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Corporate communications

GM Needs a New Spokesperson, Stat

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Not going so well for her.

This young week has already brought us two new job openings that sound great on paper but might just make you think twice: social media manager at U.S. Airways and director of communications at General Motors.

You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the first execs to get the axe in GM’s ongoing recall drama were the heads of PR and HR. In yet another non-surprise, the company refused to tie the departures directly to the recall. (This is the kind of decision that makes journalists roll their eyes back as far as humanly possible.)

CEO Mary Barra’s most visible statement this week? A blog post encouraging employees to report safety concerns “whether openly or anonymously.”

Cue that eye roll again…

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Mediabistro Course

Storytelling for Media Professionals

Storytelling for Media ProfessionalsStarting April 22, this in-person workshop will teach you the specific ways to incorporate storytelling into your personal and professional life. Students will examine the role of storytelling in business and put their newfound skills into practice with a series of improvisation, writing, and presentation exercises designed to help them uncover personal stories. Register now! 

Chevron Can Make Its Own Local News

One Donald Draper famously quipped, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

In this week’s case study in heavy-handed message management, Chevron took that one to heart. In fact, it created an entirely new conversation on its own terms.

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The company, which has operated a refinery in Richmond, California for over 100 years, created the Richmond Standard site to present its public with under-reported news stories like this video of high schoolers lifting weights and this more popular entry about an effort to prevent prostitutes from walking through a residential neighborhood on the way to work.

The writers are experienced journalists, but–shocker–there may be a bit of self-interest at play here.

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Tesla’s Latest Press Release Satisfies Your GIF Fix

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We’re not up for making sweeping generalizations on a Monday morning, but Tesla’s latest corporate announcement definitely raises some questions about the future of the press release.

Rather than go the traditional route, CEO Elon Musk took time off from his day job serving as Larry Page’s favorite charity organization to publish the release under his own name as a Medium post. It’s both a product launch and the latest step in an ongoing campaign to control the damage stemming from safety concerns with Tesla cars.

Don’t worry; Musk sticks to his famously aggressive messaging style and adds a few GIFs for emphasis.

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Apple Promises More Diversity in Its Emoji Department

iOS-Emoticon-300x300In case you thought MTV had lost its cultural influence, think again. This week Apple’s communications department agreed with the youth network and its unofficial spokesperson Miley Cyrus: the emoji family needs to diversify.

Inspired by Baby Daddy star Tahj Mowry’s Twitter lament over the lack of explicitly African-American emojis, MTV’s Joey Parker emailed CEO Tim Scott about the issue and got a response from the top of the PR team. Worldwide corp comms VP Kate Cotton wrote:

“Tim forwarded your email to me. We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms.  There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”

No word on how or when this change will come about, but we just know that it will be a generation ahead of us.

While we admire Apple’s responsiveness and its desire to better serve its incredibly diverse fan base, we have a few emoji questions of our own…

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GM CEO on Recall Crisis: ‘Terrible Things Happened’

Here’s a case study in double duty internal/external crisis communications via General Motors and The New York Times.

This video was broadcast to employees, but it was clearly also meant to be a public statement; it’s been published on multiple news sites today.

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Yes, Wall Street Still Has a Big Perception Problem

Got 15 minutes to spare? Listen to this NPR ”Planet Money” clip in which New York magazine financial writer Kevin Roose gives us a hint as to why the insular world of big finance no longer appeals to Ivy League MBAs as much as it used to. In short, The Social Network is this generation’s Wall Street.


Roose says:

“The sex appeal is in Silicon Valley now. It has the…cultural cachet that Wall Street used to have…the tech industry is making things…”

That’s a key insight: tech makes things while Wall Street “re-bundles” things—at least according to popular opinion.

Younger bankers want to change all that. While all evidence indicates that the old generation is perfectly fine with being feared, the new generation “wants to be loved.”

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Five Guys May Want to Reconsider its ‘Douchey’ Customer Relations

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Chin up, Five Guys. You’ve apparently had worse days.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Five Guys is a delectable source of mouth-watering goodness that honestly could use better public relations (so call me, please).

That said, there’s an unfortunate story that hails from a suburbia Massachusetts Five Guys restaurant, and a manager who got a little non compos mentis over an email. According to the Consumeristsaid manager accidentally copied a customer when he called that very customer a “douche.”

And it gets even awesomer…

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Comcast Really Wants You to Approve of Its Time Warner Merger

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Not only does Comcast care—it also knows what you think.

The company is well aware of the fact that it has maintained one of corporate America’s worst reputations for several years by scoring near the bottom in pretty much every category from product quality to customer service (which might improve if you’d just stop calling so often).

When the media megalith announced its $45 billion plans to merge with Time Warner Cable, most tech folks turned to the world’s greatest comfort food: comedy.

Of course, the merger is a very serious matter—and this week’s New York Times story shows us how a hated company tries to spin a hated business move.

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The New York Times Will Expose Your Fake Apologies with #ApologyWatch

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A New York Times reporter and a corporate reputation specialist walked into a bar this week and came to the same conclusion: they’ve had enough of your clients’ fake apologies.

Both business writer Andrew Ross Sorkin and LRN CEO Dov Seidman argue that execs and public figures who once opposed apologizing in public have started doing it all the damn time, and they want to make it stop.

Whether we’re talking indicted bankers, embattled politicians or cheating athletes, lots of people are stepping up to the mic to tell the public that they’re sorry for whatever they did and that it will never happen again. But Sorkin and Seidman look at those weepy, white-haired millionaires and see nothing but media coaching and crocodile tears.

So now they plan to expose the fakers—and they even came up with their own hashtag to do it.

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CVS Quits Smoking, Gets Defensive About It

16601_10152165436598116_438158652_nThis morning’s biggest CSR news comes via the country’s largest pharmacy chain. As announced in this press release, CVS Caremark will stop selling all tobacco products at its more than 6,000 U.S. locations on October 1st, 2014.

The change comes in the wake of a January surgeon general’s report, which arrived exactly 50 years after the first and tied smoking even more directly to diseases like diabetes, colon cancer and erectile dysfunction (eek). The company spun it as a way of aligning its services and interests, which include public health—nice copy on the tagline, BTW. Here’s the key quote from CEO Larry J. Merlo:

 ”Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health. Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

This is a very smart move for several reasons.

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