Marvel & Brand Captain America

Sometimes in entertainment marketing, you create a movement that is even greater than its source material. It’s a danger anytime you transition a property from one format that caters to a smaller fan base and introduce it to a much larger fan base.

In many cases, the “bigger” medium transcends the smaller. That can lead to some interesting and compelling scenarios – just ask Game of Thrones creators and author George RR Martin. But, sometimes, in trying to keep up with a runaway train, the wheels come spinning off. Enter Captain America.

Since the incredible success of Marvel’s superhero movies, the New York comic dream factory has been trying to maintain some novelty and intrigue in its comic versions of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. First, Thor became female, then Cap passed his shield on to longtime sidekick, Falcon. Cap transitioned to super spy, and some saw him taking over for an aging Nick Fury.

But it seems Marvel had other plans. It’s latest new series featuring the Star Spangled Avenger hit stands recently, and the twist ending has fans enraged. With any character, particularly one that’s been around as long as Cap, you can forgive some creative license with plot, storyline, and personality. But what Marvel did with this character created a revolt in comic fans not seen since the days of Batman suits with nipples.

Spoiler alert… you’ve been warned.

In the final scene of the first issue of Steve Rogers: Captain America, the character utters a two-word phrase no one thought him capable of. Yes, Steve Rogers says: “Hail Hydra.”

According to media releases related to the reboot, the storyline has Rogers sharing the mantle of Cap with Falcon but re-imagines his entire backstory. Instead of a scrappy kid who volunteers for an experiment to make him superhuman, Rogers is recruited as a kid by international terrorist group, Hydra.

Fandom immediately revolted. According to David Firester, “Some just shook their heads, refusing to fall for what they assumed had to be some sort of desperate cry for attention. Others viscerally denounced Marvel and all the decision makers for the print division.”

Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort told CNN the move was a wake-up call for readers: “The basic reason for doing this is to see if you’re paying attention, and to make readers long for the next issue … this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Nice try, Tom. What’s next, turning Spider-Man into an actual bug … or matching Mary Jane up with Iron Man … wait, never mind.

Doctors Without Borders: Airstrike hits another Syrian hospital

It happened again. Doctors Without Borders is reporting another hospital, this one, a pediatric hospital in Aleppo Syria, has been bombed. At least 14 people, doctors, and patients, have been killed in what is being described as a direct airstrike. Rebels hold that area, narrowing down the list of those who may be responsible. So far, neither Russia nor the coalition supported by the United States has admitted responsibility.

NBC attempted to get information, but neither Russia nor the US has responded. Syrian warplanes are not being used in that area to conduct airstrikes.

The head of Doctors Without Borders in Syria, Muskilda Zancada, told NBC, “This devastating attack has destroyed a vital hospital in Aleppo…Where is the outrage among those with the power and obligation to stop this carnage?”

The strike destroyed the ER, ICU, and OR in the hospital, rendering it mostly useless to carry out its mission of being the primary referral facility for pediatrics in the area.

Syria’s Civil Defense rescue service told the media more than 30 people had been killed in the bombing, adding to the death toll in the Syrian conflict that has claimed some 250,000 lives in the past five years.
The bombing of an Afghan hospital this past October turned out to be a major PR problem for the U.S. government. President Obama called it a “tragic mistake” blaming miscommunication with coalition forces for what DWB described as a “relentless and brutal aerial attack.”

“The public relations consequences of this sort of tragedy, even in a war zone, are substantial. People recognize there will be collateral damage in war-torn regions. But some “damage” has more drastic optics and consequences than others.”, says NY real estate developer Roman Temkin.

The idea of a children’s hospital being utterly destroyed, and small children being killed senselessly will be too much for even the most practical to simply dismiss. Answers will have to be given, and blame will be assessed. Whether the parties responsible wish to own up or not.

Should they deny or equivocate it’s likely the truth will eventually surface on any account? This just makes the perpetrators look even worse … and it does nothing to assuage the grief of those this has impacted.

Amazon’s thunderous response to equality accusations

About a week ago, Amazon was accused, by proxy, of failing to promote gender equality where salaries are concerned. The issue stemmed from the company’s request that language related to gender equality not be included in conversations conducted by and for stockholders at upcoming meetings. This request, which the company likely felt was simple, led to a massive firestorm of criticism. Amazon did not take this passively. The company fired back with vigor … and with facts.

According to reports by CNN, Amazon claims women earn just as much as men. After conducting a survey of its staff, Amazon learned that women make 99.9 percent of men’s earnings in equivalent positions. Minorities make even more than certain white counterparts.
“There will naturally be slight fluctuations from year to year, but at Amazon we are committed to keeping compensation fair and equitable,” an Amazon spokesman said in a statement.

The watchdog group that set off this process – Arjuna – said they were happy Amazon decided to play ball. Initially, the company rebuffed requests to release pay data. They also hailed the release as a victory for their cause – equality and transparency in pay.

The scenario is a clear indicator of where we are culturally when it comes to social pressure on major corporations. Not too long ago, this sort of targeted finger pointing – especially by groups with absolutely no facts – would be laughed off. Companies could simply ignore the jibes and go about their day. Not in the age of the internet. It didn’t matter that Arjuna had absolutely no data. All they had to say is: “prove you don’t discriminate” and they had an endless chorus of supporters from all corners of the internet.

“Fair? Not remotely. But fair is not an operable word in public relations. People get tarred and featured all the time without cause. Some people who should be lambasted get off scot free. It’s the nature of the game.”, says NY entrepreneur Jonah Engler. Engler contiues on to say, “If you have a strong and consistent message, you can weather these storms, but if you’re vulnerable, someone will find that chink in your armor and exploit it.”

Amazon may not have anticipated the accusations from Arjuna, but they were ready for them, and gave back as good – or better – than they got. They answered doubt with facts, questions with certainty. Sure, Arjuna can pretend it’s a win for their cause, but suddenly, a week after being accused of being unfair to women, Amazon stands as a model of pay equality.

QuickTime hit with emergency hack warning

For millions of users, QuickTime is the go-to video viewing software for desktops and laptops. Now both the US Government and Apple are telling Windows users to immediately delete QuickTime due to hacking risks.

CNN is reporting the US Department of Homeland Security recently sent out an “urgent” alert instructing Windows customers to uninstall Apple’s QuickTime program RIGHT NOW.

The alert read, in part: “Using unsupported software may increase the risks from viruses and other security threats. The only mitigation available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows.”

Apple stopped offering support for QuickTime on Windows, and the company will no longer issue any more security updates on its Windows version of QuickTime. According to CNN, this decision was made despite two major vulnerabilities in the software that hackers could potentially exploit to gain access to users’ computers.

According to NYC entrepreneur Jonah Engler, “Again, this has already happened. Apple issued its final QuickTime for Windows update last January, the latest in a series of bug fixes that has never quite seemed to end. That said, Apple plans to continue offering support and updates for QuickTime for Mac.”

While no problems have been reported to date, the PR issue here is one of perception. If consumers believe QuickTime is a problem, they may not bother to check if it’s the Mac or Windows version that has the vulnerability. They may just click uninstall and choose something else.

If Mac wants customers to continue using its software, the company needs to be very careful how they distribute this information and very specific about what they say and when they say it.

The move is an interesting one for Apple. To stop supporting Windows machines while still supporting Mac machines relative to the same software may say something about Mac’s concerns about Windows machines in general. Either that or they aren’t getting enough out of the Windows version of the program to bother with the time and expense to keep it up to date.

Outmoded software is a constant security threat many computer users are completely unaware of. To avoid aggravating customers who may not be that computer literate in the first place – and thus more vulnerable in general – manufacturers should make a point to be very proactive in their communication of both potential risks and demonstrable dangers.

Golden State Continues to Shine

For decades, the Golden State Warriors were the laughingstock of the NBA. Perennial doormats. How many teams can say they were the “C” team in any state in a professional sport? Contenders? these guys were never even thought of, much less brought up in conversation.

All that’s changed. And they’ve done it in a spectacular crowd-pleasing way that has put them in the history books and may just save basketball from itself.

For years, the NBA has been faltering. From the faulty coronation of King James to the floundering of once-powerhouse teams in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. Gone is the team model that defined the golden era of Magic and Bird. Now teams are being built around one-trick-pony superstars who never seem to deliver when the chips are down. Sure, the Spurs are still showing other franchises how to get it done, but everyone outside of Texas had a tough time getting behind a team that feels, well, old and boring in comparison to the superstar-driven franchises.

Meanwhile, out in California, torches were being passed. The Clippers were suddenly beating the Lakes and, not that far away, the Warriors were building a franchise for the long haul. And now, that team is more than ready for prime time.

Oakland-based Golden State has given fans in the bay area something to cheer about again. Already having a 70-win season, Golden State’s quest for 73 puts them on par with the best ever to play the game. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, a team some say is the best to ever play roundball, went 72-10 before killing it in the playoffs to win yet another NBA title.

If Golden State does make 73 – or even if they tie the Bulls – they have a claim on the best ever. After all, the two teams still on the Warriors schedule include number two ranked San Antonio and the playoff-bound Grizzlies. The Warriors believe they are up to the challenge.

Some will say the record will be tainted by a more lopsided team lineup. The NBA certainly has its share of haves and have-nots, but they don’t have much – if any – less parity than the league did in the Bulls’ heyday. So forget all that “back in the day” talk. These Warriors are very, very good.

The best make others around them better, and that’s been the case with Golden State all season. Their season rivalry with the Spurs looks to set up an epic battle in the playoffs. San Antonio is chasing a record of its own, hoping to win more at home than any other team since Bird’s Celtics.

And this is only one more exciting storyline featuring Golden State this season. Every generation has a dominant franchise that fits at the center of an ongoing NBA legacy. The Spurs are at the end of their run, and Golden State looks poised to take the baton. Is there anyone in the East that’s up for the challenge?

What went wrong with the 2016 Iditarod

It’s the most famous dog sled race in the world. Likely, unless you religiously follow sled dog racing, it’s probably the only race you’ve ever even heard of. That’s how popular the Iditarod is – people who have no clue about the sport can rattle that off with ease.

“Unfortunately for race organizers and promoters, that’s about all that’s been easy about the 2016 race. If you want to start assessing blame, maybe you can point your finger at the weatherman.”, says New York Entrepreneur Jonah Engler.

The epic Iditarod wilderness race had to be cut short by eight miles this year because there just isn’t enough snow. No snow in Alaska? Well, not “no” snow … just not enough snow. The weather has been so warm it forced race organizers to cut the ceremonial start to the race by eight miles. Warmer than usual temperatures kept up so long that even the city’s storehouse of “extra” snow melted.

That’s not all: the lack of snow is so pronounced, Alaska Railroad had to bring in a train full of snow-filled freight cars just to put down enough slush to allow the 85 teams in the race to make it through town for the kickoff ceremony. Organizers are promising that race fans won’t even know the difference as they line the course to watch the dogs and mushers slide through town.

That may not be the case, however. See, there were issues last year too. When organizers in Anchorage tried to host the race last year, there wasn’t any snow at all. They had to move the starting line all the way to Fairbanks just to conduct the race. Worse, they had to reroute 600 miles of the race just to have it at all.

Why are these weather-related issues a PR problem for Iditarod organizers? Well, when your event’s biggest selling points are location and tradition, but you haven’t been able to deliver the full experience of either for two consecutive years, that can become an issue for fans.

While it’s true that event planners managed to find temporary fixes for problems that were beyond their control, they will lose valuable word of mouth and social media advertising because of the weather-related issues. Any time an event gets canceled or postponed or changed because of the weather, people talk about that rather than what they would have talked about had the event happened as planned. If that happens enough times, it will be all people talk about.

Stewart-Haas surprises fans by switching sides

In the wild world of NASCAR, fans not only choose favorite racers and ownership groups, they also pledge undying loyalty to a certain brand. Just stroll through the parking lot at any racing event. Calvin is peeing on some logo on nearly every pickup truck. According to New York Real Estate Developer Roman Temkin, “Doesn’t matter if it’s Chevy or Ford, if you’re a dedicated fan, you are honor-bound to pick a side. That’s why what happened recently was such a surprise to NASCAR faithful.”

Perennial powerhouse team Stewart-Haas Racing just switched allegiances from Chevrolet to Ford. That may not sound like big news, but in auto racing, that’s HUGE. SHR has driven Chevys since it was founded in 2002, winning two Cup titles. But the SHR allegiance to Chevy goes even deeper. Co-owner Tony Stewart has been in a Chevy for all but one of his 18 NASCAR seasons and current top star Kevin Harvick has never raced anything in the series except a Chevy.

Anticipating fan reactions, Stewart toned down his typically brash demeanor and adopted a more reasonable tone, telling the media: “This is a constantly evolving sport. We try to make decisions that best position us for the future, so we consider our partners, our drivers and our employees when we think of these strategies. We feel this future relationship with Ford provides us with a bright future, great stability for SHR and an opportunity to compete at a very top level in the sport.”

It was a careful statement, and Chevy was never mentioned. But perhaps it wasn’t careful enough. Remember, he is talking to fans who literally chose vehicles based on their NASCAR loyalty. What will all those Chevy driving SHR fans do now that their favorite racer is wrapped in a Ford next time he’s on the track? For them, it will be like having to swap political affiliation or officially join the Dark Side.

For Stewart, who plans to retire at the end of the year, the move provides an enigmatic exclamation point to a controversial career. But where does it leave Harvick and other drivers including fan favorites Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick?

Leadership: Pegged to President’s Day

Today, a growing number of public relations professionals seek to demonstrate leadership qualities. As more of these specialists find themselves reporting to corporate Chief Marketing Officers, their positions frequently entail a higher level of managerial responsibilities.

What measures should a PR professional undertake to gain admission to a seat in the Executive Suite or the Corporate Boardroom? Just consider taking some of these steps pegged to President’s Day to boost your career prospects in this exciting profession:

Develop Communications Skills
It never hurts to hone your communications skills first if you expect to excel in public relations. You’ll express messages more effectively.

President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton both developed reputations for masterful communications. Despite his conservative views, Ronald Reagan negotiated a peaceful end to the Cold War. His eloquent correspondence remains widely quoted. President Clinton gained acclaim for conducting captivating town hall meetings. His riveting addresses commanded high speaking fees after he left office.

Undertake Part-Time Degree Programs
Numerous Americans holding impressive academic credentials compete for compensated positions in the job market today. The era when a poorly educated individual might expect rapid career advancement has largely disappeared. Going back to school as an adult learner and pursuing a part-time degree in business or computer information technology enables you to boost your career prospects within your chosen field.

This leadership strategy worked well for President Abraham Lincoln, who enjoyed limited educational opportunities as a child residing in rural, frontier areas. He eventually worked his way through Latin-laden legal tomes to become a successful Illinois attorney. President Andrew Jackson also rose to an important leadership position in government despite limited access to formal education as a child.

Gain Familiarity With Social Media Platforms
Modern Presidents use the Internet and social media extensively. You can, too, in order to advance your career in public relations.

Corporate recruiters now regard familiarity with social media platforms as an essential job requirement. Develop social media campaign expertise to attain leadership status during SEO marketing.

Promote Yourself Like a Candidate
The English developed a colorful proverb several centuries ago that aptly sums up the competitive commercial global marketplace today: “faint heart never won fair lady.” In order to obtain public relations career advancement in many contemporary settings, you need to abandon modesty and promote yourself shamelessly.

Billionaire Donald Trump and other Presidential candidates across the political spectrum don’t have a problem with this self-promotional philosophy. Learn from them and advance your public relations career by praising yourself with gusto! In this high tech era of glitzy mobile chatter and hype, if you don’t extol your own talents, other people won’t appreciate them either.

Create Your Own Boardroom
One of the most effective leadership strategies, especially for professionals over the age of 40 who encounter frequent de facto age discrimination in the USA from Personnel Departments, involves establishing your own business venture. If employers won’t compensate you in accordance with your abilities, or promote you into responsible leadership positions, you can always hire yourself.

President George Washington helped found a great nation on a very tight budget. Emulate his example and adopt some revolutionary business startup tactics to help advance your PR career into an Executive level. Today, numerous tools exist for skilled PR professionals who want to achieve upward mobility, yet lack extensive financial resources. Don’t hesitate to use these business aids. Assume a higher level of risk in order to achieve better compensation for your labor.

Embodying PR Leadership

By pegging your PR career to President’s Day ideals, you’ll display better leadership qualities. Use these strategies to achieve career success like a President!

The Academy calls foul play against gift bags offered certain nominees

On February 16th the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences filed a lawsuit against Lash Fary – otherwise known as Distinctive Arts – for false and infringing representation. Distinctive Arts has been putting together those amazing gift baskets offered to Oscar nominees in the acting and directing categories, and usually the show host for the last 10 years or so. That means about 21 bags.

According to 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian, “The problem is, Distinctive Assets has no affiliation of any kind with the Academy, who stopped providing gift bags before 2006 after they came to an undisclosed settlement with the IRS paying taxes on the value of bags previously given.”

In 2015, the Academy tried to work things out with the company without having to go to court. But Distinctive Assets has continued to use references to the Oscars and actively create the images that they are affiliated. Since that has carried on, the Academy reported they felt the need to file the lawsuit using their representatives, Quinn Emanuel attorneys and asking for an injunction as well as trebled profits and damages.

The complaint alleges damages have been caused in 2016 through media coverage focused on the not-so-family oriented nature of the bags, “citing a $5,500 certificate for plastic surgery, a $1,900 “vampire breast lift.” a $250 sex toy, and a $250 marijuana vaporizer.” Of course, the bags contain much more as well. That’s also part of the problem.

Last year’s bags were more “wholesome,” and included a $14,500 luxury train ride through the Canadian Rockies, a $12,500 glamping trip, a $20,000 year’s worth of use of an Audi A4, and a $14,200 Reset Yourself lifestyle makeover. All in all, the 21 bags that were given out last year came to a total value of more than $2.5 million. Do the math, that means each bag was worth more than $100,000.

It should also be noted that many of these gifts are never used by the celebrities, they may simply go unused, but many are given to charities for them to auction. This year one of the items is a luxury trip to Israel. A group – Artists for Palestine-UK, has requested the recipients give their bags to a Palestinian refugee as a way to help and also protest.

“Back in the day when the Academy was still giving out the bags, George Clooney donated his bag to a charity auction, the bag netted the charity $45,000. Not bad for a freebie.”, says New York Entrepreneur Jonah Engler.

It’s obvious why the Academy has brought suit, they have a long-standing reputation to protect, and gifts that would appear to promote controversial behaviors isn’t something they are interested in. But here’s the real question, Distinctive Assets knew the Academy wanted them to stop last year when their gifts were more low-key in terms of what might cause outrage from the Academy, so why would they push those buttons really hard this season?

Hmmm, could it be the old Hollywood adage, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity?” The Oscars are the equivalent of an annual royal wedding in the U.S., everyone who has any way to hitch their corporate star to the event is likely to make a valiant effort. Just exactly how much value in free publicity, branding, and name recognition do you think DA is receiving from this lawsuit? So, though we do believe there are some areas where you could have bad publicity, we don’t think DA is seeing any of that so far.

Someone must have been planning hard to include several – not just one – controversial items in the 2016 bags, and we believe they had a very good reason. Pushing hot buttons of someone with a much bigger rep has the potential to make a lesser known company. But as a word of advice, before you try this strategy, make sure you’ve hired some high-priced lawyers who’ve got their teeth nice and sharp.

Winners and losers at the Grammys

Once again the Grammys proved to be more than a music awards show. It was a cultural referendum, a PR barometer of where the public and the industry is. Who the big players are, and where music is headed next. Every year there are winners and losers. And there’s a theme, intended or not.

This year’s theme ended up being nostalgia. I don’t know that it started out that way, but music has been losing royalty all year long, and the Academy had to do more than offer a nod of acknowledgment.

Grammy producers responded to the public mood by bringing together some excellent tribute performances to honor music superstars like Glenn Frey of the Eagles and David Bowie, both died unexpectedly earlier this year.
The Eagles tribute was a no brainer. The surviving members came out and sang some of Frey’s biggest hits. The crowd loved it. This was nostalgia distilled. One of the best bands of all time singing a tribute to a guy who made significant contributions to America’s modern songbook.

When it came time to honor Ziggy Stardust, there was really only one performer who could pull it off convincingly. Lady Gaga, fresh off an incredible performance of the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50, wowed audiences as she not only performed Bowie’s music but embodied his many musical personas. According to New York Real Estate Developer Roman Temkin, “This performance proved, beyond all doubt, who the leading candidate is to fill the void left by Bowie, who was an artist in every sense of the word.”

Then it came time to honor blues legend BB King. Who would it be? In an interesting move, Grammy producers tapped country crooner Chris Stapleton. While many have already tapped Stapleton as the future of country music, who knew he had the soul of the blues hiding under that battered cowboy hat?

YouTube chanteuse Meghan Trainor took home an award for best new artist, crying on stage and affecting a perfect underdog makes good narrative.

The moment of the night, though, may have been when Taylor Swift took the stage to accept the award for album of the year. She beat some truly solid performers, cementing herself as the real deal in pop music. Then she took the stage and poked the entire cannibalistic industry in the eye. Telling up and coming artists to keep working and not let anyone take credit for your accomplishments, Swift looked nothing like the uncertain waif who was famously interrupted by Kanye West a few years back.

Speaking of losers, West, didn’t do much at the Grammys, so he tried a spectacularly misguided attempt to gain attention subsequent to the show. So far, that’s done nothing to endear him to the consumer music buying public, most of whom seem to wish West would just shut up … or get back to making music.