PR: The Evolution of “Spin”

Andreanna Moya Photography

Originally posted on

PR sometimes gets a bad rap for being a spin cycle. I like to look at it a different way. Public relations, like all communications disciplines, has been marked by standards, strategies and tactics that roll along and change over time. Sometimes they even spin full circle, taking us on circuitous detours on the way to ending up back where we were.

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The Best Places for You and Your Brand to Be Seen

Crossroads Foundation Photos

Originally posted on

For all the massive growth in the power of digital and virtual, face time still matters. As hard as anyone works to rack up thousands of followers on Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat, it’s all still no substitute for making sure you are physically in the right places to ensure a relevant personal brand.

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Corporate Branding Digest, Feb. 7, 2014

Four Marketing Takeaways from the World Economic Forum
(Ad Age, 06.02.14)

This year’s World Economic Forum saw over 2,500 dignitaries from all around the world descend on Davos. More world leaders than ever before attended, which resulted in similarly record levels of security.

Don’t Let the Search for a New CEO Drag On
(Bloomberg Businessweek, 06.02.14)

The selection of Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s (MSFT) chief executive played out as the conclusion of a soap opera that started nearly six months ago, when Steve Ballmer announced his retirement. In the end, Microsoft’s board made the safe choice of promoting an insider, despite some calls for an outsider who would bring radical change. Was it by luck or happenstance that they “found” Nadella, despite the fact that he was there all along? And why did it take them six months?

Culture Versus Morale: How to Avoid a Common Trap
(Forbes, 06.02.14)

Companies often ask us to deliver brand management training to their marketing teams with learning objectives designed to help them achieve a higher level of success. As I am developing yet another comprehensive brand management and marketing training session for a company, I thought I would share what I believe needs to be included in that comprehensive training.

Why CMOs Flunk at Building Brand Empathy
(MediaPost, 16.01.14)

When it comes to creating meaningful customer experiences, many CMOs are tone deaf, and a new report from Forrester details the vast disconnect that typically exists between marketing and customer-experience strategy.

“Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” —Vince Lombardi

Corporate Branding Digest, Feb. 4, 2014

CEOs Should Imagine They’re at Davos Every Day
(Harvard Business Review, 04.02.14)

Trust in companies—which collapsed during the financial crisis—has improved in most countries, but according to our Edelman Trust Barometer, this recovery of confidence has stalled. CEOs are trusted by a mere 43 percent of the survey’s respondents; only government officials fared worse (36 percent). Real trust is put in people “like myself” (62 percent) and academics or experts (67 percent).

Leadership in the Age of Gamification and Wearables
(Inc., 03.02.14)

To get more out of workers, some employers are introducing “gamification” into the workplace. It may be a worthwhile strategy, just don’t forget these four principles.

Turn Your Corporate Culture into an Unfair Advantage
(, 31.01.14)

With all of the hype during the past decade, the phrase “corporate culture” has either become a favorite among executive teams or one that elicits immediate eye rolling from everyone in the room.

The CMO Is Evolving into New Species with Vastly Broader Range
(Ad Age, 15.01.14)

Scientists of evolution use the term cladogenesis to describe the division of an existing species into multiple lines—thus creating new species—often in response to radical change in the environment. Marketing appears to be going through a process much like this, right before our eyes. The 21st-century CMO faces an explosively expanding range of options from which to branch out in new directions.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” —Michael Jordan

12 Days of Havas: One Young World

In this season of giving thanks, the Pittsburgh office of Havas PR is celebrating the 12 Days of Havas by reaching out to express our enormous gratitude to so many people who contributed countless hours to the success of the 2012 One Young World summit in Pittsburgh in October.

One Young World, a nonprofit founded by Havas Worldwide Global CEO David Jones and U.K. Group Chairman Kate Robertson, convenes the world’s best and brightest next generation of leaders in their 20s at an annual summit, where they examine the most pressing global issues and are motivated to take action toward overcoming them in their communities and places of business. Though One Young World (OYW) is young, having just completed its third summit, it is modeled after the long renowned World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where today’s reigning leaders in business, government, philanthropy and academia meet to find solutions to the challenges plaguing our global society.

Pittsburgh business and nonprofit leaders worked very hard to have the city selected to host the 2012 OYW summit. Then they rolled out the red carpet to ensure that the 1,300 young leader delegates from 187 countries enjoyed a rich, welcoming and inspiring four-day experience.

There are literally thousands of people to thank for their efforts in letting Pittsburgh shine on the world stage. This week, as part of the 12 Days of Havas, we are beginning to write letters of thanks to everyone, including:

  • Our Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, the youngest big-city mayor, and his team, who contributed time and city services to ensuring a safe and welcoming experience
  • Hundreds of volunteers who greeted our international guests at the airport and assisted with any request at their hotels and conference venue
  • VisitPittsburgh, which managed the volunteer registration and training
  • The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Manfred Honeck, who donated their treasured Heinz Hall of Performing Arts as the opening ceremony venue and gave a resounding and appreciated performance
  • American Eagle Outfitters, Bayer Corp., PNC and all their employees and many others, for welcoming our delegates at a Bridge Party with food tents, dance and musical performances, and fireworks. In the city that boasts more bridges than Venice, what venue could have been more memorable?
  • Elsie and Henry Hillman, for hosting the illustrious international counselor speakers at a stunning dinner; and their foundation, for funding a PBS documentary on the One Young World experience
  • The foundation, academic and business organizers of the 50 breakout sessions held throughout Pittsburgh that showed how this city has both been challenged by and successfully addressed the tough, global issues tackled in the summit’s main plenary sessions
  • The University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, UPMC and so many others, who donated space for the sessions
  • The 120 Pittsburgh families who opened their doors and invited the international delegates to their homes for Saturday evening dinner
  • Bayer and pop artist Burton Morris for donating original commemorative artwork and high-profile billboards at the airport, along the highway and in center city to welcome our guests
  • UPMC, for hosting a welcome reception for the world media who attended and covered the summit
  • The bus companies, the University of Pittsburgh transportation team and Pennsylvania’s newly elected legislator Erin Molchany, who masterfully orchestrated very challenging transportation logistics
  • The 70 Pittsburgh-based global and national businesses and academic institutions that sponsored more than 200 delegates from many countries to attend this 2012 summit

So much heavy lifting was needed for this summit. But thousands of Pittsburghers couldn’t have been happier to do it. The response from our international guests? Pure joy and enlightenment! Pittsburgh is not traditionally a celebrated world city. But it is now. During this celebratory season, we know the positive word about Pittsburgh has traveled to all ends of the globe. And here in our city, we’re grateful for the thousands who welcomed the world and showed them everything Pittsburgh has to offer.

You can thank Pittsburgh, too, with your special note to #oyw.

Ideas Conferences as Brand Builders

[Originally posted on]

We’re in an age of ideas conferences—not just such stalwarts as Davos and TED but also upstarts like All Things Digital’s D conferences (D11 is next, in May)—and attendance is increasingly seen as a mark of legitimacy. They’re the ultimate see-and-be-seen gatherings. Smart talk is today’s hot commodity, whether you’re speaking, listening or, perhaps most important, hobnobbing after the formal sessions.

“It’s easy to think that money is the currency of the world,” TED staffer Duncan Davidson told New York earlier this year, “but there are other currencies.” Davidson was being interviewed because three years earlier, a well-dressed mugger had tried to steal his all-access TED badge in Long Beach, Calif. That’s the significance these confabs have taken on.

But what do they say about your personal brand? Are Davos people different from TED people different from SXSW people? What about the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and Renaissance Weekend? Is there a big half-dozen in conference-going that lets you borrow for your brand (today’s equivalent of name-dropping) and build it up? And if there is, do you have to attend all of them (who has time?), or do you need to decide what each stands for and how it helps make a person a brand? Does your choice of conference send a message about what generation you see yourself in?

That same New York article includes a helpful history lesson:

“At least since the early seventies, when Davos was founded, there have been exclusive gatherings that mix fizzy ideas with major-league networking. The eighties gave rise to Renaissance Weekend, for a largely political crowd; Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley retreat, for media machers; and an early version of TED, for the titans of the converging worlds of (as the organizers had it) Technology, Entertainment and Design. But recent years have seen a furious proliferation of these status events. There’s PopTech, FOO Camp, the Clinton Global Initiative, Solve for X (Google’s conference for ‘moonshot thinking’). And beyond the higher-profile events, a lengthening tail of gatherings you’ve never heard of like the Feast, Do Lectures, the 99% Conference and Techonomy. All promise much the same thing: a velvet rope to keep out the attitudinally unwashed, serendipitous interaction, quirky content and at least the illusion of egalitarian elbow-rubbing.”

But I’d argue that some conferences are becoming so ubiquitous and trendy that their velvet ropes are being pulled back. TED has gotten so democratic—not just in making its 18-minute edited TEDTalks available online for all the world to see, but also in its increasingly frequent TEDx gatherings (270 events in 58 countries last month, according to the TEDx website)—that it’s more the brand of might-bes than überachievers.

Production company executive and Atlantic contributing editor for tech and media Michael Hirschorn coined the memorable term “clusterfuckoisie” to describe the tribes that pile on in hopes of proving or improving their social rank. A blogger at the Jane Dough asks if all the conferences have lost their mojo, simply because there are too many of them.

I don’t think they have, but it’s increasingly hard to know which conferences are really relevant to you. A forum on Quora about which conferences someone “needs to attend to meet world and industry leaders” has a few recurring answers—Davos, TED, CGI—but not much consensus overall.

And so, like Deadheads 40 years before them (but with espresso as their drug of choice), a new tribe has formed to follow the route from Sun Valley to Aspen to Austin to Switzerland. But following the knowledge takes its toll, and these conferences are eating alive the would-be thought leaders who join the circuit, traipsing around the world in search of ego food and new smarts, one quick bite at a time.

If they’re getting anything from this, it’s primarily that they’re strengthening their networks. Davos still seems to make careers—the others, mostly connections.

When you are managing your brand, it’s unbelievably important to remember that co-branding is vital: You are the company you keep, and that also means the conferences and events where you are seen and seeing. Unfortunately, in our reality-TV world, perception is reality and reality can be insanely demanding.

[photo: markovski]