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?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ultimate Power to Shaving-Foam Pies – the good, the bad and the ugly…

Rupert Murdoch
- listed three times in the Time 100 as among the most influential people in the world
- ranked 13th most powerful person in the world in the 2010 Forbes' The World's Most Powerful People list.
- net worth of US$7.6 billion,
- ranked 117th wealthiest person in the world in March 2011

- ohh, and now part of a media crisis situation and getting shaving-foam pies thrown in his face.

And just incase you missed the news, the news you should be reading, is probably owned by Rup. From the recently closed News of the World and other ‘salubrious’ UK media such as The Sun, to the Wall Street Journal and into broadcasting - Fox Broadcasting Company to DirecTV.

In July of 2011 Murdoch became a prominent figure in the media after widespread allegations that the now defunct tabloid News of the World, owned by Murdoch's NewsCorps, had been regularly hacking the phones of private citizens.

Here’s the warning – even if you own a majority of the media, you can find yourself in a crisis communication situation.

What should be done?

We know the most effective cause of action in a crisis situation is:
Concern – Relief – Reassurance

Well, Rup did show concern & reassurance - On the 15 July Rupert Murdoch attended a private meeting in London with the family of Milly Dowler, where he personally apologized for the hacking of their murdered daughter's voicemail by a company he owns. On the 16 and 17 July, News International published two full-page apologies in many of Britain's national newspapers. The first apology took the form of a letter, signed by Rupert Murdoch, in which he said sorry for the "serious wrongdoing" that occurred. The second was titled "Putting right what's gone wrong", and gave more detail about the steps News International was taking to address the public's concerns.

What did he do wrong?

Another basic lesson in crisis communications is:
Tell it all – tell it soon – tell it truthfully

Well Rup doesn’t get full points on this scale – in fact it took a summons (after a polite request) to get him to appear before parliament in the UK.

But the biggest sin is credibility. Rup just doesn’t have any:
1 – Rups response to a Member of Parliament’s question: “Do you accept that ultimately, you are responsible for this whole fiasco?” Without equivocation, Murdoch replied “No.” He, instead, pointed a finger at subordinates.
2 – He argued that since he ran a global business of 53,000 employees and that the News of the World was "just 1%" of this, he was not ultimately responsible for what went on at the tabloid.
3 – news already out that the phone hacking scandal is the subject of a new book by Guardian reporter Nick Davies and publishers Faber and Faber.
4 – his son is the CEO...

Oh, you interrupt, but wasn’t it great how he expressed it was his most humbling day of his life?

But it takes the HuffPost to really put this in context:

Following several days of coaching by lawyers and PR experts, it must have been really rattling for Rupert and James Murdoch when showtime arrived to learn that the parliamentary committee questioning them would not permit opening statements. Framing, after all, is the name of the game.

To control the package that the narrative comes in is to control the meaning of the story.

No wonder Rupert Murdoch felt compelled to interrupt his son at the top of his first answer to say, "This is the most humble day of my life." That was the frame his team had planned, not some "what did you know, and when did you know it?" storyline that the committee wanted to pursue.

So today we learn to take one of the best examples of ‘framing’ to our next crisis communication scenario.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How marketing messages change post revolution - lessons from Egypt

As the Wall Street Journal recently covered, there has been an increase in ad spending in certain sectors in Egypt, but perhaps more interesting is the anecdotal evidence in the change of messages that are resonating with consumers.

In the weeks since Egypt's uprising, the television airwaves and Cairo's streets have been filled with revolutionary slogans.

"Build your country!" shout billboards hovering over the city's congested roads. "Develop your country!" urges another over smaller text demanding that Egyptians "Don't stop!"

But the signs aren't the work of revolutionaries. They are advertisements for Snicker's, the candy brand owned by Mars Inc., the U.S.-based confectioner.

Since thousands of protesters ousted former President Hosni Mubarak in a nearly three-week revolt, the enthusiasm for revolution has been redirected and repackaged for television ads, billboards and jingles selling products including hair gel, soft drinks and candy.

A television spot for Coca-Cola Co.'s Coke, which looks similar to a Latin American commercial called "Sky," shows hundreds of kids dressed in trendy clothes climbing to the tops of buildings in downtown Cairo. There, they lasso the sun, pull it out from behind menacing storm clouds and bask in the radiant glory that is the new Egypt. "Make tomorrow better!" the slogan beseeches.

A Pepsi ad urges: 'Think, Participate, Dream, Express who you are.'

Local brands are not to be left behind. A restaurateur renamed his cafe "January 25 Cafe," after the starting date of the uprising. In the middle-class Cairo suburb of Agouza, a billboard for Mink brand hair gel shows a young man with a spiky hairdo. The background of the billboard is an Egyptian flag next to a slogan that reads, "I am Egyptian."

This re-messaging for the Egyptian market has helped to lift ad spending in Egypt for consumer products.

Ad spending in Egypt actually increased to about $329 million in May from $310 million in February, according to data from Ipsos, a regional advertising and marketing research firm.

The revolution was hard on high-end products and large investments. Expenditures on household appliances and real estate between February and May of this year were down 46% and 44%, respectively, from a year earlier.

But in the category of fast-moving consumer goods, Egyptian advertising has increased in 2011. Advertising of soft drinks and snacks and appetizers surged 30% over the same period.

How will the more subtle art of public relations re-package messages in Egypt? We think the answer is obvious.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

How today’s media is changing Public Relations

The Huffington Post built a media empire from the digital zeitgeist.

The Huff’s genius involved a nose for water-cooler conversation and an eye for resultant keyword searches. Its unreal ability to dominate the search by re-serving the public what it was already discussing allowed HuffPo to exit for a very real $300 million.

For the sake of comparison, Newsweek sold for $1.

Is Newsweek 300 million times worse than The Huffington Post?

Of course not.

But Newsweek never decoded that hidden strand of The Huffington Post’s DNA: Today’s winners no longer try to make news; they instead try to be nearby when news is made.

And here is the bedrock of where media is changing PR. For PR folks to be successful they shouldn’t try to be the news; they should try to participate in news.

Easy to understand, so how does that happen? We’ve represented many different types of client at NettResults – some have experienced spokespeople and some do not. Here’s what we have learned:

1 – if a company does not have a spokesperson then there needs to be a lot of news around new unique features or advanced product development that the user actually cares about.

2 – better (and less expensive for the company) to have a spokes person.

Next up – how do we get that spokes person to participate in the news?

Back to traditional PR – the ability of an agency to position that spokesperson with the media through introductions, interview and good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction. Through this process, the spokes person gains the ‘credibility’ of the media. Yes, vital – credibility. It doesn’t happen overnight and it is a distinct and almost contradictory PR action than the daily KPI of gaining publicity.

Once credibility has been obtained, it is the job of the agency to keep the media informed on what subject matter the spokes person has preferential insight to – most probably because of their corporate experience. This is how the spokesperson becomes an ‘expert’ in their area of business.

Then, later on in time, when the news is looking like it is approaching the subject that the spokesperson has claimed insight and credibility, it is the job of the agency to showcase that spokesperson. This could be as simple as a one-to-one contact (picking up the phone) or it may be more appropriate to showcase the spokesperson in a one-to-many communication (for example a press release).

Before the spokesperson is ready to reach out to the media and fulfill their spokesperson duty, it is the agency that has to create and curate timely content around the news.

It’s not rocket science, but it does take some medium term planning to achieve success.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Births, deaths and marrages...

My late grandmother used to have me read the births, deaths and marriages section of The Times every day after lunch (this was before I was old enough to go to school or too young to look after myself in school holidays).

I never really understood why she was so interested... but it turns out (yet again) my grandmother was more in touch with the mass media than I knew and understood exactly what the consumers of media are interested in.

The world's news reads very much like the announcements section of one of those old fashioned paper newspapers... all birth certificates, weddings and obituaries.

The long-form of Obama's birth certificate was all news worthy and took much of the press space until...
The Wedding took over. Whether it was the kiss, Pippa's dress or the Aston Martin, it was all we could talk about until...
The death of the century took over.

So I guess the question is - who's birth, death or marriage is coming next?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Top 10 most common myths about public relations

When it comes to teaching about Public Relations I often get students asking me questions that I think are really obvious. And then when I go to clients whom have not previously conducted public relations outreach, the questions and prior assumptions move the straight out strange.

So, with a little help from our friends at, it is time to dispel some of these myths in hopes of helping students, business owners and others - avoid serious PR problems.

  • Myth 1: Any Press is Good Press
  • Myth 2: PR is All about Press Releases and Press Conferences
  • Myth 3: Once You Break Through with Publicity, You're Golden
  • Myth 4: Myth: Publicity is Free and Easy
  • Myth 5: You Need to Hire an Expensive PR Firm
  • Myth 6: Good Products Don't Need Publicity - - Only Bad Products Do
  • Myth 7: Public Relations Can't be Measured and is Therefore Worthless
  • Myth 8: PR Means Schmoozing and Controlling the Press
  • Myth 9: Only Ex-Reporters Can Do It
  • Myth 10: Public Relations is Spin, Slogans and Propaganda

There are many myths and misconceptions about PR that are not only wrong, but it many cases dangerously wrong. What else would you consider to be a PR myth?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Last month, PR strategist Adam Sherk took 25 of the most overused buzzwords in marketing and PR—he compiled a list of the top 100 and ran them through PRFilter, a website from RealWire that aggregates press releases.

The results: “Solution” led the pack with 243 appearances.

Shortly after he published the post, PRFilter set the record straight: “Solution” did not appear in press releases 243 times; it appeared 622 times—and it was the second most common buzzword.

The most common word is “leading,” which showed its face 776 times—in one 24-hour stretch.

Here’s the full list—compliments of Adam Sherk and PRFilter:

1. leading (776)
2. solution (622)
3. best (473)
4. innovate / innovative / innovator (452)
5. leader (410)
6. top (370)
7. unique (282)
8. great (245)
9. extensive (215)
10. leading provider (153)
11. exclusive (143)
12. premier (136)
13. flexible (119)
14. award winning / winner (106)
15. dynamic (95)
16. fastest (70)
17. smart (69)
18. state of the art (65)
19. cutting edge (54)
20. biggest (54)
21. easy to use (51)
22. largest (34)
23. real time (8)

What's the word you use the most?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Social Media from adorable baby to angst filled adolescent

Is social media about to experience growing pains?

According to people at Unica this year, social media is no longer the adorable baby everyone wants to hold, but the angst filled adolescent – still immature yet no longer cute – who inspires mixed feelings. All things social continue to hold intense interest, with 53% of marketers currently applying it to their marketing efforts. But as tactics rise and fall, a more sophisticated approach is emerging.

Instead of thinking tactic by tactic, marketers are beginning to think strategically across three major areas of social content: owned (what they create), earned (what customers create) and paid (what marketers spend money for).

And as far as NettResults is concerned, social media can be a grumpy old man - so make sure your have an integrated PR and SM campaign in place. Not only can SM be your friend and help you reminisce about good stories (helping you get the word out), it can also turn around and bite you in the butt in a crisis.

What do you think?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Raising expectations only to kill them...

Have you noticed how upbeat the ads for airlines and banks are?

Seth Godin points out that judging from the TV and newspaper ads, you might be led to believe that Delta is actually a better airline, one that cares. Or that your bank has flexible people eager to bend the rules to help you succeed.

At one level, this is good advertising, because it tells a story that resonates. We want Delta to be the airline it says it is, and so we give them a try.

The problem is this: ads like this actually decrease user satisfaction. If the ad leads to expect one thing and we don't get it, we're more disappointed than if we had gone in with no real expectations at all.

Why this matters: if word of mouth is the real advertising, then what you've done is use old-school ad techniques to actually undercut any chance you have to generate new-school results.

So much better to invest that same money in delighting and embracing the customers you already have. Then amplify these and use some solid PR to increase the exposure to testimonials and case studies... oh, and suddenly you have a snowball effect - happy customers, more PR, happier customers, better PR...

Maybe customer service and PR departments should be better aligned...