The Cycle

Bernanke, Federal Reserve looking at changes in comms strategy

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at Ben Bernanke’s PR campaign and how it has placed him in the “starring role” as he tries to clearly communcate the Federal Reserve’s role, the paper .

According to Reuters, the Fed is reworking its communications strategy, as part of a transparency push that may include regular news conferences and increased availability of information, possibly online.

In recent months, Bernanke has discussed the economic crisis to audiences ranging from college students and the general public to the media and Congress, and he tells the WSJ: “‘I think it is important for the public to understand what is going on and to know that the government is trying to solve the problem … They should know we have a plan and a strategy.”‘

Yet, the paper also notes that Bernanke may placing himself at the heart of the PR effort to ensure his position as chairman of the Federal Reserve is secure. Within the year, President Barack Obama will decide whether or not to reappoint Bernanke.

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DFW decision pending

On March 17, we announced that Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport had issued an RFP that closed in early April. The decision is still pending with Brian Murnahan, DFW’s media relations specialist, saying that the announcement will be made at a company board meeting in either May or June. More to come…

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Stephen Colbert and NASA come to an agreement

NASA avoided some PR drama when it agreed to name something in its new International Space Station after comedian Stephen Colbert: the treadmill. Colbert encouraged his fans to write in his name in the contest to name the new wing of the station, and NASA responded to the outpouring of votes saying they have final say in the naming of the node.

Astronaut Sunita “Suni” Williams appeared on The Colbert Report on Tuesday night to announce the naming of the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT).

“I think a treadmill is better than a node…because the node is just a box for the treadmill,” Colbert said. “Nobody says, ‘Hey, my mom bought me a Nike box.’ They want the shoes that are inside.”

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Cision closes Connecticut office

Cision closed its Norwalk, CT office last month, according to KC Brown, SVP and head of analysis services for the company. The office only handled analysis, according to Brown, who oversees this area.

Brown said the closure was due to “a very expensive lease coming due” and had been in the works for a long time. Some staff accepted an offer to be reassigned to offices in Portsmouth, NH; or New York City, some staff opted to leave the company, and “a couple” of people were cut, Brown added. He would not specify how many staff members were involved in these changes.

In February, PRWeek reported on layoffs at Cision totaling “less than 5%” of the company’s North American workforce and including North American VP of marketing Stephen DeBruyn. The company also sold its Swedish Monitor and Analyze businesses in late March. The company’s recently installed CEO and president, Hans Gieskes, has to reorganize the company to cope with the economic recession and the company’s own business issues. In its annual report, the president’s statement reads: “In order to protect our margins through a recession and be able to continue to invest in product innovation, we have increased efforts to reduce our cost base. During the fourth quarter of 2008, about 100 employees left the company or were given notice. In January 2009, we divested our loss-making Danish operation with about 70 employees. Significant cost reduction measures will continue in 2009 and structural activities for underperforming units cannot be ruled out.”

However, Brown was clear that the Connecticut closure was a real estate issue.

“It was a small operation and it was limited to analysis,” he said. “The folks we have in analysis have direct client interaction, so our clients know where everyone went. This has much more to do with a lease.”

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Dell launches social media solutions site for healthcare IT

With technology changes on the horizon for the healthcare industry, Dell launched a social media site to generate ideas and solutions that would improve the improve the “delivery, efficiency, and quality of healthcare using IT,” the company said on April 6.

The site, called IdeaStorm for Healthcare and Life Sciences, is a branch of IdeaStorm, a brainstorming site which was launched in 2007.

Kerry Bridge, head of digital media communications for Dell, told PRWeek that the site is targeted at large healthcare organizations as well as influencers and key stakeholders in the healthcare blogging industry.

“It’s a huge social media community, specifically looking at healthcare IT,” she says. “And these are the people we want to be talking to, share ideas with. Dell would like to be a valuable member of that community.”

Dell plans to promote the site within healthcare social media communities, on its blog and company Web site, and through the newsletters that the sales force distributes.

“It’s definitely a stake in the ground,” she says. “…[to show] that we’re committed to the healthcare industry.

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Yoox introduces Earth Day comms initiative

YOOX, a Milan-based Internet retail platform for a number of luxury fashion brands, as well as its own e-retailer, is launching a green initiative on – wait for it… – Earth Day. The “Yooxygen” campaign includes a microsite featured on which will sell limited edition eco-friendly fashion, design, jewelry, and music, including products by influential fashion icons via Leny, an eco-brand that aims to fund Al Gore’s eco association, The Climate Project.

What’s unique about this initiative is a) the name Yooxygen, b) eco-friendly shipping, and c) the overarching green corporate initiative which aims to position YOOX as an eco-friendly company. The company, working with C&M Media, is promoting the internal effort via traditional media relations in conjunction with the Yooxygen consumer initiative. Corporate activities include educating employees on the separation of waste and recycling; introducing a car share program; and adopting renewable energy at the Milan-based office.

So while the green movement may be dying on the consumer front, there may still be effective ways to leverage the trend as part of a corporate comms strategy.

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PepsiCo and Porter Novelli joined forces earlier this month to host a Twitter party discussing the latest trends. The April 1 event brought together 100 of Pepsi’s top communicators, as well as social media experts Peter Shankman, Stephanie Agresta, and Maury Postal. It was run by PN’s Marian Salzman.

The discussion reportedly generated over 1,400 tweets with topics including the use of social media in marketing.

“The goal of the event [was] twofold,” writes Bonin Bough, global director of social media at PepsiCo. “First is to send the message that PepsiCo is here to support, enable and participate within the social media space, and the second goal was to hear what the world had to say about global trends.”

Still trying to figure out what the hub-bub is about the Twitter? Check out this from PRWeek and a story from



Blogs and Twitter are abuzz with , the coined after several books were removed from the ranking system on The books, largely with homosexual themes, included Brokeback Mountain, Ellen DeGeneres: A Biography, and Heather Has Two Mommies. It seems ranks have now returned to some titles, but some blogs are keeping track of those that were affected.

Mark Probst, the author of gay romance book The Filly, first noticed that his book was de-ranked and contacted Amazon. After receiving a response saying it was due to a policy where “adult” materials were not included in rankings, he blogged about it. But when consumers pointed out that some heterosexual “adult” materials were still included in rankings, Amazon said the original de-ranking was due to a .

The news has quickly spread through social media like Twitter, and some groups are urging a of the retailer. Amazon does not have a press release up on its Web site and representatives from the online retailer and its PR agency OutCast Communications have not yet returned PRWeek’s calls for comment.

UPDATE: Patty Smith, director of corporate communications for Amazon, replied to PRWeek with a statemtn via email, saying “This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.”

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AIG’s PR firms in the news again

Criticism of AIG’s hiring of PR firms just won’t die. Rachel Maddow and Breakingviews recently took critical looks at the company’s agency roster given its federal funding. This time, it comes in the form of an article from Time: “Is AIG spending too much on public relations?” The author points to recent comments from members of Congress that question “the firm’s p.r. payroll,” as well as a lawyer of former AIG chairman Hank Greenberg. AIG’s SVP of comms, Nick Ashooh - who made PRWeek’s people with the “toughest jobs in PR” 2008 list - broke down the responsibilities of its PR firms to Time.

AIG retained only one full-time p.r. firm when it ruled the insurance world. Today’s four firms, said Ashooh, have different missions: Sard Verbinnen & Co. helps to structure statements on the bailout, Kekst & Co. focuses on sales of assets to pay back federal loans, Burson-Marsteller handles controversial issues and Hill & Knowlton fields inquiries from Capitol Hill and prepares congressional testimony for company officials. “If the criticism was we were running image-advertising or doing sponsorships to make ourselves look better, I could see that,” Ashooh said. “But we’re doing a lot of information-processing. It’s really been just responding to inquiries” from Congress and the media.

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US military to get new view on social media

A new report from the National Defense University offers some social media tips for government folks - ones “that actually makes sense,” writes Wired’s DangerRoom blog. The aptly named “Social Software and National Security,” report is expected out early next week, Wired says, but the blog provides a sneak peek at the four tenants the paper suggests:

  • Inward sharing
  • Outward sharing
  • Inbound sharing
  • Outward sharing


An excerpt under the “Outward sharing” headline reads:

The 2005 natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina is now a textbook example of the need for multi-agency, multi-government, multi-media engagement in an ad hoc and constantly evolving manner.  More recently, people using social software have been able to make useful contributions during real world events such as flooding in Bangladesh, the California wildfires, and Hurricane Gustav…

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