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Friday, June 29, 2012


Sometimes, in the agency world, folks can cross the proverbial aisle to come together and really make a positive impact. Earlier this month, Edelman, WCG and CommCore joined came together during the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual conference in Chicago to help further cancer research.

The partnership leveraged the reach of the "#ASCO12" hashtag and, for every tweet that included it, a donation - up to $5,000 - was to be made to Alex's Lemonade Stand, an organization dedicated to funding pediatric cancer patient/caregiver support and research.

Amazingly, there were more than 10,000 tweets using that hashtag and, as such, we easily reached our goal and the full $5,000 donation has been made.

WHY 3D.1H.5K?


3D: Started at 6pm on Friday, June 1 - coinciding with the unofficial ASCO12 tweet-up [6] - we tracked tweets that include #ASCO12 for 36 hours, ending on Monday, June 4 at 6 p.m.

1H: 1 Hashtag - #ASCO12

5K: Our goal, raise up to $5,000 for Alex's Lemonade Stand

The brainchild of Mark Bennett (WCG) and Geoff Curtis (Edelman), the idea seemed a no-brainer to me when presented and CommCore didn't hesitate to join in. Now, all we're thinking is: Let's do it again.

This whole experience has been a terrific reminder of why we're all in the healthcare business after all - to help communicate important information - very often related to cancer - with the hope of improving awareness and survival, finding a cure, and delivering hope to those who find themselves out of options.

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation was started by Alex Scott, who had been battling neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer. At age four, she began with a small lemonade stand outside her Connecticut home in an effort to fund research to help other children suffering from cancer. Alex lost her battle with cancer in 2004 at the age of 8, but her family and friends took up the cause and today, the foundation is a worldwide effort that has raised over a million dollars.

We are pleased with the generosity of our friends and colleagues and we hope to grow this effort in the future.

Are you in? Any suggestions on how we can make an even bigger impact?

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Real Bridge to Nowhere

British Treasury Minister Chloe Smith is one up on Sarah Palin; the Conservative MP fell off "a bridge to nowhere" on live TV in front of millions of viewers.

Enter Ms. Smith being interviewed by British TV news host Jeremy Paxman about the British government's abrupt change of policy regarding raising fuel prices to help balance the budget. It appears to us at CommCore…and certainly must have to the audience…that Ms. Smith was completely unprepared to handle some rather obvious confrontational questions about the change in policy that she should have expected. The resulting interview, under Mr. Paxman's relentless probing, is excruciating to watch.  Even on this side of the pond, Jeremy Paxman is an interviewer not to be taken lightly.

Which brings us to bridging. Bridging is a media training technique that -- when used properly -- allows a speaker to clearly and
respectfully acknowledge a tough question and then "bridge" to an effective answer that he or she wants to make.  There is a key to
successful bridging, however, that is inescapable…you can't bridge if you have nowhere to bridge to.   Most of Mr. Paxman's questions
were predictable as was his drill-down style of questioning.

At CommCore, we tell our clients to:
1.    Develop messages once you know the topic
2.    Anticipate the questions
3.    Know when and how to "give up a checker" when they you must
4.    Then  bridge to a relevant positive point

Ms. Smith had two options:  1. Work with her communications advisors to prepare for the combative line of questioning that Mr. Paxman is clearly known for, OR 2. Don’t go on at all.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Reputation Matters!

The Reputation Institute released its list of The World's Most Reputable Companies. In Forbes, Jacquelyn Smith discussed key areas all companies – large, small, B2B or B2C – should consider when establishing a brand or managing their reputation.  At CommCore, we don’t find these ideas new or surprising, just common sense.

  1. Build strong bonds with stakeholders – If your company has a positive reputation and good rapport with customers, those customers will be more likely to recommend your company to others. Recommendations and word of mouth advertising is critical to sustaining sales and growth.

  2. Tell your story – Make sure the company’s story and key messages are shared across the board. Most executives already have their elevator pitch ready and waiting to recite at the drop of a hat but it is compelling? Does it engage the audience in a way that creates a deeper connection? You do not want your story to go in one ear and out the other.

  1. Stay relevant – You want your company to stay on the forefront of everyone’s mind. It is important to participate in local and global activities. Make connections with members of the media. Maintain communication with stakeholders and display and a genuine interest.

BMW ranked as the most reputable company based on scores of four emotional indicators: trust, esteem, admiration and good feeling. Smith adds, “Something all the winners across the globe have in common: They have recognized that the days where a strong product alone would win the love and support of consumers are over.”

Do you have any other critical measures to follow to improve your reputation?

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Thursday, June 21, 2012


F-bombs, four letter words, and other profanity are popping up much more frequently in the media these days. The standards of what is acceptable -- on cable, YouTube and movies – is evolving.  (Profanity on “over the air” TV and radio is still regulated by the FCC.  But even these restrictions are now in question following the 8-0 Supreme Court decision in favor of broadcasters who received fines from the FCC for indecency.) CommCore’s question: Are F-Bombs and other words as acceptable in the workplace or other professional environments?

Over the past few months we’ve seen a variety of aggressive public word choices – language that use to be known as cursing. Carol Bartz, former Yahoo president, feels that “four-letter words language ‘show passion and commitment.’'' Donald Trump gave a speech full of profanity to a gathering of Republican women’s groups at the Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas. President Obama used profanity in a live media interview after the BP oil spill to convey his fervor. In contrast, companies like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Forbes have swearing policies in place so employees do not use profanity in emails and/or emails containing profanity are moved to a spam folder.

We are not prudes at CommCore, just a little more conservative in the business setting.  We know that some in your audience will find such language offensive or it will make them uncomfortable.  International audiences may have a different “risk tolerance” for what may be seen as a “new normal.” When trying to communicate effectively it is always best to air on the side of caution, especially when you are dealing with an unknown or unfamiliar audience.

Do you think any and all language works when communicating with your clients, customers, or staff?

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

What David Stern Can Learn From Bryce Harper

Hackles were up everywhere after sports/talk host Jim Rome asked National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern on Wednesday if the NBA Lottery was fixed. Stern's retort – after scolding Rome for asking the question in the first place – was to ask Rome, "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?"

Rome has made a reputation as a broadcaster provocateur who pushes buttons; the powerful Stern remains a polarizing figure of his own in the professional sports world, and reaction to his shot at Rome has been largely negative.

Change channels to 19-year-old Washington Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper, a baseball phenom-in-the-making whose exploits on the field belie his youth. Apparently his quick-thinking outside the lines is of the same caliber. Asked by a reporter after his strong performance in a win against the Toronto Blue Jays if he would celebrate by drinking because the drinking age in Canada is 18 and not 21, Harper didn't rise to the bait. His immediate, off-the-cuff answer, "I'm not answering that…that's a clown question, bro" has gone viral.

At CommCore we always advise our clients to pause before responding to a tough (or needling) question. Give your brain a chance to check itself before you respond with a comment you may regret.

Apparently Harper can see a curveball coming off the field as well as on it regardless of who is pitching it. We think sports mogul Stern might take a page from rookie Harper's book.

What do you think?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

No “Crash and Burn” In This Case

The back-to-back car accidents involving Secretary of Commerce John Bryson this past weekend could have ended up burning the fingers of an Obama administration already trying to manage the President’s “private sector is doing fine” PR-fire.

Fortunately for the administration, the PR-nightmare never materialized in this case for two reasons. First, reports indicate that Secretary Bryson’s alleged hit-and-run accidents seem caused by health-related seizure and not intoxication or reckless driving. And second, and from a PR-perspective most importantly, the administration reacted quickly and assumed control of the conversation surrounding the incident.

As soon as the news surfaced on Monday, President Obama succinctly declared that he hoped Bryson was “doing all right” and that it all “appeared to be health-related.” On Tuesday, Bryson took a medical leave of absence from cabinet duties. Then Press Secretary Jay Carney punted on media questions about Bryson’s future.

The administration’s reaction underscores the importance of a prompt reaction to a crisis. This is why we at CommCore advise our clients to:
•    Respond promptly, transparently, and calmly to crises to assume control of the conversation
•    Allow the facts to surface first without distortion. (Remember Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak’s premature condemnation of Shirley Sherrod’s out-of-context comments?)
•    Show genuine concern for anyone who is injured or ill
•    Don’t speculate on future implications of an incident if they are unclear or potentially controversial
•    Plan for crises — nothing enables a timely and effective reaction better than adequate preparation.


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Friday, June 8, 2012

Linked-Out! LinkedIn Data Breach: Response Must Be Quick, Often and Communicate Action

In the world of cyber vulnerabilities, LinkedIn is the latest company to learn that there are two types of organizations in the world: Those who know they’ve been hacked and those that have been hacked and don’t know it. You can build and maintain the most sophisticated security system the world has to offer, but guess what? It’s like the maxim about door locks. There’s no lock that can’t be picked.

So, as Jack Welch would say, hurry up and get over the fact that you have a crisis and start acting to resolve it and save your reputation.
As social media crisis blogger Melissa Agnes points out – organizations going through what LinkedIn is facing have to communicate immediately and often. Even in a fluid situation where much of the facts are still unknown and your solution is developing – at least say ‘we are working to resolve the problem.’

We agree and emphasize you must communicate action! Tell us what you are doing about it. Bore us with the steps that are necessary to execute the solution and impress us with how prepared you were for this inevitability. It doesn’t hurt to remind us that the protection of our information is paramount to you. But, the more action you communicate, the better chance that you will be the source for customers seeking updates and will begin to repair lost trust.

And, by the way, ALL companies should take lessons about these hacking crises – not just the HMOs and insurance companies with personal patient medical histories. Not just banks with individuals’ financial data. Not just government agencies with information on covert operations and profiles on criminals and suspects. Virtually every company has data vital to their business and any breach will immediately erode trust.
As of this writing, the FBI says it will be investigating. How do you think LinkedIn is handling this crisis? What other companies who hold mega-tons of data should be checking their crisis response readiness right now?

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