Category Archives: public relations

Employees Using Social Media Can Give Companies a Nasty Virus

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A couple weeks ago, a virus had its way with my family. Within a four-day span, all four of us were incredibly sick for 24 hours at a time and it seemed there was nothing we could do to stop the next person from getting it.

That’s because despite how careful we were – quarantining the sick one to a bedroom, dispensing large bottles of hand sanitizer, etc. – it’s impossible to be fully conscious of every single time your hand touches something else in the house. For example, we each hold the handrail when coming down the stairs by habit without even giving it a thought.

It’s not much different for companies that have employees who are active in the social media space. And, honestly, what company doesn’t have at least one employee with a Facebook page or Twitter account?

Social media is like a rabbit hole and it’s easy for employees to either not be fully conscious of all the places they touch or forget that Google can find just about anything. A rude comment on a blog post here. A disparaging Tweet about a client’s home city there. Posting unapproved client work to her online portfolio because she really liked the concept, even though the client picked a different direction.

They can seem harmless enough at the time, but each of these can have a negative impact on your business and strain client relationships. That’s why all companies should have guidelines for employees that outlines what’s acceptable in social media participation and what’s not.

This isn’t to keep them out of social media networks because these tools can bring a lot of good to your organization. But the guidelines remind employees that their online actions can have consequences for both the company and them, and it gives them guardrails to help keep them from mistakenly going off track.

Does your company have these guidelines in place? If so, do you feel they’ve been helpful in better protecting the brand? Should companies have any “say” in what employees do online with personal accounts?

(Image by Fred Armitage.)

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How Do You Explain PR to People?

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Unlike many professions, most members of the general public have no idea what public relations is or what PR pros do. You know what I mean. You’ve been met with the “I’m going to nod my head like I know what that is but my face will give away that I’m clueless” look before.

Doctors don’t have this problem. Nor do insurance salesmen. For that matter, even our brethren in the marketing mix don’t have this issue. Tell Joe Normal you’re in advertising and he knows exactly what you’re talking about.

Part of that is probably due to the fact that much of the work in PR lies behind the scenes. We pitch the stories, but journalists write them. We write the speeches, but executives deliver them. We plan the corporate social responsibility campaign, but the CEO accepts the accolades.

Our daily professional lives cover such a broad range of strategic initiatives and tactical activities that it can be hard to even know where to start when explaining PR to a non-marketing person. So what do you say when they ask, “What’s that?” I try to make it relevant for them by putting it in terms of what they experience. Something like:

“I help companies communicate with people – customers, employees, legislators. And with you! If you’ve read a story in a newspaper or on CNN.com on a new product, a PR pro shared that with the reporter and lined up the interviews. If you see a business leader delivering a speech, a PR pro probably wrote it. If you happen across a really cool event in Bryant Park, a PR pro likely played a major part in the idea behind it. We work with executives to figure out the smartest, most effective ways to engage with people, let them know what’s going on with the company, and get their thoughts and feedback.”

What about you? How do you explain PR to your Aunt Martha or the guy sitting next to you on the airplane in a few sentences?

*Image by Keven Law.

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Let’s Put the “Folk Wisdom” to Bed Already

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I saw an interesting book on a coworker’s desk last week – The Art of War for Executives by Donald G. Krause, based on Sun Tzu’s classic text The Art of War. As I cracked it open yesterday and began reading it, a particular paragraph stood out to me and I found myself yelling “YES!” in my head.

“Sun Tzu warns us about relying on ‘folk wisdom.’ Folk wisdom is the body of unproven assumptions, unwarranted speculation, and generally accepted opinions that is present in any group of people. Great danger lies in not challenging folk wisdom. Reliable facts always precede successful actions.”

How much “folk wisdom” weighs us down daily, whether we’re talking about marketing, PR, social media or [insert your craft here], despite evidence that a new way may be better? One of the things I’ve said since the first post on this blog is that I want to use it regularly as a discussion starter to challenge the status quo and make sure we’re doing things because they are the best solutions, not simply because it’s the way we’ve always done them. Here are a few of the posts that have appeared here attempting to do just that.

I’m interested in your take. Do you notice any “folk wisdom” at work? Does it hold back your brand or the work you do for clients? Do you challenge the status quo even though it’s easier to go along with your boss or the crowd? What are ways we can challenge folk wisdom positively, constructively and effectively?

*Image by Kevin Dooley.

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What Can PRSA Do to Demystify PR For Business Leaders?

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A lot of people say that many C-suite executives don’t truly understand and appreciate the value public relations brings to an organization. There’s lots of talk about the PR industry being chock full of strategic communicators who can’t or haven’t successfully communicated their own worth to the business world.

My friend Arik Hanson and I were talking about this on Twitter a few weeks ago.
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Neither of us claim that the lack of understanding about our profession is the sole fault of PRSA nor that educating others about the value we bring is the sole responsibility of PRSA. But I think we’d all agree that, as the main association in our industry, it does certainly play a role.

You’ll notice that I ended the conversation with Arik pointing out that PRSA surely is taking steps to help overcome this challenge that I don’t know about. What I thought we could do is help spur new ideas that the organization may not have thought of yet. You know, be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. I’ll kick it off.

Start at the Beginning. This is a long-term plan, but too many schools aren’t adequately preparing PR majors to understand Business – sales cycles, financials, product development, etc. And too many business majors never learn the benefits that PR can bring to companies beyond writing press releases. These are the business leaders of tomorrow. Could PRSA work with universities to help bridge this gap and require a class or two for each major that focuses on these areas?

Start a Roadshow. Think desk-side briefings for C-suite executives. We’re supposed to be strategic communicators and expert storytellers. Could PRSA create a compelling, 30-minute case for PR and take it on the road?

What ideas do you have? Share them in the comments and then let’s share the cumulative ideas with PRSA.

*Image by Isobel T.

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10 Clues Your PR Pro is Worth the Dough

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One of last week’s posts – 10 Clues Your PR Pro is Nothing But Show – generated a lot of great comments that added even more clues to the list. So I thought we’d continue the fun by looking at the flip side and highlighting the things that set great PR pros apart from the rest of the pack.

Here are 10 clues that your PR pro is worth the dough. It doesn’t include the obvious opposites of the “nothing but show” clues, which means there are really 20 clues that your PR pro is worth the dough between these two posts. If you’re experiencing any of these from the folks on your internal team or from an outside agency, recognize their efforts and give them a hearty thanks.

1. They dive headfirst into your business and industry, and immerse themselves in learning every in and out within both.
2. They ask smart questions.
3. They are strong writers and great storytellers.
4. They proactively sync up with marketing, advertising, interactive and media planning to help create compelling, robust campaigns aimed at achieving your business goals.
5. They challenge you to step outside your comfort zones and try new things.
6. They know what they don’t know.
7. They are resourceful and create solutions to overcome challenges.
8. They listen as much as they talk.
9. They bring creative energy and a positive attitude to the table.
10. They own their mistakes, learn from them and put processes in place to minimize the chance those mistakes happen again.

What would you add to the list? What tips you off that the person across the table is worth his or her salt in this business?

*Image by Eric Ward.

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10 Clues Your PR Pro is Nothing But Show

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I’ve read several posts recently on distinguishing the smart social media marketing professionals from the wannabes. It’s great to have guides likes these in a space that is relatively new in the grand scheme of things.

The social media sphere isn’t the only place where this is needed, though. PR more generally has a long list of fine folks who help move the industry forward and, unfortunately, a long list of those who help move the industry a step backward.

So I’m passing along 10 clues that your PR pro may be nothing but show. If you’re experiencing any of these from someone on your internal team or from an outside consultant, it may be time to cut ties.

1. They never bring new ideas to the table.
2. Their answer for everything is “let’s put a press release on the newswire.”
3. They think every story idea you want them to pitch is brilliant.
4. They never push back or challenge you. They just take marching orders.
5. They wouldn’t know a measurable goal if it slapped them in the face – hard.
6. They only e-pitch reporters and their phones are collecting dust.
7. Their clever social media strategy starts and stops at “we should get a Facebook page.”
8. Their reason for being in the PR field is “I’m a people person.”
9. They define PR mistakenly by one of its tools (PR is bigger than media relations or events, like social media is bigger than blogs.)
10. They don’t ask you what your business goals are so they can work to align PR goals against them.

What did I miss? What clues you in that the person across the table is a sub-par PR professional?

*Image from Brian Snelson.

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Five Tips for Media Relations Success

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My last post – Relationships Don’t Matter MOST in Media Relations – sparked some spirited conversations last week. Most people who commented agreed. A few disagreed. One asked if I would share more about what I believe DOES matter most in media relations.

Here’s my take on that. It’s based on what has helped me hit media relations home runs so far in my career. These are the tips I’ve used to land a couple thousand great stories for my clients in places like Good Morning America, People magazine, The New York Times and The Today Show.

T-1. The Silver Platter – This is one of the two most important ingredients in media relations success. It involves going beyond developing a great story angle to pull together everything a reporter would need to tell the story. Dig up stats and trends to support your angle. Find a third-party expert willing to be interviewed on the topic and offer them up as part of the pitch. Make it hard for the reporter to say “no thanks.” Serve the story up on a silver platter.

T-1. Relevancy – Relevancy is the second of the two most important ingredients. The perfect pitch doesn’t matter to the wrong reporter. Don’t trust Cision or Vocus blindly. Before calling a reporter, look at the last five stories she’s written. What does she cover? Is your story relevant to her? Is it relevant to her readers?

3. Relationships – Relationships are very important. You build them by delivering on the first two tips above. Relationships get you returned phone calls, opened e-mails, incoming calls when a source is needed and, sometimes, allow you to mitigate or lessen potentially negative news. (Hey, I didn’t say relationships DON’T matter. I said they don’t matter MOST.)

4. Resourcefulness – Your ability to come through in the clutch will save stories from getting scrapped. I once worked with Good Morning America on a story that took a span of two months to pull off. It almost fell through three different times, but I kept sharing alternative ideas with the producers to keep it going. Don’t easily accept missed opportunities if you believe they are worthwhile. Hustle. Be creative. Be resourceful.

5. Guard the Gates – Protect the reporters you’ve built working relationships with during your career. Don’t hand off their contact info at the request of everyone in your department without first finding out what they are pitching. If it’s a poor pitch, tell them your contact wouldn’t be interested. If you must share the reporter’s info, insist that your colleague NOT use your name as a way into the conversation. Too many poor pitches that start with “David Mullen said I should give you a call” will quickly be bad for me.

What about you? What are your tips and tricks for generating more news coverage for your brand or your clients?

*Image by Rick Harrison.

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