Tag Archives: Public Relations

Marketing and Public Relations – Enduringly Relevant

There will always be a need for Marketing.

There will always be a need for Public Relations.

The fundamental principles and basic tools remain relevant and crucial. It’s all about adapting them and understanding how to make them work for you.

Organizations will need to continue, as they have since the establishment of commerce, to educate and inform their customers about the product, what it is, what is does, how it works, and, most importantly how it meets the users needs.

Yes, social platforms, social media and the World Wide Web have radically changed how we seek and consume information.

Power has shifted to the purchaser/user.

As I’ve said repeatedly, the pendulum of power has swung in the favour of the people purchasing and using the products. Their role is more active than ever, as they seek and take control of their needs for information: when they want it; how they want it, when they want it.

Long gone are the days where customers passively sat on the couch in front of the TV or with a magazine being served the information Brand Advertisers wanted them to see. Information based on psychographics, demographics identifying the target users so the reach was appropriate, but little attention was paid to tailoring the message.

This makes the challenge of reaching customers both much more complex and that much easier. It has resulted in a communication strategy shift from hard sell to meaningful, compelling story-telling with the target group at the heart of the story, a crucial participant.

It means getting the information to them via the most appropriate channel, when it is most relevant and communicated in a manner that is meaningful/helpful/useful.

What is unchanged is the basic need for information.

It is more important than ever to consider the opportunities for sharing information.

There are many vehicles, and each has advantages and constraints. To be effective, marketers/communicators must use multiple channels, with a basic, consistent message subtly tailored for each different audience.

One of the vehicles, frequently overlooked but as useful as ever, continues to be the press release.

The news release is the fundamental information created and vetted by the disseminating organization and remains the official and formal means of fair disclosure.

Research* indicates news releases remain the most credible source of news for reporters and journalists. The information they contain has been crafted and vetted for accuracy by the owner of the news.

So, while as Sarah Marshall The Wall Street Journal’s social media editor for Europe, Middle East and Africa says, “Social media has become intertwined with the processes of how we gather and distribute stories.”

It doesn’t eliminate the need for traditional marketing and communication tools like press releases. Press releases contain the basic message.  A great starting point.

*Source: The State of Journalism in 2011 Oriella PR Network Digital Journalism Study

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PR Crisis – How to Handle Mistakes

photo credit: Seth Lemmons via photopin cc

photo credit: Seth Lemmons via photopin cc

mis·take  noun

1. an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.

2. a misunderstanding or misconception.

Mistakes are: minor, easily repairable  “We screwed up on your delivery, we’ll be a week late.”  “I’m sorry, but whoever took your cake order heard “Happy Birthday Harry”  instead of “Happy Birthday Mary” “.  Mistakes are misspelling a word, debiting the wrong account, charging the before-sale price, forgetting a deadline, using whole milk instead of skim in your latte.

MISTAKES are serious lapses in judgment, human error, or a complete disregard for others that cause, or have the potential to cause, serious consequences, injury or even death.  Like the Costa Concordia running aground.  Or, like someone in the cockpit of a British Airways jet who pushed the button for the automated “We are going to crash” announcement.

The most important thing about mistakes (little or BIG) is to ensure they don’t happen again.  That is a complete given.

The next most important thing is how you handle them.  For mistakes, an apology and an explanation is often enough.  All of us have been in the situation where we’ve made a mistake, for whatever reason.  It’s tolerated.

First, take responsibility.  Own up to the mistake.  You did something “wrong”. Admit it.

Be genuine in your dealings.   You messed up.  You should feel badly about it, imagine a similar situation that has happened to you.

Be honest.  There are things you will be able to say, and information that you may not be free to share.  Whatever you do say should be a candid and honest statement.

Apologize.  Say you’re sorry. Explain why you’re sorry and relate it back to the customer.  “I’m sorry for the inconvenience.  I realize that because we are late delivering your furniture you’ll have to make new arrangements for someone to be home.”

But MISTAKES must be handled differently.  MISTAKES must be handled on two levels.  They must be handled in the public domain and they must be handled with the individual(s) impacted by the MISTAKE.

Public

There should be an immediate public admission of a problem or error.  No need for details initially, but  include a reassurance that the matter will be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action taken with those found to be accountable.

Provide timely updates.  Communicate regularly and/or whenever there is important new information.

Monitor Social Media.  Follow up any issue that surfaces so that you can comment on the critical ones. See previous point.

Come to a conclusion.  Issue a statement when the dust has settled, the investigation is complete, and you can talk about the measures that have been put in place for the future.  Don’t just fade away so that people ask “Whatever happened to…”

Individuals

The most important part of dealing with a MISTAKE is how you deal with the individuals involved.  Each one of the people who have been impacted need to feel that everything possible was done to help them, comfort them, accommodate them, make it up to them, yes, compensate them.  That the “best” has been made out of a horrible situation.

Each of these individuals is a customer, a spokesperson, an advocate.  They entered a covenant of trust that X (product, service) would be provided in return for the $.  How they are treated will not only affect their attitude toward you in now and in the future, but will help colour public opinion for years to come.

Lessons Learned

BP is a brilliant example of what not to do in a crisis situation. BP’s image may never recover from the disastrous oil spill in the gulf of Mexico.

First, BP only  accepted partial responsibly for what happened, blaming two other companies working with them.

Secondly BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward’s regrettable “There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do.  I’d like my life back.”  statement may have been a bit too genuine and it showed a definite lack of prioritizing in his sympathies and in his responsibilities.

But fundamentally, there were, and are, so many people affected;  the environmental impact so broad and far-reaching – not just geographically but into the future as the ecosystem evolves and compensates; that it may be impossible to make restitution to everyone impacted by the catastrophe.  But BP should keep trying.

For generations, BP will be a bad word in the mouths of many of the residents of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and neighbouring states.

Despite the short shelf life of news in the Social Media environment, people who have experienced a disaster, as well as their families and friends, have long memories.

Originally posted on January 25, 2012 on mononews.

 

Can an Introvert Be a PR Pro?


Photo credit: click from morguefile.com

You would typically expect the successful PR person to be a charming extrovert, right? Someone who exudes self-confidence, doesn’t exhibit an ounce of reservation and who does not have a shy bone in his/her body. A person who is outgoing, gregarious, unfailingly “on” and is never at a loss for words.

Well that is not, and never has been, me. I’m may not be shy, but I am reserved. I am personable, but it takes me a while to warm up to people. I am open and genuine, but careful about what I do, and do not, reveal. I am talkative, but find “small talk” a chore.

Social outings, cocktail parties and events are more “work” than “pleasure” although I do enjoy myself once I am there. While meeting new people doesn’t makes me anxious per se, it does not top my list of “favourite things to do”. No matter how well I know my audience and how familiar I am with my material, presentations always make my pulse speed up, my heart move up into my throat from my chest and sets the butterflies fluttering in my middle.

I am an introvert.

And from my perspective, I will argue that introverts make not only good, but great, public relations professionals, even on the front line.

There have been many articles about introverts in the news lately. Evidence seems to point to the current environment favouring extroversion over introversion, evidenced by the predominance of “team” culture, brainstorming, cubicle farms. But human beings are adaptable and extroversion and introversion comprise either end of a sliding scale, so that most people fall somewhere in between the extremes that characterize an introvert versus an extrovert.

I first took a Myers-Briggs test in the 80’s. It was only then I understood that introversion was the term which described my somewhat reticent personality.

I have never been hesitant to speak out, however I rarely do so impulsively. I consider my words, their import and carefully watch the body language of my audience.

To put myself out there, I must always first deal with the fear of doing so, which involves weighting the possible consequences of what I have to say, and making myself say it anyway. I believe that the regular practice of forcing oneself to overcome reticence or fear allows you to learn to not let it restrict you.

As the person responsible for the PR of large health and beauty aids company for more than 15 years, I also acted as principal contact and spokesperson. The company considered our efforts in PR and communication very successful.

Don’t get me wrong, we worked with a great PR agency, so I do not and cannot take sole or full credit. Along with significant attribution to my colleagues there, some of that credit also belongs to the great products, strong strategy and Marketing efforts, as well as the fabulously loyal consumer base that used our products. I do believe, however, that I certainly helped contribute to the overall success of our efforts. Which is one of the reasons I’m arguing that it is possible for an introvert to be a good at Public Relations.

Introverts Make Good PR People Because:

Introverts try harder. Introverts tend to be self-aware because they are less externally focused.

This help might explain why they tend to be their own harshest critics. If there is something that they want to do, they want to be good at it. It’s like a personal challenge. So they will concentrate, strive, practice and improve so that they master whatever they try.

They know their shortcomings. Being self-aware also lets you have a good appreciation of most of your little character flaws. Someone once told me they felt I wasn’t giving them my full attention when they were talking to me. Since then, I have always made it a point to turn away from my electronic devices or anything that might distract me, so I can be sure to give whomever I am talking to my full attention. So, if I thought I wasn’t good at socializing, I would make an effort to ensure I did I whatever I thought was needed in order to improve my social skills, for instance: read books, watch videos, observe others and get out there and do it.

They are mindful of the objectives, the situation and the strategy. Introverts tend to consider the bigger picture, they are oriented to context and background. When they do things, they tend to understand the “why” of what is required and how it fits into the overall plan, rather just performing a task.

Introverts listen. Or, at least they listen more than they talk. This allowed me to observe and note details to remember that helped me build relationships. I would remember and often note down, after conversations, birthdays, favourite colour, children’s names, likes/dislikes and/or significant events.

Introverts engage. Introverts listen, which helps enable two-way reciprocal dialogue – an exchange of information – some of it tailored. Extroverts may spend more time transmitting information than receiving it. There is no question they get the message across, but are they maximizing the opportunity?

Introverts face fear on a regular basis. Maybe fear is too strong a word, but introverts often find themselves in social, public or work-related situations where they have to perform/conform despite their discomfort with group work, presentations, meetings, introductions and other necessary interaction. Whereas an extrovert would anticipate each television or radio interview with excitement, as company spokesperson, I saw it as a necessary evil, and would be reviewing my notes and talking points, right up to the time I walked on the set.

They want to learn, understand and excel. Introverts have a learning bent. They get much of their stimulation and satisfaction through the acquisition of knowledge, it’s important to them to “know their stuff”. Because when it’s time to contribute, they want their contribution to be meaningful.

So while it may seem counter-intuitive to believe that an introvert can excel in an environment seemingly created for extroverts, I would argue that it’s not just possible for an introvert to be a good PR person, it’s probable that they will make a great one.

Originally published October 17, 2012 on mononews12s0080 .