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Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Campaign’

Now the Sultan of Brunei Has His Eye on The Plaza Hotel in New York

plaza hotelThe Sultan of Brunei is looking to expand his holdings with the possible purchase of The Plaza hotel in New York City. That hotel plus two others come with a price tag of $2.2 billion. The current owner,  Subrata Roy, head of the Sahara Group, would like to sell in order to get his hands on some cash to get out of prison. He was arrested in India earlier this year on money laundering charges.

Back in May, the Sultan — and by extension, the Beverly Hills Hotel — faced some high-profile protesters including Jay Leno, Richard Branson and Ellen DeGeneres because of Sharia laws he put in place in April. These laws promise to inflict harsh punishments such as incarceration, stonings and amputation for “crimes” such as homosexuality, abortion and adultery.

“Christopher Cowdrey, CEO of the Dorchester Collection, which owns the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, has been quick to respond, speaking to the media directly about the issue. But what he’s been saying is terrible,” we wrote at the time. The Sultan’s investment agency owns the Dorchester Collection.

These big-name Hollywood celebs asked for a boycott and promised to keep away from events held at these hotels until there was change. It cost $2 million in business.

New York has its fair share of celebrities. But more than that, what New York has is a lot of business travel in addition to millions of tourists per year. And a lot of high-end hospitality competition. Criticism on the East coast could be just as, if not more, potent.

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3 Experts Explain How Brands Can Avoid a Sochi Games #PRFail

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Lots of brands obviously want to promote during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. But they also want to avoid what happened to Coke and McDonald’s, which got a lot of bad press after gay-rights activists criticized their campaigns and hijacked the #CheerstoSochi hashtag in protest of Russia’s new anti-gay laws.

AT&T, on the other hand, just made news for becoming the first major company to actively speak out against those same laws and pressure other brands to do the same.

So how can brands create Olympics campaigns without running into the troubles encountered by Coke and McD’s? We talked to three PR and social media experts to get their opinions.

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Top 10 Social Media Wins of 2013

Next round of likes is on us

The next round of “likes” is on us…

We already shared the worst of social media in 2013, so here’s to the best…or at least our own approximation of it.

OBVIOUS DISCLAIMER IS OBVIOUS: Yes, this list is highly subjective and you’re going to see some repetition/glaring omissions. But such is the nature of year-end clickbait, no?

Here, then, are the stories that demonstrated what social media meant to us and our industry in 2013.

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EA Games Earns Human Rights Campaign’s Stamp of Approval for LGBT Equality

CEI_2014_ReleaseWhen video games are discussed in the context of PR, it’s often because certain popular games have stirred controversy over issues like the portrayal of women, the glorification of violence, or super-macho plot lines, so we thoroughly enjoy being able to bring you a positive PR story related to the gaming industry.

EA Games, maker of popular franchises like the FIFA and Madden game series, has scored a perfect 100% on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) “Best Places to Work 2014” Corporate Equality Index, which, according to the HRC website, is the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

“We are extremely proud of this achievement that recognizes corporate policies and practices that demonstrate a commitment to LGBT equality and inclusion,” wrote EA on its website. “In addition to this exciting achievement, EA was busy around the world throughout the year supporting local Pride Parades where our employees live and work. From San Fransisco to Los Angeles, Seattle to Stockholm, Vancouver to Austin and finally in Orlando, everyone who came out to join EA and show their support and pride had an amazing time.”

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Barilla To Counter Homophobia Scandal with ‘More Inclusive’ Ads

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It’s barely been a month since every frat bro’s favorite pasta maker Barilla suffered a whole lot of bad publicity when its CEO decided to let an Italian radio host know that the company would “never” feature gay people or their families in its ads. This boneheaded move not only led to lots of negative headlines—it also gave competitors like Bertolli and Ronzoni a great opportunity to set themselves apart.

At first, Guido Barilla went out of his way to clarify how few craps he gave about the issue, saying “if the gays do not agree, they can always eat pasta from another manufacturer.”

It was a little shocking how little he knew about the company bearing his name. As one helpful commenter pointed out, Barilla hired the openly gay chef Ted Allen for an American PR campaign several years ago while his show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was still on the air.

At any rate, Guido seems to have received the message six weeks later:

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The IOC, Stoli Vodka and NBC Respond to Boycotts/Petitions Stemming from Russian Anti-Gay Laws

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law that bans ”propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” and threatens openly gay or “pro-gay” citizens and foreigners with fines, arrests and possible jail time. Another new law restricts adoptions of Russian children by people in countries that allow same-sex marriage.

With the 2014 Winter Olympics set to take place in Sochi, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it has received assurances ”from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.” It pledged to ensure there would be no discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators or the media during the games.

Many equal-rights activists are unimpressed with the IOC’s response, and feel that whether or not the laws directly affect the games is far from the point. ”They should be advocating for the safety of all LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people in Russia, not simply those visiting for the Olympics,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. ”Rescinding this heinous law must be our collective goal.”

In order to make their voices heard, activists have been writing petitions and staging boycotts.

The “Dump Russian Vodka” campaign, started by internationally syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage, has prompted bars across the US, UK, Canada and Australia to stop serving Russian brands like Stolichnaya. In response, Stolichnaya’s CEO Val Mendeleev wrote an open letter last week condemning the recent laws and reaffirming the brand’s commitment to the LGBT community. The brand’s website has also undergone an overhaul, and now features a rainbow block of text boasting that the brand “stands strong and proud with the global LGBT community against the attitude and actions of the Russian government.” (We’d call this a winning damage control response) Read more

Do Brands Win by Taking Stands on Social Issues?

As we scrolled through all those creative variations on the Human Rights Campaign‘s viral marriage equality avatar last week, we wondered: how often do brands benefit when taking specific stands on social issues? How often do such moves truly damage public perceptions? This isn’t a new debate, of course: last year everyone speculated about the effect that Chick-Fil-A’s official anti-gay status would have on its overall business. The answer in that case seems to have been “very little” — but what about other brands? Some choose to define themselves with bold stances, but most shy away.

Oh, and here’s Fab.com‘s version of the meme: Read more

More Brands That Jumped on the Avatar Bandwagon (or Should Have)

Yesterday we posted on Bud Light‘s well-timed decision to offer Facebook fans its own variation on the very viral Human Rights Campaign marriage equality avatar. Now we’d like to showcase some other examples of brands that were, if not quite “bold”, at least attuned to news trends — and the interests of their target audiences. Here are some more branded variations on the avatar:

Equal artificial sweetener: We can’t confirm that the brand itself created this one, but if they didn’t then they certainly missed out on a great opportunity.

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Human Rights Campaign’s Marriage Equality Avatar Goes Viral

If you haven’t seen the photo to the left, it’s a safe bet you haven’t been on Facebook in the past 24 hours.

The Human Rights Campaign’s drive for marriage equality has taken social media by storm as the Supreme Court hears arguments in the Proposition 8 case. The social campaign launched around 1 p.m. EST Monday afternoon, when the organization changed its Facebook profile picture to the logo at left.

So what was this all about? “Red is a symbol for love, and that’s what marriage is all about,” HRC spokesperson Charlie Joughin told MSNBC.com on Tuesday. “We wanted to give people an opportunity to show their support for marriage equality in a public and visible way.”

Even if you failed to log into Facebook, celebrities and politicians alike made sure their Twitter followers knew all about the campaign:

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Morgan Freeman’s Majestic Voice Supports Gay Marriage

The great Morgan Freeman, an Oscar-winning vet who’s played everyone from Nelson Mandela to The Almighty Himself (though sadly not in the same movie), has what we’d call a very recognizable voice. He’s used his soothing baritone to introduce CBS News, narrate March of the Penguins, promote the 2012 London Olympics, and even endorse political candidates like our current President.

Today, Freeman moves boldly into the social advocacy sphere, applying his signature cadence to a brief TV spot titled “Dawn of a New Day for Marriage Equality”. The purpose of the commercial, produced by the non-profit Human Rights Campaign, is to celebrate the movement’s election day victories (in which gay marriage won popular approval in three states for the first time in this country) while simultaneously preparing allies for the legal and political struggles that still lie ahead.

One could spend hours parsing the messages of this ad, and we’re sure someone will question the clear link drawn between the Civil Rights Movement and the current push for marriage equality (because someone always has to do that). Still, we find it to be a fairly compelling piece of political PR; Mr. Freeman certainly makes the HRC’s case feel more…epic than a man with less powerful vocal chords possibly could.

What do we think of this spot? What influence do Freeman’s voice and celebrity status have on the power of the underlying campaign?

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