Let me tell you about Horrible PR, “twitter stupid” and the latest headache for both the University of Maryland and Delta Gamma. “For those of you that have your heads stuck under rocks,” both are dealing with a viral email crisis (think: WWE meets Clueless meets Mean Girls) after a sorority leader penned a potty mouthed email to all chapter members chastising them for being “f****** boring and awkward” and (horrors!) misrepresenting the sorority (“HORRIBLE, I repeat, HORRIBLE PR!”) at critical social events with their fraternity match up. The nastygram went completely viral within the last 24 hours, popping up everywhere from Gawker to the Huffington Post and traditional news outlets. The author was termed “twitter stupid” once her handle was publicized (then the account cancelled) for representing the very worst of online communications with dim, racist, crass commentary on her daily interactions.
There is a growing generation gap among social media users (and abusers, perhaps, in this case). As my colleague discussed yesterday, there are fundamental rules of engagement for virtual relationships in social media that many established professionals can learn from. And, likewise, there are some pretty basic rules from the “real life” camp worth refreshing as we lean on technology for our primary communications.
Think of who you represent.
No, I’m not just talking about your sisters. As a professional, employee, student, family member, or athlete, you have a built-in audience of people watching and listening. Sure, they’re hanging on your every word, but not necessarily for the reason you think. Be mindful of your future and theirs. As it’s been said, a bad tweet is no different than a bad spring break tattoo – forever and eventually ugly. Taking something back is far more difficult than biting your tongue.
Be social but know when to be traditional.
The message, “stop embarrassing the rest of us in public” could have been delivered as effectively in person verbally without a name-tarnishing, internship-stomping paper/hyperlink trail, though I will concede that the author’s penchant for expletives perhaps rendered the message more effective for her particular audience.
Timing is everything.
Before hitting “send” consider the implications and the potential aftermath of your message and your chosen form of delivery. Sleep on it if you can. Or at the very least share it with someone else (preferably not while under the influence of sorority anxiety disorder, seething anger, alcohol or stress) to get a second read.
If this message is your end-all crusade for your employees, colleagues, clients or sorority sisters, put your name on it and be prepared to defend it. Hoping for anonymity in a virtual world where histories are documented on everything from Facebook to Zabasearch to page visits and old family photos on someone else’s page, is naïve and cowardly. Be prepared to face the music when you take private conversations so very public.
There is something sacred (and safe) about leaving some things unsaid or unseen. Even more, content posted online is subject to the legal and law enforcement processes.
Finally, as mom always said, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all – or email it, tweet it, text it or leave it lying around in a public forum with your name or Twitter handle attached to it.
As PR professionals, we stay up on the hottest trends to help our clients connect with their key audiences, especially if that new trend is free. Instagram, an interactive social photo sharing application with an estimated 90 million monthly active users, may not come to mind when thinking about social media outreach; however, we’re living in a society filled with visual learners and a visual element is an important part of our consumer approach.
As an avid Instagramer, I‘ve researched how companies are best utilizing this platform to engage consumers. Combining research with knowledge (okay, obsession) of the app, I compiled a few easy and effective ways for brands to use Instagram.
PR firms should monitor Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube frequently to make sure their clients know all levels in which the brand is being discussed – whether or not the brand has its own presence on social media. Our agency includes Instagram as a component within our daily monitoring, as we found significant chatter on the app about several of our clients. Thankfully it’s good chatter!
Here are some great ways to incorporate Instagram as an element of your outreach strategy.
Find a way to upload photos that are interesting and create a conversation with your followers. Posting a question along with your photo is a great way to engage followers and create a platform to gain consumer insight. CNN’s page, CNNIREPORT, recently shared a photo of an egg that froze due to severe cold weather. With the photo, it asked “How cold is it near you? Share your best unfiltered images by tagging #cnnireport.” The prompt led to more than 12,000 posts using CNN’s proposed hashtag.
A hashtag is a great way to connect users on the basis of a common word or phrase. Even if it doesn’t directly relate to your company but it relates to the photo you upload, tag it! For example, Macy’s uses hashtags such as #sunrise, #shoes, #NYC, #beauty and other words that relate to the Instagram photo. Using these hashtags is a simple way to draw traffic to your page. Be sure not to overwhelm your viewers with tags; three to five is plenty.
Publicly sharing your brand’s information in a unique way gives your audiences another opportunity to give their opinion about your company – both good and bad. Make sure that if you choose to publicize your company using this tool, you are monitoring all feedback. Engage with consumers who give positive thoughts and reward them by acknowledging their comment. On the other hand, make sure you address any criticism or questions that arise as you would on other social media sites. There are databases you can use to monitor your Instagram analytics such as Nitrogram and Statigram.
Bottom line: be creative. Find a way that people who view your photos will forget it’s a company’s page but rather a profile to follow that will make them excited to see what else you have to share. Instagram is far from a traditional means to reach and engage consumers, but its power shouldn’t be taken lightly.
When was the last time your team talked about “impressions” outside of the context of analytics?
For PR pros, impressions are at the foundation of what we do… that is, public relations. We help individuals, organizations and businesses communicate at every level and through just about any medium, in hopes that what they say makes a meaningful – ideally positive – impression. It’s tough to be meaningful with egg on your face. Or with a typo in your recipient’s name. Or when you’ve hopped on a conference call ready to negotiate with another party only to discover that it truly is a small world and you’re on the phone with that person whose bridge you’ve burned in a prior life (pre-yoga).
Thanks to social media, most of us are “friends” or LinkedIn with colleagues and contacts online that we’ve never actually met face-to-face, who may not have the benefit of knowing our likeable quirks through water cooler chit-chat. Studies show that those of us on our computers daily have social networks of around 700 people, never-mind potentially thousands of professional contacts.¹ That’s a lot of competition for attention! Making meaningful personal impressions in a deceivingly personal online world is more critical and advantageous than ever. Here’s a quick refresher for all of us (myself included) on making impressions that count in our daily work.
5 tips for making meaningful PR Impressions:
1. Make A Sandwich
Honesty is good. Brutal honesty? Not so much. Even the most constructive feedback on a decision, program or project will fall on deaf and likely fuming ears if delivered in a harsh or rushed way. That extra time and thought put into how you deliver your feedback often results in a much more receptive response. Try a “PR sandwich.” Offer genuine feedback of what worked or what you agree with, then provide constructive comments on what will get this project to the next level, then top it off with a mutual agreement of timing, note of appreciation, etc. But if you can’t be genuine, don’t. Just be polite.
2. Know your audience
Basic, but bears repeating: be thoughtful in your correspondence. Show your client, media contact, colleague, vendor and industry that you understand what they do and how they do it. Your background knowledge will add substance to your work and lead to more meaningful conversations.
3. If you don’t have time to send a thoughtful response, DON’T. SEND. ONE.
Split-second typing is dangerous. If you don’t end up with a typo or a mortifying auto-correct selection, you end up cc’ing your spouse, mortgage broker or worse. That is, if you auto-select the right person in the first place. Even with the best of intentions, rushed responses to a client, colleague or member of the media will likely – if not always – do more harm than good. Being responsive is great, but not at the risk of quality or tone. Why waste an opportunity to engage meaningfully in your very best light?
4. Less is More
Do you know that it takes 64 seconds for our brains to recover from reading one email?² Ouch. Avoid strings of emails that could have been addressed with a concentrated initial approach. Provide context in your writing to avoid easily anticipated questions. Your recipient (and their brain) will thank you.
One of the easiest ways to make a memorable impression professionally is to connect. Ask questions that show your care and interest. Use someone’s name and their professional title when appropriate to show respect. Take the time and make the room for friendly conversation.
“Public” = “People”
At the end of the day, our profession is about helping people. Let’s keep that in mind when we are tempted to tally “impressions.”
No executive wants to be awakened at 3 a.m. with bad news and told that the company has gone to hell in a handbasket. No company or brand is immune from a crisis. Even the most experienced executives can’t help but ask themselves, “Can we recover from this?” “How long will negative coverage last?” A good crisis plan would be reassuring, but don’t minimize the value of analytics.
One important thing I have learned at Fineman PR is to put situations into perspective for worried clients in times of crisis. A PR agency can do this in various ways. It can be done by comparing your organization’s crisis to past crises in terms of duration, volume of coverage, reach and momentum over time. For example, a New York Times article that reflects negatively on your brand may seem catastrophic, but when compared to past crises, whether one of your own or those of other organizations, the New York Times article may not be as big as you originally thought. Not to say that a proper response isn’t necessary, but it will help your client and other company execs sleep easier at night knowing their company isn’t going down the drain.
With this bit of information in mind, Fineman PR researched all major product recalls in a client category over the past two years. We used the research to develop a “crisis predictive tool” that would provide our client with better perspective and comparison data should any similar crises arise in the near future. The tool gauged the size and scope of the crisis scenario we were planning compared to similar situations we researched. We were also able to assess how brands normally respond in each case and determined what worked and what didn’t.
After some blood, sweat and tears, we ended up with an impressive tool that carefully plotted and dissected media coverage of all the various recalls into a concise, easy-to-read format. We developed detailed graphs outlining trends in coverage, outlets that drove ongoing media coverage, influential journalists in the industry that helped direct the conversation as well as coverage trends related to various response tactics from each company.
Not only were the media impressions plotted out on a graph throughout the duration of the crisis, but we were also able to provide a brief summary on the cause of each peak in media coverage. In addition, we researched the company’s response, or lack thereof, and how it helped stop or fuel ongoing media coverage. This data allowed us to develop a ranking scale from 0-11 with 11 being the worst (considerable brand damage) and zero signifying minimal or no brand damage. Our methodology behind the ranking scale was simple: we developed a point system based on media impressions, media outlet types and the duration of media coverage.
When a brand is facing a crisis, the duration and reach of media coverage is often, directly correlated to the damage inflicted on a company’s overall reputation and business. If our clients find themselves in a crisis, they can rest assured that we are well prepared to assist with this predictive analysis tool. Of course, their hope is that they don’t need to use our crisis predictive tool, but its value is indisputable.
Is crisis management your kryptonite? I recommend you call us.
The depth of public discourse about food these days is extraordinary. Every step of the food production process – from ingredient-sourcing to materials used in packaging – is scrutinized. We are obsessed with food and everyone, it seems, is a food expert. When it comes to working with the food media, it’s important to carefully consider your approach with bloggers and journalists. These are some of the factors our team at Fineman PR considers when selecting media to approach for our food PR clients.
Influence is not defined strictly by the size of one’s audience. Influence is a result of reaching the right audience. Say you’re introducing a new gluten-free product. It’s a crowded marketplace and you are competing with so many other gluten-free products hitting the market. Sure, a brief mention in the Los Angeles Times will help drive awareness and earn credibility, but a rave review in a gluten-free blog will probably influence more of your key audience –gluten-free minded consumers– to seek out your product. One percent of L.A. Times readers may be interested in gluten-free products1 while 100 percent of a gluten-free blog’s readers are actively seeking out gluten-free products and will likely be driven to purchase said product Both media have something valuable to offer with the right approach.
Just as you have regional and national traditional media, there are national and regional food bloggers. But unlike traditional media, the blogosphere is not divided into designated market areas (DMA). The Pioneer Woman may write from Pawhuska, Okla., but she has readers all around the country. Conversely, you have bloggers with national renown such as Carolyn Jung/Food Gal, who also write for regional audiences. Again, the right approach will increase your topic’s relevancy (and your credibility).
Preparing for Questions
Sure, your product is delicious, but where did it come from? How was it made? Do you treat your employees well? Consumers want delicious food, but they also want to feel good about buying it. Expect probing questions from traditional journalists AND bloggers. And be prepared for an ongoing dialogue – once an article or blog hits – that may be just the beginning of an in-depth conversation.
Compared to the blogosphere, consumer engagement is more limited in traditional media. Bloggers often welcome meaningful interaction with food companies. We work with our clients to create blogger and traditional media sampling programs, party sponsorships, blind tastings, contests and giveaways in addition to trends and issues-focused food news. A robust, diverse approach with both types of media can help differentiate you from your competitors and keep you top of mind among your target audience.
Food PR is an exciting and challenging area of public relations and requires fresh thinking to break through the crowd.
1 An estimated one percent of Americans have celiac disease.
Marketing to the Latino Community – First Show You Care
This article was written by Juan Lezama, director of Mosaico, Fineman PR’s multicultural division. It was first published on The Agency Post on November 13. The full text can be found at The Agency Post:
The surge in ethnic population and buying power has won the attention and interest of corporate America. Minorities now account for 37 percent of the U.S. population (114 million), and for the first time, more than half of all children born in the U.S. are non-white. Minority consumers are expected to grow their buying power from $1.6 trillion in 2010 to $2.1 trillion in 2015, accounting for 15 percent of the nation’s total buying power. Among these multicultural markets, the Latino segment is the largest at 50 million strong, equivalent to 16 percent of the U.S. population and with almost a trillion dollars in buying power.
Read the full article at The Agency Post
Stunts, conferences and parties go hand-in-hand with PR – to launch a new product, celebrate a company milestone or showcase leadership at an industry event. I’ve staffed, planned and managed events in every shape and size – from cocktail parties and annual galas to press conferences and CEO speaking engagements. Despite their differences, they all have one trait in common – preparation. (more…)
It’s Day Three. Feels like many folks left early unless you’re judging by the still long lines at Starbucks in the Marriott Marquis Hotel where the Conference is being held. I know I’m certainly ready to get back to managing my agency and putting in some billable time.
But I am happy I’m here. I met and spoke with many wonderful dedicated PR professionals from all over, reconnected with peers I don’t’ see often, took the opportunity to record great tips that I’ll bring back to the office with me, heard invigorating speakers and presenters and not just the keynoters, and received great satisfaction that my home, San Francisco PRSA chapter did an outstanding job hosting this Conference. Outstanding, Gerry Corbett — and I know it wasn’t as easy as all of your team made it appear — never saw you sweat.
That said, I won’t be going to Philly (my original hometown) for next year’s soiree, but guess what…I’ll definitely send a couple of my staff for the great experience it will give them.
Power Personality Michael Steele
Whoa, Michael Steele took the Conference by storm this morning. At about 6’6″, with as large and affable a personality, he is an imposing and highly entertaining speaker, smooth and persuasive. His politics notwithstanding, I found myself wanting to smile and agree with everything he said…well, almost. I can’t figure out why the Republicans would have canned him…actually, on second thought, yes I can.
I am talking, of course, about our Keynote Speaker today, political analyst and former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, who provided a cogent, lively and personal viewpoint on the dynamics of the current political scene. I might even describe it as balanced in its descriptions of both candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. This, too, just hours before presidential debate number two and after Hilary took responsibility for the Libyan embassy mess. I had the feeling that Steele would sign up for the other side if it was Hilary that was running or “any Clinton,” he said half jokingly.
From a public relations standpoint, he weaved into his presentation the effective conveyance of messages and how, in any given situation, your star player can make that disappear in one fell swoop with a disappointing and counter-narrative performance.
Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D. and Associate Professor at San Diego State University, became the youngest and first Asian American to win PRSA’s Outstanding Educator Award. Her acceptance was fire-y, enjoyably so, as she challenged the audience to have our actions speak louder than our words. “Show me you value education,” she demanded. “Be a mentor, offer legal (paid), internships, get accredited, vote yes on education initiatives at the ballot box, and elect candidates who truly value education. Take the actions necessary to enhance our profession, and we will be more respected in the boardroom.” Go, go, go Bey-Ling.
A couple of breakout sessions
Roy Reid, Jr. presented “Building a Culture of Trust” Tuesday morning. At first I was concerned that his whole session would be filled with nice platitudes, but Roy backed up his assertion that trust is cultivated, built or repaired by exemplifying trustworthiness, demonstrations of influence, being dependable and manifesting authenticity in our professional lives. Following are a few of his how-to’s for ourselves or our brands:
- Show your integrity by doing the right thing when no one is looking
- Be the “cooler” in your professional relationships; be the calming and reassuring influence
- Be the one who always comes with the next idea
- Respect everyone and all sides of the issue, and your voice will be heard
- Demonstrate your reliability every single time
- Be on time or early
- Show high performance by being fully engaged and committed to planning, executing the plan and evaluating the plan
- Provide value every single time
- Make a physical or public commitment to your decisions
- Confront the good, the bad and the ugly
Later, at the “National Incident Management System Are You Ready for a Crisis Seminar, Lauri-Ellen Smith and Joseph Trahan III, Ph.D. gave a Southern style, no-nonsense, barn burning presentation about getting information to the public in a disaster. Lauri is a special assistant to the Office of the Sheriff in Jacksonville, Fla., and Joe is a retired Army Lt. Colonel. Oh gosh, I think that’s right, because they’ll definitely come after me if I get any of this wrong. These guys take this very seriously, as they should, but I bet they’d be a total hoot at any party. And, if there’s really a fight, I want them on my side.
Can you tell I was charmed by both of them? I found myself wanting to shout out Ooh-Rah (I know, Joe, that’s more for Marines) every time they made a point or explained all the acronyms they took for granted. (What’s a JIC people? Joint Information Center – didn’t your mother teach you anything?) But what they said spoke entirely to their competence in providing “maximum disclosure with minimum delay in getting out information people need in a disaster.
And Lauri made sure her audience of communicators knew they better not cry when waves of ocean water are approaching a mile inland or power poles are going down all around. “Perfunctory Function…perform with no emotion.” And for gosh sakes, ‘number your damn press releases.’
These folks are savvy social media communicators, too. They understand the importance of a tweeting public to get the word out about school closures, the status of roadways or the location of trouble spots. Social media rumor control is paramount, they let it be known. Be ready to respond — “this report we are hearing is not true; I am on the scene; refer to (such and such).”
And what’s a Command Message? Say what you want your target audience to remember. Tell them what you are doing to fix it. Tell them your position. And deliver it without reading, with head up. You hear that Mr. President?
Wrap it up, Fineman
In my previous reporting I left out some of the material and ideas I gathered in my session with Jim Lukaszewski. I am always hoping to gain new insights, and I certainly did that on the Opening Day in “The Strategic Advisor in Action During Crisis” session. While my first crisis principle has always been: public health and safety first, Jim said focus on the victims, and I believe he meant that twofold: 1. Focus on what matters most at any given time, people hurt for example and 2. Get a sense of who may be playing victim to help guide your communications strategy.
About the leaders we communications people report to, Jim said: “Remember, it’s their bus. Give them options, and always let them choose. Make sure, though, you make them aware of the option with the least number of potentially negative consequences.”
We often read about “mom bloggers” in consumer public relations as if they’re some sort of foreign country. We’re told to translate our message so they can understand it. The reality? They’re just as ordinary and extraordinary as the rest of us. They deserve meaningful conversations, not blind pitches that have been “momified” for playground cred. (more…)
Monitoring media in today’s environment can be overwhelming to say the least. Despite countless news research tools, there still is no holy grail that covers every need. The truth is that your best bet is a combination of trusted resources and … your own eyes and analysis.