Yes, if you can believe it, I am still asked this question and rather frequently (admittedly, it’s sometimes from family members who aren’t sure what I do, but that’s a different blog post altogether). The short answer is no, all publicity is not good publicity. Fortunately, we are rarely dealing with a crisis situation to de-flame or an investigative reporter looking to dig up the truth on our clients, but rather we’re looking to promote a positive company announcement, encourage the client’s inclusion in a trend story or promote their product wares. In doing so, though, interested reporters in today’s “more with less” media industry are misconstruing facts or – if time – looking for the dark side of the rainbow to provide a more balanced article. We often find ourselves counseling our clients who have trouble understanding why the reporter has jumbled the facts or, worse yet, included a negative comment.
The good news is that in the digital age, facts can be corrected almost instantaneously and most reporters are willing to do so. But, what do you do when a negative statement is made when, frankly, it’s true? I’m a big believer in credibility–who isn’t. From a reader’s point of view, a balanced article that highlights both sides of the coin is far more palatable than a press release regurgitation and paints the company in a more realistic light. Give me a new angle and yes, even if some negative points are made, I will appreciate the company’s position and/or product far more in the end. What’s your view?
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Apple’s public relations efforts around this weekâ€™s iPad launch seemed to go smoothly with stories in all major national news outlets and hype on social media sites and blogs. That was until a Wi-Fi issue was reported by users and was acknowledged by Apple on Monday. To handle the crisis and thwart negative feedback, Apple posted aÂ message on its iPad support website saying: â€śUnder certain conditions, iPad may not automatically rejoin a known Wi-Fi network after restart or waking from sleep.â€ť Apple then offered a long list of tips for troubleshooting the problem.
Is this approach offering iPad owners enough support? Should Apple have communicated the issue in other ways? In my opinion, the company reacted quickly with a fast fix for users, but it didnâ€™t address whether the issue would be resolved for future models. And, if the problem persists, should users return their iPad (likely something Apple would prefer to avoid)? As an Apple customer, I have always been pleased with their level of customer service. However, they better quickly correct the Wi-Fi issue on their â€śWi-Fi productâ€ť before a social media attack unleashes on Twitter or YouTube. So far, even with the minor product mishap, press coverage remains positive for the most part and more than 300,000 iPads have been sold. Stay tuned.
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I met a fellow technology PR professional at a local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) event here in Denver a few weeks ago, and after swapping backgrounds and stories, she setup a networking meeting for me with one of her colleagues who manages similar types of PR and social media programs. Working from an independent office, I am equally comfortable with phone and in-person meetings, but the in-person exchanges are less frequent.
Anyway, I met my networking contactâ€™s colleague for coffee downtown and we instantly hit it off. We pow-wowed in the middle of Starbuckâ€™s and the conversation flowed through our professional backgrounds, industry best practices, and anecdotes of what has worked well for our respective companies. But, what really struck me was how the â€śface-to-faceâ€ť element made it easier for us to be more forthcoming. Being in person facilitated a real positive vibe â€“ seemingly more so than a phone conversation may have generated â€“ as we fed off each otherâ€™s excitement and body language. In todayâ€™s â€śvirtualâ€ť environment, being able to develop a relationship over the phone and email is still key (we have clients weâ€™ve never met in person) but the face-to-face benefit is huge â€“ perhaps that is why so many deals are forged from introductions at trade shows and conferences.
Of course, this is just my personal anecdote, and some of this depends on individualsâ€™ preferences for how they communicate best, but Iâ€™d be interested in othersâ€™ experiencesâ€”do phone or in-person meetings forge stronger relationships or partnerships for you?
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Early 1990â€™s, it was a big snowstorm. In my cul de sac, a dozen townhouses were isolated. No business was conducted. Even those with computers at home were hampered by broadband and Internet limitations. So we had a three-day party. Chili and beer. Pot roast and wine. Afternoon poker.
Fast forward to 2003 in Young & Associates’ expansive offices. It was an unusual morning. Two of the staff, unbeknownst to the other, announced they were moving from the area. To keep a successful team with a remarkable success record together, we decided to â€śgo virtualâ€ť.
The â€śgoâ€ť needed a lot of planning as our technology and work habits were geared to brick and mortar. An in-house committee reviewed and tested options to seamlessly connect remote offices, enhance intra- and inter- communication and ensure security.
Three years later, others moved and virtual became our way of life, both professionally and personally.Â Although we still are exploring, here are some of the lessons we learned:
Take baby steps â€“ If you have employees who request working at home or you want to explore virtual options, do a test. Measure results.
Upgrade your technology for mobility â€“ Even if you donâ€™t go virtual, todayâ€™s world requires the best in wireless and mobile capabilities for anyplace-anytime work environments.
Deal with the human issues â€“ Working in pajamas in a corner of your bedroom is not going to make it. Feeling isolated, yes, it is real. To ensure a team spirit we meet bi-annually.
Review, challenge & change â€“ What is and isnâ€™t working? Formally review personal and professional issues. Something as simple as staff in different time zones impacts office hours. Make adjustments when needed.
I would like to hear your stories about working virtually, good and bad. And, do I miss the snow parties, you bet.
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Crisis communications has had its hands full over the last few weeks. Â From the terrible tragedy at SeaWorld to continuing product issues at Toyota to the Tiger Woods’ scandal, crisis communications 101 has been in high demand.
When all is said and done, the first rule of crisis communications is simple and something your parents and teachers probably taught you at an early age – tell the truth. Â Yes, I said it: the truth is a very powerful thing. Â Public relations – in my opinion – shouldn’t be used to spin or cover up an issue that could damage the reputation of a theme park, an automaker or an athlete. Â Instead, it should be used to tell the truth, explain to the public in a straightforward way the reason for the problem and focus on positive steps and actions that will take place in the future to prevent any further wrongdoing.
Of course, it is a challenge when your key spokespeople misspeak or crack under pressure during a press conference, but our role as PR professionals should be to coach them through tough times and give them a strong set of talking points to stick to when the media comes a calling.Â Donâ€™t get me wrong, rebuilding reputations is very tough work and takes time, but it can be done with a strategic communications plan that is built around the truth.
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In an effort to tighten the proverbial Y&A belt, we decided to forego conference attendance in favor of webinars, etc in 2009. This year, as things are on the upswing, I have been fortunate to get out of my lair and attend a few client trade conferences and seminars. For the larger events, I am amazed that conference organizers are still allowing presenters to so boldly pitch their own wares. Not to steal Judge Judy’s shtick, but “Donâ€™t pee on me and tell me itâ€™s raining.”
For the last few years, I have heard countless conference planners and owners bemoan decreasing attendance sponsorship and attendance numbers. No kidding. Why would I attend a conference and pay 1,000 bucks or moreâ€”plus travel expensesâ€”only to hear a sales preso when I expected to come and learn something. If thatâ€™s the case, next time Iâ€™ll buy the $150 conference expo pass and go from booth to booth asking for my own tailored sales pitch. Conferences are always great for networking and exposing your organization, but there needs to be a safe haven for pure and simple learning.
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With Valentineâ€™s Day fresh on the brain, I was thinking about how many of the same tenets for personal friendships or romantic relationships also apply to professional relationships with reporters or bloggers. The dance of communication (or miscommunication at times) plays a major role, and there must be interest on both sides for it to work. With the â€ťHallmark holidayâ€ť in mind, I offer five ways to a reporterâ€™s or bloggerâ€™s heartâ€¦Please drop a comment on whether these work for you or if you have others to add.
1)Â Â Â Show a Common Interest â€“ Do your research and demonstrate your familiarity with their work by reading their articles/posts before you contact them. This is a simple, but often overlooked, way to earn bonus points and to show them that youâ€™ve tailored your story idea for them rather than a mass reporter e-mail.
2)Â Â Â Know Their Communication Preferences â€“ Is a particular reporter always on Twitter but you canâ€™t get them on the phone or to respond to e-mail? Iâ€™ve recently had success with this one by sending a Twitter Direct Message to a hard-to-reach tech reporter (after we reciprocated follows) and got interest within minutes.
3)Â Â Â Stay in Touch â€“ After the correspondence for a particular story has wrapped it may seem unnecessary to continue the dialogue, but staying on the radar requires a little TLC. Donâ€™t be afraid to check in again in a month or two if you have another valuable market perspective to share or to see what the reporter or blogger is working on now.
4)Â Â Â Offer Interesting Stories â€“ Reporters and bloggers are always looking for a unique perspective to capture readersâ€™ attention, so up your chances of being included by giving them a spice of controversy (enough to pique attention without being reckless) or presenting a new or different angle for a relevant topic.
5)Â Â Â Follow Through â€“ Media contacts remember which marketing and PR professionals make their jobs easier by facilitating interviews around deadlines and providing requested follow-up material in a timely manner. They also remember the ones who donâ€™t, so deliver on your promises before closing out an interview or story.
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