PR Lessons from 2017

The past 12 months have been fascinating in the world of public relations. We have a president who communicates off-the-cuff each morning to his more than 45 million Twitter followers, and for the first time in at least eight years, most of us can name the White House Press Secretary. Communications from the White House has never been more high profile. We also learned this year that no amount of PR wizardry or spin control can save executives, even at the highest levels, who are guilty of sexual misconduct. Here are a few main PR lessons from 2017, when perception and reputation ruled the day.

Words Matter

Each day, major news networks focus part of their daily coverage on what President Trump tweeted that morning. Whether you agree or disagree with him, he is showing that he can control part of the news cycle and that words still matter. Trump’s tweets have a huge impact on how he is perceived. His word choices and tone are interpreted by both his supporters and detractors, and he often makes mistakes that cost him on the perception front. He recently “called-back” a tweet, claiming it was instead written by his lawyer. Again, it doesn’t matter what side you are on, but even in this age where visuals and short videos dominate, words still matter.Read More

College Reputation Arms Race – And Puppies

College Admissions Arms RaceThe university admissions process is a big topic around my house these days as my daughter is prepping for college entrance exams.  Higher education has never been such a big business, and the college decision grows more complicated as rankings proliferate from well-known media outlets and unknown blogs alike.  Questions are beginning to swirl around our atmosphere of friends, colleagues and family members.  Where can your kid get in?  What universities, if any, are affordable?  What defines a good college reputation these days?  More questions than answers.

One thing I know for sure is that many of the nation’s thousands of colleges and universities are engaged in a reputational arms race.

One of the main battlegrounds is intercollegiate sports, and Forbes and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity recently completed a study about it.  (Given my obsessive relationship with college football, it’s no wonder I found this interesting.)  If you follow college sports, you have heard about universities bulking-up their sports programs with the goal of raising the school’s overall profile.  Nike founder Phil Knight famously donates millions to his beloved University of Oregon with one of the indisputable strategies being that better sports teams (and very flashy uniforms) will increase the overall reputation of the university.  Financier T. Boone Pickens has made similar donations to Oklahoma State University, and I’m sure there are many other examples.Read More