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Corporate communications

Why Are There No Openly Gay Fortune 500 CEOs?

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Claire Cain Miller of The New York Times asked a very important question this morning: how did professional football–the very epitome of a traditional industry averse to change–embrace an openly gay personality before corporate America?

Her point is that, despite widely-accepted rumors about certain executives at certain tech companies, not one of the nation’s 1,000 biggest businesses has an openly gay CEO.

We asked Howard Bragman, Chairman of Fifteen Minutes PRwho happens to represent Michael Sam–for his take on the issue.

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Former Bush Administration Official to Lead Corporate Comms for Alibaba

Jim_wilkinson_OurLeadershipYou’ve heard a bit of noise about Alibaba recently, no? The Chinese search/e-commerce giant that is, from what we can tell, a mashup of Amazon, Google and eBay. It’s basically the biggest name in Chinese tech, and it’s about to go public in what should be one of Wall Street’s biggest deals in recent years.

Today the company announced a shrewd move: it has hired James R. Wilkinson, a former senior Treasury Department official with the George W. Bush administration, as its “head of international corporate affairs.”

He served advisory/chief of staff roles in the offices of both Treasury head Henry Paulson and secretary of state Condoleeza Rice.

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GM’s Own Video Claims Its Recalled Cars Are Safe to Drive

Here’s another development in the corporate world’s biggest ongoing damage control campaign: according to GM’s own tests and accompanying video, released this morning on its unfortunately named content site “FastLane”, affected vehicles are totally safe to drive before being repaired…as long as drivers remember a series of dos and don’ts.

Here VP of global vehicle safety Jeff Boyer, who the company named to the newly created position less than two months ago to help manage the crisis, explains:

Looks good, but that was a long list of qualifiers…

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Target Hopes New Hires and New Card Tech Will Do the Trick

TargetTarget is taking steps to remedy the problem that led to one of history’s biggest data breachesand its team wants you to know.

To its credit, the company seems to have been attacking the problem on all fronts since the breach first occurred last year, and now it’s ready to begin the rollout.

The move comes in stages: last month the company’s VP, who had been in charge of its website and internal computer systems since 2008, “resigned” (quotations ours).

At that time, the company also announced its decision to replace its existing card security tech with a system called “chip and PIN”. Last night brought the official update: Target hired a new chief information officer, who will oversee the implementation of this new security strategy.

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GitHub Apologizes for Handling of Harassment Claim That Led to President’s Exit

githubWe’re not programmers, so we’d barely heard the name GitHub before this month–yet the company just provided an interesting example of a tech company responding to self-created controversy.

You probably know the story, but…

A female engineer resigned from the company and spoke to TechCrunch in March, describing a culture of sexism and intimidation and specifically accusing the company’s co-founder/president and his wife of behaving inappropriately.

The news got even more attention thanks to a string of recent reports about the poor state of gender equality in the tech industry.

While the president resigned, the company’s CEO claimed in a blog post that its own internal investigation had uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing.

Yesterday, however, GitHub changed course.

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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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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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