2011: Another Year of the Crisis?

As I write my final post of the year, it appears that the media has dubbed 2010 as “The Year of the Crisis.” Today’s article in The Wall Street Journal does nothing to dispel this. With the headline “Public Relations Learned the Hard Way,” the article chronicles the crises of BP, Apple, Toyota, HP and Johnson & Johnson, and offers opinions from PR experts on the mistakes that were made. Floated in the story was the idea that increased governmental scrutiny put the screws to these companies, causing added pressure that contributed to PR blunders. But I don’t buy that hypothesis. BP, Apple, Toyota, HP and Johnson & Johnson all found trouble from bad business decision making, bad planning, a lack of oversight or all three. What do you think—can we expect another “Year of the Crisis” in 2011, brought on in part by increased outside pressure, or will companies simply learn from others’ mistakes?

–Scott Van Camp

Is Good PR Bringing Obama Back?

As PR News gets set to reveal its Best and Worst PR Moves next week, there was an interesting commentary by David Gergen on the CNN site that describes President Obama’s “comeback,” after the elections had him with one foot in the political grave. Gergen credits Obama’s team with building coalitions that moved public opinion in their favor, thus giving them much-needed leverage in Congress. There’s nothing like a good comeback story, and while Obama isn’t out of the woods yet, the strategy helped push through a new stimulus bill, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and, most recently, a new START treaty bill. After judging readers’ Worst PR Moves picks this week, reading about Obama’s effective PR strategy is a welcome change.

–Scott Van Camp

Video is a Powerful Medium

Here at PR News, we often write about the power of video in communications. We try to practice what we preach too, interviewing presenters at our events and then posting them on our site. I’m not Bob Costas yet, but I’m getting better at it! A visual certainly is worth a thousand words. This week there was footage taken during a school board meeting in Panama City, Florida that was probably worth a billion words. In it, a man brandishes a gun in front of the board, and fires four shots at the board superintendent (miraculously he misses) before being gunned down by a security guard (the gunman then kills himself). If you haven’t seen it and want to, be prepared for shock and drama from the get-go. There’s a villain, heroes, and in the end, no innocent people are hurt. PR News gives out a Platinum Award for Best Video program. If I were giving out the award for Most Powerful Video of 2010, this would be it.

–Scott Van Camp

Quality People

Two people passed away this week that in all probability couldn’t be more different in backgrounds and personalities. Yet Elizabeth Edwards and Don Meredith both possessed qualities that I believe PR professionals can take to heart. Edwards faced her battle with cancer and the infidelity of John Edwards with dignity and honesty. Meredith, or Dandy Don as he was known to millions of football fans on Monday nights, was famous for tempering Howard Cosell’s bombast with humor—a noble effort! It was clear that Meredith didn’t take himself too seriously, which reminds me of what Steve Cody of Peppercom wrote in this week’s PR News Tip Sheet: “We take our client’s business and our business very seriously. But, we don’t take ourselves seriously at all.” As we head toward the New Year, we should think about these qualities and how we can apply them professionally and personally.

–Scott Van Camp

Follow-Through: Tried + True PR Tactic

Follow-through is important in all walks of life – personal and business.  I wanted to share a story about how one company followed through on its commitment to PR News. We held our How-To Conference on Dec 1 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and our closing keynote speaker, Michelle Russo, svp of communications at Discovery Communications, contacted us with the news that her train from NY to DC was not going to make it.  Power lines were down along the Amtrak northeast corridor. There was that short panic attack among our staff — but not for long. Michelle secured her replacement right away so as not to leave us hanging. Kristen Mainzer, vp of internal communications, filled in for her as the closing keynote, and what was also striking is that she took Michelle’s presentation about proving the value of PR and was able to present the content without hesitation or unease.  She hardly looked down at her notes. She was clearly on the same page as her colleague in terms of how Discovery leverages PR internally and externally for this worldwide brand. I should note that every speaker, as with nearly every event we hold, showed up and did an admirable job. So they followed through, too, on their commitment to us. But with two hours to go before a keynote, we were doubly impressed with Michelle’s proactive approach. Business 101 will tell you that you should never present a problem without offering a solution. The one-second problem we faced at our event was solved due to great work by a PR team. Thank you, Discovery!

– Diane Schwartz

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