It's About the Work

The unofficial start of the 2016 presidential race begins this Thursday in Cleveland with the Fox News Republican Presidential Primary Debate (co-hosted with Facebook). I for one will be glued to the television screen, Twitter feed with a beer safely in hand. For political junkies such as myself, this debate is the Super Bowl and draft night rolled into one.

With a crowded stage of ten candidates, each will be hard-pressed to provide substantive answers and will likely find themselves in a battle for sound bites. Right now, communication staffers are working tirelessly with the candidates on effective strategy. Through sleepless nights and endless pots of coffee they are all asking themselves, “Should my candidate delve into policy points, or just yell anti-Hillary/Obama zingers in an attempt to capture the crowd?”

High atop the staffers’ list of fears is that their candidate will slip and provide the public with a campaign-deflating viral moment. This is the “gotcha” soundbite era in politics. Any clip can be taken out of context and live forever. One only needs do a quick Google search to uncover these gems from the last GOP presidential cycle:

Rick Perry – Oops

Mitt Romney – Offers to make a $10,000 bet

Herman Cain – Libya? Libya?

John Huntsman – Joke falls flat

Newt Gingrich – Attacks debate moderator Juan Williams

The ultimate wild card Thursday night is, of course, if Donald Trump unshackles from traditional campaign discipline and taps into the same vein of anti-establishment sentiment that propelled Sarah Palin to national prominence. As reflected in the polls, a large segment of the GOP’s primary voters are attuned to the alarmist message that “The Donald” is the off-the-cuff bluster.

Trump is not the only outsized personality on the stage. The current GOP field covers a range of ideologies, experience and temperaments. Libertarians, neo-conservatives and Mid-Atlantic governors who demand their constituents “get the hell off the beach” will all be represented. This doesn’t even include the candidates who fail to crack the top 10 and are relegated to having their own junior varsity debate earlier in the evening as a sort of early bout before the title fight.

Can Governor Christie encapsulate Donald Trump’s bravado, but harness it into a reasonable, moderate alternative? Will Jeb Bush stay “above the fray” while at the same time remain strong in the face of personal attacks? Can the fresh faces of Senators Rubio, Cruz and Paul with Governor Walker, establish their voices as strong leaders who can handle the role of Commander in Chief?

From a PR perspective, I will be looking for the following Thursday night:

  • Who will take Trump’s bait and come out swinging?
  • Will any candidate attack Trump for some of the divisive comments he has made in recent weeks?
  • Will Trump stick to his strategy and throw firebombs or will he provide substantive answers?
  • Can Fox News moderators control the debate or will it turn into a melee?
  • Which candidate will highlight Jeb Bush’s brother’s legacy as a reason to vote against him?
  • Who will be the first to bash Hillary Clinton and President Obama?
  • What soundbite will dominate the headlines on Friday?

For those of you who won’t get the chance to watch this event, have no fear. This is just the first of many circus acts, for both parties, expected over the coming months. Dig in. As Hunter Thompson wrote, “Not everybody is comfortable with the idea that politics is a guilty addiction. But it is.”

David M. Baum is a group account director in Allison+Partners’ Corporate Practice who has worked on political campaigns in the United States and United Kingdom.

I breathe. Mostly oxygen but some other stuff too. I do this constantly. That tells you everything you need to know about me, right? Oh yes – I also have arms, legs, eyes and all that body stuff we humans are so into. Would that make you date me? Of course not. Why? Because it tells you nothing about me as a person. It doesn’t tell you anything about my purpose, my values or my impact on you and everyone else.

Now imagine you’re a business saying that its reason for being is to maximize profits for shareholders. That tells me you’re a business that sells stuff to make a profit. But do I feel loyal to you and want to have a long term relationship engaging with your products or services based on that? No. Why should any customer care about your profits when you care nothing about what they need? This might come as a shock to you but no one buys your product because you want to make a profit.

In order to find the purpose of business, we must look to the past.

Why do you think Millennials care so much about values? Because businesses somehow lots their reason to exist and now people are starting to look for the values they share with you because it is mostly absent. Back in the “good old days,” it wasn’t a question to ask. It wasn’t something to look for. It was right there – expressed by the handshake of the store owner, in the active role that business took to ensure that community’s overall welfare and progression. You, Mr. Business, started and succeeded because you understood what your customers and community needed. And that connection translated into a strong and loyal relationship where you looked out for each other.

Fast forward to today. We live in a world where we are surrounded by snake oil sellers or businesses that tell us their purpose is to maximize shareholder value. You, Mr. Business, have lost your way because you started to focus more on yourself than the community that ensures your financial success. You’ve lost your purpose. And, with 42% of North Americans reporting they would pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

But don’t worry – we can still date. All we need to do is find that spark that started it all – that space where your purpose and your social impact made you the perfect date. To do that, you must get back to your roots to remind yourself why you exist. I think you will find that it wasn’t so much about money to begin with, but the love of doing or creating something that would ultimately help others. And by doing it, you help yourself. Profits with impact.

There is a very scary part in this search for meaning. You might go back to your roots and realize that you just simply don’t have meaning in the world of today anymore. You might be selling snake oil instead of the goodness from where you started. But if you dig deep enough into those roots you will find the answer of why you are still relevant to the world of tomorrow. Take coal as an example. It was a great way to energize the development that society so desperately needed to advance. Who knew that those same fires would be slowly choke us today. But it was never about coal – it was about providing the world with the energy to advance. Go back to those roots of your social impact and reinvent your products to be true to your roots. Be that business with a social impact that matters to society again.

Brands with meaning. A novel idea as old as the roots of business itself. Now that is a social impact we can all applaud. Go back and advance.


Originally published on TriplePundit



At the start of 2015, I was fresh-faced to London and agency life. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I joined the Allison+Partners close-knit London team as an AAE, but I have found it to be a thoroughly interesting and challenging environment and industry.

There is always lot going on. The constant pressure of meeting client needs, securing valuable media hits and staying abreast of the constant changes in our industry can make daily life very busy. Add new business pitches to the mix, and it can all start to feel a bit overwhelming.

Fortunately, Allison+Partners has a professional development program called Allison University (AU) to keep us sharp on our skills. Recently, 23 other lucky ACs and AAEs and I were flown to the agency’s headquarters in San Francisco to attend several workshops for our level.

Over the course of two days, my colleagues and I learned about client service principles, how to build authentic relationships with both clients and colleagues and how to deal with tricky conversations and behaviours. Also on the agenda were effective pitching techniques and how to demonstrate return on investment for clients.

During the trainings, we also had the chance to meet the agency founders, Scott Allison, Scott Pansky and Jonathan Heit. Each of them spent quality time with us, giving us invaluable insights from their own career experiences and thoughts on where the industry is heading.

Back in London, there have already been many opportunities to put key AU learnings into practice. It’s now easier to speak up on client calls and be more of a strategic player on accounts. Rapid response monitoring is an opportunity to be a trend spotter, by flagging relevant industry news, key insights and reporters. Then day-to-day, it’s all about being proactive, thinking ahead and paying attention to detail.

This experience has helped underscore how Allison+Partners is an agency founded on collaboration and dedicated to fostering talent and connecting teams worldwide. If you’re looking for a place that truly invests in your professional future and allows you to build authentic relationships with clients and colleagues worldwide, check out our agency career page.

Katy Mendes, an AAE in the London office, has been with the agency for six months, previously working in-house. She likes to travel, draw, keep fit and probably drinks too much tea.

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

The Good: Sponsors Take a Stand

With each passing sports crisis, we’re seeing more and more sponsors release strong statements quickly, letting their stakeholders know they’re against criminal activity.

Following the arrests of top ranking FIFA officials, sponsors wasted no time issuing statements condemning the alleged corruption in the ranks of soccer’s governing body. Visa responded by saying, “Visa became a sponsor of FIFA because the World Cup is one of the few truly global sporting events with the power to unite people from around the world through a common love of football. Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement – and it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.” Other brands such as Coke and McDonald’s followed suit, alluding that they would pull out of their sponsorships if action was not taken.

If FIFA can’t clean up its issue quickly, the financial implications could be serious. According to a recent BBC article, sponsorships made up $1.8 billion of FIFA’s $4.8 billion in total revenue during the 2014 World Cup. This is not only a huge incentive for FIFA to make things right, but also a strong reminder of the power that sponsors have in sports.

The Bad: Walter De Gregorio

FIFA’s response to the news of the arrests was a clear case study of how NOT to handle communications in the midst of a crisis. Rather than announcing that the organization was cooperating with investigators and committed to rectifying the situation within the organization, former FIFA Communications Director Walter De Gregorio joked during an interview, “The FIFA president, secretary general and communications director are all travelling in a car. Who’s driving? The police.” Three days later, he resigned.

As a result of the mishandling of such a serious issue, FIFA’s communications team will now need to rebuild trust and transparency with the media. When we look at crisis and issues management, we talk about “moving the movable,” which means taking small bites out of the problem and focusing on the areas where we can make an impact. FIFA needs to hold proactive, transparent and public conversations about how they’re going to regulate the organization. That way, fans across the world will better understand the changes and rebuild confidence that the governing body of the sport they love is committed to turning itself around.

The Ugly: Qatar World Cup

On May 27, USA Today ran a headline that read “For plenty of reasons, Qatar’s World Cup will be worst ever.” This headline tells you everything you need about the 2022 World Cup: if the 2022 Cup stays in Qatar, there will be more focus on the bribes it took to get it there than there will be on the game itself. It will also be a story of how hundreds of migrant workers have died building the stadiums in the blistering summer heat.

Rather than letting the media speculation spin out of control, FIFA should move the 2022 World Cup, giving strong consideration to the United States, England or Germany. This move would give FIFA a platform to talk about positive momentum and transparency within the organization, while also condemning a previously corrupt bid. Ultimately, they can message it as the first sign of change.

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