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Corporate communications

Twitter Is Your New Healthcare Customer Service Line

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Have a great day—and don’t forget to @ us when you tell your 235 followers how much we suck!

The fact that many brands use Twitter for customer service is nothing new; we covered a few of the best feeds last year, and many of them were created strictly to engage with customers. If you check out our listicle you’ll notice that most of the ones we included were consumer brands like Nike, Xbox, Amazon, etc.

But today ProPublica posted a must-read story on how Twitter became the new go-to customer service tool for the healthcare industry—and we thought it worthy of debate.

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Abercrombie & Fitch Opts for Severe Corporate Makeover

shutterstock_131601398Another troubled company has taken its plastic surgery experiments beyond the cosmetic: this morning Abercrombie & Fitch announced an internal re-structuring that resembles a last-minute attempt to reverse its own failing fortunes.

The company voted to add three new appointees to its board of directors, terminate its “poison pill” shareholders’ rights plan and, perhaps most significantly, officially separate the Chairman and CEO roles.

To summarize, perpetual mouth-in-foot victim Mike Jeffries will remain the company’s leader in name only; the board has effectively re-asserted control over A&F by limiting the power of both its shareholders and its public face.

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Office Max Fails on ‘Daughter Killed in Car Crash’ Story

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We know you heard about this corporate comms nightmare: Gawker, BuzzFeed, Forbes and pretty much every other blog ran stories about the fact that Office Max’s sales department sent a solicitation letter/coupon to a man whose daughter was killed in a crash last year with the recipient listed as “daughter killed in car crash.”

This incident was, of course, a mistake (though we have to wonder why anyone would think to enter that text into a contact database).

The real story here is how Office Max screwed up the damage control response by blaming it on “big data.”

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Here’s Why Every MBA Program Should Teach Strategic Communications

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Obvious question of the day: how important is communications to the business world? The answer, as we all know, is “extremely”—but if you’d asked business executives ten years ago you would have gotten a very different response.

Corporate leaders now understand the value of public relations, but MBA programs are only beginning to catch up. The result, according to a white paper recently published by the Arthur W. Page Society, is a global community whose leaders are not properly trained in the art of corporate comms.

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Lululemon Wisely Replaces Its Co-Founder…with Another Man

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Well that took long enough. Yogawear megabrand Lululemon finally realized that co-founder Chip Wilson, leading critic of “some women’s bodies“, was too big a liability to continue in the chairman role.

This morning the company announced that Wilson would be stepping down and that former CEO Christine Day, who announced her intentions to resign this summer, will be replaced by Laurent Potdevin. We didn’t want to say that this move was all about Wilson compounding the “revealing pants” scandal by inserting his foot firmly into his mouth, but screw it—we’ll just go ahead and say that.

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Comcast Would Give Better Customer Service If You’d Just Stop Calling So Often

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Today’s Consumerist notes that Comcast, the biggest media communications company in the world, consistently ranks as one of the most-hated brands in the U.S. because of its notoriously bad customer service.

In an interview with Marketplace, company CEO Brian Roberts says that this wouldn’t be such a problem if the company weren’t so darn successful.

The big question from Kai Ryssdal comes around the three minute mark on this audio clip:

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PR Win: NYT Profiles Forbes Right Before It Goes Up for Sale

0717_forbes-cover-vergara-080612_400x51911This morning’s big media news scoop, via Bloomberg: Forbes Media is on the market for sale to the highest bidder.

As Skift‘s Rafat Ali notes, this announcement comes less than a week after The New York Times ran a big profile of the business. Coincidence or great PR? We think you know the answer.

Hell, the headline reads “Preserving Venerable Forbes Brand, With an Aggressive Digital Drive”, and the article is all about how the Forbes native advertising program (which totally works, BTW), along with sponsored events and other new revenue streams, will increase its value as a standout in the floundering media field. From the second and eighth paragraphs:

Forbes Media’s 60-year-old soft-spoken and folksy chief executive…has spent the last three years transforming the company from a financially troubled family business into an enterprise that has moved aggressively to embrace the new digital landscape.

Forbes spokeswoman said that advertising revenue for Forbes.com would grow by 35 percent from 2010 to 2013

Times columnist Christine Haughney just wrote their sales pitch for them.

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Panera CEO Lives on $4.50 Daily Food Stamp Budget for Hunger Awareness Stunt

He hates carbs.This week Panera founder Ron Shaich gives us an example of a corporate CEO executing a “stunt” that feels much more like a study and doesn’t appear to directly benefit his own company. Shocking, isn’t it?

In what doubles as an example of a LinkedIn influencer doing something worthwhile, Shaich took the $4.50-a-day “SNAP Challenge” promoted by hunger advocacy group Feeding America for a week and blogged about it.

Quick background: SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which we used to call “food stamps”. In order to counteract congressional plans to decimate the program, Feeding America encouraged as many followers as possible to try this challenge. Why? Because $4.50 is the average daily benefit received by each individual on this supposedly wasteful “entitlement”, which serves approximately one in every seven Americans.

Here are some of Shaich’s takeaways:

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When Sponsored Content Met CSR and Made Magic Happen

Matt Crenshaw, Mother Nature Network

One thing we can all agree on: PR professionals will spend a lot of time working on sponsored content and corporate social responsibility projects for the foreseeable future.

“Sponsored content” is the hottest phrase in PR and marketing right now, primarily because it means such different things to different people. Yes, it’s a new twist on the classic advertising discipline, but SC can clearly amount to more than BuzzFeed listicles barely related to the product at hand or conspicuous blog posts that hang out at The Huffington Post under the “sponsored story” heading.

Last month we spoke to Matt Crenshaw, president of environmental and social responsibility news site Mother Nature Network, to learn about how his organization has begun to serve clients by combining CSR and sponsored content in one fell swoop.

Why are brands increasing their focus on CSR? 

Well, a recent Cone Communications study found that 80% of people feel that brands have a responsibility to tell them what they’re doing for the greater good, and another study found that brands that put “values” at their core outperform the S&P 500 by about 300%. We all joke about Whole Foods being “Whole Paycheck”, but they are really a lifestyle platform based on “values”, and they’ve done a great job of taking this niche movement and making a big business out of it.

What role can sponsored content play in this equation?

We live in an age where brands need to tell a story and hit you on an emotional level. MNN wants to be the Whole Foods for content: if you’re AT&T and you want to reach the high-value, socially responsible consumer, then you don’t talk about a discount on your phone, you talk about these tablets you created for kids on the autistic spectrum to help them learn. So MNN created a documentary series about it:

Of course, at the end it’s “AT&T: Rethink Possible”, and it’s clearly labeled “content provided by AT&T“, but our role is to say “here’s the story behind the brand.”

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Does the ‘CEO As LinkedIn Influencer’ Strategy Work?

Any PR firm working with a big business client today will advise that client’s public face to become, well, more public. This means going digital, either on social media or in corporate communications designed to get internal teams and investors excited. But what about going a step further and creating editorial content in the interest of becoming a digital thought leader/business strategist a la Richard Branson or Tony Hsieh? (It’s not enough to write a book anymore.)

We ask because, before today, we’d never heard of JetBlue Airways chairman Jeff Peterson. But now we don’t just know who he is—we know that he has some ideas about how to make his industry more efficient. You can see by the numbers that his LinkedIn post on “A Common Sense Solution to Slow Airline Boarding” has been quite successful.

That’s a lot of traffic, but there’s some disagreement among the audience on what, exactly, Mr. Peterson’s story is. Its purpose is to publicize the fact that JetBlue considered the efficiency problem and reached what they believed to be the best solution. So it’s a comment on business strategy—but is it also an advertisement? And does it build up the brand by positioning its chairman as a great strategist or reminding passengers that they don’t have to pay for the first bag they check on a JetBlue flight?

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