Monday, December 15, 2014
Monday, December 08, 2014
Social media can lead to PR disasters. That’s not exactly breaking news. But until now it’s been tough to measure just how easy it is to allow brain flatulence on the web to wreck your day. Ronn Torossian has thestory of a guy who Should Have Known Better more than anyone.
Twitter CFO Anthony No to obviously tweets a good little bit. But what he sent out publicly recently was definitely not meant for public consumption. His missive about a potential business acquisition got the Twitterverse all churned up. Here’s what the message said: “I still think we should buy them. He is on your schedule for Dec 15 or 16 – we will need to sell him. I have a plan.”
Oops. Talk about tipping your hand. While the deal may not have exactly been a secret to either party directly involved, knowledge is power in business. And having PRIOR knowledge works in favor of everyone BUT the person who needs to keep the secret. So, what’s the lesson here? Well, obviously, look before you tweet. Don’t hit send unless you’re sure. And be careful, with the way screens are jumping around these days, moving and reshaping at random, it’s easy to click the wrong button. Better be sure. But there’s more here too.
What happens when you really screw up? Well, depending on the situation and the players, you could just shrug it off … or it could mean the end of your career. That’s the biggest thing to remember – you can’t really measure the risk BEFORE you experience it. The web is a bottomless pit, a black hole of potential good and possible ill.
You can’t guesstimate what might happen. So, in this case, prevention really is the ONLY cure. Backtracking might stop the bleeding … but probably not. Nothing really stops the bleeding until someone else of equal stature makes a similar bungle. Don’t let that be you.
Monday, December 01, 2014
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Korean scientists working in China have delivered the first cloned puppies in that country’s history. Yes, cloned puppies. Initially, the procedure was expected to take place in the scientists’ Korean facility, however, China, relatively new to capitalism and well aware of the PR potential in such a story, requested – rather stringently – that the delivery be made in their country.
Better still from a public relations perspective, the puppies to be delivered were Tibetan mastiffs, a breed absolutely revered in China as an undeniable symbol of wealth and status. Breeding mastiffs is a multimillion dollar enterprise for even a single top champion and the profit potential of actually cloning a top champion – not just breeding – rather stringently – is almost limitless.
Further underscoring the PR significance of the moment, China used the delivery of the cloned puppies to announce a collaborative effort between the successful Korean brand and its Chinese counterpart – their biotech research facility opening in 2015. The massive facility will operate as China’s first commercial animal cloning business. Although cloning is already happening in China, this operation drastically expands the business of biotech breeding.
Of course, pet cloning is just the tip of the biotech breeding iceberg. The company plans to breed working dogs for protection and police work as well as to begin cloning cows in order to meet the growing demand for beef in China. There is even talk of cloning a giant panda – a PR statement certainly poised to garner maximum attention for the operation. Not that this is just idle talk, the Chinese have been collecting cells from pandas for some time with the hope that cloning will become one more solution to the drastically depleted panda population.
Ethically, cloning remains a contentious topic in the United States, however, many other countries are watching these events with undisguised interest. The success of the Korean/Chinese operation could go a long way toward creating larger, cross-cultural acceptance for cloning in China and abroad.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Back in 2011, the head of the world famous Glock family, Gaston Glock Sr., reportedly cut all ties with his family. Markets never like uncertainty at the top of a company, so firearms industry insiders have kept an eye on the company ever since. Ronn Torossian explainswhere they are today, and what that could mean for one of the world’s most famous gun brands.
The first item of concern is lawsuit Gaston’s ex-wife, Helga, filed against him. The suit claims Gaston has hidden away hundreds of millions of dollars of the family’s cash and is currently cheating her out of a large ownership stake in the company, she says, they built together. Bitter? Definitely … but it is very specific.
That specificity can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, everyone’s PR department understands exactly what they are dealing with. On the other hand, the bullet points offer plenty of room for reporters, bloggers, and industry mouthpieces to speculate, read between the lines, and prognosticate across all forms of media. Suddenly, those very clear and precise battle lines have been spun into countless rabbit trails, rumors, and possibilities—each more outlandish than the last. It’s a worldwide game of telephone.
For the most part, the litigants would be best served by ignoring most of the ancillary nonsense. It doesn’t help—and may compromise—the case. To this point, the jilted wife and her children are keeping it classy. They are conducting controlled and limited press engagements, and offering very little new information. While the lack of salacious details may invite media bottom feeders to glom on, legitimate opinion makers are stuck with limited facts—and limited reasons to give this story top billing.
Torossian believes that strategy will serve the family well in this stage of the dispute. They are presenting themselves as solid, hardworking, and professional. They have a grievance, and, reluctantly, have to pursue that grievance. At the center of Helga’s claim is her story of being a hardworking mother who helped her husband establish an empire while still finding time to raise her kids. That those kids have sided with her speaks volumes … particularly in the world of consumer PR.
That may not help Helga Glock in the courtroom, but there’s precious little better in the world of public relations.
Monday, August 25, 2014
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
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.