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APRIL 9, 2020 //     

COVID-19 and the Hispanic Community: What We Can Learn from Rana the Frog

By: Claudia Vargas

Fear, worry and stress know no cultural borders in this global pandemic. In this incredibly challenging time, brands have a key role to play to help support consumers from all communities to navigate a sea of change. Hispanic reactions to COVID-19 on social media can offer insight for brands looking to bring some much-needed comfort to this important group. Some Hispanic consumers have jokingly mourned the death of “Rana” the frog.  Injured Hispanic children learn the frog rhyme when they need comfort: “Sana, sana, colita de rana. Si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana.” The translation, “heal, heal little frog tail. If you don’t heal today, you’ll heal tomorrow.” Think of it as a twist upon the old “kiss it and make it better.”

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T
he dead frog message underscores this community’s virus concerns: if the coronavirus can kill the healing frog, then we are in deep trouble! There’s a lesson in there for marketers willing to listen and learn from the culture. 

Despite the regular application of gallows humor, Hispanic communities feel the COVID-19 stress a bit more intensely than others. As a group, they are more likely (50%) than Americans as whole (34%) to see the Coronavirus as a serious threat to their health, finances and community, a new Pew Research Center report shows 

Hispanics are also concerned about missing vital information due to the delay in language translation. The lifesaving information is sometimes translated as a general overview and is not verbatim from official COVID-19 briefingsThese fears of being misinformed and unprepared, combined with larger families who often live together, has motivated many Hispanic Americans to stockpile food and supplies more than any other ethnicity. 

There’s opportunity for brands to address the Hispanic community’s concerns and offer them real help, sympathy and relief from their fears. 

With financial turmoil on the horizon, brands can show they care by providing meaningful support to local Hispanic communities. This includes sharing Spanish-language information about local organizations offering assistance and providing coupon codes and other discounts that can lighten the burden of feeding and caring for multifamily homes. 

Demand for information in Spanish will only rise throughout this pandemic. Think of the many missed opportunities by not simply translating information into the second-most spoken language in the U.S. Brands must do their parts to share information in Spanish to help the communities across the nation stay in the know. The appreciation for that consideration, respect and kindness will endure long after the quarantines and social distancing disappear. 

Beyond just the frog, social chatter also suggests Hispanics use humor to share ways to keep their families healthy and provide each other tips to avoid getting sick. Brands themselves can use an empathetic and funny tone to get their messages out to the community, but they should not lose sight of the serious nature of the virus and its impact. 

Hispanics continue to be heavier users of social networks than other groups. More than half of the group uses WhatsApp to stay connected. And Hispanic audiences tend to be brand loyalists, with 75% talking with friends and family about positive experiences they have had with a brand. However, they can be just as vocal in spreading dissatisfaction with a brand – 65% of Hispanic Americans are not shy to discuss negative experiences or interactions, according to a Mintel report on Hispanic attitudes towards advertising. So, striking the right tone and interaction is more important than ever. 

Brands can use the right cues to convert Hispanics into brand advocates who spread positive messages. Being connected to the core of the Hispanic culture, brands have the opportunity to show and help the community to stay connected virtually. 

When searching for entertainment and information, the nation’s Hispanics are most likely to watch digital videoA Mintel study on digital trends published in May 2019 showed Hispanics also over-index for household ownership of technology products often found in family rooms. And they add streaming media capabilities through smart TVs, streaming media players and UHD TVs. That means content created for connected families will resonate even more strongly now as the population practices social distancing and stays home.  

As Americans, we all face the challenges the coronavirus presents while hoping we can return to normalcy as soon as possible. Brands that can understand the Hispanic community, its concerns and its behaviors during this crisis, and who can communicate effectively and empathetically, will endear themselves to the community and have a much greater positive impact.  

Isn’t it amazing what a frog can teach us? 

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.  

Claudia Vargas serves as a Director of Integrated Marketing bringing a wealth of knowledge in strategy and account management. With experience in paid media, brand ambassador programs, content development, multicultural campaigns and social media community management, Claudia leads several integrated projects for the agency connecting the dots to drive results for clients. 

APRIL 9, 2020 //     

What Every Company Must Know During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By David Richeson


The drastic changes the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to every aspect our lives are obvious to all. But it remains challenging to know exactly how this crisis will affect each industry and company. Previous market and stakeholder research may no longer apply in this new context, as possibilities and priorities have shifted globally. Companies need to know how to handle this new landscape, weighing emotional IQ with an ever-changing set of guardrails to conduct profitable business.
 

Every company, brand or organization needs to know what they should say — and, importantly, how they should say it.

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Companies and organizations also need to know what their stakeholders and audiences expect from them. What questions do these stakeholders have? What are their main concerns?

As global priorities shift, how do you pursue your business and communications objectives without striking the wrong tone with your key stakeholder groups?

More than ever, every company, brand or organization must know:

  • The top COVID-19-related questions your key audiences and stakeholder groups have for your company and industry
  • The relative perception of your company or brand vs. competitors within the context of COVID-19
  • The top positive and negative COVID-19-related discussion topics for your company (or brand) and competitors
  • The top positive and negative COVID-19-related discussion topics in your industry
  • Key communication channels and personas in the conversation
  • Top influencers in the conversation who are driving opinion

Knowledge of the points above is critical to understanding how to move forward within this new global context. Not knowing the key points above is like flying an airplane blind in heavy fog. Data and insight are necessary to navigate safely.

At Allison+Partners, we generate these insights to help our clients effectively and efficiently communicate with their customers and stakeholders.

We helped a national outdoor recreation company understand the most frequently asked COVID-19 related questions and helped them create a Q&A document so they could prepare their hundreds of franchisees with the right answers for local and social media.

We worked with a global communications technology company to help them understand what their customers and stakeholders want from them right now, so they can address the most important topics and make sure they are perceived as a leader in their industry, both internally (with their employees) and externally.

A company, brand or organization’s reputation can be made or broken during this important time for the world. Clear winners and losers will emerge based upon how they respond to the COVID-19 challenge. But one thing is for sure – Nothing will ever be the same. 

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

David Richeson has more than 20 years of experience in data and insight-driven integrated communications, business strategy, creative writing and technology. He has developed engagement models on the cutting-edge of influence, focused on real-time communications, influencer strategy, micro-moment based marketing and behavioral economics techniques.

APRIL 8, 2020 //     

Cementing Brand Love in A Sea of White Hats

By: Lisa Rosenberg

The marketing industry has talked a lot about brand purpose over the last few years. This has largely been driven by millennials changing consumer and employee expectations. While they didn’t invent brand purpose, they certainly helped usher it into the mainstream. Today, Gen Z ensures it’s here to stay. 

During this pandemic, we have seen brands step up, do good and deliver beyond their purposes. Many have helped others, whether it be their own employees, the customers they serve, the communities in which they operate or on an even broader scale. Many have donated equipment, expertise, money and more to help those impacted by this crisis.

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While each contribution is critically important, it’s the early movers – the companies that rallied to make a difference quickly – that should not only be recognized for the good they have done but for inspiring others to follow suit. Consumers will remember these brands when this is all over, especially those that jumped in to serve without being asked.

Perhaps it’s because I live in New Rochelle, N.Y., and our schools were among the first to close that Eric Yuan’s move to make Zoom free to K-12 teachers has stuck with me. I remember an interview where he talked about this not being a time to think about sales, and I was impressed with the company’s commitment to doing good at the early stage of the outbreak. While the Zoom platform has some security issues currently being addressed, what I hope people will remember is the company didn’t wait for things to be perfect. Rather, it sprang into action and did what it believed would have the most meaningful and positive impact on children and families.

Then there was LVMH, which went from manufacturing perfume to producing hand sanitizer in 72 hours. The speed at which the company moved to meet a societal need was both impressive and well-publicized. Other companies, including many distilleries, also shifted their manufacturing to help meet this increased need. We also saw similar efforts from the fashion world, with everyone from indie designer Christian Siriano to Gucci, The Gap and Burberry jumping in to sew gowns, masks and other personal protective equipment.

With travel at a virtual standstill, hospitality is one of the hardest hit sectors. The Four Seasons in NYC had already closed to the public when Ty Warner, chairman of the hotel's corporate owner, heard N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plea during one of his press conferences and felt there was no other option but to do whatever he and his company could to help. The luxury hotel now houses medical personnel for free.

A white hat has long been a mark or symbol of goodness. Today, we see a lot of brands wear white hats. Amid the COVID crisis, companies the world over have rallied to make a difference. Those that do will emerge post-pandemic stronger than ever. 

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

Lisa Rosenberg is a partner and president of Consumer Brands at Allison+Partners. She has more than 30 years of experience leading brand initiatives across the beauty + personal care, CPG, Food + Beverage, Automotive, Travel + Hospitality, Consumer Health + Wellness, Luxury Goods and Retail sectors and has been a hands-on force for many successful brand journeys.

APRIL 8, 2020 //     

5 Brand Ambassador Best Practices During COVID-19

By: Lucy Arnold and Claudia Vargas

Allison + Partners’ recent COVID-19 Trend Report analyzed social media chatter and the earned media landscape to extract context from millions of COVID-19-related conversations. We’ve found emotions have shifted over the past two weeks from fear to frustration as uncertainty grows, supplies become scarce and concrete answers are hard to find. Consumers, influencers and journalists all share an overwhelming need for clarity in an age of rampant misinformation. 

Wouldn’t we all love a little more clarity? So, what’s the right strategy for engaging with brand ambassadors in times like these -- from the big names and recognizable faces you’ve hired, to the broad swath of dedicated brand fans who have stood by you through thick and thin? It’s important to recognize there simply isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution – we must examine each brand ambassador program individually. It might be helpful to share some of the best practices we’ve developed for our clients, as we’ve helped them navigate these troubled waters.

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Here are some guiding principles to engage with your brand ambassadors in this time of uncertainty:

  • Reach out now. Don’t wait.  Let them know the brand cares about their situation
    Remember that brands are human constructs – they live in consumers’ hearts and minds. Celebrities, influencers, brand ambassadors are all in the same boat right now. They’re adjusting to a “new normal” just like everyone else. Simply reach out to see how people are doing. Ask about their kids or what they’re binge-watching. Share information, links and tools that might be helpful. Talk business later, but let the brand be human first. Brand ambassadors will remain a critical pathway for us to connect with the community, gain insights and maintain support for our brand in the market – but only if we nurture them, support them and keep them informed. Working together, we will not only get through this, but we will create a better world in the process.
  • Make sure they have enough supplies, including your products
    Grocery stores are doing double-duty to keep critical essentials in stock, but their hard-working staff struggle to keep up. Malls have closed and may not bounce back. Maybe you are an essential brand and have the ability to directly send your supporters a little product. Or if not an essential item, maybe a little swag could lift spirits. Surprise and delight moments will be an appreciated bright spot. It's an opportunity to reduce anxiety and be supportive to show the brand cares, which will pay dividends in the long run.
  • Read the room. Listen and engage in dialogue.
    Social listening and monitoring have never been more important. It’s tricky to positively impact conversation in a meaningful way without seeming self-serving or tone deaf. It depends on the conversation landscape, which changes by the minute. Right now, we see social media challenge after social media challenge – people tagging their friends to do push-ups, people sending photos of their dogs and encouraging their friends to send photos of their pets, Christmas lights to spread joy, sharing workouts and recipes. The need to connect right now during this time of isolation is apparent. Likewise, establishing the same two-way conversations with brand ambassadors is critically important. Our supporters are our eyes and ears and boots on the ground who can help provide us with insight into how to connect. They can help us uncover what keeps consumers up at night and surface unimagined ways the brand can be helpful right now.
  • Grant even more access - be excessively transparent - “People support a world they helped create.” - Dale Carnegie
    Providing influencers with more brand access will be important. As mentioned, listening to brand ambassadors to help inform the content strategy could be very impactful. Set up one-on-one virtual meetings with a brand representative and the influencer to talk about product news, initiatives and/or key differentiators. This gives the influencer a sense of being a true partner and insider. Or, host influencer roundtable meetings with a group of partners on conference calls with the brand. Making the brand ambassadors feel as if they are part of a focus group that helps the brand achieve its objectives together will go a long way. But note, it’s still important to get the product in the hands of the brand ambassadors and ask them what kind of content they think their audience will be receptive to engaging with.
  • We can’t be self-serving right now - we have to help
    To cut through the noise meaningfully, it’s more important than ever to root influencer or brand ambassador programs in insights and human truths. Aligning to business objectives will never change. Raising awareness has shifted to helping the community – brands must authentically make a difference during this difficult time.

A great proof point is Nike’s recent use of brand ambassadors for its 'Play Inside' to 'Play for the World' campaign. As athletes, its ambassadors know how to train and stay active. So, the ambassadors helped elevate the brand and its “Just Do It” motto, which has always inspired the community to lead and take action. Frankly, we all need to stay active both mentally and physically. The campaign offered Nike’s two cents while contributing to the broader mission of keeping the public safe. “Play for the World” checked all the boxes.

Striking the right tone is critical. It’s a balance between the brand ambassador's areas of expertise, the brand’s voice and objectives, plus what audiences really need right now.  Influencers can continue to help brands, and now more than ever, brands need to give back.

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

Lucy Arnold is a vice president on our Digital team and specializes in creating engaging digital strategies including influencer relations, campaign development and management, community management and paid media.

Claudia Vargas is a director of integrated marketing and brings a wealth of knowledge in strategy and account management. With experience in paid media, brand ambassador programs, content development, multicultural campaigns and social media community management, Claudia leads several integrated projects for the agency connecting the dots to drive results for clients
APRIL 7, 2020 //     

Stuck at Home, but #stillatraveler

By Emily Wilson Sawyer

The future of travel remains unknown. People will travel again, but where, when and how they will travel is a gray area that even fortune tellers can’t predict. But we do know this – the COVID-19 pandemic is not the time for travel brands to sit back and do nothing.

Brands must now lean into their expertise, reinforce the ethos of what they stand for and produce content that provides a warm and comforting hug to the millions of fans and followers stuck at home. For an industry that traditionally relies on its members, loyalty is literally up for grabs with an audience more attentive than ever. And brands that act fast can win in the long haul. Here’s how:

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Be Human

Tap into the real people behind the brand to show the challenges when hotels are closed, airlines aren’t flying and attractions aren’t operating to highlight what your brand is doing to help. Show compassion and give viewers a glimpse behind the curtain. Don’t worry about the polish, but use this time to test, learn and create based on the real-time feedback of those following the journey. Work to build an emotional connection with fans and followers beyond destinations and offerings – on the human level. Those that do, will earn loyalty far beyond point value.

At Your Service

While your actual business remains closed, now is the time to encourage fans to take a metaphorical vacation in their own backyard by supporting local business and helping keep the economy alive. Providing consumers with ideas about how to get away in their own homes will pay off in the long run, especially for hotels that once served as living rooms for their communities.

Purpose is Powerful

Before the crisis, numerous studies demonstrated Gen Z’s preference for brands that contribute to social good and show purpose. With more time than ever to evaluate who we are in the world (well hello there, mindfulness!) and what contributions we can make for the future of the planet, this mindset of aligning with brands that have a shared purpose will extend far beyond the young generation. In this new communications landscape, a common purpose will be essential for survival.

Futuretripping

Urging fans and followers to #DONTCANCELPOSTPONE is one thing. But when the world does open for travel again, companies will need to put their money where their mouths are with competitive deals to ensure that coveted postponed trip is with them. Every travel brand in the world will battle to put heads in beds and butts in seats, so brands that want to break through will need to get creative with offerings and messaging.

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

Emily Wilson Sawyer is a seasoned communications professional with 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 break-through 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 7, 2020 //     

Creating Content in Quarantine, Hard Truths and Great Opportunities

By: Owen Clark

We are in the middle of one of the most frightening, complex and important chapters in modern history. It’s not a narrative landscape for the timid. But for brands with the right mix of courage and execution, there has never been a more important time to tell your story.

Before we get to the production realities of creating story content in a lockdown environment, it’s important to acknowledge a few key truths. It’s never been more important that everyone in your organization works off the same proverbial, and sometimes literal, script. And you must take advantage of all the tools at your disposal.

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This means being cleared-eyed and diligent about establishing the right tone for your narrative and ensuring you understand what stage of the Disruption Life Cycle we are currently in.

Understanding your audience is also crucial. Quick “pulse surveys” to gauge audience sentiment and an increased reliance on data to inform, measure and adjust your content are critical to avoid coming across as tone deaf within the current landscape. 

Finally, everyone needs to be brutally honest about the work required for good storytelling in these times. Minor tweaks to the same brand narrative you’ve used for the past few years probably isn’t enough to reflect how drastically the world has changed in the past few months. Your company’s vision and values, or even your origin story, are more relevant than ever but will also be pressure tested for their authenticity in ways you’ve never seen before, both internally and externally. 

At a minimum, crafting a good Story Brief that defines style, tone and content and gets buy-in from all stakeholders is essential to creating effective content right now. Even better, brand and story workshops gain extra importance in this climate and can be done easily over video conference.

Having worked with hundreds of execs on storytelling over the past decade, a huge takeaway for me is we all have the biggest blind spots when it comes to our own narrative. Often a CEO will be so proud of a specific talking point they wrote the night before, but truthfully it just sounds like jargon. Then over a lunch break, they will tell an amazing, off-hand story that ends up being the foundation for a truly powerful presentation. We all need feedback and collective discussion to uncover, refine and point ourselves down the right road for effective storytelling – whether that’s personal thought leadership or at a brand level.

Since I’d argue another key element in good content is brevity, I will try to keep the following short. But I think it’s valuable to share a few key learnings our team has uncovered in the content projects we’ve undertaken since the pandemic began:

  • The good news is anyone with a smartphone or a laptop has access to a high-quality camera. But that doesn’t mean you can expect them to be good delivering on-camera without help. Emoting without an audience is a difficult skill that requires coaching. As do framing, lighting and audio – which gain extra importance when you can’t use traditional editing tricks like cutting to B-roll. Anyone who gives a testimonial or interview should have access to a remote content and technical director to make sure they look and sound their best.
  • Podcasts are another great content opportunity in the current climate, but they are consistently misunderstood. While technically you can just record a phone call and turn it into a podcast, the landscape is incredibly crowded and your audience will skip to the next thing if they tune in and your audio quality is terrible. Again, the good news is we can use remote applications that allow for localized, high-quality recording and specialized (and affordable) microphones can be shipped to participants. Here again you need experienced engineers and directors to enable everyone to succeed.
  • The rise in video content captured over the past years has created a massive video library that many brands may not even realize they have. For every finished video you create, there are hours of unused footage that hit the cutting room floor. Plus, access to stock video libraries, like Getty, offer a whole other world of visual storytelling. With a skilled editor and creative text treatment, this existing footage can gain amazing new life to move your narrative wherever it needs to go, without sending a crew anywhere.
  • No one knows exactly when we’ll turn the page to the next the next chapter of this pandemic story, but the last few weeks have certainly illustrated how fast things can change. And it’s important to remember video production is often a four- to six-week process. If you want a killer sales video to be done as soon as your teams began ramping back up outreach, you need to work backwards to start that process a month prior. The first few weeks of story development, concepting and storyboarding can all be done remotely and give you a jump-start ahead of the competition.

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

Owen Clark is a senior director who leads the Allison+Partners Storytelling Studio and agency Media and Speaker Training offering. A former TV journalist, Owen has been with Allison+Partners for a decade and in that time has coached everyone from global CEOs, to regional non-profit directors (and a couple of rappers) on how to uncover and deliver an impactful story.

 

APRIL 6, 2020 //     

Helping Companies to Navigate a Changing Commercial Real Estate Landscape

By: Richard Kendall

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted most every industry over the past few months, creating a scenario of rising financial stress, retracting employment and diminishing market confidence for companies around the globe. The commercial real estate industry hasn’t been immune from the pandemic’s downward pressure on the economy. Many real estate owners and investors, and the service-based companies supporting these organizations, have found themselves in a wait-and-see mode before making decisions about projects and other business initiatives.   

To that end, according to a recent Bisnow story on data collected by independent research and advisory firm Green Street Advisors, real estate investment trust shares have decreased by 34% since mid-February, while office high-rises have experienced a 10% decrease in overall value across global markets. The same story notes unsurprisingly the retail sector has been among the most negatively impacted product types across the world’s commercial real estate portfolio.

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Moreover, a Globestreet story from early April predicts the COVID-19 crisis could put further stress on an already severe housing shortage across the U.S. — especially for subsidized and affordable market-rate apartment homes. Many new projects, particularly those that haven’t yet gone vertical, have been put on hold, potentially for several months, until there’s more certainty in the financial and consumer markets.

By no means is all lost for the real estate industry. First, it’s important to note there are marked differences between today’s economic crisis and the Great Recession that forever changed the real estate industry some 12 years ago. What we’re experiencing now wasn’t initiated by a real estate event like the housing bubble in 2008. Rather, COVID-19 is a healthcare event that has largely put the global economy on hold until the Coronavirus “curve” can be flattened and significant progress can be made on a working vaccine. Just a few months ago, our economic fundamentals were strong — with record-low unemployment, robust investment and rapid absorption — and many industry experts believe that bodes well for a faster market recovery once COVID-19 is brought under control.

Secondly, market uncertainty always creates opportunities for smart, savvy and proactive companies to take a leadership stake in their markets, whether it’s communicating with their various stakeholders or marketing their brands in an authentic way to strategically position their companies for when the market fully returns.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve worked with our commercial real estate clients to navigate these unprecedented times with a wide range of communications strategies proving beneficial to their brands:

Crisis Planning + Response – When any crisis hits, the hope is that there’s been some planning in advance to anticipate the potentially negative impacts it will cause a company’s reputation and put in place some strategies that can offset brand risk among key audiences. Our Real Estate Team has collaborated with real estate companies of every size and type over the past several weeks to help them develop a suite of crisis-related materials, including:

  • Media holding statements
  • Key messaging documents
  • Correspondence with staff and other internal audiences
  • Blogs and other social content
  • Press interview FAQs

Creative Earned Media – Engaging with the media during times of crisis carries a certain risk-reward element, and it’s not always beneficial to proactively pitch media on typical news stories, especially given their all-hands-on-deck approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, real estate trades and business media have increasingly requested non-crisis-related articles about companies with unique stories to tell. There’s a growing sentiment among trade and financial outlets that readers want more coverage of business-as-usual transactions, like this story on a recent acquisition deal brokered by Colliers International or corporate profiles of companies like GIS International, global, full-service real estate firm with a collaborative approach to complex property development. 

Strategic Thought Leadership – Crisis situations can often present golden opportunities for companies and their executive leadership to take an authoritative position in their communities on a wide range of issues – helping to build stronger brand loyalty and trust among their key publics. One way in which Allison+Partners helps its real estate clients in this capacity is through surveys and other data collection initiatives. Currently, one international real estate firm has instituted a multi-phased “Work from Home Survey” to gather insights from employees about how their workday has changed during the coronavirus pandemic – information it will share periodically with key target media. Another global real estate company, B+H Architects, recently provided third-party quotes for a trade story that shows how technology has supported its design-from-home activities on major commercial development projects. And international architecture firm Perkins & Will has taken a leadership role in consulting hospitals and other clients on the future of the healthcare environment in light of today’s coronavirus crisis. 

Stakeholder + Community Engagement – The COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting economic retraction, has created a host of problems in the commercial tenant market, with retailers, small businesses, nonprofits and many other users finding it difficult to pay their monthly rents. Many owners have responded positively by establishing rent-deferral programs to ease the pain. This includes Vulcan Inc., which announced last week it will not collect rent from 40 commercial tenants impacted by the crisis, across 30 real estate assets. Orange County, Calif.-based Irvine Co. also announced recently it will offer financial assistance to residential tenants experiencing coronavirus-related layoffs or losses to professional income.

If you lead a real estate company looking for help building a stronger communications message during these uncertain times, please contact me at richard@allisonpr.com or sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates. 

Richard Kendall is a partner and managing director of Allison+Partners’ Real Estate Group. He has more than 30 years of experience consulting organizations in the built environment on a range of branding, marketing, PR and crisis communications initiatives. 

APRIL 3, 2020 //     

Gratitude and Perspective Can Nourish You Through COVID-19

By Jacques Couret

I learned how to make a roux in 1989. That summer, I asked my Mémère to teach me everything she knew about Creole New Orleans cooking. An outstanding cook and loving grandmother, she specialized in all the classics – gumbo, red beans and rice, jambalaya, you name it. Understand that where I am from, making a roux is as important to living a Godly and decent life as learning to walk or graduating from college. Food is a blessed sacrament, not just a utilitarian necessity. My lifelong passion for cooking, grocery shopping for the best ingredients and eating well comes from that culture and my grandmother. 

After nearly three weeks without a visit to the grocery, I ventured out early this morning to restock my pantry and fridge. What used to be something I looked forward to now felt like dread. The fear of being around others or touching anything contaminated with the coronavirus upset my stomach. A queue of a couple dozen or so shoppers all standing ridiculously far apart kept guard facing the automatic front doors. That isn’t normal. I lined up as the queue began to move after a guard opened Publix for business.

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I imagined the things I needed most – bread, in particular – and headed to the far side of the store first to get a loaf or two before they vanished. As I stood between the long shelf of bread to my right and the sprawling produce department to my left, my nightmare began. I saw a large, empty space where the onions used to be, and I felt a sense of anger, panic and disbelief rolling into one unsettling emotion. Nearby, more empty spaces where bell pepper and celery should be. How the hell am I supposed to cook anything without onions, bell pepper and celery? The Trinity!

In that moment, my plans to make gumbo, red beans and rice or jambalaya evaporated. The dishes I grew up with and always turned to for comfort and when I needed to stretch a buck would now be impossible. Imagine New York without pizza or bagels, Philadelphia without cheesesteaks, Boston without clam chowder or San Francisco without sourdough bread or Dungeness crab. Culinary tragedy!

I continued to the meat department – no chicken, no beef and no sausage. Bye-bye jambalaya, bucatini with meat sauce and pretty much every recipe I usually make during any given week. I “settled” on turkey breast cutlets, ground bison and ground lamb. I’m fantastic in a kitchen. I know I’ll make something delicious out of these proteins. My belly will certainly be full. But it’s just not the same. These days, few things are.

America’s Southern culture is one where we look a stranger in the eye as we pass and say hello or share a smile. We make friends with strangers in the checkout line, because that’s what our mommas and Mémères did. Our hearts are warm like our weather, and we do insist upon being polite and kind as much as possible. If you wear your favorite SEC school’s logo when out during football season, you expect and welcome the likeminded, and similarly dressed, strangers to high-five you and give an old school cheer. You also expect and welcome others in rivals’ apparel to give you some “clean, old-fashioned hate,” as they say in Georgia. 

But at the store today, there was little eye contact, chatter or warmth, and there were no SEC cheers despite my LSU sweatshirt. Instead, there was stress, anxiety and a desire to get in and out as quickly as possible without catching COVID-19. There may not be any SEC football, or any other type of football, this year. And there certainly won’t be gumbo on my stove any time soon. It all broke my spirit when I thought about this while putting groceries into the car.

I tried to sort out my emotions as I drove home. Those damn empty shelves! I thought about growing up during the Cold War, all those images of Soviet Bloc countries on the nightly TV news. The rationing and endless lines of severe-looking babushkas and old men in heavy coats and ushankas hoping to get toilet paper. Lines for toilet paper! Toilet paper! Can you believe that?! 

The quarter-empty store I saw is nothing compared with the misery people behind the Iron Curtain endured and what today’s citizens of Venezuela, North Korea or Cuba continue to suffer. But this is America – the Norman Rockwell painting promised us “Freedom from Want” in 1943! Where’s my toilet paper?

I wondered what my Mémère and Pépère would have thought about the current pandemic. They grew up during the Great Depression and never wasted a scrap of anything forever after. She dealt with rationing stateside, while he fought the Japanese Empire in the Pacific. They reared two boys on a meager budget after that. To them, whining was unacceptable. It was OK to feel stressed or to worry, but then you had to do something about it or “fermes la bouche!” It’s something I continue to struggle with as I, and we, work from home and wonder when, and if, our “normal” lives will ever return. COVID-19 World – there are moments of despair and there are moments of joy. 

Before I got home, some final thoughts crossed my mind – gratitude and perspective. As an American, I, and perhaps some of you, got used to having everything anyone could possibly want on-demand 24/7. I, and perhaps some of you, grew up believing in this land of plenty, that we are indeed blessed, will never run out of anything and should be immensely thankful. There’s even a holiday every late November devoted exclusively to that concept – and over-eating, football and booze.

But I, and perhaps some of you too, have clearly taken a lot for granted. It’s hard not to. We got spoiled. How I’d now gladly fight an hour of traffic twice a day to get to the office and see my colleagues. Some people no longer have jobs. How I’d now gladly run an errand even when tired and browse the merchandise without fear of touching and contracting a potentially deadly illness. Some people cannot afford to buy whatever they want, whenever they want it. How I’d now gladly go to the gym even when feeling lazy. Some people aren’t healthy enough to even stand.

Gratitude and perspective – maybe the bison étouffée can become a real thing? 

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

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

APRIL 3, 2020 //     

10 COVID-19 Revelations: Insights From the Front Lines in China

By Jerry Zhu

As millions headed home for the Chinese New Year in late January, Jerry Zhu, partner and GM of Allison+Partners' China operation braced himself for what had the potential to be the most challenging time in his more than 25-year professional experience. With his teams in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu now back in the office, albeit on a staggered schedule and mandated distancing, he shares some of his insights from this experience.

This piece has been translated from the original, previously published Chinese version.

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In March 2015, Bill Gates said in a TED speech that our greatest current threat is a large-scale pandemic, not a nuclear war. The challenge we face is not that our defense system is not strong enough, but that we actually do not have one.

This speech, delivered five years ago, showed great foresight.

When we witnessed the Ebola outbreak in Africa, we may have rationalized it as far away from home. When we heard about the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the Zika virus and avian influenza, we also dismissed them as having no impact on us. Although we in China experienced the SARS epidemic 17 years ago, memories of the events have already become distant and indifference set in as many chose to forget.

Because of this forgetfulness and indifference, our epidemic prevention system was caught unprepared and overwhelmed when COVID-19 broke out.

Past experiences, if not forgotten, can serve as an important a guide for the future. Although we remain in the midst of the pandemic, which grows worse globally, it has already provided many lessons and experiences worth pondering.

Listen to science and experts

Medicine and epidemic prevention are highly specialized scientific fields. Listening to the opinions of experts and professionals is absolutely paramount to avoid arriving at incorrect conclusions and making uninformed decisions.

Trust is key

At critical moments, people will trust the authorities only if all operations are transparent. A pandemic does not cause panic and confusion – a lack of trust does.

Crisis awareness

It is foolish to believe bad things will never come to us; a certain level of vigilance is important. Many companies have their crisis management systems in place, and the same should be true for epidemic prevention. 

Prepare emergency plans

No one can foresee a crisis, and no one can make all the right judgments at the very beginning. As the Chinese saying goes, "You need to bear 10 years of hard work to enjoy your one minute on the stage." Although each crisis is unique, there are also similarities in their history, their impact and in the response measures taken against them. Therefore, we must take full advantage of “peacetime” to mobilize the strength of all parties and brainstorm emergency plans. 

Rehearsal

The emergency plan will not work if it is only on paper. Just like the military, if you do not train or practice during peacetime, you will be unprepared for active combat on the battlefield.

Respect the power of public opinion

In the age of social media, the dissemination of information is quick and convenient, which is both a virtue and a curse. Although public opinion may sometimes seem extreme, it can also serve as a means to monitor the effectiveness of governmental operations. We can only guide public opinion – we cannot stop it.

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked. We need to create a new system rather than sticking to set specifications for the selection and supervision of officials, so the top talent can assume important positions and form a stronger team.

Mobilize all forces to join hands

In the face of crisis, it is neither realistic nor efficient to take on everything alone. The related organizations may not only lack of expertise, but also perform well due to self-interest and intention to hold the power. 

Learning from experience can prevent the recurrence of crises

The epidemic will come to an end sooner or later. But when it is over, if we only praise the achievements, we lose the important opportunity for reflection the disaster has given us.

A confident China should accept both enthusiastic praise and be able to withstand sincere criticism, and the same is true of other governments around the world.

Always be optimistic

No matter how grim the situation seems, Chinese people are always kind and hardworking. We are not short of brave and dedicated experts, media personnel, medical workers and civil servants at every level who are willing to take the lead.

This is true for countries and even more so for businesses. Any enterprise may face crises, both in operations and communication.

For example, during this outbreak we have seen the educational institutions with online teaching capabilities are not only able to withstand the crisis, but are becoming bigger and stronger. However, the institutions that only have offline capabilities have been hit hard. This is a risk and crisis in business operations.

Just as we need strong epidemic-prevention measures, enterprises ought to create their own comprehensive crisis management system. They need to prepare by implementing measures, such as establishing crisis management teams, conducting simulation exercises, preparing crisis plans and organizing training speakers. Only in this way can we be methodical in resolving a crisis, withstand any difficulties that may arise and create a brand that can last centuries.

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

Jerry Zhu is a partner with the agency and oversees business operations, growth and client service for all of China, fostering expansion throughout Asia Pacific and around the world. He is a recognized expert in corporate communications, with experience in crisis management, public affairs, B2B and technology.

APRIL 2, 2020 //     

We Cannot Forget Native Americans During These Troubled Times

By: Scott Pansky

The number of deaths and those impacted by COVID-19 rises every day. Our media, whether online or off, gives us staggering statistics, political posturing and counsel on personal hygiene and social distancing. They report on celebrities and sports figures who have gotten the virus, and offer stories of hope – kids helping seniors, restaurants serving meals to first responders and donations of products and services.

Yet, they ignore or forget numerous audiences, including Native Americans. Allison+Partners works with numerous nonprofit organizations of different sizes that impact millions of people around the globe. And, we also represent smaller organizations that serve niche audiences, including Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA), whom we have represented for more than six years.

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PWNA provides goods and services to its Native American partners to support programs in and meet needs of tribal communities. These partners identify what kinds of distributions and services would best make an impact on community members. PWNA supports its self-determined goals by delivering supplies to help address basic day-to-day needs for immediate relief and offering support for capacity building, like nutrition and leadership training or emergency preparedness planning.

Now, more than ever, there is a shortage of healthy food, safe drinking water, healthcare and retail services to sustain these remote reservation communities. The Elders now find the shelves empty of their most basic supplies. With the lack of pubic transportation and access to full-service grocery stores, PWNA serves as a first responder and essential link in the Native American community’s supply chain. 

My family and I had the chance to spend a day on the Navajo Reservation a few years ago. There, we packaged supplies, such as water, blankets and food, and then we hand-delivered these and a hot meal to the Elders who could not make it down to the PWNA-supported community center. We saw up-close, these grateful and wonderful people who were so appreciative of our help and a conversation. Our family was changed by this experience, and we understand how others can stand up to make a difference today. 

The media is not covering the Native American story! The reservations need basic supplies, including food, water, baby formula, toilet paper, sanitizer and other essentials, to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. I encourage you to learn more about PWNA and the issues Native Americans face today. Don’t ever forget!

If you’re a nonprofit in need of advice on how to navigate these challenging times, get in touch at scottp@allisonpr.com or sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates. 

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.

APRIL 1, 2020 //     

The Importance of Internal Comms in a Time of Crisis

By: Todd Sommers

Crisis-focused organizations must not forget about their people.

Business conditions under COVID-19 continue to evolve rapidly. With more attention focused on business continuity, it’s easy to forget about internal communications. While employees, partners and customers understand you won’t have all the answers, it’s important to show you’re thinking about them. 

The new twist in today’s environment, compared with previous crises, was the rapid transition to WFH for most workers. Your organization’s stakeholders are isolated, distracted and stressed.

This situation will test many companies’ cultures, missions and values as employees lose the kinetic energy the physical office generates. Employers need to provide immediate, frequent and ongoing communications from leadership, and the existing content distribution strategy deserves reexamination as standups and townhalls get cancelled and email volume increases.

As we move from the immediate shock of our current situation, consider communications in the longer-term period of isolation and the eventual return to a new normal. Each chapter of this story needs a fresh approach.

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Here are steps to consider as the story evolves:

  • Do your people see and hear regularly from your leadership? And do your leaders communicate in different channels? You might suddenly need a microsite, YouTube channel or digital townhall. Or, you might need executives to create content on their cell phones where quick edits can add polish.
  • Do you focus your communications on the human element that addresses your employees’ emotions and realities? In a time crunch, talking points might get cut and pasted from one communication to another, but this is something you’d never do in person without context. Keep your humanity front and center.
  • Are there ways to turn previous office customs into virtual experiences? Recognizing birthdays, marking work anniversaries and brainstorms should not stop because your workforce is distributed. In the near-term, Zoom and other virtual services can help. Even happy hours have gone virtual.
  • Do you survey your stakeholder community with quick pulse surveys and deeper assessments to get a better understanding of their emotional well-being and professional needs? Don’t assume you know what employees think because there’s no playbook here, and everyone experiences this individually at home. There might be something easy you can do for working parents who now homeschool or for individuals who live alone and face severe isolation.
  • Are you planning communications for the new normal? It may be weeks from now, but employees will want assurances it’s safe. The patches built to address today’s issues might need to shift again.
  • Do your people managers have the tools and skills to manage a remote team? Compared with face-to-face meetings, a lot can get lost in email. Make sure your team has the support they need to communicate with employees and help them through this situation.

J.W. Marriott said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers and your business will take care of itself.” The hospitality legend knew who had the biggest impact on his organization – the people on the front lines. 

In this difficult situation, take some time out of your day to care for them.

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here 

Todd Sommers is a senior 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 31, 2020 //     

Four Ways for Brands to Succeed After COVID-19

PRWeekPrepare now for a strong post-pandemic marketing and communications strategy.

In this tumultuous time, we can agree on two things; there are knowns, and there are unknowns.

In both the pandemic itself and in a post-pandemic business world, unknowns cause panic and anxiety. While the best and brightest minds in medicine throughout the world will solve the healthcare challenge, the best and brightest minds in marketing should work to solve the marketing challenge.

The questions loom large: Will my funnel dry up? How will customers react? Will we have to reduce spend now and increase it later? What are my quickest times to impact? How can I accelerate deals? How is my brand or company going to rise above the noise? What are my competitors doing?

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The questions are endless, but they don't have to remain unanswered. At this time, marketers and communicators should immediately rely on research, insights and optimization to fuel a strong post-pandemic marketing and communications strategy.

Here are four easy-to-implement, quick-to-conclusion steps marketers can take to formulate a winning post-pandemic plan in what will likely be a hyper-competitive marketplace:

Run a quick marketing mix modeling, including time lag, to optimize spend. Once a costly, long-to-insight function, MMM can now produce results in days or weeks. If you haven't run an MMM exercise in a while or never, now is the time. They allow you to discover the channels that produce the most impact so you can allocate funds properly. Brands that know which channels move the needle and move it the quickest will win.

Survey your customers. The pandemic may have permanently or temporarily changed how your customers see your business. Now is the time to learn how they think about your brand, how their purchasing mood may have changed and other insights that can help you formulate a post-pandemic strategy.

Post-pandemic messaging, content and creative testing. Your customer's attitude about your brand, and its place in the world, could very well change in a post-pandemic world. Based on informed insights like customer surveys, you may have to change messaging, content and creative to meet how your customers now think about your industry, brand or product.

Are you going to do it in a bubble? If not, you need to implement testing to ensure you don't miss the mark. Some brands will miss it hard. Don't be one of them.

Improve your industry and competitor insights. Your competitors are up to something and your industry may change, possibly forever. Marketers or communicators that don't monitor their industry and competitors in multiple channels are likely doing their entire organization a disservice, at best.

A post-pandemic world may be the same, or it may be different. You can't assume either. Therefore, the brands that invest in research, insights and optimization today will be the ones that accelerate the fastest in a post-pandemic world.

Brent Diggins is managing director of measurement and analytics and can be reached at brent@allisonpr.com.

MARCH 26, 2020 //     

$2 Trillion in Economic Stimulus: What It Is And What it Means to You

By: Barbara Laidlaw with Josiah Adams

Following Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s announcement early March 26 that the Senate finalized a deal outlining a $2 trillion stimulus package, Americans still wondered what it means for themselves, their businesses and the country as a whole.

The largest stimulus package in history includes provisions that seek to support individuals, hospitals, and small and large businesses. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote on the bill March 28 and, “It will pass. It will pass with strong bipartisan support.” While the full details of the nearly 900-page stimulus package are not yet clear, a few items have generated a substantial amount of interest among lawmakers, businesses and citizens.

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The stimulus package includes a massive $58 billion bailout for the airline industry, with some strings attached. Companies that receive a portion of these funds will be unable to lay off any of their workforce until the fall and will be barred from engaging in stock buybacks until one year after they stop receiving assistance.

The stimulus package also restricts its recipients’ executive compensation and bonuses. While the airline industry will receive a substantial amount of these funds, some $500 billion in total has been allocated for larger industries. This amount has already generated some pushback from progressive Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called for more worker protections. While this could threaten the chances of the bill passing via unanimous consent, like it did in the Senate, it will have little impact on the overall House vote. In her press conference, Pelosi addressed these concerns, asserting the democrats had “performed jujitsu” on the bill to increase workforce protections and limit corporate handouts.

One of the core pieces of this bill assistance to small businesses. It dedicates $367 billion in loans to businesses with fewer than 500 employees that pledge to retain their workforce during the COVID-19 crisis. The loan period will begin once the bill is signed into law and would last until June 30, 2020. It remains unclear what percentage of these loans will ultimately be forgiven, effectively turning them into grants. At this time, widespread loan forgiveness appears unlikely.

Payroll-tax relief provisions are another critical piece of this stimulus for small to midsize business. Those that continue to employ their workers throughout the crisis will be eligible for tax credits and deferments on payroll taxes for 2020. Some 50% of these deferred taxes would be paid off in 2021, while the remaining 50% would be paid in 2022. Maintaining employment at the small business level is at the core of these allocated funds, but the limited amount of tax and loan forgiveness may deter certain businesses from accepting the aid to keep their workforces intact.

At the individual level, the stimulus package dedicates direct payments of $1,200 to most individuals making up to $75,000 a year or $2,400 to couples making up to $150,000 a year. It also grants $500 per child. The amount decreases at an unspecified rate after the $75,000 threshold and cuts off at $99,000. While this piece of the stimulus has generated a great deal of attention over the past few weeks, these checks will take some time to hit bank accounts. Eligible Americans with direct-deposit bank account information on file with the IRS (roughly 70 million) will see payments “within a few weeks of the bill being signed into law.”

Along with these payments, unemployment insurance has been expanded by 13 weeks and will include four months of “enhanced” benefits, which amounts to an additional $600 per week. Additional individual relief includes suspending federal student loan payments through Sept. 30 without interest accrual and requiring group health plans and insurance providers to cover the costs of preventative COVID-19 services.

Business leaders and individuals should be cautious about this historic stimulus package. Details about implementation and management remain unknown. And even after President Donald Trump signs it into law, it will be a considerable period before you, your business or your communities see real dollar figure relief. This waiting period is absolutely critical on a personal and professional level, and we recommend exercising extreme prudence in the coming weeks and months.

Above all else, we all must continue adhering to all CDC and local guidelines to help expedite our fight against this virus. The true stimulus will come when we have demonstrated control over COVID-19. The sooner we can reach that point, the better for our personal and economic health and well-being.  

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

Barbara Laidlaw brings 25 years of experience developing and running programs that help companies prepare, protect, and defend their brand reputation through global and national events, recalls, litigation, data breaches, regulatory issues and labor disputes.

Josiah Adams works on Allison + Partners’ global risk + issues management team and provides federal, state and local policy insights.  

MARCH 26, 2020 //     

Keeping Mentally and Physically Well While WFH

By: Ashleigh Butson

It’s Monday morning and day seven of self-isolation. Your alarm goes off and you quickly hit snooze. You lie there and remember your HR department has told you to stick to the same routine you would if it was a normal workday. That suggestion is great, but not realistic.

Let’s be honest, it’s not a normal day – not even close. Your routine now involves figuring out how to use your coffee machine because Suzy from your local Starbucks won’t be able to make your favorite morning concoction. You now homeschool your children, take conference calls from your kitchen table and blare CNN in the background. You decided today is the day you will start one of the 20 different workout apps you downloaded over the weekend. You must be ready when someone tags you in the push-up challenge on Instagram. This is your new routine, and it’s hard.

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As an HR professional, it’s difficult not to worry about your staff during this time. I find myself trying to come up a with one solution that fits all, but unfortunately there is no one perfect answer.  What I can do, is provide guidance on everyone’s new normal and how to manage through this unfamiliar stress.

Absolutely have a routine, but know it won’t be the same as your normal one. Set alarms for meals and breaks, carve out time for your family, a facetime call with your loved ones and, of course, your workout at home. Companies will need to be flexible for all employees. Give parents time to teach science, and give the employees who live in the 450-square-foot Manhattan flat a break from their tiny space. With the proper communication within a team, this uncomfortable living will soon feel comfortable.

As for communication, there is no time like the present to overdo it. Employees want to hear from everyone, including leaders. Employers can eliminate employee stress with daily calls and emails. Nothing is more comforting than waking up to an email from your CEO letting everyone know they are thinking of them and their families. Communicate your new routine to your team. Let them know you will be unavailable from 10 a.m.-11 a.m., that way you won’t be interrupted in the middle of your fourth-grade reading lesson. I also encourage virtual meetings and happy hours with your teams. It’s important to continue to celebrate the culture you worked so hard to develop. Seeing a familiar face after a long day of managing work, the news, and two pots of mediocre coffee will generate some normality and calm.

Although much of the population has taken a liking to the at-home workouts, they aren’t for everyone. It’s still critical to give our brains and bodies healthy attention. Whether it’s an e-book, or a real book, a podcast, meditation app, a puzzle, Jenga with your 5-year old or a trip to the dog park, detaching from the business and having some self-care is important. A social media cleanse in the evening is suggested. Staying off your phone at night will allow for a less stressful evening and more restful sleep. I promise you, everyone’s stories and latest TikTok videos will still be there for your viewing pleasure in the morning. 

Lastly, it’s time to be kind to each other. Take the time to say thank you, say sorry if an apology is needed, acknowledge the employees who worked over the weekend or send an email to see how your peers are doing across the country. Remember that no one is in this alone, and the slightest effort will make this time feel less lonely. Gratitude is proven to boost mental health and can do miracles for our new normal. Be a part of someone’s journey to getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. It’s time for us to be grateful for what we have and the people around us.

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

 Ashleigh Buston is the Global Chief Talent Officer at Allison + Partners. Her main focus is on building up our people, culture and finding ways to enhance the employee life cycle.

MARCH 25, 2020 //     

CPG Brands: Harnessing the Power of the Grocery Store Aisle During COVID-19

By: Cheryl Weissman

Grocery store shelves have been in the news a lot lately. They’ve become the star of countless COVID-19 headlines for good reason. They’re a source of comfort and relief as consumers stock their pantries and refrigerators with their favorite foods and drinks to prepare for mandated sheltering in place and quarantines. They’re also a source of stress and anxiety when found empty, in disarray and out of fan-favorites or other essentials.

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As a result, the brands and companies behind the products on shelf are in a paramount position. They have a unique and fleeting opportunity to connect with consumers in a way that helps settle and bring them comfort – something much needed during a time when there are more questions than answers.

As brands take advantage of this opportunity to connect with consumers in a new way, it’s critical they tread lightly. There is heightened awareness about how to communicate – and there is a right and wrong way to do it. Following are a few guidelines for brands and communicators to consider as they decide how to engage with consumers during this time.

  • Give Back. CPG food + beverage brands that have experienced a surge in sales as consumers stock their pantries can use funds and resources to support those who struggle. Brands that can do their part to give back, must do so with no strings attached. Whether consciously or not, consumers want brands to step up, and being a good corporate citizen during this global pandemic will have a lasting impact on how consumers think about and support brands in the future.  
  • Continue to Share Brand News, But Be Authentic. As food + beverage brands rethink their social media tone and content strategy to respect sensitivities, many use these channels to highlight scheduled product launches and find ways to relay their messages in an appropriate manner that is careful, considerate and relevant in today’s challenging environment. Brands looking to introduce new products or SKUs can still do so by leaning into a tone focused on bringing more lightness and brightness to the world, while also responding more directly to the pandemic and acknowledging the current issues the public faces. 
  • Encourage At-Home Brand Engagement. There is a tremendous uptick in sharing creative food dishes families make at home due to widespread social distancing recommendations. This introduces opportunities for food and drink brands to source creative recipes that tap into ingredients many already have at home and can test, create and enjoy. Consider leveraging a network of friendly social influencers who still develop unique content for their channels to help co-create these recipes and push out widely. Or consider taking it a step further and use social listening to identify consumers using your product and send out surprise-and-delight mailers with product to deepen the relationship.
  • Over-Communicate. Consider leveraging social media to keep consumers up to date on product availability to combat disappointment at the shelf. Use this channel to share where and when product can be found. Or if possible, consider pivoting to direct-to-consumer product deliveries as needed, even if in a limited capacity.

While the COVID-19 situation evolves, consumers will continue to look to the brands they know and love to find comfort during a trying time. If done with a tone of empathy, humanity and understanding, brands can not only strengthen the bonds they have with current brand advocates, they can also connect with new consumers and make them customers for life.  

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

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.

MARCH 24, 2020 //     

Brands, Don’t Forget Your Nonprofits - They Can Help Too

By: Scott Pansky

Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring people together. I can’t think of one bigger than COVID-19. It impacts everyone, whether you represent a company, cause or educational institute. We have not seen anything like this in a century, and its effect on the economy is staggering.  

Yet, brands continue to step up. They donate cash and supplies to numerous organizations, such as Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry and Feeding America, as well as to their local food banks. We have even seen brands change their business models, like GM and Tesla, which now make ventilators.  

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However, many companies are unable to help. They need to help themselves. They need ways to reach their customers when the media is focused on the current news. They need to reach their employees, many of whom are working from home for the first time. They need new ways to keep their teams engaged and motivated.

Nonprofit partnerships can help make a difference. These cause-related relationships are more than transactional – they are about making an authentic difference, positively impacting both consumers and donors. Here are ways that charities can help support a company:

  • Indirect access to donors and volunteers – Nonprofits have strong and loyal donors and volunteer databases of individuals who support them. Newsletters and emails can be tapped to recognize a company and share its news as a partner.
  • Webinars, online content, events and conference calls - Nonprofits are using new ways to communicate and reach their supporters. Whether through Zoom and Skype or social media channels, this is an opportunity for brands to provide thought leadership, guidance and support.
  • Employee engagement Companies build partnership with many different types charities, whether in the arts, youth activities, health and wellness, etc. Most causes have employee engagement programs. Traditional walks, runs, golf tournaments and galas are on hold. However, charities can still host virtual events, post video content and provide tips for exercise, mental health and online projects.
  • Volunteer projects – Employees can still volunteer their time, but they can do it from home. Companies can work with charity partners to create a call to action, empower team members to make a difference… whether that is through a fundraising campaign, sending get well cards to senior centers and youth organizations, or donating gift cards. Brainstorm fun, easy-to-implement things.
  • Influencer relations – Don’t forget the power of influencers. Many charities, like brands, have celebrity and social influencers who support their causes. They can create campaigns that offer followers and donors positive tips, activities or a fundraising call to action during this critical time. Through a past A+P whitepaper, Powerful Connections, we found those who followed influencers authentically linked to a brand would either donate or volunteer at a much higher rate (33%) than direct mail. 

Lastly, Percent Pledge (a current client) can also help employers connect employees to nonprofits in a remote-friendly way. Their easy-to-use technology helps employees donate to any nonprofits the company supports, then keeps those employees engaged with personalized impact reports. Remember, your charities are your partners; now they can help you engage newly remote teams while you help them during this time of increased need!

Remember, your charities are your partners – they are here for you in times of duress just as your companies are there for them!

If you’re a nonprofit in need of advice on how to navigate these challenging times, get in touch at scottp@allisonpr.com or sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates.

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.

 

MARCH 13, 2020 //     

Coronavirus Impact: How Nonprofits Can Stay True to Their Mission during These Challenging Times

By: Scott Pansky

The world hasn’t witnessed anything like COVID-19 in years. Each county, state and city has handled this pandemic differently in almost every case. But what is not different is the impact the virus will have on nonprofit organizations that depend on special events, trainings and volunteerism. 

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With major conferences, sporting events, movies and concerts canceled and or postponed, universities closing their doors, employers increasing telework, and cities restricting public gatherings to less than 250 people, nonprofits must now evaluate their assets and prioritize how they plan to use and raise their funds.

I met recently with a charity whose operating budget was less than $500,000 and that depends on coordinating public events and training. Its operating budget will go dry in less than a year if it cannot host its events. This will be a huge challenge.

Thinking about this more deeply, and taking into account the survival for many, I wondered what advice I could offer. What can nonprofits do to keep their lights on? They could ask for federal dollars or foundation grants, but hundreds of thousands of charities out there will try to do the same thing. So, I started considering a charity’s own foundation – its aha moment for “being” – and I came up with the following thoughts:

  • If your charity has a solid reason for being and you focus on your mission, don’t turn away. Just fight harder.
  • Getting mainstream media will be a challenge, so talk to your base. These are your loyal followers and volunteers, people who care about your mission and its survival. Don’t hide from them – share with them what is happening and whether you need support.
  • Do you have authentic relationships with your existing corporate and grant makers? These folks are invested in your organization. You can’t expect them to come to the table with a lot more, but can you talk with them about staying with you and helping with in-kind donations and related services your organization might need. Vice versa, if they have issues, is there something your charity can do to help?

Your long-term relationships are like family. It’s not about Giving Tuesday once a year. It’s about authentic, responsible and transparent (ART) relationships that in times like this bring together your supporters. Talk with them, use your social media, and use existing direct mail outreach strategies, flyers and newsletters. It’s OK to still pick up your phone or host a video call and talk with people. If you don’t believe in your mission or highlight what is needed to survive, it will disappear. It is here for a reason. Fight for it, and never give up. Roll up your sleeves, lean on your board, advisors and staff – this is a battle you do not have to fight alone.  

Update: As a result of this post, Scott was invited by the Center for Nonprofits to share his insights to a group of over 200 nonprofits partners. You can see a recording of the webinar here.

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

If you’re a nonprofit in need of advice on how to navigate these challenging times, get in touch at scottp@allisonpr.com.

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.


MARCH 11, 2020 //     

Managing a Remote Workforce

By: Barbara Laidlaw

Three Things to Consider When Moving to a Remote Workforce 

An increasing number of businesses in the United States and around the world have begun to seriously consider, and in some cases have already had to implement, continuity plans that involve employees working remotely. Regardless of how well prepared your business is in making this transition, there are steps you can take to ensure that the day-to-day activities of your company remain as undisrupted as possible.

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Set Clear Expectations and Engage Regularly.

Once the decision has been made to direct your employees to work remotely, increased and effective communication between managers and their employees will be critical to keeping your business running and your employees confident. Make sure to set clear expectations with your team on how you will work together remotely on projects. One way to immediately bolster your internal communications is to require more frequent check-ins. If an employee usually provides a daily report or in-person meeting with their manager, increasing that to two or even three touchpoints can keep everyone on track without adding undue stress to the system. Putting a premium on video conferencing or internal communications programs like Slack or Microsoft Teams is an effective way to make productive remote work more feasible.

Along with circulating business-specific communications materials, companies should also provide their employees with up-to-date information regarding COVID-19, CDC and WHO guidelines and company policies. This will improve internal processes because it ensures everyone has access to the same materials. This will also serve to reassure a remote workforce during uncertain times.   

Assess Your Current Internal Communication Strategy.

Your leadership team will also need to make changes in how they perform their day-to-day tasks. During a situation like this, leadership teams may need to communicate with each other, their direct reports and all employees more frequently. This can be done through company-wide emails, conference calls, newsletters or other forms of mass communication. Whatever the platform is for this communication, making sure that employees do not feel like they are in the dark or at risk is key. Leaders should also be aware that this type of sudden change will often times not go smoothly. Some employees will require different accommodations than others, such as technical assistance or special schedules. Working with your employees to develop a work from home plan that actually works for them will reduce disruptions in your business operations.  

Identify Key Metrics to Track for Success.

Leadership teams are already reviewing and updating crisis plans that address an employee, a member of the leadership team or their family members testing positive for COVID-19. This will require increased communication between members of the leadership team and key stakeholders. Ideally, the C-Suite has already reviewed and put in place business continuity plans should an executive fall ill and will be planning messaging for both internal and external stakeholders. Financial impact is no less a consideration during a pandemic than protecting a company’s most important asset – their employees.

In order to ensure success, the leadership team as well as employees will need unfettered access to the tools they use daily in an office setting, including access to all internal databases, customer delivery systems and Human Resources tracking programs. It may be necessary initially to check performance by a group or single employee on a more frequent basis to be able to assess issues before they become ongoing problems. Regular utilization and performance check-ins must be maintained, and frequent customer and stakeholder check-ins will help measure productivity and ensure success.

There is still much we do not know about the extent of the spread of COVID-19, both in numbers and in timeline. The best practice any businesses’ leadership team can take is to ensure constant and clear communication from the top-down, create contingencies for identified risks and focus on maintaining as normal day-to-day as possible given the fluidity of this situation.

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

Barbara Laidlaw brings 25 years of experience developing and running programs that help companies prepare, protect, and defend their brand reputation through global and national events, recalls, litigation, data breaches, regulatory issues and labor disputes.

FEBRUARY 17, 2020 //     

The needle in a haystack - how to find the right micro-influencer

Reach is not everything. In the meantime, many companies have recognized the value of micro-influencers for their own brand. While this influencer type cannot come up with seven-digit follower numbers, it scores with its reputation in a special, often very niche community and with impressive engagement rates.READ MORE

Reach is not everything. In the meantime, many companies have recognized the value of micro-influencers for their own brand. While this influencer type cannot come up with seven-digit follower numbers, it scores with its reputation in a special, often very niche community and with impressive engagement rates.

Exactly this authenticity and the closeness to the followers make micro influencers very valuable partners. Because in our information society, personal recommendations from friends are still the most important influencing factor for consumers when making a purchase decision - and micro-influencers are most likely to establish this personal relationship with their audience.     

But how do you find a micro influencer? Often these are in very narrow thematic areas and do not stand out in the crowd as much as well-known mega-influencers. Therefore, identifying a suitable partner is often like looking for a needle in a haystack. We present different starting points for the search.



Preparation is everything

Set a clear goal for the planned influencer campaign before you begin the actual search. Whether the sales figures for a product or the share of voice should be increased - the influencer must match the hoped-for result. The budget available and the appropriate metrics to measure the success of the project must also be defined in advance.

1. For starters: manual searches on search engines and social media

To begin with, search through common search engines using relevant keywords. When searching, first look for influencer lists that are created by blogs or online media on specific topics. It is often possible to identify other possible partners by looking at the influencers' social media channels - because there is usually lively interaction, especially in narrowly defined specialist areas.

In addition, the search for relevant hashtags on social media can already provide initial results and by subscribing to these keywords, you are always up to date on new developments.


2. Smart search: use tools and databases

Manual and therefore time-consuming searches on social media and search engines provide an initial overview and serve to define the most important requirements for an influencer. If you now know exactly what you are looking for, databases and search tools help you to comb all of the influencers in question using exactly these criteria. For example, the HYPR and Tagger applications offer valuable insights.

Depending on the functionality of the tool, you can filter not only the subject area but also the social media platform, reach, target group and location. The latter category can be extremely useful when planning events. 

Don't blindly rely on the information provided by automated applications when calculating reach and engagement. Because this data can sometimes be very volatile and outdated.


3. Offline suchen: Networking, networking, networking

Finally, it can pay off to take unconventional paths and continue your search offline. You should also think about where suitable partners could be found. For example, are there events or trade fairs where you can make interesting contacts?

If an exciting campaign is planned and if there are appropriate monetary incentives to participate, the posting of posters in relevant locations such as universities can help to reach the right target group.  

No matter what topic a partner is looking for, it is always worth keeping your eyes and ears open. Maybe the right micro-influencer is already part of your wider circle of acquaintances.

How do brands manage to build successful relationships with influencers? How can you measure the success of influencer campaigns? And what changes is the influencer landscape currently undergoing? Further information and studies on these topics can be found here .

FEBRUARY 5, 2020 //     

50 sustainability tips for zero waste in the office

Climate protection, sustainability, living free of plastics - the buzzwords for a better world are becoming increasingly popular. But even on a large scale, responsible use of natural resources is becoming increasingly prevalent. Cities call out the climate emergency and not only draw attention to the topic, they also set specific goals. Whole countries forbid plastic bags, whole continents forbid one-way plastic, and people all over the world demonstrate against climate change.

But we all know: just talking doesn't help. Change begins on a small scale: at home and at work

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Climate protection, sustainability, living free of plastics - the buzzwords for a better world are becoming increasingly popular. But even on a large scale, responsible use of natural resources is becoming increasingly prevalent. Cities call out the climate emergency and not only draw attention to the topic, they also set specific goals. Whole countries forbid plastic bags, whole continents forbid one-way plastic, and people all over the world demonstrate against climate change.

But we all know: just talking doesn't help. Change begins on a small scale: at home and at work.

What does zero waste mean anyway?

Zero waste does not mean that from now on no more waste can be produced. Rather, it is about keeping the amount of waste as low as possible and conserving valuable resources. This applies to individual behavior in your own household, but also in the office or at work.

Here are some ideas on how to make everyday work more sustainable and resource-efficient, for example. We have already implemented some things at Allison + Partners, but we still have some room for improvement.

        The way to work

  1. The way to work becomes more environmentally friendly on foot, by bike or skateboard, even if you only cover part of the way.
  2. If you live further away or have customer appointments in the area, you should stick to public transport and use the bus or train.
  3. Some superiors promote a sustainable way to work (e.g. with job tickets for public transport) - just ask!
  4. For other business trips, it is a good idea to also see the train as the first option when choosing the means of transport. It is a good alternative to an airplane, especially on domestic routes.

    The desk

  5. Did you know that there are staplers without staples? You can easily staple up to 10 sheets together.
  6. Instead of highlighters (these often contain harmful ingredients and are made of plastic), you can also use colored pencil markers or refillable water-based fiber pens.
  7. Refillable pens (fountain pens, pens, etc.) are a good way to conserve resources.
  8. Erasers are made of natural rubber as an alternative to the usual rubber-like plastic mass.
  9. Recycled paper hardly differs from newly produced paper and is more sustainable. You can also print / write on both sides of paper. In addition, notes do not have to be handwritten, but can also be noted online, in various apps or programs.
  10. Anyone who prints (internal) prints in Eco mode ensures that the printer cartridge lasts longer.

    The office kitchen

  11. How about meal prep or freshly cooked instead of food-to-go? This not only saves packaging waste, but also saves your wallet.
  12. Reusable to-go containers are worth an investment - for example, we have office boxes in which you can pack the rest of your lunch.
  13. If you cook together with your colleagues, you can buy large packs and save packaging.
  14. Fruit deliveries are a welcome icing on the cake in our everyday agency work. Every Monday at Allison + Partners in Munich there is a large basket of fresh, unpacked organic fruit.
  15. If you rely on coffee beans or powder instead of capsule or pad coffee, you avoid a large amount of waste that can often not be recycled.
  16. Sugar and milk can be provided fresh and not individually packaged - even in meetings.
  17. Much resources are used for meat production, so it is worth reducing meat dishes and paying attention to organic quality. There are four vegetarians and one vegan on our team who set a good example.
  18. We do not use water from plastic bottles and use a water bubbler to make the necessary "blubbs".
  19. Cloth napkins not only look nicer than the paper version, they are also more sustainable.


    The cleaning

  20. Vinegar, soda, citric acid and, if necessary, baking soda or core soap - you don't need a separate cleaning agent for every corner. With these five basic ingredients you can put together all the necessary cleaning agents.
  21. Washing up works perfectly with washable rags, no disposable kitchen towels are required. In addition, there are flushing brushes, where you can easily replace the brush head as soon as it has had its day.
  22. Another big issue is waste separation: in large offices everything ends up in the same bucket. A system for separating plastic, paper, organic, residual and glass / can waste is not that difficult to implement. Some waste can also be collected for a good cause, such as for organizations like Terracycle or Blechwech .

    Mail delivery

  23. Envelopes can be reused as long as you comply with the GDPR and make the name of the original sender unrecognizable. With a note on the envelope such as "for the sake of the environment", it is usually not understood as a low appreciation.
  24. Shredded paper can be ideally used as an alternative to bubble wrap as packaging material. Of course, this is only possible with a GDPR-compliant shredder.
  25. If you use envelopes without a window, professional disposal is easier for the recipient.
  26. Self-moistening stamps contain less pollutants than self-adhesive stamps.


    The power supply

  27. There are energy-saving functions for almost all devices, while the rest can be fitted with time switches that completely separate the device from the circuit. But even without a timer, the devices should not be switched to standby mode in the evening, but switched off.
  28. Archives require data server storage capacity, so you should delete old mails regularly or archive them offline if necessary.
  29. A darker screen background consumes less power than a lighter one. Programs can often be changed easily.
  30. Sustainability is also important when choosing a search engine: Ecosia, for example, plants a tree for every search query.
  31. Rechargeable batteries can be used for battery-operated devices to avoid waste.
  32. LED lighting uses less electricity than halogen lamps or even classic incandescent lamps. The exchange is also worthwhile because of their longer lifespan.
  33. When nobody is in the room: lights off, heating off, windows closed!
  34. If you use the stairs instead of the elevator, you save energy on the one hand - on the other hand you do something for your fitness.
  35. For hot summer days: fans require less energy than air conditioning.

    The purchase

  36. It is better to rarely make large purchases than to buy small quantities more often. In addition, local and regional products often have the smaller carbon footprint.
  37. If you don't want to do without the convenient delivery service, you should choose a single supplier who can supply all the products you need. There are also sustainable mail order companies like Memo or Manomeer .
  38. Second-hand is the way to keep mountains of garbage small. Ebay classifieds is a real treasure trove - and up-cycling can give the office a very individual touch.

    The sanitary area

  39. Wherever possible, you should avoid hot water or use instantaneous water heaters that only produce hot water when it is really needed.
  40. According to studies, solid soap is just as hygienic as liquid soap, but it requires less chemical resources - and less packaging.
  41. What applies to serviettes is also true for towels: washing instead of throwing away saves garbage.
  42. By the way, toilet paper made from recycled paper is also available in satisfactory quality.


    The meeting

  43. An energy-efficient projector saves electricity and is therefore very valuable from an ecological perspective.
  44. A magnetic whiteboard can be written on again and again and is generally preferable to flipchart or pinboard paper.
  45. Handouts via PDF are a good alternative to paper documents.

    The business trip

  46. The A du O: One should first consider whether the trip can not be replaced by a video conference.
  47. The CO2 consumed for the arrival and departure can be  offset through projects such as Atmosfair .
  48. Anyone who spends the necessary nights in organic hotels is also doing good, because these hotels pay particular attention to sustainability.

    The company event

  49. The activities for company outings should be taken very deliberately: archery instead of paintball, trampoline park instead of karting, museum visit instead of art workshop. This means that fewer resources are used, such as paint, fuel or electricity.
  50. Decoration and information stands can be used for trade fair appearances, which can be reused at other trade fairs. Anyone who pays attention to timeless formulations on brochures and print material can use them in the long term.

Our concrete result:

In our self-assessment, we found that we are already implementing 27 of these 50 best practices, especially in the kitchen. However, there is still a lot to do. Next we want to devote more attention to the topic of power supply.

OCTOBER 25, 2019 //     

PRovoke19 Recap: Day Two

By: Tara Chiarell

The second day of The Holmes Report’s PRovoke19 reinforced topics discussed on day one with in-depth conversations around the evolving role of communications, the importance of authenticity and the power in an ignited audience. Here are more insights from the two-day inspirational, thought-provoking conference with professionals from around the world.

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Evolving Role of Communications

CCO, CMO, CRO, CIO, CTO – never before has the C-Suite been so deeply involved in the communications process and budget discussions. Part of this is because as practitioners become more integrated, so do our clients. Given the role tech plays in how we measure success, more comms departments report to CIOs and CTOs. But even more so, as we contemplate a possible recession on the horizon, CFOs and CROs now play a larger role in budget allocations.

We heard directly from a CFO (at a PR conference?!) about his concerns and how he pushes his comms and marketing teams to tie results back to business goals and show how they drive business/sales impact. They want more than awareness metrices, impressions, site click throughs; they want to see deeper ROI -- how do marketing teams drive conversion and purchase.

This is something we have struggled with as an industry. Not just because PR traditionally hasn’t been set up to have that direct sales impact, but navigating the channels inside our client organizations to get those metrics can be challenging. While there is more scrutiny than ever before on PR to justify dollars spent and resulting impact, the consensus remains it is the channel to invest; and budgets have risen as more traditional marketing activities, such as blended content, now reside in PR.

Brand Purpose + Authenticity

Authenticity was discussed again, but in relation to brand purpose. In the politically driven world we live in today, brands face immense pressure to take a stand on everything from gun violence and the travel ban to sustainability. While many CEOs and employees may feel personally passionate about an issue, it’s imperative to take a step back and really think about how this ties to our core business and our employees.

We heard from long-time IKEA CEO Lars Petersson, who ran the company through the lens of its motto “What’s good for people is good for IKEA.” This helped filter out and prioritize campaign efforts, weigh the benefits and fallout of taking risks, and remove inherent personal bias. Under his tenure, sustainability was a core focus, because Ikea uses 1% of the world’s wood and cotton in products; this was a natural tie to the business.

Lars also took a quick, strong stance against the travel ban in an employee letter because of his personal beliefs and how this would affect IKEA employees around the globe. The letter was leaked and created controversy around the brand. But in the end, he felt it was the right thing to stand up for his employees globally and for human rights.

March for Our Lives

The day ended in a powerful talk with three of the women who lead the March for Our Lives movement. They spoke about the communications strategy at inception and how it has evolved in the past 20 months.

  • Audience Platform: The students, who range in age from 14-18, understood the key to reaching your audience is to talk to them on channels where they are already active. This is an audience that grew up online and knows how to activate a base by communicating through Twitter and social media to share how they felt and knows where they can control the narrative. Social media is organic to this age group, so they used it to rally an audience that traditionally is not vocal around political issues.
  • Diversity: Self-proclaimed, the group was far from diverse at inception. But in listening to criticism, learning the history and larger issues of gun violence and who it affects, and wanting this to be more than about them, they took active steps to make the organization and effort as diverse as the issue itself. “You can’t cure one without the other.” Without evolving the effort to include voices of those who have been affected by gun violence for decades, they never would have had the impact they’ve achieved.
  • The Power of Silence: This group taught all communicators the power of staying silent as they led a moment of silence at a march in Washington, D.C. featuring 800,000 supporters – silence for as long as the rampage in Florida. All too often, we have an urge to say something, defend ourselves, our brand. But sometimes, silence says a lot more.

Tara Chiarell is the general manager of Allison+Partners’ Washington, D.C. office.

OCTOBER 23, 2019 //     

PRovoke19 Day One

By: Tara Chiarell 

Attending PRovoke19 was like bringing an integrated campaign to life -- the agenda spanned a variety of topics from measurement, media and influencers to leadership, diversity and culture.

While it would be impossible to capture every valuable insight from day one, there were several key themes that resonated:

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DIVERSITY

Inclusion: Inclusiveness and participation by everyone is key to building a strong culture that supports diversity efforts. Creating an environment where different ideas and opinions can be shared is key to success. Without this foundation, diversity initiatives will not resonate or be successful.

Empathy. We must have empathy -- for oneself and for each other. Practice empathy for yourself and you will be happier, more engaged and more productive. This practice will also become a catalyst for empathy for others. Learn where others come from, what motivates them, what paralyzes them. Helping others self-actualize will drive team productivity and engagement.

Mirroring. Brands today are focused on reaching diverse external audiences. However, to achieve success, you must have a project team that mirrors your target audience. Sometimes you need to go outside your organization to find key perspectives who will take your idea from good to great.

LEADERSHIP

Reliability. According to Elena Botelho of ghSMART, the most important behavior for a leader to demonstrate is reliability. This should shine through in every day activities from being on time to resisting the urge to overpromise. Many leaders struggle with the latter because they want to do-it-all and are driven to deliver results. Reliability is a mindset; habits of reliability need to be practiced; and leaders must surround themselves with people who can help them stay on track. Integrity is paramount, if leaders can’t live up to what they say, employees, partners and stakeholders will have trouble trusting them.

Authenticity. Balancing the idea of what a leader should be and who you are as a person is an antiquated mindset. Employees need to trust their leaders and feel connected to them through authentic interactions and conversations. Leaders who are true to themselves rather than playing a role, are more likely to motivate employees and drive business results. Leaders should set the example -- hold themselves and employees accountable and challenge other leaders to arrive at the best outcome.

MEASUREMENT

Customization. Measurement requires a custom strategy for each company, brand and campaign. While the measurement will differ for each, the approach is the same. We must understand what the business goals are before we can understand how our campaign will impact business results. As we know, we must move beyond impressions. We must focus on how our activity and investment will move the needle for the business. As marketing and comms professionals, we must understand the metrics the C-Suite is focused on in order to showcase value.

Accountability. Marketers, internal and external, have a responsibility to manage spending responsibly. When requesting budget, we must challenge ourselves to answer the following questions:

  1. How much money are you requesting and why?
  2. What is the business impact of spending those dollars?
  3. Convince me why we should spend here instead of another idea?
  4. Is there something we should stop doing and move resources around?

MarComm has a great opportunity to educate brands about investing in Demand channels to drive revenue, provided we can show why and impact.

Stay tuned for more insights out of Day 2!

Tara Chiarell is the general manager of Allison+Partners’ Washington, D.C. office.

AGENCY NEWS // OCTOBER 14, 2019 //     

How Gen Z Impacts Urban Mobility

By Marcus Gamo

A short time ago, the auto industry viewed millennials as the lost generation. Automakers expected car sales to plummet and prepared for change. But that didn’t happen. Instead, millennials delayed their adoption of cars until they started getting married, having children and discovering the suburbs.

Simultaneously, the growth of the smart mobility movement with the introduction of rideshare, car share, e-bikes, high-speed rail, scooters and automaker-backed subscription models have transformed how we define transportation. This dramatic change has birthed a mobility culture. The “me” foundation of car culture – where a car takes “me,” how it makes “me” feel about myself and how it represents my values – has been replaced by a “we” perspective.

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OCTOBER 3, 2019 //     

Don't Lose Your Head in a Crisis

By: Marcel Goldstein

What fascinates me most about a crisis is that it reveals a lot about human psychology. I personally don’t believe you can navigate a crisis effectively if you don’t take stock of the human emotions bubbling up around you during one. The crisis within the crisis — of people reacting to the events — often determines the effectiveness of business decisions and outcomes.

Psychologists have observed that when people feel under attack, it generates a fight-or-flight response. I believe when a business is threatened by outsiders, it simulates the same survival instincts our ancestors felt when their tribe was in the presence of a predatory animal.

Along with a crisis communications plan, I also believe you need an accompanying “psychology plan.” This should establish how you will handle the different reactions to a crisis that could either impede development of a thoughtful communications approach or skew the approach and steer your organization into greater trouble.

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Put this lens on any recent crisis response you have witnessed. How often do you hear complaints nobody within an organization took responsibility for a crisis or the CEO left the response to a spokesperson or non-executive? This is the flight mentality in action. Lower-level employees often embrace the U.S. Secret Service mindset to “take the bullet.” Calls to “protect the CEO” and allow him or her to stay out of the “line of fire” are common. Meanwhile, a CEO with a flight mentality is comfortable staying out of plain sight.   

Alternatively, many organizations also fail to hear the cries of their critics and suit up for battle — the fight response. Organizational responses to crises commonly involve a variety of fight responses, including shifting blame to clients, partners or consumers, attacking critics for their perceived unreasonableness, accusing outsiders of lacking smarts or sufficient knowledge, or dismissing critics by defending their actions in only a legal context.

Notice how prevalent violence metaphors are in these situations. It is not a coincidence. When the tribe is attacked, it is a declaration of war. Or, so it seems. During a crisis, key leaders meet in a “war room” or “safe room.” While some of this is to preserve confidentiality and enable rapid decision-making, an “under-siege” psychological element is also very much at play and affects decision-making.

While an organizational crisis tests the best of us, I don’t think an organization under criticism can win by succumbing to human instincts of fight or flight. Those natural-instinct urges to flee or stand and fight must be resisted. While these instincts saved many lives in the wild, they don’t work well in our complex civilizations. A successful crisis counselor will have both a strategy to manage those psychological tendencies and the credibility to help guide key leaders to an approach that seeks a positive outcome for all stakeholders involved in a crisis.

Marcel Goldstein is an EVP in Allison+Partners corporate practice. 

SEPTEMBER 17, 2019 //     

Attention CEOs: The Digital Privacy Clock is Set for Midnight on New Year’s Day

Credit: caprivacy.orgBy: David Baum and David Wolf

As goes California, so goes the nation

The digital privacy tsunami is coming at last to the United States and, unsurprisingly, the wave will break first on the West Coast.

On Jan. 1, 2020, California will implement The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Under the law, any company that does business in California must reveal upon a resident’s request what personal information they have collected about any California resident. What is more, Californians will have legal grounds to require businesses and data brokers to cease the sale of that information and demand they delete it.

California has an outsized impact on U.S. law and policy for a range of reasons. Taken as a country, the state would boast the world's fifth-largest economy. Its concentration of entertainment, media and technology companies make it a cultural and business bellwether. California’s progressive voter base has also made it America’s policy proving-ground on issues ranging from workers’ rights to tax law to the environment. Indeed, in state capitals across the U.S., agencies and legislators have taken notice and lawmakers have begun drafting CCPA-inspired legislation.

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But perhaps the greatest reason for the Golden State’s impact on business is its population. One out of nine Americans now call the state home. Most of the world's Fortune 1000 companies, along with more than 3 million small- and medium-sized businesses, interact daily with California residents. With online commerce accounting for a growing portion of consumer spending, at least a million other small businesses sell into the state every year.

For these reasons, a major change in California law concerns most U.S. businesses, particularly as CCPA appears to be the beginning of a groundswell. As ironic as it might be that the end of the internet’s “Wild West Era” should come from the cradle of the technology revolution, it is perhaps also fitting. 

How did we get here, and what should organizations think about with just a few months until the curtain rises on this new era of data transparency?

GDPR: The first data protection soldiers on the beach

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect on May 25, 2018. The law’s aim was both simple and, in the libertarian spirit that infused the Internet Revolution, laudable: to give each individual control over who collects their personal data and how that data gets used. Businesses that handle personal data would be required to inform consumers if they capture their information and to put into place safeguards to protect that data from unauthorized use.

The GDPR also comes with strong, practical and meaningful enforcement guidelines. Noncompliance can result in fines and penalties that would be material to the affected companies’ financial results and well-being. ­In just one recent example, the French data protection authority fined Google approximately $57 million (the highest fine to date) for violating the GDPR.

Today, many experts consider the GDPR to be the strongest data protection law in the world. And its passage despite the challenges of legislating across the entire EU is an inspiration to legislators previously stymied in their efforts to protect consumers. Inspired by the GDPR and frustrated with the pace of regulation at the federal level, California’s lawmakers took notice of GDPR and then did what Californians normally do: they innovated, built upon the core of GDPR and created a law that could be effective and withstand the rigors of the litigious U.S. regulatory environment.

Digital transformation has a cost

Recognizing the threat of the CCPA’s enactment and seeing an opportunity for innovation, the barons of Tech Capitalism have responded, starting the adjustment process to this new business and geopolitical reality.

In August, the Business Roundtable pledged to run their organizations with the interest of all stakeholders as a priority, not just shareholder value. A driving force behind this pledge from CEOs from some of the nation’s largest companies is the increased scrutiny of how companies handle personal data.

Sensing strong consumer support for the CCPA and similar initiatives, major players across a broad swath of sectors ranging from large banks to retail have already started the compliance process for Jan. 1. An open question remains: Are the majority of non-technology organizations as ready?

Conventional belief holds that the first company caught in CCPA’s enforcement net will be a “big tech company,” and enforcement officials will be tempted to make an example of a large firm. Yet, there is a chance one of the first targets will be a smaller non-tech organization.

A common chestnut in this era of digital transformation is “every company is a tech company, but they might not know it yet.” Nearly every business organization, regardless of size, is undergoing some form of digital transformation for survival or competitive advantage. The common deployment of “digital transformation platforms” for late-stage tech adopters is the use of e-commerce, CRM marketing, online purchases, cybersecurity, cloud adoption and social sales engagement. These are now considered common business practices for “non-tech” companies.

In the race to transform, many CIOs and CTOs have, often unwittingly, left privacy concerns behind other, more pressing imperatives. While this is understandable, and to this point has not been a costly decision, CCPA changes the calculus and starts a clock for each company. It is now no longer a question of “if” but of “when” a company will find itself called upon to account for its privacy practices.

With less than six months until the law is enacted, all companies and organizations operating in California or with the need to think about:

  • Conducting a complete audit of all customer engagement software
  • Close coordination between IT, sales, legal and marketing
  • Coordinating with all partners and third parties that operate within the sales cycle
  • Consulting with and informing stakeholders at all steps in the process
  • Understanding the monetary and reputational risks of noncompliance
  • Review of reputation management process and procedures

David Baum is a senior vice president in Allison+Partners’ Corporate practice. David Wolf is the managing director of Allison Advisory, a management consultancy focused on building lasting competitive advantage for its clients by helping them understand, manage, meet, and ultimately exceed stakeholder expectations throughout the enterprise. This is the first in an ongoing series about data collection and privacy.

AUGUST 22, 2019 //     

Doing Business in China

China is going to be a part of your business whether you like it or not. David Wolf, managing director of Allison Advisory, shares how we help the C-Suite set up their businesses for success in China. 


AUGUST 7, 2019 //     

Five lessons from five years of growth

By: Serina Tan

If someone had asked me five years ago, “Will you still be with Allison+Partners in 2019?,” I probably would have responded, “Unlikely.”

Let me explain. Before Allison+Partners, my longest tenure at any job was a mere two and a half years. So, five years seemed like an eternity. Not to mention, I started the Singapore office from the ground up. I started with literally nothing – no signage, no office, no chairs and desks, no other colleagues. It was difficult and almost impossible to imagine how things might look in a year, let alone five.

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However, I’m grateful to have had a few secret weapons. I won our first retainer, had a vision to build something special, had plenty of fire in my belly, and, most importantly, had nothing to lose. It was an interesting combination that fortunately led to much success. 

As we celebrate our fifth anniversary with our growing team, here are five lessons I’ve learned along the way: 

  1. Visualisation is key. I set out with the vision of building a close-knit team committed to delivering only best-in-class work. It was meant to be an experiment, but it has since become a reality. I’m proud to say the team we have now is the best version of Allison+Partners Singapore we’ve ever had. If we can dream it, we can do it.
  2. Setting high standards is a competitive edge. It pays off. As an upstart a few years ago, we worked our socks off on a massive competitive pitch and ended up beating more than 15 other more established agencies to win a prestigious account. We surprised ourselves and made competitors who never heard of us sit up in bewilderment. Over the years, most of the business we won has been by word-of-mouth referrals from existing or previous clients who trust us to deliver high-quality results. 
  3. Progress is better than perfection. Many people who have worked closely with me in the past would call me a perfectionist. But during the course of this journey, I’ve learned nobody and nothing is perfect in this world. If we try to get something to be perfect, we will never get there. So, instead of beating ourselves up over life’s imperfections, let’s strive for continuous improvement and celebrate the successes along the way.
  4. Make data-informed decisions, but always trust your gut. Do your research and analyze the situation. But eventually, trust your instincts when making a decision – even if it could be unpopular. Being confident in yourself and your decision-making skills instils trust within your team, which is a key factor to success. 
  5. Best-selling author and psychiatrist Scott Peck said in his book, The Road Less Travelled, “To grow in any dimension, pain as well as joy will be the reward.” I remember how when we were just a three-person team in 2014, I stayed up until 2 a.m. for a few consecutive nights with a bad bout of food poisoning to work on a new business proposal. I felt miserable and wished we had a larger and more experienced team. Guess what – we did eventually win the pitch, and this client remains with Allison+Partners today. There will always be obstacles, doubters, mistakes and setbacks along the way. But with hard work, belief in yourself and perseverance, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

Over the past five years, we’ve built a community – not just an office. We are a community of individuals, guided by company values but influenced by their own unique perspectives and experiences. There is a sense of purpose where we hold one another accountable for our shared success.

I come to work smiling every day, looking forward to the diverse perspectives and interactions with our colleagues from Singapore and all over the world. I know this is a work family that I can trust and rely on. Regardless of the ups and downs one would typically experience in a family, I know we will still have each other’s backs at the end of the day. This makes work all the more enjoyable, enabling us to always strive to be the best versions of ourselves.

Someone asked me last week what my best career moment was. Without a doubt, it was my decision to join Allison+Partners five years ago.

Serina Tan is managing director of Asia-Pacific. 

JULY 23, 2019 //     

The Stream Podcast Episode 5: Why Pride is More Than a Month

Credit: CNN.comBy: Owen Clark

No, you don’t need to double-check your calendar. It’s July, and we are doing a podcast about Pride. The reason – while outward displays of support for Pride from brands big and small have exploded, many companies still literally and figuratively put their rainbow flags away when public sentiment shifts to other causes come July. 

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So we are extending that discussion, asking what are brands doing right when it comes to supporting LGBTQ issues? What do they need to do better? What lessons can we all learn from those within the community about how their experience is different now then at other points in the past?

To answer these questions, we turned to four colleagues who bring the unique perspectives of being both veteran marketers and members of the LGBTQ community. Their stories will touch you, and their insights will make you think differently about a complex but vitally important issue that impacts everyone.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play MusiciTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

JUNE 27, 2019 //     

E3: Three gaming trends to watch

By: Cat Forgione

Video games are an increasingly important part of American culture and entertainment. According to our client, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the video game industry is valued at more than $43.4 billion and includes more than 166 million adults who play games. While marketers should aim to reach the video gaming audience, it’s a community that demands authenticity, which requires brands to spend time in the space to understand the culture and gain credibility.

Last week, I attended E3 in Los Angeles, where 66,100 people came together to discuss what is new in the video game industry. As a first-time attendee, I found the pure passion and breadth of the gaming audience electric and the evolution of opportunities for brands was on full display.

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Hosted by ESA, the event packs the Los Angeles Convention Center with video game developers and designers, hardware creators, influencers and fans anxiously awaiting announcements about the latest games and products showcased in colorful booths and at highly-anticipated press conferences.

From the 25th annual E3, here are a few trends brands should keep an eye on:

Esports will be video gaming’s greatest opportunity

Esports operates similar to traditional sports with tournaments played by teams comprised of players with top skill. Tournaments are livestreamed from arenas with commentary from respected gaming personalities. Similar to traditional sports, esports gives audiences the ability to learn how to maximize their play, meet people with similar interests and cheer for those who play the same games as them at a professional level.

Estimates from Newzoo project the global esports market will exceed $1.4 billion by 2020. Though esports is more advanced in countries outside of the United States, E3 featured its own Esports Zone in partnerships with Subnation to spotlight esports through game play, expert talks and gaming cultural experiences.

With the growth of esports, the opportunity for companies to reach the video game audience will grow through tournament and team sponsorships, in-stream advertising and event partnerships. For example, as of this year, Miller Lite is the exclusive alcohol brand for Complexity Gaming, the esports sibling of the Dallas Cowboys.

Streamers are still the trusted source

Streamers play video games through a live, dual video recording – one video shows the gamer’s reactions and one video shows gameplay. These players have a high number of followers on social media and streaming platforms, such as Mixer and Twitch. Unlike other forms of entertainment, the audience is a key part of the experience because viewers can communicate with streamers through chat functions. Streamers respond via spoken word while simultaneously gaming. As a result of this relationship, streamers are viewed a trusted resource for product recommendations to those in the gaming community. 

At the “Borderlands” booth at E3, many streamers were seen on gaming PCs in glass rooms playing the game, discussing their experiences at the show and interviewing special guests for thousands of their followers. Many of these streaming personalities have sponsors, and their content changes continuously. The ESA Foundation and Red Bull partnered to drive the conversation about how to create compelling content with a panel featuring creators, including Mari Takahashi of Smosh Games, Sonja “OMGitsfirefoxx” Mel, Leah Ashe and Dana Pirkle of 3Blackdot.

Video game companies pay and provide products to influential streamers to play new releases, while technology hardware companies do the same in exchange for a mention in the gear section of an influencers’ streaming homepage. Additionally, other non-endemic brands, especially food and beverage brands, have partnered with streamers for product promotion, such as UberEats and Hershey's.

Mobile video gaming continues steady growth

With today’s demand for entertainment at our finger tips, consumers use smart phones for gameplay. According to eMarketer, mobile gamers make up nearly 89% of digital gamers and span all ages. Phone makers, including Asus and Razer, another A+P client, identified this trend and developed phones with high-resolution screens and fast response times for superior mobile gameplay.

Though E3 is known for console and PC game announcements, there were a few mobile game announcements, such as “Commander Keen” and “Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad.” Simultaneously, the conversation around 5G elevating mobile gaming continued with Verizon exhibiting at E3.

The development of mobile games creates a new opportunity for in-game advertisements. These advertisements should be short in length, in the same picture format as the game and convey the message without audio.

The current evolution of esports, technology and gaming on the go provide a great opportunity for marketers. Overall, the large gaming audience seeks authenticity from brands, so consider partnering with esports athletes, streamers and other brands that are trusted resources and good storytellers. By continuously investing in and understanding the culture of this target audience, your brand can also be a trusted resource.

 Cat Forgione is an account manager in Allison+Partners’ DC office.

JUNE 26, 2019 //     

Communicating with the LGBTQ+ community in the digital age

By: Gina Mossey

As part of our agency’s celebrations for Pride Month, we hosted a panel event in the London office in collaboration with Out in Tech, a global not-for-profit for the LGBTQ+ community in tech, to discuss how the internet has changed the way brands can and should communicate with the LGBTQ+ community.

Chaired in style by our very own Account Director Andrew Rogers, guest speakers who imparted their words of wisdom included:

  • Polly Shute, Director of Partnerships at Parallel Lifestyle
  • Alex Wood, Europe Editor at Forbes
  • Matt Risley, Digital Director at MTV UK
  • Saski, Pride Host and LGBTQ+ Educator

A thought-provoking and lively conversation left us all with a lot of food for thought. Here are the key takeaways.

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Start with your staff

We’ve seen a lot of companies support Pride because other companies do – we all know brands are fast followers. But the most effective brands support LGBTQ+ communities year-round and get input and feedback from their employees to make sure they get it right.

Consistent communication with employees is the crucial piece of the puzzle between brands getting it right or wrong. The more they can be involved in the process, the better-informed senior teams will be. This will help you avoid falling into the pink washing trap, and instead show your company really listens to the challenges faced by real people.

LGBTQ+ is more than just one category

This umbrella community contains many subgroups, and brands can ignore this at their peril. Each subgroup needs to be marketed to in a different way, as each have their own pain points about their personal, historical and cultural experiences. Language is a key component here, as a positive term for one subgroup can be quite the opposite for another. However, empathy, consideration and kindness will speak across the community. Within any content, we need to make sure everyone is represented.

Getting the language right again brings us back to the workplace. For society to get used to modern usage, we need more training on what is positive and negative to whom. For example, “queer” is something of a reclaimed term for younger people, while older generations can find it offensive. The more educated society becomes on this, the more intelligent our ways of using these terms socially will be.

Digital targeting for LGBTQ+ groups is still in its infancy

Building on the discussion around language, the group showed digital targeting for the community isn’t as sophisticated as it needs to be. Differences in connotations between different parts of the LGBTQ+ community means positive and negative keywords are tough to define and is a bigger conversation for the global tech community to have.

The panel also advised brands to beware of “The City Bubble.” LGBTQ+ initiatives and messaging are more advanced in major cities. But brands looking to truly get their comms strategies right need to make sure those who live in less urban areas are also represented.

They also highlighted the struggle with internet users known as “lurkers.” These people view and consume content, but they do not comment or share, making it hard to ensure their views are taken into account. We need to make sure we reach and engage the people who don’t feel they have a voice. Putting efforts into physical focus groups and research will help brands navigate this.

Be wary of only using technology to communicate

The group agreed the explosion in digital platforms has been positive in terms of visibility for LGBTQ+ issues. But it’s important it complements, and does not replace, face-to-face interaction with the community. One-to-one level comms are important for any strategy.

Brands can tap into this by keeping events and meet-ups a key part of their strategy, such as hosting talks from key influencers in their sectors who have links to the LGBTQ+ community, putting emphasis on current topics and issues that have relevance to the subgroups.

Making mistakes is part of the journey

A key point the panel wanted brands to take away from the event is that it isn’t the end of the road if you make a mistake. It’s likely brands will get it wrong sometimes, and they shouldn’t take it personally. They advised that rather than pulling out all the stops to defend yourselves, listen to the community and put yourself in their shoes. Taking a step back and listening to the voices that matter will help you work out where to go from there.

The event’s open and honest discussion around these issues, thanks to our fantastic panel and the questions from our brilliant audience, is a perfect example of the collaborative conversations that need to happen to drive change on a bigger scale for the LGBTQ+ community. Brands that keep this at the core of their activity will be the ones that truly lead the way.

Gina Mossey is an account director in Allison+Partners London office.

JUNE 25, 2019 //     

Influencer Marketing Lessons from BlogHer Food 2019

Credit: BlogHer.comBy: Lucy Arnold

Influencer marketing is maturing, and this was certainly felt at the BlogHer conference last month where many key learnings were shared that can help influencers and marketers alike ensure they are optimizing their partnerships.

In May, the BlogHer community of female entrepreneurs, content creators and influencers brought 500 people together for the day in Brooklyn to hear from experts and discuss sustainability, influencer-driven food trends, engaging food content and the #MeToo movement in the food industry. Panels and keynotes included Bethenny Frankel, Ali Maffucci and Rayna Greenberg, among other notables. Here are some of the top influencer tips from the event:

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Influencers are more savvy than ever

Many of the top-tier food influencers shared that they’re aware of their own metrics, conversion rates and audience demographics. They aren’t just blindly posting content with no understanding of how it may perform, and they can see which content is the most successful against benchmarks. They take this into consideration when discussing partnerships with brands. These influencers think brands should ask for this information in the negotiation phases because it shows they’re committed to working with the right influencer partners. On the flip side, it has made these influencers also more aware of what they’re worth and they’re going to ask for it.

Use your influencer partner’s audience

Influencers mentioned more than once Instagram is the platform they spend most of their time on. And they work with their brand partners in some interesting ways based on Instagram’s features. On Instagram Stories, users can poll their audience, quiz them and encourage them to donate to a nonprofit. One influencer mentioned she has used these capabilities to help define what kind of content she creates in her sponsorships. For example, she’ll poll her audience about which recipe they want to see and then work on the one more likely to have successful engagement metrics. Or she quizzes her audience to see how much they know (or don’t know) about a particular product, which can help her draft copy that raises awareness about key product messages. For brands, it’s a great way to get some inside info and help drive the influencer relationship to maximize returns.

Long-term partnerships and licensing

We keep hearing it from our influencer friendlies across verticals, but influencers reiterated at BlogHer – they want to work with brands in long-term partnerships. They are less interested in one-and-done posts because it devalues their audience’s trust and feels less authentic than working with a brand they love over a long period of time. Finally, a quick watch-out for brands: influencers want to know if brands will use their content. They are content creators and if their imagery ends up in the brand’s ads or website, they want to know about that in the negotiations. Using their content without permission outside of what was agreed upon isn’t best practice, and the creators should be additionally compensated for these uses.

Lucy Arnold is a Vice President of Digital focused on influencer marketing and social media strategy.

JUNE 13, 2019 //     

Empowering Women in the Workplace

Our North American President Anne Colaiacovo has always been dedicated to supporting and empowering female employees to reach their full potential. As a recent inductee to PRWeek’s Hall of Femme, she reflects on how women no longer have an expiration date on their career and describes how Allison+Partners supports their professional journey.  


JUNE 12, 2019 //     

The Stream Podcast Episode 4: The Influence It Factor

Credit: Lex and the CityBy: Owen Clark


I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve interviewed on-camera over the past decade. But between being a TV reporter, a media trainer and a video director, I’d put the number well over 1,000. Of those 1,000-plus people, I’d say 99% had the same reaction when I showed them the footage of their interview: “Ugh, I hate seeing myself on camera.”

I’m convinced the reason for this sudden self-loathing is because even in our selfie-obsessed culture, when the proverbial red light comes on and we’re forced to actually deliver on-camera we realize it’s a really hard skill to master.  

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So is taking good photos, writing interesting copy and publishing content that is relevant and engaging to your audience. Not to mention finding sponsors, balancing advertiser requests vs. audience credibility and generally doing all the things a content operation needs to do to pay the bills.

To succeed as an influencer in today’s landscape, all those duties fall on the individual. They  are host, photographer, sales rep and editorial board. They are responsible for balancing the needs of the brands that pay them and the audience who has trusted them enough to tune in, subscribe or share what they’re saying.

In this episode of The Stream Podcast, Owen and Micah dive into the world of the paid influencer with two content creators from opposite ends of the experience and audience spectrum: Alexis Holden of Lex and The City and James Hills of Mantripping. Topics include side-eyes while taking food selfies, best bucket list vacations and trying to get paid while not sounding like a walking commercial.

For more data and insight on today’s ecosystem of Influence check out Allison+Partners’ Influence 360.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play MusiciTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

 

JUNE 10, 2019 //     

A Bellwether for Affordable Housing

Credit: Seattle TimesBy: Hamilton McCulloh


Progress is very good for economic development. Longtime residents of the Pacific Northwest still recall the billboard in the 1970s on I-5 that asked, “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn off the lights?” following a massive layoff at Boeing. It was primarily a one-industry town at that time.

Fast forward 40 years, and the region is home to Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Costco, Nordstrom, Zillow, Weyerhaeuser, Expedia, REI, and many others. Tech giants like Google, Facebook and Apple are all expanding operations here. Progress is indeed good, but growth does pose significant challenges — traffic and affordable housing chief among them.

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This issue is not unique to Seattle. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the United States has a shortage of seven million rental homes affordable and available to extremely low-income renters whose household incomes are at or below the poverty guideline or at 30% of their area median income. This is true in all 50 states, although it is extreme on the West Coast in markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles, among others.

This is what it looks like when tens of thousands of people move to one City every year. The rapid rise of new Seattle: Time-lapse video shot over 3 years captures city’s massive growth

Let’s park the traffic problem for now and focus on affordable housing. Thanks to a very innovative non-profit organization, Seattle may be unique in how to respond to the challenge.

Bellwether Housing was created by business and civic leaders through the Downtown Seattle Association in 1980 to help close the gap between income and ever-increasing rent. Its goal was (and is) to build diverse communities where people of all incomes and backgrounds share in the prosperity of the region. Bellwether believes it is vital to create stable communities and access to opportunity through affordable housing, even as demand far outpaces supply. The organization steps in to develop and manage homes for people with limited incomes near job centers.

Bellwether provides affordable homes to 3,500 people every year at 32 properties. But its next challenge is even greater, and Bellwether is going to need a lot of help.

Bringing the community together to help solve the problem

Affordable housing in rapidly growing cities is not a new challenge. And the solutions are not so easy to explain. So how does one go about developing a communications strategy to engage the local decision makers?

Allison+Partners’ Real Estate Group works with a wide range of real estate organizations, helping them to communicate to stakeholders what is being done to enhance affordability and livability in their communities. We recently hosted a reception on behalf of Bellwether Housing. In attendance were 60 of the region’s top developers, investors, contractors, brokers and architects, among other business and civic leaders, to hear from Bellwether CEO Susan Boyd about their new impact-investment opportunity.

By pulling this group together, key decision makers from across the region’s business and civic communities now have a much greater understanding of how they can help make this innovative vision a reality – collectively. 

Investing in opportunity, our neighbors and co-workers

In response to the accelerating need, Bellwether’s Building Opportunity Campaign offers socially minded, accredited investors a meaningful way to address the affordable housing challenge. Invested funds come to Bellwether and go directly into a targeted housing development. The housing financed today is preserved for future generations.

Building affordable housing costs just as much as building any other property. Bellwether is working to develop 750 new units in four buildings in the Puget Sound region to respond to the area’s increasing affordability gap. Each new development is located on the Sound Transit Light Rail line for easy and affordable transit.  

Rents continue to outpace salary growth for many. Bellwether Housing has secured $257 million through a variety public grants and non-profit partners but they need to raise an additional $9 million in private funding to fully leverage the power of the money raised to date. The private funding allows them to offer homes to a wider range of incomes and develop larger homes for families. Those who invest will receive a modest but guaranteed return on their investment over five, 10 and 15 years. But really, the idea of helping people have the security of a place to call home is a great investment.  

Here is video that provides more information.

Hamilton McCulloh is a vice president in Allison+Partners’ Real Estate Group. He has more than 20 years of experience overseeing communications, community engagement and media relations in the real estate industry.

JUNE 5, 2019 //     

For Women in PR, Challenging the Status Quo Means Letting Go

By: Anne Colaiacovo


Today I have the incredible honor of being named to PRWeek’s 2019 “Hall of Femme.” In PRWeek’s words, this distinction “honors leaders in the communications industry who challenge the status quo, move the needle in business and strive to make a difference.” As I read those words, I thought about each quality and how they relate to my career.

When I first started in the PR industry, and particularly at an agency, there were many preconceived notions about how my career would play out. Some of these were mine, while others were thrust upon me.

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I would work long hard hours (OK, I can do that!).

I would be the youngest, and often the only, woman in more rooms than I could count (Bring it on!).

I would “fake it ‘til I made it” and never dream of letting down my boss, mentor, clients or team (That pressure was exhausting!).

If I worked hard, I would be rewarded. There would be no need to negotiate or lobby (This was fine, until it wasn’t.).

As a woman, my career had an expiration date. If I wanted to have children, I would likely have to pivot and change course to “have it all.” (That was BS!)

And so many more.

As I got years under my belt, I realized the “status quo” wasn’t just doing a disservice to me. More importantly, it was doing a disservice to my teams and our industry. For me, to really challenge the status quo, I had to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone. I had to leave a job I was comfortable in and take one that scared that sh*t out of me.

I learned to trust my gut, surround myself with people smarter than me, take chances and completely let go of the fear of failure. I wasn’t just going to come to work every day – I was going to build something. 

The exciting thing about viewing my career as a way to build something – something that lasts long beyond me – was that it gave this business I always loved a meaning it never had before. Now everything I did had a ripple effect for the people coming after me. So, now, I really meant business.

But all the preconceived notions had to go.

I wasn’t just going to work hard. I was going to work smart. Now I’ve got two kids to get home to. Some days, that means getting up and working at 5 a.m. so I can be at the dance class at 4 p.m. Some days, that means going to the mat for an idea I know is going to work. Some days, that means saying no to a client or piece of business because they don’t really value PR and what we bring to the table.

Now, I may no longer be the youngest woman in the room, but I must make a place for all the young women coming up in the agency. And that is my greatest honor.

I’m incredibly lucky to work in a place where I feel like my value is known and acknowledged. But I also had to learn my own worth and ask for the roles and responsibilities I really wanted. It’s also up to me to create this same scenario for everyone. Whether that is through mentoring, overhauling our review process, throwing out and rewriting our parental leave policy, or simply diligently giving feedback and guidance.

Working at Allison+Partners for more than 10 years, I’ve been surrounded by the most creative, intelligent, strategic thinkers in the world. I’ve been lucky enough to be mentored by leaders whose vision has shown me public relations can do more to drive results than any other discipline – and that there are no limits to what we can achieve if we stick to our agency’s core values and put people first.

Now, I know I can be president and a mom. I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of creating an environment that is flexible to this, and to every day be an example to those who may still struggle with the misconceptions I used to have. I’m still “faking it ‘til I make it!” But I’ve learned stress and fear are not tied to success. I’ve learned when I’m able to let go of the fear, the anxiety and the worry, I free up room in my brain to think, and to be creative, strategic and happy.

Anne Colaiacovo is the president of North America at Allison+Partners. In addition to being inducted to PRWeek’s 2019 “Hall of Femme,” she was was named one of the outlet’s “40 Under 40” in 2014.

APRIL 9, 2019 //     

Say So: Mobility Culture: Imagine What’s Possible

Credit: iStockBy: Marcus Gamo and Lisa Rosenberg

Allison+Partners’ latest industry report, The Birth of Mobility Culture, explores the implications for brand marketers of changing definitions of transportation. The study uncovered a shift from car culture to mobility culture, one that will be driven forward by Gen Z. Senior Vice President and Automotive Specialty Group Lead Marcus Gamo introduced the new study at a communications panel with executives from Toyota, Uber and Trōv.  In this installment of “Say So,” he and agency Chief Creative Officer Lisa Rosenberg discuss what stood out, as well as the impact mobility culture may have on the future of how we get from here to there.

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Marcus: I’m still amazed at how far we’ve come so quickly in accepting and consuming new modes of transportation. I had to laugh during one of our conversations about the thought that we were warned not too long ago about the risks of getting together with a stranger you’d meet online … or getting into a car with a stranger for a ride. Now, it’s incredibly common, accepted and rewarded for using our smartphones to Uber to a bar or restaurant to meet someone you’ve only connected with through Tinder! This really does speak to a dramatic shift in our values and behavior. What really stood out to me from the study and our panel conversation was that the birth of this new culture was sparked by our youngest group of consumers – Gen Z. These consumers are placing more emphasis on “we” values, such as shared time and experiences, rather than “me” values, which have defined other generations … especially Millennials.

Lisa:  That is so funny! I remember telling my kids when they were little never to get in cars with strangers and, now that they are teenagers (and squarely Gen Z), they think nothing about hopping into an UberPool and heading to a party hosted by someone they “know” only on social. It will be interesting to see how mobility culture evolves as this generation drives it forward. I can imagine brands outside of the mobility space looking to partner with a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft as a way to capitalize on these “we” values and offer customized, branded experiences that can be shared and enjoyed with others. Who’s to say that in a few years you won’t be able to order up a “Beauty Bar Uber” so that you and a girlfriend can have your hair and makeup done while in route to a night on the town.

Marcus: I think you’re exactly right! If we look around our current mobility world today, there’s a real desire for drivers and passengers alike to rethink how they spend time on the road. The infotainment system of the past, with those in the car passively listening to music, a podcast or even taking a call, will look much more like James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke. We heard from Gen Z that they value a connection between mobility and engagement, especially with each other. If the entertainment value of the drive or ride experience is determined by the time spent with others, we can imagine the positive benefits. No longer is that drive home from work a commute. It’s a happy hour that doesn’t focus on the total time spent in the car. This may open people to the idea of moving and traveling further out from a city center, and create new communities, jobs and economic centers.  

Lisa: I think you’re on to something, especially when you consider the behaviors and preferences of Gen Z. This is a generation that’s just now entering the workforce for the first time. From what we’ve seen, they are going to flip today’s discussion of work-life balance on its head and will expect flexibility when it comes to how, when and where they work. If a commute is no longer the dreaded drag that it is for many today, we may see a generational shift away from urban centers and a return to the great outdoors. I can see it now – 20-somethings traversing the New York tri-state in the Jetson’s-like pods from my favorite television show growing up, while enjoying breakfast with friends before parachuting down to their offices’ drop zone in time for their first morning meeting. If that’s the mobility culture we’re driving towards, sign me up – it sounds like fun!

Marcus Gamo is a Senior Vice President and the agency's Automotive Specialty Group Lead and Lisa Rosenberg is the agency's Chief Creative Officer.

APRIL 5, 2019 //     

New AP Style and grammar changes: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the change

Credit: TeachingEnglishBy: Jacques Couret

You can’t teach a dog new tricks, and the same often holds true for copy editors.

We’re a critical bunch, naturally adverse to changes to grammar and style rules after decades of upholding them and acting as the last line of defense between creative copy and an audience eager to find an embarrassing error. I believe the young kids call these people “Grammar Nazis”? I digress…

So when the Associated Press Stylebook update and American Copy Editors Society Conference hit every spring, people like me clench their teeth, cross their fingers and hope the higher powers don’t mess with beloved tradition. Inevitably, they do mess with beloved tradition and set off nerdy online and intra-newsroom grammar debates I enjoy as much as a glass of Islay scotch.

For those not as inclined to such fussy academic quarreling, I present some key AP Style and English grammar changes that will make writing in your professional life much easier.

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New AP Stylebook Rules

Percent vs. % – It is now acceptable to use “%” instead of having to write out “percent.” There should be no space between the numeral and the symbol. If the percentage is less than one, place a “0” before the decimal. Correct: “A survey shows 99.9% of Allison+Partners employees agree The Beatles are the greatest rock band of all time. Who cares what the 0.1% think?”

Hyphenated race – Race designations, such as African American, Asian American, Italian American and so forth, no longer require hyphens.

Casualty/Casualties – do not use the word “casualty” or “casualties” because AP deems the word “vague and can refer to either injuries or deaths. Instead, be specific about what is meant. If authorities use the term, press for specifics. If specifics aren’t available, say so: Officer Riya Kumar said the crash resulted in casualties, but she did not know whether those were injuries or deaths.”

Cocktail – it is no longer acceptable to use the word “cocktail” to describe a mixture of drugs. It’s now proper to write “drug combination,” “drugs” or “medications.”

Suspect – do not use the word “suspect” to describe “a person of unknown identity who definitely committed a crime. In other words, don’t substitute suspect for robber, killer, rapist, etc., in describing an event, even if authorities phrase it that way. Correct: Police said the robber stole 14 diamond rings; the thief ran away. Incorrect: Police said the suspect stole 14 diamond rings; the suspect ran away. Conversely, don’t substitute robber, killer, rapist, etc., when suspect is indeed the correct word. Correct: Police arrested the suspect the next day. Incorrect: Police arrested the robber the next day.”

Grammar change from the American Copy Editors Society

Split Infinitives – In a nod to the spoken word, it is now OK to split an infinitive in professional writing. For those who took naps in English 101, an infinitive is the “to form” of the verb. To go. To eat. To sleep. The old rule was to always place an adverb after the verb and never between the “to” and the verb. An example from Star Trek: “To boldly go where no man has gone before…” is now correct. Formerly, a copy editor would have corrected that phrase to read “to go boldly.” Split infinitives are now acceptable, meaning the written word will sound better to the ear.

In a related note, most contemporary grammarians now give their blessing to end sentences with prepositions. The great Sir Winston Churchill himself once mocked someone who criticized him for ending a sentence with a preposition by saying: "That is the sort of thing up with which I will not put!"

The “never end a sentence with a preposition” rule is arbitrary. It’s a rule a British essayist popularized centuries ago based on language roots in Latin, where it is not possible to end a  sentence with a preposition. Scholarly English grammarians who wished to apply Latin rules to English (a square peg in a round hole if there ever was one) should not dictate how we write today. If we have to rewrite sentences to avoid putting prepositions at the end, it can read and sound awkward. It’s better to go with what sounds better.

These are all rules you can live easily with.

Jacques Couret is editorial manager for All Told.

APRIL 2, 2019 //     

Shouldn’t every day be Equal Pay Day?

Credit: CNN.comBy: Anne Colaiacovo

When I began my career, it was understood that men needed to make more money faster than women because men, “had different financial pressures,” or “were responsible for caring for a family” or “had certain expectations for themselves by certain ages.” The thought was that women would wait. We’d be patient, understanding… because we’re women and that’s what we’re good at, right?

Not this woman! Not the women who came before me. And, thankfully, not the women AND men ahead of me.

Today is Equal Pay Day, which the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) started in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. The date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned the previous year.

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Unfortunately for millions of women, today is still not an equal pay day. I’m grateful this hasn’t been my experience, thanks in part to my own doing and in part to the people I have chosen to surround myself with. I’ve been blessed with the luxury of choice, while most women are not.

Last week, the House Education and Labor Committee voted to advance legislation that would strengthen protections for female workers and help close the gender wage gap. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), aims to advance women’s pay by prohibiting employers from requesting salary histories and preventing them from retaliating against employees for disclosing their pay. The bill also calls for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to collect wage data based on sex, race and national origin to better determine if employers are responsible for discriminatory practices. It will next go for a vote in the Senate.

Those of us with the luxury of choice must now choose to speak for those who do not have it -- speak with our votes, speak with our actions and speak with our power.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “it will take until 2059 for women to reach pay parity if change continues at the current pace. Black women would have to wait until 2119 for equal pay, and Latina women until 2224.” We simply cannot wait that long.

In my role at Allison+Partners, I work with my partners and colleagues to ensure pay gaps do not exist at our agency. I’m proud of that, but it’s a small piece. For those of us who can, we must choose the companies we work at wisely. Ask the right questions. Do the research not just for ourselves, but for others. If employers know the best female talent in the country simply won’t work for their organizations, they will be forced to address their shortcomings.

We have the power to hold our companies responsible, to hold our industries responsible, to hold our politicians responsible and to hold ourselves responsible.

Anne Colaiacovo is President, North America at Allison+Partners.

MARCH 22, 2019 //     

The Perfection Fallacy: Four Ways to Achieve Your Career Goals That Have Nothing to Do with Being Perfect

By: Lauren Bayse and Chelsea Russo

“It’s OK not to have everything done perfectly.” If you’re like us, you’ve heard this before and you know it’s true, but it can be hard to truly believe. However, when it comes from Padma Lakshmi—producer, actress, model and host of Top Chef—you start to actually believe perhaps perfection isn’t an attainable or worthwhile goal.

The theme of perfection and how it can hinder women from “getting things done,” resonated during The Cut’s 2019 “How I Get It Done” event, which featured a roster of impressive “lady bosses,” including Robin Roberts, Aidy Bryant, Hope Solo and Maya Rudolph. All of these women agreed collectively perfection is an unfair, unproductive goal with which women burden themselves. So, the next time you find yourself obsessing over perfection at work, try obsessing over these four things instead:

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BUILD A NETWORK

Building a network of female (and male) cohorts is the most important thing you can do for your career. You can never truly know how your career trajectory will play out, so it’s important to cultivate meaningful connections wherever you can.

It’s equally important to remember building a network doesn’t mean setting up a few coffee dates to hastily compile a list of people you can ask to serve as references. Rather, networking is about finding people who appreciate and support your ambitions and passions. Natasha Lyonne and Greta Lee of Netflix’s “Russian Doll” shared their now strong and steady working relationship was born through a series of meetings and shared passion projects over time—it wasn’t built overnight. The pair’s relationship started as two women simply admiring and supporting each other’s long-term career goals.

EMBRACE UNCOMFORTABLE CIRCUMSTANCES

Change is uncomfortable, challenging and often unwanted. However, it’s also inevitable. Author A.M. Homes summed up: “[Change] is super important, because I think it gets dangerous when you become so routinized that you actually can’t do something another way.” This is particularly true for those of us in industries, like public relations, constantly impacted by technology’s evolution.

While it’s natural to react apprehensively to an organizational restructure, a new colleague or a different role, take solace that navigating change challenges everyone. Seek advice from friends and mentors, and remember there is no such thing as managing change perfectly. Be kind to yourself and know—more often than not—change is good.  

LEAN INTO YOUR STRENGTHS

It’s easy to recognize our flaws, but it’s much harder to identify and leverage our strengths. Topeka Sam, founder of The Ladies of Hope Ministries and Hope House NYC, witnessed firsthand in federal prison the disparity of incarceration on women. Realizing her affinity for community building and fundraising, she used her voice and network to advocate successfully for prison reform and help women transition out of the federal prison system.

In moments of perceived failure, it can be remarkably difficult to recognize our strengths. Lean on friends and reflect on past triumphs to help you identify the unique qualities you bring to the table. We all have strengths—it’s just a matter of finding them and acting on them.

STOP THINKING AND JUST DO

Perfection’s ability to stifle women’s career progression came up in different ways during the event. But at the day’s close, The Cut Editor-in-Chief Stella Bugbee really summed it up: “You don’t have to be perfect to set out and achieve your goals. The best thing you can do is just start doing.”

So often, as women, we feel the need to anticipate every possible outcome of our actions to avoid our own self-imposed notions of failure. This type of thinking holds us back from taking the risks necessary to get ahead in our careers. It’s easier to talk ourselves out of having difficult conversations, like asking for that promotion, instead of just going for it and seeing what happens. The next time you prepare pros and cons ahead of a big meeting or new venture, feel empowered to throw the “plan” out the window and just put the wheels in motion. Your instincts are stronger than you think.

So, here’s to saying “no” to perfection and “yes” to ambition, tenacity and empowerment. We’ll never be perfect, but we don’t need to be.

Lauren Bayse is a director and Chelsea Russo is an account manager in Allison+Partners' corporate practice.

MARCH 18, 2019 //     

Remembering My Mentor, Henri Bollinger

Embed from Getty Images


By: Scott Pansky

Starting to write something on a blank piece of paper is always the hardest place to begin. Most of us find it easier to edit than to write something from scratch. What most don’t recognize is that’s how our life begins, and we can take our directions anywhere we want to go.

I start here, because when I think about mentorship, I think of ways we are mentored, where mentorship comes from or even signals that we might miss and come back to when someone provides us counsel. Some provide you with their gut instincts, some provide you with knowledge and some tell stories about how they have learned lessons the hard way.

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When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was asked to open a public relations office for Connors Communications, the agency Scott Allison, Andy Hardie Brown, Jonathan Heit and I worked at together before Allison+Partners. I still remember my conversation with Scott when he asked me to open the office. I shared my fears of building something new, in a location that I had never lived and in a space I was not yet comfortable in. As a true friend and mentor, Scott told me not to worry, and that he would surround me with great people.

Two of those people came out from Connors’ New York office. One of those was Jonathan Heit who, today, has grown to become our company’s global president and a good friend. Another person was a gentleman named Jeffrey Bollinger. Jeffrey asked me if I had heard of his father, a famous entertainment publicist. I had not. So, he brought his dad to our office. You never know how one meeting could change your life and how being open to new opportunities can lead you down new trails. Just like the blank piece of paper, Henri asked what my goals were to build our office. I shared that we wanted to be the leading firm that helped build entertainment and tech companies as they began to transition content onto the web and other platforms, not yet knowing how mobile was ready to blast off.

Henri said he could help. He introduced me to the Entertainment Publicists Professional Society, which he had started with industry friends. Less than a year later after chairing a technology committee, I became the president of the organization. Over the next four years, I helped grow the membership from 200 people to more than 600. Networking with industry leaders, helped build a solid foundation of relationships that I still have today. Henri also introduced me to UCLA Extension, where I taught for more than 17 years in his shadow.

What I remember most about Henri’s mentorship, is his ongoing personal counsel. He was the father of three kids, and understood the balancing act of juggling work and a large family. His advice was always on mark. He never provided answers, just stories, and let his experiences help guide mine. He saw each choice as an opportunity to do something new. He inspired me greatly, contributing so much to who I am today. And through our recently established scholarship program at UCLA in his name, I know he will continue to have an impact on others for years to come.

At Allison+Partners, we recognize the importance of mentorship and developed a program many years ago that empower our team members to find peer-to-peer relationships or even outside mentorships in areas that they are passionate in. Each is a blank piece of paper waiting to be shaped and groomed for a career that can take them anywhere. I will miss Henri, as my paper is only halfway done. Yet his guidance and positivity will continue to direct me.

Scott Pansky is a co-founder at Allison+Partners. 

FEBRUARY 27, 2019 //     

Unleash Your Inner Writer: Tips for Writing in An Agency Environment

Credit: Next Avenue

By: Riley McBride Smith

In marketing and communications, writing is arguably one of the most critical skills to master. Yet, drafting messaging, a blog post, a complex press release, a speech or a byline is often just listed as another item on our to-do list rather than being recognized as a task that requires a unique environment and significantly more time.

Early on in my career, I struggled to find the time and the mind space I knew was needed to write well in the hustle of an agency environment. However, along the way, I’ve learned some best practices that have helped set me up for success.

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Don’t Rush the Process

The communications industry is fast-moving and deadlines are pretty much always ASAP. However, while some tasks can be expedited, more time should be allotted for complex writing projects. If you’re drafting a longer piece of content in 30 – 45 minutes without the opportunity to set it down and revisit, there’s a good chance it won’t be nearly as polished, thoughtful, or well-written as a piece written over several hours. Managers can help by giving writers on their teams enough lead time to tackle complex writing projects and by also weighing the time needed to complete the assignment appropriately and reallocating work as needed.

Set Aside Dedicated and Uninterrupted Writing Time

One thing that makes writing different than other tasks is the level of focus and uninterrupted time required to write. Spending ten minutes here and 15 minutes there in between calls and answering emails will lead to disjointed work that inevitably will take longer to draft. Writers will find they are much more efficient when they’re able to draft without frequent interruptions. Finding your rhythm and focus is important and so try to set aside several hours (depending on the length and type of writing project) so you can pull together a complete first draft or a full section. In our line of work, several hours of uninterrupted time will rarely emerge in your busy day, so the onus is on you to find ways to create that interrupted writing time in your schedule. Whether that means getting into the office earlier or finding a block of time in the evening, it’s important to create the environment you need to produce your best work.

Time of Day Matters

I recently attended the Digital Summit in Washington D.C. where social scientist Daniel Pink delivered a keynote inspired by his recent book “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, which provides a fascinating look at how time of day impacts cognitive function and ability. The research overwhelmingly shows that the most productive time of day for most people is in the morning. During this time of the day, people are more focused, able to ignore distractions and generally more positive and optimistic. Unfortunately, research shows that productivity begins to decline in early afternoon during what Pink calls the “trough” of your day. During this time, your mood and focus are both at all day lows and as a result, concentration and efficiency will suffer. You begin to recover later in the day and, while you won’t reach the peak of productivity you had in the morning, your mood will improve and you will become slightly more flexible, collaborative and creative. While each individual is different, keeping this in mind as you prioritize your writing projects may help. Most importantly, try to focus on what time of day YOU feel best. There is a small subset of people that are true night owls and can produce some of their best work in the evenings. (Ruth Bader Ginsburg notoriously works past midnight!) It’s up to you to find those magic hours when the writing comes easiest.

The Secret to Great Writing is Rewriting

The more you reread, redraft and refine your writing, the better it will be. Sometimes getting the first draft down on paper is the biggest challenge. Take a mental break and revisit it with fresh eyes, spend more time wordsmithing and streamlining. You may be shocked by how much your writing can improve between the first, second draft and third drafts. Also always try to pass it along to a third party, as even the best writers can benefit from an outside perspective.  

In the agency world, there are times when you won’t have the luxury of uninterrupted time to deliver great writing, but when you do, try to create an environment that will set you up for success.

Riley McBride Smith is an account director in Allison+Partners’ Washington D.C. office.

FEBRUARY 26, 2019 //     

What Influencers Wish Marketers Knew

Credit: Allison+PartnersBy: Brent Diggins

Studies about influencer marketing are often eager to dissect every detail and produce endless data on marketers, things like marketer pain points, spends or perceived effectiveness. And there are mounds of them. 

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But what about the influencers? Marketers continue to devote more spend to them and rely on their creative ability and network to produce results in this flexible and unique marketing channel. Yet, few have sat down with influencers at broad scale to uncover their opinions, particularly in context with marketer viewpoints.

To uncover more about the marketer/influencer dynamic, Allison+Partners conducted qualitative interviews of both marketers and influencers that operate in the same arenas and asked them complementary questions. The study found there was a large divide between influencers and marketers on many topics, from the length of an ideal engagement to the essential question of return on investment.

While exploring the divide with influencers, there were topics that screamed to the top. These insights are things that influencers wished marketers knew for the sake of mutual success, improvement and continued growth of the industry.

We Can Help Optimize Your Campaign

Optimization is a standard practice for most marketing channels. Not so much in influencer marketing, according the influencers surveyed. Influencers indicated that it is rare for marketers to ask for active campaign data and even more unusual that adjustments are made midstream.

It is easy for influencers to see what type of content is performing best (or not) in both numbers and by understanding the pulse of their audience. They can help marketers understand the channel mix, where to allocate resources or even what message is resonating. This leads to better outcomes.  

Longer Engagements Produce Better Results

One topic that the influencers strongly agreed upon is that longer engagements would produce better results. They believe their followers will see brand partnerships as more authentic and will become more familiar with the brand as they see it more. They also feel that micro-relationships, like one-post campaigns, are ad-like, which can discredit both the brand and influencer.

Content Lives Longer than You Realize

Many influencers provided anecdotes of high-performing content, especially on blogs, that lived long after the influencer marketing campaign ended. Examples of continued performance include content interaction, traffic generated to a website and appearance in search results.

As an opportunity, marketers could engage with the influencer to amplify that content where it lives or extend it through paid support. At the very least, reengaging past successful partners or content should be top of mind.

We Know Our Audience Better than You Can  

Often, marketers are going blindly into relationships with influencers. Influencers said that marketers rarely work with them to understand their audience and what may resonate, everything from tone to type of content. Sure, marketers may have tools to gain audience insights or more in-depth information about influencer, but influencers believe that their innate understanding of their audience, what they like and what they don’t like, is something that can only be truly understood by them.

If given the opportunity to provide deeper audience insights, influencers believe they can add great value to marketers at multiple stages, from planning to optimization.

Be Open to Changes in Your Creative Asks

If you offer no flexibility in your creative brief or campaign, you may not get the results that you want. Since influencers believe they know their audience better than anyone, they also believe that, if given flexibility in creative, they can produce better outcomes.

Many influencers bemoaned stringent creative briefs, especially those that provide canned content and copy with no room for personalization, which leads to a lack of authenticity and ultimately performance.

You Need to Ask Us for Our Opinions

Influencers believe that marketers need to learn to work outside of accustomed transactional relationships. Many insist that marketers see them only as a contractor, not a partner, and therefore rarely ask them for their opinions.

At the same time, influencers are self-admittedly bashful about sharing their unsolicited opinions. While some of this communication gap is surely a two-way issue, marketers need to understand that influencers do have useful insights to share.

Search for Authenticity

One topic that influencers strongly believe in is “authenticity.” They believe that authenticity is one of their greatest attributes and is a strong indicator of success. However, authenticity most often emerges in comments and interactions, places that marketers don’t typically look. They also believe that marketers can spot inauthentic influencers by going deeper and looking for posts with little quality interaction.

We Have Data You Probably Want

Influencers have a mine of untapped data that marketers rarely ask for. Influencers said the most requested data points are page views, reach or engagements and little else beyond. However, influencers aren’t sharing more than is asked, as they are unsure if it would be wanted or useful.

With platform analytics continuing to advance, there is more data available to influencers than ever. In addition to platform-driven data, influencers also can provide anecdotal data including messages they may have received and benchmark context.

Moving Forward as Partners

As the industry continues to invest in influencer marketing, it is time to revisit the marketer and influencer relationship. It is time to look at influencers not only as conduits, but as partners. As marketers, we must take the step forward to bridge the gaps that exist. It is our responsibility to unleash the full potential of influencer marketing. See our infographic for tips we recommend for both marketers and influencers to help bridge the gap.

Brent Diggins is the managing director of measurement + analytics at Allison+Partners, a global marketing and communications firm. 

This article was originally posted on www.ama.org

FEBRUARY 21, 2019 //     

The Stream Episode 3: Unpacking a Viral Video’s Success

By: Owen Clark


Sometimes there is a great story behind a great story. Such is the case in the third episode of The Stream podcast, which takes us the behind-the-scenes of the “shockingly successful” “Close Before You Doze” video campaign from the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI).

If you aren’t one of the 10M+ people who have already watched the video, stop what you’re doing and check it out now. It might save your life. It will also make you think twice about how a simple message and a creative approach to storytelling can spread like…well, you get the idea. 

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Fire is just the beginning of what went into the production of this officially “viral” video sensation. There are literal hurricanes, metaphorical production headwinds and a host of opportunities where the project would have gone sideways if it wasn’t for a creative team effort from everyone involved.

To tell this story properly, we switched from the Q&A format you heard in the first two podcast episodes and pivoted to an “oral history,” where we hear first-hand from folks at UL, Luntz Global and Allison+Partners who brought the video to life. By listening to what they have to say, you’ll learn about what it takes to create a viral video and what the project’s success says about the positive potential for social information sharing.

Thanks for listening, and please remember to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platforms.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play MusiciTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

FEBRUARY 8, 2019 //     

When Your Mobile Phone Can’t Help You

Credit: Your Black WorldBy: Scott Allison 

Like many people, I’m addicted to my smartphone and all the incredible things it can do. However, as a communicator and public speaker, I’ve seen firsthand how this great technological advance has impacted peoples’ ability to communicate in person. It’s now much easier to deliver stories from behind a shiny device than to stand up in public and present your point of view. And, for those who’d rather face death than face an audience, public speaking has become a lot scarier.

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I was one of those people. I had a massive fear of public speaking and, ironically, I was just launching a career in public relations. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) pointed out how it was an unfortunate career choice when public speaking would play such a significant role. Thanks.

Instead of hiding, I decided to join Toastmasters though and tackle the problem head on. It was a great chapter that met on Tuesday mornings in downtown San Diego. This was 30 years ago and some of the people in that group are still friends of mine today. We were all just starting out in our careers and recognizing the importance that public speaking would play. I gradually overcame the fear and recognized that I enjoyed speaking. I started to do it competitively, and ultimately became president of the local Toastmasters chapter.

As my career evolved, I realized I could take the skills I had learned and help others who were uncomfortable speaking. At Allison+Partners, I’ve had the opportunity to work with colleagues to assist many CEOs, filmmakers, marketing executives and even high-school students with their presentation skills. I know we’ve made a material difference in helping them find their voice, build authenticity and over-come roadblocks. I’m proud of the impact we may have made when I see people like filmmaker Peter Ramsey, who we media trained when he directed “Rise of the Guardians,” give a compelling speech after winning a Golden Globe Award last month. 

At the end of the day, technology cannot replace or even enhance one’s ability to give a powerful in-person presentation. Sometimes you must stand and deliver, and I worry the frenzy on digital and mobile platforms is detracting from building human interaction skills. I’m grateful for the time I’ve invested on my public speaking skills and I believe what I learned was essential to advancing my career, and is also important for others. Technology is amazing, but not everything can be disrupted.  People spend a lot of time focused on their “personal brand” which is largely focused online. But how about the real brand …  the brand people see when you stand up and speak?

Many, many people are still terrified of public speaking and most are doing nothing to improve these skills. However, at some point in time, almost everyone will need to stand up and deliver a presentation to colleagues, a sales target or group they’re involved with. Their mobile won’t be there to save them.

Scott Allison is the chairman and CEO of Allison+Partners

JANUARY 24, 2019 //     

Startup Roulette: Why The House Usually Wins

Credit: Don Mason / Getty ImagesBy: Scott Allison 

There’s always great anticipation when new companies with old ideas and old companies with new ideas flock to CES. Las Vegas provides the perfect backdrop to the startup community as the place where gamblers come in droves hoping and expecting to “win big” at the casino. But there’s a reason they keep building humongous new hotels and casinos there … the house almost always wins.

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The odds aren’t much better for startup companies. The failure rate is 95%, which is about the same odds you get on a roulette table. As a fellow entrepreneur who has been fortunate to study startups closely from a three-dimensional vantage point over a 20-year period, I would not want to discourage anyone. Starting and owning your own company is an amazing experience, but a reality check is also in order.

Eighteen years ago, Allison+Partners was a tiny startup that was woefully under-capitalized. Yet we were able to make it profitable in under 12 months and have delivered an astounding 6,000% growth since then. Now, we have 30 offices and more than 450 people around the globe. During our trajectory, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s best and most disruptive startups, including YouTube, Dropbox and Whatsapp, as well as many small companies that never made it. I’ve also been fortunate (or unfortunate depending on your point of view) to do some angel investing on the side.

The culmination of these experiences has given me a clear perspective on why startups are so difficult to get off the ground and why so many fail. To the brave of heart who decide to roll the dice, I offer a few nuggets of advice…   

Having more money to invest does not mean you’ll survive.

We built our company with an initial investment of $300,000. It wasn’t enough, but we made it work. We knew that as a professional services company, few outside investors would be interested and we’d have to bootstrap it on our own. But we had a clear business plan in place and were very cautious with how we invested and spent.

Entrepreneurs are optimistic by nature and always believe they could be successful if they could only raise one more round. Unfortunately, many startups raise tons of money and then waste it. I won’t ever forget working with a startup in 2000 that raised and blew $750 million. The challenge wasn’t that they didn’t have enough money. It was that they couldn’t clearly articulate what their company stood for and were constantly changing their business model. Put simply, they did not know who they were. If you’re not clear on your objectives and your business strategy is wrong, more money won’t solve the problem. 

Know who you’re selling to and if there’s a viable market. 

Seems easy, right? Wrong. I’m always amazed at how many startups haven’t done their homework and don’t understand the marketplace. Many also don’t focus on sales or fall victim to “fascination with shiny objects” – constantly changing their product or service.  

When we launched our company, the founding partners had all been in the business for 15+ years. We knew the market and how our services would resonate in the marketplace. This deep understanding, combined with our focus on investing in our core offerings, laid the foundation for our success today.

Profits matter.  

We’re all familiar with Uber and know the company isn’t yet profitable. Think you can survive the same way? Sorry, you’re not Uber. Very few companies are. You need to make money. 

The startup graveyard is littered with companies that had great ideas but couldn’t turn a profit. This theory was proven many times in the dot.com era and still persists today. Turning a great idea into a great company is not easy, which is why I’ve always admired successful entrepreneurs like Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum. They had great ideas, focused on building robust and sustainable companies and surrounded themselves with good, smart people to help bring their visions to life. They had passion, but also knew there is seldom a substitute for being profitable through both good and bad times.  

Scott Allison is the chairman and CEO of Allison+Partners.

JANUARY 9, 2019 //     

Effective media relations strategies amid the changing media landscape

By: Alexa Hershy and Ian MacDonald

In the public relations industry, media relationships are important to secure earned media stories that add business value for clients. We consistently take out editors, pitch our clients and build important, lasting relationships. But beyond standard relationship-building practices, how do we elevate our company and relationships in unique ways as editorial staffs continue to shrink and face-to-face time increasingly diminishes?

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As the landscape continues to shift rapidly – print editions closing, frequent editor moves, etc. – it’s critical to hear directly from the source on a regular basis to learn how we can most effectively work with our key media contacts.

Cue the launch of Allison+Partners’ Media Maven Panel, an initiative developed in fall 2018 with Allison+Partners’ unique entrepreneurial spirit in mind to offer employees at all levels direct access to coveted media we frequently work with. The first panel’s theme, “Media 101,” presented an incredible opportunity to hear from three top-tier editors about how PR professionals can shine with a strong aptitude of media relations basics.

We hosted the below editors in our NYC office for an engaging discussion:

  • Amy Marturana, SELF senior fitness editor
  • Kerry Flynn, Digiday marketing reporter
  • Mike Murphy, Quartz deputy technology editor

We purposefully recruited editors from three different verticals (lifestyle, marketing, tech) to get a well-rounded perspective on best practices. We covered all things media – from a day-in-the-life, to the stories they’re most passionate about and the qualities they most respect in their favorite PR practitioners.

The Media Maven panel success is two-fold – we learn directly from editors excited to share best practices that, in turn, make our working relationship much stronger. And it’s a fantastic relationship-building opportunity, unique to our company. Hosting editors in our office gives them a special inside look at the Allison+Partners culture – another incredibly special differentiator to our agency and an energy and enthusiasm felt immediately upon entering one of our offices. 

Stemming from the panel, we walked away with three key learnings that can help any PR professional break through the pitching clutter:

Do your research – While this might seem obvious, not everyone does it (especially when on a tight deadline). Know the publication you pitch, what it covers/what it doesn’t and how your client most strategically fits in. Editors appreciate when you pitch them specific sections that prove you’ve done your research and know the publication or call out an article you’ve recently read and liked. Also, if an editor has just covered a topic, don’t pitch them on the same story. Doing your research also means knowing the editors’ beat and if they report for the print or online version – this of course informs their reporting timeframe and deadlines.

When to pitch, when not to and how-to follow-up appropriately –  Editors receive an influx of pitches between the 9-10 a.m. hour. When possible, try to pitch outside this timeframe so your note doesn’t get lost. Also – avoid addressing multiple editors in one email. This often creates a bystander effect, and no one ends up responding. It’s more impactful to address the one editor that’s the best fit. When not to pitch? Right before a holiday (stories are typically already baked, they’re not starting anything new), before a life event (i.e. if an editor is getting married) and avoid the weekends. Regarding follow-up, all editors said: “Do not call!” According to the editors, the only appropriate time to call is when you’re offering a publication an exclusive with a tight deadline. Otherwise, follow-up via email with a maximum of two emails. Pro-tip – when following up, consider reframing the angle of your initial pitch to appeal to the editor in a fresh way.

Relationship building is critical, so invest in it – Again, something that might seem obvious, but it needs to continue to be a top priority for PR practitioners. Relationship building is important beyond securing placements for clients. It makes the editor more comfortable to share candid feedback (which our clients always appreciate!). Some editors might avoid transparency when it comes to candid feedback if they don’t know you. When setting up meetings, ask what’s most convenient for that specific editor – everyone’s schedule and preference is different. Some might only have time for a morning coffee where others are more open to lunch or after work drinks/activities. Not in the same market as a key editor? No worries. Nowadays, editors are often open to building relationships via social media or email. Comment on an Instagram you thought was interesting or flag a story you loved over email. If you notice an editor is visiting in your market, reach out to make plans. Editors will appreciate the effort.

In 2019, we look forward to hosting additional Media Maven panels across the network in different offices and markets – ensuring we’re always up-to-date on our media relations knowledge and putting forward the most thoughtful, and impactful media strategies. Because, ultimately, it’s about the work.

Alexa Hershy and Ian MacDonald are account directors in Allison+Partners’ NYC office, specializing in media relations across the consumer and technology industries.

DECEMBER 7, 2018 //     

AI drives tech in China: Dispatches from the “Saudi Arabia of Data”

Credit: CNBC.comBy: Paul Mottram

As trade tensions between the United States and China dominate economic news, the world’s second-largest economy has accelerated in terms of tech. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the engine, and data is the fuel. And China has become, quite simply, the Saudi Arabia of data.

Those were the sentiments of Chinese and international tech leaders and investors who gathered at CNBC’s East Tech West conference at the Nansha new economic zone of Guangzhou in late November to investigate and discuss the outlook for China’s tech sector.

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A series of speakers illuminated the reasons why. The Chinese consumer is the hero. Consumer spending now represents almost 66 percent of GDP -- a huge shift from the country’s traditionally investment-dominated economy. Consumers are also young, accepting of technology and increasingly demanding. Central, provincial and local governments actively support innovation. And there’s a critical mass of tech talent, both entering the workforce and returning from overseas.

AI as enabler

Alibaba Chief Machine Intelligence Scientist Wanli Min described AI and cloud technologies as the “twin turbo drive engine” of the new Chinese economy.

Take urban transportation, for example. China’s dominant ride-hailing service Didi handles more than 30 million trips every day, which in turn generates more than 100 terabytes of data. Didi not only has the data to plan trips in real time, but also claims to accurately forecast traffic patterns 15-30 minutes in advance. Meanwhile, a system pioneered by Alibaba controls traffic signals in the city of Hangzhou and reduces average ambulance arrival times by 48 percent.

Another example includes cutting-edge software development accompanied by hardware. New 5G mobile infrastructure enables the low latency necessary for effective autonomous driving applications, while AI-enabled chipsets allow vision systems to increase simultaneous recognition from around 20 discrete objects to more than 100.

This kind of technology and experience favorably positions Chinese companies to extend their reach overseas. As one AI company CEO pointed out, driving is rules-based. And if systems can be developed for relatively relaxed – in other words, unpredictable – societies, they will have fewer problems in more orderly places like Europe and North America.

“If you can do autonomous driving in India, you can do it anywhere,” he said.

Retail, banking and healthcare

In addition to transportation, tech-enabled transformation is also increasingly happening across other sectors in China.

Events, such as the annual Singles Day, have already brought Chinese e-commerce to the world’s attention. But speakers at East Tech West talked mostly about completing the retail system to encompass developments in payment and logistics and transforming shopping as we know it. While technologies, such as facial recognition, may appear to give retailers new, tailored sales opportunities, the ultimate power in the retail relationship will shift to consumers on the one hand and manufacturers on the other. Salespeople will act as mediators, but stores themselves will be simply showrooms and warehouses.

Similar fundamental shifts have begun in consumer banking. As Yang Qiang of Tencent’s WeBank pointed out, “on the Internet, everyone is a VIP customer.” He predicted banking is not so much being disintermediated as much as being more integrated into people’s lives.

“Banking will be like oxygen,” he said. “In your pocket, in your home and in your car.”

China’s healthcare system is one sector speakers agreed is most ripe for innovation. With more than 8 billion annual healthcare visits in China, that’s a lot of pain points – literally and figuratively. Machine learning and AI play a significant role. One smartphone picture of your eye can be used to diagnose more than 1,000 vision conditions and disorders. And as more data is gathered, the more effective the system will be.

Desensitizing data

In healthcare as with financial services, a key recurring concept was the “desensitizing” of data, whereby useful personal information collected by big-data systems is effectively separated from the identity of the user. While the topic of government access to data was studiously avoided by speakers and interviewers alike, there was clear recognition of the need for privacy and trust in the commercial world.

Overall, two days of presentations painted a picture of optimism and opportunity backed up with concrete examples of innovation impacting people’s lives now. Macroeconomic headlines and geopolitical realities weren’t ignored, but it will clearly take more than a trade war to stop the Chinese tech juggernaut.

Paul Mottram is managing director of All Told, Asia Pacific.

NOVEMBER 26, 2018 //     

Is #GivingTuesday just a forced fundraising moment?

Credit: Good360By: Scott Pansky

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the U.S. and major shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. This movement kicks off the charitable season, when many people focus on their end-of-year giving.

However, as the day draws near, my email box is again filling up with requests for donations, and I can’t help but question some of the organizations that only use this strategy to participate once a year. Am I just another name in a data base? Wouldn’t it be a better to reach out more often and build a deeper relationship with your donors rather than competing with numerous causes for year-end donations?

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Don’t get me wrong, #GivingTuesday has helped charities raise more than $300 million dollars since its inception, but this effort now feels like a charity requirement – a box to be checked – rather than an opportunity to build deeper, authentic relationships with donors. I even received an email from GoFundMe.com asking me to select my favorite nonprofit and invite my friends and family to give to my favorite cause #GivingTuesday.

Having worked with charities for more than 26 years, I want to take this holiday season to remind them, and those making donations, the importance of building long-term and engaging relationships and promoting an organization’s impact year-round. Here are some tips for nonprofits to consider when participating in post #GivingTuesday this year and next:

  • Share the impact of your funding efforts, not just money raised, but how the funds were usede. how many meals were served, how many scholarships were awarded, research grants distributed, gallons of water secured, services provided.
  • Don’t always ask for donations. Utilize your database (with opt-in or out options) to share your best stories. This can include testimonials from patients or families impacted by an issue, research findings, or stories of success.
  • Thank your donors often. Each donation, no matter the size is a gift. Donors want to feel appreciated and know that their gift is making a difference. Show them your appreciation and let them know they are an important part of your organization i.e. donor spotlights.
  • Ask them to share your organization’s results with friends and associates. Each of your donors are micro-influencers that can help you raise additional funds if they love your organization.
  • Give donors the chance to share their stories. Ask them to post to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram sites. Their followers may start following your cause too.

One example of an organization that is optimizing #GivingTuesday is one of our clients, Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA). The charity realized over the past few years it had received numerous donations, yet strong recognition systems were not supported on crowdfunding platforms to recognize the new donors on an ongoing basis. This year, PWNA adjusted its campaign to focus on public education and lead generation by asking donors to register for a chance to win a grand prize drawing, in addition to a "soft ask" for donations. Online visitors now have different ways to sign up for targeted or regular updates and can donate through a gift or purchase of a T-shirt branded for Native American Heritage Month, which is also in November. The charity segues their Heritage Month Campaign into #GivingTuesday via an update to registrants on #GivingTuesday that includes an additional soft ask. Samples of their campaign components may be viewed here.

These types of efforts will not only help deepen relationships, but may also increase your reach and donations, making the final impact more about the good work you do more than a once-a-year donation request. Start this #GivingTuesday and let’s see what responses you get next year.

Happy holidays!

Scott Pansky is a co-founder at Allison+Partners, who also leads the agency’s Social Impact group.

NOVEMBER 19, 2018 //     

With midterms over, does healthcare get to retake the test?

Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

By: Brian Feldman

Healthcare was the No. 1 political issue voters cited in last week’s midterm elections. The results are in, and it’s clear voters remain unhappy.

For the first time since the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was passed, voters decided to target the Republican party to express their frustrations. Even after recounts in California, Georgia and Florida, the message remained clear: voters believe healthcare costs too much, we need to protect people with pre-existing conditions and, although we do not love what we have, the good news is we are still moving forward. Aside from that general sentiment, what did the election really mean for healthcare in the United States?

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The government share of the market will grow, but there are incredible opportunities to provide services and products to government markets.

Voters in red states, such as Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, passed ballot measures to expand Medicaid and Kansas elected a new Democratic governor who is likely to do the same. Many of the new enrollees will be people who have never had insurance before; therefore, many of these states will ask the private sector to compete for these patients. In addition, all the government payers, such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration, will seek new ways to save money and provide better care. The private sector will have unlimited opportunities to market new ideas, products and services to these agencies. With the aging of our population and growing number of people having coverage, the healthcare market is an unlimited opportunity.

A wholesale takeover of healthcare via “Medicare for All” or a single-payer system isn’t happening any time soon but….

This issue won’t disappear. Numerous polls show voters of all types, especially young people, are open to the idea of the government being the payer for healthcare. Polls also show people under 65 favor being allowed to join the Medicare program. While costs estimates are widely disputed and the tax consequences are still unknown, insights prove this issue is going to be the subject of much debate. In fact, most of the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates support “Medicare for All.”

The 2020 presidential campaign began last Wednesday, and the constant media attention about the 2020 election will include lots of discussion around this topic. The Medicare program has a very high approval rating, so labeling something “Medicare for All” sure seems like a popular way to approach this issue. In addition, some candidates will propose variations of this idea, such as a buy-in for those over 55 years of age, adding fuel to the fire.

In conclusion, the question remains: Can anything get done?

Drug pricing is one area where both President Donald Trump and the Democrats seem to want to focus their efforts. But given the president’s unpredictable behavior, it’s difficult to say whether he would follow through on any of his proposals. However, if he sees it as a political winner, especially with seniors, action is possible. 2018 marked the first election in decades where Democrats got the same share of the senior vote as Republicans, so it’s likely both sides will try to figure out ways to court this high-turnout segment of the population. For companies trying to get a message out about what they do or sell in the healthcare marketplace, the best advice is to stick to script, deliver value and take advantage of the opportunities our never-ending healthcare debate may provide.

Brian Feldman is a partner, general counsel and co-leads the agency’s healthcare practice.

OCTOBER 31, 2018 //     

The Stream Podcast Episode 2: Inside the Twitch Matrix

Credit: TwitchBy: Owen Clark

We’re back! After an extended hiatus due to client commitments and crazy travel schedules, the Stream Podcast returns with Episode 2 -- a look inside the world of the streaming service Twitch.

There are a lot of reasons to be fascinated by the world of Twitch. There’s the explosive user growth, the massive dollars streamers rake in, the democratization of content creation and even the way the platform reflects how we connect as humans in today’s “anxiety ridden” digital age (more on that from Micah in the episode).

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My favorite thing about Twitch is the bright line that exists between users and non-users. Go ahead and ask somebody if they have heard of Twitch and you will find they are either way in, to the point that it has become a main course in their media consumption diet. Or they have never used it, don’t understand it and are openly incredulous about the very idea of people watching other people play video games. It’s sort of like Fight Club, to borrow another movie analogy, but if Fight Club was operated by one of the largest and most well-known companies in the world and everyone who participated wore branded purple hoodies.

For the podcast, we wanted to offer something for both types of Twitch audiences: a beginner’s guide for those who aren’t among the initiated and a deeper dive into the future of the platform for streamers who already have their Bob Ross Emotes on lock.

Lending their insight on the episode is Newsweek Writer Steven Asarch, whose excellent primer on the platform is a must-read for anyone interested in the Twitch world. Also along for the ride is our colleague and Twitch super fan Mark DeRutte, who among other things offers an entrée into some of the other interesting things happening on the platform that don’t involve video games. Hint: There are shaving-cream-covered, ear-shaped microphones involved.

Thanks for listening and please remember to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platforms. We promise future episodes will be delivered to your feed at more regular intervals.


The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play MusiciTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

The Stream

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