Sadly, the Worst of Times Bring Out the Best in Us- One final thought

It seems appropriate that the last post of the semester is in honor of those lost on Friday in Connecticut. Stay safe and hold your loved ones dear over the Christmas Break. Thank you all for a great semester- I truly appreciate the gifts that each and every one of you bring to my classroom- Peace to all!

Like millions of others, I’ve been transfixed by the Sandy Hook tragedy… Once again, we find ourselves seeking answers to questions that have been asked far too many times.

Predictably, there have been calls for greater gun control.  Just as predictably, there are those who respond with “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”  The media is replete with commentary from pundits who weigh in the causes for such events.  Our mental health system has been cited as has our society in which life has been cheapened by violent video games.  The killer will be profiled repeatedly…

While the debates and analysis will continue during the coming days, we shouldn’t lose sight of the goodness exhibited by humankind.  In every tragedy, heroes emerge to restore our faith.  I’m thinking about the principal of the Sandy Hook school, who, before giving up her own life, may have delayed the killer long enough for others to get to cover.  I’m thinking of the young teacher who used her body to shield her young charges as they hid from the killer.

I’m thinking about the young father, Robbie Parker, whose six-year-old daughter Emilie was killed.  In an interview with the news media, he recounted the last time he was with his daughter and asked forgiveness for the family of the killer.  He epitomizes grace and understanding.

I thought about the children, classmates of those who were killed, who were selling their toys at a tag sale to raise money for the victims.  I’m thinking about an anonymous donor from North Carolina who contributed 26 Christmas trees to honor the fallen.

I’m thinking about our President.  Regardless of your political affiliation, one couldn’t helped by being touched by his words following the tragedy.  Visibly shaken and speaking from the heart as a parent, he asked for healing.

I hope for a day when we no longer have to ask the questions about events such as the Sandy Hook tragedy.

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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Uncategorized


Is CSR Dead? Or Just Mismanaged?

Guest post by Kasper Nielsen, Executive Partner, Reputation Institute…

Companies spend millions of dollars every year on Corporate Social Responsibility. They invest in programs to support local communities. They give away products to support people in need. They invest in clean technology to lower their environmental footprint. They do cause marketing and donate money from sales. They engage their employees in non-profit work. Why? Because being part of the solution and taking on responsibility in society builds trust with key stakeholders. And trust is what is needed to create support from these stakeholders in the reputation economy. And CSR drives this trust. 42% of reputation is driven by perceptions of Citizenship, Governance, and Workplace.

Dimensions which fall into the CSR category. So CSR is not dead. It’s well alive as a business driver. But companies are not getting the return on investment they should.

Results from the 2012 CSR RepTrak™ 100  study show that only 35% of consumers across the 15 largest

economies in the world say that companies are “good corporate citizens that supports good causes and protects the environment.” And this is even a rating of the 100 best reputed companies in the world. Each of these RepTrak™ 100 companies spend millions every year on CSR activities. Yet 4% of consumers say that they are absolutely not to be trusted as good corporate citizens, and 60% are not sure. Only 6 of the RepTrak 100 companies are seen as strong and good corporate citizens.

Governance is another key element of CSR. Being perceived as open, honest and fair in the way they do business is a key contributor to trust and support. And here companies are also struggling. On the question of whether or not each one of the RepTrak™ 100 companies is “a responsibly-run company that behaves ethically and is open and transparent in its business dealings” only 40% say absolutely. No company is seen as excellent on this critical dimension and 78 out of 100 are seen as average.

And when it comes being seen as a company that is “an appealing place to work that treats its employees well” we see the same average results. Only 14 of the 100 companies has a strong position on Workplace and a full 61% say that they are not certain that these 100 companies delivers on expectations when it comes to treating their employees well.

Pretty depressing results when you spend millions of dollars a year on CSR programs and large scale campaigns telling how much you care and can be trusted as a friend of the family. So what is the problem?

According to Phil Mirvis a global expert on CSR companies still do not fully understand the real value from CSR. “Companies need to be more open and transparent about their citizenship, governance, and workplace activities. Smarter communication and reputation management are needed if they want to capitalize on their investments. Some of the largest companies still reply on a marketing approach. The last few Super Bowls, as an example, featured a new version of the Coke versus Pepsi challenge where they squared off about who could do a better job in raising funds for charity.  Naturally, the adverts didn’t mention sugar, obesity, or environmental impact. It would only leave a bad taste. But that’s exactly the problem. Companies do not take on the core issues. And that leaves the impression of “green washing” which has left many to say that CSR is dead. I don’t think it is but companies need to step up and make CSR a strategic driver of business to make it work.”

Companies are mismanaging their CSR investments. It’s that simple. They do not apply the same rigor on these investments as they do on other core business priorities. They do not link it to their business strategy. But treat it like a separate initiative and investment. Companies need to reassess how to spend their money if they want to improve their return on investment. You don’t do CSR for the sake of CSR. You do CSR as part of your reputation management strategy to drive business growth, customer loyalty, and employee alignment. Only a few companies get it right. But those who do see the results.

Microsoft has the best perception for CSR in the world according to the 2012 CSR RepTrak™ 100 published by Forbes. It’s the company in the world that consumers across the 15 largest markers in the world see as best delivering within Citizenship, Workplace, and Governance. A remarkable result for a company that in the early 2000 was under attack for using its large market share to increase prices on consumes, pressuring out new competitors through unfair business practices. So how did Microsoft turn this perception around?

Dan Bross, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship, Microsoft explains; “We recognize that public trust in corporations depends in large part on the basic aspects of business character: integrity, accountability, values, responsibility and transparency. A strong and steady core is the bedrock of both right action and good business. Over the past 15 years we have increased our engagement in public policy discussions that relate to our business, and now publish our public policy agenda every year to let everyone see what issues we are working on and how they impact our business. We regularly file reports that detail our advocacy activities in compliance with regulations and our commitment to transparency. Public disclosures on our political engagement are easily accessible on our Citizenship website, and include details on consultant fees, lobbying expenses and trade-association dues related to advocacy. Bottom line – we enhanced our commitment to accountability, strong corporate governance and transparency.”

So the conclusion is clear. CSR is not dead. It’s a valuable component in building trust and support from stakeholders. But companies need to take this more serious if they don’t want to waste their shareholders money. What are you doing to capitalize on your CSR investments?

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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Uncategorized


What is Quality Content?

From Beyond PR

By Ken Dowell, EVP, PR Newswire

Virtually every discussion of modern public relations and marketing practice will at some point refer to the importance of quality content.  It is the absolute baseline for brand publishing, content marketing, social media messaging and just about any other way that an organization communicates.

The need for quality applies across the board whether the content you are producing is called a press release or a white paper, sponsored content or a blog post.

Quality transcends category.

But what exactly is quality content?  Often that question is answered by what it is not:

  • It’s not spam.
  • It’s not jargon.
  • It’s not solicitous.
  • It’s not laced with tricks to attract search engine algorithms.

The don’ts are easier to point out than the do’s.

If we’re going to define what constitutes quality, let’s start at the simplest level.  Quality content is well written.  That means it’s concise, clear and grammatically correct.  I can’t recall reading anything that was so brilliant I could overlook the typos, mismatched tense and run-on sentences.

Secondly, quality content is honest.  It is honest about what it is and who is writing it.  If it is sponsored content, that is made clear, as is the author or authoring organization.  If someone else’s ideas or someone else’s research is referenced, that too is appropriately attributed.

Beyond that it gets a lot more subjective.

The Google Webmaster Blog talks about “unique, valuable, engaging.”  Other attributes that are cited by various Web authors include useful, relevant, well-researched, credible, and easy to read.

I suggest that good quality content has to be either interesting or informative.  Entertain or educate.  Great quality content does both.

There are many ways to be interesting.  For example, your content can be funny.  Photos and videos can be interesting in ways that are hard to replicate solely with blocks of text.  Great writing, especially if it is in a style and tone that is unique to the author, can in itself be interesting.

Content can be informative to a very broad audience, such as when NASA discusses some new information about the nature of neighboring planets, or to a very small audience, such as information about an innovation in industrial design.   Quality content doesn’t have to be brilliantly original, never-before-heard wisdom.  It can add context or insight to information that is otherwise widely known.  But it has to add to the conversation.

How good is your content?  Try asking yourself whether it is the kind of stuff that you would be interested in reading and why.  If your answer is affirmative, you’re on the right track.

Author Ken Dowell is PR Newswire’s executive vice president of social media & audience development.

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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Uncategorized


PR – A Great Thing, but Not a Miracle Worker

PR – A Great Thing, but Not a Miracle Worker

By , Published December 13, 2012


It’s a funny thing about PR…sometimes it’s viewed like other professions that  people have a love/hate relationship with – like law enforcement, insurance  providers, lawyers. Or like those that people expect magic from – beauticians,  plastic surgeons, teachers.

Here’s the thing. Anything can be branded, marketed, promoted. Anything can  get a first look. But public relations won’t make or break your business without  a little help from you.

Stop making your PR department/firm/executive the scapegoat for your crappy  products.

It’s not our job to convince people that your products are good when they  aren’t. We don’t “dumb people down.” PR isn’t to blame if you can’t sell. PR  isn’t to blame if your product doesn’t do what you promised – or told us to  promise. Even Apple can’t pull that off.

I’m not being over sensitive. I’ve been in this business long enough – heading into my 15th year of owning my own firm – to recognize the unbelievable  expectations that executives can have about PR. And I’ve seen many executives  that don’t get PR at all – who have no idea that their CMOs are throwing money  out the door jumping from agency to agency trying to find the right match.

I also know that PR agencies can seem like a dime a dozen. There’s one on  every block like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. I know that it can be tough to find  the right match – chemistry with the team – on your first try. But if you or  your marketing head have gone through more than two agencies in 12 months, maybe  it’s time to take a look inside.

Here’s a few things you can expect a good PR team to accomplish:

  • Get your products in front of the “right people” – those can vary, but for  most companies it means reporters, bloggers, analysts and others who influence  the buying decisions of your prospects.
  • Connect executives with these folks for personal  meetings/briefings/interviews – beginning and helping to maintain a more  personal relationship.
  • Get these influencers to listen – based on long standing relationships  and/or the talent to understand what they want, how they want to be connected  with, what they care about, etc.
  • Give you inside views on where to be (events, online and off) to connect  with the right folks who can help you – whether it’s media, VCs, analysts,  customer/prospects, partners – a good PR team can help with all of those, making  sure your valuable time isn’t wasted, and that you’re not missing anything  crucial.
  • Help you write, message, brand and promote what you want to say in a more  eloquent manner.
  • Help “roll out the red carpet” for sales by spreading awareness of you, your  company, your products consistently, and in the right places. Ideally, PR sets  the stage so that when a sales executive walks into a deal, the prospect says, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of you – I see you guys everywhere.” That’s always a nice  start.

Here’s you should not expect PR to do:

  • Get people to keep using your product if it’s not working right.
  • Cover up bad customer service – certainly we can try to help fix a crisis,  but this shouldn’t be the ongoing plan.
  • Work in a black hole – share information with your PR team and trust them to  help you come up with the best, most strategic plan on what information should  be communicated, to who, how, where and when.
  • Make reporters personally like you.
  • Tell reporters what to write. We can give them facts, we can encourage  certain angles. But they’re not puppets and we’re not puppet masters.
  • Be responsible for repeat buyers. That’s your job – through great customer  service, good products, stellar relationship management. We’re matchmakers of  sorts – we get people interested but it’s up to you to maintain the  relationship.

Of course, good PR executives can help with more than these things – it’s  just a quick list. We can help you maintain relationships to a certain degree.  But we’re not miracle workers. If your product or service isn’t working right or  your customer service team isn’t treating customers well, don’t blame PR.  Understand – and manage – the difference between positioning communications and  information, vs product development, customer service and executive management.  Too often, PR is blamed when all three don’t come together well.

What do you expect from PR?


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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Uncategorized


Marketing Lessons from the Women’s Buying Behavior Index- Recalling the PR target audience with the most buying influence

Marketing Lessons from the Women’s Buying Behavior Index

Posted on Dec 8, 2012 in Marketing,

By Aliza Freud, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, SheSpeaks, Inc. and

It’s that time of year again.  The holiday shopping season is upon us and everyone, from the President in the White House, to business owners big and small, is looking for predictions on how this year’s season will go. Will this year be better than the last? Will it stay the same? Or, will we see a decrease in holiday revenues?

Luckily, this year’s opening weekend for the holiday shopping season is off to a great start. According to the National Retail Federation, shopping over the all-important Thanksgiving weekend was up 12% vs. a year ago. In order to get a better idea of what is driving shoppers to purchase this year, we think a great place to start is with women.

Female consumers are heavily targeted by marketers during the holiday season—and for a good reason. Women make up a significant number of all purchases throughout the year, including those during the holiday season, and advertisers have taken note. Just turn on the TV and you are more than likely going to see ads where retailers mention women and female consumers by name, like this holiday spot from TJ Maxx:

Given the impact of female buyers, SheSpeaks and Lippe Taylor teamed up to survey over 3,000 women to see what drives their buying behavior. After tabulating all of the data, we released the SheSpeaks Lippe Taylor Women’s Buying Behavior Index.

The study asked these female consumers their feelings about everything from their family’s finances and disposable income, to how they plan to purchase different consumer goods and what social media channels they are using. Providing a road map of how women plan on spending their money during the holidays and beyond, the Women’s Buying Behavior Index helps all of us gain greater insight into the mind of the female buyer.

Buying Index Infographic


Below are key highlights from the Index:

  • Women are feeling tentative about their financial situation. While many are concerned, most (62%) plan to spend the same amount on consumer goods in the next six months.
    • About two-thirds (65%) say they can only afford a few ‘nice-to-have’ items, and only 2% feel the freedom to purchase all of their families ‘nice-to-haves.’
    • Only 29% are ‘very confident’ that they will be able to cover their basic expenses in the coming year without using up savings or taking on debt.
    • Yet, slightly more are at least ’somewhat comfortable’ with their financial situation (40%) compared with 36% who are somewhat or very concerned.
  • Brick and mortar stores seem to be losing ground as women surveyed plan to shop more digitally during the holidays.
    • For key holiday spending days, digital has eclipsed in-store shopping, as slightly more plan to shop on Cyber Monday (55%) than Black Friday (50%).
  • Pinterest is helping Santa decide what’s under the tree this year. The rise of social media may partially explain the increase in online holiday shopping.
    • Pinterest is a popular source for gift ideas (60%).
    • Many women also look at Pinterest for ideas of gifts they can make.
  • Surprises are nice but getting what you want seems to be better!
    • When it comes to holiday gifts, 41% say they want a complete surprise while 47% would like to get  something they’ve hinted at and 12% want to spell it out and get exactly what they asked for.
  • Parents and in-laws might want to ask for suggestions before buying holiday gifts. The worst gifts women have received from parents and in-laws include: pantyhose, a re-gifted mug from a casino, used make-up, and a velour polka dot sweat suit.
  • In this “50 Shades of Grey” year, romance still rules. When asked what they’d like this holiday season, most women would prefer a romantic night out (65%). Some would like sexy lingerie (25%), an erotic novel (17%) or a sex toy/vibrator (16%).

One finding worth further investigation is how quickly one of the newest social media platforms, Pinterest, has become a popular source for gift ideas.  Not only are women using Pinterest to get gift ideas but more than a third of them (36%) are also using it to do research on products they are already planning to buy for others.  We also found it interesting that 26% of the women surveyed are using Pinterest to help in creating their holiday lists of gifts they want.

It is no secret that women are one of the top consumer groups that corporations are trying to reach out to during the favorite season for retailing. But in order to get into their wallets, big business might want to pay attention to their favorite websites for shopping and can look to women’s Pinterest boards for what women really want this Christmas.


About the Author: Aliza Freud is the Founder and CEO of SheSpeaks ( and Founder of Cravebox (   SheSpeaks & Cravebox are product discovery platforms.  Both platforms, which help women discover, influence and share products, have built up a membership base of over 200,000 consumers.   Ms. Freud has helped clients like P&G, Pepsi, American Express, Citibank, Heinz, L’oreal and others tap into its influential consumer base to build advocacy and powerful insights.  SheSpeaks is also a winner of the NYSE Next Big Start Up competition.

Prior to founding SheSpeaks and Cravebox, Ms. Freud was an executive at American Express where she led worldwide brand innovation initiatives.  In her 10+ years at American Express, Ms. Freud led product management, new product development and co-brand partnership initiatives.  She has earned multiple patents for new financial and membership card services including the first for smart/dual card technology.

Ms. Freud holds an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School and has been featured on ABC News, MSNBC, Good Morning America and in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and The Economist.  Ms. Freud lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters and yellow Labrador Retriever. Contact her via e-mail at

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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Uncategorized


10 Biggest Social Media Crisis-Related Lessons of 2012- What classroom concepts can you relate this to?

10 Biggest Social Media Crisis-Related Lessons of 2012

By Melissa Agnes, Social Media Crisis Manager, Speaker and Consultant

From Internet defamation to social media crises and one’s online reputation management, it seems that every other week a new brand is teaching us all a lesson or two in proper online conduct and social media crisis management.

As I reflect back on 2012, I remember early on in the year when the Altimeter Group released a report stating that 76% of social media crises could have been avoided. As I think back to all of the social media crises and issues that have taken form online over the past 12 months, I can’t help but think that, if that number hasn’t gone up, it surely could not have gone down either! It seems that this year has been filled with social media debacles that have put numerous brands’ reputations at risk.

So how can you protect your brand from falling into that unfortunate 76%? Of course, you can (and should) develop a social media crisis management plan, but that takes a few weeks at best. So, before we journey off into the new year, let’s reflect back upon all the lessons that have been plainly laid out for us, time and time again by different brands facing

different online debacles throughout this past year. If each brand could really learn these lessons, it would be a very big step towards not falling into that unacceptable 76%.

The 10 Biggest Social Media Crisis-Related Lessons of 2012

  1. Real-time is NOT an option, but a must and a highly critical expectation of your audience
  2. In order to respond and react to an online threat in real-time, one must be monitoring the social discussions around one’s brand
  3. Trust, sincerity and compassion go a very long way in a crisis
  4. Ignoring a social media or online issue only makes matters worse
  5. The sooner you respond to an online threat, the more chances you have at coming out of it with zero repercussions to your brand’s reputation or bottom-line
  6. Every employee is a spokesperson for your brand and needs to be trained as such
  7. Having a mentality of “always focusing on building a relationship with your market” will always lead you in the right direction when it comes to your social media crisis communications
  8. Double check that you’re posting from the correct account before pressing “post”
  9. Identify the difference between negative posts and unacceptable posts, and develop a way of dealing with both types of online comments and tweets
  10. A crisis can strike out of thin air, when least expected. That’s why it’s so important for every single company and organization to be prepared with a social media crisis management plan

As I reflect back on the last year of online crises and issues that we’ve all been witnesses to, I can’t help but be reminded of the importance of learning from others’ mistakes – and teaching what we learn to those responsible for interactive on behalf of our brand. So if I can ask one last thing of you before the year comes to a close, it’s please, please, please, at the very least, learn the first 9 lessons above and plan to achieve the 10th, if you haven’t already.


Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Uncategorized


•Facebook Is Quietly Implementing A Plan To Destroy Television

Put this altogether — along with the notion that Facebook is bigger than the Super  Bowl, TV’s ne plus ultra of audiences — and it appears that  Facebook sees TV’s old media dollars as ripe for the picking.

Lucy Jacobs

Lucy Jacobs / Spruce Media

Spruce COO Lucy Jacobs

“Facebook is 100 percent  primed to take down those TV budgets,” according to Lucy Jacobs, COO of Spruce  Media, which handles about $150 million in Facebook ad buying annually, from  advertisers like Samsung  and P&G. The Nielsen aspect allows Facebook campaigns to be measured with  “gross ratings points,” which are a measure of the reach and frequency of a  campaign as a seen by the target consumers. “They are building a case for moving  TV dollars to Facebook as they help brands quantify how Facebook reach and  frequency maps to GRP’s,” Jacobs tells us.
Read more:

She notes, of course, that this is not going to happen overnight. It’s still  really “easy” for advertisers to continue buying TV: The infrastructure and the  habits have been in place for years and will not easily be dismantled.

But it could happen, if Facebook gets its way.

Likewise, Rob Leathern, CEO of Optimal, a social media analytics company,  says “I think they’d love that to happen.” Again, like Jacobs, he’s careful to  note that the shift of dollars from TV to Facebook would be a long-term event.  But, he says, “They’re definitely going to be doing more video stuff next year.  … there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that’s gonna be shifting and allowing  people to do more interruptive advertising, rather than just the [display ads]  on the right hand side. Obviously, TV is the original interruptive medium.”


rob leathern optimal

Rob Leather / Twitter

Facebook has no choice: It  needs video to prosper.

Facebook is actually under some pressure to build a big, robust video  offering to fend  off international competition. In Russia,  Facebook has only 7 million members. The big domestic social network there  is VKontakte, which is a rip-off of Facebook. It has 40 million members.

Read more: reason it’s popular is because it allows the free streaming of pirated  movies. Many, many Russians spend their evenings logging in to a watch a movie  (illegally) — free of charge.

Of course, Facebook, can’t offer illegally copied movies. But it can do what  Google’s YouTube has done — offer a huge amount of rights-managed video for  free. Online video  watching is already eating into TV ratings and ad dollars.

This is where it gets really interesting: The main difference between  Facebook video and YouTube is that Facebook’s audience is logged-in while it  watches, and Facebook can let advertisers target viewers using all its available data  on each user. On YouTube, by contrast, a huge chunk of the audience watches  anonymously because you do not need to sign-in to see the content.

Facebook video is, therefore, the kind of dream situation that the television business  can never hope to match. The only question is, can CEO Mark  Zuckerberg build it?

Disclosure: The author owns Facebook stock.

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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Uncategorized