Inspired by Arik Hanson, Justin Goldsborough and Heather Whaling, I’ve decided to put together my own PR bucket list. Traditionally, I don’t have goals for my career as defined by most. There’s not a particular job title I want to hold. I don’t have an idea in mind for a salary number that would make me feel as if I’ve “arrived”. There’s not a particular client I want to land. That said, after some thought, I think these are some things I’d love to shoot for. Two of these probably aren’t feasible in any way (#3, #5) because I’d have to be employed by the University of Iowa and it’s doubtful I could ever convince my wife to move to Iowa City; and Rage Against The Machine is likely kaput forever (WHY CAN’T YOU JUST GET ALONG WITH THE BAND, ZACH??!!!!). Without further ado, my Top 5 for my PR bucket list:
- Secure the opportunity for a client (or myself) to sing the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field
- Advise a Major League Baseball franchise (stole this one from Hanson; but it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while)
- Conduct media relations for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes during a Rose Bowl trip
- Do press for a non-profit I either work for or that is a client that has secured a 7-figure donation/fundraising event
- Manage the press for Rage Against the Machine’s reunion World Tour
How about you? What’s on your PR bucket list?
Going about my daily Twitter rounds, I noticed the Twitter algorithm decided I should be following the FCC’s account. Being the media geek that I am, I happily clicked on the link, curious as to what the Federal Communications Commission would be tweeting about. Surely it is engaging regularly with the companies it is charged with regulating, or better yet the media consumers it is charged with having their best interests in mind in its rulings. Right?
That link goes to who the FCC is following. Care to take a guess? You’d assume that it would be following companies such as Comcast, NBC, CBS, Time Warner, Clear Channel; you know. MEDIA COMPANIES. In case you didn’t want to click on that link earlier, here’s a quick look at who (or what to be more precise) the Federal COMMUNICATIONS Commission is following:
I’ll buy that the FCC needs to follow at least SOME of these accounts. The White House, Senate, House, Open Government Iniative. What I can’t buy is the FCC not interacting with anyone, or paying attention to the industry it is charged with regulating. Did I mention that picture above is the entire list of who the FCC follows?
Obviously, we shouldn’t be surprised that a government entity is a bit out of touch with what it’s supposed to be doing. So, ending my soapbox rant, I’d like to offer the FCC some free advice (which I’m sure will be taken to the highest levels of the organization):
- Follow more relevant accounts. In addition to the above media companies, follow accounts of those covering the media business world. That includes journalists, bloggers, PR people, entrepreneurs; anyone with a stake in the industry. Especially those that are WORKING in the industry. Full disclosure. I used to work at a radio station owned by Cumulus. I was let go on February 6, 2009. Mere days later, Lew Dickey was rewarded with a $500,000 bonus. I am still somewhat bitter over my exit from the radio industry.
- Interact with more people. At the time of this writing, the first @ reply to someone that is outside the organization (disallowing RT’s of other government agencies), happened on March 16th. That’s a long time ago in Twitterville. This is not a broadcast medium. You HAVE to engage with people for Twitter to have any value to your organization. That includes Dan’s Dog Emporium and the FCC. Besides, how can the FCC know what’s best for American citizens if it isn’t TALKING TO THEM?
- Explain. Many of the FCC regulations and rulings are written in legalese. I understand why and have no problem with that being the case. Use Twitter to explain to the rest of us that don’t speak legalese what’s happening so we can form an opinion of some sort and then engage with you about what’s happening.
CNN allegedly reported via Twitter Thursday afternoon that beloved actor Morgan Freeman had died. This came as a surprise to Mr. Freeman, who was (and is) still very much alive. Apparently, a user, whom I’ll not link to nor name in this space, thought it would be funny to attribute a retweet to CNN saying Freeman had died. Popeater did a great job at explaining what happened here. Rumors quickly spread that CNN had deleted the offending tweet, which CNN had never actually sent out. That has been confirmed by numerous outlets.
The only thing CNN did wrong in this situation was not updating their investigation into the hoax. Updates letting users know what was being uncovered about the hoax, in real time, would have done much to quell the rumors. And frankly, if those rumors were true, I would have stuck with what I tweeted about the situation last night:
So how can you prevent someone from hijacking your brand on Twitter and putting, in this case, false words in your mouth?
What you can do is constantly monitor what people are saying about you. Use a service like TweetDeck to get real time updates about your brand. Use Google Alerts to keep an eye on the conversation happening around the Internet about you and your brand. That might be the biggest mistake many brands make; thinking a conversation isn’t take place already. You or I could be the target of a hoax at any moment. The only thing to do is to continue building your reputation, so you have some capital to spend when that crisis occurs. I’ll give you the same advice “Mad Eye” Moody would give. Constant Vigilance. Once you’ve detected the problem, be proactive about proving it was a hoax.
The World Series of Poker is currently airing on ESPN when it’s not talking football or airing SportsCenter. As I was flipping through channels the other day, I noticed that and what song instantly pops into my head?
I know. Welcome to my brain. I got to thinking about how this relates to PR. Why? Well, why not? So, for a click of your mouse, I’ll offer some advice. There are great lessons to be learned from the entire song, but I’m going to focus solely on the refrain.
- Know when to hold ‘em…and when to fold ‘em. In a PR crisis, you have some options. One of those options includes holding off on offering a comment 10 minutes after something happens. Offering a comment before analyzing the situation can do far more harm than good. While “no comment” is NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER an option, telling a reporter that a comment is forthcoming and you’ll have an answer soon is perfectly acceptable. That brings us to folding. Do. Not. Lie. There’s other ways of saying that. Don’t mislead. Don’t knowingly offer inaccurate information. If the situation is out of hand, ‘fess up. Basically, just look at Toyota or BP and do the exact opposite. Toyota, in fact, did learn it’s lesson! Just last week, Toyota issued another recall to repair brake fluid leaks. No announcement saying it’s not a big deal, or nothing to worry about. Just a release that told car owners to get their cars fixed. Well done.
- Know when to walk away…know when to run. Do you read Clients From Hell? If not, you should. There will always be problem clients in our industry; or any industry for that matter. Why? Because some people are just giant pains in the butt. If a client is consistently costing you time and money by demanding revision after revision, it’s time to walk away. If you can’t reconcile the cost of doing work for the client with what the client is paying you, walk away. If you get a client like this, run like hell:
Client: We’re moving to another host, you need to help us!
Me: I’d love to, but my wife is in labor right now.
Client: Do you understand our website is down?
- Don’t count your money while sitting at the table. No one likes a braggart. It’s perfectly acceptable to talk about your accomplishments, or the accomplishments of your business, but there’s a line. No need to loudly proclaim you just landed the million dollar account, because no one cares. People care about the great work done by you and/or your business. Bragging about how much you get paid, what kind of house you live in or how big your boat is will not only limit further opportunities for you, but presents an image very few clients will want to do business with. There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with getting paid a lot, living in a big house, and owning a yacht that makes it onto Travel Channel. Just make sure that’s not all you’re about.
- Time enough for counting, when the dealing’s done. When your agency DOES land that “lifeblood of the agency” account, celebrate. However, your celebration needn’t include having a banner hung over your table at the bar. Be successful. Appear successful. Be humble. Once you retire, count your money, and if you have enough…buy a Caribbean island. I think I’m beginning to realize why that career as a financial advisor didn’t work out…
The Philadelphia Phillies Roy Halladay threw the second no-hitter in post-season history last night against the Cincinnati Reds. The majority of the Cincinnati Reds gave Halladay his due afterwards, with one exception. Shortstop Orlando Cabrerra had this quote after the game “He and the umpire pitched a no-hitter. He gave him every pitch. Basically, we had no chance.” That statement is wrong in every single way. If you need proof, here’s a graph (h/t to SportsGrid.com) of every pitch that was called a strike by the home plate umpire last night:
Literally ONE pitch was outside the strike zone that was called a strike.
As a manager, in baseball or otherwise, you cannot let control of your team get away from you. Dusty Baker has no control over his team. When a player makes a statement like that after a no-hitter, it’s quite obvious there’s little control in the situation. I could point to comments and actions by Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips this summer towards the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, but that will take too much time.
Here’s the thing: Baker is known as a players manager, but he has no control over his team. They do and say what they want, when they want, and he is left hoping none of it causes too much drama, or friction inside his own clubhouse.
Think about that in the business world. There are managers who let their employees do there jobs with little or no guidance and/or discipline. They don’t want to step on toes and try to be everyone’s friend. That’s not what a good manager does. A good manager has a good working relationship with their employees that is friendly, but both know who is in charge.
Letting employees run amok without any kind of consequence or supervision causes problems throughout the organization, and ends up being an “every man for himself” type of situation. Get control of your employees and let them know who’s the boss. Which in most cases, is probably this guy:
I have a small confession to make before we go any further. I find myself tapping my toes to some of Lady Gaga’s music. I’ll stop short of calling tunes like “Poker Face” or “Telephone” good or bad, and simply say I find them stuck in my head randomly. One of those random times was yesterday morning when this picture graced my Google Reader inbox:
Um. Wow. Let’s just all let that marinate for a minute or two (thanks, I’ll be here all week. Tip your waitress and try the veal. GAH! SOMEONE STOP ME!!! I’M IN A PUN VORTEX!!!!)
We all know Lady Gaga likes to pull the crazy out every once in a while, give it a Roger Clemens’ size dose of steriods and really go for gusto. That said, sometimes, enough is enough. Her outfit didn’t, and doesn’t, offend me. As my friend Aurora Meyer was kind enough to point out, it actually makes me hungry. Looking at her fashion choices from a PR perspective, she’s allowing her persona to outweigh her job performance; that is her singing.
The same thing can happen for us in public relations. When the stunt to grab the media attention ends up taking over the headlines, and the message you are trying to deliver is lost, you’ve actually cooked up your own mini-media-crisis. It’s usually not serious, unless someone gets hurt, but still. Do you want to be known as the PR person and/or firm who puts clients in a meat-dress (metaphorically speaking), or do you want to be the firm that can get that positive public attention in fun ways that DON’T distract from the message?
Feel free to cut loose and go with that zany idea every now and again. Just don’t make the mistake of letting those zany ideas drowning out your message.
Saying “I’m sorry” is a tricky proposition; especially in the realm of public relations. Jeff Esposito has a great post here regarding a PR mess Target has on its hands. I’ll urge you to read his post for the details, and his advice on that particular topic. We got into this topic a bit last night on #pr20chat (that link will take you to last night’s transcript).
It’s not just the wording of the apology you need to worry about. It’s the legal ramifications of saying I’m sorry. In certain situations, saying those words is a one-way ticket to Lawsuitville, though in certain situations, you’re heading there no matter what (just ask BP and Toyota). Here’s the three things you must keep in mind when saying I’m sorry in a public relations capacity. One caveat; every situation is different and requires delicate maneuvering. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Now, without further delay:
1. Be honest. Your customers, and the public at large, will forgive you if you screw up. What they rarely, if ever, forgive is a cover up. If you royally screwed up, there’s no shame in owning up to that mistake. Consult with legal, but whatever you do, DON’T COVER UP YOUR MESS. Take South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s situation. If he’d simply left his wife for his girlfriend, he would have caught a lot of heat…but probably not the intensity he did after trying to cover up his affair, becoming a national joke in the process.
2. Be human. If legal shoots down apologizing in any way, shape, or form, there are other methods of not coming across as an emotionless robot with no soul. Like this guy:
Expressing concern for the plight of those affected by your crisis is fine. For example, wishing someone a speedy recovery from injuries sustained does not paint you into a corner of taking responsibility. It simply shows your concern for the well-being of another person. This statement must be worded carefully, but most legal departments will/should go along with this.
3. Focus on the future. Talk about the solutions you are already working to solve the problem at hand and steps being taken to make sure the situation doesn’t happen again. Once the details of what happened are established, the focus turns to what is being done to solve the problem. The latter is what you can control. Show the public how you are being proactive in solving the situation.
Apologizing in PR is ALWAYS a delicate situation. Every single crisis communications situation is different and must be evaluated as it develops. Things can change not just minute to minute, but second to second. Carefully analyze your situation and circumstances before issuing any statements or speaking to any reporters.
Of course, the best piece of advice is this; don’t screw up in the first place.
Which is better? To know the information you are getting is completely unbiased, or to know about the biases the information contains, and how it was obtained, when you receive it.
That’s the discussion I had with Micheal Foley and a few others during Monday’s #journchat. For the purposes of our discussion and this blog post, we’re discussing news reporting.
I’m of the mindset that in Utopialand, all news reporting would be completely objective and unbiased. Realizing that we don’t live there, I still believe being as objective as possible is the best route to go.
Michael is of the opposite opinion. He’d rather know EVERYTHING about that report. How the information was obtained, the history of the reporter and interview subject, not to mention the opinion of the editor or director that originally thought of the story. He argues that only with every single piece of relevant information about the story, its subjects, and its writers, can you truly get the full picture.
I don’t feel that way. I think if you are (trying) to be objective, you’ll end up being transparent. Being objective in a situation that you have an opinion about is maybe the most difficult thing a journalist can do. If they can do it well, and I (perhaps naively) believe there are reporters out there who want to be objective. Being objective means all of the relevant information is presented in an unflinching light. The good, the bad, the ugly are all present in the story.
No matter what the personal opinions of the reporter or subjects of the story, or editors or news directors, if all the information is reported in the story, and no details that could slant the story one way or the other are left out, you’re being truly objective…and transparent at the same time.
So maybe the lesson in all of this is in the end, if you’re being truly objective, you’re being truly transparent.
Let me have it in the comments.
EDIT NOTE: I spelled Micheal’s name incorrectly earlier. I’ve now corrected it. May my mistake live on in infamy.
It appears British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward is on his way out. There are many reasons I think this is a good idea. Here’s a couple:
Looks like you’re going to get your wish Mr. Hayward. And don’t forget this gem:
What I AM saying is that regardless if Hayward is booted, the next person still has a monumental mess on his hands. So, ultimately, why even bother removing him? The environmental damage alone will take decades to fix. Some things may never return to normal.
This is a “save face” move. BP appears to be moving on from the Hayward reign and place the keys in the hands of a new leader. Basically, BP’s board is saying, “Hey look! We are doing something about the spill!” No, you removed your CEO who was a small part of the problem.
I disagree that this is completely a “save face” move. Without a doubt, any guy dumb enough to say he’d like his life back and then a couple of weeks later attend a yacht race in France is a liability. Where I disagree with Jason is that I don’t think BP is viewing this as a “Look at us people of the Gulf Coast region affected deeply by our screw up! We’re DOING something!”.
There comes a time when the ship needs a new captain. When that leader inspires zero faith from the crew (in this case crew being the public, its BP’s employees, and its investors and stockholders), a new direction is needed. Americans, and most people worldwide, are predisposed to distrust corporate CEO’s, a point made by another friend of mine, Sam Ogborn in the comments:
Here’s my question though: who is someone that the public trusts? Most CEOs of large corporations I’ve never heard of, so I wouldn’t be a good judge of character. But how can someone instill trust in the public eye if no one knows of them in the first place?
That’s a GREAT question. The answer is the public just needs to know that the top man (or woman) at BP “gets it”. They need to know that the BP CEO understands the trauma inflicted by this spill on wildlife and mankind and perceive that person as someone who CARES about what happens in the Gulf. Hayward didn’t seem like he ever truly cared. See those clips up above if you disagree.
To promote change you need a person at the top that is willing to instill change. If Tony Hayward isn’t going to do his job, then BP needs to find someone inside its organization that can step up and do the job correctly. It’s less about solving the problem in the Gulf, which is going to take another generation at the minimum to TRULY solve, and more about putting someone in place that will take those first steps.