You know the power of your communications efforts. But does your boss or your colleagues down the hall? How about your relatives, neighbors and the people you bump into at Costco? They’re all affected (mostly in a good way) by Public Relations. All too often PR is behind the scenes and under-recognized for all that we do to move markets and minds. In an effort to open the curtain on all the great PR initiatives happening every day, PR News has launched “It’s the PR” – an advocacy campaign for our industry. Go to our store and treat yourself to something that says it all. Just as importantly, share with us your case studies on the power of PR. We’ve set up a group on our PR Peeps social networking site to share your case study — a brief description of a campaign or PR idea that’s worked for you — or a link to more information. Let’s start bragging a little about all that PR can do.
– Diane Schwartz
At PR News, we get pitches on a daily basis for communications experts to write for our publication, our web site or speak at our webinars or conferences. It’s usually a very pleasant process. But every now and then we get what we call the MIA speaker — he or she agrees to speak at our conference (even signs an agreement), we promote this speaker in all our marketing efforts and – let’s call this person MIA — MIA stops returning our calls or emails and at the 11th hour says s/he’ll definitely be there/no worries. In fact, the pattern is that for a very brief period (a half day), they are full engaged with us, feel bad and make lots of promises. And guess what — MIA doesn’t show at the show. And it’s not because of an emergency or any valid excuse – it’s just “sorry, can’t make it.”
This a rare occurrence but it sticks with me and my team and we have a very sour taste not only about that speaker but about the organization MIA represents. We are a forgiving crew here, but it’s hard to want to interview a representative from that company when one of their key execs, in the words of my teenage daughter, “disses” us. Of course, we get over it and welcome MIA’s “parents” back into the fold. But we never go back to MIA after this journalistic abuse. (We have our pride.) So next time you pitch a speaker or contributor to a media organization, be sure they’re on board with the assignment and understand that it’s more than their reputation that’s on the line.
That said, we’re opening the call for speakers at our Digital PR Summit in October in NY. Contact me if you’re interested and qualified. And not prone to be MIA.
– Diane Schwartz
Hip hop mogul Kanye West has his own blog, which he updates early and often. And by “he,” I mean two employees. Though he reportedly denied using ghost bloggers in the past, New York magazine’s Vulture caught up with him at an event and asked how he finds the time to post so frequently, to which he replied:
“I have two people that I hired and I tell them exactly what I want — it’s just like how a designer would work.”
Clearly an off-the-cuff remark, but surely it must resonate with many communications professionals who manage (read: write) the content of their client or CEO’s blog. Does this practice fly in the face of the transparency and accountability PR execs work so hard to establish? Or, is it an understandable strategy for managing content in a vast and uncharted social media universe?
By Courtney Barnes
At our PR News Media Relations Forum on March 10, there was a lot of talk about Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools. We were proud to hear that on the day of our event so many people were Twittering about the content from the Forum that it was one of the top 10 trending topics (#mrf09). Shows what a small universe Twitter really is right now.
But for all the talk about these platforms, most business people really don’t know how to capitalize on these tools and many are wearing the same hat when using social media at home and at work. Your CEO says, “let’s have a Facebook page” and the next day, there it is. Then what? Hence, we are reading tweets or Facebook updates about our colleagues grabbing a cup of coffee or so bored at work they’re gonna scream (what are they thinking?!). More and more brands are using social media to great effect, such as Mars’ Skittles site (for branding/engagement) or Comcast on Twitter (for customer service), Ernst & Young (recruiting) or Ellen Degeneres (viewer engagement). Ellen just set up a Twitter account a few days ago and has about 120,000 followers. At the PR News forum, attendees were so engaged and such great reporters that, for those who couldn’t be at the event, it was the next best thing.
As always, content will be king. So make sure you are giving your audience/prospective audience content they can use to make their personal or professional lives richer. As one of our Forum panelists, Media 2.0 blogger and imc strategy lab director Rob Hecht, noted: “Social media is a commitment, not just a campaign.” Commit to good content.
- Diane Schwartz
During the March 10 PR News Media Relations Forum, keynote speaker Howard Bragman (publicist to the stars and author of Where’s My Fifteen Minutes) delivered his 10 Commandments of PR. In doing so, he made a comment that I found to be especially poignant: That PR no longer stands for public relations, but for perception and reality.
He explained the statement by saying that a communicator’s main objective is to align stakeholders’ perception of something as closely as possible to the reality of the situation—something that is especially challenging in a media environment where facts can be skewed and then spread virally via digital platforms.
I definitely agree with Bragman’s new definition of PR. Do you?
By Courtney Barnes
It’s no surprise that the media is skeptical of PR. I’ve written in previous posts about the over-usage of the word “spin” in the news media in reference to the practice of public relations, and the negative label of PR as a two-letter word to connote pulling the wool over the public’s eye. AIG (American International Group) is not the darling of the media or most tax-paying citizens and most of us not living in a cave know that the government is bailing it out for the fourth time to the tune of tends of billions of dollars. Today, the New York Times takes AIG to task for using four PR firms on its payroll, noting: “Some taxpayers and members of Congress could view public relations as unnecessary expenses.” The article, titled “AIG’s Spin Army” essentially criticizes the use of AIG “spinmeisters” to control the public message.
There is no better time than now for PR to help a company in crisis and to have some control over the message. This is not to say that AIG will ever be off the hook, good PR notwithstanding. But you can’t blame PR for the mess this company is in. It appears to me that their communications team, both in-house and via Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, Kekst & Company, and perhaps a few others, are doing their best to mitigate the crisis. On its site, there’s a section called AIG Moving Forward and a tab “Setting the Record Straight.” The site is filled with content and useful information for anyone who’s interested, though the fact of the matter is that this company is in deep trouble and most likely the only ones reading the content on the site are reporters, lawyers and AIG employees. The best PR can do is answer questions, manage what’s left of AIG’s reputation, and help repair its image during its supposed recovery.
PR is indispensible for managing a crisis and better yet, managing reputation before a crisis. It is rarely an “unnessary expense” and when it is, that’s most likely because of the PR people executing a particular initiative. The reason PR News just launched the “It’s the PR” campaign is to advocate for the industry and help build PR’s reputation. Actions speak louder than words, so I implore all PR people to remind management of the value of PR, to measure and report back, and share your success stories with the media, your colleagues in every department and with your own PR staff who might need to be reminded of why they’re in PR.
- Diane Schwartz