Can Livestrong Survive?

When the news about the USADA ban came out about Lance Armstrong, I posted this “Can Livestrong Live on” post. At the time I wondered if the brand could live on, in the wake of the scandal, and suggested yes it can.

In light of the 1,000 page novel that USADA released this week where they said that he was a “serial” cheat who led “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”. It’s probably pertinent to re-visit the question and ask can the charity survive?

In short, I believe Yes they can. But…they need to do a few things:

  1. Distance themselves from Lance Armstrong.  I am not suggesting they dump Armstrong, but they would be well advised to distance themselves from him. What do I mean? Well I wouldn’t use him for media events, don’t feature him on the site, get a new chairman. They cannot deny their foundations, and nor should they, but they now need to move on and be an organisation that is about cancer survivors and not Lance Armstrong Cancer Survivor
  2. Be clear on their mission. When you go on their site the What We Do statement is “We look at the experiences of the cancer community, find problems and develop solutions. Then we roll them out to help more people in more situations.”. I don’t actually know what this really means, it sounds like research, but Livestrong don’t do or fund research. So they need to really say who they are and what they do. To be fair their homepage does break down where they spend their money, but things like grants are vague (it sounds like research)
  3. Be squeaky clean: is a for profit website that was sold by the charity. A lot of people (including me) end up here looking for information when there really is none. These kind of activities need to stop as the charity comes under scrutiny. Bill Gifford wrote this piece in Outside about the charity in January where he looks at how what they do and how they spend their money.  In parts he focuses on a lot of the wrong things (CEO salary) but he does raise some interesting points. For the charity to survive now they need to be squeaky clean (and I am not suggesting they are not) as they come under increasing scrutiny
  4. Shore up their partners: Livestrong need to shore up their own corporate partners and ensure they are supporting the cause and not Lance Armstrong. So, for example, the Nike sponsorship is of Lance Armstrong and Livestrong. The foundation now need to make a distinction between the two and ensure that Nike, even if they decide to continue to support Lance, differentiate their support.
  5. Say something: So far Livestrong has said nothing. This cannot last. They are celebrating 15 years, so they need to focus on that, but they need to say something. While Armstrong says he is innocent, this will be a challenge for them, but with the best lawyers and comms people around, surely they can script something that says how disappointed they are but how focussed they are on cancer survivors. They need to talk to their advocates and get their support shored up too.
  6. Get new heroes: Lance is no longer a hero. So they need to re-align themselves with new heroes, new survivors. Ordinary people, like you and me (they do some of this already, but they need to do more)
  7. Dont go on a marketing blitz: I actually think a brand positioning piece, with a massive media spend, would be a bad move for them now, so I hope they hold off on the temptation
  8. Armstrong steps down: Ideally Armstrong should step down. If he truly wants his legacy to be his work in cancer, then he should move aside now and allow the organisation survive and grow without him.

The Irish Charities Expo

The Irish Charities Expo 2012 will be a one day first of its kind exhibition to be held in Ireland.

The Exhibition will get charities and businesses, along with members of the public, together in the same venue so that they can network, develop partnerships and learn from each other.

The Irish Charities Expo is FREE to attend and over 5,000 company representatives will be invited to attend the event to engage and communicate with up to 100 charities that will be showcasing and promoting themselves to the key charity related personnel in Irish businesses.

Can Komen Recover?

The problems at Susan G. Komen for the Cure are well documented at this stage. In this great article Ad Age asks, can they recover?

(Source: Ad Age, Alexandra Bruell, Feb 6th, 2012)

In a case for the marketing textbooks, Susan G. Komen for the Cure showed how a brand can boomerang from one of the most loved into one of the most reviled in a head-snapping two days.

The story of how Komen got consumers seeing red, rather than pink, says a lot about how social-media wildfire can singe even the most fireproof of brands. But it also demonstrates how inconsistent communications can fan the flames, and illustrates how quickly sponsors can become engulfed in controversy. On its website, Komen, which has raised billions of dollars for breast-cancer research, lists more than 200 corporate partners. The question now is how much collateral damage those partners have sustained, and whether Komen can persuade them to stick around in the aftermath.

AP broke the story Jan. 31 that the charity was withdrawing funding from Planned Parenthood. Komen quickly became the New Coke of nonprofits last week when within 48 hours it confirmed that it was pulling funding, contradicted itself in explaining its motive, and then backtracked on the decision following a groundswell of protest. It initially cited a new policy requiring it not to fund organizations under government investigation. The move prompted Planned Parenthood to berate the organization for letting right-wing, pro-life politics influence its decision, and critics quickly took up the cudgel on Facebook and Twitter.

The first public response, a video of founder and CEO Nancy Brinker via YouTube, didn’t help. PR executives said the background — a stuffy library — and Ms. Brinker’s seemingly calculated statement was counterproductive. “Nancy Brinker is coming across not like the woman who made the promise to her sister,” said Carol Cone, vice chairman of the business and social-purpose group at Edelman. “Unfortunately, she’s coming across so hard.”

A day later, Ms. Brinker told the Washington Post that the real reason for the funding cut “…has to do with the fact that [Planned Parenthood does] not provide mammograms to women, but only provides mammogram referrals.” That same day, a Komen board member flip-flopped the message again. Lobbyist John D. Raffaelli told The New York Times that Komen “had become increasingly worried that an investigation of Planned Parenthood by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R.-Fla., would damage Komen’s credibility with donors.”

But Komen was doing a fine job of damaging that credibility on its own. What started as a communications crisis quickly flamed into a brand crisis as the organization went more than 24 hours without a tweet, during which time consumers besieged the Facebook pages of Komen’s corporate partners and voiced concerns on Twitter. As of Feb. 3, there were 18,645 likes on the “Defund the Komen Foundation” Facebook page. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave Planned Parenthood $250,000 out of his own pocket, indirectly admonishing the organization’s decision.

“If they had quickly come out and communicated and said, ‘Oops, we blew it,’ that’s one thing. But 48 hours is an eternity today with social media,” said Kivi Leroux Miller, author and blogger at the website Nonprofit Marketing Guide.

Now its reputation — in a Harris poll last year Komen ranked second among nonprofits in terms of trust and tops in brand equity — and the stability of its relationships with corporate sponsors hangs in the balance. While it’s said the organization has not lost any official corporate sponsors at this point, it will have its work cut out for it in the coming weeks in reaching out to sponsors, partners and affiliates.

When asked how a sponsor should react, Ms. Cone said, “I’d follow it and wait it out first. Komen has to stay true to what it does, [which is] help to build a sisterhood, continue to create awareness and help those who need to get preventative [care].” Some sponsors may have time to think it over; Breast Cancer Awareness Month is October.

General Mills, which is one of the marketers most publicly allied with Komen via its Yoplait brand, said: “We are committed to the fight against breast cancer, and we will continue to partner with organizations that will have the greatest impact in that fight.” And Pepperidge Farm told Ad Age that it “concluded its sponsorship of Susan G. Komen for the Cure at the end of 2011 for business reasons.” Related or not, that timing coincided with when Komen told Planned Parenthood of its decision.

Komen declined to comment. But an executive close to the charity said that former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, who had previously been brought in by Komen as an advisor, initially helmed the communications effort. Ogilvy, Komen’s corporate and issues firm on retainer, was asked to take over that role Feb. 3.

“It’s surprising that such an established organization didn’t take a pulse check on different stakeholders,” said Tara Greco, senior VP-corporate responsibility at APCO, a public-affairs firm.

“Did they not learn, especially at the highest level, about the power of social and of their own community?” asked Ms. Cone, citing the outcry over its earlier gaffe of painting pink ribbons on buckets of KFC.

All that said, it’s likely the brand will be forgiven. “There’s still awareness to be made and funding for search and access to services that are critically needed,” Ms. Cone said. “I don’t think [Komen] will go away.”


Have you heard about Hireland? I’m really impressed by this movement.

We all have great ideas, but what turns an idea into a movement is action. This idea, like many others, was generated over a kitchen table, spurred on by a sense of frustration that we were losing so many great, talented people to emigration. But this movement came to life because the emotion was one of frustration not anger. Anger leads to blame whereas frustration can lead to action.

So the Hireland team, people from the business world, took action. They decided the time had come:to stop waiting on a solution from the government and to take action ourselves”. They used their own spare time and resources to make this a reality and got students from Champlain College and DIT involved too. The media industry has gotten behind this with over 500K of in kind donations, creating and placing ads.

So how does it work?

Companies are asked to pledge a job on the Hireland website. Once a company pledges they will appear on the Pledgers wall and this forms part of a “a positive ripple effect for all to see”. The pledge will then become part of Hireland’s Growth index and that forms “part of a powerful voice that Ireland is open for business”.

So far 301 jobs have been pledged. If you are hiring or know someone who is….please get them to pledge here

“We aren’t in business to survive, we are in business to succeed. The time is now to invest in success and the people we hire are the most important investment we can make.”

(Hireland, Jan 2102)

Don’t be scared

This is a post that is totally off the beaten track for this blog. But I don’t think anyone will mind. I worked with this amazing girl, Roisin Whelan. She was just brilliant. She is now doing other things and volunteering with First Fortnight, which is a project to Challenge Mental Health Prejudice, Through Creative Arts. Yesterday she sent me a tweet:

Ye know me and my nerves Conor – Have a read 🙂

So I did….and this was the (brilliant) article

Don’t Be Scared, by Roisin Whelan

Fear. When I close my eyes and imagine what it looks like I see a huge ball of black mála. Right at the top of my chest. When I eat, food has to make its way around it and I have to breathe extra hard just so the air can get to my lungs.

I used to wake up with the fear. No, not the ‘I-was-so-pissed-last-night-I-can’t-remember-what-I-said-to-who-fear. More the ‘I-can’t-get-out-of-bed-I’m-in-a-hole- sorta-fear’. I’m sure the glass of wine the night before didn’t help, but it was never anything in particular that would bring it on, that would make me feel like I was going to spontaneously combust.

I’m great craic. I love my life. I have a brilliant job, an amazing family, lots of sound mates and a boyfriend who’s mad about me. The fear doesn’t really care about that, though. It makes you feel alone, scared and it makes you feel like nobody else gives a shit, that you could stand in the middle of the departures lounge at Dublin airport screaming at the top of your voice ‘Help!’ or ‘Fix me!’ and that nobody would bat an eyelid.

Not that I could have made it to the airport, even with a promise of a trip to Timbuktu. You see, the fear makes you ‘take to the bed’, sometimes for a few days or a week even. Sometimes it still does. And no, my fear isn’t some of ladytime PMT sort of thing, I just suffer with my nerves. I’m not depressed, bipolar or suicidal. I am human.

I used to wonder if I was the only one who ever felt like this, if everyone walked around with a sad and heavy heart? In the end I had to ask for help. I couldn’t be in my own head anymore. I had forgotten who ‘Rois’ was.

So I started going for “the chats”.  And I chatted about everything and I cried about everything and about nothing too. In fact, I bawled. And Boy, did it feel good!  I cried about not having tax on my car, about my roommate drinking all the milk that morning. I bawled about something horrible my boss had said that day. Silly little things, that were all very important to me.

“The Chats” were my empty page, my empty canvas. I could throw what I liked at it and it stuck, right there for all to see – my thoughts, my fears, my anxieties. On the canvas I could see them clearly too and work through them. In my mind they were a nightmare, on the canvas they were beautiful. So each week I would go and meet this lady, who I knew from Adam, and together I started to find myself and finally I started to feel safe.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back it’s hard to remember why it was so hard to ask for help, but it was. When I’m sick I go to the doctor. So why is it so different when I have a sad heart? One in four of us will feel overwhelmed by ‘our nerves’ at some point in our lives. What’s worse is that no one wants to talk about it. It’s embarrassing, mortifying. It’s not the done thing. I had cancer once and remember the hush of the c-word when people asked how I was feeling. With mental health and the huge stigma associated with it, there isn’t even that hush. All there is, is silence. Having cancer is scary, talking about it is scarier still but having anxiety  or depression is worse. And talking about it? Well, that’s in a whole league of it’s own. Trust me.

I don’t know of any quick fixes or instant cures for the ‘nerves’ Believe me, I’ve asked.  But what I do know is this.  There is lots and lots of help out there. People genuinely give a shit. They want you to get better. They want you to feel happy. It’s only when you start to talk about it and start to understand it in your own head that you can begin to realize that nothing is ever that bad. It can still be bad. But on those bad days I’ll wake up and the first thing I do is try to be kind to me. I stop giving out to myself. I take a few deep breaths and remember that tomorrow will be better.


12 Consumer trends for 2012

In 2012, much as in previous years, some brands may be staring into the abyss, while others will do exuberantly well. And while we can’t offer any help to defaulting nations or bankrupt companies, we do believe that there are more opportunities than ever for creative brands and entrepreneurs to deliver on changing consumer needs. From Canada to Korea. Hence this overview of 12 must-know consumer trends (in random order) for you to run with in the next 12 months. Onwards and upwards:


In 2012, department stores, airlines, hotels, theme parks, museums, if not entire cities and nations around the world will roll out the red carpet for the new emperors, showering Chinese visitors and customers with tailored services and perks, and in general, lavish attention and respect.

Read RED CARPET in full (including examples from Hilton, Starwood and Harrods)


Expect to see consumers take advantage of new technologies and apps to discreetly and continuously track, manage and be alerted to, any changes in their personal health.

Read DIY HEALTH in full (including examples from Jawbone, Ford and Lifelens)


In 2012, not only will consumers continue to hunt for deals and discounts, but they will do so with relish if not pride. Deals are now about more than just saving money: it’s the thrill, the pursuit, the control, and the perceived smartness, and thus a source of status too.

Read DEALER-CHIC in full (including examples from American Express, Nokitum and Daitan)


Brands will increasingly take back all of their products for recycling (sometimes forced by new legislation), and recycle them responsibly and innovatively.

Read ECO-CYCOLOGY in full (including examples from Dell, Nike and Garnier)


Will coins and notes completely disappear in 2012? No. But a cashless future is (finally) upon us, as major players such as MasterCard and Google work to build a whole new eco-system of payments, rewards and offers around new mobile technologies.

Read CASH-LESS in full (including examples from Google, PayPal and Square)


The majority of consumers live in cities, yet in much of the world city life is chaotic, cramped and often none too pleasant. However at the same time, the creativity and vibrancy of these aspiring consumers, means that the global opportunities for brands which cater to the hundreds of millions of lower-income CITYSUMERS are unprecedented.

Read BOUP in full (including examples from PepsiCo, NCR and Aakash)


Anything that makes it downright simple- if not completely effortless- for consumers to contribute to something will be more popular than ever in 2012. Unlocked by the spread of ever smarter sensors in mobile phones, people will not only be able but increasingly willing, to broadcast information about where and what they are doing, to help improve products and services.

Read IDLE SOURCING in full (including examples from Street Bump and Waze)


Why to consumers, brands that behave more humanly, including exposing their flaws, will be awesome.

Read FLAWSOME in fullhere.


Thanks to the continued explosion of touchscreen smartphones, tablets, and the ‘cloud’, 2012 will see a SCREEN CULTURE that is not only more pervasive, but more personal, more immersive and more interactive than ever.

Read SCREEN CULTURE in full (including examples from Sky, 8ta and Huawei)


It’s never been easier for savvy consumers to resell or trade in past purchases, and unlock the value in their current possessions. In 2012, ‘trading in’ is the new buying.

Read RECOMMERCE in full (including examples from Decathlon, Amazon and Levi’s)


While cultural differences will continue to shape consumer desires, middle-class and/or younger consumers in almost everymarket will embrace brands that push the boundaries. Expect frank, risqué or non-corporate products, services and campaigns from emerging markets to be on the rise in 2012.

Read EMERGING MATURIALISM in full(including examples from Diesel, Johnson & Johnson and Sanitol)


Consumers are used to being able to find out just about anything that’s online or text-based, but 2012 will see instant visualinformation gratification brought into the real and visual world with objects and even people.

Read POINT & KNOW in full (including examples from Starbucks, eBay and Amazon)

Source: One of the world’s leading trend firms, sends out its free, monthly Trend Briefings to more than 160,000 subscribers worldwide in 9 languages.

Irish Examiner’s big charity expose!

The dramatic headline reads:

Charity bosses’ salaries exceed €100k

Oooooooooh. To think that people running organisations that turn over tens of millions of euros would get such excessive salaries! 

The article starts with its dramatic headline and then progresses into nothing-ness when it reveals shocking stats like these:

  • Charities have generally not granted a pay increase in the past year.
  • Three chiefs executive have a company car.
  • Expenses are vouched and relate mainly to travel.

Honestly what was Catherine Shanahan thinking? What was her editor thinking? What was the purpose of this article?

I am actually almost annoyed at myself for talking about it here but the Irish Examiner dont like you commenting on their site (no facility) and they dont engage on social networks. So it really is the only place to vent my frustration!.

One thing I would say is….slap on the wrist to the 6 charities that didnt provide information…What were you thinking? You are helping no one by being secretive about your cost base. Stand up and defend your salaries, they are no doubt well deserved. Don’t hide behind No Comment. You can’t and shouldnt!

But a bigger shame on you to the examiner and Catherine Shanahan. What a waste of time, resources and print.