What type of PR could $700 billion buy?

I am not necessarily a numbers gal, but it’s safe to say that $700 billion is a lot of money. If Henry Paulson decided to allot let’s say even a measly $1 billion to your communications budget, how would you spend it — and it has to be spent on PR, not on mainstream stuff like Education, Housing, Healthcare, Security? While we’re at it, who would you put in charge of allocating this money? You don’t have to answer the latter question unless you are the boss and can blog without pink-slip ramifications. So, share your thoughts on how you could improve your PR with some extra funding ($1 billion). I will collect all your ideas and share them with whoever is in charge on Capitol Hill.

- Diane Schwartz

My name is not Charlie and I don’t work there

This is not breaking news, nor is it coverage of the Wall Street meltdown or the Sarah Palin moose-dressing media extravaganza. This is a PR 101 story/quick rant — and it’s old news. Every now and then (5 to 10 times a week) I get a call from an account executive or intern who is wondering whether I received their email about so-and-so joining the firm or company. Sometimes it’s a question of whether I received their fax — and I’m old enough to have received faxed press releases back in the day  The voice message I received yesterday at 8 p.m. was from a woman trying to reach Charlie and asking whether I/Charlie received the important email about someone joining their agency, and whether PR Newswire would be running the story.  You know by now that I’m not Charlie and PR News is not PR Newswire. And if you’re really good, you know that PR News does not run personnel moves.  To help callers, my voice mail refers to me as Diane, as in This is Diane Schwartz…thanks for calling.

How can one person get it all so wrong? If you are assigning staff to check on emails sent or to email a journalist to check on voice messages left, make sure they are getting the facts right. And question (yourself) whether such follow-ups are even worth your company’s time anymore.

So, back to the Charlie-caller: I called her back and left her a voice message. But I have not heard back. Maybe I’ll email her to see if she received my call.

- Diane Schwartz

Search Mishap Spills $1b in Value from United

It’s been said many times that Google is the defacto reputation management system for your brand. And it’s surprising when a reporter doesn’t know how to use the search engine correctly. The domino effect one reporter had on the stock of United Airlines yesterday is a case in point. The airline’s shares fell from $12 to $3 in less than an hour (that’s $1b in value) due to an old article in the Chicago Tribune about bankruptcy filings that a reporter at Income Securities Advisors included in a summary and then linked to that old article on Bloomberg News, which (domino effect in play here) then sent out a news alert. Had the reporter seen the date on the article, it’s safe to say the article would not have been referenced. But so many of us unquestionably trust Google – and so many reporters don’t follow up these days on what others are reporting – that we take it on faith that if it’s at the top of the Google search, it’s fresh, it’s news and it’s accurate. And, given the plight of United and the airline industry in general, the “news” did not come as a shock to the reporter.

What happened to fact-checking? What happened to paying attention? What happened to the editing process? What happened to reporters calling PR contacts to check in?

As PR professionals and guardians of our organization’s reputation, this story is a reminder of how old news, bad news, and negative comments spread fast and wickedly. What’s on the Web never goes away – tucked into archives and sometimes-visited Web pages and apt to rear its ugly head when just the right search keywords are struck.

The good news to this story is that everyone responded quickly and the mistake was acknowledged. PR needs to be out there constantly monitoring and responding, developing strong relationships with bloggers and mainstream reporters. It could be the difference between a rise in profit and a loss of $1 billion.

- Diane Schwartz

Guest Blogger Mike Smith Gives the Citizen Journalist Perspective at the DNC

After diligent application work to the Democratic National Committee, I was a credentialed member of the media. I worked for Reuters.com as a video blogger (v-logger). I also posted text blogs for the Huffington Post. Filing video stories put me in the thick of the action, with access on the DNC convention floor, and with CNN suite credentials, Google’s “Big Tent” blogger space, and Huffington Post’s “Oasis” space. It also gave me the opportunity to make solid national media connections and hone my press-writing skills

Reuters consumer media editor Adam Pasick put out a clarion call for citizen journalists for his “Inside the Tent” feature, and I was selected. The Reuters blog references the press tent city that emerged around the Denver Pepsi Center. Among the stories I submitted from the tent were an interview Governor Mark Warner, a senate candidate from Virginia; an interview with Richard Schiff, the actor who starred on “West Wing” as White House communications director Toby Ziegler; and a video with a disaffected Hillary Clinton supporter Nancy Kivlen with an advocacy group called PUMA (Party Unity, My Ass).  You can view all of these videos here.

Jose Antonio Vargas, a new media correspondent who writes “Blog Talk” for the Washington Post and covered the Democratic Convention, said that Denver was “lousy” with bloggers this year.” Indeed, citizen journalists seemed to outnumber mainstream media by margins of 3-to-1 at the DNC party confab.

“Here in Confab City, you can’t swing a messenger bag without hitting a blogger,” Vargas wrote. “The place is lousy with them. Hundreds are credentialed.”

Mike Smith is CEO of MSBD, Inc. in Herndon, VA. You can reach him at mike@michaelsmith.biz.

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