animal with apologetic face

Look Like You Mean It and Other Research On How To Apologize! … Two Recent Studies Tell What It Takes (Take Note Presidential Candidates)

In this political year, we have an excellent opportunity to watch public figures as they move through high roads, low blows and the need to apologize – all priceless lessons for corporate PR and marketing professionals.

What to never do?  No smiling, no laughing and never a joke

What works?  Looking sad, sounding like you mean it.animal with apologetic face

Where?  Do not be behind a desk, peeking around a door or anywhere that looks like a resort.

How?  Apologize on all platforms – in front of the person you hurt, on TV if possible, via social media, respond to all media inquiries and say the same message and mean it every time.

Most important?  Acknowledge the mistake, take responsibility, apologize, explain and fix.

Best tip?  Don’t wait, apologize immediately.

With thanks to Sarah Green Carmichael, a senior associate editor at Harvard Business Review, for article below and for passing on lessons from two new research studies on what makes for an effective apology.

“Straight up, we made some mistakes,” Whole Foods co-CEOs John Mackey and Walter Robb said earlier this year in response to an overcharging scandal.

“We weren’t prepared for the crisis and we dropped the ball,” wrote AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky in 2011, after a guest trashed a host’s home.

“This should never have happened. It is simply unacceptable,” said Mary Barra, CEO of GM, in one of several public apologies in the wake of safety scandals at the automaker.

The corporate apology, once a relative rarity, has become a normal part of business discourse. Stuff happens, and then we say we’re sorry for it. But just because corporate apologies have become commonplace doesn’t mean they’re all created equal.

First, Leanne ten Brinke of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and Gabrielle S. Adams of the London Business School examine how expressions of emotion affect corporate apologies. Publishing in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, they present the findings of two studies.

In the first study, they looked at how investors reacted to real apologies from executives. They examined 29 online videos of apologies made between 2007 and 2011. Using an established system for distinguishing facial expressions (the Facial Action Coding System, or FACS), their researchers watched each video second by second, without sound, and tracked the expressions that flitted across the executives’ faces. Were they frowning? Smiling? Looking sad? Then Brinke and Adams looked at what happened after the apology to the company’s stock price. They found that for those leaders who had apologized with a smile, the stock dropped—perhaps because the leader seemed insincere delivering his apology, or even seemed to be enjoying the suffering his company had caused. The more the person smiled, the worse his company performed.

For the leaders who appeared genuinely contrite, at first it seemed like there was no impact on stock price—the company neither performed worse, nor performed better. “Normative emotions simply allow the company to move forward,” they write.

But then the researchers took a closer look at CEO apologies, specifically—16 out of the 29 cases. They found that when an apology was delivered by a CEO who looked sad, the company’s stock price actually rose post-apology. “A good apology can build investor confidence,” especially in the long term.

To investigate this further, Brinke and Adams conducted an experiment in which they hired an actor to portray an airline CEO apologizing for a computer malfunction that canceled 140 flights, stranding thousands of passengers—a scenario based on a real Alaksa Airlines snafu. They made sure his fictional apology contained all the verbal elements of a good apology—the components previous research has identified as being central to repairing relationships (see sidebar). They then recruited subjects to watch this fictional CEO apologize—either happily, sadly, or neutrally. When the CEO appeared sad, participants rated him as more sincere and were more likely to want to reconcile with him. When the CEO delivered his apology with a smile on his face—or, interestingly, a neutral expression—the study participants were less likely to trust him, and the apology even seemed to exacerbate their negative feelings.

The 5 Elements of a Complete Apology

An effective apology includes up to five elements, according to psychology researchers.

An explicit “I’m sorry.” Linguists call this an “Illocutionary Force Indicating Device.”

An offer of repair. This is where you offer to make it up to the person, eg, “I’m so sorry I spilled on your suit, can I pay for the dry cleaning?”

An explanation. Here’s where you explain how the mistake happened. But, it’s important to note that a complete apology also includes…

Taking responsibility. Without this, an explanation just sounds like an excuse.

A promise of forbearance, eg, “I promise it won’t happen again.”

Even seasoned leaders are likely to find delivering an apology to be an uncomfortable experience, and when we feel uncomfortable, a normal reaction is to grimace, laugh awkwardly, or even try to break the tension with a joke. Leaders (especially Americans) may also feel they can’t show too much sadness or anguish but instead must present a positive front at all times. The research by Brinke and Adams reminds us how these understandable impulses can backfire.

Another paper appearing in the Journal of Corporate Financeadds an interesting wrinkle to this subject. Researchers Don Chance, James Cicon, and Stephen P. Ferris examined 150 press releases from 1993 to 2009 to examine how companies fared when they blamed themselves for poor performance as opposed to blaming external factors. They found that while companies are twice as likely to blame external factors when things go wrong, passing the buck results in continued financial decline. Conversely, companies that take responsibility for their missed earnings stabilize and eventually see an uptick in financial performance. (Interestingly, both groups were about equally likely to fire their CEOs.)

Why? After eliminating numerous factors, the researchers conclude that being honest and specific about the source of the problem—both characteristics of self-blaming statements—not only cheers up investors, it likely helps the company turn around the issue more quickly. Conversely, the companies who blamed external factors were often vague (blaming “economic forces” for instance) and seen as less honest (since many of their wounds had actually been self-inflicted).

The message is loud and clear: when you mess up, admit it. And look appropriately sad about it.



It’s Spooky – But True! Halloween Is The Latest “IT” Holiday For Marketers

shutterstock_154500236Huge Halloween Brand Opportunities: Holiday Spending to Reach $8.4 Billion, Highest in NRF Survey History – Pets and People Go Big For This Fun Holiday

Is Your Brand On Pinterest?  It’s the Top Influencer for All Things Halloween

Americans are looking forward to splurging on their favorite candy and costumes this Halloween season, and brand PR and marketers are poised to take advantage of the biggest black-and-orange holiday opportunities on record—according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, total spending for Halloween is expected to reach $8.4 billion, an all-time high in the survey’s history.

U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average of $82.93, up from last year’s $74.34, with more than 171 million Americans planning to partake in Halloween festivities this year.

“After a long summer, families are excited to welcome the fall season celebrating Halloween,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay, in a news release. “Retailers are preparing for the day by offering a wide variety of options in costumes, decorations and candy, while being aggressive with their promotions to capture the most out of this shopping event.”

According to the survey, consumers plan to spend $3.1 billion on costumes (purchased by 67 percent of Halloween shoppers), $2.5 billion on candy (94.3 percent), $2.4 billion on decorations (70 percent) and $390 million on greeting cards (35.4 percent).

When it comes to preparation, 71 percent of consumers plan to hand out candy, decorate their home or yard (49 percent), dress in costume (47 percent), carve a pumpkin (46 percent), throw or attend a party (34 percent), take their children trick-or-treating (30 percent), visit a haunted house (21 percent) or dress their pet(s) in costume (16 percent).

Searching for the perfect costume inspiration will lead consumers to sources such as online (35 percent) and in-store (29 percent). Social media is the fastest-growing influencer for the perfect costume, particularly Pinterest(17 percent), which has seen 133 percent growth since 2012. Some other places for inspiration include friends/family (19 percent), Facebook (17 percent), pop culture (16 percent) and print media (14 percent).

“Consumers are eager to celebrate Halloween, especially given that eight in 10 Americans will shop by mid-October. That is the highest we have seen in the survey history,” said Prosper Insights principal analyst Pam Goodfellow, in the release. “Americans will enjoy taking advantage of early-bird promotions both online and in-store as they kick off the fall season.”

When it comes to where consumers will shop for the season, 47 percent of shoppers will visit discount stores to buy their Halloween-related items this year and 36 percent will visit a specialty Halloween/costume store, up from 33 percent last year. In addition, 26 percent of customers will visit grocery stores/supermarkets, 23 percent will visit department stores and 22 percent will shop online.

The survey asked 6,791 consumers about Halloween shopping plans. It was conducted September 6-13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Source: Business Wire; edited by Richard Carufel

ORANGE is the color of action! Buy, Sell and Let’s Show Some Orange Enthusiasm!

What color is the logo of the organization you represent?  Do you share qualities with other brands of the same color?

According to Fast Company. “The implications of color’s effect on people’s emotions are far reaching, and understanding your customers’ connections to certain colors could increase the effectiveness of your company’s branding methods.

Heading into Fall and the harvest, ORANGE is this month’s color to explore.

Pumpkins, the color of the harvest moon and one of the colors of the University of Florida Gators!

logo color 2015 ORANGE

Research complied by web design and marketing company WebPageFX, people make a subconscious judgment about a product in less than 90 seconds of viewing, and a majority of these people base that assessment on color alone. In fact, almost 85% of consumers cite color as the primary reason they buy a particular product, and 80% of people believe color increases brand recognition.”

What can be learned here?  I’d love to hear what you think!

With thanks to Fast Company for this great article –infographic from WebPageFX, written by Rachel Gillett.

Here is a beautiful Fall image with orange as the dominant color.shutterstock_1945459

Trends 1

Easy-Breezy Way to Know What is Trending RIGHT THIS MINUTE

Our job as marketers is to be in the know – all the time on all subjects.

If only there was an easy way to do that!  ah-ha – now there is:

trends 3Trends can be measured by decades, years, months, even a flavor of the week. Now with Google Trends you can identify google trends logowhat people are interested in as that very something is searched for using Google’s browser.

Right now you have the ability to see what’s trending right now.

What does this mean for your PR and marketing communications?  A lot!

Google Trends can now be used to tailor information in a way that matches the interests of your news consuming audience. With Google Trends you can now find out what topics are hot in relation to your industry and integrate those issues in your next news release or blog post. Striking the iron while it’s hot will increase visibility and raise brand awareness of your content. The update to the trends tool just ushered in an age of foresight that will help bridge communications supply and news consumer demand.trends 4

And this tool is available to everyone, for free! According to Nieman Lab, journalists and other media professionals can comb through Google Trends to “gauge where readers are headed.” Just like today’s communicators, reporters can use the trends tool to identify what content would be of interest to the news consuming public and write articles that are in demand. Competition for readers is at an all-time high, so access to this kind of tool gives news makers a much-needed edge.

How does this new feature aid modern communicators? By having access to top current searched words and phrases, PR pros can craft messaging to line up with what people are currently interested in. It’s the equivalent of baiting a hook with exactly what fish are craving. Your announcement falls right into what’s trending and amplifies your message. Increased visibility and an engaged audience are cornerstones of maximizing the ROI of a news release.

What are some examples of topics you will find – so go see what’s trending on Google right now!  You will find news angles and data to make your communications mainstream, right now!

  • Sports
  • People
  • Business news
  • Election 2016
  • Tech
  • Music
  • many many more categories

What’s trending on Google as you’re reading this post? Why not check and see?  You can access Google Trends here.

Sincere thanks to BusinessWire for this informative piece, I highly recommend BusinessWire for your news dissemination.  Laura

billboard ad

Are Your Signs Impacting Sales?

Not long ago while driving down a tourist corridor I saw a large building with a sign that just said “Sports” and I wondered why would you have such a beautiful building with so little explanation of what it was?  Turns out it was an independent sports retailer but his signage had lost me in translation.

Recent studies show that replacing any static sign with a digital replacement can be a major traffic generator.

Been to Times Square lately?  Even schools, churches and car dealers have learned that dynamic digital signs help communications and sales.  1_times_square_night_2013

According to industry experts – even the word ‘sign’ is outdated, the new phrase is “urban experiential displays”. 

No longer are you relegated to a limited amount of space to send your sales message.  Imagine the “Sports” facility promoting they had a sale on canoes, were offering boating lessons, had brand new golf equipment or whatever was going on inside their facility I just might have entered their parking lot!

Some retailers are running into city zoning ordinances about signage sizes, colors and even the speed of the digital messages.  If your area has those issues, approach your governing body now because every day you don’t maximize your signage, you are losing dollars.

Digital signs allow the following:

  • One day and flash sale messages
  • Build awareness of your website, Twitter or other social media accounts
  • Hold contests
  • Seasonal and holiday messages
  • Promote hours of operation
  • Community support messages
  • Public service or promotions for nonprofit groups
  • Messages in multiple languages
  • Messages for different customer segments, kids, families etc.

exterior signs 2

When a retailer’s sales go up it elevates the success of the employees, adjacent businesses and the municipality too – take a new look at your signage and see how you can improve sales by just one upgrade.

Many systems can be tied to your social media so one message meets multiple communication platforms

NEOCON 2016 blog July 19 2016

Staying current just might mean it’s time to redesign your space too

NEOCON 2016 blog July 19 2016
I am a big fan of NEOCON, and share here with you some of their ideas on what is trending… love that hot pink chair!  p.s. take a special read of the very last line of this blog …

NEOCON 2016: Interior Design Trends

June 23rd, 2016 / Technology & Industry /

Many of the top residential trends seen at this year’s High Point Market are crossing over into the commercial interior world. It’s no secret that employees are spending more and more time in the office, so employers are working to blur those lines between work and home. Workspaces are becoming more inviting places to be as they gain a welcoming and more residential touch. Here are the top trends we saw this year at NEOCON 2016.

Neutral Colors: Black & White

Black and white have been trending in recent years but instead of white dominated environments with black details as we’ve seen in previous years were beginning to see black dominated environments with white details. This spin is adding interest and drama to interior spaces. As well as black and white, pastels are all the rage as can be seen with the colors of the year. Bringing softness that is comforting and calming.

Rose Quartz & Serenity – 2016 Color of the Year

Pantone’s Color of the year for 2016 has been spotted up all over NEOCON 2016. What makes this trend notable is that this traditionally associated feminine color is making a strong appearance in office furniture manufacturer material lineups. From lighting at Humanscale, to workspace stations in Herman Miller, rose quartz is making a strong appearance in office furniture design. This speaks to the changing influence of women in the workplace and their say in workspace outfitting.

Steelcase Showroom at Neocon 2016


Organic Materials

Natural textures from organic materials like fur, wood grains, stone, metal are growing in popularity. Also woven textiles and animal hides are appearing everywhere in decor and accents. Many manufacturers have begun incorporating these natural texture veneer into their office furniture material lineup.

Nature Themes

One of the more notable trends seen in 2016 is the emphasis on plants in our living and working environments. From Herman Miller to Vitra one couldn’t miss the literally hundreds of plants that filled showrooms and even the Merchandise Mart atrium and open spaces. These is also extending into space accents like prints and artwork and decor.


The use of metallics in a variety of finishes has been growing in popularity. With Brass, silver, rose gold, copper, and gold being used in everything from finishes to lighting and accessories.

Illustration Art

Manufacturers like Momentum Textiles, Keilhauer, and Herman Miller have been partnering with artists to bring their illustrative lifestyle aesthetic to their textile patterns and marketing materials.

NEOCON 2016: Interior Design Trends


ruby red heels

Clicking Heels Not Required – Are you thinking from all sides?

Sometimes it’s the small things that make a big difference.  In this case – a few ideas for using the ceiling and floor to promote your brand.ruby red heels

This week I saw an eye-catching printed floor mat that told me how to get where I was going, and then later in the same mall in California, saw another printed floor mat that encouraged me to head to the food court – advice I happily took.  Talk about bringing traffic!

Custom floor signageToday came an email from a vendor selling these custom printed mats and I thought WOW – I should share this.  According to the Post Up website they come in small, medium and large sizes and their turnaround is 48 hours for beautiful four color mats.

My hairdresser also has signage in under-utilized places, in this case on the ceiling above the shampoo areas.  Why not?  My dentist has a mobile over his chair with information from a vendor.

Are you thinking from all sides?

Maybe add your Twitter handle and web address to the design?  Great for selfies!

Consider the floors and ceiling and unusual places – might be innovative and impact business on the spot.  Clicking heels not required!