A new survey was released earlier this week saying that PR is the fifth most stressful career path, up from seventh in 2012.
To anyone remotely patched into the PR field, this is not exactly earth-shattering news and should be welcomed rather than frowned upon.
In the last several years the PR discipline has inexorably moved from the margins of marketing communications (producing written materials and cultivating relationships with editors and reporters) to just a concentric circle or two away from the core of corporate strategy and branding.
With the erosion in traditional media channels and the ongoing rise of social marketing—in which storytelling is paramount—PR has been elevated to a higher level on the organizational chart for both enterprise companies and SMBs.
As C-level execs put the squeeze on communications execs to better align their efforts with the top and bottom lines, PR pros no doubt are grappling with additional stress. But with the additional stress comes additional responsibilities—something that PR pros have been pining for since time immemorial.
But rather than channel Frank Costanza and practice the “Serenity Now” method of de-stressing, here a few things that PR pros can do to manage and/or alleviate the stress they incur:
- Know thy Numbers: For years, PR pros could get by without being very well versed in financing, statistics or anything having to do with numbers. No more. Communications execs need a better grip on how their companies make money and how all of the content they create is wedded to lead generation and lead nurturing.
- Get out of Your Comfort Zone: Years ago a grizzled PR pro told me that part of the problem with PR is that too many communications execs go into corporate meetings with the attitude of, ‘We’re the Good News People.’ In a globalized economy, that’s surely a recipe for added stress. PR folks need to tone down pollyanish behavior and practice a more cold-eyed approach to the challenges their companies face (e.g. getting the CEO to be more media savvy or being more sensitized to cultural differences regarding your product or services) before those challenges morph into problems.
- Don’t get Seduced by Social Media: For PR execs, it’s an occupational hazard likely to cause some stress: Keeping up with the Joneses, when it comes to using social channels. But not all social channels were created equal. Before you expend time, energy and budget on developing a social-media strategy, first conduct an audit of the target audience and what its threshold is for social media. Dealing with a client working in the entertainment or technology sectors might require the use of myriad social channels. Trying to reach a fellow who in the morning puts Fido in his pickup truck and drives to a construction site for ten hours of backbreaking labor may not require a Facebook page. When it comes to social channels, be discriminating.
Are we missing anything? Let us know what you’re thinking about reducing stress in the PR world.
Now that your personal New Year’s Resolutions are sealed, it’s time to think about what sort of impact you plan to make this year for your company, your stakeholders and, just as importantly, for yourself. To help, I’ve compiled 13 action items, in the hope that a few of these will resonate with you. I recently read that it takes 66 days for a habit to form to the point it becomes subconscious, so when you try these ideas below, give it until mid-March to assess if you’ve been successful. That’s assuming you’ll start on this list now….
- Learn your company’s business mission and make sure your PR is aligned with that mission and the 2013 goals; your communications efforts are less meaningful if they have only a marginal impact on your organization.
- If you can accomplish the item above, then it’s time to fight for a bigger PR budget.
- Talk to a journalist at least once a day – either in person or by phone to get in the rhythm of always developing and improving media relationships.
- Understand the Barcelona Principles. They are important to your communications measurement efforts and will elevate Public Relations in the business sphere.
- Befriend your IT department since your online content is dependent on the back-end systems working.
- Always be learning: take time at least once a month to listen to a Webinar, attend a conference, read a business book.
- Become financially savvy: whether it’s for your clients or for your department, understand a P/L (profit/loss) statement and be comfortable speaking about revenues, profit and margins.
- Give time: mentor someone and/or volunteer your time to a cause you care about and don’t look for credit and applause for your efforts.
- Hone your business writing skills every day and read other good writers for ideas on how best to articulate your internal or external messages.
- Avoid eating lunch at your desk at least twice a week – remove yourself from your office to refresh your thinking, connect with colleagues, de-stress. Consider taking the IT guy to lunch (see item #5).
- Spend at least 15 minutes every day on social media – if you don’t tweet, post something on Facebook; if you don’t share a story on LinkedIn, pin a photo on Pinterest; if you don’t write a blog, comment on someone else’s. Or conduct a listening campaign, soaking in the social media conversation around you. Fifteen minutes is not a lot of time to flex your social media muscles.
- Collaborate with Marketing – this could be the year to break down the silos between PR and Marketing, so plan a meeting to discuss integrated communications ideas.
- Shorten your daily task list – give yourself a break and accomplish a few things each day that matter rather than a lot of things that don’t.
What would you add to this list? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
- Diane Schwartz
Let’s face it. New Year’s Resolutions more often than not don’t quite work out. Such resolutions (finish Robert Caro’s latest tome on Lyndon Baines Johnson or hit the gym more frequently) may last a few weeks or months into the New Year, but then they start to wane.
So, for the purposes of pushing the PR needle, perhaps it’s wiser to substitute the term “resolutions” with “goals,” which seems a bit more concrete.
And for communications execs, there’s no shortage of goals to strive for in 2013.
For PR execs, meeting or exceeding these goals may spell the difference between garnering bigger communications budgets and earning more respect from the C-suite or staying in place and struggling to attain the proverbial seat at the table. It’s a given that PR pros need to wed their social media channels to their overall PR strategy. But here are a few other goals for the New Year.
The ABC of ROI: Sure, PR measurement is older than the hills. But it’s only been in the last several years that ROI has become paramount in the ability among PR pros to demonstrate to senior managers (and their clients) both the value of PR and better accountability. This year communications execs need to strive to improve ROI and get a better handle on the language of numbers because it’s often the only language the C-suite comprehends.
Breakdown the Silos: The term “integrated communications” has been tattooed to our brains since, oh, we forget. But it’s safe to say that there’s a wide gap between the rhetoric surrounding “integrated communications” and the reality, where PR and, say, advertising are often like two ships passing in the night. Rather than succumb to corporate inertia, PR pros this year have to step up their efforts at working more hand-in-glove with their advertising, marketing and branding counterparts, among other disciplines. In a digital age, no media department is an island. Working more closely with other media-related departments can only help PR pros to enhance their content, boost their visibility within the four walls and sharpen their media relations.
Writing Well: As the Web proliferates and social channels become the initial platform online, everybody and their brother is now a writer or aspiring author. But, to be charitable, there’s a good deal of dross online. Well-written pieces, whether online or offline, command a premium from editors, reporters and journalists. Regardless of their market or clients, PR execs in 2013 need to strive for writing clear, crisp (and relevant) copy. (Enough with the spray-and- pray model, already.) Respect the language (of your markets) and don’t be enthralled by slang or colloquialisms.
Follow Matthew Schwartz: mpsjourno1
In 2009 and 2010 Toyota faced a doozy of a crisis when some customers reported that the cat company’s vehicles were accelerating without warning, causing accidents, injuries and deaths.
The accusations sent Toyota’s sales reeling, while its reputation as a maker of safe and dependable cars took a nosedive.
Now, nearly four years later, Toyota has announced a $1.1 billion settlement from a class-action suit filed by car owners who claimed economic loss because of the unintended acceleration of Toyota’s cars.
In announcing the settlement, Toyota took pains to state that it wasn’t admitting fault; both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NASA were unable to find any defects in Toyota’s source code that could cause problems.
Not surprisingly, between 2009 and today, the company has been under intense scrutiny by safety regulators. In 2011 Toyota President Akio Toyoda went before Congress to pledge better quality control. Embarrassingly, the problems continue.
Earlier this month, the NHTSA fined Toyota a record $17.4 million for failing to quickly report floor-mat problems with its Lexus vehicles. And in November, Toyota recalled 7.4 million cars due to a power window problem that poses a fire risk.
Yet, according to CNNMoney, Toyota is set to pass General Motors and reclaim “the world’s biggest car maker” title for 2012, following a bumper year of sales both at home and overseas.
In a way, Toyota’s crisis arc reminds me of the BP crisis. That company was down in the dumps after the Gulf oil spill in 2010, but today has rebounded nicely on the balance sheet.
Toyota will have to answer some questions if it wants to get back on track, such as what effect will the massive settlement with consumers have on its reputation? Another question for communications executives is: How many more fines and product recalls can the company allow before loyal customers start fleeing for other car brands?
Not only do many of its cars need repairing, but so, too, does Toyota’s crisis response strategy.
Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01
Christmas Eve 2012 was not an enjoyable one for Netflix, the popular streaming video service. That night, customers across Canada, Latin America and the U.S. hit snags in streaming the company’s movies and TV shows into their homes—via various devices like gaming consoles and DVD players.
The snafu was nowhere near the seriousness of the crisis that hit Netflix in 2011, when it announced it was increasing prices through the unbundling of its DVD and streaming video services, and then had to backtrack.
In fact, service outages are not at all uncommon (see RIM). But what makes this an interesting incident is that Netflix uses Amazon Web Services to stream its content to customers. With its Amazon’s own streaming service linked to its hot tablet device, the Kindle Fire, Netflix and Amazon are direct competitors in the streaming space.
So Neflix’s use of Amazon’s cloud servers struck a nerve online. Many of the comments regarding the Netflix service outage were along the lines of “Why does Netflix use Amazon’s servers? Netflix should have its own servers.”
From a communications standpoint, it’s interesting to note that Netflix didn’t overtly blame Amazon for the Christmas Eve service outages. Instead, Netflix took the high road, stating, “”We are investigating exactly what happened and how it could have been prevented.”
In the business world—and particularly in technology—it’s often unclear which companies are friends or foes. In the case of the Big 4—Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon—they may be foes but they are also willing to work with each other on initiatives that benefit each party. Such is the case of Netflix and Amazon.
The lesson here: With the economy still stalled, there will surely be more of these agreements in 2013. Corporate communicators need to be sensitive to partnerships with their own competitors, and exercise knowledge and good judgment in case something goes wrong.
Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01
As PR News readers know, we’re big on lessons learned. Many of these PR lessons result in tried and true tactics, like “measure everything” and “listen to your target audiences.” Because 2012 is drawing to a close, I’ve compiled my own “lessons learned” list for 2012, drawn from some very public PR dust-ups. Here are my favorite five:
Lesson 1: Learn From Others’ Mistakes. Starbucks U.K. should have dialed “M” for McDonald’s before launching a hashtag campaign this week to engage with customers. Asking people to #spreadthecheer for the holidays, the public responded with tweets criticizing Starbucks over a tax controversy and labor practices. Posts like “Hey #Starbucks, PAY YOUR F_______ Tax #spreadthecheer” appeared on a big screen at a Starbucks-sponsored ice rink in London. McDonald’s suffered a similar fate in January with its #McDStories campaign.
Lesson 2: Trust Your Fan Base. Food Network’s Guy Fieri went on the offensive after his new Times Square restaurant is skewered by The New York Times. “”I think we all know what’s going on here, I mean [Times food critic Pete Wells] came in with a different agenda,” said Fieri on the “Today” show. Fieri could afford to rip the Times, because he has nearly 800,000 Twitter followers and his “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” is one of the Food Network’s most popular shows.
Lesson 3: A Little “Cheeky” Humor Goes a Long Way. After revealing photos of Prince Harry in Las Vegas appeared online, media pundits said Harry may never recover his royal reputation. Instead of buttoning up about the crisis, Harry used a bit of humor to diffuse the controversy. His first public appearance after the crisis broke saw him meeting with a 6-year-old boy, a survivor of acute leukemia. In an interview with the boy on the day before the meeting, the boy told reporters he was going to say, “I’m glad you’ve got your clothes on, Prince Harry.” Harry was briefed on those remarks and said to the boy, “I heard you were on ITV earlier and you said something cheeky—but let’s not talk about that here.”
Lesson 4: Any Publicity is Good Publicity. When it comes to The Donald, the old adage still rings true. When Donald Trump told his 1.7 million followers on Oct. 22 that he had big news to announce about President Obama on Oct. 24 at noon, the media and public took notice. While his announcement turned out to be a dud, love him or hate him, Trump’s gravitas got him what he wanted: to be back in the national spotlight.
Lesson 5: Never Make the Coverup as Bad as the Crime. After San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 days for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, word got out the he had planned to launch a campaign to avoid suspension by creating a fake Web site, highlighting a product that doesn’t exist in hopes of using that as a “reason” for his positive test. Cabrera was able to overcome the positive test, signing a $16 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays for 2013. He may never overcome that lame coverup.
Do you have some PR lessons learned in 2012 that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you.
Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01
The story goes that journalist Clare Booth Luce once asked President John F Kennedy what his one sentence was, that a “great man is a sentence”. Concerned that Kennedy was more “a paragraph” than a sentence, Booth (one of the first females to serve in Congress) was making a point that he needed to focus. Daniel Pink, in his latest book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” uses this exercise to implore readers to figure out what really motivates them.
By asking “What’s Your Sentence?” you are putting your goals into clearer focus. You are shedding the hundreds of things you want to be and defining what matters. Pink offers up famous examples to this answer, such as Abe Lincoln’s one sentence being “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.”
This is a question you can apply not only to your personal goals and self-definition, but to how you define your brand, a campaign goal, a resolution for next year. That’s right: resolution, not resolutions. As we enter the quieter days of the year, when we are hopefully taking a break from the office and spending more time with family and friends, it might be a good and challenging question to ponder. So, what’s your sentence? There’s no right or wrong answer, but how you answer it can change the way you work, think and communicate in 2013 and beyond.
PR pros who are serious about measurement are flooded in data. They’re swimming in it. Sometimes they contract with measurement and monitoring companies, which provide them with bucketloads of data. They may also be getting data from in-house marketing analysts. And then there is data from their own surveys and from Google Analytics.
With their backs breaking under the weight of all this data, they’ve got to somehow make sense of it and use it to prove the value of their PR programs and secure their budgets for the next year—as well as secure their own jobs.
This is the stuff PR pros’ nightmares are made of.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can immerse yourself in PR measurement—and be a data freak, even—and still get a good night’s sleep. You just have to learn how to simplify and repeat this mantra: Research with insight is just trivia.
This the mantra Katie Paine kept repeating during PR News’ Dec. 13 measurement workshop in New York. Katie, who is chief marketing officer of News Group and author of Measure What Matters and of PR News’ long-running Image Patrol features, is on a worldwide mission to show PR pros how to create measurement programs that are manageable and effective. As Katie says, the secret to curing yourself of sleepless nights is to find out what’s keeping your senior leaders awake at night. Learn that, and figure out which stakeholder group you want to influence and measure, and you’ve got yourself a measurement program that will help your business prosper—and that’s how you secure your PR budget.
“PR measurement is difficult enough—start simply and be specific about who your stakeholders are and what you want them to do,” Katie said at the workshop. “Your audience is not everybody with a pulse. And ask yourself what is your role in getting them to do what you want them to do.”
Once you’ve cornered the CEO and found out what keeps her or him awake at night, figure out which actions from a particular stakeholder group will allow the veil of sleep to descend on your CEO. Then, start with a stakeholder group that is easily identified—and one that you can measure. (Admonishment from Katie: Just pick one stakeholder group and resist the temptation to think big.)
You do need to make the connection between what you do as a PR person and which action you want that stakeholder group to take, but with these simple, humble beginnings, you’re on your way to becoming a well-rested data geek.
On Twitter: @SGoldsteinAI
By now most of us are aware of “12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief,” set for tonight at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The concert’s lineup is a who’s who of rock royalty (including The Who, by the way), and more than 2 billion people worldwide around will have broadcast access to the concert.
Since the concert’s sponsors say every dollar spent on ticket sales will go to those in need, the proceeds—also including donations during the concert itself—will be considerable, and will benefit the thousands of New Yorkers affected by super-storm Sandy.
From a public relations/reputation standpoint, there are many organizations that will benefit from involvement in tonight’s relief effort. Here’s a sampling:
James Dolan, Madison Square Garden Company: One of the main 12-12-12 concert organizers, Dolan is often maligned by the press and public for his management of the New York Knicks, owned by MSG, and for business decisions on behalf of Cablevision, of which he’s president and CEO. After Sandy hit the New York/New Jersey area on Oct. 29, it was revealed that MSG asked employees in an e-mail to return to work on Nov. 2, or they would be docked a personal or vacation day. Give Dolan credit here, his involvement in 12-12-12 is admirable.
Various Media Properties: Speaking of Cablevision, cable and media companies are known not to play nice with each other over program fees, which ultimately enrage consumers who end up paying more on their monthly bills. Tonight, 39 U.S.-based TV channels and many more web properties will show the 12-12-12 concert, demonstrating goodwill towards each other and the public.
Robin Hood Foundation: This group, who will distribute the money raised by the concert, already has a solid reputation as a fully transparent charity organization. Its “Concert for New York City,” held five weeks after 9/11, raised more than $35 million, and the proceeds for 12-12-12 is expected to be considerably more. The Robin Hood Foundation should serve as a model for those organizations looking to start a give-back program.
Social Media Platforms: Facebook, Foursquare, GetGlue and Google+ are all playing major social roles in tonight’s festivities. Foursquare may have the best hook for people to give: The first 25,000 people to check in anywhere using #121212concert will have $10 donated on their behalf by Samsung Galaxy.
PR News urges you to check out the 12-12-12 website, where you can find out more about the stellar lineup of artists and how to give to those affected by Sandy.
Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancampo1
Last week, Apple’s Tim Cook announced that his company would invest $100 million to move a portion of its Mac manufacturing back to U.S. shores in 2013. Cook told Bloomberg that “Next year we’re going to bring some production to the U.S.”
This was met with praise by the majority of business and economic pundits and executives. But others took a look at the fine print and weren’t entirely convinced of Apple’s sincerity. First, it was pointed out that $100 million is tip money compared to the company’s cash on hand: $121.3 billion. And second, Cook distanced the effort from a corporate standpoint by stating,” This doesn’t mean that Apple will do it ourselves, but we’ll be working with people and we’ll be investing our money.”
While skeptical of the statements of CEOs in general, here I’m inclined to give Apple the benefit of the doubt. After all, Cook instituted philanthropic efforts at Apple after predecessor Steve Jobs made it a point not to. And while part of the reason for this decision is most likely to generate some good PR, let’s face it: any investment towards jobs in the U.S. is a good thing, isn’t it?
But Apple has to be careful here. If next year the initiative turns out to be a drop in the bucket or it fails to live up to expectations, the company will open itself up to heavy criticism.
One of the tenets of good PR and CSR is to keep your promises, and if you don’t it will come back to bite you. Apple must keep this in mind.
Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01