From midterms to 'Mad Men,' Toyota to Tony Hayward, 2010 provided a smorgasbord of comms stories. PRWeek's editorial team reviews the year that was in the PR sector.10 News stories that revolved around communications
1. A sealed oil well that ends well?
Oil spilling into the ocean 24 hours a day provided a defining image, compounded by lousy communications from BP. One sealed well and $20 billion later, BP's woes seemed to abate.
2. Drama at Discovery Channel-
A gunman took three hostages at the broadcaster's Maryland HQ before police killed him, testing its crisis communications to the extreme.
3. Trouble for Toyota
Just as the carmaker seemed to emerge from its recall crisis, more problems were uncovered, leaving its CEO and president Akio Toyoda tearful after an October congressional hearing.
4. Chile has a captive global audience
The world watched in awe as 33 miners were carefully brought to the surface after 69 days underground. Media training was among the many things offered to the captives.
5. Jet Blue sees red
Flight attendant Steven Slater made headlines by verbally abusing a passenger, grabbing some beers, and exiting the plane via an emergency chute. Proactive comms helped JetBlue emerge relatively unscathed.
6. Republicans score well on midterms
The GOP won back the House while President Obama's communications lost its luster.
7. Emergency appeal for Haiti
A 7.1 magnitude earthquake killed 230,000-plus in January. In response, George Clooney and Haitian-born Wyclef Jean hosted the most widely distributed telethon ever.
8. Motrin hiatus
Consumers weren't impressed when it emerged Johnson & Johnson sent out contractors to buy Motrin from shops instead of officially recalling it. Mea culpa was CEO Bill Weldon's sole option.
9. The Social Network
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wasn't amused by his portrayal in David Fincher's film about his network's founding, but the 26-year-old billionaire mostly kept quiet.
10. Changes in healthcare
PhRMA was deemed a winner in the legislation that passed in March after it brokered its 2009 deal with the White House. However, it saw key senior-level departures in 2010.
5 People who could teach a course on communications
1. Steve Jobs
Apple's CEO displayed an incredible ability to bounce back from adversity in 2010, further demonstrating why he topped PRWeek's Power List in July. Neither the discovery of a prototype iPhone 4 in a bar months before Apple's June release date, nor technical problems with iPhone 4's performance that forced Jobs to give a press conference to address “Antennagate,” nor market gains by Android devices late in the year damaged Jobs' communications aura.
2. Elin Nordegren
Tiger Woods' now ex-wife kept silent in the nine months between revelations of his multiple infidelities and their divorce, but decided to give one exclusive interview – a 12-page spread in People – in which she set the record straight and gave her side of the story without entering into a slugging match with her ex. She emerged with dignity, sympathy, and a reported $100 million settlement to help the healing process.
3. Glenn Beck
The high-profile conservative TV host divided opinion by supporting the Tea Party from the get-go, culminating in his Restoring Honor rally in Washington controversially scheduled on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's “I Have A Dream” speech. But the midterms demonstrated his impact.
4. Jon Stewart
The comedian/broadcaster/journalist had a year to remember. Not to be outdone by Beck, Stewart responded with a Rally to Restore Sanity in October. Estimates of attendance at both gatherings varied wildly, depending on who was reporting it – but both men played well to their respective constituencies.
5. Michelle Obama
The first lady had a much better year than her husband, using her platform to raise the issues of childhood obesity and families, while cleverly identifying with the challenges and concerns of working women. Her presentation and communication were flawless.
5 People/companies that could use a course on communications
1. Christine O'Donnell
The would-be Delaware senator upset the GOP's preferred candidate Michael Castle in September's primary, with strong Tea Party support. But her ambitions were derailed when comedian Bill Maher replayed an interview from 1999 in which she admitted being into witchcraft. Subsequently, O'Donnell was thrashed by Democrat Chris Coons in November's election.
2. Lebron James/ESPN
The protracted saga of Lebron's contract negotiations after he became a free agent in July culminated in a shoddy, highly criticized one-hour “special”/ego trip on ESPN when he announced his move to the Miami Heat. Cleveland's former hero became its biggest villain for burning his hometown fans, who, in turn, burned his #23 jerseys.
3. Mark Zuckerberg
The 26-year-old Facebook billionaire had more than The Social Network to concern him this year, as regulators got to grips with privacy concerns surrounding the social utility – as it prefers to be known – and its carefree attitude to personal data. Zuck's sweaty performance during public appearances outlined once again how uncomfortable he is as a front man.
4. Mark Hurd/HP
Former CEO Mark Hurd blotted his unsullied copybook when he became embroiled in a sexual harassment case with a contractor at his employer HP that led to his dismissal. The year ended on a brighter note as Hurd found safe haven at rival Oracle, but he will be much more wary of his public image going forward.
5. Vivian Schiller/National Public Radio
NPR responded to comments about Muslims by its veteran news analyst Juan Williams on Fox News by firing him. CEO Vivian Schiller, long frustrated at Williams' guest appearances on the right-wing news channel, compounded the situation by suggesting he needed psychiatric attention. Williams, who emerged from the furor an unlikely beacon against political correctness gone mad, garnered a $2 million contract with Fox News
10 Defining sound bites of 2010
1. Donna Imperato, CEO, Cohn & Wolfe
Her frank stance on decision not to re-pitch for Hilton HHonors: “Hilton laid off half its employees and made significant internal changes. It's only natural they want a new partner.”
2. Tony Hayward, CEO, BP
Didn't exactly calm the ire of those affected by the Gulf oil spill when he said, “There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do. I'd like my life back.”
3. Don Draper, ‘Mad Men'
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's creative director was in top form when he said: “We're going to sit at our desks and keep typing while the walls fall down around us because we're creative – the least important, most important thing there is.”
4. Peter Finn, co-CEO, Ruder Finn
Contemplating life beyond his eponymous agency: “I'm committed to creating an environment where my company is one of the best places to work in the industry, whether that's at Ruder Finn or another agency.”
5. Telemundo president Don Browne
Emphasizes comms' importance to the Spanish-language TV company: “Alfredo Richard, SVP of communications, has been critical over the last five years. He is my ‘wingman.'”
6. Bruce Jasurda, CMO, US Army
Emphasizing the challenge of signing up new recruits: “Only three in ten 17- to 24-year-olds interested in the Army are qualified to serve, either due to conduct, poor past decisions, obesity, or educational issues.”
7. PR legend Harold Burson
In discussing his surprising friendship with People's Revolution's Kelly Cutrone: “I picked her up on a plane. We have become good friends. I found her very interesting.”
8. Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble
P&G's global marketing and brand officer: “You earn your way into consumers' lives, you don't pay your way – and you do it through PR.”
9. Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show'
Addresses partisanship in the media by saying, “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”
10. Glenn Beck, conservative TV host
Seeks inspiration from Thomas Paine: “Only those afraid of the truth seek to silence debate, intimidate those with whom they disagree, or slander their ideological counterparts.
10 People moves that made the news
1. The NFL recruits Paul Hicks
Former regional CEO of the Americas at Ogilvy, Hicks left the firm to become EVP of communications and government affairs at the National Football League.
2. Mike Fernandez leaves State Farm
Mike Fernandez left his position as VP of public affairs at State Farm to join Cargill as its corporate VP, corporate affairs. At 23, Fernandez was the youngest press secretary to work on Capitol Hill. He worked for US Senator Fritz Hollings (D-SC).
3. Citigroup hires Edward Skyler
Edward Skyler worked closely with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as press secretary, communications director, and deputy mayor before making the move to Citigroup as EVP of global public affairs.
4. Camille Johnston departs from the White House
Johnston left her post as director of communications for first lady Michelle Obama and special assistant to President Barack Obama to assume the role of VP of corporate affairs at Siemens Corporation.
5. Simon Sproule moves to Nissan from Renault-Nissan Alliance
As part of a move to integrate the marketing and communications functions, Simon Sproule moved from global director of communications at the Renault-Nissan Alliance to VP of global marketing communications at Nissan, based in Japan.
6. Selim Bingol replaces Preuss at GM
Bingol moved from SVP and senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard to VP of communications at General Motors. He replaced Christopher Preuss, who moved to OnStar as president.
7. Gary Ginsberg moves from News Corp. to Time Warner
Ginsberg stepped down from his position as EVP of global marketing and corporate affairs at Time Warner and took a position as EVP of global marketing and corporate affairs at News Corp.
8. Eli Lilly hires Jeffrey Winton
The pharma giant hired Winton to become its VP of communications. He was previously group VP of global comms at Schering-Plough and VP of global PR at Pharmacia.
9. Ginny Mackin goes to Duke Energy
Mackin left her post as EVP and director at Wells Fargo to become SVP and chief communications officer at Duke Energy. She replaced the retiring Cathy Roche.
10. Nick Ashooh leaves AIG for Alcoa
Former SVP of communications at American International Group, Ashooh left the company to become corporate affairs VP at Alcoa. He led PR for AIG during its financial crisis and government bailout.
5 Media stories that made news
1. New York edition of ‘Wall Street Journal'
The Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal began distributing a standalone
Greater New York edition in April, aggressively cutting its advertising rates in a bid to revitalize declining print circulation and directly take on its hated foe The New York Times on its own turf.
2. DC media mushrooms
While traditional media continues to struggle, including DC's hometown institution The Washington Post, the new kids on the block go from strength to strength, with Politico adding 40 journalists, the National Journal and CQ hiring aggressively, and Bloomberg Government launching.
3. Tablet journalism
The launch of the iPad and other tablet computers offered some hope for the beleaguered magazine and newspaper industries, with titles such as Esquire, Wired, Time, and The Wall Street Journal some of the better examples of brands hoping to revitalize their fortunes through paid-for content apps.
4. Daily Beast merges with ‘Newsweek'
Tina Brown's The Daily Beast finally sealed the deal with Newsweek owner Sidney Harman to produce a 50-50 joint venture that brings the veteran editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker fame back into the world of print and provides a potential light at the end of the tunnel for the beleaguered 77-year-old magazine.
AOL acquired Patch last year and spent most of 2010 investing millions of dollars in launching more than 100 hyper-local community news sites, claiming to now be the largest hirer of journalists in the US. The initiative is a return to AOL's content roots and a move from its failed excursion into social media with Bebo and advertising services.
10 Memorable PR plays of 2010
1. Gap new logo ends up being a no-go
Gap unveiled a weird new techie logo. Many harsh tweets followed. After crowdsourcing for logo ideas, it stuck with the original.
2. Pepsi's refreshing Super Bowl strategy
During this year's Super Bowl, PepsiCo replaced a traditional ad with a $20 million social media campaign dubbed “Pepsi Refresh.”
3. Conan O'Brien looks to ‘Save Coco'
After NBC brought back Jay Leno to replace him on The Tonight Show, O'Brien launched a humorous, “Save Coco” promo campaign in which fans rallied around the late-night host before he joined TBS.
4. Phoenix Suns rise up to make statement
Donning “Los Suns” jerseys on Cinco de Mayo, the NBA team took a stance against Arizona's immigration policy mandating that immigrants carry their alien registration papers at all times.
5. Google obliterates Big China
Google held strong with its corporate positioning and ethics in a censorship battle with the Chinese government that led its decision to re-direct users from Google.cn to its Korean site.
6. BA gets no pass for Bin Laden image
British Airways flew right into a crisis after it included the image of a fake boarding pass for Osama Bin Laden in its employee magazine.
7. Makeup line shows many blemishes
It was a media bloodbath when MAC and Rodarte launched a makeup line inspired by female murder capital Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Estée Lauder quickly canceled the collection.
8. A less-than-command performance
Gen. Stanley McChrystal had to resign his command in Afghanistan following his ill-advised Rolling Stone interview.
9. Washington Post's Wise suspension
Sports columnist Mike Wise was suspended for posting a hoax Twitter message about the ban Pittsburgh Steeler Ben Roethlisberger would get for a conduct violation.
10. Ungaro's bad designs
Ungaro must not have realized Lindsay Lohan was more in tune with designer drugs than designer clothing when it hired her as artistic adviser. It fired LiLo in March.
5 Best social media campaigns
The music broadcaster teamed up with location-based social network Foursquare to introduce a check-in badge for all those who took an STD test as part of MTV's Get Yourself Tested campaign. It was Foursquare's first cause-related badge and the latest in a series of tie-ups with MTV.
2. Ford Explorer
Ford mapped a new route in the auto marketing launch. To unveil its 2011 Explorer, the company swapped the traditional auto show debut for a social media campaign, posting behind-the-scenes details and interviews with the Ford team on its Facebook page.
3. Southwest – two seats for Kevin Smith
Film director Kevin Smith may not help America's obesity cause, but he sure as heck fueled the debate around the issue surrounding whether or not a passenger should buy two seats based on their girth. He got thrown off a Southwest plane for only having one seat, but his far-reaching tweets prompted an apology from the airline and nationwide conversation.
4. Old Spice
Old Spice spiced up its sales with a social media campaign featuring its commercial star Isaiah Mustafa, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” In online videos, Mustafa responded to Twitter questions from celebrities and ordinary folks, contributing to a 107% increase in Old Spice Body Wash sales within a month.
5. American Red Cross/Haiti
The grim Haiti earthquake left many dead and searching for loved ones, but it served as a great example of the benefit of social media during a crisis. The American Red Cross raised millions through social media outreach and text-message fundraising.
5 Social media gaffes
1. Ann Taylor Loft pays bloggers in gift cards without disclosure
Ann Taylor Loft was one of the first and most visible examples of what the FTC associates with unethical gifting. During its summer collection event, the company held an “Exclusive Blogger Preview” and offered gift cards to bloggers who wrote about it online. Ironically, a handful of bloggers immediately picked up the story.
2. Nestlé censors social media criticism
The consumer-packaged-goods manufacturer's attempts to censor Greenpeace's palm oil ad backfired badly, and Nestlé compounded it with dubious Facebook tactics, such as insulting its fans, deleting posts, negative feedback, and not taking the situation seriously until it became a crisis. Clearly, cooperation between the company's communications and social media teams was virtually non-existent.
3. Sanofi-Aventis pulls Facebook page after complaints
The drug company pulled comments from its VOICES corporate Facebook page after a patient complained about a product Sanofi-Aventis markets called Taxotere. Other patients joined in, but the company said the site was not intended for discussion about products, admitting it had been slow to respond to social media and was looking to improve its online marketing, concentrating on strategy rather than tactics.
4. United Egg Producers forgoes social media during egg recall
The trade body scrambled to respond to a recall in August, but a combination of poor strategy and bad timing left the organization with egg on its face. The decision to use social media as a one-way channel, not two-way, was driven by unpreparedness and lack of resources, but the resulting effect was a communications dog's breakfast.
5. Sarah Palin invents a new word
Republican pin-up girl Sarah Palin encouraged comparisons with George W. Bush with the following tweet: “Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refudiate the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real.” “Refudiate” became the most-searched word on the Web. Unabashed, the former Alaska governor compared herself to Shakespeare, but the incident didn't enhance her claims to be a political heavyweight.
Best of the rest
Spending spree (part 1) – MDC & Partners
Miles Nadal's fast-growing agency network continued making acquisitions in 2010, purchasing PR firms Sloane & Company, Allison & Partners, and Kwittken & Company, as well as experiential marketing firm Relevant.
Spending spree (part 2) – Edelman
Richard Edelman's firm was also on the acquisition trail in 2010, purchasing Texas-based Vollmer PR, Brazilian brand marketing firm Significa, Dutch food and health specialist Hinfelaar PR, and Belgian public affairs firm The Centre.
Press release hoaxes
Wire services were victimized in June, as Business Wire fell for a hoax release about Javelin Pharmaceuticals, while PR Newswire briefly published a phantom release about General Mills.
Free Wi-Fi for poor communities
Google, Verizon, and AT&T teamed up with the US Department of Commerce to fund free Wi-Fi for low-income households delivered through the One Economy Corporation nonprofit.