PR Industry Trends

A look back: brands and their misbehaving spokespeople

The chaos surrounding the Rio Olympics subsided for a time as countries around the world celebrated the incredible feats of their athletes. Records were broken, medals were won, and all was well and good.

And then, Ryan Lochte.


You’ve probably heard the tale of one Olympic swimmer misrepresenting his actions, and their repercussions, at a gas station in Rio. Lochte issued an apology for his behavior, but that didn’t stem the tide of growing negative perception surrounding the event. Nor did it stop companies for which he was a spokesperson from severing their ties with the controversy-embroiled swimmer.

Four major sponsors ended their relationship with Lochte earlier this week, including Speedo: “While we have enjoyed a winning relationship with Ryan for over a decade and he has been an important member of the Speedo team, we cannot condone behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for,” Speedo said in its statement. “We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience.”

With today’s information age, it’s clear that companies are quicker to cut ties with spokespeople for misbehavior – Lochte’s sponsors took around a millisecond


Why Everything Tastes Better on Vacation (and what that means for your brand)



We’ve all had that moment.

While on vacation you eat or drink something that is so transcendentally delicious, it instantly ranks among the best things you’ve ever had. The pleasure is so deep and complete it’s like your taste buds are hard-wired to your very soul. “Do I detect a hint of fresh mint, or is that MDMA? Either way, I want more.”

So you buy up as many cases as you can get through customs, or obsessively hunt down the recipe to recreate it a home. But, despite your best efforts, it’s never quite the same. Sure, it’s good, but it’s not as good as you remember it.

What’s going on here? A temporary insanity of the taste buds?

Well, sort of.

Consider this: In 2008, a group of neuroscientists in California conducted an experiment that shed new light onto how we taste. Twenty volunteers were strapped into an fMRI scanner and given samples of wine. Among them were tastes from a “$10” bottle and a “$90” bottle that, in reality, were the exact same wine. It should come as no shock that the…

Higher Education

Wait… We Do Need Stinkin’ Badges?

Digital badge from Anne Arundel Community College.Digital certificates and badges are taking off in higher education as working millennials seek alternatives to full-blown degrees to demonstrate specialized skills to employers.

Younger workers, immersed in social media, are comfortable with the gamification aspect of collecting and displaying digital credentials, reports University Business’s Matt Zalaznick, and colleges are obliging.

Since launching a digital badging program a year ago, Stony Brook University on Long Island, for example, has awarded 130 badges to higher ed administration and HR management professionals. Earned badges are posted to an internal online platform, says Zalaznick, and students can then add them to a resume or to social media profiles, such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Clicking on the badges reveals details about the skills they represent.

Another, Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland, has built its badging system to meet workforce needs, awarding hundreds to students who have demonstrated specific skills that local employers want.

The University Professional and Continuing Education Association finds that nearly two-thirds of higher ed institutions cite alternative credentialing as an important strategy for the future, and that one in five colleges today issue badges.…

PR Industry Trends

What Do Fast Food and Fitness Have in Common?

mcdonalds-fitnessjpg-f15cbfbf9ee7ff97Two days before they were pulled, McDonald’s announced that they would be including fitness trackers in every Happy Meal sold in the United States and Canada. The “step-it” activity trackers were not as fancy as Fitbit devices, but they came in loud colors and blinked slowly or quickly depending on a child’s activity. The fact that the trackers were easy to use, and even easier to get, made them very appealing. They didn’t require multiple visits to collect pieces to win a prize. I know my 3 year old would love to see a light blink every time he jumped on the couch. The announcement of the devices coincided with the Olympic Games. If you have watched any Olympic coverage, you can’t miss that McDonald’s is a huge sponsor of the games. Plus, I am sure you have seen the photos of the athletes chowing down on burgers in the Olympic village. I give McDonald’s marketing kudos on this initiative that tied in their sponsorship with the Happy Meal fitness trackers – even if it lasted only two days. As expected, the McDonald’s fitness trackers have received a lot of…

PR Industry Trends

Cachaça, Don’t Call it Rum: Learn More About Brazil’s National Spirit 

With temps nearing 100 degrees, a West Village bar invites patrons in for Caipirinhas

Brazil possesses a unique style that effortlessly excites all the senses. We see it in the graceful footwork of Brazilian soccer players shimmying around in bright uniforms. We hear it in the jazzy sounds of Bossa Nova. We feel it as we watch Samba dancers in their exotic costumes. We smell it in the flame-broiled churrasco and chimichurri slowly cooking inside cast-iron skillets. With all of that excitement and flavor, it’s no mystery that Brazil’s staple alcoholic beverage, cachaça, holds that same elegant yet unpretentious fashion and charm. That is what you taste when you sip cachaça, pronounced ka-SHAH-sa, a product of denomination that is typically exclusive of Brazil.

Many call it the Brazilian rum, but that’s pretty far from true. In spite of having a similar “DNA”, rum and cachaça are produced with great differences in method, origins, and flavors. Yes, they’re both derived from sugarcane but the cachaça of Brazil and rum of the Caribbean are not the same spirit.

not rum

Cachaça is a spirit distilled from fermented sugarcane juice, where sugar may be added only up to six grams…


Olympians – They’re Just Like Us

If you’ve been watching this year’s Olympics (or just reading the news), you’ve likely seen a few athletes with dark red/purple spots on their bodies. Earlier this week, superstar-Olympian Michael Phelps entered the pool with those large, dark circles on his shoulders and back; and so, the questions began. It’s called cupping. But what is it, and how much do we really know about what seems to be the latest trend?

Cupping is an ancient therapy that dates back nearly 2,000 years and has mostly been used in Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Many people have never heard of it before, and now it’s got us all in a frenzy trying to figure it out. Athletes use it as a healing therapy that consists of having round glass suction cups placed on the sore parts of their body. The cup creates a partial vacuum, which is believed to stimulate muscles and blood flow, while relieving pain.

Most of the world saw Phelps’ cupping marks for the first time this week, but turns out he’s actually been practicing the treatment for at least a year. So does it hurt? Here’s a quick look at Phelps’

Measurement & Analytics

Data Visualization: What Makes a Great Infographic?

data-visualization_newsletter-imageCorporate America is facing a challenge: Data is becoming more readily accessible while executives are becoming less so. Data Visualization is engaging and it helps us understand the data’s significance. That’s why infographics are an increasingly popular way to quickly share critical information.

Most of us (65%) are visual learners1. An infographic efficiently communicates large amounts of data in a universal manner. Transforming raw numbers into visual elements also enables analysts to approach the data creatively. They can build a story that ultimately leads to true insights.

Why aren’t more companies, especially research firms which frequently deal with large amounts of data, using more infographics? Many are. They’re just not doing it very well.

Data Visualization is deceptively intuitive; because it is graphical, it is often dismissed as easy or common. In reality, a good infographic requires knowledge-base in both data analysis and basic design concepts. Companies without design expertise are often tempted to simply use clipart next to a chart or text. Worse, some companies create graphics so cluttered that the messages of the data are lost.
Infographic 101
To make an infographic successful, start with your message:

  • What do you

PR Industry Trends

Food Fight: Why Label Bashing is Bad for Everyone

I’m here to hold an intervention. No, not that one! I’m talking about the one around the controversial GMO bill. Earlier this week the President signed national GMO labeling legislation. Vermont, which recently enacted their own GMO labeling rules stated it will stop enforcing that law, which has already changed the way major brands are doing business. As the final rules are negotiated over the next two years, fiery rhetoric from both sides can be expected, but another side of the GMO labeling debate is emerging.

Dan Charles of All Things Considered described an experiment he recently conducted outside of Whole Foods showing customers two different cartons of eggs. One had the USDA Organic seal and the other had the Non-GMO Project seal. Some consumers struggled to define the difference, but both seals delivered positive sentiment. Ultimately most opted for the less expensive non-GMO certified eggs. The future of the Non-GMO label is unclear in light of the recent legislation, but with all the GMO talk, it is at the forefront of decision making for many. With non-GMO labeled food growth outpacing certified organic, some organic…


How to Lose Sales…on Purpose: A Lesson From the Canadian Tobacco Industry

Credit: Smoke-free Canada

On a recent trip to Canada, I had the privilege of exploring Niagara Falls, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. It’s always exciting to explore a new place and, that being said, I expected some cultural differences. Prior to my trip, I knew Canada had a different healthcare system than that of the U.S., but I quickly learned that the health differences didn’t end there.

While in Toronto, my brother pointed out an empty cigarette carton on the ground – completely taboo from anything I’d ever seen before. On it was a photo of an older woman hooked up to an oxygen tank, with a short story about how smoking gave her emphysema and led to her lungs collapsing four times. The picture took up so much of the box that the brand of cigarettes was the very last thing I noticed. If you work in communications or public relations, this would typically be a nightmare, but I couldn’t help but admire the angle Canada is taking to send a message and how it may be benefiting their overall health goals.

Upon further digging, I found that…

PR Industry Trends

Planning to Post Socially for a Brand this Olympics? Read This First


I love the Olympics, and although the games in Rio have already been beset in controversy, I’ll be watching them, like many, through more channels than ever before. The U.S. Men’s basketball team has already been broadcasting exhibition games on Facebook Live. NBC, who spent a few bitcoins for exclusive broadcast rights to the Olympics, is now partnering with Facebook and Instagram for exclusive video content, social influencers, and Snapchat, this will be a “Social Olympics” like never before. The games have been facing new media challenges through history. Most Americans saw the historic feats of Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin games in movie theaters and read about them in newspapers. More recently competition schedules in Beijing were reworked for live television coverage in the west. Many new rules for social media were first implemented during the London games, and have been refined. It got to the point where some wondered what clothing with brand logos they could even wear to official venues.

Twitter @emmajcoburn

Twitter @emmajcoburn

Many brands are…