Americans trust health orgs, but still turn to the news on social media – by Chris Zaccaro

Back in April we reported that the Pew Research Center discovered Americans had been far more trusting of the World Health Organization (WHO) than the media when it came to reliable information about COVID-19. But recent research from Pew shows American Facebook users have been FAR more likely to share coronavirus information from a news agency than a health agency like the WHO.

This comes after Global Web Index’s April 2020 Report on Media Consumption and Sport stated only 37% of Americans believed TV news channels were a trustworthy source.

In March, when the pandemic was at its scariest point, 75% of coronavirus-related Facebook posts with a link were linking back to news organizations. Just a measly 1% of shared posts linked to health care websites—such as the WHO, CDC or other state and federal health agencies.

You were also far more likely to see higher engagement on a news organization’s post than that of a health or science agency. More than likely this is because there are probably more news outlets to follow on Facebook than anything else—and outlets and journalists are extremely active with their social outreach.

Even though much criticism has been thrown at Facebook this year and many are bearish on its future popularity, data shows the platform still remains the undisputed king of social media. Over the course of the lockdown the social network experienced record usage and had many eyes on its news feeds.

This helps demonstrate that, even though overall trust in the news and social media is down, people still turn to them to get their information. *Not only that, it’s what they’re sharing with people they care about too.

We recently cited a number of examples of local industry leaders who, in the middle of the crisis, shared positive stories by working with the media. Based on this recent report, their efforts were well worth it. It all goes to show that a media appearance is still one of the most successful avenues for positioning yourself as a subject matter expert or effectively sharing your story.

*You should always verify your sources of information before sharing it with others—especially on serious matters like the coronavirus. Facebook, like many other social media platforms, is a forum where misinformation spreads easily and often.

The Big Picture: Adobe Photoshop Camera Review – by Chris Zaccaro

“(You’re) picture-perfect, you don’t need no filter.” – Justin Bieber

Aw, thanks Biebs. The capability of today’s smartphone cameras is pretty incredible, but the reality is often times you still don’t get the final quality you’re looking for in a photo. And whether you’re distributing a press release, creating a social media post, designing a PowerPoint or developing marketing materials, including high quality images can make all the difference in capturing your audience’s attention.

So here’s some good news designed to make those photos pop. Photoshop Camera, from Adobe, is an impressive and useful new smartphone app that was released just last week. It’s now available for download in Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store.

Photoshop Camera allows you to use lenses and apply filters to photos either in your camera roll or to photos you capture using the app itself. It uses AI technology to recognize the type of photo you’re taking—selfie, portrait, landscape, food, etc.—and provides you recommended filters and fixes to boost the overall quality of the image. This is a plus if you haven’t yet booked your post-quarantine hair appointment.

Other apps provide similar services, but Photoshop Camera wins with its balance of strong features, ease of use and notable speed—providing users an affordable and portable alternative to professional cameras or high-end photo editing software (like its namesake, Photoshop).

If you’re away from your PC, live-tweeting at an event or rushing to post an online article, this app can allow you to capture and edit your photos fast, providing quick turnaround while maintaining high quality. After all, it’s as much the image as the headline—if not more so—that grabs your audience’s attention.

When it comes time to download your final image, the app provides one-click cropping options—so you have the exact dimensions you need for the platforms or space you’re using (square, Instagram 4:5 or 5:4, 16:9, 3:4 and a couple others). It makes sharing easy too. You can post directly to your social from the app or send to a friend or colleague over messenger platforms and email.

If you’re constantly taking and sharing photos from your phone, then you should definitely give it a try. It could make the difference in your next project or post being “picture-perfect.”

Here are some before and after examples to give you a better picture—each of these were enhanced in under 60 seconds.

 


 


 


 


The Value of Working with the Media in a Time of Crisis – by Dan Tapper

Many years ago I worked as a daily newspaper reporter, and was writing a story about a beloved restaurant in the Greater Hartford community that was celebrating a milestone anniversary. While figuring out how to tell the story in a memorable way, I happened to upon a couple who was celebrating the restaurant’s anniversary—and their own. They volunteered that they had been married at that very location on the very day it opened.

Bam! What a great story!

I thanked this charming couple and asked: why had they had never told this great story through the media before.

Their response? “Nobody ever asked us.”

Just four words, but they spoke volumes: How will the media know a good story exists if no one offers to share it with them?

That blast from the past has come to mind quite a bit during these months of disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic. Where telling memorable, positive stories through the media has not been a luxury, but a necessity.

Why? People know about the bad news. They want to see responsiveness and engagement from those in charge—political leaders, business leaders, community leaders. They want to be reassured and they need to be kept informed.

Good examples abound. Banks and credit unions engaged with the media right away, reassuring people that their money was safe and that their personal mortgages would not be in jeopardy. Senior care communities found ways to keep people in touch with their parents despite visitation restrictions. Nonprofits and community organizations worked tirelessly to reach people in need and large companies delivered lunches to overworked health workers. Medical professionals showed their patients how to switch to telemedicine. These examples set a steady drumbeat of actionable information through challenging times—and through positive news stories.

For 30 years I have worked with the Connecticut media, both as a reporter and a public relations professional, and I’ve seen newsroom staffs steadily decrease over that time. But those lower numbers create opportunities. The media often welcomes help in finding those stories, because the staffing levels simply don’t provide much time to seek them out. The key is to get there first—the ability to pitch and package an interesting story in a way that allows for quick turnaround becomes currency, and being nimble when pitching stories is as important a trait as any.

This is particularly true of positive news stories; sadly, we have faced more than our share of negative, tragic stories, but the media also wants to tell stories that inspire as they inform. It’s our job to get those stories into their hands—community success stories, local champions, informational articles, inspiring photo opportunities and more.

These are stories that need to be told and can greatly help the public. But if we don’t engage with the media, we’ll wind up like that couple I met all those years ago—having a great story to tell, but no one asking to hear it.

Telework 101: Keep Your Passwords Strong and Accounts Safe – by Chris Zaccaro

“You know what, Toby, when the son of the deposed king of Nigeria emails you directly, asking for help, you help! His father ran the country! OK?”

With those words, Dunder Mifflin’s inimitable Michael Scott, proved that even a successful eight-time Dundie Award Winner is not immune to all the traps on the internet.

The “stay home, stay safe,” way of life ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic has made us more reliant on technology than ever before. According to the Pew Research Center over half of the U.S. population says the internet has been “essential” during the pandemic. It has allowed employees to keep working, students to keep learning and adults to keep shopping and paying bills.

But the internet has also made us more susceptible to bad actors, malware and online scams—and there are countless ways that someone can cause lasting damage to your financials, data, files and reputation. So while you are taking the steps to protect your personal safety, and that of your employees, customers and/or clients, don’t overlook the security of your online accounts.

With that in mind, here are some important tips to protect yourself and your company.

Ensure your personal and professional passwords are both strong and secure. Google’s Password Checkup (passwords.google.com) can help manage your passwords in Chrome and Android. This service notifies you if your accounts are already compromised or potentially vulnerable, allowing you to make changes to your credentials—hopefully—before any damage is done.

Never share passwords online. If a co-worker needs a password, provide the information over the phone. Also, avoid using your passwords on any shared devices. If you need to use your password on a shared device, be sure to log out afterward—then double-check by revisiting the login page to make sure you’re logged out and that your credentials were not saved.

Don’t use the same password—or something close to it—on multiple accounts. According to a Google survey from last year, “52% of people use the same password for multiple (but not all) accounts.” Don’t give someone a 50/50 shot at accessing another account by using the same password. Make sure passwords for each of your online accounts are different and be sure change them at least every quarter.

Here are some other useful cybersecurity tips that can help keep you and your company protected as this teleworking era continues…

• Avoid opening emails that seem suspicious—and definitely do not click on any links or attachments from people you do not know. Even what appears to be a harmless sales pitch could be a ploy.

• If you receive a suspicious or oddly worded email from someone you do know, either from them directly or through a third-party, play it safe and follow up with them in a separate email. It’s possible they may have been compromised and you’re the next target.

• Never download anything from a website you’re not familiar with. Take a few minutes, perform some Google searches, ask your IT Department and find out if the source is reputable and safe. If you can’t find information on them, take a pass and find a different option.

• Create a point of contact within your company where employees can report suspicious emails or other cyber threats. If one employee received something suspicious, it’s very likely another will too. The point of contact should communicate to your team what’s going on and provide guidance so that everyone is aware, prepared and on the same page.

• Reduce where payment information is stored. The fewer places it lives, the harder it will be to find. If you do not need to store payment information on a certain website, don’t!

This way, when you get an email from the former crown prince of any nation, you’ll be a little better equipped than Michael Scott!

COVID-19 has changed our media habits – by Chris Zaccaro

A ton has changed since COVID-19 reached our shores and most of us were sent home to wait it all out—especially the volume of content we’ve been consuming to both inform and entertain ourselves.

With nowhere to be and no one to see, people have been predictably relying on their at-home televisions, smartphones and devices. Nearly 90% of Americans say they are consuming more content than before the pandemic, with most turning to broadcast television, online videos and online TV.

On the other side of the coin, consumers have been turning away from other mediums such as podcasts as they leave their daily commutes, visits to the gym and other regular outside-the-home activities behind.

Podcast consumption, which was up an impressive 31% from the beginning of the year, has been slowly dipping since March, dropping around 10% over the last few weeks (according to Podtrac, which reports on podcast trends). This is not surprising, and it’s probably safe to expect podcast and radio listening to increase once people are back to commuting to work, getting their workouts in, hosting parties and lounging at the pool or beach. So, keep that impressive pre-pandemic podcast growth rate in mind if you are thinking about developing a series of your own.

What are people looking for?

According to the Global Web Index’s April 2020 Report on Media Consumption and Sport, the largest amount of online activity (68% of consumers) has been searches for coronavirus information—and that applies across all demographics and generations, except for 16-23 year olds who are more likely to be searching for music, naturally.

While the numbers clearly show a continued demand for updates on the pandemic and recovery rates, many people are ready to start seeing positive and local stories again. We have seen Connecticut news stations focusing on positive news in recent weeks, which I think we can all agree is welcome during this challenging time. This is something brands and organizations should now be thinking about and considering, as the curve begins to flatten and the “stay safe, stay home” way of life begins to ease.

Who are consumers turning to?

When it comes to trustworthy sources for COVID-19 information, twice as many Americans trust the World Health Organization (WHO) more than news websites (30%). Sadly, TV news channels are not doing much better (37%). Think about that statistic for a moment: only 37% of Americans think news channels have trustworthy information about the coronavirus in the midst of a global emergency.

Interestingly, the communications firm Edelman published a special edition of its annual Trust Barometer Report, which reveals that employers are considered to be the most credible sources of information related to coronavirus. According to Edleman, “Employees want to be informed beyond the effect on the company, including advice on travel and what can be done to stop the spread of the virus. They want to get the information via email or newsletter (48%), posts on the company website (33%) and phone/video conferences (23%).

Many are turning to online and streaming entertainment, with people reporting they are more likely to pay a subscription for an entertainment service, like Netflix or Disney+, than a trustworthy news source. That may be partially due to the lack of trust noted in the Global Web Index Report, but more likely it’s the need for escapism during this challenging time and the plethora of free news on the internet—which as we know, is not all trustworthy.

It’s also not new news. As we reported last year in our State of the Media Market, only 15% of adults here in the Hartford area actually pay for local news.

What’s happening on social?

Overall and unsurprisingly, social media usage is up—but people aren’t just talking about Tiger King, dancing to Tik Tok and crying about Tom Brady and Gronk. Who the Giants beat twice in the Super Bowl I might add.

LinkedIn has seen a sharp increase in its professional development courses since the stay at home orders were put in place. As per LinkedIn, “In the first week of April, people watched 1.7 million hours of learning content on LinkedIn Learning vs. 560,000 hours in the first week of January – a 3X increase in time spent learning.”

This means people are sharpening their skills as they’re working at home or seeking a new job, signaling that now is the time to leverage LinkedIn to highlight your industry knowledge or your organization’s capabilities.

Watch the trends, and plan ahead

Everyone hopes that this time will pass and we can restore a sense of relative normalcy to our daily lives sooner than later. These trends may be temporary or they may repeat themselves in the fall/winter months if COVID-19 levels climb again, as the CDC has warned us. We will be watching and keeping you informed as we all look ahead to the future.  

As we pointed out last week, now is the time to plan. The businesses that will endure beyond this pandemic are busy preparing and planning to innovate and renovate their business plans, product lines and services right now, so when they emerge from these challenging times they are ready to renew and rebuild.

Please remember you can find a trove of information on COVID-19, with resources from the state and federal government at ct.gov/Coronavirus.

Stay safe, everyone.

Sullivan & LeShane’s Dan Tapper Appears on MetroHartford Alliance’s “Pulse of the Region”

LISTEN BELOW: Senior Account Manager Dan Tapper recently appeared on Pulse of the Region, the MetroHartford Alliance’s weekly radio show, to talk about Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc., the firm’s capabilities and how effective communication protects your organization and image, particularly during challenging times.

Listen to “Guests: Barry Simon from Oak Hill & Dan Tapper from Sullivan & LeShane” on Spreaker.

Planning, Ingenuity and Imagination Will Fuel Connecticut’s Arsenal of Recovery – by Brian Flaherty


The past several weeks have been trying for everyone in Connecticut—parents, children, elected leaders, employers, employees, not for profits and educators.

The team at Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc. has seen and managed almost every type of crisis in our three decades of experience, but nothing compares to the impact the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) global pandemic has had on our state.

We know and understand the many challenges that companies, small businesses and organizations are facing, because we’ve been listening and helping them share their stories, retool their internal and external communications strategies, stay connected to their audiences, engage the media, and turn vulnerabilities they’re facing into opportunities.

We also know from experience that when a crisis first hits, you need to take immediate action to protect the trust you have built with your key audiences—whether it’s your employees, customers, suppliers, investors or the community. Timely demonstrations of caring, agility, business continuance and communication are critical to weathering the storm.

Using reliable resources, data and our widespread network throughout government, our counterparts on the Sullivan & LeShane government relations team have been steadily keeping their clients apprised of new COVID-19-related developments, while helping them to navigate the minute-by-minute changes we’ve come to expect each day and providing consultation on how they can do business in the months ahead and take advantage of state and federal stimulus programs.

Between helping to expand childcare programs for healthcare workers through a state grant, opening a new market that allows manufacturers to provide much-needed supplies to the frontline of the COVID-19 fight, creating safety waivers for the return of bottles and cans to grocery and convenience stores, providing parity for a manufacturer that was able to offer needed supplies but was prohibited by state law and securing waivers on non-urgent regulations for community-based physician offices—the lobbying team has been making things happen and positioning a variety of spokespeople as thought leaders who can communicate need-to-know facts and best practices for their industries.

It’s hard to imagine just how quickly we have shifted to a world where television news anchors are broadcasting into our living room—from their living room—but we’re a resourceful and resilient lot in Connecticut. We know how to adapt and thrive. Three things are certain in the coming months. First, this difficult time will pass. Second, there will be a new normal once it does. Third, we will continue to work full speed to design and deliver successful outcomes to help our clients sustain and recover through this crisis and into the new normal.

Speaking of recovery, the businesses that will endure beyond this pandemic are already busy preparing for it now—innovating and renovating business plans, product lines and services. They’re identifying new ways to add technology and utilize their workforce so when they emerge from these challenging times they are focused and ready to rebuild, restructure and renew their contributions to the economy and their communities.

This, after all, the birthplace of Yankee ingenuity, and a time of innovation and renovation. Grocers are adapting to serve their customers and protect their employees, distillers are producing hand sanitizer, technical high schools, libraries and small manufacturers are 3-D printing face shields, physicians and professors are-engineering ventilators in real time, and brave health care workers and first responders are providing care, comfort and protection. We thank them and salute them. Together, they are fueling the arsenal of our recovery.

We’ve been hit…but we have a plan – by Dan Tapper


Back at the height of his dominance as a nearly unstoppable heavyweight champion in the late 1980s, Mike Tyson—following a customary knockout of an opponent—was asked what he thought happened to his opponent’s plan of attack during the fight. His response has become iconic.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

It’s true in boxing, and it’s true in the world of public relations. No business or organization ever wants to have a day where everything goes wrong, where the best laid plans take a backseat to managing a crisis. But that’s the real world. Sometimes we get hit.

But during the extraordinary disruption caused by the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic, some have been able to say, “We’ve been hit. But we have a plan. And it’s working.”

As recently as a month ago few could possibly have predicted we would be where we are right now. Offices shuttered and everyone working from home. Schools and college campuses closed and kids learning from home. Competitive sports cancelled around the world. Dining out, going to bars, going to friends’ homes, going to a playground or a movie, even shaking a friend’s hand? All things of the past.

And yet, here we are, adapting to the new paradigm of social distancing, telework and unprecedented changes to our daily routines. We took a huge hit, but we had a plan and we’ve kept moving—in some cases, impressively and inspiringly.

We have seen physicians and health care providers across the state pitching in at every turn to treat patients in desperate need of care, often at the expense of their own safety. Many are even finding innovative ways to do it, through telemedicine and remote consultations. They took a hit. And they kept moving.

We have seen large Connecticut companies, 500-1,000 people strong, shift to a telework system and not miss a beat. Not only that, they have managed to stay connected with their employees, customers and clients, stressing one common message: “We are all in this together.”

Photo Courtesy of Masonicare


We have seen senior communities cope with seemingly impossible challenges. Family members not able to visit their loved ones in nursing homes and retirement communities are finding ways to make things work through high-tech Zoom meetings and hand-made “Hi Mom” and “I Love You” signs held up through the window. They took a hit. And they kept moving.

We have seen all this and more. People who are forced to work and function in brand new ways that they never could have dreamed of, but who continue to get the work done for those who are depending on them. And it has been amazing to see.

The COVID-19 crisis is, sadly, nowhere near over yet, and the tragedy that has befallen so many in our state who have lost friends and loved ones is immeasurable. Yet through it all we have seen the unconquerable human spirit enduring, adapting and carrying on. It hasn’t been easy, and it won’t get any easier any time soon, but rather than let it defeat us, we’ve taken a hit and we’ve kept moving.

We wish you safety and good health, and we want you to know we remain with you every step of the way. And we stand in awe of your resilience—of your ability to take a punch harder than anything Mike Tyson ever threw, to quickly regroup, get up from the canvas and keep moving.

Coming Soon: A Likely Story for Twitter – by Chris Zaccaro

Twitter is finally jumping on the bandwagon and preparing to roll out a new “story” feature for their platform, thus joining competitors Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others. The new feature, which is currently being tested in Brazil, will be referred to as “fleets” rather than “stories.”

Like their competitors’ stories, Twitter’s fleets will be placed at the top of your feed and enable you to share pictures, videos, GIFs and text that will eventually expire and disappear—presumably after 24 hours. Many people prefer to utilize story features because they feel more comfortable posting content that’s not permanently on a platform and open for comments and reactions. This should provide these folks an avenue to interact with Twitter more often and move the needle on posting frequency. After all, according to the Pew Research Center, the top 10% of tweeters are responsible for an astounding 80% of the tweets created by all U.S. adults on Twitter.

From what has been reported, there won’t be a way to share, or in this case retweet, another person’s fleet (unless you’re sneaky and capture a screenshot or screen recording). Also, those who are tagged in a fleet by another user will not be notified. Which I find more strange than interesting. I know I want a notification when our clients or firm—or myself with my personal pages—are tagged by someone else.

What appears to be a welcome feature within fleets is the ability to post clickable links, regardless of your number of followers or verification status. But as we all (should) know, you should only click on links from trusted sources. Not some profile with 2 followers that still has an egg for a profile picture.

So will Twitter fleets be fleeting? It has been reported for over a year now that stories will eventually overtake news feeds as the primary way users view social media content—but until now the story feature has only applied to the aforementioned Twitter competitors like Facebook and Instagram. Twitter is a bit of a different animal, with a different audience. It will be interesting to see if the Twitterverse accepts and utilizes fleets or if they will eventually go the way of Google+, the social media dodo bird, and disappear like a story hitting the 24-hour mark.

Sullivan & LeShane recognized for creating outstanding green space in Hartford


KNOX, a Hartford organization that uses horticulture as a catalyst for community engagement, recently honored Sullivan & LeShane with a Hartford Urban Gardeners Society (HUGS) Award at their annual awards ceremony on March 11, 2020. HUGS recognize Hartford residents and businesses that have created outstanding green spaces in the city.

The Sullivan & LeShane office building, located at 287-289 Capitol Avenue in Hartford, right across the street from the state’s Legislative Office Building, lives in the neighborhood known as Frog Hollow. The property hosts a unique, gated garden in an urban environment that features ornamental grasses, hostas, rhododendrons and seasonal flowers.

To learn more about our office building and the Frog Hollow neighborhood, click here.