Sword and the Script

What if NYC Made WTC BASE Jumping an Annual Event?



by Frank Strong

What if NYC Made BASE Jumping an Annual Event

In 2013 three BASE jumpers snuck into the World Trade Center in the wee hours of the morning, climbed to the top, and jumped off with parachutes.

The trio filmed the stunt, were later tracked down by authorities and charged with criminal offenses including a felony.

About two years later, in June 2015, the three were acquitted of the felony but found guilty on lesser counts. The bottom of an NBC 4 New York article summarizes the issues succinctly:

The New Yorkers pleaded not guilty to felony burglary, reckless endangerment and other charges in the leap, which was captured in a YouTube video. The stunt raised questions about security at the then-unfinished skyscraper.

The parachutists acknowledge making the jump. They said that they didn’t imperil anyone and that the charges are overreaching by embarrassed authorities.

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Avoid the Noid: A Mascot that Became a PR Crisis Case Study



PR Crisis Case Study

The freakish mascot McDonald’s unveiled to pitch its Happy Meal this year landed #6 on AdWeek’s 13 Biggest Brand Fails of 2014.  It also proved, in part, a useful segue in a recent Marketplace story about another mascot by a separate fast food franchise – the Domino’s Pizza Noid:

In the late 1980s, the Noid was pizza’s worst enemy. He made pies arrive cold, late or crushed, with cheese stuck to the top of the box – at least that’s what Domino’s ads would have you believe.

Domino’s could “avoid the Noid,” delivering hot, fresh pizzas in 30 minutes or less. The Noid ads were a huge success, spawning toys and even a video game.

But it all came crashing down in 1989, when the Noid suffered what may be the worst PR disaster in history. Zachary Crockett has written about the Noid for Priceonomics, and he tells us the strange, sad story.

The worst PR disaster in history?  Really? Read More…

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Warren Buffet Underscores the Value of Reputation



Warren Buffet Reiterates the Value of Reputation

It may be hard to quantify the value of a reputation but it sure is meaningful when one of the world’s most prominent financiers says it’s important.

Reputation was a key message billionaire Warren Buffet conveyed in “biennial” memo to his leadership team – the 80 or so business people that run the subsidiaries of Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway company.

The Wall Street Journal’s MoneyBeat blog embedded a copy of his memo which reads:

“We can afford to lose money – even a lot of money.  But we can’t afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation.” We must continue to measure every act against not only what is legal but also what we would be happy to have written about on the front page of a national newspaper in an article written by an unfriendly but intelligent reporter.

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4 Creative PR Ideas for Crisis Communications



4 Creative PR Ideas for Crisis Communications-Chevy-Tweet

Constraint breeds creativity.  It may seem counterintuitive, but the ingenuity of deftly navigating the most difficult of binds goes to show PR is often as much about problem solving as it is communication.

Corporate crisis communications provides a demonstration because there are very clear constraints:

  • Unknown unknowns – the effort to understand what is happening
  • Time hacks – crisis PR demands speed
  • Dichotomy – substantial pressure to credibly refute or validate

1. Chevy embraces the truck.

As a Chevy spokesperson Rikk Wilde’s job was to present a new truck to San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner.  As a corporate sponsor this was Chevy’s big moment to showcase some of the finer points about the vehicle they were about to handover to the World Series MVP.  It was an awkward presentation through and through, but at one critical moment, Mr. Wilde noted the new Chevy Colorado, “…offers class-winning and -leading, um, you know, technology and stuff.” Read More…

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Company Bites Journalists…Again



Company Bites Journalists

Think the media won’t cover your product?  Well then, you’re just not thinking outrageously enough.  It’s very easy to do, but will require some steely nerves the first few times you try it.

There’s a secret trick that marketers of apparel love to use.  It’s guaranteed to score ridiculous amounts of coverage.  Ready for it?

1. Be offensive and distasteful. 

Create an advertisement that you are 100% certain most people will find hideously offensive; where possible, be slightly prejudice, sexist, or distort a historical tragedy for capital gain. It’s important to be only slightly wrong for the purpose of plausible deniability that you’ll need later. Read More…

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The Brand Hashtag Hijack isn’t the Problem



by Frank Strong

brands hashtag hijack
When the NYPD decided to launch a hashtag campaign with #myNYPD the po-po organization might have been betting the campaign would be the social media equivalent of COPS – or community oriented policing services.

Instead of photos of a charitable officer giving a homeless man a pair of boots, the hashtag was flooded with images that border on police brutality: An officer (allegedly) shooting a homeless man’s small dog and an officer (with tall brass no less) pulling the hair of a handcuffed women. Read More…

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Autotweets Are Not Comparable to TV or Radio Ads


autotweets, schedule tweets

Photo credit: Flickr

There’s a debate over autotweets, or scheduled tweets during times of tragedy

This post kicked it off: Guy Kawasaki is too ‘popular’ to stop autotweets during Boston bombings. This post reinforced the point, with kinder language, but with words that bite: A Letter To Those Of You With 1,500 Twitter Followers Or Fewer.

And we’re off.  Knock down.  Drag out.  Online scrap.  It’s not productive.

The point of the post?

While the news about the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon was just being broken, and for several hours afterwards, most companies shut down their promotional efforts on Twitter and other social media.

Most people and organizations rightly came to the conclusion that to continue to hawk their wares while a national tragedy was unfolding (and people were using Twitter to get and exchange news) was a little insensitive, to say the least.

Most brands stopped. And while I generally dislike the term “personal branding” because I believe within a company — that is a team environment — it is divisive  some people have become brands. In a company, this means there’s an inverse correlation between productivity and ego.   Read More…

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Three Observations the Morning After Tragedy


Thinking of Boston.

Thinking of Boston.

by Frank Strong

I first heard about it on Facebook.  A friend had posted this link to The Atlantic. Initially, the article simply had a couple lines of text and a few screenshots of tweets.  The site has since updated it to provide more complete coverage.

Senseless killing. Tragic. Incomprehensible.

My first reaction was: this is terrorism.  The last time we had a terrorist attack we went to war for a decade. In fact, we are still fighting it.  However, it’s worth noting, before 9/11, the predominant form of terrorism was from domestic lunatics, like the duo from Oklahoma City.

As of the time of this writing, no suspects have been identified and officials have simply said, they currently do not know. Read More…

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Crisis Communications as a Prerequisite to Change


Crisis Communications

Two great reads – one on business strategy and the other sage advice on crisis communications.

by Frank Strong

The difference between good companies and great companies may well be the difference between those that avert potential crisis and those that react to a crisis.

It is the difference between being “committed-to-excellence” rather than only demonstrating that commitment only when someone important is watching.

There’s a second problem with reactionary thinking: the company forgoes the ability to choose the space and timing of the crisis.  Like Murphy’s Law, crisis happens when you can least afford it and siphons away resources and wastes valuable time.

Sometimes companies can do a lousy job on crisis communications and survive; Exxon and BP come to mind.  Sometimes companies can do a lousy job with a crisis and sink; Eron and Anderson Consulting for example.   Read More…

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Google Reader and Google’s Opportunity to Win Friends


google reader

Image credit: Lars Fosdal on Google+

by Frank Strong

Google announced it’s shutting down Google Reader. The company cited declining usage of its aggregation service as justification for killing it come July 1, 2013, but the web has exploded with unhappy comments.

There’s a petition to keep Google Reader running.

Maybe the complaints are from a few that shout louder than the majority.  Maybe the complaints are from a few that are influential.   Maybe.  

I’ve seen some pretty smart people react so viscerally to this announcement, that it must be worth hitting the pause button and perhaps putting some fresh paint on the Google Reader shutters.  Read More…

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