November 9, 2016
Is there a full moon or is this a brand new media frontier? It is both and regardless of whether you are a student of PR or a veteran PR professional, buckle up because the ride is going to get bumpy. The media landscape that we know today, has been forever and dramatically changed and will never be the same.
The U.S. presidential election is just the beginning.
According to this morning’s New York Times, “All the dazzling technology, the big data and the sophisticated modeling that American newsrooms bring to the fundamentally human endeavor of presidential politics could not save American journalists from yet again being behind the rest of the country.” The story continues, “The shift was profound, as mainstream media organizations scrambled to catch the bus that had just run them over.” Perhaps CNN’s John King illustrated the conundrum most poetically, again in the Times story, “John King of CNN proclaimed to his huge election night audience that during the previous couple of weeks, ‘We were not having a reality-based conversation, given the map he had before him, showing Mr. Trump with a clear opportunity to reach the White House.’ ”
We saw missteps, fake news and to use CNN’ Brian Stelter’s term, “a blizzard of misinformation.” The quantity and velocity of bad information was remarkable along side of the scary trend of false information going out faster than the facts.
Look at Fox News’ story about the supposed indictment of Hillary Clinton, which turned out to be false – an apology rightfully followed, but soon enough?
And even though Twitter can’t seem to find a buyer, it played a critical role in the election both good and bad. The Republican nominee used this outlet as his messenger of choice, but along side of that, were fierce unacceptable Tweets that were often ugly and racist. This perpetuated the reality that to correct messages or wrongful information, the rule of thumb is five seconds, not five minutes.
The public is now playing a very real role in making news – creating a new network for story distribution via live streaming. And in doing so, this new genre of “news producers” may regurgitate falsehoods. The media was slow to catch up and correct those falsehoods pointing to the very real need for more fact checking earlier. The news atmosphere was and remains chaotic.
Cable TV needs to figure out the role of partisans with a paycheck e.g. Donna Bazile and Corey Lewandowsky? This kind of commentating needs a clear review. Cable TV can’t look like it is buying inside information.
The election cycle was brutal on traditional newspaper staffs, though the bright side of that part of the story is that online newspaper subscriptions are up – but will that continue?
The New York Times laments this past Sunday:
“The election news bubble that’s about to pop has blocked from plain view the expanding financial sinkhole at the center of the paper-and-ink branch of the news industry, which has recently seen a print advertising plunge that was “much more precipitous, to be honest with you, than anybody expected a year or so ago,” as The Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker told me on Friday.
“Papers including The Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, the Gannett publications and others have responded with plans to reorganize, shed staff, kill off whole sections, or all of the above. Taken together, it means another rapid depletion in the nation’s ranks of traditionally trained journalists whose main mission is to root out corruption, hold the powerful accountable and sort fact from fiction for voters. It couldn’t be happening at a worse moment in American public life. The internet-borne forces that are eating away at print advertising are enabling a host of faux-journalistic players to pollute the democracy with dangerously fake news items.
‘It’s the biggest crisis facing our democracy, the failing business model of real journalism,’ Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri. Ms. McCaskill said that, ‘Journalism is partly to blame’ for being slow to adjust as the internet turned its business model upside down and social media opened the competitive floodgates. ‘Fake news got way out ahead of them,’ she said.
The cure for fake journalism is an overwhelming dose of good journalism. And how well the news media gets through its postelection hangover will have a lot to do with how the next chapter in the American political story is told.”
This morning, there is a consensus that a degree of normalization will happen after today – but we have definitely reached a new normal and who knows how long that will last.
PR and media text books will need to be-written and today’s pupils for of this profession need to think long and hard about what lies ahead, what it means for the discipline moving forward.
One thing is clear – the train is leaving the station so there is no choice but to hop on and embrace what is about to come.
September 26, 2016
A day of honest dialogue about the U.S. apparel industry and the global supply chain
CGPR had the opportunity to attend this year’s Sourcing Journal Summit in New York City. It featured a range of experts sharing insights on the future of today’s supply chain, their fears about what is challenging them the most, best practices and examples of who is doing a great job. The event was sold out, indicating that supply chains are top of mind for U.S. apparel manufacturers and, in some cases, can be the difference between a bright future and bankruptcy.
Speakers included leaders from Alvanon, Applied DNA Sciences, Chainge Capital, Cotton Incorporated, Esquel Group, Kohl’s, Under Armour, and the U.S. Trade Representative. It most certainly is a year of uncertainty and what became an overall theme from the day was clearly this: adapt or die.
What follows are themes from the day’s sessions:
- Outdated Sourcing Holds Brands Back: The way we source has started to change. Management is resistant to change, too worried about maintaining stock prices and the bottom line. Now is the time to have this conversation.
- Tracking DNA Will Help Poor Sourcing: Poor sourcing cannot be tracked (although now DNA tracking has made good inroads); a good question to ask is how much money is being thrown away by a mismanaged supply chain.
- Over-Sized Organizations with Lots of Layers Impede Progress: Big organizations slow have a harder time adapting to a quicker supply chain.
- American Companies Are Afraid of Change: American companies are too afraid of change and risk a “slow and painful death”.
- Factory Jumping Won’t Lead to Success: Jumping from factory to factory simply over price will never breed success; more emphasis should be placed on good product and how to get into the stores quickly.
- Global Unrest Contributing to Uncertainty: Many factors are contributing to the sense of uncertainty: a new U.S. president, increases in raw material, a supply chain that cannot afford any more rising prices, requests for price reductions at both the factory and retail level, customers demanding price reductions, factory consolidation, inflations in manufacturing countries, global political instability, ISIS/Brexit, and the pending bankruptcy of Hanjin.
- Slow Adoption of Technology: There is slow adoption of technology, especially on the factory side, which makes it impossible to keep up with consumers’ changing behavior.
- Consolidation Will Continue: Fashion apparel is here to say but there will be a consolidation of brands.
- Shifts Creating Chaos: The cultural shift between customization and brand cache will create chaos.
- Consumer’s Demand for Fresh Styles More Often is Challenging All of Us: New consumer preferences challenge product life cycles and sourcing calendars.
- Investment into R&D is Critical: There must be investment in creativity, R&D, and sustainability.
- Increasing Wages Beg for Collaboration: Wages are going up around the world and we are not going to see a slowdown in this trend. There must be collaboration between brands, retailers and suppliers.
- Millennials and Gen Z Driving Change: The informed consumer, especially millennials and Gen Z, are driving the technology changes.
- Transparency is Critical: Collaboration and transparency is critical in today’s supply chain. There must be a high level of trust with factories.
- Near Sourcing Should be an Option: Near sourcing is a trending topic; while it might be easy to go to Asia, it may not be the right thing to do.
- Fashion Streaming is Key: Today is about fashion streaming, live shows and wear now buy now, not only fast fashion.
- We Can’t Continue the Race to the Bottom: Everyone talks about how margins are being squeezed from every direction, but we can’t continue to discount discount and discount, otherwise, it just becomes a race to the bottom.
- Zara, Zara, Zara! Zara is excellent at training their consumer to buy at full price and is the best student of the industry. They have world class logistics, and the highest full price sell through in the industry. The average loyal customer physically visits their store 4 to 5, at Zara, it is 17 times a year. Zara designers make quick decisions and they have 26 seasons.
- Retailers Need to be Clever: Retailers are becoming clever in the ways they reach out to their customers, e.g. Bloomingdales that uses text messaging, or Kmart that has freebies for kids that go into their stores. It is a promotional battlefield.
- Amazon Getting into Apparel Presents Challenges/Opportunities: Amazon getting into private apparel will turn this industry upside down; for consumers it will be amazing. The price will be very interesting. However, it will be a challenge to see how they market and promote their own brands.
- Sustainability Ranks Low: How much do customers care about sustainability? According to recent numbers, it is 88%, however, when it comes to actually making the purchase, fashion is first, then fit, then sustainability.
- Consumers Are Controlling Price Points: Today, the consumer is really in control of the price point
- The Are Just Too Many Stores: We have too many stores and they are too large.
- Beauty Retailers Are Doing Well: Beauty and home retailers are nailing it.
- Wall Street Is Not Doing This Industry Any Favors: Private equity and Wall Street is not really doing the apparel industry any favors – do we really need billion dollar brands – do we really need them?
And a few choice quotes
- “Disruptive innovation is when new technologies cause great firms to fail.”
- “This industry is terrible at learning from outside the industry.”
- “What is the challenge? Culture, and culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
- “Innovation is end to end. What is different today is the whole supply chain has an opportunity to benefit. We/you need to take responsibility.”
- “Style and speed must be related to ‘What we Stand for’; we can’t continue to chase the lowest costs.”
- “Speed to market – is not the issue. It is consumer engagement.”
- “We are over-malled and over stored.”
- “Our factories are coughing and wheezing.”
- “More efficiency and more automation in an old supply chain is not a strategy.”
- “Best success? H&M and Target and the mini designer collections that appear on a regular basis, e.g. Target and Lily Pulitzer and H&M/Balmain.”
- “Successful brands are successful because they use the right side of the brain
- and have the engineering prowess working together.”
- “Engineering industries are drooling at the in-efficiencies of this business.”
- “Most companies are structured around two major seasons. What would the world look like if we had 12 collections a year?”
- “A lot of people dropped the ball.”
- “Culture has to work with financial realities.”
- “2016 is year of uncertainty, but 2017 will be the year of more bankruptcies, if people don’t get on the bandwagon fast. The train is leaving the station and it will not wait for anyone.”
- “Now is the most exciting time because we have the opportunity to recreate who we are – we need to. We have no choice.”
August 31, 2016
Best Practices for Announcing News the Week Before Labor Day
Mr. Trump is known for his very successful book imparting business advice, The Art of the Deal. Based on Mr. Trump’s announcement during what normally is very quiet news week (usually reserved for layoffs or other bad news) that he will travel to Mexico, there should be a new version: The Art of the Steal – as he has clearly stolen the headlines.
Regardless of your political leanings, candidate Trump is a skilled conductor of the media in a way we have rarely seen in previous political campaigns. Yes, it is an active political season full of finger pointing and name calling (thus all bets are off), however, the timing of this trip is more than interesting.
When voters are enjoying their last beach days or that last refreshing gin and tonic before Starbucks starts pushing their infamous pumpkin spice latte, this candidate has people and news anchors paying attention in a big way.
He continues to grab the headlines with a subsequent address today on immigration — an issue that has understandably captured assignment desks’ (and voters’) attention and is directly related to the visit south of the border.
This begs the question: Is the last week before Labor Day really that quiet news week after all? Is it still the optimal time to release bad news? The answer seems clear.
In a news cycle that is 24 -7 both with traditional and online news outlets – there is a new frontier, but there are still rules of thumb to follow when thinking about how and when to issue news, good or bad:
- What kind of noise do you want to make; what headline you would like to see?
- What kind of news is it? Layoffs? An acquisition? New products arriving at retail? A product recall?
- Who is your main audience for this news?
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Do you want to generate select features in key news outlets or will you be satisfied with sending a release on the wires?
- What is the downside of issuing your news at this time?
- Will your sources be available for comment (or are they on vacation?)
Answering these questions should provide PR professionals with a clear indication of best practices – to issue the news or not.
Today’s world of news changes by the minute; it is up to us to not only stay on top of these changes, but to thoughtfully consider how they impact the immediate task at hand.
Cartoon courtesy of Dave Granlud
How fitting is it that we are now hearing “The Lochte Monster” as a reference to defamed U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte who bared his soul today in his statement when he said, “It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in foreign country, with a language barrier and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave.”
Really? Who does that?
Looking at it from a crisis management perspective, this apology, clearly not written by Mr. Lochte, only serves to make this nightmare worse than the original incident. It is hollow and does not accomplish what a thoughtful statement should – own up to the bad deed, show remorse and discuss how you are going to right the situation.
A few rules of thumb about crisis management:
Immediate Timing: Crises have a life of their own and can quickly spin out of control. They create their own news cycle fueled and accelerated by social media, which is happening right now with Mr. Lochte’s so called “apology.” Lochte should have not waited so long to address this issue himself, despite what he says about waiting to make sure the legal matters were settled and his friends were back in the U.S.
Format: Hiding behind a post on social media is not only cowardly, but only serves to feed the news beast. Mr. Lochte owes it to his teammates, the Olympians still competing, his country and the country of Brazil to issue his apology in front of cameras, the same way he cried wolf with The Today Show.
Interview: Mr. Lochte should also consider a one on one interview to talk about this incident. It will probably be the toughest interview he has done in his life, but by being open, it will go a long way to starting the process of rebuilding his image and trust with his teammates, sponsors and fans.
Transparency: Mr. Lochte’s words were vague and did not address the true issues at hand. His statement showed no remorse to speak of and were arrogant at best. Even Tiger Woods, in his darkest moment after his personal revelations were made public, had the fortitude to hold a press conference, and face the media. Granted, Woods’ journey back continues, but that was a turning point for putting his past behind him.
Do Something: There are many, judging by the tone of the comments to Mr. Lochte’s statement, that would prefer him to climb into a black hole. However, Lochte could put his lessons learned to work by doing something positive – whether this is mentoring up-and-coming athletes, or setting up scholarships or a similar act that helps aspiring athletes.
It is not the first time a celebrated athlete has behaved badly. There will be many more after him. However, this is a very very sad tale indeed and we all deserve better.
Just as SoCal’s June gloom gave way to sunny summer skies, last week, CGPR’s west coast team attended AGENDA spring 2017 trade show in Long Beach, Calif.. The premier show for all things surf, skate, and street, AGENDA embodies both the history and the future of the industry, as well as the personality of our Costa Mesa/Newport Beach office.
We were able to see first-hand the latest coming from many of the brands that also call Orange County home, including Electric, Obey, Quiksilver, RVCA, Sanuk, Vans, and Volcom, among others. The international exhibitors rounded out the global presentation. It was great to see a variety of brands coming to the show from other counties, states, and countries as well.
Here’s are our takeaways from AGENDA spring 2017 on what is trending:
Reefer Madness: While the initiative to legalize recreational use of pot in California has just qualified for the November ballot, pot leaf prints made a prominent appearance in a variety of socks, T-shirts, surfboards, board shorts, skate decks, and slippers. The new company Weedmaps had a strong presence as one of the event sponsors.
Cotton is King: In strong juxtaposition to the high-tech, quick dry fabrics used in the surf world, natural fabrications derived from leather, cotton, and hemp, such as denim, muslin, linen, chambray, and the like, made a strong showing. Not only for expected items, like jeans and T-shirts, but also in the accessories department with things like footwear, luggage, sunglasses, and watches. Nixon had a strong new collection featuring leather bands, and brands like InCase and Herschel Supply Co. showed very strong, yet subdued, monochromatic collections in durable cotton and cotton blend fabrications. Additionally, the “Woods” segment of the show, where many up and coming brands are based, featured a real Americana, heritage feel and showcased product made from natural fibers, including (ironically) wood.
Outdoors is in: While the surf brands showing at AGENDA have always celebrated the outdoor lifestyle, CGPR spotted the outdoo
r influence cropping up with a number of other lifestyle brands choosing the well-known trade show as a place to showcase their wares. With brands like Caravan Outpost, James Brand, Poler Stuff, and Snow Peak having a presence, the mainstream appreciation
for the outdoor lifestyle, and activities such as camping, was very visible.
Fancy Footwear: While definitely not formal in any sense of the word, footwear brands such as Native and People, had extremely large, prominent booths, boasting the latest in high-performance leisure footwear. Using high-tech, innovative materials and the latest manufacturing techniques, casual footwear is looking very futuristic and functional. From styles that can actually be worn in the pool or street to styles that offer extreme comfort with extra cushion or molded foot beds, the newest footwear from these brands comes in a rainbow of colors and styles.
April 27, 2016
CGPR was recently in New York City with adidas Outdoor where we invited mainstream consumer outlets to its showroom to see adidas Outdoor’s fall/winter 2016 footwear and apparel collection. CGPR met with more than 60 editors from outlets including Bustle.com, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Journal, O, The Oprah Magazine, People, Shape, Teen Vogue, themanual.com, and Travel + Leisure, among others.
Throughout the two days, we continued to see the same themes evolve from media which speaks to consumer state of mind and how outdoor activities influence apparel and footwear.
Athleisure is Here to Stay: Over the two days, there was significant dialogue about the continued presence of “athleisure”, the number of fashion brands creating their own athleisure collections, and how this is affecting the market overall.
Consumers Conscious about Wearing Style, but Being Comfortable: Media also raised the point that more consumers are conscious of wearing stylish, yet comfortable apparel and footwear.
Definition of the Outdoors is Changing: More consumers are participating in outdoor activities such as trail running, hiking, and adventure races, etc., and are taking vacations or weekend trips designed around getting people outside.
A few additional takeaways from our meetings:
- Performance Features Top of Mind: Consumers are becoming more aware of the performance features in apparel and footwear, and want products enabling them to push the limits and perform to the best of their ability.
- Comfort is huge: Comfort is every important, but consumers want it to be style that features bright colors, feminine silhouettes and cuts, color fading and color blocking.
- Value: Value without sacrificing quality or style is top of mind.
- Versatility and Functionality Reflect People’s Fast Paced Lives: Footwear and apparel needs to easily transitions from the gym, to work work, to travel and to a night on the town.
- People Care About Sustainability: Consumers are interested in products that feature sustainable elements.
- Train Running Continues to Grow: The trail running category is expanding, as more people want to incorporate different types of workouts and runs into their daily routines.
- Adventure Racing for Amateurs is Growing: Adventure races continue to be popular, e.g. Spartan Races and Mud Runs, and participants want footwear and apparel designed for this specific category.
- Light and Fast is King: Whether consumers are weekend warriors or out training everyday, people want apparel and footwear that is light and fast.
The Fashion and outdoor industries continue to intersect and we don’t see this trend abating any time soon. We love hearing about the trends from our media friends and look forward to returning in November, to present adidas Outdoor’s 2017 spring/summer line!
Our senior vice president, Nicole Kieser, had the opportunity to speak to students at Northeastern University earlier this month. The class, Public Relations Principles, focused on crisis communications during a mass casualty incident- i.e. Boston Marathon bombings from April 15, 2013. Sadly, Brussels was also part of this discussion, as terrorism is a fact of daily life in 2016.
Nicole’s career has taken her through various newsrooms in Boston, and her experience in public relations also has required her to lead crisis management for many clients.
A crisis doesn’t need to be at the level of the marathon bombings or Brussels suicide bombings for it to need attention. Any company, at any time, can face a crisis situation which can make or break their brand and their reputation. It’s how you handle the crisis that will ultimately define the company’s future success. Nicole offered a few best practices when a crisis hits to the NU students.
Expect it to happen, prepare in advance. Inevitably, all companies face a crisis, whether of their own making, or due to unforeseen circumstances. There are some very definitive steps to take to be prepared for when the crisis hits.
- Assemble a crisis team– and know their strengths. Make sure you identify spokespersons, and their roles well before there is a problem that needs solving.
- Identify communications goals- this might be difficult to prepare when you don’t know what the crisis will be, but the sooner you anticipate what might go wrong, the better you can craft your approach and your message.
- Train your spokespersons. Retrain your spokespersons. Having an initial media/ message training is great, do it again so they can practice and adjust messaging based on the crisis. Set practice schedules every quarter to keep up to date.
- Establish internal notification systems- and set guidelines for when they are activated. Does your team assemble in one place? Do you have a complete list of contacts for your crisis team to reach out to before a crisis begins?
- Draft ‘holding’ statements in advance. This will craft the messaging that has been agreed upon by the team. There will be no time for edits when the real crisis hits.
When the crisis hits:
- Stop everything for as long as possible for assessment. TAKE A DEEP BREATH. No answering media calls; no social media posts. The crisis has just become your number one priority until it’s been resolved.
- Activate your crisis team notification systems. Let them know the crisis has hit, and to put agreed-upon protocols in place. Remind your team to stay off social media, regardless of whether they are posting about a crisis. There is no delete on the internet.
- Establish a command center – if appropriate. Notify the media at this point.
- Identify leadership in charge. Brief your key spokespersons on what you know so far.
- Activate other pre-established roles for your team. Who will monitor the crisis on-line? On social media platforms? Who will be designated on-site?
- What is the headline, who is your audience? In the case of a Mass Casualty Incident- the first headline is public safety. Your audience? Everyone is your audience- first responders, hospitals, victims, the public on scene, those watching at home.
- Once you determine who your speaking to, assign key messages to your spokespersons.
- Remember the victims and their family. Respect their privacy; outreach should be personal and authentic.
- Be as honest as possible with all communications.
As the crisis continues:
- Don’t go dark! Keep the media and the public informed.
- Continue to monitor media coverage. This includes social media and the public’s knowledge.
- Redefine your headline, reassess your audience. Have these changed since the initial crisis hit?
When the crisis passes, regroup and assess. Are there areas for improvement? Did the plan work well? Continue your outreach to victims, invest in their emotions- it’s the right thing to do.
2016 SIA Snow Show Trend Preview – Climate Change, Sustainability, Conveniences of Technology and the 70s Are Back!
January 28, 2016
Fresh off attending ISPO, we look forward to digging into the U.S world of snow sports, seeing the latest technology, enjoying the expected irreverent marketing, and saying good bye to David Ingemie, SIA‘s president who is retiring after 34 years from a job that he executed with grace and humor. As we head into the show, the U.S. winter snow conditions are still playing games, challenging the best minds of apparel, gear, technology and accessories.