Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — White House communications team affects PR profession perception

TODD SMITH — White House communications team affects PR profession perception


Members of the White House communications team are traditionally the most prominent public relations professionals in the world. As the most visible figures in American and global media, they are a key voice for advancing presidential policies and priorities that affect not only Americans, but also citizens around the world.

Under the current administration, they are also affecting something else – their own profession.

A survey of public relations professionals conducted by the USC Center for Public Relations at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that 73.2 percent of respondents across the political spectrum believe the current White House communications team is affecting the public perception of the PR industry.

Of the 900 survey respondents, 55.3 percent identified themselves as liberal, 29.6 percent identified themselves as moderate and 15.1 percent identified themselves as conservative. When asked if the current White House communications team is affecting the image of the PR profession, 77.4 percent of liberals agreed, along with 77.2 percent of moderates and 53.9 percent of conservatives.

When asked about various aspects of the perceived performance of the overall White House communications team:

» 83.7 percent agree they “constantly change their views/statements”

» 80.2 percent agree they “distort the truth”

» 63.5 percent agree they “purposefully lie”

» 36.3 percent agree they “do their best despite the circumstances”

» 32.0 percent agree they “work hard to explain the administration’s policies”

» 15.7 percent agree they “are treated unfairly by the media”

» 13.3 percent agree they “are strategic in their approach”

» 11.6 percent agree they “act like PR professionals.”

A majority of PR practitioners believe that Counselor Kellyanne Conway, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders have made a negative impact on the perception of their profession. Ninety percent of respondents believe that Conway’s impact has been negative, with 78 percent describing her effect as “very” negative. Ninety percent also state that Spicer has a negative impact, with 59.4 percent describing it as “very” negative. Huckabee Sanders’ effect was described as negative by 56.5 percent.

Many former White House spokespeople have gone on to secure high-profile positions in the public relations industry after their stints in politics –  despite the challenges of being closely associated with the policies and practices of a particular president. While 36 percent of PR professionals agree that current White House communications team members do “their best under difficult circumstances,” the majority indicated they would not hire the current press secretary or deputy press secretary in a PR-related job, if they were in a position to do so.

Recruiting professional replacements to fill spots on the White House communications team would also prove challenging. If asked by the current president, the overwhelming majority of PR practitioners said they would not accept jobs in the White House. Only 6 percent would accept the job of press secretary or deputy press secretary. Only 7 percent would accept the job of director of social media. Of the conservatives polled, 75 percent said they would not accept an invitation to become press secretary.

Brands millennials think will do best for the world

Many companies say they want to do more for the world beyond making money — including work on systemic social, environmental, and economic problems.

The World Value Index, a report from brand consultancy Enso, reveals that companies millennials believe are actually making an impact.

Enso asked 3,000 consumers about the top 150 brands in the US, including Google, Girl Scouts, and the World Wildlife Fund. A portion of these participants was millennials (which Enso defines as those between 18 and 35 years old).

On a scale of 1 to 100, they rated the companies based on the following questions: “How aware are you of the brand’s purpose or mission beyond making money?” “Is the brand’s purpose or mission something that you would openly support and care about?” “And does the brand’s purpose or mission motivate you to buy products or services from them?”

Enso conducted its surveys in February 2017, which means that Uber’s high ranking could have changed since then, considering the company’s recent scandals.

9. Fitbit

8, Uber

7. Starbucks

6. Twitter

5. Etsy

4. Always

3. Kickstarter

2. Snap

1. Spotify.

Time Warner to spend $100M on Snapchat shows, ads 

Time Warner and Snap Inc. have announced a new deal that will bring increased ad spending and the development of new made-for-Snapchat shows. People familiar with the deal tell TechCrunch that it is valued at about $100 million spent over the next two years.

The newly created shows will span a variety of genres, including scripted drama, daily news shows, documentaries and comedy. The shows will be similar to those already released by other networks on Snapchat, and run 3-5 minutes in a vertical format. Right now there is about one new show airing per day – this deal will push that to about three news shows per day, varying between the different genres outlined above.

Snap will take 50 percent of the ad revenue generated by these shows and the content partners will keep the other half, according to the WSJ.

While these new shows will definitely tempt users to spend more time watching content in the Snapchat app, they likely won’t create the buzz that the social network needs to convince users that Snapchat is the best place to watch new content.

Instead the company should focus on obtaining a giant blockbuster – in the style of Game of Thrones or House of Cards – that will generate the water cooler buzz that is needed to turn Snapchat into a place where users turn to for real entertainment.

On the advertising side, Time Warner will commit to investing in ads from Time Warner properties like HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. on Snapchat – a big vote of confidence for the young social media company.

This deal comes at the perfect time for Snap, as Wall Street has been punishing the company’s stock price after bad earnings and reduced confidence in Snap’s ability to monetize via advertising.

Grocery Mic | Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods a game changer

Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods for nearly $14 billion is perhaps the biggest retail news in a century, and the e-commerce giant – long the dominating online force – has now invaded the brick-and-mortar marketplace, forever changing the dynamic of the industry, and signaling to retailers and consumers alike that it will play in the neighborhood as well as the cyberhood.

The move instantly makes it a major player in the U.S. grocery industry that leaves a lot for shoppers, retailers and other companies involved in the industry to chew on.

The online seller is bringing its firepower to a grocery industry plagued by razor-thin profit margins. The move could slice into profits for food manufacturers, other supermarket chains such as the nation’s largest by market share, Kroger, and behemoths like Walmart, which is currently the biggest seller of groceries in the U.S. with more than one-quarter of the market, according to Euromonitor.

It also potentially creates a challenge for companies that deliver groceries such as Fresh Direct and Peapod, and ready-to-cook ingredients and recipes to customers’ doors, like Blue Apron and Sun Basket.

For years, Amazon has burst into new areas of business introducing the ease and efficiency of shopping online by bringing books, electronics, clothes, household items and some food items, often at low prices, to shoppers’ front doors. The value, convenience and ability to easily comparison shop online hastened the demise of both smaller shops and many big household names. Remember book superstore Borders? Electronics chain Circuit City?

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.


… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.

If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.

Click for more info

About Contributing Columnist

Leave a Reply