Wellynn Group Completes Magee Rehabilitation Market Research Project

The Wellynn Group recently completed a multi-faceted marketing research project on behalf of Magee Rehabilitation. Magee–one of the leading physical rehabilitation facilities in the United States–wanted to understand how different stakeholders perceived Magee marketing and communications, and how Magee can best incorporate changes in communication technologies and platforms over the last ten years in Magee’s marketing efforts.

The Wellynn Group project-managed and facilitated a series of focus groups, with both patients and professionals. TWG also developed and analyzed two online surveys for Magee employees and consumers in the greater Philadelphia area.

Magee’s marketing leadership is using The Wellynn Group’s research and analysis to help guide its marketing planning for 2018 and beyond.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2017: A Year in the Upside Down (for PR and Crisis Communications)

Whatever one feels about the Trump Presidency and its impact on America, one thing appears to be true: the rules on PR and crisis communications have been seemingly overturned, and seasoned communications executives can be forgiven if they can’t quite grasp what is happening.

Since he began running for office, and since his inauguration, Mr. Trump has been involved in an unending—literally, almost daily—streak of what just a couple of years ago would have been career-ending PR implosions for any politician or businessperson.

Credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault? Check. Insulting and denigrating entire classes of people and cultures? Check. Repeatedly spouting proven untruths (OK, lies)? Check. If Ronald Reagan was the “teflon” president, Donald Trump must be the—well, what’s a better non-stick analogy than teflon?

Crisis communications practice would tell you that any one of these used-to-be-missteps would require a swift apology, acknowledgment of responsibility, and promises to never to let it happen again. Don’t hold your breath waiting for any of those from Mr. Trump. One can complain about this attitude, but one cannot argue with its success. Sure, his approval ratings are at historic lows. But, true to form, he doesn’t seem to care about appearances.

From a societal point of view, the concern is that every political or business leader would adopt this practice. The end result would not be pretty, as bad behavior would have zero consequences. That’s not how societies improve.

The good news, so far, is that other political and business leaders do not yet appear to have followed Mr. Trump’s lead in this particular attitude. Nor are their personal brands so seemingly immune from self-reflection or responsibility. If the president has no sense of restraint, it appears most of the rest of the nation still does.

Even if it seems we’re in the Upside Down, most of us are still right side up.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Corporate America Knows Diversity and Inclusion are Good for Business

While the Administration tries to bar refugees, starts planning a wall, and ponders rolling back civil rights for our LGBTQ citizens, Corporate America seems to understand that diversity and inclusion are good for business.

How else to interpret the preponderance of Super Bowl ads that sought to attract our dollars by extolling the ambition of immigrants (Budweiser); the perseverance of refugees (84 Lumber); and “acceptance” (AirB&B).

These aren’t charities: they are hard-boiled, for profit corporations that have studied American consumers carefully and determined that the money is in social progressivism.

Wonder if anyone in Congress and the White House is picking up on that message.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Avoiding Unforced Errors

This is a repost of something we shared in 2013. With the 15th anniversary of 9/11 a few days away, it’s a good time to think about avoiding the unforced errors that even sophisticated marketers can make.

The Etiquette of 9/11 Marketing

With the anniversary of September 11, 2001 upon the nation once again, it is interesting to see how commemorations of the tragedy have evolved. The intervening years seem to have softened, somewhat, the intensity of national emotion and  even the amount of organized and institutional attention devoted to the attacks. Still, social media is flooded with users’ thoughts, prayers, and images.

Within this environment, many businesses have also recognized–sometimes at considerable advertising cost–the events of 9/11/01. Most of them have, very appropriately, limited their statements to expressions of sorrow, remembrance, and appreciation for first responders and the nation’s military men and women whose sacrifices today are directly related to what happened on that September morning 12 years ago.


Wrong on so many levels.

This shouldn’t be a difficult communications or branding assignment for a business. Yet, incredibly, a number of otherwise sophisticated corporations (like AT&T, right), have fallen flat on their faces.

In the interest of helping out any dim-witted corporations out there, here’s an easy guide:

  • ACCEPTABLE 9/11 RECOGNITIONS: Those that acknowledge lives lost, sacrifices made, and the service of first responders and the military. Additional messages about the desirability of peace are acceptable. Graphics should be simple, tasteful, and respectful. Using the company logo is OK, but drop any tag line that could be misconstrued (can you imagine: “McDonalds Remembers 9/11. ‘I’m Lovin’ It'”).
  • UNACCEPTABLE 9/11 RECOGNITIONS: Anything that explicitly or implicitly promotes your product or service, or suggests that people spend money as way of honoring the lives lost on that day.


This offer from a golf club in Wisconsin is an example of what not to do. They subsequently apologized, but, honestly, what were they thinking?

The United States is still working through the implications and consequences of 9/11. It will be fascinating to see how the nation marks the anniversary in 25 or 50 years. Businesses would be well-advised to focus their marketing efforts on September 12 and beyond.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s Not About Plagiarism

Let’s get this out of the way: the kerfuffle over Melania Trump’s speech is silly and we should all move along.

But what is instructive is how an organization, in this case the Trump Campaign, managed, or more accurately, mismanaged, it’s communications over the last two-and-a-half days. A solid communications team with a solid crisis communications plan could have nipped this controversy in the bud within a couple hours. How?

Well, first an organization needs a crisis communications plan. Among other elements, the plan would include a list of possible crisis scenarios that might hit a political campaign. Charges of plagiarism would naturally appear on that list, since a number of prominent politicians have been dinged with this charge over the years. This was a completely predictable situation (even though with a professional writing team, it would be unlikely).

Second, the plan would develop in advance quick responses to a plagiarism charge that could be shared with news media within minutes. These responses might include describing how speeches for the campaign are written; commitments to originality,  authenticity, and accountability; a promise to investigate and identify any issues promptly;  and a promise to avoid similar problems in the future.

Instead, we got almost 72 hours of circular firing squad, as Trump aides trotted out an ever-shifting series of explanations, deflections, and denials, none of which served the goal of getting the story off of home pages or social media feeds. By the time an underling publicly took responsibility, the story had been cemented in the public consciousness and will likely follow the campaign for some time. (As my beer guy said to me yesterday as I was buying a case, “Is there anyone who actually believes she wrote that speech?”)

Hey, maybe that won’t make any difference. If nothing else, the Trump campaign has proved itself immune from self-inflicted wounds.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

OK, Who’s the Time Traveler?

Having just finished reading Stephen King’s “11/22/63,” I wonder if someone recently went back in time and changed some big historic event. How else to explain the seemingly topsy-turvy political world in which we find ourselves?

In King’s novel (spoiler alert!), the hero prevents JFK’s assassination, but returns to the present to find that saving the president in 1963 had resulted in 50 years of race riots, nuclear wars, economic collapse, and Canada annexing New England. The novel’s hero returns to the past to “reset” history on its proper course. (No word if New Englanders regretted losing their ready access to a decent healthcare system.)

So what historic event got changed that could explain why the current US presidential election seems to be the product of some alternate universe? A major political party upended and at war with itself, puerile behavior by candidates who are nominally adults,  school-yard taunts that would make a fourth-grader blush, omens of protest and violence at the conventions. We’re more than a year into the campaign and most voters probably can’t identify the policy positions between which they are supposed to choose. But we know what “small hands” means.

Is this reality? Can the smart aleck who must have changed something in the past please return there to reset things on their proper course? I’d like my normal presidential campaign back. You know, the one where we get to pick between two well-qualified, mature, dignified, empathetic leaders.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No Guarantees

Rest in peace, James Brady.

I met him on April 4, 1991, and the only reason I know that so specifically is because that became an important date in Pennsylvania history and the source of a PR cautionary tale I tell clients. At the time, I worked for Graduate Health System and we had scheduled that day the opening ceremony for a new physical rehab unit at Mt. Sinai Hospital. We had arranged for Mr. Brady and his wife, Sarah, to be special guests at the debut of the new unit, since Brady had undergone successful physical rehab after taking a bullet in the head for Ronald Reagan. Plus, we were certain his presence would generate media coverage for the unit and the hospital. It was scheduled for about 4pm that day.

The time came, the ribbon was cut, and the Brady spoke–but not a single reporter or TV camera showed up, despite our previous arrangements with our media contacts. This was all before cell phones, and so we went back to our offices to make some calls and find out why the heck no one from the media had shown. The reason: Sen. John Heinz’s airplane had crashed over the Merion Elementary School a couple of hours before, killing the senator and several other people including children at the school. The biggest news story of the year trumped a ribbon cutting, and it wouldn’t have mattered if we’d had Reagan himself there.

So this is the story I always tell clients who want media coverage: there are no guarantees, no matter how compelling your story might be or how well you’ve pitched it. That’s life.

And as a footnote (and pure coincidence), a few hours before the plane crash, the PR director at Lankenau Hospital quit her job and left the building. Heinz and the other crash victims were brought to Lankenau. With no PR person on staff, the hospital executives capably muddled through the resulting media crush, but they knew they had to hire a replacement. That turned out to be me, and I spent the next 16 years working for Lankenau and Main Line Health.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Just PR? Then Let’s Have More PR

CVS Pharmacy made national news with its announcement that it would phase out tobacco sales at its pharmacies by October. Selling tobacco is inconsistent with the chain’s mission of improving the health of its customers, according to the CEO. The decision will cost CVS an estimated $2 billion in revenue (though that’s compared to more than $120 billion in total revenue in 2012).

Public reaction to the announcement has been generally positive, though a significant number of comments suggest that the move is “just PR” and that CVS will continue to sell sugary drinks, fat and salt-filled snacks, and other food items that contribute to the nation’s epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic ills.

That may be true, but critics are missing the point if they dismiss what CVS has done as “just PR.” As a PR move, it’s brilliant: it’s brought positive national attention to CVS, and immediately differentiated the company from other pharmacies and convenience retailers. In the overall context of the nation’s serious health challenges, CVS’s move may be mostly symbolic, but symbols are important. They create awareness and perceptions among consumers.

When Pope Francis washed the feet of prisoners on Holy Thursday, some critics grumbled that he was being overly praised for a mere gesture while not making any substantive changes to Church doctrine. Savvier Church observers, however, understood the value of symbolism. “If it’s just for show, I say keep showing it,” said one.

Smart companies and organizations understand that PR supports their strategic business goals. Sometimes those goals are simply to draw positive attention, build awareness, and distinguish your company from competitors. We’d say CVS has played it perfectly.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Just Listen, Again

We posted this last August, the 50th anniversary of the speech itself, and it is fit to post it again, upon the holiday marking Dr. King’s life.

Just Listen

The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” has generated much commentary about the speech, Dr. King’s place in American history, the current state of civil and racial equality in America, and other important issues. Most of this commentary is  best ignored, especially when we are fortunate enough to be able to see and hear Dr. King deliver the speech himself and can do so without the self-serving commentary and “insights” of the nation’s chattering class.

Do yourself a favor and take 15 minutes to listen to Dr. King’s speech from beginning to end. It is a rich and rewarding experience, that not only perfectly captures an historical moment, but also demonstrates how bereft our nation is of leaders–in government or business–of such eloquence and vision. Twitter is a shallow pool indeed, compared to the ocean of meaning and passion that Dr. King delivered 50 years ago.

Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” Speech

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No E-ZPass On This One

Chris Christie

“Who’s got change for the bridge?”

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is providing a lesson—probably unintended—in crisis communications. You can read the details here, but the short version is—alleged, of course—that persons in the governor’s office ordered the closing of lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Ft. Lee, New Jersey, as retribution on the town’s Democratic mayor who declined to endorse Christie’s re-election last fall. The resulting four days of gridlock in Ft. Lee caused massive commuter headaches, prevented kids from getting to school on time, and (again, allegedly) delayed at least a few ambulances from getting patients to the hospital.

Assuming the allegations are true, they are bad enough for Christie. But the events in question happened back in September of 2013, and rumors of the governor’s involvement began to arise in October. Here we are almost three months later and the story has erupted into a full-blown scandal that is still unfolding. You know you’re in trouble when people start asking: “What did Gov. Christie know and when did he know it?”

So how might have Christie responded differently?  There are three tenets of crisis communications that—had the Governor followed them—might have averted or at least ameliorated this scandal:

  1. Tell the truth—always;
  2. Get out as much information as you can as fast as you can—including information that might be negative for you; and
  3. Take responsibility—which is different from taking the blame or admitting fault.

As for #1, emails and texts now being released suggest that Christie and his staff simply were not being truthful. Worse, Christie’s office damaged its credibility with some cockamamie story about a traffic study. (Helpful hint: if you’re going to lie, don’t make up a lie that could be picked apart by a college journalism student.) As for #2, the Governor’s office had to be subpoenaed to release those staff emails and texts. The slow drip of revelations also lengthens the story. As for #3, Christie is claiming he only learned of these issues yesterday (see #1) and that it was his underlings who did it.

How different the narrative today would be if Christie, back in November, had announced: “In investigating rumors about the GWB lane closings, it came to my attention that several of my key staff behaved inappropriately and without my authority. I am sorry for the inconvenience caused to the people of Ft. Lee. It’s my job to make sure my staff work for the best interests of the people of the State of New Jersey. I have asked the staff involved to tender their resignations.”

That would have been a tough press conference, to be sure, but the story would have been about Christie rooting out rogue staff and putting the public’s interest ahead of his own political goals.  Instead, the media is feasting on a narrative about a political bully trying to punish any opposition, now matter how insignificant.

Just like it does for daily commuters, the George Washington Bridge is taking a toll on Gov. Christie.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment