In case you haven’t seen it, the latest edition of our newsletter–The Spark–is out! Â The issue celebrates new client Shooger and the renewal of PeriscopeIQ, as well as announces the purchase of Young & Associates by long-term employees Jennifer MacLeid Qotb and Meggan Manson. It also offers signs that a start-up is ready for a PR partner, and Meggan Manson pens a My Two Cents column on preparing corporate leaders to deliver sound and confident speaking engagements and interviews without landing in the hot seat like Mark Zuckerberg at All Things D8. There’s also a PR Pulse on how to work around customers’ tight-lipped media policies to showcase their satisfaction with your company’s product or services. Read the full edition here.
As the end of LOST is drawing near, I realized that the hit TV series, a favorite among some of the Y&A team, relates to PR in several ways. LOSTâ€™s themes â€“ redemption, destiny and survival â€“ tie directly to PR.Â Have I LOST you?Â Thatâ€™s okay â€“ let me explain.
Some argue that PR is often about redemption.Â Look at the athletes and celebrities who try desperately to dig themselves out of PR nightmares. Companies fall victim to this approach too. Unfortunately, PR is too often used in a reactive manner to redeem some sort of wrongdoing or mistake.
The best PR folks, however, have a more proactive approach, believing you create your own destiny with a solid communications strategy and media relations outreach.Â We donâ€™t wait for articles and blog posts to be written about our clients.Â Instead, we continuously approach key reporters and bloggers with trends, news and company updates.
Also, a team-approach is key to a PR program.Â LOST fans know this is also critical for our favorite charactersâ€™ survival.Â As Jack said, â€śif we canâ€™t live together, weâ€™re going to die alone.â€ť This holds true for PR too and is an appropriate motto for the relationship between journalists and PR professionals.
The PR analogies aside, if it isnâ€™t too much to ask â€“ it would be great to find out what LOSTâ€™s infamous numbers mean and the real purpose of the smoke monster on Sunday.
I was rather cocky when I started Young & Associates in 1982. I found a niche not being filled by focusing on technology.”You don’t know anything about technology,” they said. Friends warnings that Â “no females own public relations firms” seemed a challenge. Being underfunded certainly was not going to stop me from leasing thrice the amount of space two and half of us would need. Â “I’ll need the space to grow,” I countered. Starting with flagship account Intelmatique, an arm of France Telecom, would give me the base needed to grow. “You don’t even speak French and what if you lose them.” Oh, my, there are so many dream slayers out there.
Of course, there were ups and down. That is what business is all about. But, through it all I stayed pretty true to my mantra to “have a measurable impact on the business of our clients by reaching clearly defined goals.” From the beginning I deviated from the industry standard of time-based fees and instead focused on setting objectives, frequently reviewed, with a pre-determined retainer or project fee. With that team approach, we could tackle goals without a clock. We worked with large and small companies alike but it was the people who believed in us that carried us through 28 years – the list is long but you know who you are.
But, perhaps the most rewarding decision made was to seek out talented and spirited people to become a part of the team with a future in mind. The payoff is immeasurable. Not only did the agency have consistency (85 percent retention) but stars were groomed. Two of those bright and talented staffers are now taking over the ownership of the company. They are Jennifer MacLeid Qotb and Meggan Manson, who joined the company in 1996 and 2000, respectively. In fact, they have been successfully leading the company as principals for three years. Â They are smart, tough, dedicated and love the business. We also are family. And, of course, many said, “Don’t try to sell your company to employees who also are friends.” Well, it took a while but we proved them wrong.
I will continue in the role of Chairman, but will be a supporter from the sidelines. And my dream, passing along the company and its ideals to the next generation, came true. I told you so.
Do you have an upcoming media interview and don’t feel prepared? Â Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. However, following a few rules before an interview will help ease nerves and ensure you are ready to speak to any reporter with clear, concise messages.
1. Get to know the reporter
Read the reporterâ€™s previous columns before an interview, so you know what they’ve covered in the past, their areas of interest, tone and writing style. Also, take a look at a reporterâ€™s Twitter page and LinkedIn profile for a closer look at their background and personality.
2. Set an objective and have 3-4 talking points
Whether briefing a reporter on a new product or giving an overall company update, itÂ is important to establish an objective for the interview and haveÂ 3-4 talking points in mind to really get your message across. If you are participating in a phone interview, keep those points written out in front of you to help you stay on track.
3. Â Use a secure landline when possible
We once participated in an interview where a client’s mobile phone was fading in and out of connectivity. It took 2-3 minutes before the client realized there was a connection issue, despite our MANY interruptions. Today, phone interviews are done on the road frequently, but when possible, make sure you have a secure connectionâ€”whether it be a landline or testing out your mobile phone in advance. The reporter (and your PR person) will thank you.
4. Remember that everything is on the record
Most importantly, don’t forget that anything you say to a reporter or blogger can be published. There is no such thing as â€śoff the recordâ€ť, so don’t say anything that you wouldn’t want to see in printâ€”whether in an article, a blog post or on Twitter.
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?
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.
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?