With Everyone Back to School, Our Thoughts Turn to Education

Kids are back in school and our interns have left the building, and that gets us thinking about education. Havas PR has a burgeoning education portfolio—including Penn Foster and Lehigh University’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation, among others—and our thought leadership encompasses a variety of education subjects. Havas PR recently helped raise awareness of the Baker Institute by securing interviews from Silicon Valley to the Lehigh Valley with professors and students who are bringing the university’s unique programs to life and reaching a vast array of audiences. We’re also working to raise awareness of Penn Foster’s high school—considered one of the largest in America at 45,000 students—and its commitment to reducing the high school dropout rate and closing the middle skills gap. Through our thought leadership program, we’ve positioned Penn Foster CEO Frank Britt as an expert on America’s dropout crisis, the gap between the unemployed and 4 million unfilled jobs, and why businesses should get involved in high school curricula. Please vote for Penn Foster’s two proposed panels for SXSWedu 2015: Online but Not Alone: Linking Students from Afar and Mobile Classrooms: At-Risk Youth Learn On-the-Go.

Havas Conexiones Connects Hispanics and Brands

Today we formalize Havas Conexiones, our multicultural agency within an agency. With five Latinas at the helm (with Argentinean, Cuban, El Salvadoran, Mexican and Puerto Rican backgrounds) and our CEO as fairy godmother, we have best-in-class Hispanic/Latino marketing experience. We address Latinos in a culturally relevant way and connect them authentically with brands. Already very successful with our multicultural work (we created PRWeek’s Multicultural Marketing Campaign of the Year for 2012 and were a finalist in 2013, among many other multicultural awards), Havas PR has built Conexiones around the fundamental truths of the real Latin in America and offers a team that knows the community inside and out. In conjunction with the launch, Havas PR is debuting its in-depth study of millennials in the four states bordering Mexico, for an intimate look at this microcosm of the U.S. Hispanic community in key areas ranging from food and family to work, favored cities, retail and more.

Welcome, @havasprus #interns

Every summer, the excitement builds before the day our new interns arrive—and today is that day. We’re so pleased to welcome students and new graduates from Arizona (Priscilla Ramos), Fordham (Deanna Gialanella), Georgia (Mary Sloane Stribling), James Madison (Amanda Haney), Northeastern (Alinne Robles), Providence (Kealy Robertson) and Syracuse (Emily Irgang). They’ll be working on our global, consumer, corporate, media relations, Sisterhood and Hispanic teams. And maybe some will carry on our great tradition of former interns making their marks here; current AAEs, AEs and even our director of strategy were once Havas PR interns themselves.

How Brands Can Translate Support for the Troops This Memorial Day

[Originally posted on Forbes.com.]

After a long, hard winter, we’re all especially looking forward to Memorial Day this weekend. Let’s face it: For many people today, Memorial Day is a holiday because it’s the official start of summer. It is its own reason to celebrate, and lots of Americans do, even without thinking about the holiday’s origins.

A recent advertising-industry survey about how consumers are celebrating the day and how brands are leveraging it found that 54 percent of people surveyed plan to have a barbecue or party, while just 28 percent expect to attend a parade and 14 percent to visit a military cemetery. (Even among those who have served in the military, that number is still only 24 percent.)

Thanks in part to my longstanding relationship with and work for the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF), which works to help veterans who have suffered from brain injuries and post-traumatic stress, I’m one American who takes the origin of Memorial Day—to remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country—seriously.

So it heartened me to see data pulled from a study commissioned by the foundation. Using the proprietary SONAR online research tool of JWT, where my fellow BWF board member and former boss, Bob Jeffrey, is chairman and CEO, the survey looked at how support for our troops gets translated by brands during this Memorial Day weekend.

“What we learned is that military service is still very much part of the American experience,” wrote Jeffrey in an email. “We all have awareness that the sacrifice of men and women of the armed services is worthy of our support and that big brands should jump in and lead with their support.”

Drilling deeper, a number of the study’s findings interest me—and seem especially relevant for any brand trying to strike the right tone (and those that might be skittish after recent social media insensitivity brouhahas). To start, there’s a different in perception about military service among generations, something brands should tune in to when crafting their holiday-themed messages. Asked what words come to mind when they think of military service, millennials were most likely to say “war”; veterans say “duty,” “commitment,” and “pride”; and older civilians say “discipline” and “bravery,” as well as “war” again.

Despite this, older generations seem to have a higher regard for the military (maybe because they didn’t know about equivalents of Abu Ghraib when earlier generations were at war). When asked for more word associations, 76 percent of boomers said “loyalty” and the same number said “pride,” while only 11 percent said “brutality” (compared with 32 percent of millennials who used that word—still a small number, but nearly three times as high).

Still, the overwhelming feeling across generations is positive. More than 70 percent of all respondents said “discipline,” “honor,” “bravery,” “sacrifice” and “teamwork.” And these American values haven’t been too strongly altered by the Bush administration’s controversial wars. People now are more willing to articulate the distinction than they were during Vietnam: Seventy-six percent of respondents agree that “I have been antiwar at times but have always been pro-soldier.” And 94 percent agree that “I respect people who have served in the armed forces,” while the same percent agree that “I am proud of our American soldiers.” Perhaps most relevant for marketers, 89 percent agree that “the soldier is an American icon.”

Just as Americans generally hold positive views of the armed services, they’re typically willing to get behind brands that support military troops and veterans. Half the respondents strongly agree that “I support brands that recognize the damage wounded soldiers suffer from things like PTSD,” and nearly as many (47 percent) strongly agree that “I support brands that support veterans”—a statement to which more than 85 percent of all generations strongly or somewhat agree.

Brands that earned the highest marks for supporting veterans were Wal-Mart, USAA and Home Depot (which also all three rated high for hiring veterans), followed by Target, Nike, Sears, USO (natch), Ford, Applebee’s, Salvation Army, Disney, General Motors and Coke.

But as with everything these days, the support has to be tangible, real, and an authentic part of a brand’s story and actions. Consumers will see straight through anything less. Ultimately, brands need to be paying attention to the armed services and people’s perceptions of them—not in hopes of any marketing payoff, but in the proud American spirit in which the holiday was created.

[photo: creativecommons.org/Coast Guard News]