Earlier this fall I read a news story about a Scotsman who raised money on a crowdfunding platform for a project that would purportedly send the world’s first postcards from space.
The project was in the news, not because the venture promised to strap a couple cameras to a weather balloon and take photos from twenty miles into the earth’s atmosphere, but because it failed to deliver on its basic promise. Angry customers formed an online revolt that led a newspaper reporter to take notice.
I don’t know if this SpaceCard was simply part of a clever self-funded publicity ploy to get the postcard app ByPost into the news, but the online reaction does offer another intriguing case study for my grad school terminal project.
Anatomy of a Typical Crisis.
My terminal project will explore crisis communication responses to crowdfunding crises. My interest was initially piqued last year after a company contacted AM:PM PR for crisis communication messaging help. They had created a great product funded through Kickstarter but were over a year behind schedule delivering the product. Additionally, the company was struggling to communicate its challenges to its backers and needed to open new sales channels to fund operations while navigating manufacturing conundrums. The appearance of the product for sale online before most backers received theirs threatened to create a firestorm of angry comments on review sites, which could have ballooned into news stories and increased undesirable attention. The situation was blunted with our help, and by honest and clear communication. No media picked up the story, and as of last check, the company is still quietly working away to get its product to its initial backers while concurrently offering its product for sale through a variety of channels.
The following apology video is for a project from Canada called the “Peachy Printer.” It raised $50,000+ on IndieGogo and another $650,000 on Kickstarter. Backers were supposed to get their printers in 2014, this apology video is from Oct. 2, 2014.
On October 23, 2016 the project creator posted updates at IndieGogo and Kickstarter to share news of police investigations after an investor was accused of using funds to build a house.
Since we helped that unnamed organization stave off a consumer revolt last December, I have been collecting stories like the “Peachy Printer” – and about other companies facing similar challenges. There are tons – from Seattle to Portland to San Francisco to Scotland and beyond. The challenges faced by these crowdsourced campaigns are similar to those faced by many entrepreneurial endeavors, and I intend to contribute to a growing body of research with my project.
I’ve already done a fair amount of due diligence exploring existing scholarly research that may apply and form a foundation for my efforts. There are entire fields of study that may be relevant including crisis communication, issues management and operations management-related studies. One researcher whose work I’ve enjoyed is Timothy Coombs. His research offers insights that may be applicable to crowdfunded campaigns, including the Situational Crisis Communication Theory. Part of the theory suggests that companies that are new or without a track record will receive more flexibility in the court of public opinion for their fledgling efforts to meet customer demand and expectations. The key component is clear communication, yet most crowdfunded campaigns (and startups) I’ve observed are run by passionate and proud individuals that aren’t quick to admit when they’ve made a mistake.
The Coolest Cooler is another interesting case study. The company created a cooler that includes a blender, Bluetooth stereo, USB charger and corkscrew in addition to other amenities. The company ran into trouble when it experienced manufacturing delays and then had to start selling its product through online retailers before all backers received their cooler. This led to negative commentary on review sites that de-evolved further into a crisis of communication when media began running with the story. My research will help to come up with guidance other businesses may follow to avoid experiencing the same painful dilemma.
Other similar crowd-funded products facing similar crises include a talking robot called Jibo that’s two-years behind its delivery schedule. The Glowforge printer, which broke customer’s hearts again this past week when the company admitted it wouldn’t get product out for the holidays, is now on track to deliver two years behind schedule.
These crowd-funded projects are fascinating to study because they provide an opportunity to observe consumer reaction to business decisions in real time. You can see what the company did (or didn’t do) to communicate clearly, and review and gauge consumer reaction. The information will help to inform future best practices for crowdfunded projects, entrepreneurs and traditional startups.
Part 1 of our 2 part series of video secrets from the pros
Having just one video about your business or organization isn’t enough any more. Now you need a series.
At our next Speakeasy event, hear from the team at Beyond Measure Media. Jay and Michele
Carter are award-winning video producers that specialize in telling documentary-style “stories from the heart” for businesses and nonprofits.
Drawing from years of experience in front of and behind the camera, they share:
- The types of videos every organization needs right now, and why.
- The most common mistakes businesses make when creating their first video(s), and how to avoid them.
- How to turn a mundane video interview into a magic moment that viewers won’t forget.
- The one production element that is even more important than video quality.
- Creative ways to boost your organization’s video output, including how to turn your entire roster of employees into lean, mean, powerful video production and idea machines.
All across the web and social media, your future customers and raving fans are out there — waiting to see, hear and connect with your brand and your mission. A series of clear, carefully crafted videos is the most powerful way to tell your story, build loyalty and grow your tribe.
Join us October 5th for Part 2 of Pro Secrets for Making Powerful Videos.
About Beyond Measure Media & Michele Kim Carter and Jay Carter
Michele Kim Carter has worked on documentary films, most recently co-directing Southern Fried Fencing, now available on Amazon. She was local producer for Beer Is Cheaper Than Therapy, which was broadcast on TV networks around the world. She produced TV newscasts in Texas, and won the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcast storytelling.
Jay Carter is a former Texas TV news anchor and reporter, with numerous awards from the Associated Press and the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcast storytelling. He has worked as a radio news anchor and voiceover talent. He also co-directed the feature-length documentary Southern Fried Fencing with Michele.
At Beyond Measure Media, Jay shoots and edits video, and helps craft the overall tone and narrative flow of video productions. Michele produces, handles logistics, conducts interviews and helps clients tell stories that resonate.
(originally drafted 7/19/16)
As I watched the furor over Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech Tuesday, I found myself pondering how I’d respond as a communication professional, were I employed by the Trump campaign.
It’s a complicated scenario to imagine because there’s a thoughtful crisis communication-oriented response, and there’s an opportunistic publicity-oriented response. Both responses serve a valuable communication purpose pending context, but I feel they often offer diverging paths for a communication practitioner to follow, and I’ll argue below that one response may be considered less ethical in this situation.
This path recognizes that allegations of plagiarism represent a serious threat to the integrity of the accused, and the ensuing strategy seeks to minimize reputational damage and restore trust. A proper response may be to issue a statement acknowledging the misstep and earnestly suggest that the internal communication team is examining the process that may have enabled such a gross error. It would acknowledge the wrongdoing and graciously applaud Michelle Obama’s thoughtful, shared vision of family and work ethic. The media attention may continue to be harsh for awhile, and additional steps may be required, but the act would also maintain the presumed credibility of the Trump campaign.
While this may be the tactic to restore trust with the media, and other intellectual stakeholders, it’s apparent that Trump’s most important stakeholders are the people that will vote for him. His communication team must also recognize that these stakeholders will perceive plagiarism as a lesser offense than capitulating to a mistake, and may punish any attempt to mention an Obama in a positive light.
It’s also possible that Trump’s communication team perceived this misstep as another opportunity to generate free publicity from the media. We know this is one of Trump’s go-to communication strategies because a story from The New York Times earlier this year highlighted how he was able to outpace his competitors by generating over $2 billion worth of free media coverage during his party’s presidential primary.
The statement contradicts an interview where Melania told Today host Matt Lauer that she wrote most of the speech herself. Does this indiscretion even register among Trump’s key supporters? Probably not. The statement also does nothing to address Melania’s serious ethical failing – so it doesn’t represent a crisis communication response. It does manifest many more questions, representing a publicity-oriented response – and the media was busy. In a bizarre Orwellian twist, the Trump campaign chairman stated that the calls of plagiarism are the fault of Hillary Clinton. Chris Christie chimed in to point out 93% of the speech WASN’T plagiarized. Most everyone in the country sighed with exasperation from the absurdity of it all.
Is the campaign’s communication strategy ethical?
After observing the Trump campaign for nearly a year, it’s become apparent that negative media coverage does nothing to damage the Trump brand among its ardent supporters, and if anything, serves a purpose – to keep the media regurgitating the Trump brand name and messaging.
The initial publicity-focused communication response from the Trump campaign team represents either an unethical or an irresponsible tactic from the perspective of this communication professional. In my view, their campaign actively prioritizes controversy to generate more news coverage, versus prioritizing the act of telling the truth or offering anything of substance. This strategy has clearly created a dangerous and hyperbolic precedent. History has demonstrated that using crazy language and manipulating the media in such a manner leads to extreme consequences as time wears on. Americans should make themselves familiar with the notion that these campaign communications are strategically manipulative, versus dismissing the outrageousness of it all at face value.
My instinct is to consider the accusation of plagiarism as a crisis communication threat and to address it accordingly. However, Trump’s reinforced brand image is that of hyperbole, puffery and gross exaggeration. Therefore, this misstep doesn’t threaten his brand at all, and if anything, is a shot in the arm to his publicity efforts.
* * *
Earlier Wednesday Trump’s team released a statement throwing his official biographer under the bus, and to my surprise, praising Michelle Obama in the process. Rather than the initial publicity-generating statement from Tuesday, Wednesday’s communication represents a crisis-communication response. Essentially versus choosing one of two paths, as I suggest, team Trump chose both. This may be part of their strategy, or it may suggest that they don’t have an effective communication plan for their campaign and were trying to patch over earlier mistakes.
During the past several years we’ve hosted Speakeasy events featuring internationally acclaimed filmmakers, Oregon Book Award Winners, journalists and esteemed editors of Portland publications. Now we can add a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter to the list.
We’re delighted to host Mark Geary on May 18th for a “Living Room” concert in AM:PM PR’s living room, located at 2006 SE Clinton.
Mark is one of Ireland’s premier singer-songwriters and throughout the past 20 years he has toured all over Europe, the US and Australia, and has shared the stage with performers including Josh Ritter, Bell X1, Coldplay, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders and Joe Strummer. His records evoke comparisons to artists including Van Morrison, John Lennon, Elliott Smith and Richard Thompson.
Fresh off an autumn tour supporting Glen Hansard (Once, The Swell Season, The Frames) Geary is on his first West Coast jaunt since he was here with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, and is performing a series of private house concerts in Washington and Oregon.
Geary’s AM:PM PR performance is Wednesday, May 18th with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. The event is free, but a $10 donation to the artist is recommended. RSVP required.
Again, you must RSVP with Mike Phillips if you’d like to join.
Click here to listen to Mark on Spotify.
This past weekend I was a featured guest speaker at a fundraiser for the Boiler Room – a youth-oriented community coffeehouse in Port Townsend, Washington.
As a 23-year-old college graduate I spent many days and nights at the Boiler Room working as a programs intern. I coordinated local musicians and traveling national and international acts for performances. That experience was one of my first forays into a career in public relations and I later leveraged it on my resume when applying for my first public relations job.
But something also worth highlighting is the way the Boiler Room encapsulates the idea of community. The Boiler Room was a safe place for me to spend my time as a teenager, and the only place open late into the evening for teens in that small town. At the Boiler Room I was exposed to new ideas, interesting thought leaders and life lessons that I may not have experienced otherwise.
Diverse local “alternative” cultures would congregate in the Boiler Room. Kids would be off in the corner writing journal entries to sort out their emotions, or logging the collective history of the venue. A young couple might be holding hands in the corner, an earthy woodsman might stride through the door trailed by the musk of a hard days labor. A wide-eyed hippie with homemade clothes and bare feet might frolic in to the sound of bells with a creative project tucked under one arm. And occasionally a yuppie couple on vacation from a neighboring city might wander in and be treated no different.
It’s funny to think about, but I’m the yuppie now.
I remember one Boiler Room regular in particular whose polished musical talents seemed to be on another level. When she played a prominent role on the soundtrack for the film Juno just a few years later, I was both blown away and not too surprised at the same time.
The Boiler Room was important to me because it provided an outlet to test and develop my own musical chops, something I was very passionate about at the time. First during open mic nights, and later during featured performances.
I recall one teachable moment when I was performing a new song of unrequited love with incredible misogynistic undertones. As I belted out my unfortunate lyrics, the great Phyl Sheridan (RIP) grabbed a plastic bowling pin and hurled it at the stage. After my performance he approached me and wrapped his arm around my shoulder and told me that I cannot talk like that about women, and gave a very convincing argument as to why. That moment was instrumental in the process of reshaping my worldview, retiring several songs, and was the type of experience that young men have in an environment where generations interact freely with older adult role models.
Congrats to the Boiler Room for all of its success. I’m excited for the continual value this organization will provide to the community in Port Townsend – helping kids to learn valuable life lessons and life skills; offering a safe, judgment-free space; enabling a venue where people may interact with their community; and even offering a foothold to future careers. Thank you to all of the adults who continue to act as mentors and role models for the next generation of Boiler Room kids.
If you’d like to donate, please click here.
A short preview of the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco this weekend.
Leading cannabis industry professionals, politicians and cultural leaders are gathering February 13 and 14 at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco for the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC).
I thought I’d take a moment to congratulate our friends at the conference for putting together another industry-leading lineup of experts, business leaders and cultural icons, including Andrew Sullivan and Tommy Chong, and recognize some of the great things occurring at the event this weekend.
One of the more interesting panels this weekend features conservative California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and liberal Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. The two are coming together for a panel to discuss the bipartisan effort to end cannabis prohibition in America. The panel will be lead by Anthony Johnson, the Content Director of the conference and the Chief Petitioner of the successful Measure 91 in Oregon. While the panel is likely to discuss the complex decisions and considerations regarding California’s legalization movement, the recent raids on cannabis businesses in San Diego may spur additional conversation about compliance with current regulations and law.
Other political leaders at ICBC include former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and California Assembly Member Rob Bonta. For a full list of speakers, click here.
Just how big is the cannabis industry in California? A new report coming from the ARC View Group estimates that the current California marketplace is worth $1.5 billion. With San Francisco’s physical location to the state’s prime growing region, the ICBC’s well-managed networking component is ideal for cannapreneurs and small business owners.
A report produced last week estimates that Colorado’s marijuana industry is currently worth $1 billion. Combined with Oregon, Washington and Alaska it’s easy to recognize that now is the ideal time to get in on the ground floor of this industry.
For more numbers on the size of the cannabis industry, check out this piece from The Huffington Post.
International Cannabis Business.
Earlier this week, the ICBC announced that versus bringing leading international industry experts to their conferences in the United States, the ICBC will be expanding to international locales later this year including Vancouver, BC and Europe. Conference organizer Alex Rogers says he believes Berlin, and Germany specifically, are at a tipping point with regards to cannabis law reform.
For more on the International Cannabis Business Conference, visit their website at: internationalcbc.com