P.R. ‘Offensive’ Heather Bresch Doubles Down On EpiPen Price Increase. Admiration for public relations practitioners who are advocates for their enterprises when they are mis-represented in the press is where the profession earns its merit and distinction. Scorn is what gets heaped on us when we are spinning bad behavior. Pity is what I feel for people whose livelihoods depend on working in such places where trying to explain away something terrible is the order of the day. Say hello to Mylan Pharmaceuticals and CEO Heather Bresch who blamed ‘the system’ for the massive price hikes on a pharmaceutical that has not been changed or improved lately. Rather than reconsider the price increase and her own salary boost CEO Bresch pointed a well manicured finger of blame at ‘the system’ for this failure, claiming further that ‘no one is more frustrated than I am’ at whoever this ‘system’ is.
Milan CEO Bresch is the daughter of U.S. Senator Joe Minchin, D-W.Va. Her company’s EpiPen’s are used to save the lives of people who experience severe allergic reactions that cause their airways to close. Mylan acquired the decades-old product in 2007, when pharmacies paid less than $100 for a two-pen set, and has since been steadily raising the wholesale price. In 2009, a pharmacy paid $103.50 for a set. By July 2013 the price was up to $264.50, and it rose 75 percent to $461 by last May. In May 2016 the price spiked again to $608.61, according to data provided by Elsevier Clinical Solutions’ Gold Standard Drug Database.
Bresch Interviewed; Blames Customers
During an interview on CNBC, CEO Bresch argued that a ‘lack of transparency in the complex health care system — with bigger cuts for everyone along the supply chain — “incentivizes higher prices” in the industry. She pointed out that copays and deductibles are on the rise, too. “This system needs to be fixed. No one knows what anything costs,” Bresch told CNBC on Thursday.The Mylan CEO compared the health care industry to the real estate mortgage crisis of 2008. “Our health care system is in a crisis…This bubble is going to burst,” Bresch said. Bresch did not cite increased costs of raw materials, new taxes, regulations, or demand for the increase in price. Nor did she explain why the same medicine is available in Canada for hundreds of dollars less.
When Corporate Governance Is Broken
Who To Blame For That Salary Increase? Bresch had no explanation for the over 600% in pay raises she has received as CEO, with her earnings going from approximately$ 2.5 million a year to over $18 million a year. No vague ‘system’ to pin that on. Shareholders should look to the Mylan board of directors for an explanation since they are the ones who approve these increases.
What Is A P.R. Person To Do?
Everyone has bills to pay, I get that. Hell, somewhere someone is explaining how the Clinton Foundation is a good thing. But behavior like this from the Mylan CEO will get people killed. Someone is going to die because they could not afford an EpiPen. And it may be lots of people who die needlessly because Heather Bresch needs the money (sarcasm). So Mylan public relations people, polish your resumes and get out there. No need to go down with this ship. Leave your CEO to ride this one to the bottom all by herself. She deserves it and you deserve better.
NOTE: the writer is an asthmatic who takes epinephrin in pill form daily.
Virtual Teams Downside. There are lots of people who champion the idea of working from home or some other location that is not the office. Most of the advocates of working from home are the people who want to work from home. They declare that they are more productive with fewer distractions or interruptions. In the age of the Internet and the knowledge worker if I get my deadline met at noon or 2:00 a.m. what difference does it make as long as the deadline was made? Compelling points all, but each misses an important component that contributes to the success of any work group and that is team work and better interpersonal communications between members.
There is so much more to human interaction and communication than words on a page or spoken over a phone. Critics of those who work from home find that there are more misunderstandings or miscommunications as a result of the absence of non-verbal cues, which is also known as body language. Experts believe that 50% to 70% of human communication is non-verbal. There are also added costs of video conferencing equipment and licenses, added web security and the overall inconvenience of not being able to walk a few feet and speak to a colleague.
Death By Friendly Fire
In the military miscommunications cause death from so called friendly fire. The military factors the deaths from friendly fire into the cost of miscommunication. For military miscommunications, this price can be really high. The people killed by friendly fire pay the highest but there are consequences for the people who initiated the mid-directed weaponry.
For business, the costs are also high but instead of being “KIA” the costs manifest in security breaches and regulatory problems, which are high costs, but not life or death. That said, there is no reason not to take miscommunication very seriously. As stated above, in the military the people who died and those who caused the death both suffer greatly. So think about what happens when both sides in a company miscommunicate?
We tend to blame one side (the one we are not on) when there is a disagreement over meaning and intent. Public relations people and employees in any industry need to remember that all communication is a two way street. One side of the communication needs to be receptive and the other needs to be clear. Stop thinking about and in terms of the blame game and think more about this problem of geographically diverse employees as an issue of process that needs fixing.
This article on the pros and cons to virtual pubic relations teams was published in SpinSucks on April 19, 2016 and was written by Gini Dietrich.
When I worked for an agency here in Chicago, there was one thing that drove me absolutely insane: They clocked you in every morning.
There was one day that I worked 22 hours, but by golly, if I weren’t at my desk by 8:30 a.m., I would be docked pay.
It drove me crazy. It didn’t matter if you were at the office until 9 p.m. working on a new business pitch (as it often happened) or traveling with clients and working more than 12 hours, you had to be at your desk by 8: 30 a.m.
Now, those of you who know me well, know that 8:30 a.m. is midday for me, but that’s not really the point.
The point was your butt in your desk chair was rewarded, not the billable hours or getting results or even happy clients (though I had a married client who cornered me in a hotel and then complained that I wasn’t doing my job, but that’s another story for another time).
And, let’s be real, when I’m told I have to do something, I don’t react super well. It’s that whole having trouble with authority thing and the main reason I went out on my own.
Productivity Doesn’t Have to Happen At Your Desk
Fast forward to today where I run an organization that is distributed across North America and Europe.
Because of time zones, everyone works their own schedules—with a few scheduled team and client meetings thrown in—with the goal of, I don’t know, getting their work done.
Let me give you an example.
On Friday, I took a SoulCycle class at lunchtime. On my walk over there, I talked to someone who might invest in Spin Sucks Pro and worked out a deal for next steps. I took the class and, on my walk back, I talked to a new business prospect who verbally agreed to hire us.
Then, I had a hair appointment on Friday afternoon and, on my walk there, I spoke with our web developer and got through six action items. While sitting in the chair, I got all of the Spin Sucks blog posts for this week read, edited, and scheduled.
I was incredibly productive like that and I didn’t have my butt in my desk chair.
If I were in the typical agency world, I would have had to take half a day off to do all of that. Or, in reality, I would have scheduled my hair appointment for a Saturday and I would have taken SoulCycle at 5:00 a.m.
Instead, I write at 5:00 a.m. because that’s when my brain is freshest and there are zero interruptions and I ride my bike at lunchtime when both my brain and my body need a break.
There isn’t anyone who a) sees me working at 5 a.m.; or b) is clocking me in every day.
And it is glorious!
Are Virtual Teams Becoming More Popular?
Yesterday, Spin Sucks reader and my friend, Travis Peterson, sent a picture of a friend of his who just set up his new office.
It’s a gigantic umbrella on a Florida beach, with a beach chair, a folding table, his smartphone, and his laptop. Literally right on the beach.
How would you like that set-up?
The world, it is a changin’.
When we got rid of our physical office location in 2011, it was pretty scary. No one had a virtual team back then and there were a couple of prospects who thought we were a fly-by-night organization (even though we were six years in by then) because we didn’t have an office.
I actually had a prospect tell me she couldn’t do business with us because she couldn’t get past the fact that we didn’t all congregate in the same space every day.
When I asked her if that was because she planned to visit us, she said, “Maybe on the rare occasion I’m in Chicago.”
Today, the virtual team seems a bit more commonplace and I often wonder if we were the right agency for her, if she’d still have a problem with it.
Even still, it seems like the only companies that are doing it today are tech. Even in the agency world, we are an anomaly.
The Pros (and Cons) to a Virtual Team
But there are some major pros to setting up a business this way, other than working as I did on Friday afternoon:
You can hire anyone, anywhere. If they are best for the job, it doesn’t matter where they live and you don’t have to disrupt their lives by moving them to your headquartered offices (not to mention not having the expense of the move).
Everyone is BYOD, which means the cost of equipment is pretty much nill. Today, everyone has their own computers so we allow them to use that for their work. Our IT professional services all computers and they are required to install the software we use (Dropbox, Zoom, Slack, LastPass), but the expense of buying everyone a new PC every year or so is completely gone.
No land lines exist anymore. Clients have direct access to their teams through cell phones. There no longer is the need for a land line and almost everyone is no longer skittish about providing their cell phone numbers.
The flexibility is incredible. As you saw by my Friday, I don’t care where people work, when they work, or how they work, as long as the work gets done and the clients are happy. Of course, you do have to attend meetings and generally be around for clients on their work schedules, but I don’t care if you do it from the chair of the hair salon or on the beach.
When we were in an office, I would visually watch people take note of other’s schedules. We had a content manager who liked to go to the gym at 4:00 p.m. She always came back to the office, but it was usually around 5:30 or 6:00, when most people had already gone home for the night. So no one saw her “make up” those couple of hours. Instead, they got mad that she would leave that early. That no longer exists!
Clients are also distributed. Maybe not in the same way, but we work with clients in North America, Europe, and Asia. So the fact that we have the technology down pat to use video chat for meetings is a gigantic plus. If we were in an office together, we’d not have it as professional as we do today, just out of necessity.
The only thing I really miss about having a virtual team is the one-off brainstorms that happen after you have a really good client meeting and want to bounce ideas. We’ve tried to replicate that through video chat, and it’s a nice replacement, but it’s not quite the same.
And, for the team members who are a little more extroverted than me, I know the drop-ins to people’s offices is missed (I don’t miss that because I never could do deep work in the office).
Those truly are the only cons so the pros far outweigh any resistance to building a business this way.
For those of you who have a virtual team, I’m curious to hear if you love it and why.
And, for those of you who don’t, what do you think it would take—or is it even possible—to work this way?
image credit: zoom (but I will get a photo of us during our team meeting today and replace it)
Centerpoint Energy Public Relations Screws The Pooch. A contract employee for Centerpoint Energy was taped hitting two family dogs with pipe wrench. He claimed the owner sent the dogs after him as he was there to cut off their gas. You can watch the video and decide for yourself which story seems more plausible.
Granted there is little coming back from video of an employee attacking two family pets with a wrench. The company’s response? Centerpoint showed almost as much courage as their worker did by not doing anything to remake their reputation with their customers, shareholders, the national news media or any other stakeholder group. It was the grand slam of doing nothing. If there were awards for inaction, Centerpoint would win. And its worth remembering that here in Texas, power companies compete. How many dog lovers will want to switch their service to Centerpoint after this? The answer is zero, in case you were wondering.
And what about the other Centerpoint employees who still have to go into people’s yards? How welcome will they be? It’s difficult to imagine a conference room full of college educated adults sitting around and actively choosing not to do anything. Actively deciding that our side of things will go untold. Deciding that they are powerless to remediate a nasty negative, never bothering to consider that life’s lemons can be turned to lemonade. I guess it was too much work, or the ‘smart’ people who worked there really do not know how to do anything, or maybe they are ridiculously unqualified to work in public relations. There are plenty of public relations departments that are full of H.R. refugees who need a place to sit until it’s time to retire or die. I don’t know if that is the case at Centerpoint, but these amateurs are getting the public beat down they deserve, instead of the dog this time.
So, with the well-deserved criticism, here is what they should have done and still could but probably won’t.
Here is what the public relations people at Counterpoint did wrong:
Never acknowledged the injury to the pet dogs. In the litigious age we all live in no one will ever apologize. But what would have been so wrong with offering to pay for the veterinary bills their customers now must because of their employee freely swinging a wrench and making contact?
No public statement about this incident is on the company’s web site. The best way to make sure your side of the story never gets told is not tell it.
“CenterPoint Energy did not return a call for additional information from Breitbart Texas.” Unreturned phone calls to national media mean that the lines in the story where Centerpoint could have told their side of things were used by someone else with a less favorable view of the company. Fail.
Fire the asshole that did this. I mean, come on. Those dogs look about as dangerous as they actually were which was not at all. Even the mailman has mace for situations where they are actually attacked. This dick attacked the dogs, they were no threat to him.
Announce renewed training for all contract employees to make sure this never happens again. At least this sends some kind of message that the company takes this seriously and does not want a repeat.
Reviewing their procedures? Really? What kind of non-answer is that? Is there a ‘hit dogs with tools’ policy at Centerpoint that needs reviewing? I call bullshit.
When other public relations practitioners lament the reputation of the profession, I point to this and other incidents like this where someone had the ability to make something right, but did not. Unfortunately for p.r. people we get the reputation we deserve. So do sissy workers who are scared of the family dog.
I’ve lived in two other states and this our second time to be in Texas. My wife and I were born here and my great great grandfather was a Texas Ranger. I’m no newcomer or Yankee. That we allow texting while driving is beyond me. Last May the Texas legislature failed to pass a law against this and Texas is one of just six states in the U.S. to not have at least a statewide ban on texting behind the wheel. (Texas bans younger drivers from any cellphone use while driving, along with barring all drivers from texting or hand-held cellphone use in school zones.)
Why does Texas need a law against texting while driving? Easy. We have a lot of people who own cars in the state who simply lack the good sense not to text while driving. That’s why.
Anyone who believes their personal freedom is at stake over such a law cannot be taken seriously and are the reason the rest of us need to be protected. Don’t wear a seatbelt? No problem, I don’t care. You’ll grab serious air flying through the windshield and will not harm anyone other than yourself. Not going to wear a helmet while on a motorcycle? Hey we need organ donors now more than ever. But when you text while driving you put others at risk. Kill yourself through ignorance and arrogance if you like, but leave the rest of us to die quietly of natural causes.
Martin Shkreli An Awfully Rich Guy Who Is Really Awful.
Martin Shkreli Beyond Any Help from Public Relations Pros.
With a smirk that would be the envy of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, former drug company CEO and future convict, Martin Shkreli made his disdain for human kind even more clear during his recent testimony before congress. Shkreli has a future of both prison and anal rape he will experience sooner than not, which should help reassure people that Karmic justice is real and visited on d-bags like this. But the site is about public relations, so let’s deal with that.
Is All Publicity Really Good?
No, oh goodness no. Shkreli attracted lots of coverage and all of it was the wrong kind. Revealing to the world that you are a dick of epic proportion is not in your best interest or of your employees, customers or shareholders. Flaunting your success and thumbing your nose at people who have no choice but to buy medicine from you is a bad strategy. A friend or trusted ally would tell people like Martin that his communication strategy was poorly thought out and yielding the opposite of image building. Bad guy wrestlers are more appealing than this former business leader. Of course it is not likely that Marty has many friends. It’s more likely that those close to him are delighted to see him fail. I know I am.
It’s odd to see someone who has been so financially successful embrace failure on such a grand scale. Maybe there is something wrong with him, like borderline personality disorder or narcissism or something like that? Who knows. Dammit Jim I’m a flack not a head shrinker.
If He Were My Client?
If he were a client of mine I would suggest he avoid any public venues, make no statements about anything and check into some kind of rehab or mental hospital. Change the story from the one out there and make him a victim of some type of mental health challenge. Then get him a puppy from a shelter, make a big donation to same shelter all while apologizing for everything and stating that he will spend the rest of his life ‘working to make things right.’ What are the odds?
No Chance For Marty
I have no sense that Marty is contrite in the slightest. Quite the opposite in that he seems very pleased with himself and how much more clever he is than the rest of us. Until the reality of anal rape starts to register with Marty, I can’t envision him adopting a puppy or being sorry or even pretending to be. I can envision him getting bent over a prison cot often and deliberately, over and over and having to sit on one of those doughnut pillows.
Tips To Prevent Cyber Predators And Hackers From Targeting Your Children This Christmas. Ryn Melberg is a client of mine and someone I like and respect a great deal. So I wanted to share her tips here for readers of my blog. While this is not really a public relations or marketing communications issue, it is timely advice for everyone who expects a visit from Santa tomorrow evening.
America’s children can have their identities stolen and worse this Christmas unless their parents take steps to prevent cyber criminals from stealing information about them. Corporate governance, I.T. and Agile Project Management expert Ryn Melberg has advice for parents and others who will give their children electronic toys and games that link to the Internet this Christmas. This is in light of the hack and theft of 6.4 million records of children from Hong Kong-based toy maker, VTech. According to a published report in The Wall Street Journal, the information stolen included the names and birthdates of those children along with photos and chat messages.
“Parents should protect their children’s’ identity on line just like their own,” Melberg said. “While it may not be obvious, their private information is vulnerable to online hackers, if not more so than adults.”
Here are the steps Ms. Melberg suggests:
1. Never use a child’s full name online.
2. Never publish a child’s birthday online.
3. Never publish a child’s street address or even the city or state where they reside.
4. Do not disclose the name of the school where your child attends.
5. Never disclose a location where the child will be, particularly if parents are not there, too. This could be a camp, school trip, etc.
6. Actively monitor online chats in real time with your child and explain to him/her why this matters.
7. Use fictitious information when answering security questions and remember it.
8. Use a fake online or screen name when working or playing in cyber space.
Online Protection From Predators
Putting full names with the city of residence will make a child vulnerable to a predator or even a disgruntled parent in a divorce or custody settlement. “The online world makes it very easy to find someone,” Melberg warned. “This is especially true if your child has an unusual first name,” she stated. “My name ‘Ryn’ is rare enough that finding all the ‘Ryns’ in my hometown would be pretty easy, and the same is true for your child.” The practice of careful online engagement extends to chat rooms associated with games, as children are known to share personal information in those, as well.
Guard Your Child’s Future
Melberg strongly urges parents to be extremely careful about what they post online about their children because it could affect their financial future and even put them in physical danger. While the majority of children do not have bank accounts or credit cards, thieves will use their stolen identities to create phony accounts and loan applications. “I have a client who found they had a delinquent student loan that was made 7 years prior to their turning 18,” Melberg said. “The bank admitted it was unlikely they would have given a college loan to an 11 year old, but that did not spare them the hassle and grief of setting their own credit right so they could get a legitimate student loan.”
Ryn is the host of a weekly podcast entitled, “The Guardian”. Ryn discusses Agile, Scrum, Scaled Agile and issues of corporate governance. It is the only podcast of its kind in the world. To contact Ryn Melberg, go to her web site at: www.rynmelberg.com.
This is what happens when there are no grown-ups around. The “creative” staff at GSD&M, an Austin, Texas-based ad agency took the occasion of Christmas to design and sell gift wrapping paper that pushes well past the boundaries of taste and good judgement and came up with these gems (see photos). While the proceeds go to a musical charity in their hometown, it does not excuse this low market publicity stunt.
Yes, it garnered them a lot of attention, like why I else would I or anyone pay any attention to these refugees from Neverland? But there is fame and infamy. What do clients think about this? Clients are notoriously conservative. Would any of them be caught dead wrapping a gift for a relative, colleague, customer or casual acquaintance with this nonsense? Doubtful.
Even more confounding is how enthusiastically Ad Week reviewed the new wrapping paper, “This particular wrapping paper replaces seasonal sayings such as “Joy to the World” and “Peace on Earth” with cocksure copy alerting those who are about to tear open their packages of the orgasmic awesomeness nestled within.” I doubt anyone will have any of those reactions to the paper or the gift. More likely they will reassess you and the future of your relationship.
Here is a look into the creative process at GSD&M: “When you give the perfect gift, it takes everything you have not to tell the person how amazing it is,” says Ryan Carroll who is the group creative director. “Now you can let your wrapping paper do the talking for you. Also, we really wanted to use a ‘Pee yourself’ joke.” I went to the GSD&M website and saw a photo of Mr. Caroll. He does not appear to be eleven years old, his quote to Ad Week notwithstanding. But I am sure he and his fellow creatives have the sophomoric market “wrapped up” so to speak.
Maybe it is not fair to judge these people based on a single article or one idea. But unfortunately, that is what people do. They make decisions based on what they see. There are better ways to demonstrate creativity. One of my favorites is to write campaigns that sell more of what the client is offering than were sold before I was hired. Now that’s creative!
I was always of the opinion that the public relations person on staff or the firm advising a company should not overshadow the company or client and that doing so was a real boner. It will be tough to avoid the taint of former Congressman Anthony Weiner who will begin his public relations career with MWW of New Jersey, according to a press release the agency distributed last week. Here is a link to the release: (http://www.mww.com/pressroom/2015/07/mwwpr-statement-clarifying-role-of-anthony-weiner-as-member-of-board-of-advisors/).
Anthony Weiner, whose sexting scandal juxtaposed against his last name sunk his political career 2 different times, is now working for the New Jersey PR firm headed by Michael W. Kempner. Kempner is a prominent New Jersey Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, said in a release that it “is pleased to welcome Anthony Weiner as a member of our Board of Advisors.”
While the agency said the former House representative will not serve clients directly, it plans to tap into his knowledge on a wide-range of policy issues, such as national healthcare and technology. “His public policy expertise will be a great asset to our firm,” the company said.
In 2011, the Democrat resigned his House seat amid a sexting scandal involving at least a half-dozen women. Weiner later tried to get back into public office two years later in an unsuccessful bid for New York City mayor. He lost after another story came out torpedoing his campaign, this one involving explicit photos and texts under the name “Carlos Danger.”
Everyone deserves a second, third, fourth or even fifth chance. Weiner is no different. I take issue with his choice of vocation because our profession is one that is not held in high esteem on a good day. Adding Weiner to an industry that suffers its own image challenges just makes it harder for the rest of us.
Keeping Carlos away from the clients is probably a good idea. And you have to wonder what kind of favors Mrs. Clinton owes Weiner’s wife and close advisor Huma Abedin (described as Hillary’s shadow) to get this done. Still, this seems like a really bad idea.
Today’s retailers operate in global economy that affords little room for error. Retailers must combat harsh challenges that include consolidation within the industry, price competition, and increasingly low profit margins. As such, it is mission-critical for forward-thinking retail organizations to adopt technologies that help capture and analyze store activity patterns to increase conversion rates, improve operational efficiency and maximize customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Traditionally, retailers gained insight on customer shopping behaviors through loyalty cards and overall trends in POS transactions even tracking inventory. Although this information did provide insight about limited shopper demographics (cards) and buying habits, it did not provide much insight into the customer’s in-store behavior.
Understanding where customers spend most of their time in the store, what time of day they shop, how long they wait in lines and where they dwell (aisles within the store, promotion displays, service counters, etc.) can increase a retailer’s success. Leveraging a video business intelligence solution helps retailers dramatically reduce their reliance on softer types of data, replacing it with real-world information. Using this data appropriately will help increase sales, improve the customer experience, and add to the benefits of shopping with you; people find what they want there.
Store Performance Management
Leveraging a business intelligence platform can help retailers make informed decisions with accurate people counts. In combination with POS data, in-store department managers, store managers, regional managers, and corporate management can use reliable metrics to benchmark store performance and identify trends early enough to capitalize on them. Retail organizations can also use shopper conversion rates to help compensate and incentivize their sales staff, hence cultivating a customer-centric culture.
Without sufficient staff, retailers face dissatisfied customers and lost sales. At the same time, overstaffing increases operational costs. By capturing the full range of shopper traffic monitoring and customer behavior patterns, retailers can make better operational decisions for sales, marketing, staffing and scheduling. These robust applications can include analytics that analyze traffic flows and shopper movement, measure and predict queue lengths and wait times, monitor zone activity, and provide real-time reporting to ultimately help optimize workforce.
Improve Marketing and Merchandising Effectiveness
Retailers can use video business intelligence to measure the success rate of marketing and advertising promotions. You can use these insights to improve store layout, product placement and promotional displays with actual customer behavior; put the merchandise where the customers are and improve the bottom-line.
Designing Optimal Store Layouts
With a comprehensive data set around shopper traffic, directional analysis, in-store movement patterns, hot spots and dwell times, retailers are able to improve store layout and overall design. If a certain department is rarely visited, the retailers can modify the store layout in order to help drive shoppers to the area where they would not have otherwise visited. Retailers can also alter in-store orientation systems in order to make it easier for shoppers to find the department or the products they are looking for.
For piloting new promotions, store designs or additional product categories, retailers are utilizing video business intelligence data. By reviewing people count, in-store traffic patterns and dwell times around specific areas and products, retailers can take this knowledge and modify their promotion, design or product placement accordingly.