It's About the Work

Gay marriage supporters hold a gay rights flag in front of the Supreme Court before a hearing about gay marriage in Washington April 28, 2015. The nine justices will be hearing arguments concerning gay marriage restrictions imposed in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, four of the 13 states that still outlaw such marriages.    REUTERS/Joshua Roberts


Do companies today have an obligation to engage in political issues and/or those deemed controversial? Recent legislation blocking LGBT rights in the states of Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and North Carolina have been met by companies that are taking a strong and vocal stand against the discriminatory legislation. They have done so through open letters to politicians and boycotts to the reversal of plans to grow businesses in those states.

Dan Schulman, PayPal’s president and chief executive, said in a statement that the law “perpetuates discrimination” and “violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.” More than 60 leading CEOs and business leaders from companies like Dropbox, Hilton Worldwide, Facebook, Apple, Salesforce, REI and Yelp signed an open letter calling on Mississippi’s Governor to repeal the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act.” The economic impact of businesses backing out of these states has already been felt and will only grow.

Social Responsibility & Generational Differences

Countless surveys of Millennials and Gen-Z audiences have made it clear that they align themselves, and their buying powers with companies that uphold the same values they do. They expect their companies to take a stand on issues that impact their communities. Millennials have replaced baby boomers as the largest generation in the workforce today, and this legislation could have a substantial impact around their decisions on where they choose to work. Seventy percent of millennials (aged 34 and younger) supported same-sex marriage in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center, compared with only 45 percent of baby boomers (aged 51 to 70).

The market for employers to find pivotal talent is already the most difficult it has ever been, and these legislative actions could have a long lasting and detrimental impact on employers and recruitment.

Campaign Support & Brand Loyalty

In the past, many companies made the decision not to engage in topics deemed controversial or political because they feared a loss of revenue, clients, as well as the negative attention of consumers that could turn against them. But recently, many companies, including Campbell’s Soup, Starbucks and Apple, have stated that if you have a problem with their ads or views on same-sex marriage, then you should feel free to take your business elsewhere. Some have actually seen a boost in sales based on their public views.

For some companies, the risk of offending some sectors of the population is becoming less important than taking a stand on an issue their employees, customers and shareholders care about. While brands may feel some backlash from certain groups, the overwhelming majority supported their stance, creating strong brand loyalty, generating positive conversation on social media and in some cases a boost in business. By making the decision to not take a stand on issues and not participate in the conversations that are core to their audience, companies run the risk of having their brand become less relevant in today’s society and culture, which will ultimately hurt their bottom line.

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

The Good: Gonzaga: The March to Madness

Every year, The Big Dance showcases a distinctive quality that captures the hearts of consumers nationwide: emotional investment. Earlier this year, HBO fueled that investment by launching a five-part docuseries titled “Gonzaga: The March to Madness.” The series followed the Gonzaga University basketball team leading into the NCAA tournament, provided game-by-game coverage, behind-the-scenes footage, and unprecedented access into the personal lives and brotherly bond among the players. It spoke to more than the basketball fanatics, and drew in the general consumer by encompassing the spirit of March Madness beyond just game play. A spinoff of HBO’s wildly popular NFL series “Hard Knocks,” “The March to Madness” provided a glimpse into Gonzaga’s successful basketball program and the devoted town of fans that rally behind it.

The Bad: Players Outplaying the Ratings

Despite being the first national championship game to be determined by a three-pointer buzzer beater shot, this year’s incredibly memorable championship averaged 10 million fewer viewers than last year. According to Adweek, the championship game averaged 17.8 million viewers across TBS, TNT and truTV, down 37 percent from the 28.3 million that watched Duke beat Wisconsin last April. In terms of household ratings, the Villanova vs. North Carolina matchup was the lowest-rated national championship game in history. While the steep decline in ratings could be attributed to the switch from broadcast to cable TV, the momentum and intensity of the games leading into the championship are also a considerable factor. The Final Four matchups this year were lackluster, at best, with Villanova stomping Oklahoma in a 40-point blowout.

The Ugly: Winners Don’t Whine

As the Duke Blue Devils saw their NCAA fate winding down at the hands of Oregon during the Sweet Sixteen, Oregon’s Dillon Brooks drained a controversial deep three; one that many would categorize as unnecessary and unsportsmanlike. The shot sent a ripple of anger through the Duke bench, and after the final buzzer sounded, the foul behavior ensued.

Duke’s Grayson Allen reacted to the tough loss by shunning Brooks, who attempted to shake hands after the game. Duke head coach Mike Kryzyzewski followed suit when he pulled Brooks aside after the game to lecture him for the last-second three, advising Brooks that he is “too good” of a player to be showboating. The unsolicited advice stirred controversy at the post-game press conference, where Brooks humbly admitted that Coach K was right, and Coach K denied the conversation altogether. When audio of the exchange was released the following day in support of Brooks’ claims, Kryzyzewski was forced to come forward and ultimately released an apology to Oregon head coach Dana Altman. While glossing over his own players’ dirty tactics didn’t require an apology, lying to the press about scolding an opposing player’s poor sportsmanship, certainly did.

Kate Judge is an Account Coordinator in Allison+Partners’ Phoenix office who has worked with brands in numerous industries, from sports, health, and wellness, to consumer electronics.



Five Health Highlights from HIMSS 2016

Samsung OLED Display at HIMSS 2016  Credit SamsungSamsung Booth at HIMSS 2016


Surrounded by more than 41,000 participants and 1,300 vendor booths, we were onsite for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Annual Conference and Exhibition (HIMSS 2016), in Las Vegas. As the industry’s largest health IT event in the world, HIMSS 2016 brought together the best and brightest companies around the globe to share ideas and innovations, as well as problem solve some of the toughest issues in healthcare.

If you couldn’t make it to HIMSS 2016, then allow us to share a few of this year’s remarkable highlights straight from the conference floor – trends with impacts that will be felt across industries and geographies:

Privacy &Security

Evidenced by daily news headlines, privacy &security is one of the most challenging issues facing healthcare providers today. It is no surprise that an entire section of the conference floor and nearly all education sessions at HIMSS were connected to the topic of cyber security. With new technologies including cloud storage, mobile and medical devices, comes challenges in protecting patient privacy in accordance with HIPAA. The resounding message at HIMSS 2016 was that it’s not just an IT issue – it is ultimately a patient care issue that needs to be top of mind for every facility.


The role of interoperability and mobile technologies in healthcare was overwhelming at HIMSS, with the term “connected health” buzzing in nearly every session. In fact, more than half of the hospitals recently surveyed by HIMSS are using at least three different kinds of connected health technologies, and roughly half say they expect to do more with mHealth tools soon. The future of healthcare is truly found with interoperable systems that allow individuals, their families and healthcare providers to send, receive, find and use electronic health information in a way that is appropriate, secure, timely and reliable. The exam room is no longer confined by walls thanks to mHealth technologies that are evolving the patient experience. Over the next few years, nearly 47 percent of hospitals expect to expand their connected health technologies. In the not too distant future, the majority of patients will receive exam results via text, consult a patient portal on their phone and access treatment instructions through an app, which will empower them to better manage their health and wellness – anywhere and at any time.


As a function of the mHealth movement, virtual medical health andhealth and education services have significantly advanced in the last five years. With that has come notable consumer demand. What is not to love about eliminating travel time, reducing stress and often reduce costs, with virtual appointments? More importantly, telehealth can be life saving for the more than 20 percent of patients nationwide who live in rural areas with limited hospital access. Telehealth can support patient diagnosis, with more than 14,000 possible diagnosis, and can select prescriptions from the more than 6,000 possible medications. In fact, companies like Miami Children’s Health System have created robot technologies that can be sent anywhere in the world to take video and vitals of patients to be broadcast back to a live physician specialist in Miami.


Some of the most revolutionary companies at HIMSS showcased new innovations that are designed to solve some of healthcare’s most complicated problems. From flying drones that can deliver life-saving kits to patients stranded in remote locations of the Florida Everglades, to pediatric breathalyzers that assess insulin dosing without a needle’s prick – the innovations are simply inspiring. By the depth and diversity of the innovations featured at HIMSS, it is clear the future of healthcare is shining bright with companies dedicated to disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and education.

Patient Engagement

We have entered the era of the empowered patient. No longer will patients solely rely on their physician to inform their health status. Today’s patient has embraced new ways of gaining insights into their health, with wearable technologies leading the way. From wearables that monitor niche chronic conditions to more user-friendly patient portals that connect directly with physicians, technology has enabled self-management. In fact, a new dimension of patient engagement has emerged with online support communities that are powered and offered by hospitals and clinics. Recognizing that peer support can offer meaningful dialogue and greater adherence to treatment plans, these specialized online communities are driving down healthcare costs while offering patients meaningful encouragement when they need it.

Despite the many challenges facing healthcare today, HIMSS 2016 is proof that there are brilliant minds, companies and solutions being developed today that will transform and improve the future of healthcare globally.

Lisa Schmidtke is a Vice President in the Allison+Partners healthcare practice.

Virginia Anderson is a Director in the Allison+Partners healthcare practice.



No longer marginalized to the back office, the issues of encryption and cybersecurity have moved up the corporate food chain and now sit squarely in the eyes of the C-Suite. The global cybersecurity market is expected to be worth $170 billion by 2020. In fact, a 2015 Morgan Stanley report stated that 14.8% of CIOs listed security as a top priority, compared with only 5.2% just one year before.  While it is essential that businesses take these persistent cyberthreats seriously by protecting their sensitive data – it is equally important their communication strategy is as buttoned up as their security.

Cybersecurity communication strategies must reflect the nimbleness of cybersecurity defense. In 2015, almost every American was affected by at least one data breach. Moreover, these breaches are global in nature and are expected to get worse over the next several years. High profile breaches have included a wide spectrum of organizations: Ashley Madison, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), TalkTalk and Anthem just to name a few. The suddenness of a data breach is what keeps these communication professionals up at night. It can happen without warning and spread like wildfire. Without an effective and immediate communications strategy, jobs, money and the public’s trust can be lost. For example, the TalkTalk hack in the U.K. Their defensive public relations strategy of shutting down their website and just simply apologizing, rattled consumers and resulted in a financial loss of £60 million. In addition, the company suffered a complete loss of consumer confidence with 95,000 out of the 101,000 subscribers switching mobile providers.

An effective communications strategy can have the opposite effect. During last year’s hack of Anthem, a swiftly implemented offensive communications strategy resulted in continued consumer confidence in their business and third party praise. The CEO provided clear and concise messaging that outlined what happened, specific to the type of information that could have been compromised to the company and publicly announced its crisis within days of it discovery. As a result, Anthem was able to weather the storm and continue to build consumer trust.

With breaches now occurring more frequently, an effective crisis communications strategy is a necessity, not a luxury. While securing data is a must, without a clear plan of action that can be executed immediately, company reputations and their brand can be irreversibly damaged.

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

This year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival has officially concluded seeing more than 75,000 attendees and another reported 152,200 event participants across the festival’s three categories of interactive, music and film. Each section showcased hundreds of exhibits, shows, sessions, workshops, screenings, events and parties. Altogether in its 10-day run, SXSW generated millions of pieces of […]
Copyright: Choreograph   Following the publication of a recent Forrester report which evaluated how B2C companies have been quicker than B2B to engage the digital consumer, I wondered, what are those successful B2C strategies that B2B marketers can draw upon? During a recent partner event we held with Notion Capital, Susie Hughes, VP in our […]
With hundreds of RSVP only events and dozens of houses and lounges, branded activations are everywhere at SXSW and this year was no exception. Seemingly, the number of activations at the 2016 festival increased from years past, but the sea of experiential sameness was staggering. Similar to what SXSWi festival director, Hugh Forrest said about […]
Over the past few months there’s been increasing media focus on Gen Z, and sessions on this yet to be fully understood generation are starting to pop up on the conference circuit, including one I attended at this week’s SXSW festival. Having spent the better part of the last decade targeting Millennials on behalf of […] As part of the consumer technology and digital entertainment practice, I’ve had the privilege to attend quite a few festivals and conferences. Austin’s SXSW Interactive however, has been at the top of my list since I first stepped off the plane four years ago. An incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity, at SXSW […]
iStock / John Neff Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum speak at Arizona State University’s Sports Law and Business program. Tatum, who was promoted to his current position when Adam Silver was named commissioner in 2014, spoke to a packed room of eager students and […]

Older Posts »