October 16, 2017
Last week, Dove posted an ad showing a black woman taking off her shirt to reveal a white woman underneath, and people rightfully went wild. The backlash prompted the removal of the ad, a subsequent apology for racial insensitivity, and an incalculable amount of reputational damage for a brand built on “real beauty”.
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October 10, 2017

Dara Khosrowshahi’s apology to the people of London was a refreshing change in tone for a company that previously hadn’t ceded an inch of ground in defense of its aggressive growth strategies.  While the statement was a step in the right direction, it shows that the company still has a lot of work to do.


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October 04, 2017

“Biased!” “Out of context!” “Unfair!” “Untrue!”  


These are some of the most common reactions from companies in the heat of an ongoing crisis. Their knee jerk-response is almost always the same. “Tell our side of the story.” “Get the facts out!” Or, “Point to who’s to blame!” 

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If crisis response is so obvious, why do so many people still get it wrong?


In a consumer-controlled, activist-driven, media-frenzied world, more and more industries and organizations are being put under the microscope. Flaws, real or not, are scrutinized and attacked. And you only have to take a look at the lines (or lack of) at your nearest Chipotle to see the impact of a true crisis on your bottom-line.

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February 26, 2016


A few weeks ago, the National Review tried to take down Trump with a parade of reasoned opinions about why he is not a real conservative. The net effect: zero.


Jeb! Bush relentlessly attacked Trump for being a bully: a chaos candidate who was trying to insult his way to the presidency. He’s now watching the election from his couch.

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February 10, 2016

When it comes to building—or rebuilding—corporate and industry reputations, I hear three questions most often:  


1. How do we position ourselves as innovative?
2. How do we get credit for all the good we do?
3. How do we respond when our company faces controversy?


These questions are not easy to answer. In the post-trust era we live in, where the public is skeptical of every message from large companies, it’s easy to come off as irrelevant, insincere, or arrogant.


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February 09, 2016

Donald Trump has been ahead in the polls for the Republican presidential nomination 

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February 09, 2016

For PR and marketing professionals, every headline condemning a company for questionable practices induces a feeling of dread: "Will I be next?"

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September 17, 2015


According to one tweet last night, “the Republican debate has now entered day six.”  It was a long one indeed.  And you have no doubt already seen 8,000 assessments of the winners and losers. 


For us, it’s all about the language.  Which lines will shape the narrative going forward.  Which words impact how we view a candidate.  And which are just irresistible.   Fortunately, there was plenty of good language to choose from.  

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In 1980, Americans voted for a new day. 
In 1992, Americans voted for a new direction.
In 2008, Americans voted for hope and change.

In two generations, these are the only 3 times a non-incumbent captured the popular vote.  Once America elected the voice of conservatism, once the voice of moderate pragmatism and once the voice of progressivism.  Their ideologies were wildly different but they all shared one unique trait. 

Despite the fact that they all ran in the midst of Washington dysfunction, economic weakness and challenges overseas, none of their candidacies were defined by these problems.  Instead, each chose to rise above them.    

Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all campaigned in the language of dreamers.  They painted us a picture of what America could become.  No campaign can ignore our problems, but powerful campaigns don’t make them the centerpiece, either.  From tone to imagery to language, these campaigns made America’s problems a preamble to optimism about the future. 

It’s the one American story that wins most easily in November.  No matter how bad our politics or our economy or our foreign policy seems, Americans choose leaders who see the future as an opportunity and who make us believe that we can be better tomorrow than we ever have been before.  Optimism is king.

Obvious right? 

Enter the GOP primary candidates in 2016.  In analyzing the words and framing used by 7 candidates likely to be stumping in Iowa soon, it wasn't obvious to them.  While all have moments where they try to portray optimism and vision, 6 of the 7 frame their mission in language that has more to do with restoring past greatness than looking forward. 

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