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Talking Points Podcast: Millennials refuse to pay for the news

In this week’s episode of the Talking Points Podcast, Kevin and I talk about millennials and their refusal to pay for the news (say it ain’t so millennials!), Victory’s big win with VR, Meerkat (of course), PR and analytics and three content formats that one blog predicts will take off in 2015.

Hope you’ll take a listen!


SHOW NOTES – March 19, 2015

“Millennials say keeping up with the news is important to them ‚ÄĒ but good luck getting them to pay for it”


“Oculus lets motorcycle enthusiasts take a virtual trip to Sturgis”


‚Äú”MeerKat Is The Next Big Thing. But For How Long?”‚ÄĚ


“Listen up! Everything PR and Social Media Pros Need To Know About Meerkat”


“A Traditional PR Pro Take on Analytics”


“3 Content Formats That Will Take Off in 2015″


Does brand reputation even matter to Spirit Airlines?

Last week, I did what marketers like us WANT consumers to do on social media:

I asked my friends and family for a recommendation.

In this case, I was asking folks if they’ve ever flown Spirit–and what their experience was like. I was considering flying Spirit for a family trip this summer.

The response I got was, shall we say, “less than stellar.”

FB ACH Spirit

I mean, just look at some of these comments. Fairly damning, and pretty much the exact opposite of what PR folks paid to build positive reputations for brands want to see.

FB ACH Spirit 2

Conclusion: Do not fly Spirit. Wait, check that: Never, ever fly Spirit. Unless you don’t mind riding with goats on an airplane and getting charged for breathing (commenters words–not mine).

How could a brand like Spirit have SUCH a negative brand reputation and still be in business? How could their PR team still be employed? I mean, we’ve seen negative comments about airlines before, but NOTHING like this (outside of maybe Comcast in the past).

Now I was curious.

After a little digging around, and a bit of reading, it became pretty clear what was/is going on:

Spirit doesn’t necessarily care about building and maintaining a positive brand reputation.

What they DO care about is staying true to who they are (the bare-bones airline operation offering the lowest fares around) and making money.

And, make not mistake about it, business at Spirit is good.

The stock price is up.

Profits are up.

Flight numbers are up.

And, they’re hiring 1,500 people in the next few months.

I’d say they’re doing alright. Pretty much any company in the history of business would take those results.

And yet they seem to have a HORRIBLE brand reputation.

You want to know how far Spirit is willing to take this? They orchestrated an “Unleash the Hate” survey where they actually asked customers and potential customers what they HATE about airlines (not just Spirit). In exchange, they offered up 8,000 miles.

Spirit Hate Survey

You can imagine what they heard. Side note: Have you EVER heard of a company doing anything like this? Pretty amazing, if you really think about it.

So, let’s recap, shall we?

Spirit clearly has a horribly poor brand reputation in the marketplace (see my Facebook thread up top).

Spirit has multiple Facebook pages dedicated to disparaging the brand (see below).

Spirit FB Farce Page

Spirit is actively asking customers why they hate airlines like Spirit.

Spirit Hate Survey 2

Spirit is almost mocking customers on Twitter with its auto-pilot approach and seemingly sending most to a plain, simple contact form for more information.

Spirit Twitter 1

Yet, Spirit continues to enjoy profits, growth and a healthy stock price.

This begs the question: Does brand reputation even *matter* to Spirit Airlines?

The answer: Of course it does–just not the way you’re probably thinking.

For Spirit a *positive* brand reputation doesn’t matter. If it did, they would be doing more proactively to try to manage that. They would have a Facebook page. They would be more proactive on Twitter (they basically just direct people to their customer service page on their site now–not exactly a best practice in Twitter customer service). They would be more aggressive with media relations.

They’re not doing any of those things (at least as far as I can see). Translation: They’re not interested in a “positive brand reputation”, in the way we think about it.

What they ARE interested in is this: Helping customers and potential customer better understand who Spirit is and what they offer (and WHY).

This is clearly the Spirit PR strategy.

Let’s look at what they’re doing:

* CBS This Morning story featuring the Spirit CEO focuses heavily on educating people around Spirit.

* The Spirit web site is full of information that helps explain WHY they offer low fares and what customers can expect once they’re on the plane.

Spirit Web

* They don’t waste time promoting cheap fares on Twitter and Facebook (again, they don’t even have a FB page) since people are having little trouble finding them all on their own.

The reputation play for Spirit is increasing understanding around their model.

And, if you go back and look at my initial Facebook post last week, it appears to be working!

Look at these comments:

FB Spirit comment 1 FB Spirit comment 2 FB Spirit comment 3


FB Spirit comment 2


FB Spirit comment 3


The comments are negative in sentiment, sure, but look a bit more closely. People understand. They get there’s a trade-off. I think that’s a Spirit win. They don’t care if you label them as “The Walmart of the Skies.” All they care about is you understand WHY, and that you buy a ticket.

So, allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment: Maybe positive brand reputation isn’t everything, contrary to what most PR counselors (like me) might tell you.

Now, THAT is interesting to consider.

Look no further than Spirit Airlines.

Don’t call me a freelancer

If you want to get under a consultant’s¬†skin, call them¬†a FREELANCER.

It’s been an ongoing conversation in the solo world for years. What do we call ourselves?

Some people call themselves a “solo PR pro.”

Some people call themselves a “freelancer.”


And some people call themselves a consultant (or, an “independent consultant”).

You’re probably thinking: “Who cares?” Why does it matter what people call you?

I’ll tell you why.

Whether people want to admit it or not in this age of visual and online marketing, words still matter. Labels matter.

When you call yourself a FREELANCER, here’s the connotation that’s giving off to clients and potential clients:

* I may not do this forever, so I wouldn’t count on me being around forever. You may have to find someone else eventually.

* I bill by the hour–here’s my rate. It’s much cheaper than what you’d pay at an agency.

* What do you need done? I’ll do it? Just let me know what you need from me.

Is that a bit unfair? Maybe. But, it is what people think when they hear you label yourself as a FREELANCER. They may not tell you that–but it’s what they’re thinking.

Now, let’s try something else. Let’s say you described yourself as a CONSULTANT. What would clients and prospective clients think then?

* She is professional and this is her full-time job.

* I trust her to give me the best, most informed and ethical advice possible.

* I have problems and need solving. My consultant helps me make those problems go away. And, she even solves problems I didn’t even know I had!

See the difference?

A FREELANCER is someone who’s focused on tactical work. Someone who takes orders. Someone who bills by the hour.

Now, to be fair, there’s nothing wrong with that. If that’s what you want–there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

But, most of the solo consultants I talk with don’t want that kind of label–yet they continue to use that dirty word: FREELANCER.


On the other hand, consultants are people who advise senior-level executives.

They get invited to strategy and annual planning meetings (hello annual retainer budgets!).

They never share their hourly rate (or, at least rarely), because it’s all about solving the client’s problem.

See what I’m saying?

So, want clients to start taking you more seriously?

Start using the right language to describe yourself.

<rant over>

Twin Cities PR This Week – March 16

If you live outside the Twin Cities area, you may not have heard the big news this week: Target laid off 1,700 employees on Tuesday. Including a few friends of mine. I blogged about this on Thursday–and I’ve offered up my assistance to a few friends already. Now, I challenge you–what can you do to help our friends over at Target?

Know someone who was impacted? Take five minutes and give them a call. Offer to help. Go out of your way to help. Believe me, it WILL matter. And, you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself, too.

Now, on to the news and events of the last two weeks in Minneapolis/St. Paul!

Fenced In, Part 3


Heather Cmiel, formerly of Bellmont PR, recently took a job as marketing communications strategist at 3M.

Greg Swan, who was over at Weber Shandwick for almost 10 years, took the role of  Vice President-PR and emerging media at space150.

Amy Bryant recently signed on with HealthPartners as their new senior communications consultant.



Katie Miller was promoted to social media director over at OLSON recently. Great news, Katie!



Alison O’Keefe is celebrating five years at Exponent PR. Congrats Alison!



MIMA is hosting “Brand Storytelling in a Digital World” at the Carlson School of Management on Wed., March 18. Hope to see you there!

Want to give back? MN PRSA is hosting its annual Pro-Am Day on Friday, March 27 (great event–I participated for years). Register by March 20.

Social Media Breakfast is hosting another one of its popular “case study” panels on Friday, March 27. Looks like Andersen’s Angela Swenson and OLSON’s Katie Miller will be presenting. Sign up here.


Prime Therapeutics is looking for a marketing manager to join its team: https://www.linkedin.com/jobs2/view/35942080?trk=hp-feed-jymbii-jobTitle

Sleep Number (client) is looking for a director of PR and corporate communications: http://www.mnprblog.com/2015/03/job-sleep-number-director-pr-corporate.html

TopRank Marketing is seeking a content marketing manager to join its team: http://www.toprankmarketing.com/careers/contentmarketingmanager/

General Mills is looking for a corporate communications social media specialist to join its Golden Valley team: http://careers.generalmills.com/en/jobs/descriptions/corporate-communications-social-media-specialist-minneapolis-minnesota-job-1-5193641?country=united-states

The folks at GiveMN are looking for a marketing communications manager: https://www.mnpartners.org/about_us/job_openings/apply_for_givemn_marcomm_manager/


An open letter to former Target employees

Dear former Target employees:

I’m sorry.

I know you’ve heard that a lot this week, but really, I’m sorry.

Getting laid off sucks. I’ve been fortunate–I’ve never been fired in my almost 20 years in this industry (I was threatened twice, however). But, I hear it’s pretty much like getting dumped.

I know what that feels like. And I know it sucks. Hard.

So, I’m sorry.

Target employee

But, I wanted to write you today to tell you to keep your chin up this week. Because, when one door shuts, another one opens.

That’s right, I’m here to give you a pep talk! And, some frank advice.

As you start to recover and think about what’s next, I give you the following thoughts to consider:

Take six months. Hell, take a year.

Why do you HAVE to get a job right away? Some¬†of you may have got a decent severance package. Some of you may have saved your dollars over the years. To those people, I ask again: Why do you have to get a job? Why not take a year off. Use that time to really live your life. Aren’t we always wondering what we’d do if we had the time? You now have the time! (unfortunately) Do something crazy. Move to San Diego. Hell, move to Taiwan. Or, just stay here and do something you’ve always wanted to do, but just didn’t have the time. Take some time, and do *something* (that’s not work).

Re-evaluate your career.

I’m a BIG believe in the “everything happens for a reason” mantra. I’m *this* far away from being that guy that completely believes in fate. But, I also happen to believe people create their own destinies. You’ve been handed a smelly pile of pig dung. That sucks. But, it happened. Here’s your chance to take that dung and make something good out of it. And, that doesn’t have to mean getting a job in the field you’re trained in. Take this time to re-evaluate. Take this time to look at the BIG picture. Take this time to take some time. And really think.

Whatever you do, don’t sit at home.

Back to the break-up analogy for a minute. When I was dumped my senior year in college, the worst thing I did immediately following that break-up was I sat at home too much. I wallowed in self pity. I cried. I slept. A lot. Then, I woke the eff up. And I started going out with friends. I met new friends. Before I knew it, I was back on my feet. I was back. Same thing here. Take a week. Have a good cry (I’m dead serious). Get it out. And then, get the eff out of your house. I mean, like every day. Go meet friends for coffee. Go to happy hours. Go to networking events. Go get drunk! Whatever you do–get out of the damn house!

Gain perspectives.

Getting laid off probably feels like the worst thing in the world. But you know what, it’s not the worst thing in the world. I can think of a pretty long list of things that are far worse. And you can, too. So, when you’re getting out of your house, talk to your friends, family and former colleagues. But, resist the urge¬†to¬†ask them for advice. Just talk to them. About life. About their kids. About what they really want to do with their lives. Just talk about THEIR stuff. That talking, those perspectives, it’ll help. It will give you a different way of looking at the world. A way that’s not so focused on “I need to find a new job at all costs”. Because, if you think about that 24/7 you’ll want to off yourself within a week.

The bottom line is this former Target employees: The next step is up to you. You’re going to get lots of advice over the next couple months. Lots of help (hopefully). Lots of shoulders to cry on. Take them all.

But, at the end of the day, this is on you.

You got the shaft. Big deal. Happens all the time.

What happens next–that’s what’s important now.

And that’s all on you. What are you going to do?

P.S.: Give me a call–I’d love to give you this¬†pep talk face-to-face (and I’d love to help provide a few connections and introductions, if I can).


photo credit: Target via photopin (license)