly approved a measure to raise council members’ pay to about $19,000, while their mayor makes $80,000. Denver council members also significantly out-earn state legislators, who just got a raise to about $40,000 a year. The governor makes $123,000.”

Instacart Offers Instapology

Tech Crunch: “On the heels of a recently filed class-action lawsuit over wages and tips, as well as drivers and shoppers speaking out about Instacart’s alleged practices of subsidizing wages with tips, Instacart is taking steps to ensure tips are counted separately from what Instacart pays shoppers.”

“In a blog post today, Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta said all shoppers will now have a guaranteed higher base compensation, paid by Instacart. Depending on the region, Instacart says it will pay shoppers between $7 to $10 at a minimum for full-service orders (shopping, picking and delivering) and $5 at a minimum for delivery-only tasks. The company will also stop including tips in its base pay for shoppers.”

Great Moments in Spokesmanship

One of the cardinal rules of crisis communication is “Don’t Drag Your Partners Into Your Problem.” It appears that is a rule that representatives of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown haven’t quite figured out yet.

The Hollywood (Fla.) Police Department confirmed to ESPN that Brown is the subject of an investigation relating to a domestic dispute that allegedly occurred last month. When Brown’s attorney was asked about the investigation, he responded, “We have no comment on the situation. We are focusing our attention on a new shoe (Antonio) just released with Nike.”

I put the over/under on Nike dropping Brown as a representative at two days.

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A Tough Week for Metro Denver School Districts

cpr21742A work strike is at its heart a public relations battle. Economic leverage and political influence are only as strong as the strikers’ ability to win the hearts and minds of the public.

That is why Denver Public Schools’ misstep last night – a letter sent to teachers threatening to report visa-holding teachers to immigration authorities – hurts so much. They lost a bit of their moral high ground at a pivotal negotiating moment, and no doubt increased solidarity among teachers. DPS spokeswoman Anna Alejo quickly apologized for the letter, calling it an “incorrect communication” and an “error.”

Denver Public Schools wasn’t alone this week with its misstep. Douglas County Schools is continuing to address the fallout from one of its middle school teachers who incorrectly identified the Covington Catholic student at the center of the Lincoln Memorial viral video and then doubled down by alleging he was a member of “#HitlerYouth.” (Side note: I imagine there is a long line of defamation attorneys lined up at that student’s house.)

DougCo quickly suspended the teacher, but the school board was not in the mood to dwell on the issue. As Erin Powell at 9News reported last night, the board selectively enforced its civility rules and had a sheriff’s deputy remove a speaker from the room for merely citing the teacher’s name. If the goal was to minimize media coverage, that failed spectacularly.

 

RunSwitch PR Representing Covington Catholic student

Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann’s family has retained Louisville, Ky.-based RunSwitch PR to help guide it through the media firestorm that ensued over the weekend. Grace Schneider of the Louisville Courier Journal reports:

Asked about its role, RunSwitch released a statement saying that the firm “has been retained by the Sandmann family to offer professional counsel with what has become a national media story. We are working with the family to ensure an accurate recounting of events which occurred this past weekend.”

RunSwitch partners Steve Bryant and Gary Gerdemann said that Sandmann family asked people they knew over the weekend about getting help with handling the media.

“They reached out to our firm, and we responded,” said Bryant, adding that the business specializes in crisis management “all over the country.”

Scott Jennings, a conservative political commentator and a columnist for the Courier Journal, is the third partner in RunSwitch. 

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Why McDonald’s Doesn’t Fight Social Media Wars

Diana Bradley at PRWeek reports:

It seems Wendy’s can’t stop trolling McDonald’s on social. Burger King, too, attempted to make the Golden Arches the butt of the joke with its #WhopperDetour stunt last month. Year after year, McDonald’s has been a target for its sassy rivals – an easy one, too, mainly because the brand never defends itself or fights back. …

The principle McDonald’s has adopted is that no fighter in the history of boxing has ever won simply by blocking punches.

“You have to go on the offense,” said Jano Cabrera, SVP, U.S. comms, global media and PR at McDonald’s. “There has to be something you stand for that is appealing. What is the case, proactively, you are making?”

“The nature of leadership brands is you get to a point where you understand real ROI is being mindful of and responsive to competition,” he said. “But you don’t stay a leadership brand by simply responding to competition. You do it by continuing to innovate and staying customer-focused.”

 

RTD Names Tonilas as Head of Communications

Mass Transit: “Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chief Communications Officer Pauletta Tonilas will leave the L.A. area transportation agency to return to the Regional Transportation District (RTD) in Denver to serve as assistant general manager, communications,” replacing long-time AGM Scott Reed who retired last fall.

“Tonilas held the positions of FasTracks public information manager and senior manager, Public Relations & Public Information at RTD before joining L.A. Metro in August 2015.”

Trolls Run 9News’ Gary Shapiro off Twitter

“Less than a month after 9News’s Gary Shapiro caused a tweetstorm by bluntly refuting Twitter charges of fake news, the veteran morning anchor has announced that he will stop posting as he has been out of frustration over what he characterizes as the commandeering of his account,” Michael Roberts at Westwood reports.

“My feed has been taken over by tons and tons of people who are from out of state and probably don’t even know who I am,” Shapiro says. “So except for tweeting about breaking news and weather, I’m going to shut it down.”

Meanwhile, fellow 9News anchor Kyle Clark has doubled down on his approach to confront and mix it up with trolls, which has put him in an online fight with the QAnon, the shadowy, far-right conspiracy group.

Hypocrisy Alert, NFL Edition

Three years after forcing NFL players, including then-Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, to withdraw from a fantasy football convention in Las Vegas because of its connections to gambling, the NFL announced that Caesars Entertainment is the first-ever “Official Casino Sponsor of the NFL.”

“We couldn’t be more excited to work with one of the world’s largest gaming and entertainment companies. Combining the NFL with Caesars’ expertise in world-class entertainment will provide our fans unique experiences both here in the United States and abroad.”
–– Renie Anderson, SVP of NFL partnerships, sponsorship & consumer products

PR Week Releases Annual ‘Best (Coastal) Places to Work’

PR Week has named its 2019 Best Places to Work, and the news isn’t particularly good for agencies not located on an ocean. Denver agencies like GroundFloor Media, Linhart PR, Ink Communications, Turner PR, Sterling-Rice Group, Room 214 and others may be recognized on other lists, no firms located outside California, Florida, New York and Washington, D.C. were recognized on PR Week’s list.

The locations of the winners:

Small Agencies

  • Santa Monica, Calif.
  • Miami
  • Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • Washington, D.C.

Mid-size Agencies

  • New York City
  • New York City
  • New York City
  • New York City

Large Agencies

  • San Francisco
  • Washington, D.C.
  • San Francisco

Pac-12 Taps FleishmanHillard for PR Support

It has been a tough year for the Pac-12 Conference. Despite having traditionally strong teams like UCLA, USC, Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State and (ahem) Colorado, the conference continues to be overlooked on the national stage. Add to that a series of self-inflicted wounds – an exorbitantly paid commissioner, exorbitant HQ office space and a less-than-exorbitant television deal – and you can see why it has been a troubling year for the conference’s schools.

To better tell its story and repair the damage to its brand, the Pac-12 has engaged mega-agency FleishmanHillard. John Canzano at The Oregonian reports:

“Conference commissioner Larry Scott recently pitched his bosses a plan that would sell a 10-percent equity stake in the conference’s media rights to private investors for $500 million. The hiring of FleishmanHillard is designed to help position the conference for that possible offering.”

“Still, when your motto is ‘Conference of Champions,’ being left out of the championship tournaments in college football and failing to matter in men’s basketball is far more impactful to your brand than talking points.”

The Biggest PR Disasters of 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, I take time to reflect on some of the higher-profile PR disasters, debacles and mistakes:

RoseanneRoseanne Barr – There has always been a fine line between creative genius and mental illness, and it can be argued that Roseanne wobbled along that line when she melted down on Twitter in May. Riding high from the return of her groundbreaking television show, “Roseanne,” the mercurial star made outrageously racist comments about a former advisor to President Barack Obama. ABC immediately canceled her show, then revived it as a separate show, “The Conners,” that does not include her.

One company did emerge from the Roseanne debacle looking good, however: Sanofi, the makers of the sleep drug Ambien. When Roseanne said her tweets were a byproduct of using the drug, Sanofi responded by saying, in part, that “racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”



AppleApple
– The computer giant started 2018 with the corporate equivalent of a big New Year’s Day hangover when it was disclosed that the company was throttling iPhone performance to maximize battery life. While that trade-off is one that many might willingly choose, the fact that they didn’t let consumers make their own decisions was at the heart of the problem. Apple apologized and quickly offered an inexpensive battery replacement program for older phones, but the company still got a tidal wave of “planned obsolescence” stories that questioned its integrity.

Continue reading on the GroundFloor Media blog

ESPN Report Will Make You Skip Denver Concession Lines

If you are headed to the big game in Denver – and it really doesn’t matter which one – you may want to skip the concession line. ESPN studied recent health inspection reports from 107 pro-sports stadiums and arenas and found that Mile High Stadium, Pepsi Center and Coors Field all rank in the bottom 10.

The article is especially tough on the Colorado Rockies. Let’s just say that Dinger isn’t the only rodent wandering Coors Field. The lead paragraph in ESPN’s report:

“Most Cracker Jack boxes come with a surprise inside. At Coors Field in Denver, the molasses-flavored popcorn and peanut snacks came with a live mouse. A health department inspector found the mouse in a commercial-size bag of Cracker Jacks at Coors Field in September 2016, along with five live cockroaches in a trap in a storage room. Two weeks earlier, inspectors had found copious amounts of mouse droppings on a kitchen floor, in food-prep trays, inside a bin of rice and amid bags of cookies that had been chewed. Dead mice were found, and another live one had been found.”

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104 West Named Finalist for PRWeek Award

PRWeek has named Denver’s 104 West as a finalist for its Outstanding Boutique Agency award. From CEO Patrick Ward:

When we submitted our entry, we were very honest and open about some critical decisions we had made which impacted our business negatively at first, but then very positively. For those who follow our shop, we have focused very assiduously on a communications strategy that we believe fits today’s PR world and offers our clients the best way to begin and maintain conversations with their markets. We also believe that that is the essence of a boutique agency. It’s about doing something specific and doing it really well. It’s not about just being a smaller version of a big, full-service agency. And we can now presume, at some level, the judges agreed.

104 West was also named a finalist in the Best in B2B category for one of its campaigns for longtime client Magisto. Winners of both awards will be announced in March.

Linhart PR Moving to RiNo

Linhart PR has announced it will relocate to the Industry RINO Station building at 38th and Walnut. The firm currently is housed in the historic Baur’s Building in the downtown Denver Theater District.

“Linhart PR decided to move to the new location to offer a more vibrant and collaborative space for its 16 team members. RiNo is becoming a hub for creative businesses, including communications firms, studios, art galleries, designers and photographers. The new Denver World Trade Center campus also will be directly across the street from Linhart PR’s office.”

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Thomas’ Departure from 9News Leaves Large Void

TaRhonda Thomas’ announcement that she is leaving 9News to move to Philadelphia is a significant blow to Denver on several levels. In addition to being one of the most talented and respected journalists in town, she also is the highest-profile African-American in local TV news. Michael Roberts at Westword reports:

Her departure will leave the Mile High City with no African-American anchors at present and just three black reporters at four stations, all of whom currently have significantly smaller on-air roles than she did. … (T)he remaining three are 9News’s Eddie Randle, a reporter hired in January 2017; CBS4’s Toni Mason, a reporter who came aboard last August; and Fox31/KWGN’s Shaul Turner, a onetime anchor now working in the outlet’s Problem Solvers unit. And in Thomas’s view, that’s a shame.

“We’re a large city,” she points out, “and Denver is one of the top twenty markets in the country. The African-American population isn’t that big here, but no matter how small a population it might be, seeing someone who looks like you on TV makes you feel like you can be the way they are. I remember meeting a little girl at a gala, and her mom said, ‘She’s so excited to meet you. Every time she sees you on TV, she stops and looks. Now she wants to be on TV, and she didn’t start talking about it until she saw you do it.’ “

Netflix Axes CCO After Racial Slur

Netflix fired Chief Communications Officer Jonathan Friedland after he used the N-word in an office meeting. Emmy Stefansky at Vanity Fair reports:

(Netflix CEO Reed) Hastings explained that Friedland had first used the word in a meeting about sensitive words a few months ago, and that he had apologized to staffers who had approached him after the meeting. Just a few days after that, Friedland had used the word again while speaking to a group of black employees who were trying to speak to him about the first incident. Hastings said in his memo that he only recently learned about the second usage, and decided to terminate Friedland’s employment.

Netflix

Is There a Crisis Client You Wouldn’t Take?

Meet the $1,100-an-hour crisis communications expert who believes that – like legal counsel – everyone has a right to public relations representation. That morally agnostic approach has landed him a bevy of bold-name clients. From Abby Aguirre at The New York Times:

“(Michael Sitrick) represented Kelsey Grammer when the star was accused of having sex with his underage babysitter. He helped Christian Slater when the actor was arrested on charges of assaulting his girlfriend. … Mr. Sitrick was retained by Halle Berry when she was in a hit-and-run, Naomi Campbell when she was accused of assaulting her housekeeper, and Rush Limbaugh when he was arrested on prescription drug charges.”

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Chris Arnold to Leave Chipotle

Chris Arnold joined Chipotle 15 years ago this month when the company was privately held and had fewer than 150 restaurants. In the intervening years, Chris helped position the company into a $12 billion publicly traded corporation that has more than 2,400 locations. Chris played offense with Chipotle’s “Food With Integrity” campaign, played defense with E.coli crisis communications challenges, and helped the company essentially redefine the quick-service restaurant (QSR) marketplace.

Chris has let friends know this week that he has made the decision to leave Chipotle on May 28, which is 15 years to the day he joined the company. Here’s wishing Chris the best of luck on whatever comes next.

MAPR Opens Fort Collins Office

Boulder-based MAPRagency (MAPR) has added a Fort Collins office to accommodate the firm’s rapid growth and better serve clients in Northern Colorado. The company also has an office in Denver.

MAPR has been working with several companies in the region, as well as participating in events like Fort Collins Startup Week, PitchNoCo and New Tech Fort Collins meetups since 2017. The agency’s current roster of clients in Northern Colorado includes:

    • LaunchNo.CO – a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing and supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses in Northern Colorado.
    • everHuman – a company that empowers technology users and work teams to “delight in their digital lives” through expert advice, consulting, workshops, tutorials, and downloadable content.
    • ItyDity – the premier music production network and marketplace, connecting artists with producers and session musicians through one-of-a-kind song production contests.
    • Jalapeño Inventive – a company that leverages cryptocurrency in mobile gaming to benefit both the developer and the end user by streamlining in-game revenue and purchase opportunities.
    • Vortic Watch Company – a small batch, custom watch manufacturing and vintage restoration company.

Linhart Promotes Campbell, Nash

Linhart PR has promoted Ashley Campbell to senior account director and Kelly Nash to senior account executive.

Campbell joined Linhart PR in 2006 as an intern and previously served as an account director. She specializes in leading communications strategies and programs for clients in the energy and utilities, infrastructure, and manufacturing industries. Nash was previously an account executive, and she has been with Linhart PR for about four years, also starting in the firm’s internship program. Nash manages communications programs and media relations outreach for clients in the energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, healthcare and professional services industries.

 

Women Sweep PRSA Colorado 2018 Special Awards

Industry organizations tell us that women account for 61 percent of the jobs in public relations, and that disparity is even more pronounced in groups like the national PRSA organization, where about 69 percent of the membership is female.

PRSA Colorado experiences a similar effect, and nowhere is that more obvious than in its Special Awards. Women swept this year’s awards, and they now account for more than 85 percent of the Special Awards over the past five years.  Meanwhile, about 80 percent of the PRSA Colorado board members listed on the organization’s website are women.

Obviously, anyone can join PRSA Colorado, enter an election for a board seat and nominate men for awards. That those things aren’t happening at a rate that one might expect is curious. As a former PRSA Colorado board member, I can’t explain it other to say that the activities and benefits provided naturally skew toward what may be more interesting to the female-dominated membership. Breaking that cycle may take a conscious effort that is disruptive in the short-term.

Anyway, this year’s highly deserving Special Award winners are:

Swede Johnson Lifetime Achievement
Lisa Cutter, Cutter Communications*

Lisa Cutter founded Cutter Communications in 1998. A 25-year PR veteran, she is well respected for her media, partnership and crisis expertise. Her programs have garnered local and national awards, including several Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Colorado Gold and Silver Picks, the organization’s small practice of the year award, and its highest honor – the Grand Gold Pick for a comprehensive PR campaign.

Public Relations Person of the Year
Jessica Berry, University of Colorado Hospital

Jessica Berry is a spokesperson for UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. She places well over 100 positive local and national stories a year for UCHealth, in addition to responding to the frequent requests for experts and handling crisis communications.

Business Person of the Year
Cindy Mackin, City of Loveland

Cindy has been in marketing and destination development for over 22 years, with a start in marketing of destination events at outlet malls all over Colorado. Creating excitement in everything she did led to her earning many SASI awards within the industry.

Joe Fuentes Rookie of the Year
Kayla Roofe, RE/MAX

She may be small, but she is mighty. With national and local communications and marketing experience, Kayla Roofe has planned and executed winning campaigns for some of Colorado’s heavy-hitters, including JKD & Company, Fyn Public Relations and RE/MAX World Headquarters.

Chapter Service
Megan Ryan, CoBiz Financial

Building communities and connecting people are passions for Megan. Megan has always been a passionate community volunteer from mentoring youth through Big Brothers Big Sisters to granting wishes for sick children through Make A Wish Foundation to organizing employee volunteer projects. Megan chairs PRSA Colorado’s Membership Recruitment Committee and helps run the organization’s Employee Communications Group.

Public Relations Team of the Year
March on Colorado

On January 21, 2017, the Women’s March on Colorado brought more than 150,000 people together in the streets of downtown Denver to march in solidarity for social justice, human rights and equality for women and all marginalized people across the U.S. The inaugural Women’s March on Colorado was a spontaneous, grassroots effort motivated by the national Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and sister marches around the country. As MOC leaders came together to decide what the future of the group would look like, they knew that public relations would still need to be a key component of the movement going forward. Lisa Cutter, owner of Cutter Communications in Denver, led public relations for the 2017 March and spearheaded the effort to bring a larger PR team together to keep the momentum going. She assembled a team of local PR professionals who expressed interest in volunteering their time to the organization and its mission. Over the next few months that team took shape to include three other PR professionals, Cara Crifasi, Liz Miller and Stacey Sepp.

*Any time you land on the same list as Lisa Cutter, it’s a good day.

Linhart Adds Two

Linhart PR has added Hannah Morris as an account executive and Carly Connor as an account associate. Morris will focus on media relations, communications counsel, content development and community relations for clients in a variety of industries, including energy and utilities. She previously was with Barnhart and Project Angel Heart, and she is a University of Denver graduate. Connor previously was an intern with Linhart and will provide media relations, digital media and other communications support for clients such as Chipotle and Meyer Natural Foods. She is a graduate of St. Cloud State University.

Starbucks Shows it Takes Discrimination Seriously

Starbucks logoBy now, you have no doubt seen the news that two African-American men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks Thursday. The men were waiting for a friend when they were asked to leave because they hadn’t yet purchased anything, a request that appears to run counter to the company’s policy.

The incident sparked outrage and protest amid accusations that race was at the heart of the incident – had the two men been white, for example, it is almost certain the police would not have been called.

Give Starbucks’ senior management and crisis communications teams credit for neutralizing a delicate situation. The company recognized immediately that it had a highly charged and potentially combustible issue on its hands, and its reaction has been impressive. Among its responses:

  • Starbucks immediately acknowledged the issue on social media and promised to look into the issue.
  • Once Starbucks quickly determined it was in the wrong, CEO Kevin Johnson personally apologized to the men. Johnson also apologized publicly in written and video statements that were posted to the company’s social media platforms.
  • Johnson traveled to Philadelphia and spent several days listening face-to-face to members of the community.
  • Starbucks reassigned the store employee who called the police.
  • The company announced that it will close all 8,000 of its U.S. stores on May 29 to conduct racial-bias education training for nearly 175,000 employees. Additionally, Starbucks shared that the curriculum for that training will be created in collaboration with some of the leading experts on addressing racial bias.

Starbucks followed the PR crisis playbook closely, and it has been incredibly effective at neutralizing this crisis. It didn’t just react, it leaned toward overreacting. Protesters in Philadelphia (and nationally) have been trying to leverage this situation into something bigger, but Starbucks has been a step ahead of them from the beginning.

Additionally, Starbucks has signaled to its socially conscious customer base that it shares their inherent values and is more than willing to be a leader in the fight for principles such as racial equality and respect for all individuals.

Denver PRSA Conference Adds ‘Third Rail’ Session

This year’s PRSA Western District Conference will dedicate a session to the third-rail of public discourse: seemingly untouchable topics such as gun control, immigration, and climate change.

PRSA Colorado is providing a rare opportunity to test and hone skills for discussing sensitive topics at the PRSA Western District Conference coming up April 11-13. Attendees will be invited to select a topic from a list taken from today’s headlines and have a respectful conversation about it with someone who may have a different point of view.

Those who want to participate (it’s strictly voluntary), will be invited to choose one or more of these topics:

  • Gun policy
  • Immigration
  • Health care
  • Climate change
  • Trade tariffs
  • Role of the press – advocates or objective observers?

Then they’ll be invited to think of up to three points to describe their opinions on the topic. Opinions might be based on:

  • Current events
  • News analysis
  • Personal experience
  • Emotional reaction
  • Family history or cultural background
  • Reading/research
  • Opinions of others you respect
  • What you see on social media
  • Discussions with friends

We’ll explain more about the mechanics when attendees sign in, but they can prepare now by watching this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_better_conversation

PR Matters. And conversation matters. This activity is one way PRSA Colorado is helping our profession raise the level of discourse.

 

 

Scream Agency Adds Clients, Supports Local Nonprofits

Denver’s Scream Agency has added a couple of new clients:

  • Reach Out and Read Colorado, an organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together
  • Gold Crown Foundation, a Colorado nonprofit that offers youth sports and education programs to nearly 20,000 boys and girls annually throughout Colorado and the surrounding states

The Agency has also been busy giving back to the community through their Scream Serves Program, participating in the Scream Scram 5K benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver this fall and donating hours to Easterseals Colorado, Destination Imagination, Best for Colorado, Habitat for Humanity and Protect Our Winters.