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Financial Communications

To Turn Things Around, Maybe Crocs Should Just Admit Their Shoes Are Ugly

crocsAfter a boom in which it seemed everyone and their grandmother owned a pair of the wide, colorful Croslite Crocs, the company is in trouble. To turn things around, the company introduced different styles, including ballet flats and heels. Still, the company reports that net income fell 44 percent for the second quarter, it’s going to need to close as many as 100 of its 624 stores around the world and 183 people will have to be laid off.

“The company is now planning to cut back on its range of styles by 30% to 40%, as a result,” says Business Insider.

Now might be the time for Crocs to take a lesson from Birkenstocks: You can’t be successful if you can’t face the cold hard truth that the shoes you sell are ugly.

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Mediabistro Course

Social Media 101

Social Media 101Get hands-on social media training in our online boot camp, Social Media 101! Starting September 4, social media and marketing experts will help you determine the social media sites that matter most to you, based on your personal and professional goals. Register before July 31 and get $50 OFF with early bird pricing. Register now! 

Makovsky Study: Reputation Problems Continue to Plague Wall Street

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The latest Wall Street Reputation study from Makovsky Integrated Communications is in, and its results won’t surprise many.

In short, the financial industry still suffers from the effects of the 2008 financial crisis–and 81% of communications executives at Wall Street firms believe that this fact continues to damage businesses’ reputations as well as their bottom lines.

This isn’t just about political populism, either: it affects shareholder perceptions.

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Ketchum Partners with Zito to Launch Financial Communications Service

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New Jersey’s Zito Partners has partnered with Ketchum to create a “strategic alliance” offering specifically targeted at financial institutions and other organizations looking for help on related communications fronts.

Ketchum Zito Financial will combine Zito’s collective expertise with that of the Ketchum financial communications practice to offer very specific services related to:

  • Board issues (composition, investigations, share prices)
  • Transactions (mergers, IPOs, etc.)
  • Earnings Reports (and related messaging strategies)
  • Research (studies/surveys relevant to investors)
  • Media Relations

Founder Bob Zito brings a history to the role: before starting the firm, he served as EVP of the New York Stock Exchange and a member of its management committee. Previous positions include VP of corporate communications at Sony and CCO at Bristol-Meyers Squibb.

He also happens to be a former Ketchum client–a fact that might, in part, explain the ease with which this partnership developed.

Brand Moves: Audi Snaps Into Action and E*TRADE Scraps the Cheeky Baby

Audi Snapchat Dog Courtesy of HUGEBeing a brand that’s witty, irreverent or challenges convention isn’t so easy, especially since those companies set the bar high and their customers come to expect unique, creative ads and social communications. Two such brands, Audi and E*TRADE, shared their stories at Ad Age’s Digital Conference this week in New York. Audi detailed their use of Snapchat during the Super Bowl game, and E*TRADE discussed their decision to end their popular baby ad campaign.

Audi picks up the pace: “Being a challenger brand gives us an edge”, said Anna Russell, Audi’s general manager of brand marketing. She outlined the car brand’s core messages: they’re “champions of progress”, using LED lighting, they “challenge convention”, particularly with their Quattro system, and they’re a “brand of action” and frequent sports sponsor.

Still, as Aaron Shapiro, CEO of their agency, HUGE, noted, with the Oreo effect, “now every brand is piling on no matter how relevant or not” in real-time marketing during events. He said Audi didn’t want to use a “me-too strategy”. (Plus, they needed to be careful since they were involved in a 2010 Super Bowl campaign controversy).

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STUDY: Banks Don’t Find Much Value in Social Media

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Two questions: do you follow your bank on social? More importantly, why?

A Carlisle & Gallagher survey published in The Guardian this week found that, while some Americans do pay attention to their banks on social, they don’t much care for what they see. 87% of those questioned described the social accounts of said financial institutions to be “annoying, boring and unhelpful.”

One BIG qualifier: only 7% of those surveyed actually follow their financial institutions, yet many mention them by name in public complaints. The issue, then, comes down to customer service on social—or a lack thereof.

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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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The PhDs of Financial Scandals: Power, Hubris and (Billions of) Dollars

Citibank Game Final2Current financial scandals may be more complex and less glitzy than Wall Street crimes of the 1980s, but they involve similar underlying factors, according to two noted authors. Power, influence, egos, and hordes of money still play significant roles. Wolves still prowl Wall Street these days, though their fur has changed.

Bryan Burrough, co-author of Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco, and William D. Cohan, author of Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World, spoke at a Museum of the City of New York event earlier this month to discuss changes in Wall Street culture and offer comments on the evolving cast of characters.

Press Coverage and Politics:
Press coverage has been hindered by complex “Wall Street jargon”, said Cohan. Financiers “created a black box so that fewer reporters can cover the subject since terminology is so foreign.” Financial reporting isn’t an area that can be easily added as a specialty.

The political climate also factors into today’s situation. “The public resents that bankers got bailouts for problems they caused and everyone else got bupkis”, said Cohan. He lamented the “symbiotic relationship between government and Wall Street and the revolving door” of former government officials joining financial firms.

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Which Word Best Captures Epic #AskJPM Fail: ‘Evil’ or ‘Satan?’

That, ladies and gentlemen, was a social media disaster for the ages. In an apparent attempt to connect with the common man, JP Morgan Chase announced an “online discussion” with vice chairman Jimmy Lee that was supposed to occur today before things very quickly went to…well, you know:

Who knew social media “engagement” isn’t always a good thing? In a show of just how poorly planned this event turned out to be, “evil” and “Satan” were two of the terms most commonly used in tweeters’ super-earnest questions.

We feel you, bros—but we also prefer a little more subtlety in our critiques. Some favorites after the jump.

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PR Industry Growing Despite Weak Economy

Encouraging news on a dreary Monday in New York City: the American PR industry is doing quite well, thanks. According to a study released by management consulting firm StevensGouldPincus, our business is expanding at a healthy rate even as the larger economy struggles to return to pre-recession levels for all but the richest Americans. Seems like more and more businesses are itching to discover what, exactly, public relations is all about.

Details:

  • The industry at large grew at 8.2% in 2o12
  • Operating profit grew from 18.2% to 18.8% despite billing rates remaining the same
  • Edelman was excluded from the study because the firm’s results skewed averages
  • The fastest growth occurred in the Southwest, Southeast and Northern California, proving that you don’t need to live in New York or L.A. to make it big in PR

These findings confirm the latest Holmes Report ”World PR report“, which found the industry to be growing 8% globally.

Some caveats:

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Swiss Banking Industry Offers Shockingly Sincere Apology for Tax Shelters

The hills are alive with the sound of groveling

Swiss bank accounts are kind of like steroids in sports: lots of ridiculously wealthy people use them and everybody knows that these people use them, but they’re still a big no no. We joke about how they’ve become such a regular part of the national conversation, but any connection to them becomes a PR liability for big-name clients. Just ask Mitt Romney.

For this reason, we find ourselves amused by the incredibly earnest apology issued today by Patrick Odier, a spokesperson speaking on behalf of the entire Swiss banking industry. He wants to let the world know that his clients are very, very sorry for encouraging Americans to avoid paying domestic taxes on the money that they worked so hard to earn (if by “worked so hard” you mean “established high-yield savings accounts”). Here’s his explanation:

It was not because we lacked skills and knowledge that we found ourselves in these unfortunate situations. It was because we acted wrongly and we displayed wrong conduct. I regret this all the more because we have damaged the reputation of the entire Swiss financial center.

Yes, this apology came after Switzerland’s decision to (begrudgingly) assist the U.S. in identifying tax cheats, and that came after a lengthy investigation that forced the nation’s oldest bank to close and threatened to wreck the industry’s credibility. But Odier sounds downright masochistic here. Have any crisis comms pros ever witnessed such a self-effacing apology?

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