Person of the Year, 2014?

time question markLast year, I had great responses from a blog post and survey about TIME’s Person of the Year, so I decided to revisit the topic as we start to look back on the people and events that shaped the news in 2014.

My interest in this began a few years ago when my Aunt Rosie told me of a great Thanksgiving tradition: After the big meal, her family discusses who should be named TIME‘s Person of the Year.  So for the second year in a row, I have decided to offer up the question as a topic for readers of my blog and have included a survey in this post.  I have suggested a few nominees, and you can vote for one of them or write-in your own.

Quick background: TIME named Charles Lindbergh its first “Man of the Year” in 1927, and each year since has featured a person, group, idea, or object that “for better or for worse has done the most to influence the events of the year.”  Previous winners have included U.S. presidents, world leaders, executives, scientists, and bad guys like Hitler, Stalin, and Ayatollah Khomeini.  Concepts and groups win too. “The American Soldier” won in 2003; “The Protestors” (representing the Arab Spring, Tea Party, and Occupy movements) were named in 2011.  Last year, TIME recognized Pope Francis.Read More

New Trend: Be Invisible Online 


Businesses spend years and millions of dollars making it easier for customers to find them online, but an emerging trend suggests they also are seeking ways to be invisible.

A study last year from the Pew Internet Research Project found that most internet users would like to be anonymous online at least occasionally. The report said that 86 percent of users have taken steps to remove or mask their digital footprints—ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their email, from avoiding using their name to using virtual networks that mask their internet address.Read More

Changing the PR Channel

vintage antennas david pr groupAs I have told my stunned teenage children, we only had four television channels when I was a kid.  Back in the day (and by this I mean before anyone ever said “back in the day”), before cable television, before the Internet, and way-before a full-season of House of Cards dropped in one day, we had four TV options: the local affiliate stations for ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS.  Television channels were broadcast over the airwaves (not Wi-Fi), and some TVs only showed footage in “black and white.”  Our viewing choices and channels were very limited, but we didn’t know any better.  Oh yeah, there was an informal fifth channel which I will call the “Shut-Off the TV and Go Play Outside Channel,” but the details of that one are best left to another post.Read More

Bullying of a Brand


Embroiled in one of the biggest sports scandals of the year, the Miami Dolphins face allegations of bullying, racism and hazing. The details of “offensive lineman” Richie Incognito’s alleged bullying of teammate Jonathan Martin have been well-reported in recent weeks, and the problems continue to swirl-around a football team that was already struggling.Read More

Catastrophic Success at Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s opened in my neighborhood, and I’m told the grocery chain has some great products at reasonable prices.  Sadly, when I tried to shop there, I couldn’t find a parking spot.

The new location opened last week with much fanfare.  However most of the early reviews didn’t discuss the great food but rather how tough it was to park one’s car. Read More

Football’s Summer Crime Spree


One day last week, I jumped on the ESPN website, clicked on the college football news ticker and half of the stories were about players getting arrested over the summer.   One recent report said that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer spent an entire news conference at Big Ten Media Days explaining off-the-field problems.  Players across the country have been arrested for assault, possession, DUI and other offenses.  At my alma mater the University of Florida, linebacker Antonio Morrison was arrested for, get this, barking at a police dog.  I guess he was harassing the dog.  Not sure what to make of it but the quote was amusing: “I walked by and said ‘woof woof’ and they arrested me,” said Morrison.  The charges were later dropped.  The cop admitted he was having a bad day.

And pro football’s police blotter is jam packed this summer.  Leading the chain gang is former New England Patriot tight end (and also former Gator) Aaron Hernandez who now resides in a Massachusetts jail on first-degree murder charges – and is being investigated in another double homicide.

NFL arrests are up 75 percent this off season.  How do they know an exact percentage you ask?  I will answer that question with a question:   Would you believe me if I told you there was an NFL Arrest Database?  It exists and like any good database, it’s searchable so you can find out that the Miami Dolphins, for example, haven’t had an arrest since last November when defensive back Jonathon Amaya was charged with battery after allegedly choking a cab driver – classy.  The Tampa Bay Bucs, however, have had five players arrested this offseason with the most interesting being defensive end Da’Quan Bowers who was arrested after a .40-caliber handgun was found in his luggage at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.  The Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t had anyone arrested in more than a year, rounding out the teams in my home state.

Labor economist Stephen Bronars analyzed the arrest database and found that 0.78 players per team are arrested each off-season.  He also broke down arrests by position: Wide Receivers accounted for more than 1 out of 6 arrests.  Cornerbacks accounted for about 1 out of 7 arrests .  Linebackers 1 out of 8.  Punters and Kickers 1 out of 67.  Offensive Guards (a more benign bunch) accounted for only 1 out of 107 arrests .  The Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans were among the teams with the highest arrest rates, doubling the NFL average.

So what’s going on with football these days?  Why so many players in the pokey?  And do we have a public relations problem here?

The standard answers still hold true.  Football is an extremely aggressive, testosterone-pumping and violent game – yet that doesn’t really explain the punters and kickers.  And during the off-season, these guys have a lot of time on their hands – and the pros have plenty of flash money. 

Apologist-sounding answers aside, I think the NFL and big-time college football need to address this image issue sooner than later.  Reputations and ticket sales are at stake.

A few suggestions:
Go kiss some babies.  Football needs to redouble its efforts to have its players out in the community – either doing good works or teaching kids how to throw spirals.  Is Punt, Pass and Kick still around?  I have an 11-year-old son who has never heard of it.  By the way, it still exists but a quick check online shows that there are only two competitions within 50 miles of where I live.  The players, at both levels, need to bond with their communities and spend more time with their fans and less time “in the club” at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday.

Pump up the volume on charitable efforts.  Philanthropic arm NFL Charities gives away $10 million per year, but aside from a few commercials you see during the season, you wouldn’t know it.   The good deeds done by college and pro teams need to max out the publicity budget.  The fans need to see that the players, coaches and ownership do more than count money and get in trouble. 

It’s a privilege not a right.  This is a longer haul tactic but through some combination of bigger penalties for misbehavior (outside of the judicial system) and building a greater sense of pride in themselves and the game, the NFL and college football have to instill in their players that it is a privilege, not a right, to play the game.  It won’t be easy.  They have to start with tough penalties such as “No strike” policies when players commit domestic violence or for gun charges, for example.  Bans for repeat offenders may need to be the norm.  Penalties must say, loud and clear, that bad behavior won’t be tolerated.  And they must beat the drum that they have a responsibility, just like the rest of us on the big blue marble, to be good citizens.

Training camp is starting and much of the focus will now turn to the field, but the NFL and college football need to keep an eye on off-field behavior and plan for the next, hopefully uneventful, off-season.

What do you think?  Have off-the-field issues changed your perception of big time football?


Author: John P. David

Customer Service Sets You Apart – Especially When Things Go Wrong


In the past two days, my perception of two brands changed for the better, even though things went wrong with both of them.

This week we are rapidly closing-in on two coincidental yet important events: Father’s Day and my annual family vacation.  Usually before we leave for a week in the Carolinas, I stock up on a few things and invariably order items online.  And with Father’s Day on the horizon, a lot of guy stuff is on sale.  So here’s what I shopped for and why my perceptions changed.

One of my clients gave me a gift card from Dick’s Sporting Goods.  I had never shopped there before as the nearest location is about an hour away, and I have literally no brand perception of Dick’s beyond hearing the company’s ads on sports radio.  I decided to use the gift card to order a new tackle box.  It arrived yesterday, in time for my trip, but it was missing some pieces (not sure why).  I called Dick’s and without any fuss, the company agreed to send me another tackle box via overnight delivery.  (I have to ship the incomplete one back but on Dick’s dime).  Despite the fact that someone didn’t properly check my original order, Dick’s created a favorable impression with me because when I complained, they treated me right.  I didn’t have to beg, raise my voice, ask to speak with a supervisor or otherwise “escalate” it to a higher authority.  So guess what?  Even though there isn’t a Dick’s Sporting Goods store within 30 miles of me, the next time I want to order golf equipment or other fishing gear, Dick’s will get the nod.

Also in advance of the trip, I made my annual “kicking and screaming” pilgrimage to buy “menswear” for work and off-days when I’m supposed to be presentable.  Again, everything is on sale in advance of Father’s Day, and I have been regularly bombarded with ads from the oddly punctuated clothier JoS. A. Bank (turns out Joseph A. Bank Clothiers, Inc. is a NASDAQ-traded company that has been around since 1905 and has more than 600 locations.  I had no idea).  So I went to the store near my house and bought several dress shirts and a few pairs of pants.  Said trousers were supposed to be hemmed before I left on vacation, but the store called a couple days ago and said the tailor had been sick and it would take a few extra days.  I called them back and politely told the store manager that the delay was unacceptable as I would be leaving town in a few days and needed to wear pants.  When pressed about the pants (ha), he agreed to have them done for me on time.  When I stopped in to pick them up (they were ready with no further hassles), the manager was so nice and apologetic that I decided to do some additional shopping.  Amazingly, I found a blue blazer that fit me right off the rack (which has never happened, ever – ever).  The price was right and I bought it, but when the clerk took the coat into the back room to pack it up, he noticed a tiny hole where the shoulder met the sleeve of the coat – and he wouldn’t sell it to me.  Frankly, I would have never noticed the itsy bitsy hole had he not pointed it out – Mrs. David would have, but not me.  I tried-on another blazer but I couldn’t find one that fit as well as the original, pin-holed version.  The charge was reversed and I left the store without a new coat, but with a whole new appreciation for JoS. A. Bank.  I still don’t understand the name and how they abbreviate it, but I like the brand.

Muhammad Ali once said: “Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”  How we handle adversity in customer service has as much to do with our brand’s success as the quality of our product and the nature of our message.  I imagine the “The Greatest” would agree.

I wish everyone a great summer and a Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there.  And if you are still looking for a last-minute gift, might I suggest Dick’s Sporting Goods or JoS. A. Bank

Have you ever had a similar experience, when good customer service trumped a bad experience?  Let me know.


Author: John P. David

Don’t Forget the Opinion Page (the Dolphins Won’t)


Publishing your own news, part of the “democratization” of journalism and communications, has opened many doors for companies to spread their message in a multitude of ways.  Almost anyone can write a news release and distribute it online using private wire services that range in price from free to a few hundred dollars.  In a matter of moments, your message can be published in hundreds of Internet outlets.  Exactly who and how many see it is up for interpretation, but without question, today nearly everyone has many powerful communications tools at their disposal.

One effective tool that’s still available but often overlooked is the opinion page at daily newspapers.

If you open up the front or “A” section of big city daily and thumb to the last two pages, you will typically find the opinion pages.  On the left-hand page, you will see editorials written by the newspaper and its editorial board.  The newspaper’s position on wide ranging and hopefully “high-minded” issues like zoning, the environment, immigration, local elections and foreign affairs among other topics will be published here.  This page also typically houses political cartoons and letters to the editor.  Many people are avid writers and readers of letters to the editor.  While such letters are effective communications (particularly if you are complaining about potholes and city hall), they are typically edited down and rarely exceed a few hundred words. 

The right hand page, opposite to the editorial page, is known as the OpEd page, perhaps called “Viewpoints” or “Other Views” or another descriptive name.  In most major newspapers, this page is filled with articles written by syndicated columnists such as Ann Coulter, Cal Thomas or George Will, but many papers have space for commentary from local people.

A few years ago, we helped attorney Hector Lombana place an opinion piece about the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  Another client, George Joseph of Dade County Federal Credit Union, wrote a prescient piece in 2006 warning of the dangers of predatory lending – two years before the financial crisis.

The most important rule for writing for the opinion page is that you need to write about an issue that is relevant to the audience and not just about yourself or your company.  If you have an intelligent and high-minded (there’s that phrase again) take on an important or fledgling issue, then you have a chance to get published. 

Last month, we assisted the Florida International Bankers Association in its efforts to defeat an aspect of the Dolphins stadium tax bill.  Part of the money to fund the stadium was to come from eliminating a tax benefit for international banks.  The issue was complicated and nuanced and while reporters were covering it, we believed an OpEd piece, which runs close to 700 words, gave us a better opportunity to explain our side of the issue.

While a number of high-profile people in Miami were against the stadium bill, the international bankers had a business reason to oppose it, and we believe this was an important distinction between our client’s message and those who were banging their chest about raising taxes and whether or not public money should go to sports stadiums.  FIBA was against the bill for a specific reason and had data to back it up.

In the end, our client turned out to be the perfect counterpoint for the stadium argument, and the Miami Herald took advantage of it, publishing the stadium backers’ “Pro” article next to our client’s “Con” perspective.

The OpEd (which also ran in the Sun-Sentinel) delivered a new level of authority to the international bankers’ argument – and much more credibility than had we published it ourselves using a wire service.  On the afternoon that the OpEd ran, the sponsor of the stadium bill removed the language that negatively impacted international banking.  We can’t take complete credit for it because a number of talented people assisted FIBA’s lobbying team, but I believe our efforts on the OpEd page made a difference.


Author: John P. David

Sorry Beyoncé, You’re No Bob Geldof


Can someone please tell me why Beyoncé and Jay-Z went to Cuba?  The first couple of hip-hop traveled there on their anniversary earlier this month and started a classic “political firestorm.”  In my opinion, they gave the Cuban government a huge public relations victory.  As soon as photos of the couple walking the streets of Havana hit the Internet, the U.S. embargo took center stage and put many politicians on their heels.  Reporters, columnists and TV “talking heads” relentlessly questioned why we have the embargo, which is exactly what the Cuban government wants. 

But why did Beyoncé and Jay-Z go?  Why flex their considerable celebrity muscles to support a communist island.  It makes little sense.

If they were trying to use their fame and fortune to help a political cause, why not support a deserving domestic one?  The whole event seems like a misguided stunt, particularly when you compare it to political efforts made in the past by other musicians and celebs. 

Rock stars have a long history of political involvement, going back to support of groups like Amnesty International decades ago.  The first one that I remember was called Band-Aid.  In 1984, some of the biggest names in music gathered in London to record a song to benefit starving children in Ethiopia.  “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was the number one song in the U.K. for five weeks and raised millions of dollars for famine relief.  The project was the brainchild of Bob Geldof, lead singer of a band relatively unknown in the U.S. called the Boomtown Rats.  Geldof parlayed the success of Band-Aid into a huge benefit concert called Live-Aid.  His efforts were recognized with a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, and he was later knighted.  Now Sir Bob Geldof serves as the de facto model for rock star activism.

Not to be outdone, musicians in America started USA for Africa in 1985 and recorded “We Are the World,” also to fight hunger and homelessness in Africa.  The effort, whether you like the song or not, raised tens of millions of dollars and helped continue to shine a light on an important world issue.

Band-Aid and Live-Aid also spawned Farm-Aid.  Willie Nelson and John Cougar Mellencamp (I get to return the “Cougar” to his name because it’s my blog) spearheaded a concert which raised funds for struggling domestic family farms.  Nelson and Mellencamp then brought family farmers before Congress to testify about the state of family farming in America. Congress subsequently passed the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987 to help save family farms from foreclosure.  Effective stuff.

More recently, U2 lead singer Bono has been called the world’s best-known philanthropic performer and the most politically effective celebrity of all time.  His campaigns for third-world debt relief led to the cancellation of debt for 23 countries, and he regularly meets with world leaders to discuss critical issues like the AIDS pandemic.  Time magazine named him Person of the Year in 2005, and he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.  Also knighted.  Also impressive activism.

Whether you agree or disagree with Bono’s or John Cougar’s political leanings doesn’t really matter, because at least they used their celebrity capital to accomplish something worthwhile.  Over the years, big stars from the world of music have proven that they can make a difference for important causes.

So again, can someone please tell me why Beyoncé and Jay-Z went to Cuba? 


Author: John P. David

Lessons From a Tough Week


My first public relations job was in the Capitol Hill communications office of a U.S. Senator, and I reported to his press secretary, a seasoned former journalist from New York.   As an intern, I mainly answered phones, but I also would regularly proofread news releases.   Right before we distributed a release, the press secretary would always say that we had a good chance for coverage “as long as there isn’t a fire in the garment district.”  Simple translation: A big news event will always scuttle even the best, well-crafted PR message.

On Monday, we had our own version of a fire in the garment district when the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon.  On Monday morning one of our clients did an interview with a television station in Atlanta.  We had orchestrated the story, hired a guy to be on the ground for us, prepped the client and coordinated the on-camera interview.

Our client did well discussing his lawsuit against a medical center, and we were expecting the story to run that night.  Shortly after our interview rapped, the bombs exploded in Boston, and our story got rightfully bumped – indefinitely.

We did everything right for our client, but there’s nothing you can do when major news breaks.  Years ago, I was working on a project where we were trying to get media coverage for a morning event in Miami, but as we were making follow up calls to TV stations, we learned that fashion designer Gianni Versace had been shot outside his Miami Beach mansion.  This huge news event, the murder and ensuing manhunt, took-over newsrooms in Miami and beyond.  Needless to say, our client’s event wasn’t covered.

While you can’t overcome a story as big as the Boston Marathon bombing, I do have some big picture media relations tips which can be helpful during more typical situations.

Strike While the Iron’s Hot
While we all have busy schedules and we want to be well-prepared for an interview, I recommend doing an interview as soon as possible.  First, another source may be interviewed before you and help shape the story in a way that makes your opinion less relevant.  Second, the reporter might get enough info for the story from other sources before you even get a chance to talk.  Third, deadlines change and the story might get published before your interview even occurs.  Lastly, a big news event comes along and scotches the opportunity completely.

Get your “Why Now?” Ready
My friend and fellow PR pro Greg Euston and I spent an evening in New York a few years ago talking media relations, and he opined about the challenge of “why now?”  Reporters get pitched interesting stories all day long, so if there isn’t a compelling reason to cover it “now,” then your challenge is magnified.   Why now vs. later?  Why now vs. ever?  You always have to figure out why your story is relevant right now.  A year or so ago, a friend of mine was telling me about a PR issue regarding the cruise industry – the specifics aren’t that important.  When Carnival Cruise Lines had its problems recently, I suggested that now is a good time to bring the issue up again.  Carnival is down and I figured he would have a better chance of getting a sympathetic ear because of it.  Sometimes the “why now” presents itself, well,  later.  The lesson is that you have to be ready to explain to journalists why they should cover your issue now vs. later.

While You See a Chance, Take it
I believe there are very few instances where one should turn down an interview opportunity.  I might get some blowback from other PR people on this one, and I have certainly had crisis situations where you try to deflect more than engage.  However, in most circumstances, if you have a chance to talk to the press, you ought to do it.  Even if you don’t believe you can give any deep insight into an issue, an interview offers a chance to showcase your expertise.  In some instances, you may actually change the story because of your insight.  A reporter might be misinformed and you can educate them.  And even if they don’t use your information, you are branding yourself as a source for a story in the future.

Don’t Sweat What is Out of Your Control
Stories get bumped all the time, and one can’t get upset when a national tragedy takes precedence.  I guess I would feel differently if our Atlanta story was pushed back due to Kim Kardashian’s baby or Lindsay Lohan’s admittance to rehab; but it wasn’t, so I’m not.

Luckily, our Atlanta story did eventually run on Wednesday, so we were pleased.  But quite frankly, the events of this week put a lot of things in perspective.


Author: John P. David