Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Colors of Corporate America

In 2003, Wired Magazine looked at the colors of corporate America and found that red and blue dominated.

Another survey was undertaken recently by the COLOURlovers blog, which found that blue is the dominant color when it comes to the top 100 web-based brands, followed by red (see above).

Lots of these leading web brands were created by their founders themselves … with little to no research into the impact that their choice of color would have on brand perception. For example, when asked why he chose blue for his site design, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, said, "I'm color blind, it's the only color I can see." Today 500 million or so Facebook users “stare at a mostly blue website for hours each week.”

Another interesting factoid: top brands within categories tend to use similar color palettes.

Technorati Tags: Corporate America,Wired Magazine ,COLOURlovers blog , communications, public relations, business, Makovsky

Monday, September 27, 2010

PR Lessons Learned from 25 Years of Crisis Work

Stephen Dishart, former long-time head of communications for Swiss Re, a global reinsurer, and now executive director of Blue Ocean Institute, addressed the Makovsky team on key PR lessons he has learned in 25 years of crisis management experience. They include the following:
• “A recent publication featured psychological tips and tricks for communications executives dealing with crises. This is ridiculous! All you need to do is tell the truth.”
• “The problem with journalism today is the massive number of journalist departures – so that you are constantly re-educating…painful during a crisis.”
• “Simplest rule: you are never off the record. I wish Stanley McChrystal (Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan) had remembered that.”
• “When there are acquisitions, there will always be people cut – and thus you will inevitably get bad press.”
• “What is the primary thing BP did wrong? Giving estimates in gallons lost per day: 5000...a number that was continually revised and disputed. Rule: Never give a number – always say ‘we can’t get that information’ –and let your experts make an assessment.”
• “Stay on message. If the official comment is ‘this is a personal matter’ and there is nothing more to be said, don’t let the press lead you astray by asking the same questions six different ways.”
• “It is better for CEOs to be fired than for their companies to go down the tubes (e.g. Tony Hayward.”
• “There’s no need to answer questions relating to what a former CEO said or did. Just say ‘he is no longer with the firm.’”
• “About the HP/Hurd/Oracle crisis: Ultimately a company (Hewlett Packard) has to behave well.”

Technorati Tags: Stephen Dishart,Swiss Re,Blue Ocean Institute, communications, public relations, business, Makovsky

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Value of an Apology

Well-timed thoughtful apologies to consumers when a company recognizes it has done something wrong are not a dime a dozen. If the apology is perfunctory, an afterthought months or weeks after the adverse event occurs and without a timeline for change, it may be wasted.

But here is one from the Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer for Pacific Gas & Electric, Helen Burt, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal on September 7th. She admitted that the utility “made mistakes” in how it … handled its massive deployment of 9.3 million gas meters. “We approached it as a roll out of infrastructure.”

She said the utility failed to understand the depth of skepticism about the need for new technology, privacy concerns with transmitting data wirelessly, as well as fear, in some quarters, about possible health effects from wireless radio transmissions.

While a recent California Public Utilities Commission Report showed that meters are actually performing as they should, it is obvious that better communications with utility customers can only help the key relationship upon which utilities depend and the reputation of the business in general.

Technorati Tags: consumer, Pacific Gas & Electric, California Public Utilities,The Wall Street Journal, communications, public relations, Makovsky

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Statement That Needs More Publicity

The past few weeks have been disturbing ones — what with all the media furor surrounding the “ground zero mosque,” attacks and vandalism on other mosques across the country and the hateful proposal by the pastor of an obscure church in Florida to burn Korans.

In the midst of all this, I read an op-ed by Nancy Gibbs in TIME magazine about a speech made by John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1960 — 50 years ago and before he was elected president. I found a copy of that speech and it truly communicates what needs to be everyone’s position on Freedom of Religion. Here’s an excerpt:

“Because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured … so it is apparently necessary for me to state once again — not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute … and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

“For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been -- and may someday be again -- a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you -- until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril.

“Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end, where all men and all churches are treated as equals, where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice, where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind, and where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, at both the lay and the pastoral levels, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.”

This is the kind of statement that needs more publicity. That is the kind of America in which I believe.

Technorati Tags: Time Magazine , Nancy Gibbs, John F. Kennedy , communications, public relations, Makovsky

Thursday, September 16, 2010


That is a truism. But never has it been more true than with the Time Magazine (9/13) cover story: “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” What unfolds inside does not support the contention on the cover.

My conclusion: “You can sell a book by its cover.“ This is sensationalism at its worst – a desperate attempt to sell magazines in an era when images of death and destruction have become commonplace in the media.
The cover headline implies nonchalance toward peace – if it happens, it happens and if not, not. War would be ok too. You can ignore current events.

This is a shocking position when conflict in the Middle East is one of the world’s major concerns. But turn to the beginning of the story – and the tune changes dramatically: the subhead summarizes what you are really going to read about: “Israelis feel prosperous, secure – and disengaged from the peace process…”

The story explains that the Israelis are weary. That is understandable. They have been through multiple iterations of peace talks which have failed (regardless of whose fault it was). Israel is now among the few robust economies in the world, and Israelis are indulging in the pleasure it brings. Perhaps it is escapism. Call it what you will. The story reflects that, for Israelis, life goes on.

There was no survey that proved the cover point, only one from 2007 which said that 95% of Israelis are happy. The magazine only quoted a condo salesman who pointed out the indifference toward war or peace: “They don’t care. They live in the day.”

Things get real at the end. The last subhead: “Involved, Like it or Not.” The last line quotes a resident: “Ignore the peace talks? It’s impossible. You can’t do that. You’d have to live in a bubble.”

Technorati Tags: Time Magazine , Israel, Middle East, communications, public relations, Makovsky

Monday, September 13, 2010

Older Adults: Latest Data on Social Media Usage

It’s official. Grey hair is no barrier to social networking online. While use of the social media has grown exponentially among all Americans, it has nearly doubled among internet users ages 50+ (to 42% from 22% in just the past year), according to data just released from the Pew Research Center.

The most impressive growth (since September 2005) continues in the 18-29 age bracket; but among adults aged 50-64, social media use has grown from a measly 5% in ’05 to 47% in May 2010 and, in the 30-49 age group, from 7% to 61%.

So for companies who are wondering if decision makers, often in the 35-60 age range, are being influenced by services such as Facebook and Twitter, you now have your answer.

Technorati Tags: Americans, social media, Pew Research Center, Facebook, Twitter, communications, public relations, business, Makovsky

Thursday, September 09, 2010


With Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, upon us, my recent visit to Copenhagen’s Danish Resistance Museum is top of mind.

There were not only the challenges of religious freedom and Jewish survival in the period of 1940-45 in Denmark during the Nazi occupation, but the difficulties facing those in the resistance movement as they endeavored to communicate with each other and motivate support among the Danish population, in the face of limited freedom of speech and the press.

I discovered that there were some 20 to 30 publications — monthly and weekly underground newspapers and newsletters — that were circulated among several hundred thousand Danes. One of the early publications, Frit Danmark (“Free Denmark”), a joint venture of the Communists and Conservatives (it is rare for the interests of those two groups to coincide), was a monthly printed on a press hidden in a nail factory. It was soon supplemented by a weekly newsletter. Prior to such publications, illegal flyers and chain letters were used to communicate.

In the Spring of 1944, the resistance movement conducted several propaganda actions in cinemas, according to the Museum. Films were interrupted and proclamations played from a record. Sometimes satirical slides were shown.

The purpose of all of these channels was “to communicate underground news and foster an understanding among the Danish population of the resistance movement,” according to Museum commentary. After working in communications, many resistance workers went on to hold other major jobs in the movement.

The goal of the resistance movement was to preserve Danish freedoms and its way of life. The number of Danish Nazis was low before the war and remained low throughout the occupation. The resistance grew in strength and was, of course, ultimately victorious.

Technorati Tags: Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year, Danish Resistance Museum, Denmark, Danish Nazis, communications, public relations, business, Makovsky

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Global CEOs: On Reputation

The fact that consumers are seeking more value in this economic environment is not news. The fact that so many U.S. CEOs feel that corporate reputation is more important than ever before is also not news.

But the fact that 64% of CEOs -- throughout the world -- recognize that consumers perceive value in a company’s reputation is indeed news. So says a global survey conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers of nearly 1200 CEOs in 50 countries, which was published in January 2010, and I just happened upon.

Specifically, 64% of CEOs are sensing a shift in consumer preferences to associate with environmentally and socially responsible businesses: ”They perceived value in a company’s reputation.” The study also noted that 60% of CEOs expect consumers will play a more active role in product development, a trend represented by open source computing and social networks – another dimension of value perceived by consumers.

Technorati Tags: consumers, CEO, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, reputation, communications, public relations, business, Makovsky