JoTo PR Spotlights the Symbiosis of Disruption and Public Relations

Brands seeking to build market share and foster consumer evangelism often aim to do so through industry disruption.(1) Yet those who shake up the status quo frequently face greater public scrutiny and challenges, as Uber, Airbnb and Netflix have all discovered.(2–9) Karla Jo Helms of JoTo PR explains why public relations can be invaluable both in helping brands to create disruption, triumph over business crises and/or secure a competitive advantage.

[Disruption, or “disruptive innovation,” is defined as a type of innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products, and alliances.] (2)

In a Forbes profile of the “25 Most Disruptive Brands,” Uber and Airbnb claimed the top two spots while Netflix came in at number 7.(1) “Companies that aspire to stand out in their industry—or forge a new one—can learn a lot from these disruptors,” noted Helms, who is the founder and CEO of JoTo PR. “Disruption is the first stage of ROI in public relations, followed by exposure and influence. Our firm and clients have proven how effective PR can be in breaking through the barriers to create trust through disruption, and it can play an equally critical role when a disruptor faces challenges. Public relations can help disruptors overcome adversity, or it can be leveraged by competitors to vault ahead.”

When ride sharing disrupted the taxi and rental-car industries, Uber emerged as king. In January 2014, the company owned 91% of the U.S. ride-sharing market; however, a series of blunders and bad publicity—including allegations of sexual harassment, stealing trade secrets and profiteering—caused its market share to fall below 75% as of last August. Uber suffered its steepest drop after it was accused of profiteering during a taxi union strike in protest of President Trump’s proposed Muslim ban; following the subsequent #DeleteUber campaign the week of January 30, 2017, its market share dipped from 81% to 76%.(3) Many of Uber’s defectors appear to have switched to Lyft, which gained roughly 5% in market share the same week(3) and earned public praise for its $1 million donation to the American Civil Liberties Union.(4) Consumer surveys in 2016 and 2017 confirm that Lyft is gaining ground; the percentage of users citing Uber as their preferred ride-sharing service slipped from 76% to 65%, while those favoring Lyft climbed from 10% to 18%.(5)

Just as ride-sharing revolutionized ground transportation, Airbnb has created major disruption in the hospitality industry. Airbnb’s total bookings increased 49% last year, while its share of the lodging market grew from 17% to 20%; meanwhile, major hotel chains’ share has fallen—Hilton’s market share dropped from 21% to 19%.(6) Despite Airbnb’s upward trajectory, the brand has had to contend with negative publicity and irate social media posts from users with poor rental experiences who accused Airbnb of renting unsafe properties, siding with hosts and refusing refunds.(7) In response, Airbnb reiterated its aim of providing positive experiences and urged users to reach out for a refund or rebooking if a home is not as advertised.(6) The company also recently announced that it will be opening up its booking platform to hotels through a large third-party distribution network,(8) potentially turning its market rivals into clients.

Netflix is another notable disruptor that has changed the way consumers access video content. Among U.S. households with WiFi access, 53% use at least one direct-to-consumer (over-the-top, or OTT) streaming service. Netflix is the current OTT leader with 75% reach, while its nearest competitor, YouTube, has 53% reach.(8) Some critics have accused Netflix of promoting binge-watching, a behavior linked to poor sleep quality, low self-regulation, depression and anxiety.(10) Rather than struggling against its binge-watching association, Netflix celebrates it. The company has used the term “binge” in more than 15 press releases to date, and it coined its own term “binge-racing” in reference to users who aim to watch an entire season in 24 hours; in fact, Netflix reported its number of binge racers was more than 20 times higher in 2016 than 2013.(10) Netflix’s CEO has called sleep the brand’s biggest competitor, and the company has funded studies that found 73% of TV streamers have positive feelings and feel no guilt about binge watching.(10)

“These industry disruptors have all discovered the power of public relations, for better or worse,” explained Helms. She says Uber’s inability to stay ahead of its scandals has caused the brand to lose market share, when effective crisis management could have prevented that. Meanwhile, Lyft capitalized on Uber’s problems and its own positive publicity to gain a better foothold in the market. Though Airbnb took flack from consumers with negative experiences, Helms credits the company for responding publicly and advising users on how to secure a refund or rebooking, and she believes the move to include hotels on the platform positions Airbnb well for future growth. Finally, Helms points to Netflix as an example of a brand that has been particularly successful in using PR to influence opinions and direct the conversation within its market.

“You can’t buy a reputation as a disruptor or silence scandals through marketing and advertising spend,” Helms asserted. “If you are going to innovate, you will disrupt—there is no way out of it. But earned PR coverage can help brands achieve positive exposure and influence to quell the tides of distrust that comes with change. Likewise, companies who proactively use PR will find it easier to manage their reputation in times of crisis—or to turn a rivals’ shortcomings to their own benefit.”

JoTo embraces a nonconventional approach to public relations, with Helms serving as the company’s Chief Evangelist and Anti-PR Strategist. Businesses can learn more about how public relations supports disruption by downloading JoTo’s free eBook on PR ROI at

About JoTo PR:

After doing marketing research on a cross-section majority of 5,000 CEOs of fast-growth trajectory companies and finding out exactly how they used PR, how they measured it and how they wanted the PR industry to be different, PR veteran and innovator Karla Jo Helms created JoTo PR and established its entire business model on those research findings. Helms is the Chief Evangelist and Anti-PR Strategist for JoTo PR. Experienced in crisis management, she learned firsthand how unforgiving business can be when millions of dollars are on the line—and how the control of public opinion often determines whether one company is happily chosen, or another is brutally rejected. Astute in recognizing industry changes since its launch in 2009, JoTo PR’s team utilizes newly established patterns to create timely PR campaigns comprising both traditional and the latest proven digital media methods. This unique skill enables them to continue to increase market share and improve return on investment (ROI) for their clients, year after year—beating usual industry standards. Based in Tampa Bay, Florida, JoTo PR is an established international public relations agency. Today, all processes of the agency are streamlined PR services that have become the hallmark of the JoTo PR name. For more information, visit JoTo PR online at

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