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Employee Appreciation Day? You’re Better Off Making it the Way You Do Business

February 28, 2019

Today like never before, talent is at a premium. U.S. unemployment rates are reaching record lows, creating one of the most competitive labor markets in memory. Employers face significant challenges attracting – and keeping – a diverse talent base as workers have more options and higher standards now than any time in recent history. Beyond affecting retention, internal culture increasingly is becoming a scrutinized facet of companies’ external brands with the potential to influence – both positively and negatively – business results and market value.

Consumer expectations never have been higher for companies to act in alignment with their own values. In the 2018 FleishmanHillard Authentic Insights study, 47 percent of consumers said they are less likely to purchase from companies believed to behave in ways that are in conflict with their brands and corporate values.1 And with the lines between internal and external company news growing thinner by the day, how businesses treat their workers is magnified in plain view for the world to see.

Investing in engaging and aligning employees with the company’s strategic priorities and business goals is non-negotiable for the organizations that want to lead their industries and sectors. To attract and retain top talent, an exceptional employee experience must be a way of life, not just an annual holiday – especially if the organization seeks to be an employer of choice featured on the coveted top employer lists.

It all starts with ensuring employees feel valued … day in and day out:

Foster a sense of belonging

People do their best work when they feel safe to express their opinions, challenge the status quo, take creative risks and be their authentic selves. To bring out the best in your employees, be open to new ideas and perspectives, and celebrate the diverse people who bring them to you. If you don’t already have such a program, consider developing and sharing your company’s vision and philosophy for creating a diverse and inclusive work environment, and offer training to ensure your leaders, managers and employees understand not just why diversity and inclusion are important, but also how to behave in a way consistent with these values.

Actively listen and share

Employees need to know their voices matter and their feedback can impact change. Create an ongoing, authentic dialogue between employees and leaders by providing frequent feedback opportunities – from skip-level meetings to Ask Me Anything sessions to pulse surveys and beyond. Ask leaders to consistently share the feedback they receive and lay out specific plans for how they’ll address it. This active listening and vulnerability pays off by demonstrating that senior leaders care about their employees’ experience and ensuring they feel heard.

Grow your people

Few things inspire loyalty like knowing that a clear career path and opportunities for personal and professional growth exist in one’s job. Prioritize training, creating cross-functional learning opportunities and succession planning to ensure top talent can find challenging, rewarding options at every stage of their development. Additionally, publicize the ways you make it easier for employees to grow, including mentoring programs, internal reskilling efforts and benefits, such as tuition reimbursement. Finally, train managers on performance management and how to have meaningful dialogues with employees about their career goals.

In the end, if you take prioritizing your employees seriously, they’ll show you appreciation by sticking around and giving their all, and your customers might just show their appreciation by being loyal fans of your brand. Just remember the celebration of your people is a year-long event.

1TRUE Global Intelligence. Authentic Insights Survey. 2018. https://fleishmanhillard.com/


AI for PR – The Path to the Present, and the Potential

February 27, 2019
By Natasha Kennedy

I had the pleasure of participating on a panel on February 19th for PRSA Chicago called ‘The Good, the Bad & the Ugly of Artificial Intelligence on PR.’ I was joined by Andrew Cross, senior vice president, public relations, Walker Sands Communications; Andrea Rosi, director of product marketing, Cision; and Marc Zionts, chief executive officer, Automated Insights.

In the corporate world, and specifically that of communications, we are uncertain about how AI will impact our lives; we may be a little worried about how it may affect corporate and personal reputations, and also how it will change our jobs. Moreover, a study conducted by TRUE Global Intelligence (the practice I lead) of 1,000 consumers in the US and UK each, respectively, found that 81 percent of respondents said communications would be the sector most disrupted by AI over the next five years. Though all this may be true, AI presents opportunities for growth and development in some of the following areas:

  • While AI will replace jobs, it will likely create more, and evolve the current roles we have today. AI may write press releases, create a media list or generate a media advisory, yet today it can’t take a journalist to lunch or convince a client that giving a specific journalist an exclusive is a good idea. This AI application and the role of a media relations specialist are likely to change in the future. This illuminates the necessity to consider how the value of PR changes over time, reskill existing workforces and provide education for new employees. A friend of mine recently shared with me his visit to a pharmacy in Shanghai where prescriptions are filled solely by robots, which then automatically distribute them to their recipients’ assigned drawers. While AI is automating a process previously filled by humans, there is still a pharmacist on staff, monitoring and adjusting the entire process. Today.
  • If it replaces jobs and creates new ones, the model of PR will inevitably change. We knew it was bound to happen. We have been considering which functions and roles will be improved or changed. For example, through innovations in AI, the way a crisis is anticipated or mitigated will likely change drastically. Data will continually be collected and through machine learning and natural language generation, some crises, especially reputational, may possibly be averted, to the extent communications and actions may be sent throughout a supply chain and to news outlets, in machine to machine communication, to minimize or avert a crisis.
  • On the agency and client side, while the marketing industry is more data-driven, enabling AI for PR is woefully behind. Most are in the beginning stages of collecting data and trialing new technology to derive value and insight from it. What we absorb as humans is a narrative – the opportunity is taking data and transforming it into meaningful and understandable communications. The immediate future opportunity is the advancement that will be made integrating that narrative into an experience across all platforms – virtual reality, augmented reality, TV, social media, video, etc.
  • Just for fun, check out Crystal Knows. While I am not one to subscribe to tools and gadgets without prioritizing business purpose and impact, (and admittedly don’t have direct experience with this tool) it’s worth knowing what’s out there and where the “low hanging fruit” of automation can make your life just a little bit easier or add more value.

This education we are experiencing in the industry is natural, and a part of how change begins. And that is exactly what is important to highlight – change. These innovations can bring advancements to the industry and to roles to further develop the field and ourselves.  I always appreciate that saying, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” A colleague of mine says data is a dirty word. It’s time to remind ourselves what an asset it is.


Giving Students the Tools to Land Career-Starting Internships

February 25, 2019
By FH4Inclusion

Preparing for your first job interview can be extremely nerve-wracking. Across the U.S., 20 percent of students will not complete high school on time and earn a diploma, so landing that first job can seem close to impossible. Many U.S. high schools do not have adequate resources available to help students start their careers, whether it be pursuing a college degree or going straight into the workforce.

To kick off FleishmanHillard’s 2019 FH4Inclusion efforts, our San Francisco office partnered with Junior Achievement (JA), a global non-profit organization that works to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in today’s global economy. Through a partnership that one of us brought from college, we were able to connect with JA in Northern California for this opportunity. JA programs foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and use experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential. Each year, JA helps more than 10 million students in 100+ countries prepare for their future, by providing them with a path towards college or joining the working world.

Our volunteers spent an afternoon at a local high school mentoring to help them develop the necessary skills for their first interview. This high school serves a diverse group of students, with 21 percent learning English as their second language, and 65 percent are on the free and reduced lunch program. We shared stories of our first interviews, reviewed resumes from juniors and seniors interested in careers across various industries and performed mock interviews, providing constructive feedback on ways for students to improve their interview skills. Our volunteers equipped these students with many of the skills they need, ranging from speaking slower to giving examples of challenges they have overcome to projecting confidence to rock an interview.

One of the best moments of the day for one of our volunteers was during a student’s mock interview when they were talking about how they don’t have time for any extracurricular activities. When the volunteer asked why, the student shared that they are responsible for taking care of their little sister right after school. The volunteer helped the student re-frame their response to highlight how their reliability can be a strength. The student had never considered speaking about their family care-taking obligations during an interview, but after today, they will continue to share how their personal experiences can show their character.

Today, 91 percent of millennials wish they had greater access to career education programs. Junior Achievement is providing students around the world with the life skills they need to land jobs and inspiring them to succeed in this tough economy. Together, we impacted more than 20 high schoolers in our community by preparing them for their next steps after high school.

FleishmanHillard's San Francisco office partnered with Junior Achievement in Northern California for FH4Inclusion.
Our San Francisco office partnered with Junior Achievement for FH4Inclusion.
(left to right: Wes Carlson, Jessica Yah-Lira, Sam Drexler, Michelle McCourt, Jenny Grich, Mary Ellen Green, Grace Vickers) 


Sam Drexler and Michelle McCourt support our healthcare team and Jenny Grich works in our reputation management practice. All are based out of our San Francisco office.


Desperately Seeking Empathy – What Could Empathy Look Like from a Company in Today’s Culture?

February 22, 2019
By Catherine Reynolds

Despite what we’re seeing politically and the increasing vitriol on social and traditional media, it is incorrect to assume that we’re careening toward a compassionless future. There is evidence to suggest that empathy is an emerging societal need.

We see evidence of empathy in action, though it may not get as much media coverage as it deserves, from everyday people all around us. It is people, not the corporate world, leading on the empathy front. Perhaps taking their cue from people – their consumers – organizations are starting to see the need for empathetic leaders.1 Social media makes the corporate world increasingly immediate and intimate, adding pressure to corporations to be truly responsive and empathetic.

Bianca McCann, Chief Human Resources Officer at BetterWorks, has studied the subject of empathy in the office. She noted that “having powerful empathetic conversations is a critical piece of being a great manager, and to truly hear the employee, deep listening and suspended judgment are needed skills. Yet in the busy world in which managers are entrenched, both of these skills are a real challenge.2

How Can Companies Show Empathy?

While there has been a lot of talk and research on the qualities of empathetic leaders, what does it mean for companies to show empathy and what do consumers expect?  Based on research that we conducted on the qualities of empathetic leaders, we identified seven qualities that companies should have to be considered empathetic. We then surveyed 1,000 Americans online between May 21 and May 25, 2018. We found most Americans feel that all of the following qualities are extremely or very important to a company being considered empathetic, setting a high bar for corporate expectations:

  • Kindness – Lead from the heart and use the kindness of their spirit in how they treat and think about people. (59%)
  • Active Communication – Rely on communication as a two-way, collaborative process as a catalyst for change. (59%)
  • Self-control – Seek to understand first and react second. (59%)
  • Adverse to toxic behaviors – Set boundaries on people that exhibit negative behaviors. (58%)
  • Other-centered – Continually seek to understand how customers and employees are doing, what they need and how they feel. (57%)
  • Self-aware – Transparently lead through their own challenges and fears, and then help their employees and customers through theirs. (56%)
  • Unselfish – Companies that understand they get more from giving than from getting. (55%)

Our research indicates that there is a strong desire for companies to embrace and display empathetic qualities, and that desire will continue to grow as solidarity and empathy are built through digital media. Rather than viewing empathy as a “soft skill,” companies must regard it as a hard and essential skill from the CEO on down.

View the research here.

What Could Empathy Look Like from a Company in Today's Culture - FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence research study
FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence research
1. Gill B. Empathy is crucial to any personal or professional relationship. Here’s how to cultivate it. Forbes. Nov. 17, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bhaligill/2017/11/17/empathy-is-crucial-to-any-personal-or-professional-relationship-heres-how-to-cultivate-it/#403b15677961
2. Lipman V. How important is empathy to successful management? Forbes. Feb. 24, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2018/02/24/how-important-is-empathy-to-successful-management/#67b63b90a46d


Survey Methodology:

TRUE Global Intelligence, the in-house research practice of FleishmanHillard, conducted this research as an online survey. The sample size consisted of 1,000 Americans aged 18 years and older and was fielded between May 25 and May 21, 2018. The margin of error is +/- 3% and is higher for subgroups.


Contact Catherine Reynolds, senior vice president and partner, or Natasha Kennedy, global managing director for more information.


2019 Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism 

February 20, 2019

When: Sunday, February 24, 2019, 12:30 p.m. to Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at 11:00 p.m. CST

Where: Embassy Suites by Hilton Hot Springs, Hot Springs, Arkansas

Register now

Amanda Rast, managing supervisor in FleishmanHillard's St. Louis office.
Amanda Rast

The 45th annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism will equip attendees with actionable planning tools, useful marketing strategies, social media skills and current travel trends. The 2019 conference focuses on how tourism builds community. Presented by Arkansas Tourism, the convention will offer informative sessions and discussions led by professionals in the travel and tourism industry, including FleishmanHillard’s own Amanda Rast.

Rast, an integral member of the brand marketing practice in our St. Louis office, will co-lead the panel session “Public Relations: Then and Now” with Mark Raines of CJRW on Tuesday, February 26. This session is one of the three afternoon panels offered from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

View the full schedule here.


Focusing Companies on Supply Chain Accountability

By Judith Rowland

Well-funded environmentalists take a page from hedge fund playbooks, with meat in their crosshairs

Activist groups pushing to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water use and meat consumption have initiated a new strategy and enlisted new allies in their quest. Partnering with doctors, academics and investors who control trillions of dollars, activists have set their sights on the environmental impact of meat and poultry production.

We seem to have arrived at a tipping point. Going forward, the actions of food and beverage companies could have a fundamental impact on the future of their supply chain partnerships, communications with Wall Street, CSR efforts and how we raise animals for food.

Here’s a quick review of what’s happened over the past month or so, and what it represents for the industry.

From EAT-Lancet to Green New Deal

Mid-January 2019 saw the launch of the EAT-Lancet Commission report, which enlisted the expertise of doctors and academics to define the best diet for us and the planet. The report calls for a dramatic reduction in our consumption of meat, dairy and other foods for environmental and health reasons, as well as a similar call to action to cut food waste.

Though The Lancet has been writing about the health risks of animal protein since 1897, it significantly shifted its approach to the topic in 2015. While the journal previously focused on controversies surrounding red meat and associated risk factors for specific diseases, it now speaks more broadly about the negative impacts of meat consumption and calls on the general public to establish limits.

While the EAT-Lancet Commission report wasn’t a major turning point in policy and societal conversations around this topic, it set the stage for a broader movement designed to reduce red meat consumption, and disrupt production.

That movement received further support recently, with the introduction of the Green New Deal resolution, which calls for recognition that the U.S. government has a responsibility to achieve “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers”. The initiative was inspired by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s proclamation that we have slightly more than a decade to get carbon emissions under control before catastrophic climate change impacts become unavoidable.

Among other things, the resolution calls for collaboration with farmers and ranchers to build a more sustainable food system. The Green New Deal would include, according to an FAQ released by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, efforts to “create a sustainable, pollution and greenhouse gas free, food system that ensures universal access to healthy food and expands independent family farming.”

Investor Letter from Ceres and FAIRR

The most significant development on this front, however, is a letter released last month by CERES and FAIRR from more than 80 global investors who manage $6.5 trillion in assets. It urged Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Restaurant Brands International (owner of Burger King), Chipotle Mexican Grill, Wendy’s Co. and Yum! Brands (owner of KFC and Pizza Hut) to set aggressive targets to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and water impacts of their meat and dairy suppliers.

This letter represents the first time that investors have launched a coordinated effort to address the environmental impact of meat and dairy consumption. More so than pressure from academics or NGOs, this development poses very real business and profitability risks that industry leaders must respond to or face the potential for shareholder proposals and damage to their reputation with investors and customers.

Investors have a successful history of motivating corporate action on sustainability issues. CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), created in 2002, is a good example. CDP started with a letter from 35 investors calling for climate information from a broad cross-section of companies; 245 of them responded. Today more than 6,000 companies publicly disclose environmental information from CDP, and nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions are reported through CDP.

The Ceres and FAIRR investor letter sounds a loud and clear signal of things to come by asking QSRs to work with their supply chains to reduce emissions and water use. Whether the industry stands together or points fingers on this issue will determine whose reputation is on the line.

Time to Unite … and Take Action

Depending on how QSRs react, all these efforts combined represent either a threat or an opportunity, both financially and reputationally, for food companies, meat producers and farmers and ranchers.  Significant and measurable progress in reducing the environmental footprint of meat, poultry and dairy production has already been made. It’s critical that all parties up and down the supply chain unite to clearly communicate that progress and tackle these issues in an even more transparent and comprehensive fashion. If they don’t, proxy fights, share price erosion and reputational damage lie ahead.

The time to act is now – before others firmly control the message … and potentially the future of the industry.


International Crisis Communication Conference

February 18, 2019

When: Thursday, February 21, 2019, 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. UTC +1 and Friday, February 22, 2019, 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. UTC +1

Where: Quadriga Forum, Werderscher Markt 15, 10117 Berlin

Volker Pulskamp, Corporate Communications lead in Germany
Volker Pulskamp

Register now

The seventh annual Crisis Communication Conference, presented by Quadriga University, will inform attendees on all aspects of international crisis management. The conference will feature new approaches, insights and perspectives on crisis communication and mitigation while offering attendees the chance to obtain new skills in the interactive workshop sessions and simulations. This year’s conference will feature presentations from various crisis experts and PR professionals, including FleishmanHillard’s own Volker Pulskamp.

Pulskamp, who leads the corporate reputation and crisis team in FleishmanHillard’s Berlin and Frankfurt offices, will lead the Preparation is Key: Challenges in International Crisis Prevention and Preparation workshop. This workshop is designed to offer practical experience and provide key insights of crisis preparation and prevention. Pulskamp will hold two workshop sessions on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 1:15 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. UTC +1.

Additionally, Pulskamp and other workshop presenters will hold a summary of the workshops on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 4:00 p.m. UTC +1.

View the complete agenda here.


FleishmanHillard Wins at North American 2019 Innovation SABRE Awards

February 14, 2019

ST. LOUIS, February 14, 2019 — FleishmanHillard earned recognition for outstanding client work at The 2019 Innovation SABRE Awards — North America, presented by The Holmes Report.

FleishmanHillard’s Rachel Borg and Chelsey Leader with the In2SABRE trophy.

The global public relations and marketing firm won for its work on the HeForShe campaign on behalf of client United Nations in the “Social Good/Non-Profit” category. The partnership with United Nations stems from FleishmanHillard’s FH4Inclusion services.

The awards, part of the larger North American Innovation Summit, took place at a gala in San Francisco on February 13, 2019.

View the complete list of North American In2SABRE award winners here.


Football Fans Claim They Just Want to Enjoy the Game – but Their Gameday Conversations Say Otherwise

February 7, 2019
By Dianna Kraus

Why Brands Investing in Sports Need to Listen

Against a backdrop of social and political volatility that has bled into football headlines in recent seasons, the turtle like pace of the lowest scoring Super Bowl of all time and play-it-safe nature of the majority of its advertisers stood in stark contrast. The surrounding social conversation of its viewers, however, did not.

FleishmanHillard’s Sports and Social & Innovation teams conducted social media listening and analysis of conversations had by viewers of Super Bowl LIII using Netbase and Crimson Hexagon to understand what people were talking about through Monday morning. The majority of the conversation happened on Twitter. What emerged was the insight that, despite claims of issues fatigue and a desire for escape, fans are not actually looking for football to remain a pure sporting environment, free of the issues of today. While they might not be interested in mixing politics with football, our data showed that they are wading right into the social issues – like racial equality, social justice and gender equity.

For example, while Americans talked less about politics on Sunday than on any other day in the year so far, and less than all but 12 days in 2018 (which included holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving), a disproportionately large percentage of non-football related conversation during the game focused on the topic of racism. Colin Kaepernick was mentioned nearly 200,000 times and the hashtag #ImWithKap was used nearly 60,000 times. Interestingly, 58% of that Kaepernick conversation was generated by women. And whereas net sentiment surrounding President Trump’s pre-game addressed aired by CBS skewed negative at -26%, viewers were all too ready to talk about veganism and female empowerment, topics made popular by brand advertisements.

The conclusion drawn from this analysis – that fans don’t want to talk politics on game day but they do want to talk about the social issues that matter to them – has considerable implications for the brand sponsors and advertisers that invest heavily in sports. If their investments are meant to be brand builders, they will have to find ways to participate in the conversation taking place among sports fans, without alienating them in the process.

We spend a lot of time counseling clients that invest in sports as to how to navigate this complex landscape, and believe it starts from the core: their company’s values. Findings from recent FH TRUE Global Intelligence research tell us that consumers expect brands to take a values-based approach to participating in the issues of our time. Two-thirds say they have stopped using a product because of a company’s response to an issue. Nearly half say they are less likely to purchase from a company that they believe promises one thing, but acts in another way. But – and this is a big flag – 61% said they believe it’s more important for companies to express their views, even if they disagree with a company’s position. This figure goes up to 75% if you’re asking millennials.

What this means is that the days in which brands could opt out of an issues-based conversation are long gone. Brands that want to play in sports ought to not only be prepared to get in the scrum, but also to express their views in a way that is authentic and well supported by its past and current behaviors, investments, and communications with customers. This is exciting work that speaks FH Sports’ core point of view: that brands must earn the right to trade on the passion inherent in sports through compelling, credible programs that deliver real value for their bottom line. As the issues of our time continue to evolve, we’re listening and we’re raising the flags so that brands know where and how to make their next move.


The Future is Female: a Report with Money 20/20 USA

February 5, 2019

Each new year welcomes the opportunity for change, and 2019 is poised to be a year that women continue to take action and break barriers. Across all sectors, this is the year for progress, and that is especially the case for gender parity in the financial services industry.

At no place was this more apparent than Money20/20 USA, where three of the most popular keynote speakers were female powerhouses of finance: Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest, Kathryn Petralia of Kabbage, and Carol Grunberg of Ant Financial. While these impressive women spoke to the audience about their experience as women in a male-dominated industry and their take on the status of gender parity in the financial services industry, FleishmanHillard listened. Our team analyzed on-the-ground discussion at Money20/20 and social dialogue following the conference, and we have pulled together key takeaways and predictions about the future of the financial services industry.

Our report, co-branded with Money20/20 USA and titled “The Future is Female,” speaks to the excitement and anticipation of how women are radically impacting the future of financial services.

  • Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest discusses the financial benefits of increased diversity, the misconception of female aversion to risk, and the importance of “cultural adds” instead of “cultural fits”
  • Kathryn Petralia of Kabbage explores how gender diversity pays through higher financial returns
  • Carol Grunberg shares the profound importance of an equal playing ground and professional sponsorships

With thousands of fintech, payments, and financial services leaders taking to the stage at Money20/20, it was these conversations around the evolving gender balance in the financial services industry that truly depicted the progress being made in the financial sector.

Engaging in these conversations and promoting these topics is key to advancing the financial services industry through 2019 and beyond. Join us at FleishmanHillard as we look to the future of the industry – undoubtedly, the future is female.