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JULY 28, 2021 //     

Cautious Optimism About the Future of Health

Like so many others, my career in healthcare was completely accidental at its inception. Years into a successful fundraising career and weeks into a master’s degree program, I decided to shift gears into health communications knowing little about either. The day after Lehman Brothers crashed, I impulsively accepted a mid-level communications position and a 25% pay cut with a nonprofit focused on strengthening primary care in New York City. 

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A few years into my tenure, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed. It was overwhelming, but also re-energizing for the industry. It was just what we needed, a legislative imperative to drive change across the system. I recall one of my first assignments was to read through the 2,700-page legislation, as well as consulting firm analyses, advocacy group materials and legislative fact sheets to determine the law’s impact on federal qualified health centers (FQHCs) and ambulatory clinics. It will forever stand out in my mind as a formative experience and one that got me hooked on healthcare communications. 

The ACA continued to be a center of my career for more than a decade. I became an informal expert on issues like Medicaid expansion, the ACA-driven political conflicts, court cases set in motion to dismantle it (King v. Burwell, anyone?) and public opinion pushed to the edges. And despite the chaos, compliance, court rulings and re-rulings, we still saw progress. Some 20 million more Americans gained insurance coverage and 135 million people were protected against discrimination for having pre-existing conditions, just to name a few achievements.

So what’s different about the progress we now experience in healthcare today? 

Clearly, the impetus for change is obviously wildly different than it was 10 years ago when the ACA passed. This time around, the health legislative and regulatory activity stemming from the global pandemic is an after-effect of change, as opposed to the catalyst for it. Rather than a legislative imperative, we’re looking at a COVID-19-inspired “socio-technological imperative.” 

Put simply, today’s public health crisis is driving drastic, seismic shifts that shape new behaviors, culture, business models and economic trends across the healthcare industry and many others. This level of systemic change can only be facilitated and supported by major technological advances on the consumer and B2B sides, some of which are technologies that have existed for decades but were not yet widely adopted.

This also explains the cautious optimism, and I am more optimistic than I was in 2010. Why? Because we are witnessing a cultural driver of real change -- as opposed to legislative, regulatory or any other mandated change -- and we know that in these types of situations, change has a much better chance of sticking. Even more rare is the likelihood that an entire industry would claw back 20 years of progress accomplished in less than two years.

The stickiest of the “sticky” is without a doubt the healthcare industry darling of our pandemic lives: telehealth. Turn to any optimistic healthcare headlines over the past 16 months, and chances are it has touted the benefits, uptake and proliferation of telehealth -- and for good reason. Telehealth drives far-reaching M&A activity, record-breaking tech investment and brand pivots. The presence of Amazon Care may be perhaps the strongest industry signal that telehealth is here to stay and with it, we’ll see related surges in remote monitoring, hospital in the home and wearables, to name a few.

But while the proliferation of telehealth is encouraging, it is not the magic bullet that will fix it all. For one, not everyone has access to it, especially people impacted by social determinants of health. A recent JAMA study showed people living in areas with limited social resources were the least likely to use telehealth, including the under- or uninsured, low income populations and rural locations.

Real progress will be measured by connectivity, ease of use and the ability of systems to truly talk to each other, so that a healthcare experience and the management of health data and records is as secure and easy to access as your financial information is from your bank. It would be like accessing cash from an ATM when you’re across town or across the globe, and your primary care physician is alerted about your emergency room visit as seamlessly and instantly as you’d receive a Venmo transfer notification.

So what can we do as communicators do to ensure the stickiness of progress.

Let’s embrace the complicated. While telehealth gets most of the credit, equally as important are the companies taking on the unsexiest of problems that can save us hundreds of millions of dollars to create true, lasting change. Anyone can tout the benefits of a calorie-tracking app or a virtual medical visit -- get comfortable with the platforms that clean data before you even get to use AI, solve for efficiencies via third-party benefits administration, digitalize clinical trials or automate insurance claims data processing. 

All are leading progress that needs to be unpacked, scaled and celebrated, and we’re here for it.

Michelle Webb leads the Health Practice and is a seasoned health strategy expert with extensive experience in strategic communications and corporate strategy for health companies.

AGENCY NEWS // JULY 28, 2021 //     

Allison+Partners Wins California Pizza Kitchen's PR Business

PRovoke MediaLOS ANGELES — California Pizza Kitchen has hired Allison+Partners as its PR agency of record, charging the agency with helping drive the restaurant chain’s growth following its 2020 bankruptcy. READ MORE
JULY 23, 2021 //     

Lessons from a ‘New Normal’ That Wasn’t

By: Michelle Rovere 

If this new decade has taught us anything, it’s that it will keep us on our toes.

It’s July 2021, some 18 months since COVID-19 started dominating our news cycles. And as the rest of the world continues to re-open, a large proportion of Australia’s east coast finds itself ‘back here.’ – back in hard lockdown, back in online learning mode, back confused about ways of working and back binge-watching state officials’ daily delivery of pandemic case numbers. Our reality TV fix has been replaced by watching the patient zero blame game play out across the media and trying to decode what the latest vaccination guidelines and ever-changing restrictions mean for us and our loved ones.

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I don’t think any of us imagined we’d be back here. But we are – and why are we so surprised? The truth is most of us got complacent and we’ve been caught out. We started to feel we had COVID-19 in the bag, and now we face a more contagious Delta variant that keeps everyone guessing. We were finding our feet again. And whether we knew it or not, we created a ‘new normal’ comfort zone that wasn’t going to accommodate another outbreak.

People had just settled into various forms of hybrid work models, splitting their weeks between CBD offices and working from home, and teams had started to find their grooves when it came to collaborating effectively face-to-face and virtually. Now, we’ve all retreated back into our home offices and a reluctant reliance on Zoom. Meanwhile, many businesses are attempting version 2.0 of the pivot, sectors like construction have all but shut down and state economies have come to a halt in a desperate effort to stop further spread of the aggressive new variant.

Lining up for drive-through COVID-19 testing is once again our family day out. We’re learning about regularly changing restrictions and limitations, speculating over what constitutes an ‘essential’ reason to leave home, and trying to navigate the initiatives being introduced to support employers and employees – and then doing it all again the next week when new adjustments and announcements are made.

Lockdown living, working and learning should be second nature by now, as we’ve had plenty of practice. We should be accustomed to that feeling that the only certainty is uncertainty. But it remains unsettling, because we’re dealing with a same-same but different scenario. 

Even traditions that have stood the test of time look very different in 2021. We’re about to witness an Olympic Games like no other, in a city that all too recently called for its fourth state of emergency due to climbing COVID-19 case numbers. But, like a beacon of hope, the 2021 Olympic Games will proceed rain, hail or pandemic… albeit with some modifications. 

No tourism boost and no opportunity to show off Tokyo to millions of visiting Olympic spectators. Instead of arriving to the usual pomp and circumstance, incoming athletes go directly into the isolation of an Olympic bubble – or in the case of Australia’s athletics team, straight into a lockdown. They won’t explore the city or enjoy the festivities that come from being in the Olympic Village with hundreds of other athletes from all over the world. There will be empty stadiums instead of crowds and silence instead of applause. Perhaps for the first time in their careers, athletes will compete on a world stage without the cheers and jeers of an audience – and we already know this has caused a strain on the mental health of some high-profile gold medal hopefuls. 

Whether it’s the new normal comfort zones we’ve created for ourselves or a centuries-old tradition like the Olympics, nothing remains certain. Of all the lessons we will take away from the COVID-19 experience, one will surely be that as much as we think we’re in control we have no choice but to continue to adapt and evolve. Because there’s no room for complacency – certainly not in this decade.

As the head of Allison+Partners’ Sydney office, Michelle provides in-market support to clients while expanding the agency’s local presence. She has spent 20 years developing marketing and communications programs for some of the world's most recognized and respected technology and consumer lifestyle brands. Her expertise includes reputation and issues management, internal and external stakeholder communications and content development. 

AGENCY NEWS // JULY 14, 2021 //     

Allison+Partners ups Kristen Kmetetz, Molly Luby to EVP

PRWeek

NEW YORK: Allison+Partners has promoted Kristen Kmetetz and Molly Luby to EVPs of client service and operations. Kmetetz and Luby were promoted to the new roles in May; both report to New York GM and partner Tracey Cassidy.

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AGENCY NEWS // JULY 12, 2021 //     

The Future Of Health: 'Our Storytelling Creates A Bridge Of Empathy'

PRovoke Media

Women's health tech is currently a $700m market that’s expected to boom to more than $1 billion by 2025. What role will communications play in its future?

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JULY 1, 2021 //     

More Stories About Tomorrow’s Technology Are Needed Today

By: Sierra Oshrin and Jeremy Seow

Storytelling around technology innovation has made a positive impact among COVID-19-inflicted communities, underscoring the need to continue post-pandemic.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed how quickly we’re willing to embrace disruptive technology. More than a year and a half since it began, we’ve witnessed how the rapid deployment of new technologies can make a substantial impact on the world around us. 

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In the Asia-Pacific region, we’ve seen the rapid deployment of innovative technologies that help monitor cases and track outbreaks to altogether slow the spread of COVID-19. In Singapore, more than 90% of the population quickly embraced TraceTogether: a digital system that uses QR code technology to facilitate contract-tracing efforts. In China, residents likewise adopted a cloud robotics systems that facilitated medical services, such as monitoring vitals, distributed food and medicines to patients in need, and disinfected hospitals and residential areas.  

Pandemic tech is not universal.

It’s rare to see countries confront the exact same challenge at the exact same time. At this point in the pandemic, it's worth noting solutions that work in one country may not necessarily work in another. Tracing apps and quarantine bracelets would likely have been met with resistance in countries such as the United States, where privacy and protection of personal freedoms are strongly ingrained in the culture. However, in many APAC communities, these technologies have helped build public confidence and allowed many to return to a state of semi-normalcy ahead of broad vaccine deployment. 

When such technological tools deployed initially, the stakes were incredibly high. If proven ineffective, the public’s confidence in these technologies would have diminished. Fortunately, the effect was largely quite the opposite. By removing bureaucratic constraints and allowing for speedy adoption of new and disruptive technology, Asian countries quickly gained some measure of control over a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis.  

We believe storytelling around the involved technologies was a big part of this process and helped contribute to the public’s acceptance. By emphasizing the technologies’ benefits and successes, it paved the way for more future innovation. In the face of user doubts and hesitancy, positive stories about technology’s role in halting the pandemic enabled more balance in the health-tech narratives.  

Pandemic tech has helped build the new normal  

Since the invention of the wheel, technology has more effectively bridged distances and brought people together. In the same way, today’s technologies helped keep people connected despite travel restrictions and social distancing measures. And as we saw a disconcerting rise in pandemic-related hate – ranging from anti-maskers to outright xenophobia – technology rose to the occasion to connect communities and dispel discrimination.  

Many of the brands we work with found themselves at the forefront of these efforts. TikTok launched new tools to help promote kindness and launched campaigns against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. The TikTok platform also provided aid and partnership to local businesses during this time; the regional launch of TikTok for Business came with initiatives, including $100 million in ad credits for the use of small businesses worldwide.  

Business-to-business brands also stepped up their games. ByteDance-owned Lark, a digital collaboration suite, launched at the height of the pandemic and enabled SMEs in the region to rapidly digitalize their operations – for free. Technologically driven travel booking platform Booking.com made strategic use of data and insights to inspire domestic travel and provide direct support to its partners in Southeast Asia. 

The power of innovation storytelling 

When the world faced an unprecedented darkness, technological solutions kept individuals and businesses running. The stories of such technology success inspired individuals, governments, healthcare workers and businesses to look beyond their immediate challenges, and explore solutions to ease the burdens they faced.  

While social media’s unprecedented speed and reach has allowed misinformation to spread, we have also seen how it proliferated messages and stories that influenced behavioral changes for the better. Even grassroots efforts, amplified by news and digital media, have given old-school businesses the nudge they needed to adopt tech solutions to help them stay afloat during the pandemic downturn.  

Clearly, technology storytelling should not come to a halt once the pandemic ends. Instead, it should continue its momentum to help drive inspiration for technologies to come. That’s a big reason why we love the communications business: we get to use our love for the craft to inspire others and to drive positive change during difficult times.  
 

Sierra Oshrin is a former broadcast journalist now serving as a senior account executive in Allison+Partners’ Singapore office. Sierra has reported in Arizona, Washington, D.C. and Idaho as a multimedia journalist, otherwise known as a “one-man-band.” 

Jeremy Seow is the Managing Director of Growth & Innovation in APAC for  Allison+Partners 

JUNE 30, 2021 //     

How Allison+Partners uses Muck Rack to achieve PR goals

“Since choosing Muck Rack, we haven’t thought twice about it. So far, our experience has been nothing but success, with more accurate data and easier collaboration.” — Brent Diggins, Partner, Managing Director Measurement + Analytics

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JUNE 29, 2021 //     

If Your Instinct Is to Rattle Off Everything Your Firm Has Done to Advance Diversity and Social Equity, Think Again

By: Frank Sommerfield, Tara Chiarell and Shane Winn 

When your company is asked, “what are you really doing about social and racial equity?” the best response probably isn’t simply to list all initiatives that are in play and ones that are planned. Be a bit more earnest and remember that most organizations haven’t done enough to begin to reset the tradition of inequality. This is particularly true in the investment management space, where 99% of the assets managed by the U.S. investment industry are overseen by white, male-owned firms, according to a 2019 Knight Foundation analysis cited in Fortune 

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The topic is on a lot of people’s minds these days. And we believe the perspective and mindset to address such important conversations should impart the idea that “while we’ve worked to make some strides, we have not done enough, and we are committed to developing and implementing a strategy to move the needle.”

Only after you put forth that qualification (as long as it’s true), can you let the world know what your company has done and plans to do to provide accountability.  

Of course, you really have to mean what you say about diversity and racial justice in your organization and show tangible action in order to be taken seriously. If you’re only applying band-aids, you’ll have a whole other set of problems. There must be an authentic commitment to furthering social justice – one that is a true organizational priority. 

The urgency of this kind of reckoning spans all industries, but it may be particularly acute in asset management and financial services overall (industries where the “Our People” sections of company websites are overwhelmingly male and white). Further, we believe it is just as important for CMOs to come to terms with the situation as it is for CEOs, COOs, CHROs and CIOs to do so.  

Asset management CMOs are charged with channeling the nuances of the marketplace and helping ensure a firm’s outward messages are honest, empathetic and inclusive. There are a few points CMOs must keep in mind when making their case to leadership about social, racial and gender equity (note: if they’re not making a case at all, then they’re doing their company a major disservice).  

CMOs must drive home the need to build true equity and diversity in their ranks, at all levels – and remind leadership that this not only takes time, but also significant investment and, perhaps, rethinking and re-making approaches to recruiting, training and promotion. It’s not acceptable to say, “we just can’t find people.” If you’re struggling to find diverse people for senior-level positions, you can nurture that kind of talent from the ground up -- summer interns and first-year hires, for instance. People need the chance – and then the unencumbered runway – to work their way up and help transform the organization and mentor on their way.  

First, racial and gender equity are proven, in many cases, to pay off in terms of improved investment returns, meaning how well investment firms do their work and serve their clients. That’s especially the case with diverse investment managers in the private investment space; they’ve been shown to bring perspectives and points of view to the table that generate alpha. (And, if alpha is a zero-sum game, then original and lived perspectives are critically important.)  

As we continue to contemplate social and racial equity in the investment industry, we hope that honesty, authenticity, proactivity and farsightedness will emerge as the priorities. 

Frank is an expert in institutional and corporate positioning, communications strategy development, financial communications, business thought leadership, editorial services, crisis planning and media training 

Tara Oversees all operations of the DC office, she has built a strong business spanning the full suite of integrated marketing services Allison+Partners has to offer.   

Shane has two-decades of experience in consumer public relations, brand development and corporate communications on both client and agency sides of the business. As general manager, he is responsible for business operations, growth, client relations and staff development for the Chicago office. 

JUNE 22, 2021 //     

Take Those Pride Marketing Tactics Out Of The Closet

By: Hadas Streit and Matthew Della Croce

Authentic support for equality needs to happen every day — all year long. With Pride month in full swing, it isn’t surprising to see companies raising their Pride flags and displaying rainbow-embellished products. Step into a Starbucks, and you’ll see an assortment of colorful mugs. In the back of a Target, you’ll find T-shirts, hats and flags that simply state, “Equality.”

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But what does it mean to a consumer to only see these displays of equal opportunity and respect one month a year? It’s time for brands and companies to pull their Pride marketing tactics out of the closet and show authentic support all year long. The end result will include fierce loyalty, brand activism and further promotion for a company.

Here’s why it makes sense. 

A Gallup poll released in February 2021 found 5.6% of U.S. adults identified as LGBT — a number that rose by more than 4 percentage points since Gallup’s last poll in 2017. The same poll found 15% of Gen Zers identified as LGBTQ.

The numbers don’t stop there. A Forbes 2018 article found the LGBTQ+ community has an estimated buying power of $1 trillion in the U.S. alone. Another study by LGBT Capital found the global buying power from the LGBTQ+ population stood at a whopping $3.7 trillion.

The growing LGBTQ+ population (and their wallets) is reflective of the massive cultural shift underway — where the public is embracing and encouraging inclusivity, diversity and acceptance. This is having an impact on companies internally and how they treat diverse groups. Many companies have implemented programs and benefits bolstering all backgrounds, but consumers need to see these efforts publicly too.

While many marketers see an opportunity related to buying power of the LGBTQ+ community, the strategy one takes should be a business imperative priority that takes place throughout the year rather than a marketing tactical execution tied solely to a month or holiday.

To start, companies and their marketing teams should take the time to thoroughly understand the population they target. What does the LGBTQ+ population care about? How does your company or brand reflect the values of the LGBTQ+ population? How different are LGBTQ+ communities across the country?

Secondly, take a hard and honest look internally to ensure products and campaigns reflect company culture. Over the last year, we’ve seen plenty of Instagram posts, statements or tweets where a company or executive announces support for a particular group. But what does that mean? Does the company internally support these groups? What exactly is the company doing? Before you send out an InstaStory, make sure you live those values internally.

Finally, companies need to ensure they are consistent with their messaging all year long. If you support LGBTQ+ groups and the freedom of being — then raise that Pride flag 365 days a year.

An award-winning PR executive with more than 25 years of experience, Matthew leads worldwide client services. He has extensive global experience helping businesses and organizations across industries grow and evolve.

Hadas is an Executive Vice President in the Corporate Practice and leads our Workplace team, Hadas is passionate about helping clients retain and recruit talent and telling their employer brand story in new and creative ways across platforms.
JUNE 20, 2021 //     

The Untraditional Father's Day

For as long as I can remember – even when I was a kid – my primary life goal was to be a great father, husband, and son. I had the good fortune of growing up with loving and committed parents who always tried their best to support me, and I measured myself by their yardstick: The ultimate measure of my life, I told myself for years, would be my family's happiness.

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Until last year, I felt like everything was on track, albeit in life's typical, not quite linear way. My family had relocated back to Southern California, the place where my wife and I got married years earlier, and we were living a modest but stable life when the pandemic hit. Both of our jobs were impacted, hers more dramatically than mine, but we were still employed, safe in our home, and apart from the same quality of life restrictions everyone was living with, seemingly okay. 

Our "new normal" wasn't ideal, but as a believer in long-term commitment, I was determined to ride out this storm, just like others we'd dealt with in prior years. Unfortunately, the feeling wasn't mutual. In the middle of the pandemic, my kids and I were shocked when my wife announced that she was moving out, then stunned when she moved in with someone else. Going forward, my two young daughters and I would have to navigate a world that suddenly seemed even more unstable than before. 

Circumstances forced me to redefine success. Small victories began to matter because they represented forward progress during a chaotic, sometimes backwards 2020. Spending three minutes helping a child fix Google Classroom problems made a bigger difference than staying completely focused on a work project. Any day was good if it ended with all three of us together, and candidly, not so good whenever it didn't. Over time, small victories built to bigger ones, and the ratio of good to not good days increased dramatically.

It also redefined me as a father. Although I had worked from home for most of my kids' lives and felt close to them, I had also valued "us time" with my wife. Though I wasn't shattered when she left, seeing my girls crying over the changes broke my heart. Their tears became mine. And together, united in determination to move past an awful experience, we rebuilt our family.

On this Father's Day, my relationship with my kids is the best and most loving it's ever been. We adopted the puppy we'd dreamed about since our relocation and used him as an excuse to explore dog beaches and parks outside. Instead of going off into our own rooms to seek quiet after work and school, we started spending more of our free time together. And as quarantine restrictions eased up, our weekends became opportunities for family adventures rather than just more time to sit around the house.

So to all the dads out there facing an untraditional father's day, enjoy it – and if you're not, please know that it can get better. Love your family as much as humanly possible: your kids, partner, parents, and siblings can all make a difference, and you can, too. We may never know for sure what tomorrow will bring, but on this day, celebrate and appreciate what you have, just as your family celebrates and appreciates you. 

Jeremy provides strategic messaging and brand positioning counsel to Allison+Partners clients and internal teams, focusing on written and visual communications. Drawing upon three decades of experience as a journalist and entrepreneur, he proactively identifies unique coverage opportunities, angles, and challenges, building content to maximize client resonance with varied audiences.

JUNE 17, 2021 //     

The Next Technology Frontier: Welcome to the New Miami

When does a trend become a movement? When does the movement become a permanent fixture? The shift from being a city synonymous with tourism and sunshine to a global tech hub seemed to always be slightly out of reach for Miami. As other U.S. cities, such as Austin and Boulder, recently built vibrant tech ecosystems, Miami’s momentum did not keep pace.  

That all changed in 2020.  

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Miami was able to capitalize on the confluence of events caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of remote work, the need for a global, multi-cultural workforce, and access to new digital ecosystems that catalyze growth. Not surprisingly, the greater Miami area has experienced some of the fastest increases over the past year.  

What started as a small ripple has turned into an epic wave that has reached the sun-soaked shores of the Magic City. 

The wave reached a new peak this June when over 12,000 people descended on Miami. Unlike years past, the primary reason for the visit went well beyond the beach –technologists wanted to participate in the blockchain and digital payments revolution sweeping across the globe. The Bitcoin 2021 Conference in Miami was the largest crypto event in history, and the drumbeat is attracting legions of a new breed of tech companies to South Florida.  

There is a generational shift underway in Miami. Over the past year, blockchain, financial services, emerging tech companies, venture capital firms and entrepreneurs have stampeded to the region and laid the foundation for a new economic ecosystem that will transform our nation into a leading force in the new frontiers of digital payments.  

Investments, talent and opportunities arrive daily, powered by a business-friendly political system and bold, innovative Mayor Francis Suarez, who has successfully championed the city as the next great global financial and technology hub – one that offers a perfect staging ground to Latin America and Europe.  

Allison+Partners is part of this trend and recently opened our first office in Miami. Founded in San Francisco, our agency culture is infused with disruption and harnessing technology innovation. Our heritage in launching and scaling some of the world’s leading technology brands, and our entrepreneurial spirit, are the perfect fit for the new Miami.  

As a former long-time New York City resident and a member of the so-called “Techxodus,” what struck me about the Miami tech community are the unique synergies between the newly arrived digital nomads and the long-time Miami tech entrepreneurs. There is a real sense of cooperation and a shared understanding that we have the opportunity to build a community that can rival the traditional tech cities on a global scale.  

Silicon Valley might be in the West, but the American West was always more than geography; it has always symbolized the art of the possible, the open space, the ability to start anew. In many ways, Miami is the new frontier for technology and business, free from restrictive bureaucracy and group-think synonymous with the old world.  

As we get started, and as innovative new companies continue to set up operations here, our new Miami team is all-in on helping ensure the tech wave becomes a permanent and positive fixture in the Magic City.  

 

David Baum works at the crossroads of technology, business, and politics and serves as a valued strategic advisor to CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders. Baum works closely with leaders of start-ups and global organizations to develop integrated communications programs spanning technology, blockchain, public affairs, crisis communications and reputation management, website development, and thought leadership.    

AGENCY NEWS // JUNE 15, 2021 //     

Allison+Partners Elevates David Richeson to Managing Director, Strategic Analytics + Digital Innovation

David Richeson, Managing Director, Strategic Analytics + Digital InnovationAllison+Partners has promoted David Richeson to managing director, strategic analytics + digital innovation. This newly created role reflects his contributions to expanding Allison+Partners’ data analytics offering. Richeson will drive further avenues for data-driven strategy, communications, and other innovative approaches to deliver greater alignment between communications strategies and business goals for the agency and its clients. Richeson will report to Global President, Worldwide Client Services Matthew Della Croce. READ MORE
JUNE 15, 2021 //     

Take Me Out to the Crowd... An Epiphany

Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

When it comes to baseball, I agree with NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, who said in his induction speech: “In my opinion, baseball is America’s pastime, but football is truly America’s passion.”

I grew up in the American South, where football is an identifier and religion all rolled into one. You choose – or more likely, are born into – a team and it forever defines you. Some are luckier than others. I’m looking at you, University of Alabama fans.

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My cathedrals are Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the Superdome in New Orleans, where I have been blessed with some amazing experiences. Notably, I attended the post-Hurricane Katrina re-opening of the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006. A friend Chip Duncan was generous enough to give me two tickets to sit in an endzone box suite for that game against hated rivals the Atlanta Falcons, and I brought my sister Nicolle with me. We had no idea that would be the night of “Rebirth,” when Steve Gleason blocked a punt that was recovered for a touchdown in the first series of the game. It set off a collective roar and emotion the likes of which I had never before or since experienced. We mostly cried tears of relief and joy – New Orleans was back after devastation, and it was now a winner!

Sports has an amazing way of lifting our spirits, uniting us and inspiring us. I was reminded of that when my sister Nicolle, brother-in-law Chris and nephews Michael and Andrew visited me in Atlanta in late May.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I haven’t been home or seen my family in more than a year. It’s the longest I’ve gone without being home with them, which weighed heavily on my heart during the lockdown. So, I leapt at the chance to spend some time with them, and they didn’t have to twist my arm when they asked if we could visit the College Football Hall of Fame and go to an Atlanta Braves game. 

As a New Orleanian who grew up without a baseball franchise, I’m mostly ambivalent about the Braves. I frequently watched the Chicago Cubs on cable TV as a teen, and that was the closest I ever got to being a fan of a baseball team. Heading to the Braves game, I was more excited to enjoy time with my family, savor a cool spring evening with them and have a few beers. I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that would come.

In The Battery – the entertainment district that surrounds Truist Park – before the game, an endless sea of unmasked people drank, ate and socialized. Just like we all used to when things were “normal.” Vaccinations have apparently brought us closer to normal. Seeing people’s uncovered faces, hearing the natural hum of a large crowd and random music blasting from bars, and feeling free was a shock to the system. As the sun began to dip in the West, the pinkish-orange hue fit the happy mood of a crowd that seemed grateful to forget about the pandemic and ready to socialize.

Once seated in the stadium’s upper deck, little epiphanies struck me moment by moment. I forgot how much I enjoyed the crack of the bat on a nice hit, a great catch made, and an impossibly long and on-target throw for an out. I forgot about the happy organ music playing those classic ballpark themes, the Braves fans tomahawk-chopping, and how a hot dog and a beer just taste infinitely better at the ballgame. I forgot about people dancing in the stands, kids jockeying for position to catch a foul ball and the goofy games on the jumbotron between innings.

But I wasn’t prepared for the emotion I’d feel in the seventh-inning stretch. By this point, the Braves had hit a grand slam and were about to hit another on the way to an historic 20-1 rout of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The fans were in fine spirits – and if they weren’t, drinking at the Battery and the ballpark surely had them loosened up. The organ cranked up that familiar and most American of tunes: “Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd…

I surveyed the stands and saw the masses of people singing while swaying to and for with arms around each other. And I swear when it they got to “take me out to the crowd,” it sounded a bit louder, like a defiant shout at the pandemic and that dreadful 2020. I felt the simple joy of a communal experience, and enjoyed the rest of the song with its iconic American imagery – peanuts and crackerjacks; root, root, root for the home team; one, two, three strikes you’re out!

Normal life returned. I saw people of all varieties again having fun, the booze flowed and we were all in it together once again for the home team. The pandemic felt like a distant memory as we reclaimed our sacred ritual around the baseball diamond.

Maybe Howie Long was wrong?

Jacques Couret is senior editorial manager of the Marketing Innovation Team and works out of Allison+Partners’ Atlanta office, where he boasts the company’s best collection of Star Wars desk toys.

 

JUNE 10, 2021 //     

The Benefits of Continuous Learning

By: Molly Luby

My mom spent her career as a teacher. My dad was an entrepreneur and small business owner. So it’s not surprising I find myself constantly looking for the next opportunity to learn something new. It’s also not uncommon to hear a PR practitioner say they’re a student of the world and curious by nature. If not immersing ourselves in a new industry, we’re reading up on the latest trends, diving into a book or recommending a new podcast. We look for inspiration, opportunity and growth around every corner.

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There’s something powerful in learning. Like a great book, it can take you to new worlds. It can also remind you things about yourself you might have forgotten or push you to stretch your limits and challenge the status quo.

I’m fortunate to work for a company that supports continuous learning, be it through the resources provided by our incredible Allison+Partners Learning & Development team or by supporting staff who pursue personal and professional education opportunities outside the company. This spring, I enrolled in NYU’s Stern Executive Education program to earn my Certificate in Corporate Sustainability. Having had the opportunity to help execute award-winning earned media campaigns for companies leading the way in sustainability and build external communications on related issues from climate change to responsible packaging innovation, I wanted to learn even more about the business of sustainability.

The experience not only provided a wealth of knowledge on corporate sustainability and the business value of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG), but it served as a reminder of just what’s so beneficial about learning:

  • Surrounding yourself with diverse perspectives – The virtual course was comprised of professionals from across the globe, representing different industries, roles and experience levels. Through forum discussions and peer reviews, I learned not only from the curriculum but from their diverse perspectives.
  • Getting out of your comfort zone – While I consider myself a continuous learner, it had been several years since I had been in a school setting. Balancing weekly reading assignments, lesson deadlines and a final project with the demands of work and home life shook me out of my comfort zone (in a great and refreshing way) and helped me reprioritize what’s truly important and impactful.
  • Finding inspiration in unexpected places – While the focus of the course was corporate sustainability, the lessons and readings provided inspiration in unexpected ways. It sparked new ideas for my clients, new perspectives on my attitudes as a consumer and new connections.

Here’s to the teachers, the entrepreneurs and the lifelong students! Here’s to learning!

Molly is a seasoned public relations and communications professional with experience across a variety of sectors, including consumer packaged goods, technology and corporate. She is responsible for day-to-day operations and business development efforts for Allison+Partners’ New York office and serves as senior lead on accounts. She has expertise in integrated communications strategy, thought leadership and brand purpose with a focus on driving impactful storytelling and results. Molly holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and a minor in Communications from Arizona State University.

 

AGENCY NEWS // JUNE 9, 2021 //     

How Smile Train Leverages PR For Impact

TruStory FM

In this episode of Cause Talk Radio, Alli and Megan speak with Susannah Schaefer, President and Chief Executive Officer at Smile Train and Scott Pansky, Co-Founder and Social Impact Lead at Allison & Partners about the value of PR for nonprofit organizations.

READ MORE
JUNE 7, 2021 //     

Are You a 2021 Grad Interested in a PR Career? Advice from Those Recently In Your Shoes

Congratulations, you did it!  

I remember the summer after graduation so fondly, but I also recall how daunting the transition to the “real world” was. As I pounded the pavement dropping off physical résumés and cover letters at firms to start my PR career (and start those pesky student loan payments!), I could have used some real-world advice from those agency-side.  

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There are a ton of tips and advice columns out there for recent grads, but not enough that focus on PR. So, who better to share advice with 2021 graduates than some Allison+Partners stars who graduated and started their careers fairly recently? Let’s hear from N.Y.-based Lucas Thompson, Phoenix-based Yasmine Gonzalez and San Francisco-based Ellen Marrero. 

Q: Let’s start with advice for securing a job in PR. Any tips on this? How can candidates set themselves apart?  

Yasmine: I graduated during the pandemic, which was a difficult time for many. I think the biggest lesson I learned was to be patient and not give up. One way to stand out is by being proactive, and it’s encouraged to follow up with thank you notes after your interview. Even if you don’t get hired at that specific agency, it will leave a good impression and they might even refer you to someone else who is hiring (that happened to me!). 

Ellen: Before searching for jobs, I think it's important to look within and figure out your interests and your “why.” Then, use this as a North Star when searching for companies you want to work for. I think this automatically sets you apart because you'll naturally be invested in the hiring process, which will definitely show through your responses, the questions you ask and other general post-interview stuff.  

Lucas: Never submit a job application or go on an interview without first doing your research. Going into the interview process with a clear knowledge of company values, awareness of notable clients and specific reasons why you are interested in the company is the best way to set yourself apart as a true contender instead of someone who just stumbled upon the listing on LinkedIn. Quality over quantity is key! 

Q: Once new grads have entered the PR workforce, what are key qualities that will help them be successful? 

Lucas: The important quality is to be open-minded and eager to learn. The truth is, as you start your career you aren’t going to know the answers to everything. And that’s perfectly fine! The important thing is taking the time and putting in the work to learn your role and progress your skills. Similarly, NEVER be afraid to ask questions.  

Ellen: Similar to Lucas’ advice – be a sponge! Maintain a curious mindset and be open to learning new things. Imposter syndrome is real, and it can feel like you have no idea what you're doing (trust me, been there). But remember to view each challenge as an opportunity to learn something new. Overcommunicate and proactively ask for feedback. Taking advantage of mentorship opportunities and Employee Resource Groups can go a long way!  

Yasmine: And building off Ellen’s great advice on the opportunities available to you – just get involved! It’s so important to find the things you’re passionate about when starting and connect with people who do that well. That’s why I love the OpenDoor program at A+P, where we get an opportunity to speak with senior leadership that specializes in different things.   

Q: What is one thing about PR that you now know (maybe something surprising), but didn’t know before you started your career? 

Yasmine: In college you learn a lot about pitching media, but it’s a whole new world when you’re actually doing it. Pitches are so much better when they are uniquely tailored to each reporter.  

Ellen: I agree with Yaz. And I’ve learned media relations take time, and so do meaningful results. At first, I felt frustrated about not hearing back from any of my contacts. I later learned timing really is everything – just because it's not a fit today, doesn’t mean it won't be a fit the next month. This made me realize the importance of patience and building those relationships.  

Lucas: I was surprised at how often I use Excel. Across accounts I work on, a lot of measurement tasks require me to analyze different metrics and use Excel functions. I love getting the opportunity to think analytically and have really expanded my knowledge of Excel’s capabilities.   

Q: How do you think graduating and learning in a global pandemic will help 2021 grads entering PR? 

Lucas: Speaking as someone who got to enjoy a few months in the office before the pandemic, working remotely taught me to be much more self-sufficient and a better critical thinker. In the office, I’d always pop over to my teammates' desk if I had a random question or needed a quick clarification. Working at home helped me become less dependent on my coworkers and forced me to think through situations on my own. This has made me a much better problem solver and turned me into a more well-rounded professional.  

Yasmine: Graduating during the pandemic automatically gives each graduate a unique experience to share. They are able to market themselves as already knowing how to adapt quickly, meet deadlines remotely and most likely are already pros at Zoom meetings.  

Ellen: While a pandemic certainly can throw you and your life plans off guard, it teaches you resilience and resourcefulness. I actually think that the abrupt change in the learning environment equipped ‘20/’21 graduates with two important skills needed to thrive in PR – agility and adaptability.  

Q: Parting words of wisdom -- what is one piece advice you have for a 2021 grad starting on their first day in PR?  

Yasmine: This is the moment you’ve been studying for. Have confidence in yourself and know they picked YOU for a reason. Now go show them why!  

Ellen: YOU are a valuable asset to everyone – so be excited to use your voice, whatever it is you bring to the table! 

Lucas: You might be confused and overwhelmed at first, but you’ll eventually find your place and be all acclimated in no time! 

Meghan Curtis manages operations for Allison+Partners’ headquarters office in San Francisco. While fostering a collaborative and entrepreneurial environment for staff to thrive, she also oversees strategic public relations campaigns for several consumer brands in travel + tourism, consumer technology, food + beverage and healthcare industries. 

 

AGENCY NEWS // JUNE 3, 2021 //     

Watershed Moment: Naomi Osakas Stand Means Future Athlete Press Conferences

PRWeek

Naomi Osaka’s decision to withdraw from the French Open due to anxiety-inducing media appearances has ignited a national discussion about expectations from athletes when it comes to public speaking engagements.

Per the tournament’s code of conduct, media interviews are mandatory for athletes. But for Osaka, the Q&As caused "huge waves of anxiety," so she stepped away from the competition to focus on self-care, she explained in a lengthy statement on social media.

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JUNE 3, 2021 //     

Principles and Approaches to Internal Corporate Communication

The story was originally published in China PR News  

Corporate culture is the heart of an enterprise and the driving force behind its sustainable development. To some extent, corporate culture can decide what kind of talent a company can attract and how good it is at employee retention. 

Therefore, internal communication is hugely important to strengthening corporate culture, as it provides a means of empowering employees to thrive and grow together with the company. 

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The key to good corporate culture: Humanity 

To foster a positive corporate culture, humanity is key -- not rules and regulations. This is especially true for founders and top executives who oversee the company’s direction. 

A good business leader makes the staff’s continued employment a top priority even during challenging times, such as during a global pandemic. A good leader will pursue all means of reducing costs and improving business development, rather than laying off employees. 

Trip.com Group offers an inspiring example. As one of China's largest travel service companies, Trip.com suffered huge losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of these challenges, co-founder James Liang began to market the company’s products and services himself through livestreams, despite his considerable wealth and the personal freedom that comes with it. Within a year, he had brought in about RMB 5 billion in sales. By putting himself in front of the camera and entertaining audiences, the co-founder staved off a crisis and likely saved many jobs, an act worthy of respect. 

In recent years, the “996 work culture” -- working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week -- has sparked heated debate in Chinese society. This culture can be seen as a reflection of the values of corporate leaders. First, it is certainly true companies can ask employees to work overtime, provided they comply with labor regulations. But they must pay reasonable benefits and avoid squeezing employees. Secondly, companies should appreciate their employees and not take their extra efforts for granted by taking real steps to reward their employees. By showing true appreciation toward employees through benefits and rewards, companies and their leaders can avoid falling into disgrace among their own staffs and the public. 

Approaches to Internal Communication 

So how do we effectively communicate with employees in the digital era? 

Let’s examine one of our clients, a large medical equipment company. Its customer service department is made up of hundreds of engineers who work on-site for their customers for years on end. This has resulted in a fractured work environment, where employees lack a true sense of belonging and connection with the company.  

In the face of this challenge, effective internal communication is essential to increase employee retention. To better reach the company’s decentralized workforce, we launched a campaign involving a wide range of mediums, from posters to H5 pages to videos to in-depth articles, leveraging platforms, such as WeChat and EDM, and even hosting offline events. 

To implement the campaign, we began by working with the client to clearly define the service department’s core values. We then launched a five-month communication project called "Service Engineers’ Moments of Glory." Through this project, we engaged more than 700 engineers across five offices and created deep dives of 10 “customer hero” stories.   

One such story was a service engineer who received an emergency request while he was taking wedding photos. He rushed to the client’s worksite to help, still in his wedding attire. The customer was deeply moved by his commitment and impressed by his ability to quickly solve the equipment issues. 

In addition, we created an exclusive online H5 page using the company’s staff data. By typing their staff number into the page, the employee can see all their proudest moments and achievements from the past year.  

These efforts have had a positive knock-on effect: as the enhanced internal communications helped to improve the confidence of its service department employees, it also strengthened their customers’ trust, which in turn has brought more possibilities for business expansion. 

In today's business environment, competition for talent is extremely intense. Creating an image as a reputable employer is crucial for the healthy growth of all companies. But before embarking on an internal communication plan, the core ideas must be established -- namely, the company’s corporate culture and values. Only when the company truly cares about its staff will the staff feel truly valued, and only then can internal communication achieve its intended purpose. 

Jerry Zhu is the Managing Director & Partner of A+P in China, a veteran in China’s PR industry and a recognized expert on corporate communication. At Allison+Partners, he serves as the managing director for China and partner for Asia. He drives the agency’s expansion in China and overseees the service quality of all practice groups. He also acts as the senior counselor to many clients on brand positioning, issue and crisis management, content strategy, CSR efforts and training.  

Zikki provides integrated PR services with special focus on social media communication. She has worked with a wide range of clients covering the automobile, healthcare, education, finance and automation industries. Her clients include GE Healthcare, Elekta and Swiss Re, among others. 

JUNE 2, 2021 //     

Agency + Client Partnerships: Our New Paradigm

When friends and industry acquaintances ask me about the effect of COVID-19 on our business, I invariably give the same reply. Namely, that Allison+Partners has been privileged – blessed, even – to have made it through the pandemic thus far without making any of our team redundant, without implementing salary freezes, and even with our promotion cycle running as usual.  READ MORE

All this is only possible because clients have continued to trust us with their business. Looking back at the past 15 months, I believe that our Singapore team has learnt a great deal through the process of proving ourselves worthy of this trust, during a time when agencies and clients alike have had to continually redefine the meaning of “business as usual.”  

Our journey to this new paradigm began in Q1 2020, when the pandemic first introduced uncertainty not just to our daily lives, but also to the state of our clients’ businesses. Every one of the brands we work with came under tightened budget scrutiny. Our client contacts needed our support to provide justification for the value of their activities – whether PR, content marketing, social media, or any combination of all three.  

 Here is how we rose to the challenge.   

  1. Embracing new ways of connecting PR and marketing programmes to business value 

    For many brand marketers, the start of the pandemic marked a period where literally every cent of their spend required justification. Out the window went old-school measures of success such as AVE; vanity metrics (likes, comments, shares) also proved insufficient.   

    We saw an opportunity to level-up our client partnerships accordingly. To prove our value, it was critical that we make clear the connections and correlations between our programmes and our clients’ results. We asked for – and received – access to sales and business data that PR firms never used to have. This gave us the opportunity to establish the role of marketing communications within the sales process, which was made possible by our team members’ fluency in the language of the audience journey and the path-to-purchase.  

  2. Maximising the shift from paid media to earned media and influence  

    Marketing and communications professionals are painfully aware that the decline of paid media – broadcast and paid ads, OOH media, even digital display ads – has been exacerbated by pandemic life. Everything we used to know about audiences’ attention spans has been upended by COVID-19 behaviour trends, from the rise of WFH to the decreased trust in media outlets.  

    With the increased client demand for demonstrable value, coupled with a push towards authenticity in brand storytelling, we leaned hard into building influence through a combination of pure-play PR and content co-creation. By collaborating with agencies in other specialisations, we were able to punch well above our weight. We pitched amplification and syndication strategies for the media coverage that we secured; we reviewed budgets previously allocated for paid influencer content and renegotiated the entitlements for greater impact. 

  3. Earning trust and building partnerships in the absence of F2F contact 

“Is it a face-to-face WIP or a call?” This question became completely redundant as the entire world moved to work-from-home as a default.  

While we take pride in the collaborative, consultative relationships we build with our clients, we knew that each new client we onboarded would require a very different mode of engagement than we used to take for granted. Doubling down on results was a given, but at the beginning of every new client relationship, we worked hard – and creatively – to build the much-needed trust that would shape the way forward.  

Beyond communication, we embraced over-communication. We scheduled regular meetings more frequently, but there was no running away from the need to address client concerns over ad-hoc calls and text messages. This pandemic-era dynamic definitely took some getting used to – and I would be lying if I said it didn’t contribute to my own Zoom fatigue – but we got used to it as a necessary part of the new normal.  

Over time, we settled into a more predictable cadence of communication with our clients, both new and old. And when in-person meetings resumed cautiously at the start of 2021, it was as if the camaraderie of our partnerships never left. Our client relationships were all the stronger for having weathered a full year of the pandemic, one of the strangest periods in any of our lives.  

Relationships are at the heart of every agency-client dynamic, and all relationships need work to grow and evolve over time. By breaking free of the PR silo, and by sharing our clients’ accountability for results and success, we demonstrated ourselves worthy of their continued trust during the most unpredictable of times. I for one don’t take this paradigm for granted: if anything, I'm compelled to work harder – and smarter – to continually build and maintain these hard-won relationships with our clients and partners.  

Lewis is a member of the Allison+Partners Singapore team. He plays an integral role in the growth of the Singapore team, consistently securing breakthrough results for the agency’s major clients. As a regional specialist, he has led and executed award-winning campaigns in APAC, ensuring tangible outcomes for clients in the consumer, corporate, technology and public sectors.  

AGENCY NEWS // MAY 27, 2021 //     

#MentalHealth4All + American Foundation For Suicide Prevention

PRovoke MediaThis episode kicks-off a series with Allison+Partners, License to Accelerate: Perspectives on the Future of Health. With May being Mental Health Awareness, in this episode we discuss how the global pandemic has impacted both awareness and action around mental health. READ MORE
MAY 26, 2021 //     

A+P Women’s Leadership Program Empowers and Inspires

The Women’s Leadership Program (WLP) at Allison+Partners is a career development program focused on women-specific leadership development topics and activities to enable its staffers to reach their full potential. The goal of this program is to improve leadership skills at Allison+Partners and is open to both men and women. The program includes quarterly speaker sessions with a female leader outside of the company, as well as a group mentorship program that brings together senior Allison+Partner female leaders with small groups to discuss a specific leadership topic. 

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One of our most recent sessions focused on how to better promote diversity in the workplace and create more opportunities for women of all backgrounds, races, ages, and sexual orientations to have a seat at the table. Following our guest speaker Natasha Bowman’s webinar “Being a Woman of Color in the Workplace,” each mentor/mentee session in the program held breakout discussions on diversity, allyship, challenges and stereotypes that we have faced in our careers. 

With varied backgrounds and experiences, our amazing A+P mentors have so much insight to share on these topics -- each woman has faced her own unique challenges, and come out stronger because of them. Here are a few key insights and tips coming out of those breakout sessions:

  • Move away from evaluating“culture fit” when recruiting new talent. Instead, focus on the candidate's qualities and hard skills appropriate for the role, bring in diverse interviewers and interviewees and incorporate a more structured process for interviews. 
  • Exceptional allyship is about empowerment. It’s not just about advocating for others, but coaching them on how to speak up for themselves too. Listening is also critical to being a good ally - you need to truly hear different perspectives, not just prepare to refute or respond. Pay attention and course-correct immediately if you’ve shown unintentional or unconscious bias.
  • Stereotypes around strong women is an ongoing issue. Many women feel the need to adapt different parts of their personalities in the workplace to earn a seat at the table. This can be anything from speaking at a higher volume, being more assertive with opinions during meetings or altering our body language. We have the difficult job of customizing how we present ourselves depending on who we’re engaging with -- male or female managers, peers, direct reports, clients, etc. Misconceptions about what being a strong woman means are perpetuated in pop culture, workplaces and more, and we’re tasked with challenging and disrupting them on a daily basis. 
  • Look for ways to build meaningful connections. Connection builds empathy and empathy helps us understand one another on a deeper, more personal level. Empathy also helps us consider how our individual privileges shape our unconscious biases. Consider starting meetings with ice breakers and more casual conversation. Prioritize coffee meetings--this can be virtual--in which you take the time to understand your colleagues’ ambitions, passions and challenges. The better we can empathize with one another, the stronger our teams will be. 

These initial discussions and takeaways are just the tip of the iceberg, but having group mentorship sessions to regularly have these open conversations has been incredibly helpful. Connecting with others across the agency on a deeper level exposes participants to a wider range of potential career paths, diverse insights on topics that matter to us and actionable tips for growing as both A+P employees and as women in the workforce. 


The Women’s Leadership Program Content Committee manages all things content for the agency-wide initiative. This includes sharing inspiring or thought-provoking articles, podcasts and videos with members of the program, organizing discussions around this content and more. Members of the committee include Molly Luby, Lauren Bayse, Kelly Kenney, Rachel Busch and Taylor Rearick. 

AGENCY NEWS // MAY 24, 2021 //     

Agency People News in Brief (May 24, 2021)

SAN FRANCISCO — Allison+Partners has hired health communications veteran Michelle Webb as managing director and North American health practice lead. Webb will be responsible for evolving the agency’s health practice to create a more robust, cohesive, and scalable offering. Most recently, Webb (pictured) was a senior VP at BCW, where she led a corporate health communications portfolio and focused on integrated campaigns for pharmaceutical, device, and nonprofit clients. She’s also held senior communications roles with APCO and The Brookings Institution’s Center for Health Policy. READ MORE
AGENCY NEWS // MAY 20, 2021 //     

Blueair Moves Its PR Business To Allison+Partners

PRovoke MediaWASHINGTON — Blueair, the Unilever-owned air purifier brand, has shifted its PR business to Allison+Partners, ending its roughly five-year relationship with Finn Partners.

As agency of record, Allison+Partners will handle the full scope of Blueair’s communications work including campaign development, brand and product PR and projects such as videos, influencer relations and social media campaigns. READ MORE
MAY 19, 2021 //     

Crafting a Mental Health Campaign for Brand + Cultural Impact

The COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption it caused took a significant toll on our mental health. Yet it has also accelerated a positive shift toward more frequent, nuanced and responsible media coverage of mental health issues and suicide. Brands have noticed, and more companies have entered the mental health conversation during Mental Health Month 2021 READ MORE


I am lucky to lead Allison+Partners’ partnership with The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). When the world shut down in March 2020, everything felt uncertain, 
including life in PR. Working with AFSP to educate people on mental health and provide them the tools to openly discuss what they were experiencing was one of the things that grounded me. The work is deeply fulfilling because communications and marketing are absolutely essential to the mission of changing culture and behavior around mental health. And everything I’ve learned from working in the mental health space has made me a healthier person and a more compassionate friend and colleague. 

As influential drivers of culture, brands now have an opportunity to engage their stakeholders for authentic programs that go beyond mere messaging to impact real change and foster brand affinity. Below are a few guiding principles for marketers to keep in mind when considering mental health-themed programs.   

Take an honest look at your internal mental health policies. As with all issues-oriented campaigns, brands must take an honest look at their internal practices before pursing external communications. Do you offer your employees benefits that support their mental health? What is your culture when it comes to discussing mental health in the workplace? Asking these questions as a first step will help ensure any external campaign will feel authentic and shareable not only to your external audience, but also to your employees. 

Mental health is a large umbrella for many issues and experiences. Focus on those that most impact your brands’ target audiences: A myriad of related health issues, such as anxiety and depression, sit under the mental health umbrella. The challenges faced vary significantly by individual and by population. For instance, middle-aged white men are statistically most at risk for suicide, yet men are less likely than women to openly discuss mental health. Entrepreneurs face extreme stress and loneliness, but may not have the health benefits that come with working for a large company. And teachers, frontline workers, restaurant workers and parents have all faced unprecedented, unique challenges during the pandemicadding to the stress and anxiety.  

Understanding your target audience’s unique mental health behaviors, beliefs and concerns is essential to develop a campaign that resonates with both media and consumers. For example, Gillette has partnered with The Confess Project to train barbers in communities of color – where stigma regarding mental health is pervasive  to listen actively to their customers and refer them to mental health resources. This campaign is a reminder that while mental health is a universal issue, a highly tailored approach is the only way to have maximum impact.       

Language matters. Make sure you’re informed and write intentionally. I am a communications nerd who studied linguistic anthropology. So, it should come as no surprise that one of the things that fascinates me most about the mental health space is the enormous impact the language we use has on our audience’s beliefs and behaviors. An important part of the work with do for AFSP is educating reporters how to write responsibly about suicide. 

 For example, we say someone “took their life” instead of “committed suicide,” because “committed” implies a crime. And while a lot of our work is about increasing cultural understanding of mental health, we avoid the word “stigma” in our external communications because we don’t want to inadvertently perpetuate the idea that mental health is taboo. When developing campaign messaging and copy, make sure you consult the latest research and mental health experts to ensure your communications are responsible and effective. 

Mental health, like physical health, impacts everyone. This creates opportunity for brands to engage consumers authentically.. Those that focus on impact, not just dialogue, will be the ones that break through to capture attention and build brand equity.   
 

Kristen Kmetetz, EVP Client Service + Operations and leads the Boston office at Allison+Partners, where she partners with clients across health and wellness, technology, food, and consumer to build brand awareness and change behavior through storytelling.

AGENCY NEWS // MAY 18, 2021 //     

How do you solve a problem like... a PR nightmare?

The Drum

Barbara Laidlaw, Partner, global reputation risk and public affairs, Allison+Partners

While every crisis is different, I subscribe to the belief that the best prevention is preemption. Most crises spiral out of control when an issue like a product recall, data breach or high-profile lawsuit coincides with ill-equipped communications to manage a reputationally impactful incident. Contrary to popular opinion, most PR nightmares do not just spring up overnight. They are a product of a number of factors that limit a brand’s ability to mitigate the fallout. By focusing on what we can control in a crisis, you will succeed in reducing its impact.

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AGENCY NEWS // MAY 13, 2021 //     

2021 SABRE Awards North America Winners

PRovoke MediaThe 2021 North American SABRE Awards, which recognizes Superior Achievement in Branding Reputation and Engagement, were announced at the virtual award ceremony on May 11 along with the Agencies of the Year and Best Agencies to Work For. READ MORE
AGENCY NEWS // MAY 10, 2021 //     

The Working Mother's Bill of Rights

It’s time for a “Working Mother’s Bill of Rights” to serve as a reminder to working moms everywhere they have the right to feel all the feelings they experience and to set healthy boundaries. READ MORE
AGENCY NEWS // MAY 10, 2021 //     

PR Pros In Asia Optimistic Clubhouse

PRWeekWhen the GameStop stock market saga exploded on the internet, Tesla chief Elon Musk used Clubhouse to interview Vlad Tenev, the co-founder of Robinhood, with a live audience of thousands listening in and millions following along on Twitter. That was one of Clubhouse’s ‘breakthroughs’, one in a series of conversations that managed to propel the audio app to gain some 10 million weekly active users and achieve a valuation of US$4 billion to date.   READ MORE
MAY 6, 2021 //     

The Office – (n.) Physical Property with Purpose

In 2020, the words remote and virtual became synonymous with work. In 2021, many companies around the world will reexamine the office’s role and its impact on business.    

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The pandemic taught us we can operate business remotely thanks to technology and software that supports collaboration. As companies begin to announce their return to work plans, we must remember the critical role the physical office plays in Allison+Partners’ award-winning culture. While we were able to pivot and adapt in the pandemic, collaboration software will never replace the output that happens with human-to-human interaction. The natural organic moments and creative sparks that grow in a physical environment are nearly impossible to recreate in a virtual setting.  

As the 
general manager of our largest officeI believe the office will continue to serve as a catalyst in three key areas:   

  • Collaboration – multiple perspectives are always better than one. Simply put, physical environments are better equipped to foster collaboration. Problem solving in person and side by side tends to happen best when team members are in the same space. From a hallway conversation to a formal in-person brainstorm, the human element is the X factor when it comes to collaboration. 
  • Creativity – there’s nothing like being in the same room as other creative thinkers who know how to build together on and develop ideas, programs and campaigns. For anyone who has participated in a remote brainstorm, it’s not just the snacks and candy that’s missing – it’s the real-life triggers that spark creativity that’s missing in our virtual world. 
  • Community – our core values come to life best in a physical space. The office is the home base where we create IRL an inclusive and collaborative environment. The strong connections and relationships made in the office make us better at our jobs and make us better humans. Community also supports a strong culture and creates lasting and meaningful connections between colleagues, one of the elements that has helped cement Allison+Partners as a best place to work in New York and across the world. 

While the cadence with which people frequent the office may evolve, the purpose of the office as a home base and fertile ground for new ideas and thinking will remain. The office is part of our journey in work but not the end destination. Even before the pandemic, we proved as an agency work could be done from home, airplanes, hotel lobbies and in transit. The driving purpose behind the physical office space will be community –  human-to-human interaction and collaboration.    

As we prepare to reopen our doors and reunite with colleagues, friends and clients, the office will be a key part of the journey. I look forward to our coming return to the office and believe the experience will be met with joy, excitement and gratitude and driven by a common purpose of person-to-person contactI’m looking forward to “seeing” clients and team members soon. 

Tracey Cassidy is the General Manager of Allison+Partners NYC office, the largest in the network. She is co-chair of Allison+Partners Women’s Leadership Program (WLP). Tracey brings more than 20 years of experience building brands and safeguarding their reputations.Follow her on Twitter @TraceyCassidy or LinkedIN. 

 

AGENCY NEWS // MAY 5, 2021 //     

Measuring Employee Communications Effectiveness During COVID-19

Ask any in-house communications executive, and they'll tell you about the need over the past 14 months for a comprehensive internal communications plan to keep employees in the know during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Internal communications has changed, too, to include messaging about work-from-home policies to initiatives about public health and safety.

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MAY 4, 2021 //     

Kicking My Corner Office to the Curb

A+Pers participate in a plank challenge at headquarters in San Francisco.

When I joined a fledgling Allison+Partners as a junior practitioner almost 18 years ago, I was shocked to arrive at an office that was more like a newsroom than a corporate workspace offering private spaces to career climbers like I intended to be. Where would I get my writing done, and how would I know I had finally made it?

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Little did I know that those non-hierarchical seating arrangements, including my placement next to CEO Scott Allison’s cubicle – yes, cubicle! – would help me navigate company culture and hone my PR and leadership skills. Being surrounded by senior employees was a crash course in how to be successful at my job. For that reason, the hard-won corner office I now enjoy as a partner in our global agency must go!

Remote workers have proven their ability to be productive at home, but they have missed out on the in-office exchanges that build trust, develop staff and help new employees learn how to behave by observing others. To maximize informal learning in the hybrid workplace, senior leaders must break out of our offices and away from our pre-COVID-19 tendency to work behind closed doors.

With the flexibility to work from home on writing and planning tasks, we can and should spend more time interacting with colleagues when we’re in the office. This requires flipping the traditional office setup, using executive offices as shared spaces for team meetings, presentation rehearsals and private calls and open areas as seating for all, regardless of level. Such proximity allows leaders to provide in-the-moment mentoring and model behaviors that give others permission to spend in-office time building relationships. These include participating in an ad hoc brainstorm, getting a colleague’s take on a challenge, offering acknowledgment of a job well done or asking about a coworker’s current projects or long-term career aspirations.

It’s also important to reevaluate seating charts. Instead of grouping staff by function, cross-department “neighborhoods” ensure everyone is exposed to new ideas and people. We also need to devote time to rituals. At Allison+Partners’ headquarters in San Francisco, we hit a gong when we win a new client, enjoy staff-taught yoga and beer appreciation (aka Wellness Wednesday and Thirsty Thursday), and participate in fitness challenges, with CEO Scott Allison sweating it out with the rest of us. These gatherings create a celebratory atmosphere and provide additional opportunities for staff to mingle.

Such in-the-trenches leadership will help ensure our physical workspaces provide the kind of spontaneous interactions we’ve missed during the pandemic and foster a culture of mentoring where all members of the organization, especially those at the mid to senior levels, are active in growing new and junior colleagues.

Partner Courtney Newman leads employee engagement for 500+ A+Pers in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific. Her career highlight is the agency’s perennial “Best Places to Work” designation.

APRIL 28, 2021 //     

Engage for Good - 19 Years and Counting – It’s Time to Register for EFG 2021

By: Scott Pansky

Almost 20 years ago, prior to starting Allison+Partners, Scott Allison, Andy Hardie Brown, Jonathan Heit and I all worked at Connors Communications, a New York-based boutique public relations firm. I opened the Los Angeles office with Jonathan; Andy was in New York and Scott was in San Francisco. Connors was one of the leading dot.com communications companies that helped launch a few “tiny” companies people may remember, including Priceline.com, Amazon.com, Edmunds.com, MySpace and Nordstromshoes.com.

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When I joined the firm, I hoped to differentiate some of its offerings from public relations, media and analyst relations to include entertainment, nonprofit and cause marketing services. Prior, I had spent eight years at another agency building a cause practice and developing a regional cause conference with San Diego American Marketing Association.

One day, received a phone call from David Hessekiel, the founder of the Cause Marketing Forum. David was launching his first conference at the Yale Club in New York. He shared his vision about bringing together major brands and nonprofits, sharing best practices and recognizing the best campaigns with something called the Halo Awards. I remember sharing with him my dream to do exactly what he was doing. In its first year, a little more than 100 people showed up with common interest and passions. And, an annual conference that I look forward to every year came to life.  

Brands, including Hasbro, Ford, BMW and Nestle, attended that first year to learn more about best practices in cause marketing. There were also many nonprofits that wanted to learn more how to work with corporations. Back in the day, the focus was on partnership marketing and case studies of great campaigns.

Today, I love how the Cause Marketing Forum has evolved into Engage for Good. Cause-related marketing has truly become more of a marketing tactic than a deep brand strategy. I’m not saying cause-related marketing is bad or that brands and nonprofits shouldn’t do it. But, today the practice and the conference is focused more on how companies live their purposes and how partnerships with nonprofits help bring the company’s or brand’s purpose to life. Campaigns are deeper and the brands recognized as Halo winners (now the industry’s leading social impact award) implement programs that reach all of their target audiences internally, externally, supply chain, etc. Campaigns aren’t just transactional, they are deeper to include:

  • Employee engagement
  • Building brand reputation
  • Behavior change
  • Consumer call to action
  • Impacting communities where their companies have local operations
  • Environmental impact
  • Social Justice and health equity

Now, instead of 100 organizations participating, you have thousands interested in purpose-driven strategies. This year’s lineup is exceptional with speakers from Qualcomm, Google, PayPal, eBay and nonprofits include CARE, Feeding America, Boys & Girls Clubs, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and so many more. As an ongoing sponsor, I encourage everyone to register now while there is still an early-bird pricing. This is a great community to learn and network with.

 Scott Pansky is a co-founder of the agency and leads Allison+Partners’ Social Impact group. Scott has extensive experience providing communications and crisis counsel to education, corporate and nonprofit organizations.

AGENCY NEWS // APRIL 28, 2021 //     

PRWeek Top Consultancies 2021: Asia-Pacific

PRWeek Asia

PRWeek has unveiled its annual rankings of Asia-Pacific's top PR consultancies for 2021. Click here to see global agency rankings

The PRWeek APAC table provides key insights into the status of the PR sector in the Asia-Pacific region in the 2020 calendar year:

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AGENCY NEWS // APRIL 28, 2021 //     

Allison+Partners Names Seven Partners

SAN FRANCISCO: Allison+Partners has appointed seven staffers as partners due to their significant contributions to the growth and evolution of the agency. 

The new partners are reputation management MD Todd Aydelotte; B2B technology MD Karyn Barr; New York GM Tracey Cassidy; Washington, DC, GM Tara Chiarell; San Francisco GM Meghan Curtis; U.S. corporate practice MD Jill Feldman; and global reputation risk and advisory MD Barbara Laidlaw.

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APRIL 27, 2021 //     

Cue the Ceremonial Mask Burning Ceremonies

La So's photography of Italy (@larasophie996)

By: Emily Wilson Sawyer

A new era in travel has begun. All hail the return of the roaring 20s, but with a new and recently vaccinated twist!

While the travel industry was amongst the hardest hit, all signs point towards a swift and triumphant return of a beloved pastime and the ability to turn on 'vacay mode' for its fans and followers. But for an industry that felt the most dramatic impact, while immediate demand is strong, it will likely take months, or even years, to turn profits back from red to green. Expedia Group recently reported fourth-quarter earnings that included a 64% revenue drop. That is one giant hill to slowly hike back up in 2021.

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So, as the lights turn back on, with it comes increased competition to earn heads in beds and make brands stand out from the pack as the destination and home base for your vacation comeback story in 2021. The major players are showing up for this royal battle, and are putting money, star power, and even humor behind it.

Last week Accor hotels launched a tongue-in-cheek ad campaign with actor Neil Patrick Harris who teaches travelers how to be a 'real person' again after more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic. To put its own mark in the proverbial bucket of return to travel campaigns, Hotels.com coined the term “revenge travel” for those travelers looking to make up for a year of lost getaways. These early campaigns have shown a valiant effort, but few to date have exhibited real benefit to consumers beyond marketing fluff. Below you will find some recommendations for meaningful ways to win customers back:

  • Discounts - While hotels need to turn a profit, discerning travelers are making important purchase decisions based on the perceived value of which brand wants them back the most and how much they are willing to discount offerings to get them there. And while discounts do work, it’s those that are discounting creatively and adding value along the way, that are earning the ever-illusive brand affinity. A good example of this is our client Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. The boutique hotelier owned by IHG just launched a national partnership and book club with a world-renowned literary platform, Lit Hub. The partnership gives guests staying on property access to books which reflects how literature responds to cultural moments, as well as an opportunity to take part in a safe activity in the comfort of their own room. Guests who want to join the book club also have access to a 20 percent off rate code, making this offer a true bibliophile’s dream. 
  • Lose the Gimmicks and Lean Into Real Tensions – While the world is ready to travel and vaccinated customers are ripe for adventure, anxiety, as it relates to the return to travel, is a real thing. How do I small talk in a post-pandemic world? What if I pay to get on a plane and am too anxious to leave my hotel room? Will my pet miss me too much? How can I find resort wear to hind my ‘Quarantine 15’? Are trust falls at the company retreat still a thing in a post-pandemic world?  Brands that can successfully solve a real tension, and do so in a creative way, have the opportunity to earn fans for life. 
  • Culture is King - While recapturing guests who have previously stayed at your property is important, it is equally important finding creative ways to make your object shiny for the next generation of travelers. In addition to maintaining a steady and on-trend social presence and artfully integrating new platforms (oh hey there Clubhouse!), brands must find ways to tap into pop culture to increase consumer relevance. Whether that means giving hard-working moms a whole month to celebrate Mother’s Day because one day just isn’t enough after the year we’ve had, or launching a $10 million “Summer Stimmy (a play on stimulus) Proposal for Fun” to help stimulate the economy, culture remains king when it comes to breaking through with Gen Z and beyond.   

With new CDC guidelines released today effectively stating that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks outside, travel brands must continue to evolve fast to meet the ever-changing consumer demand. Cue the ceremonial mask burning ceremonies being sold as an “experiential” package at a hotel near you! 

Emily is a seasoned communications professional with nearly 20 years of experience developing integrated communications strategies and driving creative ideation for clients, including international hotel brands, world-famous chefs, airlines, CPG products, restaurant chains, and more. She is known for her creativity and breakthrough thinking and has been responsible for many large-scale award-winning and results-driving campaigns, including bringing the first food tech product to CES and pairing Hilton Hotels & Resorts with Onion Labs to launch its Hilton Urgent Vacation Care Center.

 

APRIL 21, 2021 //     

How the Pandemic Paved the Way for Snacks to Take Center Stage

By: Cheryl Weissman

[
snˈak] - a small amount of food eaten between meals. 

My love for snacking started at an early age – chips, fruit, veggies, pretzels, popcorn – you name it, I’ve perfected the art of snacking on it. Who doesn’t love to sit down with their favorite snack to enhance the experience of watching TV, reading a book, working, or just relaxing

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Snacking has been on my mind more over the past year, permeating my thoughts since I’ve worked from home. My kitchen  stocked full of my favorite foods  calls out to me to come grab a bag of chips to help me think better or reminds me I only have 10 minutes before the next call… just enough time for a little nosh. It got me thinking I can’t be alone, which led me to partner with my food industry practice colleagues to unveil key insights from our latest report, “The State of Snacking,” to answer a critical question as we address the evolution of mealtime: Has our pandemic-shifted focus on food paved the way for snacks to take center stage? 

Traditional sit-down meals three times a day can be a challenge with our many competing priorities, which has led the practice of snacking to enjoy a rise nothing short of meteoric. While it’s clear snacks have become a focal point of our eating habits and is expected to continue as 2021 unfolds, we wanted to dig a layer deeper to understand how brands big and small could take advantage of this behavior. 

We found that while taste is table stakes, there are four key insights – the four Ps – that food marketers need to consider:  

  • Price: More than 60% of consumers indicate price is a priority when it comes to snacks. It’s critical to execute marketing programs that emphasize a curated selection of limited availability deals or promotions through strategic channel placement and emotion-based messaging to catch consumer attention. 
  • Private Label: Complementary to price, retailers’ private label brands continue to rise in popularity among consumers, as evidenced by the popularity of Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Costco and other store brands with a cult following. Snack brands – even those not categorized as “private label”  can tap into this trend with a strategic marketing program that shines a light on on-trend tastes, flavors and retailer availability at key times of year. 
  • Plant-Based: From chips and pretzels made from peas and cauliflower to meatless jerky and oat milk everything, the rapidly growing plant-based snack segment attracts small startups and big food companies alike. Consumers are hungry for healthier, plant-forward snacking choices, and they’re more willing to experiment with new brands, flavor profiles and taste sensations. 
  • Purpose: Purpose is more important than ever, providing opportunities for CPG snack brands to showcase their missions through their products. There is a myriad of ways brands can remain actively involved to help solve problems that matter to consumers and impact the world in a positive way – leveraging their impact for marketing purposes. 

While it’s clear from our research snacking's star burns brightly today, how soon before it fades?  

Download the report and make sure to grab a snack to enjoy while reading. I know I will! 

Cheryl Weissman brings 15 years of experience to Allison+Partners’ Consumer Brands practice and leads the agency’s food and beverage specialty. She is responsible for the strategic management of account teams within the category across the agency, supervising client activities, providing counsel and helping some of the world's leading food and beverage brands navigate the ever-changing world of public relations. If you’re interested in learning more about Allison+Partners' work with food and beverage brands, get in touch at Cheryl@allisonpr.com 

APRIL 20, 2021 //     

Panel Brings Together Old Friends For A Good Cause

On April 21, I will host a special panel on mentorship with the Broom Center at San Diego State University. As I have shared in past blog posts, mentoring young professionals is one of my passions. It was to Glen Broom, my mentor and friend, as well 

As a public relations professional, I have met some incredible people over the past 30 years. Some are current and past colleagues and clients; some are from partnerships and alliances; and others I’ve met through networking events and conferences. 

In this seminar, I will have the opportunity to introduce four of my friends who have never met each other but have all played important roles in my life. I wanted to take a moment to recognize each of them here. 

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Linda Rutherford, Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer, Southwest Airlines Co. 

Out of this group of people, I have known Linda the longest. Allison+Partners Co-founder, Global Chairman & CEO Scott Allison and I had the pleasure of meeting Linda early in her incredible career with one of our past 3P speakers, Deanne Yamamotomanaging director at Golin, when we developed a fundraising program for our client Angel Flight. Linda and I forged a lifelong bond while creating “On A Wing and Spare,” a bowling tournament between Southwest employees and the cast and crew of NBC’s then hit comedy Wings. We had a great time watching Southwest Founder Herb Kelleher train for the big event and AMF bowling legend Dick Weber teach the cast of Wings how to bowl. This employee engagement program raised more than $100,000 back in the 1990s. And, I have cherished my relationship with Linda for nearly 30 years. 

Ashley Hart, Senior Vice President & Global Marketing Leader of the Oracle Cloud Platform 

When we launched Allison+Partners almost 20 years ago, we had a client called eUniverse. That company acquired numerous websites to build a base of content to attract advertisers that wanted to reach Gen Xers. In addition to MySpace, we had the opportunity to launch the casual gaming site Skilljam Technologies Inc. Ashley was its vice president of marketing at the time and we got to build the first WORLDWIDE WEB GAMES, a casual game tournament in which Skilljam gave away a million dollars to the champion. This was never done in the casual game arena. Ashley’s leadership helped build the brand, which today is part of the Game Show Network’s online format. Our relationship was cemented and has led to numerous partnershipover the years.   

Charlene Thomas, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, United Parcel Service Inc.   

I met Charlene through a leadership training program, Leadership LA, part of the Southern California Leadership Network (SCLN)where I am a board member. Charlene and I were part of a group with Warner Bros. Vice President of Community Engagement Sally Chan, another past 3P speaker. We spent eight months together learning the inner workings and politics of Los Angeles, as well as developing our leaderships skills. With this said, we have never worked together directly. We established a personal relationship in which we are there for each other during good times and bad. We counsel each other, offer resources to each other and support each other in our continued growth. These are cherished memories.  

Javier Angulo, Senior Director of Community Relations, Walmart  

Prior to joining the board of SCLN, I presented the benefits of cause-related marketing and business to business partnerships to the group’s members. When I was done presenting, Javier had to step out and I was leaving for another meeting. As we walked out, I told him that one of our past employees had just gone to work for Walmart’s public affairs and digital team. He casually shared with me he had interviewed her and thought she was great. I told him he owed us one. We both laughed. This conversation led to a great friendship, from coffees to brainstorms to partnerships with Arizona State University’s PR Lab.  

I am honored to call each of these people my friends and feel honored they will share their experiences and recommendations to students all over the country. I want to take a second here to say thank you to each of them.  

And, for those who have made it through this entire post, remember – you establish meaningful relationships every day. As we grow in our positions, it is really important to stay in touch and check in with your friends. They can always be there for you!  

The webinar will be held on April 21 at noon PT/ 3 ETYou can register for the webinar here.  

Scott Pansky is a co-founder of the agency and leads Allison+Partners’ Social Impact group. Scott has extensive experience providing communications and crisis counsel to nonprofit organizations and developing board + ambassador training programs. 

 

AGENCY NEWS // APRIL 20, 2021 //     

Agency Business Report 2021: Allison+Partners

PRWeek

In 2020, Allison+Partners saw global revenue drop 5.3%, and the U.S. saw a 6.1% decline. “That was a big deal for us. We’ve never seen a contraction in our 20 years of business,” says Scott Allison, cofounder, global chairman and CEO.  

But he is proud to say Allison+Partners had no layoffs, furloughs or temporary pay cuts last year. It was able to avoid that through cost-saving measures that gave the firm bottom-line growth even as its top line failed to meet expectations. 

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AGENCY NEWS // APRIL 20, 2021 //     

PRWeek Reveals The Top 150 UK PR Consultancies in 2021

PRWeek UK

PRWeek has unveiled its annual rankings of the UK's Top 150 PR consultancies for 2021.

The PRWeek UK Top 150 table provides key insights into the status of the PR sector in the UK in the tumultuous 2020 calendar year, when the impact of COVID-19 saw many more agencies than usual experience falling revenue.

The picture isn't universally negative, though, as a number of consultancies saw growth despite, or in some cases because of, the realities of the coronavirus era.

One headline change is Edelman losing the top spot to Brunswick after the latter reported revenue growth of one per cent in 2020.

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AGENCY NEWS // APRIL 20, 2021 //     

Allison+Partners Promotes Jonathan Heit to Global COO

SAN FRANCISCO: Allison+Partners has promoted cofounder Jonathan Heit from global president to global COO.

Heit will work to scale and operationalize the business for expansion, ensuring that policies, technology and processes are in place to drive efficiencies along with growth, the firm said in a statement. Heit will continue to play a pivotal part in global integration.

Heit’s new role is part of an update to Allison+Partners’ executive team structure, according to an agency statement.

"Following a year of challenges to rival any we’ve experienced in our 20 year history, I’m so proud of our team’s ability to retain and grow key clients, win significant new business and quickly adapt to the 'now normal' as we call it," said Heit. "Scott and Andy’s faith in myself and the rest of the global board to execute against the vision for the company’s future is not something we take lightly, and as a group we are very bullish on the prospects for 2021."

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APRIL 15, 2021 //     

We the People… Provide Support to Organizations Doing the Work to Make a Difference

This week, Nijha Diggs, senior director of public relations at Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft charity, and I presented to PRSSA students at the annual PRSSA Leadership Assembly. We put together an interactive hands-on exercise that provides students with real-world experiences. While thinking about getting prepared for this, I’ve reflected on the impact the last year has had on the nonprofit community.

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It seems once every millennium our society has to deal with the drastic impact of a major pandemic. Plus the impact of numerous issues related to health equity, racial justice, food insecurity and climate change. Government and corporate entities constantly investigate different ways to address these issues.

Their efforts are not good enough. Progress is too slow, and the following generations and their children will have to deal with what baby boomers and Gen Xers leave behind – and they are not happy. And, I don’t blame them!

Today’s generation expects all of us, including businesses and government, to live with more purpose. They want us to help and support each other, not point fingers,  lay blame or make excuses. They want us to work to make a difference and find solutions, so they can leave the world a better place for their children.

We have all learned about the power of our voice and the power of voting. Every vote counts. But what do you do when voting is not enough? What about when government cannot respond fast enough, or when people suffer here and around the world?

One of my favorite Captain America quotes is: “Most of us are going somewhere we know, that doesn’t mean we should know what to expect. Be careful. Look out for each other. This is the fight of our lives. And we’re going to win. Whatever it takes.”

Well, it is going to take a long time, and those who will lead us will come from nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, businesses and government learning how to work together. And it’s going to take us, the people, to support organizations we care about to make a difference.

A recent survey implemented by Smile Train, examined how Americans prioritized donating their time and money to charitable organizations in 2020. The “Caring Amid Crisis: How COVID-19 Influenced American Donations” report analyzed findings from a survey on consumer donation habits prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic and sought to understand how the pandemic changed Americans’ perspectives on donating.

Most Americans (91%) stated it was more important to support charities and fundraising events now versus prior to the pandemic. In fact, 41% of Americans said their donation patterns increased, with 31% saying their giving amounts also increased.

What this showed me was HOPE! Hope that people will do the right thing and hope in helping others get through some of the darkest times our country has had to deal with for so long.

Other additional key findings from the survey included:

  • Most Americans made a monetary donation to charitable causes during the pandemic: 56% made donations, 15% participated in virtual fundraisers and 15% volunteered in-person at local charity/community events. Among those who made a monetary donation, almost a third (32%) said they donated more than $500 since March 2020.
  • Older Americans focused on monetary donations, while younger Americans donated their time.
  • Most Americans wanted to donate to organizations helping children or providing food for individuals who were homeless.

As we saw spikes in donations to racial justice and health equity organizations, I feel hopeful our families, friends, communities and associates want to make a difference. But they will do it in the way they are most comfortable. They will stand up for the biggest issues we deal with today and pivot during a crisis to help those most in need.

Let’s use this information to work even closer together. Do not be afraid to ask for help for your cause or mission. Help those that truly need it! And let’s make sure we do our best to help the next generation who can help the following generation.

Scott Pansky is a co-founder of the agency and leads Allison+Partners’ Social Impact group. He supports the agency’s education, culture, volunteer and mentorship initiatives. 

APRIL 13, 2021 //     

The Risks of Doing the Right Thing: MLB, Delta and Coke’s Gamble with Purpose and Politics

Americans live in a highly politicized environment, where truth can be utterly relative. The impact on brand reputation can’t be understated. MLB, Delta Air Lines Inc. and The Coca-Cola Co. recently spoke out against new election laws in Georgia, which some view as acts of discriminatory voter suppression. Yet, in standing up for what they believe is right, these brands have faced tremendous backlash.

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"Georgia Republican  Gov. Brian Kemp and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio accused [Delta and Coca-Cola] of cowering to the demands of 'woke' liberals,” Benjamin Fearnow reported in Newsweek. “Rubio used a ‘#WokeCorporateHypocrites’ hashtag last week to ridicule the company executives who are criticizing the recently passed GOP voter law in Georgia."

"Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, told United Airlines to ‘just shut up' after the airline followed the same, controversial route taken by their competitor Delta Air Lines in attacking Georgia's new election law,” Fox News said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky told The Hill it was “stupid for corporations to wade into politically divisive battles” because “Republicans drink Coca-Cola too, and we fly and we like baseball.” 

When we think about brands taking a stand, the word “purpose” often comes into the conversation. As Accenture puts it, moving “from me to we” has led many brands to establish purpose as a key differentiator. And it has paid dividends.

“The data that supports the thesis that ‘Purpose’ (the catch-all term for ‘business as a force for good’) is good for business is overwhelmingly clear,” Afdhel Aziz said in Forbes. “By pretty much every measure of brand health, consumers are more likely to try, stay loyal, pay more and advocate for brands that genuinely do good.” 

Yet, purpose and responsibility are too frequently confused and conflated -- often with disastrous consequences. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines purpose as “the reason for which something is done or created.” Responsibility is “a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of” something.  

In other words, purpose is the singular raison d’être that should drive everything an organization does. Responsibility is the organization’s motivation to engage in social issues. Both of these are critically important. Both require a company to take a stand. But when done right, the stand should never come as a surprise to anyone. The brand is simply standing for what it clearly, loudly and telegraphically always stood for in the first place.

Allison+Partners Managing Director of Global Reputation Risk & Public Affairs Barbara Laidlaw said brands should exercise caution when reacting to the hot-button issue of the day. 

“We always counsel our clients to not only consider what they will say, but to also develop a plan of action to back up their message as well,” Laidlaw said. “Over the past year, countless businesses have exposed their brands to reputational risk because of public-facing statements that conflict with past action or lack thereof. In short, the brands that succeed in this space do not approach these issues with a one size fits all mindset, rather they consider how they fit into the overall equation and what they can do from that position to have a positive impact."

Hewlett-Packard co-founder David Packard famously said, “Purpose (which should last at least 100 years) should not be confused with specific goals or business strategies (which should change many times in 100 years).” 

It certainly should not be confused with opportunistic PR moves. From purpose springs a focused vision, mission and shared values. Shared values lead to corporate responsibility. The connections here have to be explicitly clear, and must be consistently demonstrated in words and actions in order to be widely seen and understood.

Sadly, searching “Major League Baseball purpose statement” does not yield the information in question. Chasing this thread leads to the MLB Players Alumni Association website, with language that could loosely be interpreted to provide a “why” for the All-Star move. 

Likewise, searching “mission statement” on the Delta website yields “sorry, no results.” “The world’s most trusted airline” has been harshly criticized for its mixed messages in Georgia; perhaps it’s no surprise to find the brand has buried the lede on what it stands for.

Coca-Cola boasts a dedicated webpage stating in large type: “Our Purpose: Refresh the world. Make a difference.” It’s much easier to draw a line to Chairman and CEO James Quincy’s April 1 statement, “We want to be crystal clear and state unambiguously that we are disappointed in the outcome of the Georgia voting legislation.” 

At the end of the day, no brand is above reproach. Reputational risk is everywhere and must be managed carefully. MLB, Delta and Coca-Cola did the socially responsible thing in my view, and many Americans agree. But without clear foundations for these moves, they suffered backlash that will likely leave financial scars. 

The takeaway -- brands must emphatically state their purpose, and build a coherent culture around it. Then create clarity and buy-in so that, en masse, the entire organization can consistently put that purpose into action again and again. 

This is why our team is so passionate about helping brands define a purpose that can truly last a hundred years -- and helping them use it as a springboard for a purposeful expression of responsibility.

Paul Sears is Executive Vice President, Brand & Engagement Strategy.  With nearly 20 years of experience in strategic planning, Paul’s team has helped more than 75 B2B and consumer clients with purpose-driven brand strategy, product marketing, customer experience planning, go to market strategy, and ‘big idea” creative strategy. Prior to joining Allison+Partners, Paul worked at leading advertising agencies such as DDB, Saatchi & Saatchi and TBWA\Chiat\Day.  Paul holds a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising from the University of Colorado, Boulder as well as marketing strategy certifications from Cornell University’s SC Johnson School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.  Paul also holds two certifications in Agile Scrum, and is a certified professional dog trainer.  

AGENCY NEWS // APRIL 12, 2021 //     

Cannes Lions Announces 2021 Jury Members

Cannes Lions
Highest ever representation from global brands, platforms, entertainment and technology companies brings breadth of expertise to the Lions awards. For the first time, the number of female jurors reaches 51% 

12 April 2021 – Cannes Lions has today announced its jury line-up of global experts selected to award the world’s very best creative work and benchmark excellence this June. 

The Lion-winning work will be announced and awarded during Cannes Lions Live, a fully digital experience, running from 21-25 June 2021, that’s included for free as part of the new LIONS Membership, launching in May.  

Jury members hail from across the world and represent the global industry’s leading talent from the broadest spectrum of disciplines. The juries also comprise 51% of female jurors, up from 48% in 2019. 

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APRIL 8, 2021 //     

The Art of Self Defense

COVID-19 arrived at my doorstep during a dark period of my life, when a hard breakup left me and my two dogs alone in an apartment in downtown Phoenix. I felt numb at firstBut then that feeling faded and left me with the fear of being trapped between four walls, heartbroken and in isolation. I look back at that moment in time with gratitude now because it propelled me to where I am today.  

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Had it not been for the breakup, I wouldn’t have dived into my last three months of college with extreme vigor to graduate Magna Cum Laude. I wouldn’t have met the beautiful, kind women in my Bible study that filled me with hope and strength. And above all else, I wouldn’t have discovered my love for the gentle art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. During that time of loneliness, I became armed with the tools that helped build up my character and confidence and led me to Allison+Partners. 

I
n summer 2020, I made the difficult decision to move home to get back on my feet. While the free meals are nicemoving back home after college can be a blow to the ego. Determined not to let this setback hurt me, I enrolled in a Jiu Jitsu academy that would become far more than a gym. It was where I started to learn patience, strength and strategy – skills I’ve since been able to apply in every area of my life, including with clients.  

Embarking on a new hobby doesn’t sound like much. But at that stage of my life, it felt like I was coming up for air after months of fogginess. Soon afterthings began falling into place. In August, I had my first interview with Allison+Partners. And in Septemberofficially began my career in a field I love.  

These milestones further encouraged me to push myself and learn new skills and submissions in Jiu Jitsu class three to four times per week. Originally, practice was just a way to stay active. But it evolved over time to serve both my physical and mental health. The time I spend on the mat allows me to step away from the reality of difficult adult decisions and simply flow.” IJiu Jitsu, that means moving continuously in a current or stream – and that’s truly what it feels like.  

As I onboarded onto five client accounts, I understood quickly why our agency puts such an emphasis on self-care. Depending on the client, the required extensive deliverables can demand a lot of energy and focus throughout the day. When you add the layer of working from home, it can be even more difficult to separate and log off at an appropriate time, especially when emails sit unopened across from your dining room table.  

That’s why having a routine has helped me so muchview the opportunity to work from home as a blessing, because it allows us to find what routines work best and make us the happiest. No matter what, I make it a point to attend my 6 p.m. Jiu Jitsu classes. Because if I don’t, I’m not acting consistently with my goal to become a black belt. Although as a two-stripe white belt, I’m just hungry for the blue stripe right now. And If I go to class in the evening, I can log on the next morning feeling fired up with ideas and a fresh perspective for my clients  

Jiu Jitsu also helped me understand the importance of having a foundation. As an account coordinatoroften do the foundational work, such as creating client agendas, building media lists and drafting pitches. Rather than looking at this as busywork, I see it as an integral part of the account work. If I create a strong media list, for example, our team has a better chance of reaching the right reporter to share our client’s story. So, I take pride in every task I’m given. 

In a way, martial arts taught me everything in life is connected. The only way to learn a new submission in Jiu Jitsu is by practicing the same thing over and over again. And this holds true in the world of PR. Every pitch, brainstorm or campaign idea is better from the last.  

I’m grateful to have realized this during a season that was dark for so many. I’m grateful for a sport that continues to stretch me. And I’m grateful for a company that believes I have something unique to offer to the world. Today, I’m back on my feet, living with my two dogs in a beautiful condo – alone and happy.  

Yasmine Gonzalez is an account coordinator in the Phoenix office. Dedicated to making clients happy, she works on a wide range of accounts to help raise awareness of the good they do, supporting Partnership With Native Americans’ community initiatives and helping connect people with diabetes to the latest resources and technology through her work on Dexcom and Helmsley Charitable Trust. She enjoys finding the people brands are able to positively impact and telling their stories to share the heart behind the company.  

AGENCY NEWS // APRIL 6, 2021 //     

PRWeek Hall of Femme 2021: Lisa Rosenberg

The Hall of Femme Class of 2021 has been expanded to recognize the tremendous women who stepped up to the plate in the past year and decades prior. 

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Many of them cite “mom” as one of their chief mentors. 

All of them are sending the elevator back down to help younger versions of themselves succeed in competitive environments. 

They stress the need to be yourself, be constantly curious, listen actively and lead with humanity and empathy.

They accept it’s OK to not be OK sometimes. 

They prioritize self-care.

All of this was also highlighted as part of PRWeek’s Femme Forward series, which showcases a diverse group of women in PR who describe the challenges of the past 12 months dealing with COVID-19, home schooling, working from home, domestic chores and the racial reckoning of 2020.

With more leaders such as this, brands and corporations can create sustainable working environments, which is especially important in a PR industry that is populated 70% by women.

MARCH 30, 2021 //     

Marketing Software Alone Won’t Solve Your Challenge, People Will

A mentor gave me a great piece of advice when I got into triathlons. He said during the swim and the run all competitors are equal. The bike is the longest leg of the race and the only place where you can legally buy a mechanical advantage. A well-trained athlete on a carbon fiber frame with upgraded wheels and aerodynamic handlebars has a significant advantage over the athlete on the average road bike. But this advantage is wasted on an athlete who doesn’t have the strength or endurance to sustain high speeds. If you don’t do the hard work, the bike doesn’t make an impact. It’s a lot like software available to marketers today.

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There are countless marketing software options. Software vendors pitch us and our clients daily. In my experience, no client has ever said X software tool is perfect for my business, and whether these products merge, get acquired, or change the logo, most toolsets still don’t do exactly what the clients need. These tools tend to automate routine tasks and offer clues to investigate and inspire. Making your data actionable requires putting in the work just like training for a triathlon. 

If you invest in technology, you have to invest the same energy into getting the most out of it to gain a competitive advantage. Here are examples of how we’ve partnered with clients to get the most out of their data.

Demand Generation

Marketing working with sales and machines can drive phenomenal growth for many B2B companies, but more often than not we’re tasked with breaking down the silos between the two teams who often are measured by different goals. We also work in the marketing automation/CRM platform backend to set up the tracking, scoring, and workflows. This is another area where an expensive tool like Pardot, or Marketo, or HubSpot can be wasted if the campaign infrastructure is incorrect. In that case, the marketing automation platform becomes an expensive e-mail engine.

  • Each platform has its nuances, and teams need to continue to learn more about all of the available features. Triple checking workflows before launching a campaign ensures resources and leads are maximized.
  • When a prospect becomes “closed/won” that prospect’s journey deserves scrutiny. Understanding key touchpoints from a successful example can lead to adjustments in scoring that optimize programs. 
  • Ensure you have a fully integrated plan, including remarketing, CRM, SEM, and sales coordination. A whitepaper can also be versioned into an infographic or an email. Whatever form the campaign takes, colleagues on the sales team need to be aligned with the core messages. The beautiful design may pique interest but won’t close the sale for cloud computing services. The chasm between sales and marketing - and the software they use - persists at many organizations, and an agency can be a neutral party in helping both get more of what they need.
  • Planning for messages should also be aligned with data capture. The title and function of an individual should be augmented with company size, industry, potentially even growth. As more and more B2B firms focus on ABM, capturing prospect data will help ensure you are targeting the proper accounts.

Social Listening

We tend to see clients in two camps. First, those that leverage insights and metrics about their brand content performance either through the social platforms directly or in combination with tools like Sprinklr, Khoros, or Sprout Social. Second, those leveraging broader trends and online conversations to expand their insights and audiences with tools like Brandwatch, Falcon.io, or Pulsar. Because of the social platform APIs, there is no single tool or report that leads to breakthroughs. 

  • The deeper, and more frequent, your social listening, the better your campaigns will perform. This holds especially when data from LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook isn't integrated into a single tool. You have to leverage insights from both camps explained above - the broader online conversation as well as what you’re seeing in the performance of your brand channels.
  • Don’t dismiss an insight when an initial piece of content underperforms. Test and learn because it might be the format, channel, time of day, or a small change required to deliver for your audience.
  • Consider reporting separate metrics for each channel using what the social platforms give you. We see clients spent a lot of time trying to compare LinkedIn’s apples to Facebook’s oranges. As long as those charts are moving up and to the right, you’re improving. Over time the automated reporting demonstrates progress, and your time is better spent searching for insights instead of reconfiguring data.

Content Marketing

Understanding data and when and how to use it with regards to your content strategy could be the difference between success and failure. "According to LinkedIn, 78 percent of marketers expect to increase their content budget this year, "* and if there’s one area I wish we focused on more in client discussions, it would be on the content distribution plan. Spend as much time creating that plan as the content itself.

  • There are so many data points accessible that often brand marketers just don't know where to start or what they should be looking at in fact only "36% of marketeer said they were satisfied with their companies ability to measure the success of content" Tools and software solutions will assist and help to make sense of what you can measure and learn from but having a clear strategic plan in the first instance is key.
  • If the insight for your content comes from search, focus the first 60-90 days of your distribution strategy on non-search distribution before those SEO benefits kick in. Budget for amplification through multiple channels even with sponsored content. Dollars spent here improve ROI because most brand content doesn’t get the consumption levels it deserves.
  • Don’t overlook the opportunity to test multiple creative options to see what performs best with your audience before you launch. Competition for eyeballs is fierce. The first few seconds of a video, for example, can bring the audience in or steer them away, and there are tools to predict performance with your audience before content launches.
  • Branded content partnerships with top-tier outlets still require a distribution plan. Borrowing equity from those outlets offers a nice plate to serve your story to new audiences, but you should also trust past performance data to leverage on other channels.

The Road Ahead

The good news, at least for now, is that software hasn’t replaced marketers. The software makes marketers even better at their jobs - driving more actionable insights and better business outcomes. But the advantage of having technological resources drives of the most benefit when you put in the work.

And please remember that those first few pedals on a bicycle take the most energy to get moving, but it becomes easier and easier to maintain your momentum over time once you start putting in the work.

Todd Sommers is a executive vice president at Allison+Partners, where he leads a team of integrated marketers and brings together multi-disciplinary campaign elements to create compelling programs for clients.

MARCH 23, 2021 //     

Q&A: Searching for Your First PR Role? A few Simple Things to Set Yourself Apart

It’s nearly graduation season, and college seniors now ready their resumes and stalk LinkedIn for the shot at their dream PR jobs. I remember this feeling all too well, with the exception of LinkedIn. Instead, I stalked PRSA functions with my freshly made business cards. It is a time filled with excitement, pride and often fear of failure, which is why I am always happy to speak to budding PR rock stars to help them on their journeys.

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Recently, I had the honor of joining a number of inspirational women in PR who were asked to share our “wisdom” about setting yourself apart and building a career in PR with the next generation of PR leaders – a Zoom classroom full of San Diego State University Seniors.

After the event, I realized their questions likely apply to a lot of job seekers, so I thought I would share their questions and my responses.

Q: If you were telling your soon-to-be-graduating-from-college self about how you got HERE (as a founder, partner, president, VP), what would you say?

A: If I was giving myself advice, my tip would be to be relentless and embrace your authentic self. When I’ve stumbled, it has always been because I was following some else’s approach to a T and I didn’t take what resonated with me and make it mine. We’re not carbon copies… Take what you learn, do the research and read everything you can to be better, but make it yours. You’re going to make mistakes, but learn from them and be kinder as a result.

Q: What do you see as the strengths of Gen Z in your office?

A: I look at this as less Gen Z but more the up-and-coming workforce. I think their strength is resiliency – you’ve had your share of adversity and a broader world view. Use it! I look to folks who come to the table with different ideas and perspectives, and I think this is an area where Gen Z is really going to shine.

Q: What skills expected in new grad hire?

A: Read the media. For example, if you’re interviewing for a tech role, read Axios, Protocol and Wired and spend some time watching CNBC. If you’re in energy, do the same with energy reporters and outlets. The simple idea of reading the media will make you a better writer. It will make you a better media strategist and a stronger PR person. 

Q: What are common pitfalls you see new pros have difficulty with as they acclimate to the professional workplace?

A: Not taking the time to listen to learn. It is great to be eager. But the greatest struggle I have is when folks don’t slow down to read the room, learn the client and learn about your colleagues. This business is about relationships – coming in too hot can really slow you down in the long run.

Q: What is one interview question you always ask? Do you look at social media?

A: For me the question where you win or lose the interview is, “What questions do you have for me?” This is the question that makes candidates stand out to me. Have questions, show you were listening to the conversation we had, leave me with your elevator pitch.

Is the cover letter relevant?

The cover letter is your intro to get your resume reviewed. I think that approach has changed a lot just given how we apply for jobs. LinkedIn tends to be the new cover letter. Recruiters aren’t shy about being on LinkedIn, and I look for proactive candidates who go beyond the online application – this step also shows hiring managers that you can research, which is critical for any entry-level PR role.

 

If you’re interested in speaking more, feel free to reach out on LinkedIn. 

Amber is a corporate communications counselor known for her ability to see around corners and drive programs that advance business results. This includes communications programs to create successful outcomes, including mergers and acquisitions, financial communications, media relations and executive positioning.

AGENCY NEWS // MARCH 19, 2021 //     

Clubhouse Lessons For Brands From Demi Lovato

PRWeek

Singer Demi Lovato has been on a media blitz this month with interviews in The New York Times and Glamour to promote her YouTube Originals docuseries, “Dancing with the Devil.” 

But when it came to her forthcoming album, “Dancing With the Devil … The Art of Starting Over,” Lovato chose a relatively nascent channel to announce it: Clubhouse, the audio-only, invite-only chat app that has been growing like wildfire. 

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The pop star invited her 55 million followers on Twitter to join her on the app, where she revealed the album to a “room” of fans and industry influencers, including producer Scooter Braun, who teased that Lovato might make an album announcement on Clubhouse to his 3.7 million Twitter followers. 

Entertainment Weekly was among the media that listened in, reporting that she told Clubhouse users, which reached 7,000 during the 75-minute event, that her new album follows “the course of my life and the path it’s taken over the past few years.”   

[Note to brands: while chats aren’t recorded, consider anything anyone might say as on-the-record!] 

Since its launch almost a year ago, Clubhouse has amassed more than 20 million registered users, according to a March 16 update from independent researcher Vajresh Balaji. The app, which is still in beta, invites users to listen in on chats being held in real-time on an array of topics.  

It is also interactive: users can “raise their hand,” have their mic unmuted and add their two cents to the room.  

Jeremy Rosenberg, partner and president of marketing innovation for North America at Allison+Partners, says it’s no coincidence that Clubhouse has taken off during the pandemic.  

MARCH 18, 2021 //     

One Year Later, the Lockdown Hasn’t Been All Bad

I suffered a minor but well-hidden panic attack during my first COVID-19 grocery trip nearly a year ago. I can laugh about it now, even though it felt grave at the time.

I suspect most of us felt pessimistic, uncertain and dour in March 2020. The powers that be had just sent us home for what we thought would be only a few weeks of working from home and staying away from others to “flatten the curve,” then we’d all return to our “normal lives.” If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

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Everyone has their pandemic experiences and stories, and they are all deeply personal. I’m confident history won’t be kind to 2020. For a host of good reasons, it shouldn’t be. It was a miserable year. I bet the grandkids will tire of hearing about it the same way some baby boomers and Gen Xers grew bored of hearing about the Great Depression from older relatives.

While panicking last year over the lack of toilet paper and aromatic vegetables at my local Publix, I suggested gratitude and perspective would get us through the pandemic. That held true for me. And it continues to prove true now, as we approach what could be the beginning of the end of this global nightmare.

Upon reflection with that same pandemic-inspired sense of gratitude and perspective, my past year hasn’t been all bad. I’d even argue there have been some positives I’ll remember fondly:

Reprieve from commuting – I used to spend two hours a day commuting to and from the office. By “commuting,” I mean two hours of white-knuckled fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic on metro Atlanta’s interstates and arterial roads. I don’t miss that stress. I also don’t miss the $120 or more I spent monthly on gasoline, the frequent oil changes or the pollution my car coughed into the skies. And I get more sleep since I don’t have to account for the hour-long commute getting to work every morning. Best of all, when it’s time to clock in and out, I’m already home.

Expanded culinary horizons – Working from home means I can sneak into the kitchen at any point to start and make dishes that would normally take all day on a Saturday or Sunday, such as gumbo or red beans and rice. It means I can make a healthy, hot lunch every day. Having access to the kitchen all day has inspired me to experiment with new cuisines, including Japanese and Turkish, and try my hand at baking bread. I’d encourage you to bake your own bread too. The house smells amazing as it bakes, and the texture and taste will make you forever shun the store-bought, preservative-packed stuff. Try this easy recipe from French master chef Jacques Pepin and enjoy.

More time with pets – I adopted brothers Hector and Ajax as kittens four years ago right after I joined Allison+Partners. I’d often miss them while at the office all day, but now I don’t have to. They are now 14 and 17 pounds, respectively, and they enjoy making cameos on Zoom and Microsoft Teams during important meetings. I introduce them to clients as my “chief copy editors.” They also enjoy sitting and napping between me and the keyboard on my arm, which means I type one-handed at different parts of my workday. Sure, I could move them. But cat lovers know – there’s nothing more stress-busting or flattering than a cat who loves you enough to jump into your arms to purr themselves to sleep. And now that I spend all day every day with them, we’re more bonded than we would have been if I had just spent evenings and weekends with them, as I used to prior to the pandemic. 

Trips to the grocery are no longer fraught with panic for me. There’s plenty of toilet paper, onions, bell pepper and celery. Putting on and wearing a mask is as normal as putting on and wearing shoes. I miss going to concerts, sporting events and restaurants. I miss social gathering in general. I miss seeing my colleagues every day. I sometimes miss the office environment. I miss the big laser printer.

But am I in any rush to get back? I think you know my answer!

Jacques Couret is editorial manager of the Marketing Innovation Team and works out of Allison+Partners’ Atlanta office, where he boasts the company’s best collection of Star Wars desk toys.

MARCH 16, 2021 //     

The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Reflection

Chapter One

Jan. 26, 2020, Heathrow Airport, London. It is always difficult to pinpoint a certain moment in time when a higher level of awareness kicks in. They say before an earthquake, animals in the wild will have an inkling of coming trouble. I sat at the airport waiting to catch a flight back to the U.S. and watched a BBC report on COVID-19 that said contract tracing had failed and the virus was loose in the UK. I instinctively sensed trouble approaching.  

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Allison+Partners co-founder Andy Hardie-Brown and I had just completed the European segment of our Town Hall meetings. We had been monitoring the virus since it is earliest days as we kept in close touch with our offices in China. After returning to the U.S., the next big decision was whether to complete the Asia leg of our scheduled Town Hall meetings. We decided we would, and left for South Korea in mid-February. We arrived to find a well-prepared community in the earliest stages of the pandemic. The hotels checked temperatures each time we went in, but masks were not widely worn.

On Feb. 23, we headed to the airport to fly to Singapore. And for the very first time, we donned masks. Singapore was as delightful as ever, and it was great to spend a week with our team. But storm clouds brewed. My flight home through Korea was cancelled. All flights through Korea were shut down. On Feb. 27, I flew back to San Francisco. Customs at SFO was empty.  However, no temperature scans or any reference to the virus. There was a sense of naivete in the air.

Although our team thought we were over-reacting, Andy and I decided to quarantine for 10 days prior to returning to the office. Ten days seemed like a long time. If only...

On March 10, I made it back to the San Francisco office and had a chance to speak to the team.  I brought up the virus and said we should continue to wash hands and be careful. I did not think it would be that serious. For the next three days, the news became progressively worse with hints of potential shutdowns. 

On March 12, we sent the team home early. And on Friday, March 13 – yes, Friday the 13th – we told everyone via conference call not to come into the office. By March 16, we had closed all offices in the U.S. and Europe, and everyone began working from home. Asia had gone into lockdown earlier. Thirty offices and 500 people just had their work life/home lives turned upside down. As one of my colleagues wrote in her blog post, quoting Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep on going.” We were going to have to figure out how to keep going, keep our people safe and keep the client work moving.

We launched into days that began at 5:30 a.m. and often did not finish until midnight. The TV news ran day and night, and images of suffering from China, Italy, the UK and finally the catastrophic loss of life in New York and New Jersey kept pouring in. If we didn’t recognize the courage of our healthcare community in the past, we certainly did now.

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