What is an Environmentalist?

Environmentalist /inˌvīrənˈmen(t)ələst/: a person who is concerned with or advocates the protection of the environment.

I identify as an environmentalist because after witnessing a sunset at the Grand Canyon, it gave new meaning to the color orange. I identify as an environmentalist because the sweetest dessert I’ve ever eaten is a freshly picked mango during the Miami summertime. I identify as an environmentalist because after visiting the Amazon in Brazil, Pico Bonito in Honduras, and the Everglades in South Florida, it seems “forest” has more than one definition. All of these only-explained-through-nature phenomenon are the reason why I choose to stand with thousands of other people around the globe pledging their support for the planet on the UN’s World Environment Day, June 4, 2018.

In today’s fast paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work routine of responding to emails, jumping on conference calls, and making sure our phones are fully charged, without stopping to recognize the world around us. However, it’s important to remember that no matter the act, big or small, we can help make a tangible impact on our carbon footprint. Remember that by bringing a reusable coffee mug to work, you’re helping to make a dent in the 500 billion disposable cups consumed each year. If you request no straw with your drink next time you’re out to dinner, you’re helping cut back the more than 500 million plastic straws disposed of every day. If you fill up your reusable water bottle at work, instead buying one, you’re helping reduce the 50 billion water bottles purchased and thrown away by Americans each year. By taking an active stance in the fight to save our planet, by reducing, reusing, and recycling, we’re preserving the world’s beauty and resources for generations to come, while improving our lives today.

As a part of the Burson Cohn & Wolfe family, I’m proud to acknowledge our company’s dedication to sustainable and environmental practices throughout our global network. Employees are encouraged to bring reusable coffee mugs and water bottles to work, look for opportunities to recycle or upcycle our computer paper, and promote educational opportunities to teach colleagues about reducing their carbon footprint. On this World Environment Day, Burson Cohn & Wolfe employees, along with the United Nations, asks you, if you can’t reuse it, refuse it! That way we can all contribute to reaching the goal of a plastic-free world.

So, I ask, what makes you identify as an environmentalist?

-Kelsey Flitter

Burson-Marsteller Hires Jonathan Stern to Lead Miami Office

Jonathan Stern has returned to Burson-Marsteller for a third stint, this time as MD and market leader of the firm’s Miami office.

Stern started in the MD role on February 5, leading the office that serves the Florida market and is a key component of the firm’s Latin American business. He is reporting to Francisco Carvalho, CEO of Burson-Marsteller Latin America. The last person to hold Stern’s role was Jorge Ortega, who left the firm last month.

Stern’s team is supporting clients with brand marketing, consumer, corporate, crisis response, digital, government affairs, healthcare, IR, media relations, public affairs, reputation management, sports marketing, and technology work. He is also responsible for the strategic growth of the Miami operation and providing senior counsel to key clients.

“We have a great Latin America team in place and Latin American clients, but there’s a great opportunity to bring in other types of Florida-based companies,” said Stern. “There are hospitality companies, the cruise line industry, and other consumer product companies [based in Florida].”

Stern started his career at Burson as an account supervisor between 1989 and 1993 after graduating from college. After stints at the NBA in a marketing communications role and at Weber Shandwick as director of its sports marketing practice, he returned to Burson as VP of its marketing practice in 1997.

Stern’s career has also included a stint as SVP at Cramer-Krasselt, leading marketing and communications for the NYC2012 Olympic bid, and 11 years at MillerCoors in Chicago, most recently as director of media relations and IR.

Since last May, Stern has been president and CEO of Platinum Marketing Communications, a consultancy he founded serving consumer, corporate, and sports brands.

Unconvention: Miami

WPP sister company Hogarth Worldwide is a marketing implementation agency that produces advertising and other marketing communications for clients across all media and all languages. This past year, they set up shop in Miami with one employee and have jumped to 40 people in just one year. Burson-Marsteller Miami recently supported Hogarth during the first-ever Unconvention: Miami, a welcome reception to showcase its entry into the market, held at Soho Beach House in South Beach.

The one-of-a-kind cocktail party brought together a group of executives from more than 20 multinational companies based in South Florida to discuss the evolving marketing industry and production efficiency. Mariusz Urbanczyk, Hogarth’s Global Head of Client Proposition and Innovation, Mauro Baz, Hogarth’s Miami Operation Lead, and Julie Loazia, VP of Communication and Corporate Affairs for Nestlé – and Hogarth client – all headlined the event.

Both Maurisz and Julie shared the latest trends in marketing implementation and what it means for business, primarily, how it can help companies reduce advertising spend by maximizing resources, streamlining processes and working efficiently. During Maurisz’ talk, he highlighted “Our job is that you understand how much things cost. We demystify the industry so you can make the right marketing and business decision.” Julie provided a powerful case study on how decoupling ideation and production gave both the Nestle and Hogarth teams the freedom to do what they do best.

Check out the highlight reel below recapping the night’s festivities which included guests enjoying sunset cocktails, networking, sharing topline thoughts, and participating in a raffle where the winner received a two-night stay at Soho Beach House.

Check out a recap video of the event here:

Crisis Headlines Don’t Stop

We cannot escape the constant crisis hitting the headlines:

  • NBC Fires Matt Lauer Over Sexual Misconduct Allegation
  • United Airlines: Passenger Forcibly Removed From Flight
  • Netflix Email Scam Targets Millions Of Subscribers
  • Adidas Sent Congratulatory Email To People Who ‘Survived’ Boston Marathon

No one is immune from a crisis. That is why we believe in being prepared.  We have partnered with the University Of Miami School Of Business Administration and their Dean – The Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard Business School – Dr. John Quelch to create an MBA format course on crisis management with our own Burson crisis management leaders, Karen Doyne and Sarah Tyre.   Participants will hear from chief communications leaders at Chipotle and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and learn from in depth case study discussions and engage in a crisis simulation using the latest virtual crisis software developed by Burson-Marsteller.  The registered participants come from diverse industries so they will learn from each other as well.

We still have a few seats left. If you are traveling into Miami, we have a special hotel rate at hotels near the UM Campus.

Register here: Burson-Marsteller and University of Miami Crisis Management Course

Jorge Ortega | Executive Vice-President

“30 Qs With…” Blog Series with Kelsey Flitter

This month we continue our “30 Qs with…” blog series by getting to know Kelsey Flitter, Client Staff Assistant in the Public Affairs Practice. Every month we invite you to get to know Burson-Marsteller Miami’s talent from a different perspective – these 1:1 interviews will reveal personal anecdotes from their lives in and out of the office.

Kelsey graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in Latin American Studies. In her free time in Miami she enjoys doing just about anything with her dog!

Get to know her better by checking out her interview here or watch it below! #30QsWith #BursonPersons

History of a PR Icon: Harold Burson’s Memoir

It is with great honor that I share with you news of the publication of THE BUSINESS OF PERSUASION: Harold Burson on Public Relationsthe memoir of Burson-Marsteller’s Founding Chairman and one of public relations most iconic figures.

Burson spent 35 years as Chief Executive Officer of the firm, and throughout his career was a counselor to and confidant of corporate CEOs, government leaders and heads of public sector institutions. In 1983, under Burson’s leadership as CEO, Burson-Marsteller became the largest public relations firm in the world.

I can’t begin to describe the impact Harold Burson has had on my career. When I first joined Burson-Marsteller in 1985, one of the first projects I supported was a media campaign where the Coca-Cola Company announced it was re-introducing Classic Coke following the mistake the company made launching its polarizing New Coke. I also served on the team supporting the Tylenol “poison-pill” crisis.

Years later, when the company acquired a local firm to become Burson-Marsteller Mexico, I had the privilege of working alongside clients who were investing in growing their business in a pre-NAFTA environment. From Ryder System to Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, our team was applying best in class communications strategies and creative ideas to support big brands entering or returning to Mexico. We even managed the return of the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus after 125 years!

We continue to be on the forefront of some of the most important public relations issues, events, and announcements. When communications matter most, clients turn to Burson-Marsteller for compelling, creative strategy and integrated communications counsel and support.

I am celebrating more than 20 years with the firm and proud to be part of its history. I encourage all of you connected to the communications industry and beyond to pick up a copy of The Business of Persuasion, where Burson tells behind-the-scenes stories of some of the most prominent communications events of the last century, details ways he influenced many corporate and world leaders and provides important lessons of enduring relevance. It is a must-read for any student or practitioner of strategic communications.

Enjoy Harold’s book. Please contact me via e-mail if you have any questions or want to learn more.

Jorge Ortega | Executive Vice-President 

Technology Has Enhanced Our Lives. Can it Save Our Lives?

Technology companies traditionally develop their communication strategies around the benefits of their innovation for companies or end users. An ERP can develop business efficiencies for companies or an app increasing quality of life to all of its users. Overall, the common message we have been helping our clients communicate is how technology enhances all aspects of life. But if the technology we commonly use every day saves lives, is it worth communicating it?

As part of my regional role for Latin America, I continuously travel to our markets to meet with clients and colleagues. I was visiting our Mexico City office when, at 1:14pm on Tuesday, September 19, a 7.1 Richter earthquake struck the city and several neighboring states, instantly destroying more than 40 buildings with people trapped inside and changing the lives of millions of Mexicans forever. As a proud Mexican and survivor of previous earthquakes in this city, I certainly noted some differences between previous shocks – most importantly in how technology played a critical role in communication.

As phone lines died, the Internet surprisingly stood strong. While I was still shaking (literally), Twitter was my main source of information – to learn the quake’s magnitude, understand what buildings collapsed, and get official information from local authorities. Suddenly, Twitter became a critical tool to disseminate information related to the earthquake. Prior to the digital age, we had to wait until TV or radio provided some data on seismic activities and the aftermath, but Twitter allows us to have access to information in real time. Mobile providers did an outstanding job to keep its Internet network running. At the same time that phone lines were down, Whatsapp became the ultimate communication tool – either through written messages or through VOIP calls. Personally, in the midst of chaos and anxiety, I was only able to communicate with my family through Whatsapp and learn they were shocked but fine.

32 years ago, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico, killing up to 10,000 people with most of them trapped in the rubble. Today, although the magnitude was lower, most of the people trapped inside the collapsed buildings were holding mobile phones. Imagine this: The place where you work suddenly collapses. You are among rocks and rubble and the only reachable thing is your mobile phone. What do you do? Exactly. Many people used their activated GPS tool on their mobile phones, and by sending the precise location inside the building, rescuers and volunteers were able to reach them after titanic efforts of removing debris and heavy concrete rocks. Technology saved the day. A modern day miracle. How could technology have helped back in 1985, if only a few devices would have had GPS tools available? How many lives could have been saved?

Anxiety sparks fear and fear sparks uncertainty. Just as Twitter and social media helped to understand the tragedy in real time, it also fueled false news and collective psychosis related to the earthquake – information was heavily shared about how the UN predicted a terrible aftershock that would wipe out Mexico City, or how buildings were about to collapse when they only had windows broken. In the midst of the mayhem provoked by social media, several millennials – who were particularly active in rescue labors throughout the city – decided to use a hashtag, #Verified, that was included only in information double checked with official sources. Thus, this group of tech-savvy volunteers could quickly provide certainty of the current situation, allowing people to understand what was real news or fake news. This amazing effort allowed people to know what buildings were safe, what donations were urgently required and where authorities needed them, where emergency teams should go, and how to protect affected people living in the streets.

Perhaps the most outstanding thing that I learned by living through this experience alongside my fellow Mexicans, has been the solidarity and unwavering support given by all people through technology. Army and Navy soldiers holding complex heat scanners to identify bodies buried within collapsed buildings, companies like Uber, Cabify and Airbnb allowing a free usage of their services to support rides and accommodation to people who lost their homes, Google Maps’ platform developing ad-hoc maps to identify dangerous zones or available shelters for affected people, and most important of all, Mexico City has developed a seismic alarm system that is triggered when an earthquake is detected. When the alarm goes off on the city’s outdoor speakers platform, people have exactly 1 minute to evacuate their building and leave behind whatever they are doing – some sort of earthquake prediction that has certainly saved some lives so far.

Credit: David de La Paz | Xinhua News Agency

Still, Mexico City and the whole country is in a recovery stage. Hundreds of lives were lost, and there is still much to be done to help rebuild. This is just the beginning. Conan O’Brien recently hosted my fellow countryman Diego Luna who explained the dreadful experience of living the Mexico City big earthquake. All of it is true. I lived it. If you are interested in donating and helping Mexico, I will be forever thankful. The people of Mexico need us.


Here’s to technology. It made our lives easier, made our world more pleasant, and now, it has actually saved our lives.


Rodrigo Castro | Practice Chair Director

A Crisis Can Happen When You Least Expect It…Are You Ready?

We are. For more than 60 years, Burson-Marsteller has been at the forefront of crisis management, with a team of trusted senior crisis counselors ready to help organizations expertly navigate complex issues and equip them to better manage potential crises when they arise.

Our seasoned crisis professionals span across every U.S. office and our global network, enabling Burson-Marsteller to put crisis resources where and when they are needed on a 24/7/365 basis, so we can help clients course-correct quickly when needed to respond to an emerging threat. Our core offering includes:

  • Development of crisis plans, manuals and toolkits
    • Electronic crisis plans
    • Secure, Web-based “war rooms” or shared worksites
    • Crisis platform and rapid content development
  • Participation in real crisis simulations
  • Media, crisis and risk-communication training
  • Instruction on dark sites and other digital tools
    • Websites or microsites for litigation communication
    • Online landscape and influencer assessments
    • Employee social media usage policies and training
    • Real-time social and digital media monitoring
    • Blogger/online thought leader outreach and crisis response
  • Access to Burson’s PEAK Readiness program (Preparedness Equals Action + Knowledge)

From the firm’s work with Costa Cruise Lines on the collision of one of its vessels off the coast of Italy, to the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech, to corporate crises spawned by current economic downturn across regions, Burson-Marsteller has continually redefined “best practices” for crisis management and handled countless high-stakes crisis situations. If you would like to learn more about our crisis-management capabilities, please do not hesitate to email or message me on LinkedIn.

Jorge Ortega | Executive Vice-President

“30 Qs With…” Blog Series with Estefania Jomant

This month we continue our “30 Qs with…” blog series by getting to know Estefania Jomant, Digital Coordinator at StudioB. Every month we invite you to get to know Burson-Marsteller Miami’s talent from a different perspective – these 1:1 interviews will reveal personal anecdotes from their lives in and out of the office.

Estefania graduated from the University of Miami and is a big supporter of the Hurricanes. She enjoys kayaking, running, and the beach in her free time!

Get to know her better by checking out her interview here or watch it below! #30QsWith #BursonPersons

The Evolution of Hispanic Experiential Marketing

In the beginning, it was about showing up and hanging banners. That was the extent of experiential marketing in the 80s. It was a community relations function of Corporate Affairs departments. No need to show ROI.  Take a few pictures, put them in a recap, send it to the client and get glowing reviews, piece of cake. We all knew that no client would ever show up to a Hispanic event, particularly when they were in Brooklyn (when Brooklyn was Brooklyn), Orchard Beach, East LA, and the Rio Grande Valley. Vexing choices they had to make, the Hamptons for the weekend or Orchard Beach for an event, go figure.

Then came Calle Ocho Open House which, as Chef Emeril says, kicked it up a notch. The success of the first Calle Ocho quickly led to the expansion of the event to a weeklong celebration aptly branded Carnaval Miami. Along came Univision and its then overlord Televisa (funny how things don’t change) and presto, we have Noche de Carnaval being broadcast across the country and to Latin America with world class talent commanding world class dollars. They did it right. Carnaval Miami was the hottest marketing platform for the Hispanic market, being leveraged across the country by CPG companies as a destination event for Hispanics everywhere. But to Carnaval Miami, the clients came. They were spending big money and it didn’t hurt that it was in the Miami of Miami Vice fame, in winter with a tremenda fiesta at the Vizcaya to boot.

But then everyone started to do it. Fiesta Broadway in Los Angeles, Carnaval de Elizabeth in New Jersey and other shorter-lived versions cropped up here and there. They tried to replicate the model and instead ended up fragmenting and competing for national Hispanic event marketing dollars, which were scarce to begin with. Dollars started to shift from nationally funded to regional budgets, and that is pretty much where these community events are today.

Fast forward from the 80s and 90s to today, and with the vertiginous growth of the Hispanic market and the serious money that it entails, there is real scrutiny on Hispanic contributions to brands’ growth and ROI from Hispanic experiential initiatives. No longer is Hispanic-focused event marketing a function of the Corporate Affairs departments; they are now rightfully being evaluated and measured according to their potential contribution to the brands’ overall health. Here’s the good news: the overall strength of Hispanic-focused experiential marketing is solid. As experiential marketing continues to grow as a component to the overall marketing mix–according to a recent EventTrack study, 51% of brands surveyed will increase their experiential content spend this year– Hispanic focused events and experiential marketing initiatives have all the underpinnings of being able to contribute rich rewards to brands who venture into the Hispanic experiential arena.

Besides seeing more targeted and sophisticated activations across the Hispanic market, my optimism is anchored on two key factors. The first is that Hispanics are under exposed to experiential marketing initiatives as a community. While experiential marketing ranks #1 by Hispanics for driving purchase, generating word of mouth, personal engagement and learning about new products. Hispanics are underexposed to event marketing initiatives as a whole as brands leverage their limited (but growing) experiential dollars to the consumer segment they feel most comfortable with. Secondly, our propensity to over share everything on social media is fertile ground for consumer led event-related content development and ultimately, brand advocacy. Our challenge in the Experiential Marketing Industry is to keep the engagement compelling. I firmly believe we have all the tools to do so. If we build it they will come, share the experience, and reward the brands who reach out.

Pedro de Cordoba | Senior Director, Burson Latino

“30 Qs with…” Blog Series with Sofia Candelario

This month we continue our “30 Qs with…” blog series by getting to know Sofia Candelario, a Client Staff Assistant in our Innovation & Technology practice. Every month we invite you to get to know Burson-Marsteller Miami’s talent from a different perspective – these 1:1 interviews will reveal personal anecdotes from their lives in and out of the office.

Sofia, who is originally from Puerto Rico, got her Master’s degree from Syracuse University in upstate New York. She just celebrated her one-year anniversary of working at Burson-Marsteller Miami!

Get to know her better by checking out her interview here or watch it below! #30QsWith #BursonPersons

eMerge Americas Asserts Itself as a Tech Giant

I was born and raised in Miami, Florida, and as a Miami native, it makes me proud that Burson-Marsteller Miami was selected as the strategic communications agency for eMerge Americas, the premier technology conference that connects investors and technology industry leaders with revolutionary startups and cutting-edge ideas. In addition to getting ready the last few months, our team worked 24/7 at the Miami Beach Convention Center to ensure that we secure the deserved visibility for the conference, its sponsors, amazing speakers and entrepreneurs.

And for the first time we were introduced to Cxytera, which made its debut at the show. The multi-billion dollar Cyxtera, now based in Miami, brings together a global data center footprint and a modern, hybrid- and cloud-ready security portfolio. 

Loaded with high-profile speakers and innovative startup companies, eMerge Americas exceeded the expectations by drawing in hundreds of companies and innovators from around the world. Our Burson Miami team developed a comprehensive public relations strategy to help eMerge Americas become the tech event of the Americas.

Four years ago, eMerge held its first conference in Miami to an eager crowd. This year, attendees saw the likes of Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, Waze co-founder Uri Levine,Armando Christian Perez (Pitbull), Suze Orman, Alex Rodriguez, and many other influential leaders speak on the conference’s main keynote stage. In addition to the Keynote Stage, eMerge hosted the WIT (Women in Technology) and eGov – Government Innovation summits, as well as Techxpert and a “Shark Tank” like Launchpad stage where investors got to hear from the latest entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds. More than 13,000 people attended the two-day conference.

During the event, there was a great deal of talk about Miami and how Silicon Valley is no longer the only place to find tech startups. Rony Abovitz, Founder and CEO of Magic Leap, and University of Miami Alum, talked about Miami as an emerging tech hub. When he speaks to people from Latin America, they talk about Miami like we talk about Silicon Valley, so there is definitely something going on here.

Uri Levine, one of the most prolific businessmen of today and an active angel investor in technology-based companies who sold Waze to Google, spoke about what it is like to start a company from the ground up.  He shared that in one day he would be both on top of the world, and crying later at night, like a rollercoaster. As part of his presentation, he also offered some tips for startups who are just getting their feet wet:

  • Understand who your users are and their perception of the product
  • Make mistakes, and make them fast so that you can fix them fast
  • The team that you are building and the mission that you define will define your journey
  • If you fall in love with the solution, you will forget about the problem
  • If you lose focus of the problem, then you are probably not doing the right thing

I would venture to say these tips are not just useful for startups, but for companies and leaders of all levels!

Joining us for all the action on the eMerge Americas floor was Rowan Benecke, Chair of Burson-Marsteller’s Global Technology Practice, who came here to spend time with eMerge leaders, other Burson Miami clients and our Miami Innovation and Technology team.

We continue to win and serve great clients such as eMerge Americas. Whether you’re looking for a new strategic communications partner, a digital PR strategy, an experiential marketing initiative or want to understand how your brand is perceived in the digital arena, Burson-Marsteller Miami can help you.

Speaking of digital, if you are in the Miami area on June 28, don’t forget to RSVP for our Breakfast With Burson series featuring relevant and timely discussion on who owns social in today’s dynamic and blurred marketing and communications climate.

If you would like to learn more, please feel free to contact me via e-mail or LinkedIn. I look forward to sharing how our employees are helping to elevate the City of Miami to new heights. 

Jorge Ortega | Executive Vice-President

Social Media Killed the Advertising Star

As the influence of social media continues to rise in our everyday lives, advertising campaigns are being heavily scrutinized even before they hit your television set. Viewers are taking to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other forms of social media to voice their opinions on specific advertisements.

Recently, McDonald’s released an advertisement that received a ton of backlash on social media. As part of the campaign, McDonald’s depicted a young boy reminiscing with his mother about his deceased father. As the boy and his mother tried to find something in common, they both realized that the boy ordered the same fish sandwich in McDonald’s that his late father would order. Social media users from around the U.S. weighed in, so as part of a special segment in my Burson-Bulletin series, I asked three of my colleagues from Burson-Marsteller Miami to answer some questions that I had on the subject. I weighed in as well.

Rodrigo Castro, Group Director, Ivan Ruiz, Senior Digital Strategist and Head of StudioB, and Pedro de Cordoba, Senior Director of Burson Latino, all participated.

Q & A:

Q. First things first, how do you combat this situation if you’re a company receiving this type of backlash?

  • Rodrigo: Nothing but prevention. Companies are under a lot of pressure to increase sales and revenue in an increasingly competitive market. Increasing brand awareness is becoming more difficult, particularly with audiences exposed to millions of messages through thousands of media platforms. This pressure is translated to develop more engaging messages, sometimes what could be considered as borderline tacky or unacceptable from consumers. Focus groups are not enough to test messages: common sense is always a must.
  • Pedro: There must be a balance between a speedy response and a well thought out one. However, the initial reaction should always have a humble tone and demeanor, projecting transparency.
  • Ivan: Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. A good crisis management strategy and a strong social media guidelines document come in very handy whenever “backlash” appears in the same sentence as your brand.

This is a tough one. Companies like a McDonald’s usually conduct focus groups to test creative concepts and commercials. If they did not do it in this case, they missed an opportunity to gauge consumer reactions.  In the event that you did everything to test the creative concept and you still get this backlash, then it is best to be honest and admit what your intentions were and apologize for offending anyone.

Q. Are advertising companies “going too far” with some of these advertisements?

  • Rodrigo: Yes and no. As I clearly stated before, companies are under a lot of pressure to develop differentiated messages that sometimes cross the line. But as we understand, McDonald’s and Pepsi did not receive backlash in sales – which is what matters most. People will still buy their Big Macs and their Pepsi drinks. Amid a competitive market and saturated channels with different brand messages, are these “backlash strategies” done on purpose to put the brand back in the spotlight?
  • Pedro: Advertising companies only go as far as the clients allow them to. That said, if they screwed up, the best option is to own up to it and learn from the experience.
  • Ivan: I think advertisers are doing their best. They pressure test everything they put out there, but sometimes you strike a chord with the wrong group, and the rest is history.

Look, from my vantage point I think brands are always trying to touch consumers’ hearts AND minds. No creative person ever wants to manipulate emotions or offend their target audience. I think marketers are dealing with a highly cluttered and competitive environment and trying to differentiate their value proposition, message and story while staying relevant. Sometimes they miss the mark.

Q. As we think about the rise of social media and its influence on everyday lives, how do you feel social media affects advertisers and their mindset behind how they come up with ads?

  • Rodrigo: Buzz is everything. Even if it’s a bad buzz, the brand will continue to be on the spot. I recently flew United for a trip to the west coast. While I was expecting to see some empty seats as a backlash of their recent crisis, the truth is both flights, inbound and outbound, were completely packed! Did United lose revenue? Most certainly. But they will recover quickly if flights continue to be packed.
  • Pedro: I think the rise of social media has enormous influence in day-to-day perception management. However, the proclivity to react in a knee jerk fashion, tempted by access to social media sometimes runs the risk of reacting without thinking things through. It seems we are constantly reminded of this.
  • Ivan: Advertisers are uber-aware of the power of social media. They push the envelope in hopes that their ad will be the next viral hit, but “virality” is a double-edged sword. Some brands can afford to take chances like this… the Pepsis and McDonalds of the world can take the good with the bad. At the end of the day, I believe people will still drink Pepsi and eat Big Macs. Smaller companies don’t have those luxuries, and as marketers, we need to be conscious of that.

I personally feel that social media has become the gathering place for consumers and brands to interact. It is also the free outlet where consumers and other stakeholders can complain, praise or comment on brands, companies, customer experience and much more. Advertisers today have to recognize that whatever media they plan to place their message in, consumers and others will use social media to discuss it, whether they like it or not.

Q. We saw the backlash that happened with Pepsi’s ad and now McDonald’s, what strategies are they using in their advertisements that just don’t seem to be working?

  • Rodrigo: Are we sure they are not working?
  • Pedro: I think sometimes in the rush to be relevant, we sin of being “overly relevant”
  • Ivan: In the quest to be contextually relevant, advertisers are leaning more and more on current events to serve as the mechanism that delivers their message. Unfortunately, when you play in that space, there is always the risk of polarizing certain audience groups.

It’s interesting, because even the most tested and proven concepts can experience backlash. By the time the campaign hits the air, many layers have approved it, from the c-suite to smart marketing professionals, to legal and many others. I do believe that sometimes there is an element of bad luck and marketers need to anticipate the worst and be prepared to manage communications around it.

Q. How can companies take advantage of social media to help create better advertisements and public relations for themselves?

  • Rodrigo: The goal of an advertisement is to increase “top-of-mind awareness” in the hope it will eventually drive sales; I don’t think these cases we have been analyzing here were far from that original goal. They didn’t drive positive reactions, but they managed to bring their brands to the top of consumers’ minds, which is something that is extremely hard to get nowadays.
  • Pedro: In order to maximize social, you need to be topical, and above all timely.
  • Ivan: Companies should leverage social media to put forward a consistent message so that when situations like this occur, brands have an established history and a reputation they can lean on.

The way I see it is social media is an important channel. No intelligent marketer today can or should ignore using social media as part of a marketing or communications strategic plan.

Q. Companies are pulling ads before they hit the mainstream, what kind of strategies need to be implemented prior to releasing an advertisement on the web so that this doesn’t happen?

  • Rodrigo: Again, I do believe this is part of a new strategy. Companies may look for this to happen. I like to think of it as a controlled risk – teams are ready to work on reputation issues while revenues increase.
  • Ivan: I’m not sure this can be avoided. Very large focus groups carry a hefty price-tag, but smaller groups may not include enough variety.

Actually, we recommend clients imagine different possible scenarios and plan communications responses around each of those scenarios.  They need an outside point of view from experts not involved in the campaign development to consider possible reactions from consumers and plan accordingly.

Q. A company like McDonald’s or Pepsi will be able to bounce back from this due to the size of their company, but how would a small company bounce back from this?

  • Rodrigo: It all has to do with corporate reputation. No small company is ready to take controlled risks to jeopardize its reputation for some increase in sales. It takes years for large corporate monsters to be ready to walk the line.
  • Pedro: Think about what you want to say, a few times before you do.
  • Ivan: A smaller company needs to manage their risk-vs-reward strategy when it comes to advertising so that they aren’t exposed to these situations as frequently.

I believe it is the same process for both, it is imperative that any company considers possible scenarios in advance and creates contingency response strategies.

Q. Finally, if you had to give advice to young professionals about these situations, what would you tell them?

  • Rodrigo: Be bold, be cautious, but also be creative. Social media audience is hypocritical: today they cherish a video of a two-legged dog because “OMG how cute”, tomorrow they will slash the same video because “somebody” said they tortured the dog to do it – but in the meantime, the video reaches a million views in 24 hours. Amid message saturation in traditional and digital media, companies may use this risky, yet efficient way of promoting themselves. Could it work again?
  • Pedro: Think before you do anything.
  • Ivan: Marketing is like a carefully choreographed interpretive dance. It’s beautiful when everyone is in sync, but can appear messy and disjointed when the parts do not come together as they should. As marketers, we want to push the envelope for our clients, but we need to be sure that the message is on strategy and will resonate with the majority of our audience – you’ll never please everyone, and you have to be prepared to mess up your dance every once in a while.

For every young professional who is just starting out, do not give up on being creative. Consider different scenarios and balance the need to differentiate and be relevant with possible consumer and stakeholder responses.

Jorge Ortega, Executive Vice-President

The Burson Difference: Know-how and Know-who

Integration is often defined as the inverse of differentiation, but in the case of Burson-Marsteller, it actually sets us apart. As a global strategic communications firm, our main asset is our seamless worldwide network of 77 offices and 85 affiliates, operating in 110 countries across six continents. This breadth grants us access to the top communications experts around the world – not only within our own firm, but across Young & Rubicam and all WPP companies – to ensure we deliver the best results for our clients with the best team suited to do the job. We have both the know-how and know-who in terms of matching talent and respective skill-sets with clients’ needs.

We recently put this to the test when helping a global company address sensitive regulatory and legislative issues on health and wellness. We coordinated a team of public affairs and crisis management experts in multiple countries with the experience to make a difference. By coordinating issues and events around the world, we developed a strategic communications plan to satisfy the client.

In another case, when one of our clients realized how much we can do to help it leverage social media to reach key stakeholders, they asked our StudioB team, led by Ivan Ruiz, to develop a comprehensive strategy that is generating new levels of engagement for the brand through one of its key executives in the Latin American market.

Uniquely positioned in a market considered the Bridge to the Americas, Burson-Marsteller Miami not only serves clients across the Southeast U.S. and Latin America, it is also the headquarters for Burson Latino, our U.S. Hispanic specialty team. We offer a team of multicultural, multilingual professionals who are on in tune with what is happening not only in our own backyard, but across the U.S. and Latin American regions, thanks to close collaboration with our colleagues who provide us with the local intelligence and depth we need to make client campaigns targeted, relevant and effective. This “always-connected” model contributes to what I call the Burson Difference.

Aside from our established presence and long-term commitment to the markets in which we operate, we also rely on a varied talent mix of senior, experienced leadership and young and eager professionals who bring a fresh perspective on how to apply our results-driven business process to achieve client goals.

These are just some of the characteristics that set Burson-Marsteller apart. I am proud of the work we are doing for our local, regional and global clients, knowing that connectivity and reach allow us to assemble the right team at any given time, keeping this business, and my role here, very exciting.  It is a wonderful time to be leading our business from the Miami vantage point and to be the bridge for our clients to the Burson know-who and know-how.

If you would like to learn more, please feel free to contact me via e-mail or LinkedIn. I look forward to sharing how our employees, not only in Miami, but around the world are truly living the Burson Difference.

Jorge Ortega, Executive Vice-President

“30 Qs with…” Blog Series with Jennefer Melendez

This month we continue our “30 Qs with…” blog series by getting to know Jennefer Melendez, a Senior Associate working with Burson Latino. Every month we invite you to get to know Burson-Marsteller Miami’s talent from a different perspective – these 1:1 interviews will reveal personal anecdotes from their lives in and out of the office.

Jennefer, who started with Burson-Marsteller Miami recently, opens up about her love for public relations and what she enjoys most about honing her craft every day. 

Get to know her better by checking out her interview here or watch it below! #30QsWith #BursonPersons