Lotus By SEAM Is Smarter Personal Safety For Everyone

When you think of non-weaponized personal safety devices, most currently available ones are panic buttons or cheap GPS trackers – single feature solutions that only induce more fear.

With the new Lotus by SEAM and the SEAM personal safety platform, our Toronto-based client solves this issue by enabling you to share your contextual data – GPS location, full-streaming audio and images – real-time with your chosen contacts. This allows your chosen contact(s) to know exactly what the situation is, whether negative or positive, and how to help you, if you need it.

The Lotus aims to make people feel safer by connecting them naturally to their social circles. The sleek, gender-neutral wearable device works with the free standalone SEAM app to allow you to record your GPS location, images and full-streaming audio.

If you want to share your journey with one of your five designated guardians, you can do that. And for its coolest feature, if you’re in an emergency and can’t pull your phone out of your bag or pocket, you can press a button on the Lotus and it will call one of your guardians directly, allowing you to have a hands-free phone call. On Android devices, you can designate emergency services like 911 to be one of your contacts.

In addition, the Lotus features Voice Assistant access, so clip it on your shirt, press a button and ask Siri what the weather is, or have Google Assistant send a text message for you, all directly from the Lotus device.

The Lotus would come in handy if you’re traveling, work late at night, take public transportation (like I do), use Uber or Lyft, or often find yourself in a situation where you’re alone and not completely comfortable. It’s not about living in fear, but about love.

And we could all use some more love.

Interested in reviewing the Lotus? Hit us up for a review unit. Email katy(at)bethechangepr.com

How Can Local Media Be Saved?

Photo by NeONBRAND

While it’s becoming harder and harder to determine what is “fake news,” the real news has always been there for you — in physical newsstands all over your city.

As daily newspapers continue to suffer budget cuts and mass layoffs, they simply aren’t able to cover their communities as thoroughly as they have for decades.

That’s where the weeklies and alt publications come into play. These have become the bedrock of local media, uncovering corruption, giving small businesses a chance to advertise and letting people know when an art gallery is opening.

For PR professionals, alt publications should not be overlooked. The grim reality, as illustrated below by the Denver Post, is that with each day, our journalism counterparts are doing more and more with less and less. 

If you have a hyper-local pitch or a tip that requires a little more investigation, you’re better off picking up the phone and calling your alt-weekly in many cases.

According to the National Newspaper Association, there are more than 7,000 non-daily newspapers in the country — compared to just over 1,400 daily publications. Non-daily newspapers have a circulation of more than 65 million people.

However, these community publications are in dire trouble. Pew Research Center tracks the state of journalism each year, offering a sobering reality. Their most recent findings show that average circulation among the top 20 U.S. alt-weeklies has dipped precipitously from just over 87,000 in 2012 to around 55,000 in 2017.

So what can be done?

1) Newspaper as a nonprofit

Many publications — daily and weekly — have converted into nonprofits in order to still serve their communities.

This eases newspapers of the burden of needing to turn a profit, but also comes with several hurdles. On the bright side, these journalistic entities aren’t beholden to shareholders and won’t be subject to mass layoffs out of need to be in the black.

However, this isn’t a perfect solution. In this model, newspapers lean heavily on benefactors, readers and other donors. It can be hard to remain stable when funding can change drastically from year-to-year.

While many papers have become nonprofits (or at least started the process), it’s too soon to say whether or not this is viable long-term. Some outlets have even turned to crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter to bankroll projects.

2) Refocus on strengths

Washington City Paper might be one of the lucky ones. Purchased last year by VentureHouse CEO Mark Ein, the new owner believes in the publication’s ability to connect with readers.

Most newspapers are purchased by firms that just want to run it like a traditional business — bleed it for profit, then flip to a high bidder. Rinse, lather, repeat. Reporters get laid off, corruption goes uncovered, underserved communities remain ignored.

But Ein purchased Washington City Paper (a mainstay in our nation’s capital since 1981) with the vision of staying out of editorial decisions. But even with a focus on high-quality coverage, there’s still plenty of room for a publication to be financially viable.

Recode wrote about Ein’s plans for the newspaper earlier this year:

“Arts organizations currently provide about 80 percent of the paper’s advertising revenue, Ein said. But there’s another audience that buys twice as many tickets in town — sports fans — so he hopes to attract ad money from that side of the aisle by adding a sports section that will cover ‘the behind-the-scenes-story of the athletes and the teams.’”

3) Tax Facebook and Google

Facebook has been on somewhat of a public apology tour this year, after the proliferation of “fake news” spread like wildfire on the network.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to make things right after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook has even turned to traditional media — airing a commercial — promising to make changes and restore quality to the site.

As recently as August 2017, Pew found that 67 percent of Americans polled said they get at least some of their news from social media. Publishers are increasingly called to post stories to Facebook, but on Facebook’s terms.

If Facebook really wants to settle the score, it can pay up. A blossoming idea is for social media platforms — which have received so much content from media publishers — to be taxed, with money going back into newsrooms.

A ‘public-media tax’ on Facebook and Google’s earnings would generate significant resources for a journalism trust fund,” wrote Victor Pickard, Associate Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, in The Nation. “One percent of their 2017 net income, which these firms could certainly afford, would yield $159.34 million from Facebook and $126.62 million from Google/Alphabet—a combined $285.96 million. This money could seed an endowment for independent journalism, especially if combined with other philanthropic contributions from foundations and benefactors that accumulate over time.

Facebook and Google have already started such efforts, but more can be done. Google has earmarked $300 million over three years for its News Initiative, aimed at battling misinformation and helping media outlets monetize their content. Facebook has also announced a $3 million journalism accelerator, but it’s to help organizations build content on the social network.

This is far from an easy situation to solve, but definitely a worthwhile one.

By Justin Lafferty

Why You Don’t Want To Miss the Cannabis Equity Summit May 18

If you’re not at the New Parish on Friday, May 18, well

The Cannabis Equity Summit, hosted by our good friends Hip Hop For Change and True Skool, is an ‘edutainment’ event that features a special performance by hip hop legends The Pharcyde.

 

Besides losing our minds over The Pharcyde, the Cannabis Equity Summit raises critical issues about who is benefitting from the legalization of marijuana, and the fact that the communities who were most adversely affected by the war on drugs are still awaiting reparations. Let’s not forget that there are still thousands of people in jail over minor marijuana convictions – and let’s also not forget that most of these people are people of color. While opportunistic vultures like John Boehner attempt to cash in on the pot craze, people still sit in jail, or have had their lives irreparably damaged from marijuana convictions.

Chances are, John Boehner has never shed a tear for people whose lives were ruined by minor pot infractions

The Cannabis Equity Summit seeks to address these critical concerns with a distinguished panel of community activists and leaders in the marijuana industry.

After we get these heady discussions out of the way, it’ll be time to lose our minds over the brilliance of The Pharcyde, as well as performances from local artists Ryan Nicole, Shy’An G and Hip Hop For Change founder Khafre Jay.

JOIN US at the New Parish on Friday, May 18 and don’t miss this sure-to-be amazing event. Tickets + info: https://www.facebook.com/events/2057206287863097/

A very special thanks to sponsors Nug, Eaze, Berkeley Patients Group, Hood Incubator and Make Green Go for giving back to the community and making this Summit happen

3 Ways to Write PR Pitches Journalists Will Actually Like

Photo by rawpixel.com

I’ve written for publications as small as a suburban monthly newsletter to as big as newspapers and magazines with national reach.

I’m hardly an ink-stained wretch, but I’ve seen my fair share of lousy, off-target pitches from clueless PR reps. I want to help.

Over the years, I’ve deleted or ignored far more PR pitches than I’ve actually responded to. At one job, I actually had an email filter set up specifically to avoid wasting my time reading such messages.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve actually made friends with some of the better and more honest PR professionals I’ve encountered, leading to mutually beneficial working relationships.

So how can you develop trust with a journalist and avoid the spam filter? Take these 3 lessons to heart.

1) Give us the deets

At the most basic level, what a journalist really wants from an email or call from a PR representative is for the 5 W’s to be answered: Who, What, Where, When, Why?

If you’re trying to get placement for your client, to stand out from the hundreds of other emails in their inbox, you’ve got to make it clear and concise for them. Leaving out key information (such as how to contact you or someone from your client’s company) won’t always intrigue us to contact you for more information. You’d be surprised how often this happens.

Are you publicizing an event? Make sure you include time, date, place, as well as details not germane to the public, such as interview availability. Contact information is absolutely crucial, especially in a deadline situation. Before sending out the release or the email, ensure that yourself and/or the client contact has time to talk to a reporter. It’s quite frustrating to play phone tag, or wait until tomorrow for your company’s CEO to have time to talk on the record.

The most important W, though, is the Why. When writing to a reporter, the most valuable piece of information you can offer is why this matters to that writer’s readership. We both know why you’re writing the email, as your job is to get your client placed in my publication. If you have an understanding of who our readers are and what they want, we pick up on that. Journalists are perceptive enough to know the difference between a mass-produced scattershot email and one that is relevant to just the writer.

2) Get to know the writer

You want to know how the best partnerships with PR professionals start? An introductory email.

Hey Phil,

My name is Sarah, and I’m with Major PR Company. Some of my clients include Corporation 1, Startup 2 and Sports Team 3.

I’ve been reading some of your recent work, and I’d love to meet up with you for coffee when I’m in town for a conference next week. We’ve got some exciting news coming up, and I’d love to learn more about what stories are of interest to your readers.

Boom. That’s an email I’m responding to. The first ask isn’t for coverage that feels like thinly-veiled advertising, but to get to know what matters to my readers. If you introduce yourself first as a human, getting to know reporters as fellow humans, you’ll be surprised with how many doors (and future emails) will be opened.

Take a moment and check out the journalist’s LinkedIn page, Twitter account or Facebook profile. Try to find some kind of reasonable common ground, like an alumni connection or a mutual hometown.

We also know that your time is just as valuable, and that this may not always be feasible. But even just trading emails back and forth, getting a sense of what stories that writer’s readership wants to read will help you in two major ways:

—   You’ll be able to craft pitches that appeal to readership, leading to higher success rates

—   You’ll be top of mind when that writer has an idea your client can comment on

3) Pay attention

If you call me by a wrong name, refer to my competitor in your pitch or commit some other error, I’m not responding to your email. I’m forwarding it to my coworkers and laughing about it on Slack.

The most hilarious are the ones that start, “Hello (insert first name).” If you can’t put enough attention into your email, why should I?

If you and your company really want to appeal to a writer, it’s worth it to spend some time reading recent stories. We can absolutely see through it when you send one of us an email telling us how you have this incredible opportunity and how much you loved a story we wrote … five years ago.

Odds are, the journalist’s coverage and readership have changed over the years. Maybe the writer just wrote that one story because it had a tangential connection to her beat and it was a slow news day.

If your client makes widgets and the journalist covers the widget industry, “ACME Company releases new widgets” is a pitch that gets dumped. “ACME Company CEO Bob Jones offers predictions on how the widget industry will adapt,” is one that gets placement.

Look at the stuff your writer tweets about, as they’ll usually have their finger on the pulse of their beat. If you can craft your pitch to something the journalist is passionate about right now, your odds of getting placement rise substantially.

It all comes back to simply seeing the writer as a human, not just your next target.

Written by Justin Lafferty

3 Ways Small Businesses Can Be Heard on Social This Holiday Season

Photo courtesy of Freestocks.org

 

Now that we’ve passed Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, social feeds will be filled with ads and marketing messages enticing shoppers to buy the perfect gift.

But when everyone from your cousin’s Etsy page to Fortune 500 brands are competing for eyeballs, clicks and dollars, how can a small business stand out among the noise?

Here are some ways you can meet your KPIs as the calendar turns to December.

1) Instagram Stories

Photo by Hans Vivek

Move over, Snapchat. The hottest time-bomb messaging program is baked right into Instagram. Boasting 300 million daily active users, Instagram Stories are becoming the go-to platform for brands big and small.

Users love watching Instagram Stories, and brands are able to include a Call to Action, such as directly linking to a landing page. Now you can even upload photos to your Instagram Stories that are older than 24 hours, allowing your marketing team to plan.

Instagram Stories allows companies to show off a fun, playful side — but the short life of posts means you can create immediate demand with limited-time-only sales.

For instance, Black Sheep Cycling used Instagram Stories to promote a new cycling kit. They announced the promotion in a traditional Instagram post, then used Instagram Stories to showcase the outfit — with a one-hour sale. They sold out in 30 minutes. You can also post coupons to drive in-store traffic, such as announcing a 50 percent off sale of a certain product or showcasing a hot new item.

Not only does this create immediate desire, it lets your customers feel like they’re in a special club with access to this discount. You can promote the Instagram Story sale on Facebook, or wherever your fan base is, to drive traffic there.

2) Be a Mobile MVP

By Jonas Leupe

It feels like old advice at this point, but it still needs to be said. Just having a great website or Facebook page isn’t enough. Increasingly, shoppers are checking mobile first, even if they convert on desktop or in store.

If you’re using Instagram Stories to drive customers to a dedicated landing page, make sure the mobile experience is top-notch. If you’re linking out to blog posts from Twitter, those pages need to load quickly, or else eyes will wander.

Adobe has predicted that nearly half of all retail website visits this holiday season will come via mobile (45 percent), nearly eclipsing desktop (46 percent). The percentage of mobile visits has grown considerably, up from 33 percent in 2015.

Unless you already have a dedicated userbase, don’t place too much importance on a mobile app. Adobe found that while 64 percent of shoppers have a retail app on their phone, only 32 percent would download an app specifically for holiday shopping. You’re better off driving traffic to your mobile-friendly website.

3) Charitable Efforts

 

By Nina Strehl

 

More and more, people want to make sure they’re spending responsibly. As companies come under fire for derogatory statements by leadership or wasteful business practices, today’s consumer wants their dollar to go somewhere worthwhile.

The uptick in cause marketing and the success of cause-based for-profit companies like TOMs shows how critical it is for brands to do good and be good.

This doesn’t mean you need to donate all of your profits to world peace or pivot to becoming a charitable nonprofit. You can tie sales goals to a cause that your customers care about, such as announcing via Facebook that you’ll give a percent of profits on a certain item to a local homeless shelter or posting an Instagram coupon saying customers can get 25 percent off by donating school supplies.

Holidays are the time to make an emotional appeal, whether that’s laughter or tears. Brands all over the world have put away the schtick this holiday season to connect with their customers emotionally. You can do that on a local scale, by showcasing yourself as a charitable neighbor.

Bay Area clothing retailer Oaklandish has this down to a science. The company embraces its standing, partnering with local organizations and giving back. They know they’re not just a business in Oakland, but a member of the community.

Find ways that you can emotionally connect with your customers by getting involved with causes close to them, and to you — and tell that story responsibly on social.

Written by Justin L.

 

Can Essential Brands Withstand Bad PR?

 

It seems like almost every week, a major brand is in the news for a public blowup. Whether it’s the off-color comments of their CEO, a viral video of customer injustice or reports of the company’s food causing serious illness, a cycle has been formed.

There’s an incident, news about the incident, public finger-wagging and threats of protests, projections about the doom of the company, thinkpieces after thinkpieces (Medium must salivate after a company does something dumb)… and then, nothing. A month later, another incident happens and we’re right back to where we started.

Companies such as Uber, United Airlines and Chipotle have made waves in recent months for various well-publicized scandals.

The battle between Uber and Lyft has been the most public example of bad PR at work. As more rideshare riders realize how Uber treats employees and drivers, they start to second-guess their decisions.

Lyft has capitalized on this, as the dominant Uber market share is starting to shrink. USA Today reported recently that Uber once held 90 percent of the ride-hailing market share, but over the past two years, that has slipped to 75 percent. Meanwhile, Lyft has gone from 21.2 percent up to 24.7 percent.

This goes to show that bad PR goes simply beyond harming the bottom line. It opens the door to competitors. It forces consumers to make a choice. Sure, Uber might be the cheapest way to get from point A to B, but is it something you’d want to contribute to? While Lyft has been the biggest benefactor of this, a host of other on-demand apps have risen to give Uber-hesitant consumers a more conscientious choice.

However, in the cases of United and Chipotle, they often have a dominating share of consumer choice. Unless you live in a major metropolitan area, your choices of airline might be slim. Likewise, for more rural and suburban areas, Chipotle is your best or only option at Mexican food that doesn’t come from a drive-thru.

You might think that in the case of these major companies, they’re able to weather the storm because they’re often the only game in town. That can change, though. Smart brands can disrupt these areas. Lyft can offer incentives to new drivers, undercutting Uber strongholds. Mid-range and mom-and-pop restaurants can establish footholds where Chipotle is the only place for a fresh burrito. Budget-friendly airlines such as Southwest could open a few more routes in underserved cities.

There is a definite long-term effect to bad PR on even the most infallible of brands. Hearing about unspeakable acts committed by high-profile executives or extreme injustices captured on video would make even the most fiscally conservative consumer pause. That hesitation, if scaled, can be a nightmare for brands.

Millennials, a growing force in spending power, want to make sure their dollar goes somewhere worthwhile. This is where the Uber vs. Lyft and United vs. Southwest decisions really matter. Consumers want to feel good about their spending.

Toxic PR may not always be enough to shutter a company in a day, but it definitely weighs on the decisions that consumers make day in and day out.

By Justin L.

3 Things Small Businesses Should Consider For Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Photo of Montreal’s Clark Street Mercantile

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve heard how influencer marketing has helped brands big and small, using trusted content creators to share their messaging.

Studies have even shown that each dollar spent on influencer marketing generates $6.50 in revenue. Consumers follow recommendations from their favorite content creators, as 92 percent of people surveyed said they trust an influencer more than an ad or endorsement from a celebrity.

 

Photo by Eaters Collective

But is partnering with an influencer the right move for your small business? Budgets for influencer marketing continue to increase, especially as top YouTubers and Snapchatters command top dollar for their services. The costs for influencer marketing are overwhelming, and can dominate your entire marketing budget.

Small businesses can still reap major benefits from influencer marketing, though they have to be more careful than Fortune 500 companies when partnering with a popular content creator. We’ve heard of businesses spending thousands of dollars to partner with an influencer, only to see little to no ROI from the campaign, as no relevancy was in place.

Here are three things small businesses should consider before partnering with an influencer, based on our own experiences:

1) Is the influencer relevant to your company?

The first mistake many companies make is getting seduced by follower counts. While it might look cool to have a well-followed influencer talking about your product in their podcast or vlog, the cost to get that conversation going often heavily outweighs the ROI.

You need to find an influencer who is relevant to what your company is trying to accomplish. If your company sells life insurance, trying to woo a beauty vlogger with a million followers could be a costly mistake.

The most important currency to influencers isn’t money, it’s trust. They’ve built a community on a solid foundation of trust and authenticity. While some lesser-known influencers might take the money and share your message with a disinterested audience, others will turn you down because your product has nothing to do with their messaging.

At the most basic level, find a content creator who shares similar messaging to your company. For instance, if you’re a hardware store, partnering with a popular DIY builder on YouTube would be a natural fit.

2) Is the audience relevant to your company?

This is the other big question you need to ask before starting an influencer marketing campaign. Look at the audience that the personality speaks to on a daily basis. Is it the same demographic you’re trying to reach? Unless these goals are in perfect alliance, it would be unwise to move forward.

If you’re trying to reach affluent Millennials (and have a product they would be interested in), working with a vlogger whose primary audience is tween girls could be a waste of time and money. Do some homework and study the audiences.

Audiences follow influencers not because they’re really great at reading ad copy, but because there is an authentic connection. These influencers know this, and usually only work with brands who have a message that resonates with their audience. An influencer marketing campaign absolutely has to tie into your main business objective, or it runs the substantial risk of not delivering ROI.

The trust between the content creator and their audience is crucial, but lucrative. Google found that 6 out of 10 YouTube subscribers would follow purchasing advice from their favorite content creator over their favorite TV or movie personality.

3) Is there a local influencer?

For most small businesses, the best pairing won’t come from an international superstar YouTube personality with a massive cache of followers. It will come from someone the local community trusts.

Hyperlocal influencer messaging is on the rise, as small businesses look for ways to break into new levels of conversation. Businesses are partnering with Yelp reviewers, popular local bloggers and podcasters, amateur athletes, creating relevant content specifically targeted toward local customers.

The major risk of influencer marketing is the lack of sustainable ROI. If you spend your entire marketing budget on a high-priced influencer just because they’re followed by throngs of subscribers, you’ll likely receive a temporary spike. Once that influencer moves on, so will their followers.

But by asking customers where they go to learn more about their community — whether that’s a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, etc. — you’re able to see where they voluntarily go for content.
The winning influencer for your company might be just footsteps from your storefront.

By Justin L.

As Brands Try to Sell “Woke,” Customers Wise Up

As social and political resistance movements make daily headlines, is there room for a brand in that conversation? A few companies have tried to make social awareness a focal point of ads or messaging, but have come off doing more damage than good.

Today’s consumers actually prize social responsibility — but not as a selling point. Sadly, some companies haven’t learned that lesson.

Recently, Pepsi and Lyft have tried to position themselves as socially-aware brands, but the pitches have backfired. Pepsi used Kendall Jenner as the catalyst of a fake resistance rally, calming tensions between the people and the police by delivering a Pepsi to an officer. Lyft has been trying to distance itself from its tumultuous competitor Uber, as cofounder John Zimmer called his company “woke.”

Pepsi quickly pulled its ad, but not before a wave of outrage from social media, and the ensuing mocking memes. The commercial was incredibly tone-deaf, making light of tense conflicts with the police. Lyft’s Zimmer saw his comments laughed off, as consumers pointed out that they don’t treat drivers much better than Uber. Customers are able to see right through these types of efforts.

By trying to look socially responsible, these companies have actually hurt themselves and barged into a conversation not meant for them.

Consumers don’t want social responsibility to be part of an ad campaign. They want to buy from companies that actively practice it — and not just in front of a camera.

Instead of showcasing your “wokeness” in an ad or staging a fake resistance rally just for product placement, brands can actually gain superfans by enacting more responsible practices.

A study by Nielsen shows that consumers will respond to true, authentic awareness with their wallets. In that survey, 66 percent of those polled said they’d be willing to spend more on products that come from companies committed to a positive social and environmental impact.

Here are a few ways brands can practice social responsibility (and not come under fire on Twitter):

Make it part of your mission

One of the key tenets of companies such as Salesforce, Patagonia and Adobe is charitable efforts. They encourage their employees to donate to charity and spend hours during volunteer work, often giving them a reward for doing so. This is a common and very effective way to practice corporate social responsibility without contacting an ad agency.

Highlight charitable practices

TOMS Shoes has become a popular brand, especially among Millennials, for their One for One program. For each pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair to someone in need of footwear. Brands big and small can find a way to tie sales to charitable giving, positioning themselves as the socially conscious choice through action, not advertising. TOMS’ philanthropic business model has become so industry-leading that other brands such as Warby Parker have emulated their One for One program.

Green up the office

The most basic way to become a socially responsible brand is to bring environmentally conscious practices in house. Whether it’s doing what you can to become a paperless office or ensuring that employees all through the supply chain are paid and treated fairly, find out how you can improve within your walls by looking into programs such as becoming a certified B Corporation.

Champion a cause close to consumers’ hearts

As you learn more about your customer base, you’ll find that they have causes near and dear to their hearts. For local brands, it could be cleaning up a local lake. For bigger brands (such as Target), it’s helping schools. When you use your name, money and workforce to be a champion of this cause, it will only strengthen the bond between your company and your customers.
It won’t be cheap or easy, but truly taking the steps toward corporate social responsibility will be worth it. Today’s consumers prefer to spend their money with companies dedicated to making the world (or local area) a better place. They’re savvy enough to see through a glitzy ad campaign, knowing which companies truly walk the walk.

By Justin L.

Good Job, Media! The 4 Best Articles We Read This Week

It’s been a while since we’ve done a roundup of the best articles that we’ve been reading. It’s not because we haven’t been reading great articles – on the contrary, the more a certain president lambasts the media, the more the media rises to the occasion – it’s mostly due to a certain amount of media fatigue. But we’re back and without further ado, here are the 4 best articles that we read this week:

PHEW! Did you hear that collective sigh of relief this morning? We sure did.

Today’s New York Times recap of 45’s failed health care reform bill is classic Grey Lady: Concise distillation of a complex issue, no sparkly prose or flowery language needed – just the facts, ma’am, with a couple of underhanded digs thrown in for good measure. Love it.

 

The term “National treasure” sure does get thrown out there a lot, and oftentimes the recipient is undeserving. But we’ll be damned if Rebecca Solnit isn’t a bona fide candidate for National Treasure. We’re lucky enough to be in the same city that Solnit calls home, and our local alternative paper, the SF Weekly, was nice enough to feature Ms. National Treasure on their cover. Read the excellent feature and see if you agree with us. And if you’re in SF, stop by the wonderful Green Arcade bookstore, owned and operated by yet another national treasure – Patrick Marks. There we go again, throwing that term out there!

Bonus props since this was editor/writer Pete Kane‘s first issue as the new Editor-in-Chief. Congrats, Pete!

 

 

Jia Tolentino‘s superb takedown of the perils of the “gig economy” is a fantastically written piece on a fantastically depressing sentiment that our country seems to praise: that of working oneself to death. Calling to mind the hilarious old “In Living Color” sketches where having one job was the pinnacle of laziness, the idea of hard-working Americans stringing together gig after gig to barely make a living should be the poster children for why our economy needs fixing, and not why the gig economy is “working.” Read the article while you’re waiting for your Lyft ride. It’ll make you think twice.

 

 

 

While it’s not an article but an NPR interview, the Fresh Air segment with writer/author Jane Mayer on the Mercer family is eye-opening and more than a little frightening. Hold on to your latte when you hear the story about the scientist that the Mercers are funding, a man who thinks that nuclear wars benefit humanity (!). It’s chilling stuff. The Mercers want to stay out of the limelight and it’s journalists like Mayer who are shining a needed spotlight onto who these people are and more importantly, what their motives are. You can run but you can’t hide from good journalism.

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook

 

 

How PR Pros Can Support Journalism In Trump Era

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In the new Trump era, it is more important than ever for PR professionals to support journalists and a free media.

As PR professionals, it’s in our self-interest to ensure that we have a free and democratic media. As U.S. citizens and members of this nation, it is in our self-interest to ensure that we have a free and democratic media.

Anti-media rhetoric is filling the mouths of talking heads – these so-called “surrogates,” many of whom are inexplicably and rather ironically paid by news outlets to spew rhetoric – and our very own president-elect. The public has grown increasingly hostile toward media. The media themselves don’t often help their cause. But don’t be fooled – the media is never more critical than during regimes like the president-elect’s.

Media absolutely must be held accountable when they make missteps and many of them treat ethics loose and fast. With a lack of training combined with the dangerously alarming speed that reporters must churn out non-fact checked articles, journalism itself has lost a lot of credibility. Despite that, it is not only unfair to malign all of media but detrimental to America’s health as a democracy to do so.

But this isn’t a post about the value of media – we don’t need to emphasize their importance. This is a call to arms to fellow PR professionals to ensure that we’re helping, not harming, the progress of this country. There are many things that PR professionals can do to contribute to a better media landscape, including:

Don’t work with dictators, liars, deceivers and corporations that do very bad things. It’s easy, just say no. You don’t need the business, it should be more important for you to sleep at night. Representing violators of human rights, dictators, oppressive government regimes and outright criminals is bad for business and bad for life. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

Educate your clients on why it’s important to be transparent and honest, and why it’s better business. The public values honesty. Brands that have made mistakes that they’ve owned up to have often been forgiven. It’s the brands that continue to lie and obfuscate who never regain the public’s trust.

Fact check your own statements and reports that clients provide to you. Yes, you work for your client, but you also have a set of ethics. If something doesn’t sound right, take the time to research something to make sure you’re not disseminating lies. 

Support journalists by not lying or deceiving them. Share positive articles and don’t normalize behavior like threatening to kick journalists out of news conferences because they’re doing their job.

Ensure that you’re promoting factual news and striking down propaganda and click-bait. Work to ensure that platforms like Facebook and Twitter not populate these fake news links, and debunk any false reports and articles that do arise. As PR pros, media monitoring is an integral part of our job. We see the news before many others, so make sure you’re not spreading unverified stories and let others be aware of ones that are.

Give back and provide pro bono resources for organizations. Like Meryl Streep implored, the Committee to Protect Journalists is one that deserves your support. The Center for Investigative Reporting has also been doing standout work. Pick your passion and go.

Above all, we need to work with journalists to make sure that all of our voices are heard – every citizen, not just those who pay the most money. As public relations professionals, our obligation is to the public, first and foremost. We have a civic duty to use our skills to disseminate stories that are honest, truthful and provide value to the public that we all serve as citizens of this great nation.

By Katy L.