Monday, September 22, 2014

Top Three Take-Aways From the 2014 IFA Public Affairs Conference

By: Chad Cohen

With another International Franchise Association (IFA) Public Affairs Conference in the books, we once again had the privilege to engage with our members of the Congress and tell the story of franchising. While the IFA's Government Relations team helps guide the conversation around franchising year round, being in Washington D.C. again reaffirms how important it is that lawmakers hear from the members of the franchise community directly on matters that affect the business model.

The Top 3 things I took away from the conference are the following:

1. National Labor Relations Board - The NLRB recently recommended that franchisors and franchisees be designated as joint employers. According to the IFA's official statement, franchisees and their employees do not work for franchisors. The franchise owners who have built more than 770,000 businesses and employ millions of people control their own businesses. Franchisees have their own employer identification number with the IRS and file their own taxes. Franchisees establish day-to-day operations, employment practices and policies for their own business. Franchisees decide who to hire and fire, and also set wage rates, benefits and employees' work schedules.

If franchisors are joint employers with their franchisees, these thousands of small business owners would lose control of the operations and equity they worked so hard to build. The jobs of millions of workers would be placed in jeopardy and the value of the businesses that employ them would be deflated.

2. Be a More Informed Advocate for Franchising - members of the IFA are the best voices of the industry. Getting more involved will only help drive franchising's effectiveness of Capitol Hill and within state legislatures all year round. I need to do more than just Public Affairs once a year to make a true difference.

3. 40 Hour Work Week - Even though the Affordable Care Act is in place, there are key changes still necessary to help franchise small business owners better comply with the law. As the IFA states, a 40-hour work week definition of full-time employee will allow for more flexibility and pay for employees, a benefit many franchise business are able to provide for their workers. Defining a full-time employee as one who works 30 hours per week could ultimately hurt employees by forcing employers to manage their workers to fewer hours to avoid penalties or significant cost increases.

Infographic: Press Releases by the Numbers

By: Ashley Rodriguez

No, the press release isn't dead. It just needs to be adapted. Journalists are busy. If 70 percent are spending less than a minute reading a release, than let's adapt press releases to allow them to get everything they need in just 60 seconds. That means a clear and newsworthy subject line, as well as providing all the hard facts right up front. Sixty seconds may only allow for a reporter to read the subject line, subhead and one or two paragraphs before they click delete.

Check out the below infographic from Beth Stewart, who shared some press release stats in the latest Washington Women in Public Relations e-newsletter.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Reporter Who Replied to Every PR Pitch and Then Wrote about It

By: Ashley Rodriguez

Last week, a Newsweek reporter made my day when he penned this gem, "I Read and Replied to Every Single PR Email I Received for a Week."

As a former journalism student (who, unfortunately, graduated in the middle of a horrible job market for j-school kids), I often wonder had I stayed in the industry, how would I deal with the daily onslaught of PR pitches -- many of which probably are unrelated to my beat?

Wonder no more, because Zach Shonfield conducted the (painful) experiment for me. It's a candid look at how disadvantageous it is to the PR industry as a whole to blanket media with pitches. If we all took the extra time to send personalized, targeted pitch emails, everyone would benefit -- whatever side of the fence you're on.

I know there has been article after article on sending pitches to the right people, but Shonfield shows why we really, really need to start doing it. For real this time. Guys… c'mon.

And if you're wondering what his response was to the accidental popularity of his article, read his follow-up piece here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Paywall for a Cause

By: Ashley Rodriguez

As a former j-school student, I'm always interested in reading about how news outlets are coming up with ways to make money amidst years of declining revenue. Some frustrate me (paywalls), while others just confuse me (the "iTunes of journalism"). 

Last week, in conjunction with the 13th anniversary of Sept. 11, Esquire put its 2003 story "The Falling Man" behind a paywall -- but with all proceeds benefiting the James Foley Scholarship Fund. The suggested donation is $2.99.

Now that's a paywall I'm more than happy to pay for. While it doesn't turn any profit for Esquire, plenty of media are writing about it. It's a PR win and certainly shows there's not a one-size-fits-all paywall strategy. Publications can get creative. They can turn a paywall into a temporary fundraiser and show some goodwill. Or even develop some sort of pay-what-you-can pricing system (Panera style).

Paying for news, whether as a subscriber or on a story-by-story basis, will continue to evolve, but bravo to Esquire for making the bold move to forgo profits for a higher cause.

Friday, September 12, 2014

DiGiorno Debacle A Systematic Problem With Social Media

By: Toby Srebnik

One of the biggest social media mistakes brands continue to make is not thinking through a situation before hitting send on a keyboard or mobile device.  It happened again earlier this week when DiGiorno Pizza’s attempt to engage with the hashtag #WhyIStayed completely backfired. While the brand routinely interjects itself and its brand of humor into trending hashtag topics, the DiGiorno social media team failed to research why #WhyIStayed was trending.

Earlier that day, Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice was cut from his team and suspended indefinitely by the NFL when new video emerged from his domestic violent incident earlier this year. The new video became a discussion topic throughout social media Monday and led to frank domestic violence discussions occurring under the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft.

Instead of clicking on the hashtag to see why #WhyIStayed was trending, the DiGiorno Pizza social media team tweeted this to its 82,000+ followers:

Within minutes, the account’s mentions made it clear they had made a mistake and they deleted their tweet and apologized:

Because of screenshots, deleting the tweet didn’t make the situation any better. To the company’s credit, the team managing the account has done a phenomenal job of apologizing using different words in every single tweet back to people who tweeted their displeasure at the company directly.

However, this situation begs the question: Why don’t brands safeguard their social media the way they would any other communication tools?

There are countless examples of companies marketing around a tragedy (, not realizing which account someone is logged into while tweeting a personal opinion ( ), or deleting comments from a Facebook page in response to something the brand posted (

All of these things could be avoided if common sense principles are included when handing social media:

1) Interjecting your brand into a current events discussion without doing proper research beforehand can completely damage the brand’s credibility. Clearly, had the DiGiorno team spent 30 seconds reading through the #WhyIStayed tweets, they would have realized it was not a place to include their normal attempt at humor. Instead, they have spent the last 72+ hours apologizing to tens of thousands of people on Twitter and Facebook.

2) Train the social media team to triple-check scheduled and real-time posts before hitting return. Many errors can be resolved before a post or tweet is ever sent to the general public by taking an extra 10 seconds to make sure everything reads properly and that a link takes a person to where the team wants them to go.

3) Being transparent at all times, whether it’s a crisis situation or not. Whereas Chapstick alienated a lot of social media fans by simply deleting consumer comments rather than answering them, DiGiorno realized their mistake immediately and hasn’t shied away from apologizing for it. Countless people have tweeted to them or posted on their Facebook page that they’ve done a great job of handling themselves following a social media snafu.

Bottom line: Brand social media teams should think before they tweet and have a plan in place on how to handle a crisis in case one arises.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

5 Charts: The Shifting Landscape of Digital Video Consumption

By; Chad Cohen

Mobile is the future. We've all heard it. We've all been taught it. We're all engaged in it. But that shift to mobile brings another shift - the way video is consumed. Here is what Digiday had to say about it.

Online viewing continues to climb, but TV is far from dead. A report from Nielsen this week found that Americans aged 18 to 64 have doubled their digital video viewing from 13 minutes a day in the second quarter of 2012 to roughly 27 minutes today. A caveat: Digital viewing is, on the whole, still dwarfed by television, which is still dominating upwards of 4.5 hours of people’s days.
As expected, much of this increase can be attributed to mobile, where mobile pageviews have increased 81 percent compared to the same time last year, according to KPCB analyst Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet Trends report. What’s more, mobile now accounts for 22 percent of overall digital video consumption.
Mobile video is fueled by the young, but old folks are catching up. There are also some notable shifts among specific demographics. While people aged 50 to 64 were watching 11 minutes of digital video a day at this point last year, today that number is closer to 19 minutes. At the same time, adults have slightly cut back their time in front of traditional TV to 6 hours and 12 minutes a day.
Mobile video means shorter video. Mobile video viewing lends itself to the short and snackable. Over 60 percent of overall ad views are for video less than 20 minutes, according to data from video ad platform FreeWheel.

Larger mobile screens are helping to boost mobile video consumption. A good rule of thumb is that the bigger the mobile screen, the more video people are watching on it. Data from NPD group, for example, found that Wi-Fi and cellular data consumption on smartphones with screens larger than 4.5 inches was 44 percent greater than that on smaller phones. This sentiment was echoed in a recent poll from Strategy Analytics, which found that 42 percent of phone owners would watch more videos on phones with larger screens.

The result: digital ad spending is growing, but TV spending is growing more. The rapid rise in mobile video consumption means that the mobile video ads are rising just as quickly. Video ad revenue is expected to climb from $5.96 billion this year to $12.71 billion in 2016, according to eMarketer. Again, that spending is still far outpaced by the growth in TV spending, which echoes the overall disparity in digital viewership compared to TV.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Making the Case for Paying Attention to World News

By: Ashley Rodriguez

As an account director at Fish, I lead several foodservice and franchising accounts. It's a pretty niche world. Every day, I'm reading the same e-newsletters, getting my news from the same websites and talking with the same reporters. But as a PR professional, I make an effort to pay attention to events happening around the world. (Tip: If you're busy and need a no-frills e-newsletter you honestly can read while standing in line for coffee, check out The Skimm. It's brief, informative, smart and witty. Perfect way to get up-to-speed on the biggest stories around the world, first thing in the morning.)

A few weeks ago, several of my colleagues and I were pitching health reporters for a client event. And then ebola took over the news cycle. Americans living in Western Africa were affected. The attention of every health reporter suddenly shifted. So we paused.

A few weeks after that, Robin Williams passed away. Now health reporters were focused on depression. We paused again. (Sadly, others didn't. And even took advantage of Williams' death to promote their own clients. Chad writes more about that here.)

Those are just a few examples. I've had TV stations decline to cover clients' grand openings for things like shootings, hurricanes and even a sinkhole opening up in the middle of a house. Most times, we know about these things in advance and can be sensitive when calling reporters and news desks who are usually scrambling to coordinate breaking news coverage. It's very rare anything a PR pro would be pitching would take precedence over a tragedy.

Just this week, as Jim Romenesko wrote on his blog, a PR team made a serious faux pas when they sent out pitch emails promoting the release of Sleepy Hollow: Season 1 -- also known as Headless Day / National Beheading Day. They later apologized, writing that the news of Steven Sotloff's death "hit the web as the email was being sent." But either way, had someone been paying attention to any national news station, the beheading pitch theme may have been nixed. It's only been a few weeks since James Foley's tragic beheading and ISIS repeatedly had threatened to do the same to Sotloff.

With how quickly news travels and how accessible it has become, there's really no excuse for such #PRfails to happen. Of course they do, but PR pros should pause before hitting send. A badly-timed press release can do more harm than good, in some cases.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Burger King Never Really Embraced its Miami Roots

By: Chad Cohen

Burger King is ruling a much bigger fast food kingdom today after the Miami-based restaurant chain made it official on Tuesday announcing it agreed to merge with Canada-based Tim Hortons restaurant chain. The deal, valued at about $11 billion, will create the world's third-largest fast-food company, with about $23 billion in annual sales and more than 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries.

The new company will be headquartered in Canada, but each brand will be managed independently, with Burger King retaining its US offices in Miami, the two companies said in a joint statement.

With its new base north of the border, the Burger King merger was quickly lumped into the growing public outcry over tax inversions, but that's not what I'm here to write about.

Burger King's business dates back more than a half-century, having been founded in 1954 when James McLamore and David Edgerton opened the first Burger King restaurant in Miami, Florida. That's right, Burger King is from Miami. How many people actually know that?

It's one of my biggest contentions with the brand. They've never embraced their roots. Granted, I'm coming from a jaded place because I was born and raised in Miami and still call South Florida my home. I love Miami for all its amazing features, faults and the shadows in between. My question is why can't Burger King ever love Miami just the same?

Maybe it's because they've been through too many leadership changes. Maybe it's because they are always looking over their shoulder at what the competition is doing. Either way, it's a shame that such a global and iconic company has never fully embraced Miami. Maybe one day they'll look back and remember how important it is where they came from.