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Archives: September 2012

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Pandora Fights Back Against ‘Internet Radio Discrimination’

Right now, Pandora looks like the king of internet radio. But founder Tim Westergren isn’t happy with his company’s status, and he’s getting political about it.

Pandora recently started running video and audio ads encouraging fans to contact their local congressmen/women and convince them to support the “Internet Radio Fairness Act”, a piece of legislation introduced last week by a bipartisan duo of representatives and Oregon’s Democratic Senator Ron Wyden.

What’s this all about? Well, record label royalties run the radio industry, and web-based companies often pay higher royalty rates than their cable and satellite counterparts like Sirius XM, etc. Despite signing a royalty agreement in 2009, Westergren feels like current rates are still too high, and he wants them to level out—which is exactly what they would do under the Fairness Act.

This is not an insignificant issue: Pandora lost $5.4 million last quarter despite $101.3 million in reported revenue.

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Can Halloween Mask Sales Predict the Next President?

It would appear that imitation is indeed the greatest form of flattery, especially when it comes to Halloween costume sales in an election year.

According to this article in the San Francisco Chronicle, sales of Halloween masks often mirror the popularity candidates enjoy with the public and hint at the ultimate winner of presidential elections. Spirit Halloween, one of the largest costume retailers in the U.S., says that the Obama mask is leading with 64% of the retailer’s nationwide mask sales.

Spirit Halloween’s “Presidential Index” based on mask sales has accurately predicted election winners since way back in the glory days of 1996. Nothing about this survey is scientific, of course, but PR experts know that our business has as much to do with timing and circumstance as psychology and hard science.

PR professionals are trained to extrapolate meaning and patterns from even the quirkiest of correlations and relationships. This type of data is our Mars Rover, and seeing human behavior in a new and revealing way for the first time is our ancient Martian streambed. In other words, this is PR geek stuff. Read more

Tim Cook Is, Like, So Sorry for Apple Maps

The public doesn’t know Apple as a company prone to apology. We imagine its communications team would be far more comfortable issuing a statement to the effect of “the obvious superiority of our products speaks for itself, hahaha”. Hey, we understand—apologies acknowledge the imperfections that come with being human, and CEO’s aren’t generally too big on humility (with good reason).

And yet, CEO Tim Cook felt the need to release an official statement to customers today in order to control the spread of bad publicity stemming from the awfulness that is Apple Maps.

We can’t imagine Cook enjoyed writing this little letter, and we wonder what finally led him to draft it: Was it Motorola’s viciously effective #iLost ad? Was it this hilarious tumblr page? We’re not sure, but we do admire Cook’s ability to acknowledge that his company made a completely terrible product!

Readers should note Cook’s unreservedly apologetic tone in writing that Apple “fell short on this commitment”. Unlike the other big “damage control” missive released this morning, Cook’s note includes the word “sorry”. A real-life apology! We just might be impressed!

Cook promises to get to work on improving the map app, and we’re sure that a few programmers have had anxiety attacks this week–but what will the CEO’s next move be?

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Samuel L. Jackson to Voters: Wake the F–k Up!

In a political ad that parodies the hilariously relatable “children’s book” Go the F–k to Sleep (itself a parody of classics like Goodnight Moon), go-to-narrator Samuel L. Jackson tells voters, in no uncertain terms, to “wake the f–k up.”

The pro-Obama ad was actually written by the Go the F–k to Sleep author Adam Mansbach and funded by the Jewish Council for Education and Research (JCER). In the video, Jackson (who also happens to have been the narrator for the audiobook version of Mansbach’s hit), helps a young girl and her family “wake the f–k up” to the realization that a vote for Obama is the only sensible choice.

So if you have a moment for some amusing political ranting, join little Susie on her adventure: Read more

Is the NFL Commissioner’s ‘Regret’ Note Good Enough?

First the big news you’ve already heard: The NFL and its Referees Association reached an agreement late Wednesday, and the 120 “certified” referees were back on the gridiron to officiate last night’s Browns-Ravens game.

We won’t go into the details of the contract, which involves freezing pension plans after 2016 and offering specific retirement benefits to all officials starting in 2017. Both sides apparently “conceded ground”, but we’ll get to the heart of the matter: Fans will gladly say goodbye and good riddance to the hated “replacement” refs—and we have no doubt that the NFL is happy to have resolved the issue as well.

Now it’s time for damage control—and Roger Goodell appears to be going all out.

On a conference call yesterday, the NFL Commissioner said he was “…sorry to have to put our fans through that”. He followed up today with a formal email message to all fans on the NFL’s mailing list.

Forbes notes that it’s “not an apology”, and it’s true that Goodell only expresses “regret”. He doesn’t mention the universally panned calls that ended the Packers-Seahawks game, and he even goes so far as to “commend the replacement officials for taking on an unenviable task and doing it with focus and dedication in the most adverse of circumstances.”

Hmm…call us crazy, but we don’t think many of the fans Goodell is targeting with this letter will appreciate that sentiment.

We’ve reprinted the full text below:

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Roll Call: Ketchum, MSLGROUP, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, and More

Ketchum has promoted partner Amanda Sefton to director of its Global Healthcare Practice. Ms. Sefton will remain in London and will assume her new role on Dec. 1. During the transition, she will continue serving as managing director of the London Healthcare Practice. A search is underway for her successor in that role. (Release)

MSLGROUP North America has named Shellie Winkler as North America practice director of its health and corporate practices. With more than two decades of experience, Winkler most recently worked at Edelman, where she was general manager of corporate and public affairs operations for the New York office.  She is located at MSL New York, the flagship office for MSLGROUP North America (Release)

Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (WE) has hired Ben Finzel as senior vice president, public affairs and general manager of the Washington, D.C., office. Finzel brings more than 20 years of communications and public affairs experience to the agency, including a presidential appointment during the Clinton administration and nearly six years as a press and legislative staffer for two members of Congress. Finzel will lead the firm’s Public Affairs practice, a Washington, D.C.-based group that manages complex policy issues, leads high-profile campaigns, and drives business results for corporate clients, trade associations and advocacy groups. (National Journal)

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PR Fail: Starbucks Says ‘No Soy for You!’

Today in Look Before You Jump News: Starbucks seems to have gone the way of Netflix in making service changes without checking with customers first–and now its PR team has a bit of a backlash on its hands.

The coffee giant has some notoriously loyal customers, and its “My Starbucks Rewards” program has been extremely popular. Company publicists just announced a few modifications set to begin on October 16th in an effort to encourage even more customer loyalty. The changes include birthday freebies, smartphone discounts (customers previously had to wait for postcards) and some kind of gold star system that we don’t really understand.

Sounds good, right? Not really. The shift that caused an Internet uproar seems tiny at first glance: Starbucks will no longer offer complimentary soy or flavored syrup shots. We didn’t even realize that the chain charged extra for soy milk.

Well, it turns out that Starbucks has more than a few lactose-intolerant customers–and they are not happy with the changes! Check out the comments on the company’s Facebook page via our friends at The Hoffman Agency for examples of previously loyal customers who have taken offense at this new policy. Seems like the company should have tested this new proposal with their fans first, no?

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The Ticker: Apple Apologizes; NFL Refs Return; Robocalls; Samuel L. Jackson; Google Goes Deep

LUSH Seeks Social-Savvy Digital PR Officer

LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics is hiring! The beauty company is searching for a new digital PR officer to join its New York-based team.

In this role, you’ll be responsible for generating and placing stories about the company, including its products, store openings, events and brand ethics in online media. You’ll be expected to maintain new and existing relationships with media contacts and influencers in North America, while writing press releases, pitch letters and other material for product launches and campaigns. Read more

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