2017 was a big news year. Some might even say ‘huuuuuge.’ But aside from politics, several large public relations crises also made major headlines. From United Airlines’ removal of a passenger in a brutal video, to Wells Fargo’s shady coverups of an even shadier fraud scandal, we’ve briefly recapped 2017’s top PR stories in this article. With only three weeks left in the year, let’s hope for everyone’s sake we don’t have to update this list again before January 1.
1. United Airlines Scandal
Earlier this year, a video surfaced of law enforcement forcibly removing a passenger from a domestic flight, resulting in visible injuries to the passenger. People were outraged at United Airlines for “re-accommodating” a passenger on an overbooked flight in such an extreme manner.
The PR team seems to have been sleeping on the job through the whole disaster. CEO Oscar Munoz issued an apology, however a leaked internal message penned by Munoz describing the victim as ‘disruptive and belligerent’ certainly undercut any pretense of sincerity.
No immediate action was taken by United on behalf of its passengers, aside from a single overbooking policy change.
This PR disaster resulted in 46% of millennials saying they would “avoid United flights.” Ouch.
2. Harvey Weinstein and Co. Scandals
This year, starting with the high profile producer Harvey Weinstein, over 20 celebrity men have been accused of sexual harassment or assault. It appears that the culture of silence has lifted a bit and predators are being exposed in a domino effect.
Several of the alleged perpetrators initially reacted with denial and anger. These denials were often undercut by the emergence of new victims reporting their abuse and corroborating the accounts of early accusers.
These allegations have resulted in serious consequences for the accused – Kevin Spacey was removed from his House of Cards contract with Netflix, and Harvey Weinstein was booted from the board of his own company, just to name a couple.
3. Equifax Data Breach Scandal
In September, news broke that over 140 million Americans had their security compromised in the largest data breach in history. Trust is one of the most important factors when consumers are handing over private information, so obviously this is was a huge PR nightmare.
Equifax handled the breach extremely poorly. They tried to keep the incident quiet for six weeks after it occurred, which made the crisis even worse when the news did come out. Customers weren’t able to take steps to protect themselves for six weeks while the breach was kept secret.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, Equifax offered to smooth things over by offering free credit monitoring. The only catch was that participants had to waive their rights to pursue legal action against the company. Obviously, this was penned by lawyers whose goal was to limit legal liability and not protect the company’s brand image.
This was the triple crown of public relations blunders:
Expose customers to risk of identity theft through irresponsible handling of info.
Keep the breach secret for several weeks, exposing your customers to more risk.
Offer a transparently self-serving reparation once the mistake is exposed.
4. Uber Scandals
Uber had an awful year, embroiled in scandal, lawsuits, and a revolving door of executives. One of the lowlights of the year was the February release of Susan Fowler’s whistleblowing essay, claiming a toxic culture at the company led to sexual harassment and rampant sexism. A video showing former CEO Travis Kalanick berating an Uber driver further tarnished the company’s image.
Uber’s self-inflicted wounds show that in the age of social media, human resources problems can quickly become public relations problems.
5. Wells Fargo Fake Account Scandal
This year, the news broke that Wells Fargo employees had been creating numerous fake accounts unbeknownst to customers. These accounts helped stressed employees meet sales goals. Like with Uber, a toxic corporate culture at Wells caused massive public image problems for the company.
Wells Fargo’s response to the crisis was woefully inadequate. They went on record saying that the fake accounts were an isolated incident done by low-level employees, refusing to take responsibility for the actions of employees on their payroll. Word got out that whistleblowers were suppressed, and that more people knew about the fake accounts than was originally implied. In fact, it was a company-wide issue, not an isolated incident at all.
Some of these disasters could have easily been avoided and resulted from toxic cultures emanating from leadership (Wells, Uber, Weinstein). Others were the result of a combination of bad luck, honest mistakes, and poor decisions (Equifax, United). Unless you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to deal with a PR nightmare on this scale. But do you have a plan in place to react if something does come up? How would you put out a fire if your organization was under public scrutiny?
Does the state and federal government know how important your business and industry are to the economy or society? They should.
Here’s the thing: whether we like it or not, decisions made by elected officials in Washington DC and the state capital have reverberating effects all the way down the line – including into your community and business. Politicians rarely fully comprehend the bills they vote on.
While it’s easy to get cynical, think there’s nothing we can do, and fume at the politicians for being uninformed, who can blame them? Many elected positions are technically part time jobs that demand full-time hours and politicians have to deal with a bevy of issues for which they are not necessarily prepared. Often times they are relying on overworked staff and self-interested lobbyists to inform them on the issues.
That’s the reality. How are you going to deal with it? How are you going to make sure the politicians hear your voice above the noise?
Have you considered going directly to the politicians to make your case? I’m not talking about a letter writing campaign or a tweet storm (although those things can help too). I’m talking something bigger.
I’m talking about a lobby day.
So, what is a ‘lobby day?’
Also known as an ‘advocacy day,’ a lobby day is most simply defined as an organized visit to a national or state capital to meet with elected officials and policy makers on a specific issue of interest to the group and advocate for that issue. A lobby day can also include a march, demonstration, press conference, and other public facing events designed to increase awareness among the general public through social and traditional media.
So, what are the key benefits of a lobby day?
- Direct access to elected officials.
Let’s face it. Politicians get hundreds or thousands of emails from constituents every week. Meeting in person gives you the chance to build a personal relationship and put a human face on the issue at hand.
- Amplify your voice.
Dozens or hundreds of constituents descending on the legislature sends a powerful message that people care strongly about your issue and that you demand to be heard.
- Media attention.
A crowd tends to draw cameras. This is your chance to get noticed, not only by elected officials, but also by the media and the general public. Just be sure you have a carefully crafted message and talking points to make sure your cause is being portrayed in the best possible light.
Okay, so now you know how beneficial a lobby day can be for your cause. Now, how do you make it happen? Something this big requires a lot of organizing, and you’re going to need to engage a lot of stakeholders.
Here are three key things to consider before you get started.
- Identify your stakeholders and build out your contact list. Who cares about this issue and would lend their support? Who are key influencers who can get others involved? What voices will be especially important for elected officials?
- Come up with concise and clear messaging to convey what it is you’re doing and why it’s important. This is a lot harder than it sounds. There are 1,000 reasons why someone might care about your cause. You need to identify the 3 things people care about and hammer home those points. (Hint: the key message could be different for different audiences. Be sure to keep your audience in mind).
- Identify key tools for organizing. Email, online petition, website, social media – these are all standard tools for organizing a campaign like this. It’s important that these pieces are working together toward common goals (getting petition signatures, driving attendance to lobby day, etc.). A piecemeal approach will make your campaign appear disorganized.
Could your industry benefit from an advocacy day at your state capital or Washington, DC in 2018? Of course it could. And it’s not too late to start that conversation. Contact us today and tell us what’s important to you.
Coffee is the most popular drink at the workplace, by far, with 38 percent of workers saying they “couldn’t live without it.” But coffee is much more than an addictive drink that we Americans know and love. Coffee can improve productivity at work in several different ways.
- Coffee improves alertness.
Caffeine stops adenosine production and actually blocks adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is a chemical produced by our bodies throughout the day, preparing us for sleep, and much of it remains in our systems in the morning after we wake up. This is why we feel sluggish for the first few hours of our day. Caffeine can stop adenosine in its tracks, waking us up in the morning and preventing a four o’clock slump.
- Coffee strengthens our brains.
Oils in the coffee bean itself are anti-inflammatory, acting as antioxidants in the brain. These anti-inflammatory agents are called kahweol and cafestol, and their properties can help protect DNA and protect the brain from free radicals. A protected brain is a productive one: preventing inflammatory stress keeps us in tip-top shape throughout our working lives.
- Coffee increases creativity.
Stimulating the brain with caffeine can help to blow out the figurative cobwebs, allowing for creative thought and freewheeling workplace conversations that can give birth to the next big idea.
- Coffee increases sociability.
Research suggests that the simple act of holding a cup of coffee makes you seem more approachable and friendly. Additionally, the office coffee pot serves as a kind of social nexus, allowing for increased social interactions with colleagues and better workplace bonds. This allows for better relationships and more productive teams.
- Coffee increases learning speed and short-term memory.
A study done on college students showed that they were able to learn faster after having a cup of coffee. This can enable faster turnaround times in the workplace, as the learning curve will last for a much shorter amount of time.
Another study showed that caffeine improved short term memory, with the subject given caffeine able to recall more words that were quickly shown to them than the control group. This improved working memory can help when workers are asked to multitask and quickly recall information.
Coffee, then, can be considered the miracle elixir of the workplace. Now that you know all the benefits, you’ll be able to put coffee to work for you!