Emergency Brake Disabled in Fatal Uber Crash

Thanks to a new report by a federal investigative agency, more facts have come out about the incident in which a pedestrian was killed by a “self-driving” Uber car this past March. The report, by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said the Uber vehicle’s self-driving mode did in fact “see” the pedestrian, but Uber had disabled the car’s automatic emergency brake, so the vehicle did not try to stop before striking Elaine Herzberg.

The report says the computer labeled the woman as an “unknown object” before pegging her as a “vehicle” then a “bicycle.” Herzberg had been pushing her bike across the road at the time. About a second before the impact, the computer noted the emergency brake needed to be applied, but was unable to do so, because that aspect of the system had been disabled.

According to the report, the vehicle “recognized” the woman about six seconds before the impact, but had no way to alert the “driver” of the car to apply the manual brake. These findings seem to point the finger of blame directly at Uber for the fatal crash. Now, many industry experts are weighing in, and what they have to say is making it look worse and worse for Uber, a company still struggling to move past last year’s PR issues.

Speaking to CNN, Bryan Reimer, research scientist at MIT and associate director of the New England University Transportation Center, said the point of the “self-driving” option was to keep the driver from having to do the driving. In this, it appears, Uber missed the mark: “The most shocking portion of the report is emergency braking maneuvers were not enabled… Is the driver expected to look at the outside world continually? It’s impossible when you’re providing tasks that interfere with that.”

That statement may appear nonsensical at first. Of course, drivers are supposed to keep an eye on the road… even when testing this tech. At least, that’s what people might assume.

As it turns out, Uber requires human “operators” in “self-driving” cars to pay attention to diagnostic messages on the vehicle dashboard, so they’re not always paying attention to the road. That’s supposed to be the car’s job… And, in this case, the vehicle did see the “object” that turned out to be a human being. It just couldn’t stop, because that function had been turned off. So far, Uber has yet to respond to this latest report.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations.

Gates Invests in Education

It’s no secret that Bill and Melinda Gates want to be world changers. Through their Foundation, the couple have worked to tackle myriad issues all over the world. Now, Bill and Melinda Gates are looking at educational shortcomings right here at home.

After a new federal education law was passed, Gates saw opportunity and directed about $44 million to educational groups to help build new state education plans outlined in the law, which was passed in 2015.

Bill Gates has made it a key point of his post-Microsoft life to reshape and reinvigorate how education is conducted both here and abroad. His deep pockets and the scope of his Foundation’s efforts allow him to wield considerable influence in the formation of new educational programs.

Even as critics bash him for messing with “well enough,” Gates remains committed to moving the American educational system forward, while also shifting more control over the system from the federal government back to the states. That move, says Alan Golston, president of the Gates Foundation U.S., is necessary and vital:

“For 50 states with varying sets of capacities and capabilities and readiness, it was both an opportunity and also a concern that states and partners in those states needed support…”

That support helps bridge the gap for schools that have state standards but also depend on federal funding that is dependent on following certain national standards. During the debate about those standards, often known as “Common Core,” Gates was front and center, offering strong support for higher educational standards from the very beginning of schooling.

That stand for Common Core put Gates at odds with many who saw Common Core national standards as a step away from state sovereignty. Now, he’s reaching through that animosity to help the states be the best they can be for their students.

To accomplish that, the Gates Foundation is offering to fund initiatives at every step of the process, from grassroots policy advocacy to educational research on best practices to the actual “boots on the ground” implementation of those policies. That’s a difficult tightrope to walk, considering that there are powerful and opinionated groups at every level, organizations who may want the money but resent the influence.

Those factors present an interesting public relations challenge for the Bill and Melinda Gates as they continue to work toward their goals of a better American educational system. Not everyone agrees with their version of “better” … and many don’t yet understand it. Effective communication will be integral to both of those endeavors.

Ronn Torossian is a public relations executive with over 20 years of experience

The Importance of Giving to Charity

While many people like to think that they’d give money to charity if they only earned a little more each month, the truth is that the majority of people will struggle to donate to the causes they truly care about.

Either they simply forget about those causes over time, or they can’t quite justify giving their money away when they don’t see any tangible returns as a result. However, the truth is that donating to charity can have a huge impact on the world that we live in.

Millions of people around the world give to charity on a regular basis, because they know that every donation – no matter how small, can make a world of difference. Here are just some of the reasons why it’s so important for everyone to consider giving a little more to charity.

1. Giving Feels Good

Perhaps the best reason to give money to charity – besides the fact that it helps to support a cause you care about – is that giving feels good. Donating to charity can seriously boost a person’s mood, because it means that they’re helping others to accomplish incredible things. In fact, research into altruism has found a definitive link between making a donation and increased activity in the part of the brain that registers pleasure.

2. Donations Strengthen Personal Values

People give to charity for a range of different reasons. The most common reason to give is caring about a particular cause. However, there’s also a voice in most people’s head that tells them they should be giving something back to the community they live in. The truth is that we all have the power to improve the lives of others.

Even people who can’t afford to donate can support charities by giving their time and raising funds in their own unique way. Donating to charity can help to make people a better version of themselves, by strengthening their moral code.

3. Giving Sets a Good Example

Another reason why giving to charity is so important, is that it sets a good example to future generations. When children see their parents and siblings giving something back, they learn an important habit of generosity as they begin to grow up.

Children naturally love helping others, so nurturing this innate sense of giving is a great way for today’s adults to nourish a new generation of people who are more supportive to their fellow man.

4. There are Tax Deductions for Giving

While the best reason to give often isn’t to get something back in return – it’s worth noting that that people can earn tax deductions when they donate to a charity approved by the IRS. However, there are certain restrictions to keep in mind here.

For instance, donators should check to make sure that the charity they’re donating to is actually IRS approved before they start claiming the money they give on their tax returns.

5. Improve Money Management

Finally, giving to charity can be a great way for some people to improve their money management abilities. After all, if someone knows that they’re going to be scheduling a donation for $50 a month to a particular charity, they’ll push themselves to be more attentive when checking their own finances. This can make it easier to reduce spending and improve budgeting.

Simple Marketing & Communication Tips for Nonprofits

Charities and non-profit organizations – just like any other company out there today, are trying desperately to raise visibility for their group – so that they can succeed in their mission, whatever it might be.

This means that, like other businesses, they’re also employing communication strategies to help them bring their message to the world. Often, non-profit companies face many of the same challenges as their for-profit peers, including the high level of competition in the marketplace today.

The good news for many charities, is that they do have one significant advantage of their counterparts – credibility. Non-profit entities are often seen as more transparent and trustworthy than corporate businesses.

However, no matter how noble a nonprofit’s mission might be, if it’s not marketed correctly, then it’s impossible for that organization to get the support and funding it needs to thrive. The following marketing and communication best practices may be able to help.

1.  Success is all About Strategy

One of the biggest mistakes nonprofits make involves trying to use a series of poorly-connected or badly planned communication activities to drive their goals. Unfortunately, this can make it incredibly difficult for them to measure the success of their campaigns and improve the ROI of their marketing budgets. By starting every marketing or communications project with a solid strategy in mind – nonprofits can improve their chances of success and enhance their ability to achieve long-term objectives.

2. Focus on Storytelling

One of the things that makes non-profits so interesting to the consumer world, is the fact that they have a clear purpose and vision. In fact, many modern corporations are taking a leaf out of the non-profit book by building their own narrative to potentially improve customer relationships. Non-profits who want to be successful in their marketing and communications campaigns need to think carefully about how they can tell their story to the community they serve.

The good news is that there are plenty of avenues for storytelling available throughout the world today – all the way from social media marketing, to influencer campaigns and press releases.

3. Provide Guides for Spokespeople

While a creative and compelling story is an important part of the communication plan for non-profit organisations – it’s also important for these entities to make sure that the messages they’re sharing is consistent.

For nonprofits that have people around the world working on their online presence, it can be helpful to create a brand manifesto or a set of guidelines for spokespeople that let them know which terms to use and avoid, as well as which personality characteristics they should try to build.

4. Map Communication Activity

Once nonprofits know what kind of story they’re going to be telling, and who they’ll be relying on to share that narrative, they’ll need to work on mapping out the execution for their communication strategy.

This may include conducting regular patterns of social media outreach and connecting with press companies. Plotting these tactics carefully will help organisations to prioritize their communications campaigns, and make sure that their voice stays consistent online.

5. Remember Social Media

Finally, like many for-profit companies in the modern marketplace, today’s non-profit brands should also think carefully about how they can position themselves on social media.

The right social media marketing campaign can bring life to both internal and external communications and improve a non-profit’s ability to generate investment over time.

Ronn Torossian is a public relations executive with over 20 years of experience

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Cosmo Yanked from Walmart Checkout Lines  

If you’re one who likes to browse the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine while waiting in line at the supermarket, you’ll need to look somewhere other than Walmart. America’s largest retailer recently announced it will be pulling Cosmo off the shelves of its checkout lines as a show of support for the #MeToo movement.

According to multiple media reports, the move came as a result of the company working with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which is working to remove Cosmo from thousands of store checkout lines due to the “sexually explicit nature of the magazine.”

Walmart senior director of corporate affairs, Meggan Kring, was quick to add that the magazine will be available in the store, just not at the checkout lane. Meanwhile, Dawn Hawkins, executive director at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, likened Cosmo to Playboy, saying the change was a big step in the right direction, both for Walmart and for the country:

“This is what real change looks like in our #MeToo culture, and NCOSE is proud to work with a major corporation like Walmart to combat sexually exploitative influences in our society… Walmart’s removal of Cosmo from checkout lines is an incremental but significant step toward creating a culture where women and girls are valued as whole persons, rather than as sexual objects”

Cosmo responded through a brief media statement, saying the brand is “proud of all (Cosmopolitan) has achieved for women around the world…”

Women’s magazines like Cosmo, with their “sex and dating tips” articles and airbrushed cover models have long been a primary target for groups like NCOSE. However, those criticisms have largely been relegated to the sidelines in the cultural battles being fought in consumer America. Not anymore. The #MeToo movement began by calling out some of the most powerful men in Hollywood, then spread to other industries. Now, many groups are trying to get some light shed on the work they’ve been doing for decades.

Hawkins and the NCOSE is only one such group hoping to bring about cultural change by leveraging the attention being give the #MeToo in the media. That’s not to say these groups are jumping on any bandwagons. Instead, they are making the smart PR decision to be seen and heard while people are paying attention to an issue they’ve been speaking out about for decades.

The nonprofit PR lesson here is to be prepared to escalate your message and your activity when the opportunity arises. There are many groups who have missed out on their chance to make a difference because they weren’t ready when the time came.

 Ronn Torossian is the CEO  and Founder of 5W Public Relations.

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Using Social Media to Support Global Initiatives

 

Social media campaigns that launch on a global basis require a significant amount of experience and skill to succeed. While brands and agents might have wonderful ideas to creatively connect with their customers, if they don’t have a solid system to deliver the same voice and marketing strategies worldwide, then global campaigns can quickly turn into an inconsistent mess. Managing your global campaign means adapting the right framework and strategy. For instance, the “hub and spoke” model for social media delivery is often one of the best options, as it allows large companies to take a central approach to global communications, while adapting each arm to suit the needs of individual regions and countries.

The “Hub” of a Global Campaign

The “hub” component of a global social media campaign is the command centre of the whole experience, where a brand and their agencies come together to define strategic goals for implementation and management. The central team will create the overarching strategy for the campaign, along with social media guidelines and creative concepts. This ensures consistent quality throughout each channel.

A global hub can also ensure that each part of a company’s social media team knows which metrics they should be gathering for long-term success.

The Spokes of Global Campaigns

While the hub is the heart of a global social media campaign, the spokes are the local teams that exist in diverse geographical locations. These spokes are responsible for implementing the overarching strategy created by the hub, but they also need to provide consistent feedback so that the organisation can continue to evolve.

Spokes in a global social media campaign need to check the content they’re sharing against local guidelines and expectations. These professionals must judge how their specific audience will respond to and engage with a campaign. What’s more, the spokes of a global social campaign will also need to be ready to ensure the consistent success of the campaign or project.

In a worldwide initiative, each team must know the escalation process involved in addressing issues with their central hub, and who they can contact at certain times of the day. The spoke teams are responsible for measuring success in a campaign against the objectives that are set by the overarching hub team.

Localizing and Optimizing Global Campaigns

While companies launching a global initiative need to maintain a consistent personality throughout all their dispersed social channels, they also need to customize each spoke in the campaign to ensure that local audience respond as well as possible. After all, local legislation and different cultural attitudes can come into play when brands need to make important decisions on how to communicate with their customers.

Importantly, once a campaign is up and running, companies need to make sure that they’re ready to listen to local teams around the world and respond accordingly. From this point onwards, the hub team can give customized responses on how to structure regional content. If the central hub doesn’t know enough about regional content, they won’t be able to offer new ideas for business growth.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations.

4 Reasons Why Email Marketing Isn’t Dead

The longevity of email marketing has arisen as a highly debated topic in the digital marketing world. It’s common to encounter headlines like “email marketing is dead” on Google, followed by an explanation of a new technology that’s apparently more popular, and efficient than email. For instance, the most recent example of this came with the rise of social media marketing.

However, the truth is that as powerful as social media and other marketing techniques might be, they don’t eliminate the need for email. Statistics constantly show that email marketing is still thriving today. Let’s look at just some of the reasons why email marketing is far from extinct.

Everyone Uses Email

While PPC ads are popular and social media is growing more competitive, everyone uses email. In fact, it’s the conversational medium that dominates the digital economy, with 86% of business professionals saying that they prefer to use email to communicate. It’s hard to find anyone in the modern world that doesn’t have their own email address – whether it’s a personal one, or a corporate address.

Regardless of what industry you’re in, you can rest assured that most of your customers will be using email.

Email Is Affordable

Thanks to the rise of email template programs and other great technology, email marketing has become incredibly affordable for almost any shape or size of business. Popular platforms come with plenty of smart functionality features including automation and analytics facilities. The lower price point of email marketing means that it’s a great way for startups and small businesses to get started in the digital marketing space.

What’s more, while the price of email marketing might be low, the return on investment is very high. In fact, 59% of B2B marketers say that email is the most lucrative channel they have for revenue generation.

Engagement on Email Remains Strong

Many companies assume that email marketing is for the older generation – but this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, 73% of millennials suggest that email is their preferred way of communicating with brands. As the dominant digital platform for the last 40 years, email is the authority in the communication space, and it’s a great way to reach out to customers.

In general, clients are more likely to open an email provided it has the right subject line than they are to respond to other forms of digital marketing. The key is writing mail that people want to read. Marketers who get the content right will see their engagement soar.

Email Offers Valuable Analytics

Email marketing creates a powerful feedback loop between brands and customers. After deploying a campaign, brands can improve its efficacy by checking on analytics. The more businesses run campaigns, the more they’ll learn about their marketplace and customers, making it easier to create customized marketing strategies. Many email platforms come with analytics features built-in, such as options to measure click-through rates and open rates.

The feedback offered by email marketing can be highly valuable as it provides companies with a constant stream of business information to use to their advantage. This keeps businesses customer-centric and innovative.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO  and Founder of 5W Public Relations.

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Microsoft Answers Discrimination Complaints

In the heat of the Silicon Valley sexual discrimination PR crisis accusers and victims began compiling lists of individuals who were serial harassers and companies that were reputed to foster environments that allowed or ignored harassment or gender discrimination. As the list of big names grew, eventually, Microsoft was added.

Microsoft vociferously denied the allegations, yet they continued to pour in. Eventually, court cases topped 100 counts of gender discrimination. The cases continued to wind through the legal process, and Microsoft took a beating in the press and on social media, even as the company was working to refit its image from a desktop hardware provider to an industry innovator in the digital age of tablets and cloud computing.

The complaints were lodged by female employees who worked in tech jobs at the company between 2010 and 2016. As the complaints came in, Microsoft conducted an internal investigation. Now, the Associated Press is reporting that Microsoft has announced finding only one case out of the 118 to have substantive reason for the allegations.

As these findings have been released to the media, Microsoft has also come out and fundamentally denied any systemic bias in the company. They argue their employee-review process is fair and not tainted by gender bias.

As Microsoft draws its lines and makes its denials, the lawsuits continue. Plaintiffs in the gender discrimination suit want class-action status, claiming that more than 8,000 women lost out on hundreds of millions in pay due to their gender. That status has yet to be granted, and Microsoft continues to vigorously deny any large-scale discrimination ever took place.

Regardless of the facts of the case, which have yet to be made public, the allegations leave an impression. Several other top tech executives have left jobs or been in the headlines over gender issues or harassment, and more than a few high-profile companies in the tech sector have admitted issues in their culture. That leaves a consumer public more apt to believe the allegations than the defense, even before the facts are known. So, as Microsoft is defending its legal rights in court, the company still has to protect its brand in the marketplace.

This fact is also a warning to all tech sector companies to be careful about having their own good name tarnished by an overarching impression about the industry as a whole being a “boy’s club.” Consumers have an impression, bolstered by proven or admitted claims, and this impression puts brands in the position of having to protect themselves from guilt by association.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations.