Brand Management Archive

Krisis … Er, Crisis PR Gone Kaput

December 1st, 2010

Crisis PR can push a client to act very quickly in changing or ending certain business practices.  One recent noteworthy case is the ubiquitous celeb family the Kardashians, and the quick vanishing act performed by their name brand pre-paid debit card.

Just as soon as the card was announced, numerous critics pounced on the card’s predatory and heavy-handed fee structure.  The primary concern was that the card was being marketed to teenage girls, who critics argue lack the understanding of the delicate finances and responsibility required to manage such a card account.

To that end, the wise thing for the Kardashians to do was to, ahem, cancel the card.  And, a simple statement acknowledging their error could have put a nice end to the PR crisis and helped them move on.  That’s largely what happened, except for a couple of poorly executed twists:

First, their lawyer issued such a statement on the family’s behalf, instead of the family doing so themselves.  Effective crisis public relations counsels the client to make such statements directly to show authenticity and sincerity in seeking redemption.  Having your lawyer make the statement runs counter to this consideration.

Second, if you’re going to make a statement, don’t throw in any laughable points for the media to highlight.  The lawyer’s key quote was that the Kardashian sisters “have worked extremely long and hard to create a positive public persona” and that effort was compromised by the card’s fees.  This statement is incredibly arrogant, particularly since the family’s biggest claims to fame are association with a likely murderer and a notorious sex tape.  Unfortunately for the Kardashians, it’s the quote that most connected with the media.  Plus, it’s hard to reconcile a “positive public persona” when this is the front of the card you’re marketing:

We’d give the Kardashians a C+ for their crisis management.  The timing was great, but the delivery was a bit off mark.

Microsoft Wisely Reboots PR Strategy on Kinect

November 29th, 2010

Talk about walking itself back off the pier!  As Black Friday continues to ride the media, shopping, and economic wave until Christmas, tech toys continue to be all the rageMicrosoft certainly stands to benefit with the recent introduction of the Kinect, the motion-based videogame system that takes home entertainment to new interactive levels.

The interesting thing is that the Microsoft Kinect is actually a highly sophisticated component, and hackers, computer scientists, and other tech enthusiasts are modifying the machine for use in 3-D graphics and video production.  In this sense, the Kinect joins other products with versatility beyond their anticipated use.  For example, something as simple as baking soda has significant utility beyond being a food ingredient.

When a company creates such a hit, the smart thing to do is ride the wave of positive attention and integrate consumer satisfaction into the public relations and marketing strategy, similar to what Arm & Hammer did with its respective product.  You’d think that Microsoft would follow that philosophy.  And they did, but that stance is a significant change of heart from the company’s initial public position on the Kinect modifications.

At first, Microsoft made the ominous statement that it will “work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.”  Yikes!  After seeing the amazing amount of great press to be had, the company quickly reversed course and gave glowing assessments – “Anytime there is engagement and excitement around our technology, we see that as a good thing.”

That’s the PR attitude Microsoft sorely needs, especially since much of its product line lacks the sizzle that a certain rival generates regularly.  The PR lesson here is to embrace sensible consumer satisfaction, something that’s hard to generate in the first place!

Dialing back Electronic Privacy Expectations

November 16th, 2010

As smartphones continue to replicate or replace other daily means and devices, it’s only natural that the base technology will expand even further into individual users’ routines.  The big news of the moment is the collaboration between Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile to bring consumer payment services to mobile phones.  Dubbed “Isis,” the project will have the three companies integrate near-field technology and piggyback on Discover’s financial network – thus crossing swords with the other major credit card companies.

We all love convenience, and one less piece of plastic in our wallets is great and all, except… what does this mean for digital privacy in the new pay-to-play age?  And, what are the members of Isis doing to communicate their expectations and positions on this very topic?

Even if we’re wowed by the ability to pay for goodies with our phones, Congress will likely want to learn more at a looming lame-duck hearing on technology and telecommunications privacy issues.  Here are questions that will probably be asked at that hearing:

What security measures are in place to protect consumer credit information? (The flip-side of this coin is that the credit card companies have decades of experience and knowledge on this front.  If they wanted, they could easily run a PR campaign to show how far ahead they are and counter the Isis business objectives.)

What will the default settings be on phones for consumers, will they have to opt-out of the service?

Will phone companies now make such a payment service a mandatory part of all phone service plans?  In other words, will the payment service be bundled with all cell phone plans?

How will payment information and customer profiles, purchases, etc. be shared?  Will that information be sold to marketers and retailers for use in targeted advertising?

This is just the tip of the iceberg – the policy implications are dizzying, as is the future of electronic consumer transactions.  When so much is on the line, it behooves the corporate players to be very transparent and smart in their communications and media efforts.

Broken Escalators Show that DC Metro PR Has Run out of Steps

November 8th, 2010

We’ve commented before on the anemic media and PR strategy of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, a.k.a. WMATA or Metro, and how awfully tone deaf the agency is to public outcry.  That same press apathy is on full display again as Metro wrestles with two very embarrassing matters: yet another episode of total subway system overload, and ongoing subway escalator failures.

A disclaimer: as a DC PR firm, we ride Metro almost every day, so the Blog Aesthetic is definitely fired up on this issue!  To be fair to WMATA and Metro, the recent Comedy Central rally that set record subway ridership was not totally Metro’s fault.  Metro relies on large rally planners to provide anticipated crowd estimates, and the planners grossly underestimated attendance.  But what about the escalator failures, this time so bad that the machines actually sped up when people were on them?

Now, the good news is that Metro Deputy Chief of Rail Safety Robert Maniuszko at least speaks to the press regarding the recent escalator problems.  This is a vast improvement over Metro’s past insistence on not speaking to reporters.  But if you had to look past sporadic press quotes for what’s the latest with Metro, you’d be hard pressed to learn anything.

First, the WMATA site is, to put it kindly, a mess.  Here’s a screenshot of recent press releases, see how long it takes you to find the one about escalator repair status:

Further compounding this erratic messaging is the fact commuters really have nowhere else to get more information.  This is the only WMATA Facebook page we could find… and it’s got nothing.  Also, there are two different Twitter feeds, making people solve a riddle for which one is the actual authority for the most reliable WMATA information.

When an organization’s PR strategy is as disjointed and poorly prioritized as this, the best bet is to start from scratch – new messaging, new tactics, and new attitude.  If Metro doesn’t clean house soon, broken escalators will be the least of its PR problems.

Brand Recap: TLC – Um, What Exactly Am I “Learning”?

November 2nd, 2010

Branding an operation, company, product, or service requires serious considerations.  One is to never impose a brand that insults your target market’s collective intelligence.  Products such as KFC’s Double Down are prime examples of really bad branding, as the name actually asks the consumer to be stupid – that is, to “double down” on fat, cholesterol, salt, calories, poor health, and disgusting flavor.

In our quest to advocate a better media aesthetic, we’ve commented on content programming that really scrapes bottom.  Sadly, the nonsense continues to spread, delivering deceptive brands that even the most cunning totalitarian propaganda machine would admire.

Consider the Discovery Channel, a cable network that offers informative, interesting content laced with witty flavor.  Shows like “Mythbusters” and “Dirty Jobs” deliver engaging stories and soften the edge with a tongue-in-cheek approach.  This sets a positive tone for the Discovery Channel and helps viewers bond with the brand.

But Discovery has another horse in its stable, one that threatens its brand equity in the long run.

We’re talking about the cable network The Learning Channel, a subsidiary of the Discovery Channel.  As a brand analysis, let’s think about that name for a second.  Presumably, it’s all about “learning” – right?  Or maybe not, since the network parades the cuddly “TLC” acronym instead.  Judging from its programming, you’re bound to learn something… we think.  Here are some TLC shows:

• “19 Kids and Counting.”  Don’t confuse it with its predecessors, “17 Kids and Counting” and “18 Kids and Counting.”  Here, TLC teaches us about a world where contraception apparently doesn’t exist and procreation resembles sport.

• “Kate Plus 8.”  Also not to be confused with its predecessor, “Jon & Kate Plus 8.”  Again, what’s with this “we need more kids” theme?  And how does TLC feel about the off-screen train wreck these parents have become?

• “Toddlers & Tiaras.”  It’s one thing to parade families with lots of kids on TV; it’s another to underwrite the pathetic, disgusting, and shameless exploitation of toddlers by their morally-challenged parents.  There is simply no defense for this show, it appeals to every crass instinct of society and crams it into a televised format.

• “Property Ladder.”  Even if it means well, this show is horribly inconsistent with current economic reality and the crushing burden of mortgages and foreclosures millions of American families face.  As a show that gives tips on how to flip homes for investment and profit, “Property Ladder” makes TLC appear incredibly tone deaf to the plight of homeowners and the housing crisis nationwide.

The point is that branding goes beyond a particular institution itself, it colors perceptions on everything associated with it.  If you don’t believe that, consider the brand disasters affecting Phusion Projects (maker of “Four Loko”) and Gap (now stuck between Old Navy and Banana Republic).  In that sense, Discovery won’t have to look too far if TLC really steps in it one day.

Praecere Teams up with

November 1st, 2010

Praecere is proud to announce a new strategic relationship with — the leader in offering the best new SEO strategies! understands the importance of overlapping PR and SEO strategies, and we are honored to be working with them.  Take a moment to check out their site,

Ask Yourself, What Does Your Brand Mean to You?

October 29th, 2010

Not to get too New Age-y, but… if there’s one piece of advice we can offer about branding as a business strategy, it is this:

Always resist the temptation to sell your brand short.

Each and every time you interact with customers, clients, potential new business, or any other element of company growth strategy, once the conversation is over, all that’s left is your brand.  If you knock down your standing, negotiate with too low of a bar, are too self-deprecating, then that will haunt your business prospects.

Believe in what your brand is worth, and understand the power of that stance when it comes to public relations.

Hotel PR 101: 18 Questions to Get Your New PR Campaign Started

October 25th, 2010

So your DC hotel wants a new PR campaign, something different than what the competition’s been doing.  The best publicists get their clients to confront industry standards, and encourage valuable ideas to generate from within.

In DC, the common PR solution offers a theme that leverages politics, our city’s bread and butter.  Normally that’s not a bad place to start, but for a DC hotel – a place that wants to indulge a customer’s appeal to taste and design – politics are about as borrrrrring as it gets.  And besides, the dirty secret of our town is that no one wants to have drinks with the person who insists on talking all-politics-all-the-time.

To go past the hotel public relations comfort zone and find new hotel elements to publicize, here are some questions to ask yourself:

• Does each hotel floor have a theme, maybe one that’s about famous artists, rock stars, periods in history?

• Got a concierge floor, one with a private check-in, food, snacks, signature cocktails, free drinks all day long?

• Do you have cars to get guests around town?  What about free bikes and Metro passes?  If not, how about offering passes for the new Capitol Bikeshare?

• How about a pre-programmed iPad, loaded with music based on a guest’s choice made while booking?

• How about monthly-themed parties to shake up an otherwise stodgy bar/club scene?  How about an international DJ rotation?

• Have you recruited and publicized the chef at the hotel restaurant, who hopefully serves a menu with locally-sourced ingredients and who offers exclusive cooking classes to guests?  How about something similar with the hotel’s famous interior designer?

• How about movie night events when the weather’s not so great?

• What’s your strategy to get fundraising events staged at the hotel’s banquet rooms?

• Got a pool?  If so, how about yoga lessons by the water?  Or, what if the instructors were around the pool doing their moves while guests sunned about?

• Got promotions with our world-class museums and galleries?  Do you have vintage collections of art work?  How about rotating unique art throughout the guest rooms?

For hotel PR, the key is to get the guests involved in staying on the property.  And before you hire that new PR firm, make sure they understand the importance of distinction.  What’s their own philosophy of marketing themselves?  Is their website cool and different, or is it laced with a bunch of lame PR buzzwords (e.g., “traditional publicity techniques in utilization of beneficial client optics with engagement of tiered differential marketing apparatus blah blah blah”), cringe-worthy stock photography, and a mugshot of someone who looks like they want to sell you discount insurance?  Where’s the sense of humor?  A hotel should be fun, so you should enjoy interaction with your partner PR firm.

How Facebook Could Have Crushed the Negative Press from “The Social Network”

October 25th, 2010

While the PR industry still tries to solve a vexing riddle – how to quantify ROI and metrics of a PR campaign – there certainly is one big PR matter where the numbers do not lie.  As of today, “The Social Network” film, the Hollywood send-up of fact and fiction about Facebook’s rise to social network domination, has grossed $73 million within a month of release.  That puts it in the top five cumulative box office totals for 2010, a fairly significant number since the year’s about to end.

As the film made waves in the press before and after release, there was significant speculation that CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the Newark school system was meant to distract media attention away from the film.  Not surprising, since “The Social Networkdoesn’t exactly paint a sympathetic portrait of Facebook’s founders.

Of course, it’s hard to criticize such a large investment in the public school system.  Still, if that philanthropy was meant to kill negative headlines stemming from the film, we’d like to think there was a much easier, and more on target, way to do so.

What we’re wondering is, why didn’t Facebook instead launch an official “Facebook Film Festival”?  Think about this for a moment.  A Facebook-sanctioned film festival could enlist hot young filmmakers to showcase their talents in a trend-setting multimedia format, expanded the social network platform more aggressively, been done at little to no cost to Facebook, would quickly co-opt the “film” media meme away from the movie, generated enthusiasm from Facebook users, and leveraged the multiple film festival fan pages that already exist.  The PR theme could have promoted “an honest filmmaking process” as a dig at the apparent falsehoods in “The Social Network” – the perfect antidote for the film’s negative portrayals.

Big PR problems require grand solutions, but simplicity adds elegance to our scenario, and steals the film’s thunder by creating and owning a whole new film-making process.  Maybe Facebook will think of this when “The Social Network” hits DVD?

Restaurant PR 101: Know Your City!

October 20th, 2010

In seeking business publicity, restaurant owners can get decent traction in announcing a new opening or similar event.  Sometimes, though, owners want restaurant public relations to go to the next step – national exposure.  Instead of going the boring old route, a simple solution lies in understanding your city.

In Washington, where Praecere is based, the biggest thing we’ve got going here is election day.  Happens like clockwork, every two years, trust us!  When it comes to capitalizing on outside events, nothing beats predictability.  If you know when a big media field day is coming up, then you have ample time to prepare for riding the publicity coattails.

For example, one way to craft a relevant pitch is to tap into the fervor and national attention focused on elections.  This is all about offering the media something interesting, a cool story that goes beyond simple tweaks to your restaurant.  It’s one thing to add excitement to your menu, but the better talking point is why those changes were made – that’s what gets the media interested.

In this case, launching a restaurant promotion that reflects on politics – i.e., naming dishes and drinks after political parties, and then keeping a public tally on which items are selling the most – is excellent fodder for media restaurant pitches.  Close your eyes and picture 24/7 news channels, starved for content (“… Jill, I’m standing here at Good Dish Eatery in downtown DC, where two days away from election day the restaurant has gained fans with its politically-themed dishes.  If the election were based on which dish was most popular, then XYZ party has clearly won the vote…”)

You can see how this plays out, and why such publicity would benefit the hypothetical restaurant.  Dare to be creative and aggressive with restaurant public relations, and embrace strategies that go beyond the meat-and-potatoes of restaurant publicity.  Bon appétit!