Tuesday, January 17, 2012

We've moved

We loved being here, but for the latest NettResults blogs, news and views please visit:

NettResults Middle East Blog

NettResults International Blog

Thanks and see you real soon!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

12 media interview tips for 2012

A media interview is a critical opportunity to convey key messages about your company to customers, key stakeholders and the public. To assure that the final printed, online or broadcast story is accurate and includes your messages, here are twelve guidelines for 2012:

1. Focus on one or two key messages. Reinforce these prepared messages and verbally flag them for the reporter throughout your interview so that they are sure to understand what is important to you. Don’t wait for a leading question to convey these messages – from the very start of the interview use whatever question you are asked to bridge to your messages.

2. Keep it simple. Keep the real audience in mind (you may be talking to a reporter, but your real audience is the reader/viewer). Unless you are being interviewed by a highly technical journal, simplify your messages. Think about telling a story to someone who is not an expert – your mother, a friend, or neighbor. If complex issues or definitions can be simplified, the reporter is likely to get it right and the intended audiences will understand your message.

3. Practice makes perfect. Practice to yourself, in front of a mirror, film yourself (your smart phone will do the trick) and then practice with a colleague or PR professional. Even the most seasoned interviewees can’t wing-it, so ensure you practice before every interview.

4. Tell a story. Prepare compelling quotes or anecdotes in advance. Journalists make stories come alive through good quotes, meaningful anecdotes and images that readers can picture and relate to.

5. Speak for the company at all times. It is never appropriate to give personal opinions, criticize others or make off-color remarks.

6. Never speak off-the-record. Regardless of the rapport that you have with a reporter -- or promises made by the reporter -- keep all of your comments on the record when in the presence of a reporter, producer or photographer.

7. Anticipate tough questions. Decide in advance how to handle them. Discuss difficult issues and questions with your communication consultant before the interview. The direct approach is usually better than being evasive. When you cannot comment or information is proprietary, just say so, but use the opportunity to bridge back to a key message

8. When in doubt, call back. If you are unsure how to answer a question, or need to check facts, get back to the reporter later. Don’t fake it or feel that you should know the answer. Regardless of the reporter’s deadline, take your time, swallow your pride and provide only accurate information. Some questions may be appropriate for someone else – or another company – and not for you to answer.

9. Proprietary information. You do not have to share or discuss personnel or business proprietary information. It is fine to say that you understand the reporter’s interest, but the information they are requesting is propriety or confidential. Once you have said that, immediately bridge to some other related information that you can discuss. This helps take the focus off the topic that is off limits.

10. Offer to help. Refer the reporter to other important sources of information or to experts, particularly organizations with whom you partner.

11. Final facts and fact checking. At the end of the interview give the reporter a business card and offer to check facts or quotes. Offer your mobile phone number. You should never ask to review a story, but it is
OK for you to offer to check facts over the phone.

12. Enjoy. You’re the expert, get your messages across and use even the most sensitive questions to bridge to something positive and enjoy the opportunity to shine a light on the good things your organization is doing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Social Media, the Journalist, and how PR agencies interact

Our friends at Cision have just released their 2011 Cision-Newhouse School Digital Influencers Survey. It has some interesting findings and you can read the full research here.

Now, much as we love research and its findings, we do have to identify that Cision's research is often heavily skewed to the bias of selling media lists and the Cision services. That said, we all benefit from understanding exactly how to use social media with the media.

The 2011 digital influencer survey shows that social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (with the impact of Google+ soon to be felt) continue to revolutionize how those who create digital content do their jobs: how often they post content (“file stories”) and how they identify stories and trends, cultivate and qualify sources, and share information.

But – perhaps even more importantly – it is apparent that social media has empowered anyone with a voice that resonates with a community to build influence and vie for the same attention and audience as traditional media.

These “other content creators” may not be connected to an established news organization or blog, but their “social capital” is so significant that they have a direct impact on consumers and other influencers.

Those who define themselves as journalists tend to have very different (and less positive) perceptions about the usefulness and accuracy of social media.

Yet all respondents agree that social media is a superior way to share stories, connect with communities, and make their voices heard.

Bottom line - what does this mean to PR agencies and organizations that use agencies? Well, PR agencies need to use social media tools to inform/converse with journalists and those writing materials that customers are reading. But they can't rely on them - social media needs to be integrated into journalist outreach.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Power is nothing without Control

...according to the tire manufacturer Pirelli. And so it is with public relations. Gone are the days when an organization can fully control their corporate message to the media.

In days gone by, it was normal for an organization’s employee handbook to strictly dictate that no employee could speak to the media without prior approval and spokesperson media training. No problem.

Then a few years ago social media popped up. According to a recent piece of research by Altimeter, companies average an overwhelming number of corporate owned accounts – about 178. That is a bunch of people from different departments and around the globe that are speaking on social media platforms, that the media are seeing. And that’s before we count the personal SM accounts of employees who happen to mention their job. So what’s to be done?

NettResults recommends three levels of corporate communication development:

1 - Relinquish a mindset of control - instead ‘enable’. In business school we were taught to foster message control and encourage all corporate representatives to stay on message. Yet today, as multiple business units from support, sales, HR and beyond participate in social technologies, communication is spread to the edges of the company – not just from the PR department. As a result, PR groups have changed their mindset to safely enabling business units to communicate, based on pre-set parameters they put in place through governance, coordination, and workflow.

2 - Roll out enterprise workflows - education programs at four levels. We’ve found that savvy corporations have detailed workflows, including sample language in which employees should respond. Beyond creating these workflows, they must be distributed throughout the enterprise through education programs, and drilled. We’ve found savvy corporations have up to four types of education programs spanning: Executive team, social media team, business stakeholder teams, and finally all associates. Even if the mandate is for rank and file employees to not respond in social on behalf of the company, reinforcing education is still required.

3 - Run mock crises. Lastly, we’ve found a closer relationship with media relations, social media and crisis communications. Savvy corporations are working with agency partners such as NettResults to setup mock crisis drills where they approach a week-long crises in a number of hours in private. Not only does this test the mettle of the organization it provides useful training so companies can respond faster, in a more coordinated approach. We have already witnessed health organizations receiving ‘social-crises-ready’ compliance notices and we expect compliance programs to spread into other industries.

Get ready – take control.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Who are the key decision makers and are the spokes people media trained?

Every company has a organizational chart - a ladder of power, but how this structure functions during a crisis must be clarified with all the stakeholders in the company; particularly the communications department. A crisis can hit at any time, and the company needs to determine secondary command structures in case key decision-makers are unavailable at the time.

Not only is it important for those to know who need to spring to action (and how those people are contacted) - it is equally important that everyone else in the organization knows they can not speak on behalf of the company or to the press. Something that is best handled in a company employee handbook.

Organizations also need to decide which situations warrant which spokes person, and plan accordingly.

Most importantly, the spokes people need to be media trained in advance. Effective spokes people should receive professional media training and should be well versed on how to deal with the press. An organization's spokes person need not necessarily be the most senior staffers. For example, in some cases, the CEO is not the most efficient spokes person due to experience, knowledge or geographical location.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why Small Businesses Need PR and How to Start

An owner of a small (less than $5 million) company asked me last week why companies engage in PR. It seemed so obvious, that I had to go back to the basics...

You know your company does great work. Your employees and clients know it, too. But until you start telling your story-and sharing your successes-with wider audiences, you're likely to remain the proverbial "best-kept secret."

Enter public relations. PR can help a company reach new audiences, achieve top-of-mind awareness, establish a leadership position and enhance image. In fact, some say the only difference between the no-name shops and the big-name firms is PR.

If you aren't already doing PR, you should be. And if you aren't sure where to begin, read on.

1 - Getting Started - First find your PR agency partner. Whether you follow an initial "gut" feeling or engage in a lengthier selection process, chemistry is likely to play a role in your choice of PR consultant. A PR consultant should become an integral part of your team-someone who you'll trust, be comfortable with and enjoy working with. To that end, most smaller firms are likely to prefer working with a small PR agency or sole practitioner in a principal-to-principal relationship. Large PR agencies-while ideal for huge corporations-are unlikely to deliver the level of service you need.

2 - Arranging the Terms - As with any service, there are various ways of contracting for PR consulting. Most agencies and consultants recommend that clients pay a monthly retainer. Of course, you also have the option of hiring them on a project basis with an hourly billing structure. Before you sign a contract, be sure to inquire about what services are included in your monthly fee. Whatever pricing structure you choose, it might be wise to begin with a six- to 12-month commitment. Long enough to get PR going and to test the waters, but short enough that you can make changes if it's not going to plan.

3 - Setting PR Goals - Once you begin your relationship with your PR consultant, it's important to have realistic expectations. For starters, don't expect overnight success. It will take a bit of time for the consultant to become intimately familiar with your firm and to build or update an arsenal of basic tools, such as your background, fact sheet and bios. And keep in mind that many publications are monthly or bimonthly and have long lead times. So even if your consultant makes contact quickly, it will likely take three to six months before you see any results from thier efforts. Above all, experts advise against expecting to garner a certain type of coverage in a particular publication. Rather than creating such limiting goals, focus on building a workable plan that will guide your activities and provide metrics for measuring your success. If a plan is put into place that provides a consistent approach and is strategically focused, goals will be met. The results you get will be equal to the amount of time and effort that's put into it. A consistent stream of pitches, press releases and meetings with the media will produce the best results.

4 - Maintaining Momentum - Even after the initial excitement wears off, you'll need to continually re-energize your commitment to your PR program. That will require frequent, consistent communication with your consultant. PR cannot be conducted successfully in a vacuum. It requires a time commitment from the principal to work with the PR consultant, share what's going on with the firm and actively participate in the process. A PR consultant should become an integral part of the team and be viewed as an investment in the future of the firm. In other words treat your PR effort as you would your most important client. The more attention you give it, the more satisfied you'll be with the results.

5 - Measure - Make sure the factors for success are clear from the beginning, so both the client and the agency know where they are heading and how they are doing against SMART goals. This allows for a meaningful conversation between the client/agency on a regular basis - focused on business requirements.

Good luck! The global economy is dependent upon these smaller businesses, so let's use PR to make them great, create jobs and stimulate growth.

Friday, September 23, 2011

PR and the power of a story...

I just read with interest the article that Meg O'Leary wrote on PRNews Once Upon a Time There Lived a Plot: The Importance of Storytelling. I've long been an advocate of storytelling in marketing and public relations. It just makes so much sense.

It's worth understanding why storytelling works. It's in-build into our DNA. We grow up listening to stories and frankly they are a darn sight more interesting than 90% of PR copy-writing out there.

A good story is one that touches people in some way. As PR professionals (storytellers), our mission is to involve the audience, make them interact with us and the story, even if it is just in their thoughts or core. A really good story has a sense of truth and resonates with some basic universal aspects of being human.

But it does more than that. We have stories because they:
- Build credibility
- Unleash Emotion
- Permission to Explore
- Influence Group-Thinking
- Create Heroes
- Vocabulary of Change
- Order out of Chaos

There is a simple way to look at good stories. Back in my youth I was involved in a movie production company and was asked to read my fair share of movie scripts. It very quickly became apparent that stories fell into one of two camps - 'usual people in unusual situations', or 'unusual people in usual situations'. Think about it. Think about your favorite book. Think about the last movie you went to see.

I believe there are six tips to think about when creating a story for PR purposes:
- Know your audience
- Keep it simple
- Stay fresh
- Be honest
- Demonstrate credibility
- Spark interest

There are also eight elements that in essence make a good story, the:
- protagonist
- antagonist
- inciting incident
- call to action
- dreadful alternative
- conflict
- quest or progression
- other characters
- transformation
- moral

You also could look at it another way - the 'wow' factor. Forbes had a great article about this written by Brett Nelson in July.

Lastly, thanks to Professor Brian Sturm from UNC Chapel Hill whom in 2007 had the foresight to record one of his lectures. There is a lot of value in the 45 minutes, and the first 8 minutes are fabulous.

Why not write a story today?