Monday, August 25, 2014

Bye-Bye Benjamins?


Ben Franklin has graced our $100 bill since the Federal Reserve issued the first one in 1914. Now, 100 years later, could Ben go bye-bye? Not likely, although the bills are getting a bad rap thanks to their prevalent use among criminals.

Nearly 80 percent of the $1.3 trillion of currency in circulation in the United States takes the form of $100 bills. Law enforcement confirms that criminals prefer $100 bills, because they make it easier for the criminals to carry around more money in less space.

The $100 bill has done nothing wrong. Throughout the years, the makers of the bill have gone out of their way to protect the authenticity of the bill. The Treasury has introduced many anti-counterfeit measures to try to thwart criminals. Through no fault of the bill or the bill maker, Ben’s image is taking a beating. According to Ronn Torossian, this can happen to any brand.

Corporations need good Public Relations plans to deal with negative publicity that can affect them due to the actions of others. One of the most well-known cases, and best examples of crisis management, is the Tylenol scare in 1982. Seven people died as a result of cyanide poisoning after someone tampered with bottles that were already on the shelves.

Although Johnson & Johnson had nothing to do with the tampering of their product, they immediately took ownership. At great expense, they removed the product from the shelves, suspended advertising and redesigned packaging.

By instituting anti-counterfeit measures, such as 3-D security ribbons, color shifting images, watermarks, and color, the Treasury has redesigned the “package” for the $100 bill. Even though the US government has gone to great lengths to improve security features, in August 2014 the Secret Service broke up a counterfeit operation. The ring had existed for 15 years and managed to thwart many of the security measures.

With the criminal element behind the $100 bill’s negative connotation, some have even called for elimination of it altogether. Ken Rogoff, a Harvard professor and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, wrote a paper that advocated for removing the bill from circulation.


Ronn Torossian points out that if criminals can tarnish the image of an American icon simply because it is their bill of choice, then company brands need to prepare for their own strategy for dealing with negative PR through no fault of their own.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pfizer Struggles getting past Major Settlement

What happens when you get slammed with a $35 million settlement, and you have exhausted all your options? Well 5W PR CEO, Ronn Torossian says, you gotta pay the piper. But cutting that big check is only the first step in repairing your public relations standing in the marketplace.

Torossian says Pfizer’s recent settlement agreement provides a solid example of this crisis PR process in play.

According to the settlement, Pfizer will pay $35 million in the wake of allegations by 42 states. Essentially Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Pfizer, illegally marketed its organ transplant drug. This is NOT a headline you want to see keep popping up in print and online, so Pfizer was right to settle quickly and cleanly. They need to put this behind them as quickly as possible, let the public know they have addressed the issue, and move on before this incident stretches into another news cycle.

One of the main reasons Pfizer needs to take steps to limit the number of news stories about this issue is that it can – and will – be tied to a previous issue from 2013. In that case, the company agreed to pay more than $490 million in penalties to the Department of Justice in order to resolve similar allegations.

The PR issue here, Torossian says, is one of exponential crisisPR. Every news researcher reporting on the current settlement will find out about the previous settlement and include it in the story. Not only does it provide more context, it establishes an implied pattern, which exponentially increases the ominous impact and negative power of the story.

Consider this: If you report that a subsidiary of any company made a mistake that cost its brand $35 million you would think, “Man, that’s bad…” but if you IMMEDIATELY hear that the same (not the “same,” but it would be presented that way) company also had to pay out nearly $500 million, reasonable mistakes might take on some sinister motives. This is not the sort of thing you want people associating with your brand.

A single mark is easy to move past, but a series of crisis PR situations becomes a much more difficult nut to crack. It’s possible to recover, but you have to start immediately and work very hard in the beginning to reverse the flow of public opinion. It will be compelling and instructive to see how Pfizer does exactly that in the coming months.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Crumbs Bakery Closing: 5 Considerations for Cupcake Industry Firms

Established in 2003, Crumbs Bakery was originally launched in New York City and quickly spread throughout the country. While it was initially successful and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, it crumbled this year as demand for the company's products waned. For competing firms in the cupcake industry, this event presents many opportunities for growth and to learn mistakes that can result in business failure. For competing businesses to survive in this environment, it is time for bakery and cupcake businesses to get serious about their brands. Below is an explanation of what businesses can learn from the failure of one of the industry's most important firms.

Keep a Customer Focus

One of the main reasons why Crumbs failed is because it lost its customer focus. While initially loved for its offerings, the company quickly changed its focus to growth and other business goals. While these are important, it is even more important to keep in mind the actual needs that are being served through an offering. By adding value to customers through exceptional relationships and evolving product offerings, bakery businesses can expect to maintain a competitive advantage and capture some of the customers lost by Crumbs.

Communicate with Stakeholders

When running a business, communication with stakeholders throughout the enterprise is key. Reports from insiders say that Crumbs informed employees of the company's shutdown on the same day that it ceased operations. This left hundreds without a job, angry customers, and a permanent stain on the records of the company's founders. By encouraging a workforce, businesses can expect to generate buzz about their products through word of mouth. The lesson of effective communication should be learned by every industry firm.

Pick the Right Locations

Although it may seem prestigious to locate a business in an expensive downtown retail location, there must be enough demand in the area. Clearly, there was not enough demand for the company's products since sales were insufficient to keep the company afloat. Crumbs Bakery originally prospered at its locations, but after the initial novelty of the idea waned the sales figures quickly dropped off. Had enough research been done beforehand, the company might have been in business to this day.

Food Public Relations

Keeping customers informed about a company's offerings within a given community and nationally is important for building a brand. Crumbs Bakery did not adequately engage in food public relations to tell its customers what it had to offer. If the company had done this right, news would have spread about how good the company's offerings are and more customers would have come to the store. Industry firms that routinely inform their customer base through public relations can expect to receive more sales in the future.

Growth Carries Risk

While the prospect of growth can be exciting, it often should be avoided to not get over-extended. Crumbs Bakery completely failed to recognize this. Had the company grown at a more manageable rate, it perhaps could have been in business today. Industry firms should therefore keep in mind that growth should be manageable and attainable in order to be sustainable.

Friday, June 27, 2014

How to turn Right Choices into Powerful PR

public relations
When you are young and successful, people scrutinize your decisions, looking for ways in which they can use the loaded term says Ronn Torossian 5WPR CEO, “youthful mistake.” But, if you are careful, calculated, and wise in your investments, you can deprive the naysayers and critics of this “pleasure.”Sure, you will make mistakes, some big ones probably, but you can minimize both the potential and the fallout from these mistakes by planning for these eventualities, and more importantly, be ably discerning the offers in front of you.

See, when you are successful, everyone will want a piece. They will try to latch on, create a story around you, and, if they can get you caught up in your own press, push you toward a minor error that can be spun into a major mistake. It may sound cynical, but there is a large segment of society that loves to watch successful people crash and burn. Don’t give them that satisfaction.

Take the example of 23-year-old millionaire, Mike Zhang. The online entrepreneur found success, and almost immediately, he was approached by umpteen phone calls from people who wanted to “help him” with his money.

Sounds awesome, right? Yeah, not so much. Zhang explained it this way, “When I have a rainy day, I don’t want to talk to an opportunist.” Zhang wanted relationships, not ambulance chasers who were primarily interested in using him for their benefit. Very smart business.

Zhang passed on the easy - and very attractive – offers from Big Names and went with advisers he believed to be interested in actually helping him, not just themselves. This smart business approach says more about Zhang than his previous business success. He is cautious and wise, capable of making the right decisions in the face of dynamic temptation. This is exactly the sort of mindset and track record that other successful businessprofessionals look for in colleagues and investment partners.


How are you using solid decisions and positive personal PR to establish a strong track record of trustworthiness, wisdom, and the right mindset for success?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hey Intern, you want a Salary Job?

public relations internship
Internships are all about making connections, and getting experience. Everyone knows that. But, “everyone” is misguided. While internships are definitely opportunities for connectivity and learning, applicants make a fatal mistake when they assume “their” internships are set up for them.

The reality, is almost the polar opposite. Internships are as much or more about helping the business find qualified candidates than they are about helping the applicant in his or her business career. Unfortunately, many otherwise qualified candidates do not realize this. Even when you hear advice like “make a good impression,” that often does not sink in fully. Applicants focus on doing what THEY think is the right thing. They make decisions based on their experience and their understanding, rather than seeking new information and a better understanding of what the business expects.

They may also be focused on “earning” a good referral instead of increasing their skills and making themselves better, more employable, and more valuable. You don’t hire people unless you need something done. You can LOVE the people, but, primarily, you expect them to get that job DONE.


If you want to turn that internship into a full time gig, focus on making yourself as necessary as possible to the growth and success of that business. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Investigators looking into Golden Gloves spending


The Golden Gloves has been a lifesaver for countless Chicago-area youth for generations and is a terrific example of how a brand can give you the full blown profile. The program gives kids something positive to do with their time, teaches discipline, offers an outlet for aggression, and hosts an annual boxing tournament.

This tournament, which has for so long been viewed as positive is now under fire from investigators. The Illinois Attorney General’s office is investigating circumstances where it has been alleged that charitable funds were used for personal use by a former Chicago Golden Gloves treasurer.

Any misuse of funds is a continual concern for any legitimate charity organization. But, the very public allegations of specific misuse of funds is a nightmare. The organization made the first move by both releasing the information, along with the news that the former treasurer, Ted Gimza, is already being punished. People hate to think that their donations are being misused, but they love to know that a “bad guy” is getting his just desserts.

Gimza admits to taking the money, but he says he has already paid it back. This is another plus in the PR column for Golden Gloves, though less so for Gimza. Generally, the thing people want even more than the bad guy getting punished, is to know that the situation has been handled, and things are moving on better than before.

One suggestion is that the Golden Gloves should offer a press release stating that its security protocols have been updated to discourage this sort of thing from happening again. This shows both initiative and intent to make things better for both the charity and its donors. That sort of action reflects well on the organization, and makes wary donors more comfortable with giving again.

Another suggestion is that Golden Gloves clean up its other messes. One drawback of letting news like this out is that any other potential negative information could also get released. As it turns out, during 2010, the IRS reportedly revoked the Golden Gloves’ federal tax exempt status because the group was “not in compliance,” according to the Chicago Tribune.


The Tribune also reported that the organization will be out of compliance until they file a federal tax return, which could happen any day now. But, when the story broke, had yet to be handled.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Clippers React to Release of Sterling Tapes

As the audio tapes of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling continue to make waves throughout the NBA, the team and its fans have handled the situation with nothing but class and dignity - due to this Crisis PR situation. Prior to the start of Game 4 of the team's playoff series with the Golden State Warriors, every Clippers player wore their warm-up shirts inside out, hiding the Clippers logo in a sign of silent yet effective protest. The players and coach Doc Rivers have refused to make public comments on the situation, instead choosing to focus on the task of beating the Warriors. Meanwhile, the team's website has undergone a dramatic change, with the home page simply displaying a dark background with the Clippers logo and the statement "We Are One" in large white letters above the logo. For those who are wanting to view it for themselves, it can be found at http://www.nba.com/clippers/.

Meanwhile, the fans have also handled the situation very well, showing great restrain and class. Many fans have staged orderly protests outside the arenas prior to games, while others have come to games with homemade signs and wearing shirts expressing their opinions on the matter. Most of all, fans of not only the Clippers, but the Warriors as well have demonstrated tremendous support for the players. Prior to games four and five of the playoff series, standing ovations were given to the Clippers players and coaches, letting them know they have the full support of everyone. As for the corporate world, many sponsors have chosen to pull their corporate sponsorship of Sterling and his business interests. Companies such as State Farm, Mercedes-Benz, Red Bull, Yokohama, Kia Motors and many others are withdrawing their support of the organization and its embattled owner.

As the situation continues to play out over the next several weeks and months, players and fans alike will continue to support one another through the crisis. While it's often said success is the best revenge, there are many fans throughout the NBA who are hoping this team will be holding the championship trophy above their heads, showing their owner exactly what they are capable of achieving without him.

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