It's About the Work


I really wasn’t going to do this piece: the standard trends piece for the new year. Last year I wrote about the distractions we can do without in 2015, and this year I decided to stay out of the game of predicting anything for 2016. But I just couldn’t stay away — there were too many pieces on trends that really got to me.

So, here we go: a randomly-selected number of supposed trends for 2016, along with solutions for moving past them. Some of these “trends” are stale (old and not new), and some of them are just pale (not going to happen). Hey, I even threw in a few ideas on how we can stop making these silly trend predictions.

To ensure no ego gets hurt in the making of this piece, I decided against naming the specific articles I read as I wrote this. But I read pieces in the following publications: Greenbiz, Forbes, Huffington Post, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, TriplePundit, the Guardian, and even Carbon Trust and Frontstream.

1. The consumer

Apparently, 2016 is when the consumer is going to step up and be the game-changer. One of the trends pieces even pointed to a Nielsen study showing that 66 percent of consumers will pay more for a product that comes from companies “that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.”

Please picture my eyes rolling on this one. Cone Communications had that statistic back in 2006. Edelman had the same statistic in its Good Purpose study of 2008. And it is now a trend? Just simply lazy.

Solution: The consumer is already there, and the biggest challenge is how business adapts to the changing consumer landscape and not the other way around.

2. The millennial

Millennials are going to be the big agents of social change in 2016. They are the drivers to make sustainability mainstream.

Firstly, this is the same group of millennials that gave us the Kardashian clan and the selfie. Don’t hold your breath for them to be the sole drivers of all the good. We have to take their bad with their good. But more importantly, the millennials have already changed the world and will continue to do so. Nothing new to see folks — just people changing the world. And remember, none of these millennials are even at school anymore.

Solution: Stop seeing each consumer group as a unified group. They are diverse and unique, and the more we treat them as individuals and focus our interaction with them on a personal level, the better. And remember, money doesn’t matter whether it is in the hands of a 60-, 25- or 12-year-old. The only challenge is how you interact with them at their level in their way. That is why it is called engagement …

3. Green energy

At last, green energy is here to save us. The big trend is the decline of renewable energy prices. We can all breathe easy, clean air now.

You see the problem with the logic in this one? Of course renewable energy prices will go down. Who expected anything else? More money, more research, more capacity, greater efficiencies, new technologies, etc. It all points in one simple direction: prices going down. It’s how the world works.

Solution: Focus on this growth and get away from the anti-fossil fuel mentality. Green energy is winning because people instinctively like the renewable idea no matter what side of the political spectrum. But going after a dying industry (fossil fuels) makes you look vindictive and shows a lack of courage. We have won this battle; now start acting like winners.

4. Mainstreaming CSR

2015 was when business started mainstreaming corporate social responsibility (CSR). It is going to become their heart and soul. Their purpose.

Except they didn’t. Every good company is still balanced out by a bad company. For every good company fighting climate change, there is another paying off a climate denier or API to fight climate change action. CSR is not mainstream yet. Maybe more people use the word, but we are still in as much trouble as before.

Solution: Stop worrying about businesses mainstreaming sustainability. They either have a purpose or they are selling snake oil. Snake oil sellers aren’t going to see the light because their product remains snake oil. But the companies that already have it as part of their business model are kicking their asses. We don’t need more “mainstreaming of CSR” arguments if those on our side are kicking the asses of those on the other side. They are already doing it today. Patagonia is walloping their competition. Toms Shoes is kicking butt. And Unilever. And, so on … All of these companies have put their purpose at the center of their business and are thriving. Mainstream businesses are sleeping while the revolution is happening. And that is good for us.

5. Reporting

This is a big bucket, but this trend never ends. Either reporting is going to become mainstream, or materiality is going to be the new hot topic, or social media will be the next big thing in reporting.

What the heck have you been reporting on if it isn’t material to your company? And who helped you with that? You really need new consultants. You are either reporting what is important or you are the next Jackie Collins of sustainability with a much lower readership. And welcome to 2010 if you now use social media in reporting. I think we did that at Starbucks in 2009 and Best Buy in 2010 …

Solution: Stop writing silly reports no one will read. Know the limitations of these reports — they are meant to take stock, and only a handful of stories are really interesting enough for people to pay attention for maybe five minutes. Know what you want to achieve with the report and don’t oversell the importance of it. It is one tool — only one.

6. The end of carbon

This might be slightly controversial because of so many people still high on COP21. The reality is that we are simply not one inch closer to stopping climate change. We have nice words and an apparent agreement on a framework, but nothing we are doing today is going to stop climate change from slowly choking humans off this earth. A bit of a downer, but I never said everything will be fun.

Solution: The sad truth is that the revolution we need to stop/slow down climate change won’t happen soon. We will keep getting new frameworks and fancy words. This war will be won one battle at a time. One company transformation after another. One renewable energy source at a time. We are in it for the long run and must be mentally ready for the long run. Don’t try to sell the battle short by thinking we have turned a corner.

7. Concepts

This was the year of the circular economy. No wait, I think that was last year. 2015 was ThriveAbility. Before that we had shared values. A new year, a new dress for old ideas and practices. Let’s make 2016 the year of the NoConceptAvism. We are like Trotskyist — put two in a room and you have an immediate disagreement. We can’t even agree on the oldest concepts of CSR, sustainability or citizenship.

Solution: Just stop. Just like the consumer, each business is unique and different. Each one offers a different solution and has a different value proposition. Some of them have the essence of their purpose in their products. Some need to focus more on supply chains. Others simply require a connection between a solution and a need. Each one is different, and that is why reporting and awards are so silly — they measure generics in a world of the personal. Just don’t come up with a new fancy thing. Just do the action and measure it.

I will leave it there for now. There are many others I would like to add to this list of non-trends we should not start celebrating yet — measurement (social impact, outcomes versus inputs), diversity, employee engagement, cause marketing, big data, water, transparency, development, global versus local, cities are good/no bad, social media, supply chains, partnerships, social enterprises versus nonprofits, etc. Too many to list. But hey — the one trend I know you will see in 2016 is me writing about all of these — tongue firmly in cheek and always having a bit of fun.

Here’s to 2016. May the trend forever be on your side.

Originally posted on TriplePundit

stephen curryDerick E Hingle, USA TODAY Sports


Each month, Sports Sesh examines the intersection of sports and PR in current events, while highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly. This month: Basketball.

The Good: The Golden (State) Boy

As of December 2015, the NBA’s reigning king is none other than Stephen Curry. Not only does the 27-year-old point guard dominate the scoreboard, but he’s also developed a VIP personality that has made his whole team more successful. With his impressive performances and his charming popularity, Stephen Curry is helping the NBA get noticed for good. In fact, he makes journalists talk about him on a daily basis, bringing positive attention to the NBA.

The NBA’s 2015 MVP is the kind of guy any girl wants to bring home to meet her parents. He’s a husband, a dad and even a Sports Sesh veteran. He was featured a few months ago when his daughter stole our hearts during a press conference.

Along with his popularity, the Golden Boy of the Golden State Warriors also brings relevant numbers. He scores an average of five three-point baskets per game, brought the Golden State Warriors to a record of 24 wins in a row and has more than 3.4 million followers on Twitter. And he doesn’t seem to stop. Currymania continues…

The Bad: Why you gotta be so rude?

With 19 years leading the Los Angeles Lakers and five NBA championships in the books, Kobe Bryant said that the current season will be his last. After making a public announcement on The Players Tribune with a letter titled “Dear Basketball,” the 37-year-old basketball icon faced a harsh reaction from the media and an even worse reaction from his own team, who answered back with another letter.

Kobe’s list of accomplishments is long. From championships to MVPs, to being an enduring icon of the sport, does he deserve such a cold farewell? Instead of writing about his career as a champion and his outstanding records, the media is focusing on Kobe’s poor performance toward the end of his career. Fortunately for Kobe, his celebrity friends have shown their support on social media.

The Ugly: The NCAA

After an eight-year long investigation into Syracuse’s athletic programs, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) suspended basketball coach Jim Boeheim for the first nine games of the 2015-16 season. And after issuing the suspension of Boeheim, the NCAA changed its mind to begin the suspension immediately, instead of the start of ACC play.

Boeheim wasn’t the only coach the NCAA took action against this year, though. SMU Mustangs coach Larry Brown was hit with a nine-game suspension penalty for a case involving academic fraud, despite the fact that they couldn’t find direct ties between Brown and the transgressions.

For being “a membership-driven organization dedicated to safeguarding the well-being of student-athletes and equipping them with the skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life,” the NCAA is doing a poor job of leading by example. Whether it’s unpredictable coaching suspensions with a lack of substantial evidence, or taking almost a decade to conduct investigations, the NCAA is looking pretty ugly these days.

Francesco Onorato works in the Phoenix office of Allison+Partners. Prior to joining the agency, he worked as a journalist covering breaking news and politics.



josh swarz paris data blogCarolyn Cole/Tribune News Services


The recent events in Paris have reignited a debate on two of the most important topics facing us today: the use of encryption and the balance between national security and personal privacy.

There is little doubt that the perpetrators of this tragedy used encryption to plan the attack. However, the question we need to ask is are we willing to sacrifice more privacy in the name of national security? If the government can track our every move, will it mean even more security back doors for the “bad guys” to exploit? While these back doors may make it easier for law enforcement to perform their jobs, they are also easy targets for those wishing to do harm.

In a matter of weeks, the public and private sectors have staked out their positions. In an interview with The New York Times, C.I.A. Director John Brenan said he hoped the Paris attacks would be a wake-up call, adding that the use of encryption technology had weakened the ability of Western intelligence services to prevent attacks. NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton also stated that ISIS’s use of encrypted applications are cause for concern.

On the other side, representatives from technology organizations such as New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute and companies such as Apple and Google believe that any attempt to mandate back doors or prohibit the technology would fail to make us safer against terrorism, while also threatening our digital economy.

Effective messaging will decide this debate. Technology companies and the government should sharpen their narrative, articulating why their point of view is correct. While the government stands lockstep with law enforcement on this issue, the technology community has a powerful counter-point and is exceptionally well-funded. Over the next several months, we will see both sides present their arguments, and it will ultimately be the American public that decides what they value more – personal privacy or security.

Joshua Swarz is a senior account executive in the Corporate practice who specializes in B2B, cyber security and enterprise technology.




China’s journalists and the outlets for which they work are in the midst of a rapid evolution from being the extensions of state propaganda to something more closely resembling the media we deal with elsewhere in the world. Yet the emergence of investigative journalism and the arms-length relationship between the government and media should not be seen as the emergence of independent journalism in China. The Party is determined to ensure that while the leash may be longer, media remain responsive to the needs of the government.

The arrested development of China’s media means that there are significant differences in the way Chinese media and journalists need to be approached when compared to their Fleet Street counterparts. The chart above offers some examples of what you must take into account before creating a media list, sending out a release, or conducting any form of media activity in China.

David Wolf is the managing director of Allison+Partners’ Global China Practice. Recognized as a leader in China’s public relations industry, David specializes in helping clients manage complex communications challenges, including government relations, crisis, new market entry, and corporate reorganization. His book, “Public Relations in China: Building and Defending Your Brand in the PRC,” was released in October 2015

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