How to Get Away with Cheating: Does The Right PR Save Our Country’s Elite from Their Lying, Cheating Ways?

cheating scandals

From politicians, to athletes, to celebrities, our country is fascinated by the downside of being in the public eye – the skeletons in their closet. I will admit that I, too, am drawn in to breaking news about celebrity affairs! One of the most infamous cheating scandals of our generation is none other than Tiger Woods. We all remember that Thanksgiving his wife chased him down the street with a golf club, uncovering what is now one of the most talked about and expensive divorces ever. Tiger was not only drug through the mud and sold out by more than a dozen women, but professional sponsors pulled out losing a reported $22 million in endorsement deals. Four years ago, PR maven Howard Rubenstein even said that “[Tiger] is beyond PR redemption. He is in public relations hell right now. There is not a PR man on Earth who can restore his image.”

Cheating scandals

Howard may know PR, but he certainly didn’t have a crystal ball. Fast forward to 2013 and it’s time to re-evaluate. Has his image finally recovered from the infidelity scandal? I’d say yes! Not only is he back on top of Forbes’ list of the world’s highest paid athletes, he’s returned to the top of the World Golf Rankings with a lovely lady by his side.

Tiger was certainly not the first to be scrutinized by the masses, and he is definitely not the last. In the last couple of years, cheating scandals have been thrust into the public eye, often leaving the one at fault to be judged under a microscope. Let me just preface the term ‘cheating’ doesn’t necessary mean infidelity; I am clumping professional cheating and irresponsibility as well. For instance, Lance Armstrong’s public outing for doping, Paula Deen’s reckless words, A-Rod’s suspension for performance enhancement abuse, Anthony Weiner’s multiple (multiple!) indiscretions with women, and most recently, Portland’s own Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen’s highly exposed affair with another woman. In a day and age where public figures’ private lives are no longer private, how do they successfully come out the other side?

cheating scandals

Cheating the system?

As someone in the industry, I can guarantee the image refresh people like Tiger receive is all due to careful planning by a team of highly skilled public relations professionals. Good PR is what saved Tiger Woods. And it’s what can either save or destroy all of the other cheaters mentioned. Look at Paula Deen at her time on the Today Show – either she rejected her counsel’s suggestions or she needed to find a new PR team. So the question I must ask is: What does it take to erase your cheating scandal when you’re in the public eye? Is it timing, the type of scandal or is it simply the skill set of your PR team?

Marketing on Pinterest

Addicted to Pinterest

Hello, my name is Kelda, and I am addicted to Pinterest.

It is not a healthy addition. I am guilty of hoarding recipes for sinful desserts and images of $10,000 handbags.

It is not a victimless addiction.  My family regularly falls prey to my cooking experiments and crafting disasters, all of which were inspired by Pinterest.

It takes away from time with my family. “Just one more page,” I mutter at night on the couch, lacking the willpower to shut my laptop.  My only solace is that I’m not the only one.

Addicted to Pinterest

A new audience

Pinterest is now the third largest social media network after Facebook and Twitter, yet brands have struggled with how to tap into Pinterest as part of their marketing efforts. It is a daunting and seemingly shallow platform, and unlike Facebook, it is wholly driven by the community. Oh, and that community? It’s dominated by women. In fact, women are five times more likely than men to use Pinterest, according to the Pew Research Center.

Addicted to Pinterest

Addicted to Pinterest

As an addict, I hope Pinterest stays pure and is never tarnished by the marketing efforts that have transformed Facebook into the cold and unsecure environment it now is. But as a person working in marketing and PR I am interested to see the ways Pinterest may evolve.

Today, a successful brand is using Pinterest altruistically. They are not exclusively promoting one product or service. The most successful brand shares the best of what’s out there – pretty things and good ideas – all which subtly and carefully represent the brand aesthetic.  It may not always be so philanthropic, but for now all that pretty, community-driven content fuels my addition like no other.

When It’s Not All About Me Anymore

A new logo for A.wordsmith

When I first started A.wordsmith in early 2009, it was more of an experiment than anything else. I had just fallen victim to the economy and was part of a large round of layoffs. I was also very pregnant and not very marketable when it came to a new job. I had nine years of professional experience under my belt and after conversations with several mentors and my family I decided to take the plunge and become my own boss.

My initial goal was really just to have a couple of clients and bring in enough money to support our household. The A.wordsmith moniker was born as a clever combination of my name and what I love doing and my logo was central to me, myself and I – with my beaming face front and center.

Fast forward to present day and what has been discovered is my own deep entrepreneurial spirit that is part of my Simmons-born DNA. Not only am I passionate about providing excellent client service, but also growing my business as part of that effort.  In early 2012 I came to a crossroads, realizing that either I needed put the brakes on new business and be satisfied with my current state, or forge on and grow. I could no longer go it alone.  Since then I have been fortunate to engage a stellar team of contract employees with skills ranging from strategic PR, writing, graphic design and copy editing.

Bottom line is that A.wordsmith is no longer just about Ann – and I love that!  But with that came the realization that no longer was my logo truly representative of the business. The original logo for A.wordsmith has served me well and prompted many a conversation. I’m deeply thankful to our friend, neighbor and graphic designer extraordinaire Vince Ewert who did the design back when there was no extra cash and his payment was truly a dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. For this latest phase of branding, I enlisted the help of designer Megan Zimmer, a member of the A.wordsmith team, and I’m very excited about the look and feel. The logo is definitely not a far cry from the first one, which I like…makes me feel at home, and I hope it evokes those same feelings for others who have been around for the whole journey or those just coming on board.

old logo for A.wordsmith logo for A.wordsmith

Party on the River

human access project

The Human Access Project wants to change the way Portland thinks about the Willamette.

Ah, the mighty Willamette. It’s a beautiful river that serves as a landmark, an industrial thoroughfare and an integral part of Portland life. And, if you’re like most people who’ve spent some time in the Portland area, you’re as likely to dip a toe in the river as you are to head down to the sewage treatment plant for a lap swim. We all know that you just don’t swim in the river.

But what would you say if I told you the Willamette River, in Portland, is approved for summer swimming? Officially. I mean, approved by reputable sources like the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and the City of Portland’s Office of Healthy Working Rivers. With the 20-year-long Big Pipe project completed in 2011 (the largest public works project in Portland’s history), the frequency of what is politely called Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) is expected to drop to almost zero. When CSO is not in action, the river’s approved for swimming and other recreational opportunities. That’s fine and great, but what about public perception? We all know the river is filthy. Ask anyone.

It’s an upstream PR battle, but the Human Access Project is doing what they can to change public opinion and they’re doing it Portland-style. Yes, they’re throwing a party. The Big Float takes place on Sunday, July 28th, and it’s dedicated to floating down the Willamette en masse, to end up at a beach (yes, Portland has a beach now) where bands, food and drink, massage chairs, and possibly a bounce castle will be waiting to entertain the masses and remind them that touching the Willamette, with both feet, isn’t so bad.

See you there?

The True Cost of Unpaid Interns

summer unpaid intern

Unpaid interns are disrupting the media – and not in a good way.

Summer interns everywhere should be watching their backs after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed an unpaid intern for the inaccurate and unauthorized confirmation to media of the names of the crew members of an Asiana Airlines jet that crashed in San Francisco on July 6. When the TV-news station, KTVU in Oakland, read the names on-air and posted them in an on-screen graphic the news report became one of the more widely snickered-about TV-news screw-ups in years.

Both the NTSB and KTVU issued apologies and the unnamed intern, who now has one hell of a gap in his resume, was fired.

Ironically, this incident occurred just as a rash of unpaid intern vs. employer lawsuits have hit the court system.

The legal dilemma

It all started June 11, when a federal district court judge in New York ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures should have compensated two unpaid interns for their work on the 2010 movie Black Swan. Two days later a former intern for W Magazine and another for The New Yorker filed lawsuits against publisher Condê Nast claiming they were paid less than $1 an hour. And on June 17, a former Atlantic Records intern filed a lawsuit against Warner Music Group citing unpaid wages for office work performed from October 2007 to May 2008.

unpaid interns coffee

The management risk

As media budget cuts continue at a seemingly unsustainable rate, the trend of hiring low- or un-paid interns is on the rise. Publishing Executive reported that it is not uncommon for editors to be told to hire more unpaid interns to cut costs (Magazine Editor Confesses: “Management Tells us to Hire Unpaid Interns”).

Outside of the obvious downsides of replacing seasoned reporters with inexperienced and low-paid recent graduates – poor, inaccurate reporting, tinged with bitterness and Top Ramen – it creates a whole slew of potential issues regarding intern management.

Ultimately, that poor (literally and figuratively) unpaid NTSB intern didn’t deserve full blame for the embarrassing Asiana Airlines incident. The manager, whom in exchange for free labor was responsible for job training and supervision, was equally at fault. Plus, now that NTSB took the “my intern did it!” excuse, media outlets thinking they are getting a great deal with free or low-paid interns this summer might consider the true cost of their free labor. In the end, I guess you really do get what you pay for.

Unleashing My Inner Talent Scout

country music

Those who know me well have likely heard about my pipedream to live in Nashville and work in the country music business. This stems from my deep love of music that took old when my mom brought home a Reba McEntire greatest hits album when I was 8 years old. Since that day I have made it my business to know and love music – especially country.

Unfortunately I don’t currently know how I can make a move to Nashville a reality, but in the meantime I have had the awesome opportunity to book and promote some local acts at my parents’ guest ranch in Southern Oregon. On Saturday we welcomed Cloverdayle to the resort and had an absolutely incredible time. If you live in the Northwest and love country music, make it a point to see them perform this summer, because this fall they move to Nashville and there’s no telling when they’ll be back. I have gotten a total rush out of identifying great talent in the region, booking them, leveraging some good ol’ PR skills to promote the show and then getting to partake in the fun on event night.

For hard-working ranching families who live in that part of the state, taking a break from reality and enjoying a great meal followed by a fun performance is a special way to spend a summer evening. And for me, getting to meet these up-and-coming artists and pick their brains about Nashville and any inside scoop they can share about business allows me a brief window into this world I’ve watched from afar for so many years. So while I’m not working on Music Row, this is a pretty fun next-best-thing. Thanks again to Chad and Rachel Hamar for the amazing performance and for my parents for being willing to put on these annual concert series, and indulge my inner music producer.

Gregory Crewdson’s Surreal Photography

Brief Encounters tells the story of  this “theatrical” photography.

Working as a designer involves a constant search for new inspiration and unique examples of self-expression. A few evenings ago, amid an underwhelming selection of questionable films on Netflix streaming, I came across a truly inspiring documentary. Brief Encounters follows Gregory Crewdson‘s 10-year odyssey creating a series of surreal, mind-blowingly detailed photographs of small-town American life.

With all the structure and planning afforded to a feature film, Crewdson’s work creates a profound tension between beauty and anxiety. His pieces have sold for as much as $150,000 for a single photograph. A single image can take up to two years to complete and involve hundreds of people in the process.

“My pictures are about everyday life combined with theatrical effect. I want them to feel outside of time, to take something routine and make it irrational. I’m always looking for a small moment that is a revelation.” —Gregory Crewdson

The Value of the Story

Value of the Story

We live in a world where new information is constantly at our fingertips. We’ve been told that this has affected our attention spans, our memorization skills, our ability to concentrate. When scanning the web, we may balk at a large block of text, bookmarking and moving on to bigger headlines, something we can skim. There’s always the option to browse for something more immediate, to click the sidebar, or refresh the feed. The web has changed the way information is shared, and it’s changed the way stories are told. We’ve learned that web content needs to be brief and to the point to accommodate the new reader. Every word counts. Good design matters.

Does this mean that people aren’t really reading anymore? That storytelling doesn’t have value? Thanks to Significant Objects, we can rest assured that (for now) people still understand the value of the story. An experiment exploring the effect of narrative on subjective value, the Significant Objects project used writers, garage sale objects and eBay to test the value of storytelling. Over 200 participating writers were paired with an object purchased for about $1.25. Each writer wrote a short story to be used in place of the object’s description and the object was put up for bid on eBay. So far, object sales have brought in more than $8,000. How’s that for objective proof of the value of the story?

The End of the Print Era: Where Do We Go from Here?

shake up at the Oregonian

Last week’s shake up at The Oregonian

In 2013, it is no surprise to see a publication move away from print to focus more heavily on online content, but it still stings each time I see it happen. Last week’s shake up at The Oregonian is a good reminder of the ever evolving ways we receive news and as a PR professional, how it’s even more important to define the story we are telling.

For anyone who may not be following the recent news (or are living under a rock), the Oregonian announced it will scale back its printed paper delivery service to just a few days a week and cut more than 100 of the 650 jobs at the publication. While this is a shock to the system, it is a good opportunity for us to step back and reevaluate how we be innovative in this new landscape.

shake up at the Oregonian

The Oregonian Building, which houses the newspaper.

A wake-up call for Oregon?

There’s no question that getting cover in print newspapers is a lot harder than it used to be. With fewer reporters, most don’t even cover a single beat anymore. Also, most newspapers have a much smaller news hole – even when pitching a decent story to a reporter, sometimes there just isn’t enough room. The latest cuts out of the Oregonian is a wake-up call. As the media continues to evolve, I think the PR industry has a good opportunity to be the one innovating and steering the conversation with reporters. Whether this comes in the form of selecting just a few reporters to build strong relationships with, tapping into social media to showcase your news or going down the avenue of contributing articles, it is our job to be influential. If content is king, then PR is queen. What do you do to stay relevant in your relationships with the media?

Is That What You Call an Apology, Paula Deen?


Ever since she was a no-show on TODAY last Friday I’ve been eagerly awaiting Paula Deen’s interview with Matt Lauer that was rescheduled for this morning.  First of all, what was she thinking not honoring her commitment to be on the program last week, immediately following revelations that she has used racial slurs?  Instead of going on live TV with an apology, Paula Deen explained that she was “exhausted and disturbed,” an excuse that is weak at best given the situation. Where was her PR counsel last week?  If they were there, did they do all they could to get her to make the interview? Did she reject their counsel? Or was it that they weren’t there (seems highly unlikely), and if so why not?


Blame game pity party

Regardless, we fast forward to today and the interview that seemed more like a blame game pity party than an actual apology.  As the experts have already said, the rambling 13-minute long segment was “bizarre.”  Given her celebrity status Deen had the opportunity to do what most of us would never – go on national television and make things right.  Take responsibility.  Own up to her mistakes.  Set a clear standard and precedent for the future.  Come across as trustworthy, remorseful and understanding.  Instead, she appeared on the defensive, commenting on how those who know her can’t believe how she’s being treated and what’s being said about her.  She went on a long rant about hearing “kids” in kitchens talk in a way that is just “distressing.”  When Lauer asked if she had engaged in similar dialogue she said absolutely not.  Maybe she’s telling the truth.  For some reason she didn’t come across as fully believable.

What next?

As a communications advisor I would be most nervous about her statement that she only used the most offensive racial slur one time while being robbed.  In today’s digital age so much is caught on tape – not to mention she’s a TV personality who is constantly around cameras and microphones that are on.  If additional instances of her using racial slurs come to light, she is not only a racist but a liar. And that’s not an easy mess to clean up.

And finally, I would have to believe that she was working from a set of talking points for today’s interview, and I can’t imagine that throwing in a slang phrase as her parting words was in the recommended messaging.  “I is what I is, and I’m not changing.” Hmm…no, Paula, I’m sure you’re not.