An Ode to Low-cost Airlines Disrupting the Industry

A funny thing happened to me when recently researching airfares for an upcoming trip. While looking at cross-country flights on Southwest Airlines for a route that I have flown dozens of times over the past two years, I noticed a price I had not seen so low in years. Not marginally lower, but 33 percent lower. Surely it wasn’t a typo. Nor was it simply Southwest Airlines’ attempt at being charitable. So what is the explanation?

Frontier Airlines.

After doing some more research, I learned that Frontier Airlines recently announced it would begin servicing the exact route I was researching, beginning in the fall. Obviously, the additional competition caught Southwest Airlines’ attention, which, in turn, caught my attention. As any frequent traveler knows, unless you’re flying short flights to undesirable destinations, Southwest Airlines is no longer the “low-cost” carrier that propelled it to widespread success and adoration. In fact, I often find it among the most expensive options when searching for flights. This, of course, flies in the face of its advertising and endless email bombardment – but I suppose that’s an entirely different gripe.

Point is – despite the grief capitalism gets from folks such as Bernie Sanders – it does sometimes work perfectly. Why do you think we’re no longer paying $700 for microwaves or $599 for Blu-ray Disc players? More consumer options create competition, which puts pressure on an assortment of variables, chief among them, price. The airline industry is no different, although it is a very precocious industry with fewer choices than home electronics or automobiles or just about anything else. After all, the price on entry is tremendous and operations are significantly challenging. Yet, above it all, one thing remains true − more airline/flight options translate into lower costs for consumers.

This is how low-cost carriers such as Frontier, Allegiant and Spirit airlines are disrupting the industry and providing consumers with more choices, lower costs and more empowerment. Additionally, as consumer technology and customization have changed consumer perceptions, expectations and purchase habits, the low cost carriers seem to be ahead of the curve with their business models.

To be clear, the major carriers still vastly dominate schedules and routes due to overall fleet size. While Frontier, Allegiant and Spirit are all growing in size, their fleet sizes still pale in comparison. Each of the low-cost airlines has a fleet around or under 100 planes. Compare that to the size of Southwest Airlines (704) or Delta Airlines (1,426) and it’s easy to see why the little guys are still considered little. Very little. Yet, consumers are clearly catching on. Frontier Airlines’ net income rose tenfold from 2013 to 2014. Allegiant Air quadrupled from 2014 to 2015. And Spirit Airlines saw net income growth of 79 percent from 2013 to 2015.

The most common criticism of low-cost carriers is the “nickel-and-dime” approach they have with fees. It is commonplace for these carriers to assess fees for select seats, baggage and even carry-on bags. For consumers not informed or expecting this, it is seen as excessive and tawdry. However, there are two realities associated with this: the new normal and consumer empowerment.

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Airline fees have become the norm.
We were asked to feel sorry for major airline carriers when the cost of oil skyrocketed a few years back, causing them to saddle consumers with baggage fees. Yet, when oil prices tumbled to their lowest level in decades, the airlines forgot to raise their hand and inform us these fees were being taken away. Excluding Southwest Airlines, baggage fees are standard across the industry. And the latest JD Power report confirmed that American consumers have given up fighting them – and have become accepting of airline fees. Even fees for seating choices have become more prevalent. If you think the low-cost carriers are the only airlines charging fees for seat selection, you haven’t flown American Airlines recently. Flying a red-eye from Las Vegas to Miami, I was presented with additional fees for my seating options. Wanting to sleep on the cross-country, red-eye flight, I paid $37 (each way) for a window seat in the middle of the plane. Want extra legroom and to be closer to the aisle? That will cost an additional $58. This is why I am dumbfounded when I hear, read or see these types of nickel-and-dime fees being groused at regarding the low-cost carriers. They exist elsewhere. And they are higher than the $12 lowest fee charged by Frontier Airlines.

Consumer Empowerment

With the low-cost carriers, consumers are able to purchase lower fare tickets and then make their own decisions on how much more they want to spend. Here’s an example of how simple this is for me: looking for nonstop service for a trip August 25–28 from Las Vegas to Orlando, a round-trip ticket on Frontier Airlines was $215.10. A similar itinerary on Southwest Airlines was $419.96. That is a difference of $204.86, or 95 percent. Even once I pay for a seat ($12) and choose to check two bags ($70), there is still a difference of $122.86. But what if I don’t need to check two bags? What if I’m visiting a summer home stocked with clothes and don’t need to check a bag at all? Instead of having inflated costs and the illusion of “free bags” stuffed into my Southwest Airlines ticket cost – I get to make my own decisions. And in my opinion, that is the point with these low-cost carriers. Consumers are more in control of their final costs, and it doesn’t take much to avoid excessive fees. On a trip last fall with my two children, we chose a low-cost carrier and approached it with minimal intelligence. We checked one large suitcase, instead of three smaller ones. We selected standard seats. We also packed snacks and iPads into our backpacks for the plane ride, as “personal bags” are free, while carry-on bags result in a fee. The result? Overall ticket costs that were more than 60 percent lower than they would have been any other major carrier.

To be sure, these low-cost carriers have work to do. Customer-service scores rank low on Frontier. Spirit is the worst in the industry for on-time arrivals. And Allegiant has been questioned regarding the age of its fleet. But each of these airlines seems genuinely committed to improving on these marks. In addition, Frontier recently announced 42 new routes and Allegiant has plans to purchase newer Airbus planes. But the larger point is that these airlines are a net positive for an industry that hates competition (see: domestic carrier open skies agreement) and is slow to provide customers with the type of service we expect from other industries (imagine showing up for a salon appointment and being told there is a three-hour delay and switching to a different time will result in a $100 change fee and the difference in cost of the new stylist?!). Consumer empowerment and more choices are a benefit to all of us. After all, that is the hallmark of capitalism.

It’s also why you can purchase a Sony Blu-ray Disc player at Best Buy for $34.99 + tax.

 

Disclosure: R&R Partners has a current affiliation with Allegiant.

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Which will have a greater effect in November? The political climate…or the actual climate?

The lines could not be more clearly drawn.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has clearly positioned climate change and the effort to reverse global warming as one of the centerpieces of her campaign. The Democratic Party’s platform agrees with the science recognizing a warming climate and attributing it to human activity. It also calls for putting a price (feel free to call it a tax) on carbon emissions.

Republican nominee Donald Trump, in the words of this New York Times article, “has gone further than any other Republican nominee in opposing climate change policy.” He refers to global warming as “a hoax.” The Republican Party’s platform is right there with him, calling climate change policy “the triumph of extremism over common sense.”

Needless to say, climate change is but one of many issues that voters will consider this November. For many, climate change and the environment in general, while important, will take a back seat to hot button topics including jobs, the economy and national security. Not to mention the seemingly endless list of character flaws brought to our attention each day by the candidates who the polls tell us are the two least-liked, least-trusted candidates in American presidential election history.

But for those who do view the health and future of our planet as an important factor in choosing the next president, the choice seems clear. Conversely, for those who are skeptical of climate change science and also stand firmly against any policies and regulations that may increase the costs of energy, there will be no hesitation.

Okay, fair enough. So where does America stand today? A Gallop poll taken in March tells us that 65% of Americans believe that human activity is playing a part in the warming of the planet. That’s a 10-point increase from just a year ago. Heck, even 38% of Republicans believe it, up 4 points from last year.

But there is another number in the same poll that jumps out even more. Fully 76% of Americans aged 18-29 believe human activity is causing or contributing to global warming. Those are the same Americans we commonly refer to as Millennials. And there are a lot of them. In fact, Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest American generation.

Should the Republicans, who have just published a platform that calls climate change policy “extremism” and have nominated a candidate who claims global warming is a “hoax,” be worried about those numbers?

That depends on a couple of things. First, are Millennials politically active? Will they vote? Second, if they are voting in large numbers, is the environment high on their list of political priorities?

Where can we find the answers to those questions? In the one place where Millennials are talking – social media.

Take a look at these charts measuring activity and interest based on social media use and conversations:

 

PPT_scatter_2-02

PPT_scatter_3-03These suggest that Millennials are very interested in politics and, as such, have become politically active.

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PPT_scatter_1-01And these tell us that issues involving the environment and sustainability are of a high priority…

Millennials Grew Up Being Environmentally Conscious, So These Issues Are Very Relevant To Them Because They Understand The Importance Of Protecting Our Climate.
According to the NextGen website, “Much more than previous generations, Millennials grew up with things like recycling, turning off appliances and lights when not in use, and awareness of energy efficiency as the norm. As a result, environmental concerns are ingrained in their identity, and young voters understand the importance of protecting our climate.” [NextGen Climate, 4/29/16]

However there’s this…

Millennials Have Punched Below Their Electoral Weight In Recent Presidential Elections. For A Host Of Reasons, Young Adults Are Less Likely To Vote Than Their Older Counterparts, And Millennials Are No Exception. [PewResearch, 5/16/16]
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[PewResearch, 5/16/16]

And this…

In 2016, For The First Time, Millennials Will Be As Large A Share Of The Eligible Voting Population As Boomers, Roughly 30 Percent. That Said, Boomers Are Still Expected To Outvote Millennials This Year. [Vox, 4/30/16]

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While The Growth In The Number Of Millennials Who Are Eligible To Vote Underscores The Potential Electoral Clout Of Today’s Young Adults, Millennials Remain Far From The Largest Generational Bloc Of Actual Voters. It Is One Thing To Be Eligible To Vote And Another Entirely To Cast A Ballot. [PewResearch, 5/16/16]

So, less than three months from a national election, where does that leave us? I guess time will tell. If history is precedent and Millennials continue to be outvoted by Boomers and Gen Xers, maybe the Republicans won’t get bitten on the environmental issue. Not this year anyway. But even a lot of Republican sages are saying that Millennials’ attitudes will have to be respected and accounted for in future elections.

Republican Pollster Bill Mcinturff : “I Kind Of Hate To Say It, But The Millennial Generation Is Now Important. Their Views Are Becoming The Dominant Public Views. Their Attitudes About Gay Marriage And Social Tolerance Are Radically Different Than The Previous Generations, And They Are Restructuring Our Views.” [NextGen Climate, 4/29/16]

Then again, it’s entirely possible that jobs, the economy, terrorism, foreign policy, e-mail servers, personal tax returns and an unending barrage of personal attacks will overshadow the environment this time as a tipping point for presidential voters. The first debate in September should be a good indicator. If that happens, watch for energy and environment to bubble up instead as issues further down the ballot in states that produce large amounts of fossil fuels (West Virginia, Kentucky, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado) as well as those where renewable energy sources are plentiful (California, Arizona, Nevada).

But whether or not energy, climate change and the environment become flashpoints in this year’s national election, two facts remain. First, energy and the environment is one of the rare issues that affect everyone, independent of wealth, race, age, party affiliation, sexual orientation or religion. Without a healthy planet, none of that other stuff is going to matter. Second, the strength and political influence of the Millennial Generation is going to do nothing but grow in the coming years. And Millennials care about our planet. Deeply.

Any politician, party or political entity that fails to recognize those facts moving forward does so at their own peril. The same goes for any company, group or institution whose existence is affected by the decisions those politicians and parties make (and I can’t think of any that aren’t).

However, those who do speak, and act, responsibly to those concerns will be heard by the most environmentally aware generation America has ever produced.

 

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What do the National Park Service and R&R Partners have in common?

Although it may at times feel otherwise, 2016 is not without its occasions for national unity and celebration. As the National Park Service turns 100 years old, our national treasures and those leaders dedicated to preserving them deserve our awe and admiration.

One such leader, former Congressman Steven Horsford, currently directs R&R Resources+ and manages the Washington, D.C., office of international marketing communications and government affairs firm, R&R Partners. In 2014, Congressman Horsford and other members of Nevada’s congressional delegation worked in a bipartisan manner to pass legislation that would create the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. “The fact that a literal ice age of artifacts exists just miles from the Las Vegas Strip and can be shared with local residents and millions of tourists alike, made it something I had to get behind to push through Congress,” said Horsford. More than 22,000 acres in size, Tule Springs is revered for its numerous paleontological and archeological sites.

National Park Service

Tule Springs Fossil Beds Welcome Sign

While enthusiasm for the preservation of the fossil beds was expected from a broad range of conservationists and scientists, business leaders also applauded the designation, indicating once more that companies understand that sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are not passing trends.[1] Horsford notes, “From the very beginning of the process, business leaders joined with the conservation community and local elected officials to make the case for why Tule Springs should be designated as a national monument.” 

CSR and Diversity
Horsford doesn’t just grasp and provide leadership on issues surrounding CSR and sustainability. As the first African-American elected to Congress from the state of Nevada, he also knows a thing or two about diversity. He oversees R&R’s integrated services efforts in diversity media training and corporate communications, workforce and vendor/supplier engagement, and international affairs for R&R’s nine offices throughout the U.S. and Mexico City. “Moreover, the idea that young people from all over the surrounding communities, including those from diverse backgrounds who may not have the same opportunity to experience something like what Tule Springs offers, also was a major selling point,” he said.

Horsford has a commanding presence at the crossroads of diversity, politics, business and sustainability. This intersection represents today’s business reality and is a place from which we should all be striving to lead—after returning from celebrating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary at Tule Springs, of course.

National Park Service

Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument

[1](For a great example of a business that takes both sustainability and the national parks seriously, visit Subaru’s environmental site to learn more about its National Park Zero-landfill Initiative.) 

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Pulling Back the Curtain on GPA, Its Victories and How It Helps Deliver for Our Clients

If you’re unfamiliar with the acronym “GPA,” you’re not alone. While its scope is one of the largest at R&R Partners, with nine different offices in six states and in Washington, D.C., the government and public affairs (GPA) department is probably the least familiar to our fellow employees, let alone the people and communities we serve.

Our most common activity is building relationships and speaking directly with elected officials and key community leaders at every level on behalf of our clients. Unlike many firms, R&R has clients of just about every size, industry and need. Here in Nevada, we routinely work with city council members, mayors, county commissioners, federal and state legislators, and governors on issues big and small. Our clients include well-known names like Microsoft, Herbalife, the Cleveland Clinic and American Medical Response. All have tremendous impact on our communities.

But access to decision makers is an increasingly small part of success in this arena. Modern political “lobbying” and relationship building is a far cry from the smoke-filled rooms of a century ago. Today, our best weapon is education. Term limits, a high-intensity news cycle and a younger generation of politicians means we need to know our issues like energy, the environment and economic development better than anyone. This expertise is put to use persuading decision makers to adopt the best policies possible.

So now that you’re more familiar with what we do, you may be wondering what success looks like in GPA. Here are some examples of recent successes here at R&R:

Competing against nearly every other state, many with highly successful economic development programs, our Nevada GPA team helped broker a deal to locate Faraday Future’s (billion-dollar electric car company) first U.S. factory here in Southern Nevada. This project alone could bring 4,500 new jobs to the area.

Our Denver GPA team helped create an innovative program that will be a model for Colorado School Districts. Colorado State University will locate a new administration building on property owned by the Aurora Public Schools. Instead of a traditional lease, this program will allow CSU to pay the school system in tuition credits, allowing the Aurora superintendent to provide four-year scholarships to potentially 200 public school students. Many of these students will be the first in their families to attend college and otherwise be without the means to afford higher education.

More than 60,000 refugees currently reside in Salt Lake County. This extraordinary demographic transformation provided an opportunity for our Utah GPA team to work with our client, the Partnership for a New American Economy, to engage local leaders and community members to build a more welcoming community that helps maximize the contributions of these new Americans.

In Nevada, our GPA team also authored and fought to pass landmark anti-bullying in schools legislation, helping protect the most vulnerable among us. The amount of money we helped get dedicated toward the general fund for anti-bullying efforts – specifically, in creating the Office of Safe and Respectful Learning within the Nevada Department of Education – helped secure $16 million in funding for schools to contract with social workers to address the problem. Officials say the program will be in 140 schools in the first year and 280 in the second year.

While often the least publicized successes of our agency, the work of our GPA team often has the most direct and widespread impact on many of our lives, and that’s a very visible thing in the communities in which we work, learn and live our lives.

 

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The R&R Partners Intern Experience

Going into an internship, you never know what to expect. You wonder if you’re going to be fetching donuts and coffee, doing busy work, or if you’ll actually gain valuable knowledge from the whole thing. Coming out of college, I had experienced a variety of internships − all of which left me feeling almost just as unsure of what I wanted to do as before I started them. If any of you can relate, then you know that the feeling of uncertainty is pretty terrifying as a recent grad.

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Luckily, I’m happy to say that R&R Partners has put my previous internships to shame, and my supervisor and mentor was ready to put me to work in helping her with both internal and external communications. While I was quite overwhelmed at first with all the new and intimidating tasks, I quickly got in the groove of my new position as an operations intern. At R&R, I particularly enjoyed my time as an intern because it was vastly different from my past internships in a few ways:

  • I was given responsibility in helping with real projects.
  • I felt that I was able to contribute to the company.
  • I was included in meetings and felt more involved.
  • I came out of the internship able to say that I’ve truly learned a lot.
  • I felt a sense of “this is where I want to be.”

One of my favorite learning aspects of the program was that interns from all offices had a chance to sit down as a group and learn more about the brand, creative, media and engagement departments. This helped us to really gauge how the different components of the agency work in sync to create a whole. If we were specifically interested in one particular area after learning about it, we were given the chance to shadow someone from that department to see if it’s something we want to pursue. Additionally, our chief strategic officer and principal took time to sit down with us and go over our agency’s most successful campaigns, why they worked and the strategy behind them.

Within only two months at R&R, I not only learned to develop my writing skills, but I also got a taste of the different departments, how they all work together and what the “one agency” concept really means. “One agency” is a mantra heard throughout the agency that emphasizes that, despite having nine offices across the U.S. and Mexico, we work together as one, and our culture comes together to create one big family – and this concept was brought to familiarity as all the interns worked together on our summer projects. As one of the summer interns put it:

Blockquote_revised-02“My main goal this summer as an R&R intern was to gain diverse, real-world and hands-on experience. The intern program helped me achieve this goal,” says Dominique Glass, Project Management intern. “From hour-long presentations from various departments to working with other interns to solve a company problem, R&R’s new intern program gave me structure to learn and challenge myself. I have learned how to be a team player, manage my time and learn how a firm operates. Going back to school this semester, I feel that I will succeed beyond measure in all group projects and will think more outside of the box. Thank you, R&R, for giving me the tools and freedom to flourish on through the next step of my career.”

The first project of this summer’s internship program involved working in groups with other R&R interns possessing different skill sets and working in other locations to solve a real business problem for R&R. Then, we presented our plans to agency leadership. The chance to make a name for yourself and receive face time from executives as an intern is rare in most internship programs, so I jumped on the opportunity to do so. We gathered feedback from employees across a variety of departments, and we were able to tailor our solutions according to real data.

The second project of the program was also an assignment for the interns across eight R&R offices in the U.S. to work together to educate the agency on how to market to Millennials. While it was challenging to meet across the geographical difference and throughout time zones, it was a great experience to interact with each and every intern. Working with a lot of different people, I learned about myself, my role and how I function with others.Icons-infograph-04Overall, my intern experience was one for the books. The fact that R&R Partners is an independent agency was crucial in leading me to my current position. It allowed me invaluable face time with our team partners and leadership, and now I’m part of the R&R family. I’m excited to see the next iteration of the intern program implemented with our next round of interns, but mostly I’m excited to watch their presentations this time as an official R&R employee. ;)

Cheers!

 

 

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Not An Ordinary Conference: The 2016 Women’s Leadership Conference Inspires Our Leaders

I’ve attended conferences across the globe, including an education industry show in London and an energy-efficiency segment event in Kuala Lumpur. In past roles, I’ve even had the opportunity to speak at several—two highlights being at the World Energy Efficiency Congress in Abu Dhabi and at regional conference in Thailand. As a veteran to keynotes, breakout sessions, inspirational speakers, and the art of conference lanyard collection, I feel like I have experienced it all.

And I was wrong. Attending a leadership conference specifically geared to the inspiration, celebration and development of women was a new experience. Celebrating its 10th year and hosted by the MGM Resorts Foundation, this week’s Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC2016) in Las Vegas was a dynamic event with a full agenda for its sold-out crowd of 1,000 women (and a few men). I could wax poetically about the powerful lineup of amazing women, like Phyllis A. James (MGM Resort International’s chief diversity officer), who left me with this thought—that “women have multiple glass ceilings, yet each of us has a hammer.” Yet, I thought I’d rely on the experiences of my talented colleagues who also attended WLC2016, all of whom were invited guests of the R&R Foundation, a proud WLC2016 sponsor.

“The big theme I took away was leaning in to fears,” says Julie Teasley, director of operations. Several speakers directly mentioned the ideology that Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg made famous in a TED Talk, and others emphasized that instead of waiting to be recognized, women should move forward to success. Donna Brazile, a favorite of attendees who made an impact on several of us, quipped, “Why are you still waiting to be asked to lead? Why not you? There is no one better.”

Donna is a veteran democratic political strategist and most recently named interim chair of the DNC. Her hilarious sense of humor and words of wisdom also resonated with Yanick Dalhouse, account director from R&R Resources+ in Washington, D.C. She recalls Donna saying, “We don’t have to check the boxes that others give us; we can check our own.” And this author giggled along with the entire room to this Donna-ism: “I’ve always told the men I’ve worked with … when I come through the door, I’m not asking you to leave. I’m just saying scoot over!”

R&R’s Chantel Perreault, operations supervisor, recalls several speakers talking about focusing on the important priorities, and breakout speaker Judi Holler added that the master of all fears is the fear that one will succeed. Judi, a former improv comedian at Chicago’s famous Second City, had a quote that resonated with Chantel: “Make fear your homeboy.”

Something that resonated with Joan Jungblut, corporate media director, from several of the speakers, was best articulated by Donna Brazile: “No matter how you got in the room, bring others with you,” which is to say seize the opportunities that arise for you, as well as create opportunities for others to rise. Another point that was covered in sessions by both Dr. Lalia Rach and Eric Boles was that mediocrity is contagious. Joan says, “It’s easy and ‘safe’ to be average, and so we don’t set goals high enough. We have to set high expectations for ourselves and our teams so we rise to those expectations.”

“Overall, I came away with mixed emotions: on the one hand, we’ve come so far,” shares Sara Macfarlane, director of insight. “But on the other, you could see how even among some of the monumental women on stage, we continue to struggle with the duality of being a professional woman and that we continue to limit ourselves.” Karyn Hearn-Phillips, project supervisor, recalls Judi Holler’s “There are no mistakes, only gifts,” and this advice that sums up the elegance and professionalism that we all hope to be, shared by Donna Brazile: “Be a woman of grace, valor and tenacity.”

Lindsey Patterson, media director, recalled this additional Donna gem that I will leave you with: “Relationships matter. Even when you have staunchly different views, it’s important to play nicely.” With such an outstanding leadership conference under our belts, and with the wisdom by such incredible leaders at our fingertips, we are inspired. And I hope this recap and the learnings of several women leaders at R&R Partners serve to inspire you, as well.

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“Sorry” Goes Miles for a Brand in Crisis

There are actually three things that are certainties in life: death, taxes and computer malfunctions. Delta Air Lines had a harsh dose of technology reality in the middle of the night on Monday, August 8, when a computer outage grounded all of the airline’s flights. Many passengers were already on board their planes; others settled in for the night in airports.

We’ve all seen how badly this can turn out for a brand – whether the problem is your company’s fault or not, people are angry, plans are disrupted, and everyone affected wants someone to blame. Social media channels are instantly flooded with pictures and videos of all the misery. In the midst of all the chaos, never forget that most of your customers want one simple thing – a heartfelt apology. Not excuses, not empty promises – just “I know this is a terrible inconvenience, and I’m truly sorry.”

Understandably, in some cases apologies can be tricky, with lawyers waiting to pounce with class action suits at any admission of guilt or responsibility. In Delta’s case, this was a nonissue. By mid-morning, headlines had begun to turn from NBC News’ “Delta Cancels 400+ Flights” to CNN’s “Pizza, Beer Ease the Delta Pain.” The airline had reacted quickly and thoughtfully, bringing food on board for passengers, and offering food to those stranded in airports as well.

By midday, Delta had released a video of CEO Ed Bastian standing in the Delta operations and customer center. He looked straight into the camera, apologized to customers for the inconvenience several times, offered systemwide waivers for passengers, and thanked his team for the hard work they were doing to rectify the situation. It was brief, genuine and perfect.

Other than being prepared in advance for a crisis of this magnitude, the number one rule is to respond quickly and sincerely. When thousands are inconvenienced due to your product’s deficiency, with weddings delayed and vacations deferred, we want to know you feel our pain, and we want it to be the top executive looking as miserable as we are.

Hats off to Delta for a crisis communications job well done.

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Diversity as a Part of CSR Efforts: Key Takeaways from the Harvard Business Review

In the July-August 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review, authors of three articles tackle the topic of diversity in the workplace. Find our Key Takeaways and Top Five Do’s to integrate with or update the diversity pillar of your business’ current Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts.

Key Takeaways

An abundant number of studies have shown that “a diverse workforce measurably improves decision-making, problem-solving, creativity, innovation and flexibility” (Burrell, 2016). Given the large resources dedicated toward diversity programs, organizations seem to be embracing these findings.

However, many companies have been using approaches developed in the 1960s, and are failing to measure whether or not those diversity programs work. Unfortunately, findings by researchers dedicated to measuring the effectiveness of diversity programs indicate certain approaches are not only not working (“[diversity training programs] largely don’t change attitudes, let alone behavior” (Bohnet, 2016), but are working against the very outcomes sought.

For example, mandatory diversity training programs are even associated with backlash, i.e. activation of bias. With the failure of diversity programs to produce desired results, the following should be of no surprise: “Black men have barely gained ground in corporate management since 1985. White women haven’t progressed since 2000. It isn’t that there aren’t enough educated women and minorities out there—both groups have made huge educations gains over the past two generations” (Dobbin, 2016).

In order to address lackluster approaches, companies should seek out diversity programs that researchers have found to be most effective in positively impacting workforce diversity. “Interventions such as targeted college recruitment, mentoring programs, self-managed teams and task forces have boosted diversity in business” (Dobbin, 2016). Designing your organization’s processes to avoid biased decision-making in the first place will also lead to better outcomes. These methods, and other “do’s” below as culled from the HBR authors’ insights, can help your organization make strides toward a diverse workforce.

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Top Five Dos
  1. Collect and study your organization’s diversity-related data. This will allow you to make informed decisions about the areas where you need improvement.
  2. Define success for and measure the impact of your diversity program(s). Rigor in this area should match that of any other.
  3. Ease up on the control tactics on your managers. It’s more effective to engage managers in solving the problem, increase their on-the-job contact with female and minority workers, and promote social accountability—the desire to look fair-minded (Dobbin, 2016).
  4. Re-design your processes to prevent biased choices in the first place, an approach known as choice architecture. For example, use structured interviews where every candidate is given the same question and strike self-evaluations from performance appraisals (which tend to benefit certain demographic groups). Behavioral design can be effective in mitigating bias.
  5. Challenge perceptions of merit. If those making the hiring, promoting and compensation decisions in an organization fail to understand the research tying good fortune to good success, it can have negative implications for underrepresented demographic groups.

References

Bohnet, I. (2016, July-August). Designing a Bias-Free Organization. 63-67. (G. Morse, Interviewer) Harvard Business Review.

Burrell, L. (2016, July-August). We Just Can’t Handle Diversity: A Research Roundup. Harvard Business Review, pp. 71-74.

Dobbin, F. (2016, July-August). Why Diversity Programs Fail And What Works Better. Harvard Business Review, pp. 53-60.

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4 BIG TAKEAWAYS FROM THE DENVER DIGITAL SUMMIT

The digital landscape is always evolving and R&R Partners is dedicated to ensuring its clients are on the forefront of those innovations. Recently, several members from the Denver digital team had the fortune of attending the annual Denver Digital Summit. Jessica Hunt, Katie Fisher, Erin Mowry, Kellie Starr and Brian Kelley attended the two-day summit in downtown Denver to hear about the latest trends in digital and to stay on top of the various categories within the industry. This year’s sessions focused heavily on SEO (mobile first!), Snapchat, the importance of video in social media, content marketing and customer experience. The five of us often split up into different sessions to ensure we were getting exposure to every relevant topic. Later in the evenings, we rubbed elbows and clinked glasses with some of Denver’s digital finest. We’re excited to continue investing in the capabilities of our people and are confident that many of our learnings from this opportunity will help us to keep on #winning in digital for our clients!

Below are Kellie Starr and Brian Kelley’s four key takeaways from the summit:

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R&R at Project El Crucero in Nicaragua

This past week, I had the pleasure of joining Sean Tonner and Bruce Wilcox on their annual trip to Nicaragua. As first-timers to the Nicaragua “Project El Crucero” service trip, my daughter Olivia and I didn’t know what to expect. Project El Crucero is a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit, volunteer-led organization and has been operating the Susie Syke Medical Clinic in El Crucero, Nicaragua, for over six years. The clinic’s team has treated thousands of patients and provided thousands of meals to the hungry children. It operates four days per week with medical, dental and feeding programs. The total cost to operate the clinic is less than $3,500 per month, with nearly every dollar spent on serving the community.

IMG_9455I can truly say it exceeded our expectations and my fears were quickly put to ease. To see the beautiful children and their families in the small, impoverished community of El Crucero truly took our breath away and brought us to tears. They have so little, yet are so happy and grateful. What an unforgettable lesson in gratitude and the importance of serving others. Seeing the excitement on the children’s faces when we arrived was so powerful. To see the young men so eager to work and the obvious pride they took in their workmanship was inspiring. And on a personal note, seeing the joy on my daughter’s face as she bonded with the children filled my heart with love and a renewed perspective of what really matters.

It was so astonishing and moving to see what a huge impact this group was able to make in five short days. The accomplishments of the group varied during our time there: we moved tons of rock and gravel to repave the property and the driveway; fixed the swing set for the kids; built a wall around the outside door of the clinic for weather protection; reinforced the water tower; and mounted a basketball hoop. Our volunteers conducted the meal program for the children—which is the best meal they will have all week—and delivered 22 food baskets to a few families in need in the surrounding neighborhoods. Additionally, we created art out of old window panes; repaired the leaking roof; conducted English, as a second language, classes for the kids; painted the walls; fixed the clinic signs; repaired the septic line; and repaired leaking window seals.

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Even with the above jobs, we endlessly played with the sweet children of El Crucero, which brought delight to them and the teenagers on the trip; and most importantly, we treated several hundred patients who otherwise would have no access to health care. Bruce Wilcox, R&R’s VP of technology, has been on the annual trip four years in a row, and he says, “The reason I keep going is for perspective. Even my worst day is multitudes better than their best days, yet I always come back, gaining more than I’ve given.”

I can’t say enough about the Project El Crucero Foundation, headed by Jamie and Sara Hendren and my R&R Partners colleague Sean Tonner and his wife Laura. What an incredible and inspirational group of people! They truly believe in serving others, and that was so evident in working with them and their children. There were 33 of us in the group. The majority of the group was from Denver and have been on this trip together many times. Olivia and I were two of the few rookies. From the beginning, the families welcomed us to their tight-knit group and made us feel part of the family. I was so appreciative of that kindness.

“Project El Crucero and its clinic are a beacon of light for the community,” shares Sean, who is the president of R&R Partners Denver. “I, and the many R&R employees who have traveled to El Crucero over the years, have witnessed firsthand what a difference it is making every day for some of the most needy people in the Western Hemisphere, as The Beatles famous sang, “the more you give the more your get.” I always come away from El Crucero with the soul bucket a little fuller.”

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Even though my work at R&R brings me close to many nonprofit organizations with cause marketing campaigns, it was very rewarding to work directly within the community. For those of you who have considered taking a trip such as this one, I highly recommend it.  It is an experience that will affect you in ways you never can imagine. And you will have lifetime memories of service, joy, love and gratitude.

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