An Apple a Day …

Clearly the old adage that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” isn’t holding up for Apple’s financial health, which has taken repeated hits in recent months, the latest being a 2.5% decrease in stock value on Monday after analysts downgraded it. One could point to an ailing economy and penny pinching all around as the culprits but, when considered in the context of the massive stock price dip that followed a false announcement of celebrity CEO Steve Jobs’ heart attack in October, it’s hard to ignore the role leadership plays in keeping stakeholders coming back for more.

Now, news that Jobs will not be giving the keynote address at the annual Macworld Conference and Expo—a role he has filled with pomp and circumstance in years past—seemed to confirm the groundswell of suspicion regarding his health (he has battled pancreatic cancer) and, in turn, the health of the little brand that could. Jobs’ gaunt appearance at recent events already had people talking, and this doesn’t help.

But what about Apple spokesman Steve Dowling’s response to questions about Jobs’ reason for skipping the event? When directly asked if the cancellation was related to illness, Dowling responded, “Phil [Schiller, SVP of Marketing] is giving the keynote because this is Apple’s last year in the show, and it doesn’t make sense for us to make a major investment in a trade show we will no longer be attending.”

How’s that for a non-answer?  Maybe it’s just me, but I think stock value is more vulnerable when stakeholders’ concerns are deflected and they are faced with uncertainty. Plus, refusing to answer the question implies what everyone already believes, so why not confirm or deny? The non-answer strategy mirrors that of parents who respond to children’s “whys” with “because I said so’s.”

By Courtney Barnes

Limited Sunshine

For the past few days the weather report in the print edition of the New York Times has promised “limited sunshine” for my county in NY.  Maybe “promise” is the wrong word; rather it is warning me of limited sun.  Granted, times are tough for our economy and it’s trickled down to friends and family for many of us, so maybe it’s good to frame the weather with a positive note of some sunshine, however limited.  Or would it better to just say Cloudy, as the Weather Channel has been forecasting and interestingly, the online version of the NY Times has been forecasting (the print and online weather reporters are apparently not conferring on terminology).  As I noted in my previous PR News blog post, much of what we hear is a story of some sort and how that story is heard depends on the state of mind and in life of the listener.  Personally, I’d rather hear Cloudy than Limited Sunshine. Better yet, I’d rather hear No Earthquakes, No Tsunami, No Volcanoes. But that might be putting too positive a spin on the story.  What would you prefer: Cloudy or Limited Sunshine?

What’s Your Story?

Now more than ever, PR pros need to wear their storytelling hat. It’s the accessory you were given when you first started in PR and were told that Public Relations is about telling stories. Good PR is about telling stories well. Great PR is when your story becomes viral and unforgettable. In this chaotic economic climate, with the headlines about layoffs and downsizing dominating our attention, Public Relations is at the forefront of making sure that an organization’s messages are heard amid the noise and the doom and gloom. Unless your story is a good one, then you’ll be drowned out. Such was the message of Emily Callahan, who keynoted our PR News Nonprofit PR Awards luncheon at the National Press Club last week. As managing director of marketing communications for Susan G Komen for the Cure, Emily knows that the story of breast cancer victims and survivors is a powerful one and she makes no apologies for telling those stories time and again because these stories are real and they resonate. Like thousands of other nonprofits — and for the hundreds who were at the PR News awards breakfast on Dec. 4 — charitable giving is reaching crisis levels.  Nonprofits are now competing with each other for a piece of the charitable pie which has gotten smaller as large companies have scaled back considerably.  But everyone likes (and will respond to) a good story as Emily noted in her keynote speech.  So what’s the story you’re telling in the marketplace?

Please share your ideas on storytelling with PR News.

- Diane Schwartz

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