Self-Inflicted mistakes hurt the worst

As a public relations person, I like to think of myself as an “image advocate.”  Essentially, that means I work to publicize anything you do well and try to minimize any bad press.  What a lot of PR and business people don’t understand, however, is that an “image advocate” also needs to protect a business from itself.  Many times this means letting a client know, in no uncertain terms, that they are responsible for their own bad press and that they need to change the way they do things on every level.

The problem is that businesses don’t seem to like getting that type of advice.  They don’t understand that public relations isn’t just about media relations.  It’s about customer relations, employee relations, and community relations.  Heck, any relations you have as a business falls under PR, and when a business is screwing it up they need to fix it.  Or face the repercussions.

Think I’m blowing smoke?  Ask Pinnacol Assurance.

You see, Pinnacol Assurance has had some public relations trouble in its past.  All of it self-inflicted.  You would have thought, after all that nonsense, that Pinnacol would have made sure to fix some things to try and stay out of the media’s cross-hairs.

You’d be wrong.  From 7News in Denver.

DENVER — The state’s largest worker’s compensation insurance company denied a Denver man’s claim, celebrating the denial in e-mails, a CALL7 Investigation found.

Workers comp provider Pinnacol Assurance lost a lawsuit by Michael Schuessler claiming the company improperly denied his claim.

Incredible.

What is most egregious is not that the workers were celebrating the denials, but that there was no one inside the company with the public relations sense to try and stop this kind of stuff in the first place.  Now, Pinnacol Assurance will be, justly, raked over the coals for the second time in roughly six months.

And it could have been prevented.

Don’t make the same error Pinnacol Assurance made.  Here are six things that a company can do to recover from a self-inflicted crisis.

APOLOGIZE AND THANK

A company that has been through a self inflicted crisis will never truly get over it.  Nor should they.  Ten years from now, Pinnacol will still be hearing from people about this mess.  They must continue to apologize to people, and thank them for remembering.  Why?  Because each time  Pinnacol’s mistakes are brought up, it creates an opportunity to explain how they have changed.  If a business has changed and has embraced their past, there is an opportunity to regain some of that lost trust.

DO A COMMUNICATIONS AUDIT

If a company like Pinnacol is so tone deaf in one area of their company, chances are they’re tone deaf in lots of areas.  You need to look at every part of your company to see what can be done better.  Not only will you see where your problems are, but you’ll quickly see your strengths as well.  Once you have that, you can understand the true scope of your problems and get to work fixing them.

TAKE A FRESH LOOK

One of the main issues all industries have is the dreaded “echo chamber.”  There are things we do that seem normal to us, but to someone from the outside it may seem offensive.  I’m quite sure that many insurance companies, who must deal with, and deny, millions of claims a year can act quite callous about it.  It’s a tool for coping.

You must bring in someone from the outside to give you a fresh look at your procedures.  They can show you areas where you need repairs that you didn’t even think of.  Plus it will give you credibility by showing that you are serious about fixing your problems.

FIX PROBLEMS

This seems silly but you’d be surprised how many businesses think that because the spotlight is no longer shining on them they can go back to business as usual.  This will only turn that one day story into a six month story (Read more about that here).  You must understand that once you are involved in a self-inflicted crisis, you are on the media’s radar.  Anything other problems will send the press back to you in a heart beat.  You don’t want that.

Any problems you find have to be fixed, and fixed properly.

KEEP EMPLOYEES INVOLVED

A key thing to understand about Pinnacol Assurance’s latest gaffe is that the employees didn’t understand they were connected to the earlier problems.  That disconnect caused the current screw-up.  When you have a crisis, you must let your employees know that they are affected, but they are also part of the solution.  When employees have ownership of a company’s solution, they will be much more likely to act proactively to fix problems they might encounter.  The more people looking for problems to fix, the better.

NEVER FORGET

If you’ve been involved in a self-inflicted crisis, you know.  The lack of sleep, the heartburn, the worry, and the shame.  No one likes to go through that.   So remember, every day, about how bad that was and you will be much more likely NOT to repeat your mistakes.

Pinnacol Assurance is going through a terrible time right now, and they have no one to blame but themselves.  They will be hurt from this.  But if they take this advice and move forward, they will survive and come out a much better company.

And that, really, is what “image advocacy” is all about.  Making companies better so that there is more good news to celebrate.

*(If you’re interested in my services you can go here for more information.)

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Mitch Reed in a happier moment

Before I was a P.R. pro for hire (go here if you’re interested), I spent a lot of years working as a reporter.  Back then, it felt like winning the lottery when a story like this one from the Aspen Daily News fell into our laps.

A local man has confessed to stealing hundreds of copies of the Aspen Daily News and The Aspen Times from newspaper boxes throughout the valley last Friday morning.

Mitch Reed, 23, said he drove around to various newspaper boxes about 7:30 a.m. Friday, removing copies of both newspapers in an attempt to spare embarrassment to a buddy who was in that day’s police blotter in both publications.

You see, anytime I could take a one day story and turn it into a two day story, well, that was just awesome.  Now I think  the opposite.  How can I keep that one day story from spilling over to tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

Well, thanks to Mr. Reed, and his honorable stupidity, anyone can learn the secret to crisis communications success. Here are four things Mr. Reed didn’t do that you should to minimize a crisis.

TAKE A BREATH AND THINK

I  know this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to stay rational in a crisis.  Take a minute to gather yourself and think about what the worst possible outcome could be.

Take Mitch here (may I call you Mitch?).  It’s obvious that he saw the looming problem that was his friend showing up in the Aspen Daily News police blotter, and freaked out.  If he had chilled out for a sec, he might have seen that, while showing up in the blotter is bad, there are worse places for your name to show up in a paper.  Like the front page.

Giving yourself a second to breathe and think will give you a chance to see the crisis in its proper perspective.  Mitch didn’t do this.

ASSESS YOUR OPTIONS

Once you have a grasp of the problem you face, you can now start figuring out the best ways to fix it.  Come up with as many solutions as possible and follow them to their probable conclusion.  Choose the one that gives you the best chance to minimize the damage.

Had Mitch done this, he might have seen that, yes, stealing all the newspapers in Aspen is a possible solution.  Is it the best option to try and keep a buddy’s name out of the spotlight?  I’m thinking NO.  Perhaps helping his buddy work on explaining himself and apologizing to people that actually brought it up might have been a better choice, but that’s just me.

DON’T COVER UP

There is one hard and fast rule about crisis communications that no one ever seems to learn.

Never, Never, Never try to cover up bad news.

Ask Nixon.  If a reporter thinks that you’re hiding something they are gonna investigate.  They will find the truth, do a story on the cover up then do more research into what else are you possibly hiding.  Maybe they ask ex-employees about you.  You know, the one you fired who said you’d regret it one day?

In Mitch’s case, he didn’t understand the when folks don’t get their papers, they complain to that paper.  When hundreds of people complain, they investigate.  Then they write another article talking about Mitch while mentioning his friend’s name in the blotter.  I bet more people read that blotter now.

WEATHER THE STORM

It’s never fun when bad stuff happens, but the one thing you need to remember is this.  Hit it Annie

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83chZPsYLbo&w=200&h=100]

You will get passed this crisis.  And how you handle it will tell everyone as much about your company as any problem you might have had.

So thank you Mitch.  You’ve done all of us an invaluable service.  You have illustrated that turning a small problem into a bigger one is exactly the wrong way to deal with a crisis.

Instead, take a breath, assess your options, never cover up, and weather the storm.  You do this and that bad story they wrote about you today will be forgotten tomorrow.

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The player at the center of it all, Cam Newton

Cam Newton, for the non-sports enthusiast, is the starting quarterback for the Auburn Tigers football team.  He is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy as the best football player of the year.  He is also facing allegations that he received money to attend Auburn University, a big no-no.  If it is proved he took money, any game he plays in will have to be forfeited.

 

Wednesday, a tweet went out quoting ESPN’s Ian Fitzsimmons saying that Newton would not be playing this week against Georgia.  Here’s what happened next, from Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

There was story and multiple messages on Twitter earlier Wednesday that referenced an ESPN Dallas report that Newton was on the verge of being suspended, possibly within “three to four hours.”

So what happens?  Legal sports books in Las Vegas, unsure about the validity of the information and seeing millions of dollars suddenly being bet on the underdog Georgia, were forced to stop taking bets on the game.  Costing those sports books even more millions.

One problem though,

In fact, the ESPN reporter, Ian Fitzsimmons, says he was misquoted, that all he said was a story like this can change in three or four hours.

Oops!

Here are three lessons you must learn from “The Cam Newton Effect.”

SOCIAL MEDIA IS A POWERFUL TOOL, BUT JUST A TOOL

Social media is a powerful tool, but just a tool

 

Social media is a tool that can be used to help or hurt your company.  Using social media effectively can help you spread good news about your company very quickly.  It can also spread bad or false news about your company very quickly. There was no fact checking on the Cam Newton allegations, but that didn’t matter.  Social media doesn’t know what’s true, or what you meant to say.  You, and you alone must take responsibility for making sure the right messages get publicized with social media.

 

If you have a plan, you won't need this

YOU MUST HAVE A SOCIAL MEDIA CRISIS PLAN

 

If something comes out on social media about your company that’s incorrect, or reflects poorly on you, there will be no time to figure out how to deal with it.  You literally have minutes. You must have a plan that you can implement right away to minimize any damage.  The elapsed time from the first Twitter about Cam Newton until Las Vegas was forced to stop taking bets was about four hours.  Four hours.  You have to be prepared with a social media crisis plan.

YOU MUST BE USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO LISTEN

If you are not monitoring social media right now to find out what is being said about you and your company, you could be letting bad information fester and grow like a cancer.   You wouldn’t let false information about your company be circulated at a dinner party you were attending, why would you ignore it online?  The damage that can happen to a company in just one day from bad online information could be titanic.  The best part is it’s really not that hard to monitor.  Here’s how.

Listen up...social media's talking about you

 

Additionally, I use Yoono on my browser.  It gives me a side browser that lets me see all my social media accounts in one stream.  It’s constantly running and updating while I’m online.  A pretty handy tool if you ask me.

“The Cam Newton Effect” illustrated how powerful social media has become.  But as Spider-man’s uncle said “with great power comes great responsibility.”   I hope these tips help you to understand just how important that responsibility is to your company.

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Who's here for the Flash Mob?

You’ve seen them on YouTube,on the news, and – if you’re lucky – in real life.  When executed correctly, they will go viral and become globally recognizable.

It’s the guerrilla marketing campaign.

Guerrilla marketing campaigns are a powerful tool for public relations. The allure of a guerrilla marketing campaign is the subversive feel of the event, and the buzz generated by the no rules, take no prisoners attitude of a successful campaign can often get more attention than any traditional P.R. strategy.

But there is a misconception.

Many people wrongly assume that there are no rules in guerrilla marketing, and that’s just not true.

A successful  campaign needs to walk a fine line between seeming “corporate” and breaking laws.  You want to leave everyone with a positive feeling.  Walk that line well and you could get all the publicity you could ever want. Screw up and, well, your guerrilla marketing days are probably through.

We don’t want you to fail, however, because we like good guerrilla marketing.  So, here are five rules that you should probably follow in order to mount a successful guerrilla campaign.

STICK TO YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FOR PLANNING

Keep the planning as quiet as possible.  The element of surprise is essential.  Plus, you want the people who are apart of your event to feel they’ve done something special, and even a bit subversive.  This means you need to stay away from using main stream media for advance publicity.  Stick to your social media networks in order to plan your event.  Why?  Well you need your participants invested and that means getting them to feel like they’re a part of something special.  Advertising on television, newspapers or radio doesn’t give people that feeling.  You want the people who are “in on the joke” to proudly wear your brand, and you want the people not “in on the joke” to want to be in on it next time.  You can let the press know right before so they can get there in time to cover it, but anything else ruins your “guerrilla credibility.”

BE OF GOOD CHEER

What are the best type of practical jokes?  The one where everyone, including the mark, are laughing at the end.  The same goes for a guerrilla campaign.  No one wants to be minding their own business at some location when a bunch of hooligans show up and try to make them feel uncomfortable, angry, or scared.  This is a sure way to cause yourself headaches.

Instead, keep your campaign lighthearted.  You want people to remember whatever message your publicizing with a smile, not a shiver.

Critical Mass now seems like more of a party

Case in point:  Critical Mass, a group promoting bicycle use and rights.  The group got a lot more traction when they started treating their rides more like a party, complete with music and costumes, instead of acting like a bunch of angry thugs vandalizing cars and seeing how miserable they could make an afternoon rush hour.

You want people to embrace your message, not fight it.  Being of good cheer makes everyone a winner.

MESSAGE COMES FIRST

It can be probably be said for a lot of public relations, but with guerrilla marketing campaigns it is even more important. The message has to come first.  It doesn’t matter how cool, or exciting your event, if no one gets why your doing it, you’ve basically failed.

Find what makes the entity you’re promoting unique and highlight it.  That way folks will get the joke AND the message.

ONLY PHOTOS AND MEMORIES LEFT

There are two truths in life.  Everyone loves a party, and everyone hates cleaning up after a party.  The only thing worse than cleaning up after a party is cleaning up after one you didn’t want while the hosts drive away.  Make sure your guerrilla marketing doesn’t create a mess that someone else has to deal with.

 

Mission Local photos of Microsoft Guerrilla Campaign

Microsoft found this out recently with a guerrilla campaign in San Francisco.  Their “chalk” messages turned out to be more permanent than thought and now Microsoft is going to have to pay for the clean up and any fines.  This doesn’t include all the evil thoughts the people actually cleaning up the mess will have towards Bill Gates.  Not a good way to get new customers.

TAKE AND KEEP RESPONSIBILITY

What many guerrilla marketers often forget is that they are responsible for everything that happens during an event.  This means good AND bad.  Some old lady who gets trampled by the hundreds of folk dressed up like stampeding bulls is your responsibility.  Make sure you keep control of your event.  Let your “participants” know what you expect.  Make sure you take care of any damage.  Don’t give people a reason to complain about your event.  The only thing you want to apologize for is for too much awesomeness.

Guerrilla Marketing is a great tool for any public relations professional.  A successful campaign can create buzz that other types of P.R. are hard pressed to duplicate.  An unsuccessful campaign, however, can be disastrous.   Hopefully, by following these five rules for mounting a successful guerrilla campaign you too can create the next YouTube sensation.

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Creating video is easier than ever

It’s happened to every public relations professional.  You have a client with an awesome story and you want to publicize it.  Problem is, by the time you’ve described the story your press release is five pages long, way too long to send to any reporters.

Back to the drawing board you go.

Keeping the message simple can be difficult.  In fact, it’s probably the one thing that P.R. folk struggle with most.  But there is a solution, and that is to integrate multi-media into your P.R. efforts.

The saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  So use those photos, that video, audio, and even some animation to simplify your message and make your P.R. efforts pop.

Here’s four areas of public relations where multi-media efforts can help you.

PRESS RELEASES

Now, back in the day, when press releases were sent via mail or fax, adding multi-media was a real chore that had very little chance of succeeding.  There was a lot of cost to make a tape or CD that looked professional, and there was a high probability that a reporter wouldn’t have the necessary tools handy, nor the patience, to see your production.  Chance are that video went straight to the trash.

Not anymore.

Embedding short video or audio clips, or adding photos to your press release is easy and can help a reporter to understand why your clients’ story is one they should follow up upon.  For a reporter, watching a one minute video clip that illustrates your message is way better then spending fifteen minutes reading your long winded release.

Another plus is that if they like your video or audio cuts, the reporter will have them immediately at their disposal to use as they see fit.

Helping a reporter save time on a story is always a good idea.

Audio is a tool that is often overlooked

SOCIAL MEDIA

Say my client is hosting a benefit.  A quick photo or a few seconds of video sent via social media sets a much clearer scene about the good works your client is doing over a text filled Tweet.  Adding multi-media allows your followers to feel more a part of that benefit than they otherwise would.  And having people identify with your client should make your client very happy.

MEDIA TRAINING

Perhaps one of the most necessary, yet least used parts of public relations is media training.  I bet there’s plenty of public relations people out there who wake to nightmares that start with a reporter with a camera asking your client’s CEO for an interview.

Get rid of those restless nights.

An hour or two of practice in front of a camera, or a microphone can make a world of difference.  Plus, you can give your client instant feedback about what they do well….and not so well in an interview.  Additionally, you can use multi-media to show your clients examples of how a good interview should look instead of explaining to them how it should look.  Using these tools will give your client a much clearer, and more concise idea of how to conduct themselves with the press.

INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

There once was a client who’s employees needed lots of daily information from headquarters.  The problem was that, the employees were getting so overloaded that they eventually checked out.  The client needed a solution.  What we did was to add multi-media to the messaging so that employees could choose how they got their information.   Employees were now free to choose their preferred method of getting information.  The result was a huge increase in the percentage of employees that were actively receiving the needed data.

It is not a bad idea to be creative either, particularly when your message is intricate and detailed.

Four Eyed Films faced this issue while trying to explain different environmental terms in their documentary “Cool It.”

Anyone can do animation these days

Their solution?  Animation.  The result is a entertaining, and easy to understand explanation of the concepts they were discussing.

The best part is that you don’t even need to be an artist to do animation anymore.  There are plenty of free animation programs out there that you could use that don’t require any artistic ability, and frankly, not that much time.  Think about having the ability to make your messages to your employees clearer and more interesting.  I imagine  it would definitely be worth whatever time you did spend to have your employees more engaged. Don’t you?

So think about adding multi-media to your public relations repertoire.  You’ll be surprised at how much it will help your messaging.  After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, you might as well use it to your advantage.

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The best part of elections is that the next one's two years away.

Well, the votes are in…mostly.   And, while half the country is celebrating and the other half is consoling itself, it’s important to look at five non-political lessons that every public relations person should take from Campaign 2010

1.  NOTHING IS OFF THE RECORD, EVER.

There once was a time when a person could let loose with the odd swear, slur, or violent outburst and have it slip under the radar without anyone knowing.  Not anymore.  Smart phones, cheap video cameras, blogs, YouTube and Twitter have made everything we do susceptible to public scrutiny.  Think how many politicians are wishing they could get back that one unfortunate minute of their lives that got caught on tape.  Gone are the days of controlling the media.  It has become vitally important for public relations folks to control their clients instead.  If your not giving your clients media training you must start, today.  The best way not to get caught doing something stupid on camera is to not do something stupid at all.

2.  BLOGGERS ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS REPORTERS

Remember when reporters were kings and bloggers were just crazy nut jobs living in their parents’ basement?  Well that’s just not the case anymore.  A quick look at The Truth Laid Bear, a website which tracks blog traffic, will show you that the biggest blogs on the web are getting nearly two million hits a day.

Two million hits…..a day.

Heck, the 200th rated blog is getting over 75,000 hits a day.  You still think bloggers are crazy?  I can tell you that lots of politicians who are nursing their wounds today thought that.

Listen carefully, there is no “new media” or “old media.”  It’s all media, and you need to pitch to it.   It is far more likely that a person will take advice about a business from a blogger that they read daily than from a media entity they may only see occasionally.  Blogs are word of mouth on steroids.  If you’re not reaching out to the blogging community, you are doing your clients a disservice.

3.  ANYONE NOT USING SOCIAL MEDIA IS GETTING LEFT BEHIND

O.K. here’s a little test for you.  Look at all the people that you follow on your various social media sites who told you in the last week A) how they were going to vote; B) how you should vote; and C) that they did indeed vote in the 2010 election.  How many of them didn’t tell you anything about their voting preference four years ago?

Pretty amazing when you think about it.

Politicians who were able to take advantage of social media are headed to Washington, while those who didn’t are headed to their computers to learn how to take advantage.  Whether you like it or not, people are talking about your business with social media.  If you’re not listening and responding, your losing out on opportunities.  That’s just not good for any business in this current climate.

4.  PERSONAL TOUCHES STILL MATTER

Make no mistake.  Blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Flicker, Digg and Google are all very important.  But a handshake is just as important.  One politician who won as a huge underdog sent personal handwritten notes to every donor during his campaign.  Think that might have made a difference?  Public relations and social media are just like paint brushes and easels.  They are tools.  You have to use them to illustrate what makes your businesses identity.  The more you can reach out and touch people personally, the more likely they are to have a positive view of you.  Then they can use their social media to tell potential new customers how great you are.  Two networks telling their people about your awesome business is way better than just one network.

5.  KEEP YOUR POLITICAL THOUGHTS OFF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA SITES

There is one thing from Campaign 2010 which has brought all Americans together, and that is that they hate the mudslinging and arguing that comes with every election.  They hate being told “you’re an idiot if you vote for Prop T1000,” or “only commies and fascists would vote for that candidate.”  Perhaps the best advice on this topic comes from Michael Jordan who, when asked why he didn’t get involved in political activism on behalf of the Democratic party said, “because Republicans buy sneakers too.”  That’s really good advice.  There’s no need to alienate half of your potential customers because you have some political itch to scratch.  Customers don’t care.  And the ones who disagree with you won’t argue, they’ll just go somewhere else.

So while none of us can agree on whether this election was a success or a disaster, I think we can all agree that their are things more important than elections.  So take these five non-political lessons to heart.  It won’t help your depression or dampen your enthusiasm in the wake of Campaign 2010, but they might just make your business more successful.

Hope this helps you out.

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New idea? Focus on the food.

Re-branding yourself is a tricky proposition.  You never really know how a re-branding effort will work out for you.  Will it resonate with new customers without alienating the old ones?  Do people really care?  It’s hard to say.

So hearing that T.G.I. Friday’s was shaking things up made me a bit nervous.  Not that I was thinking about T.G.I. Friday’s at all, before last week.  Frankly they had faded in to the background of that white noise known as “casual dining.”  Yes, I loved them as a kid, but what were they doing now?  What sort of re-branding effort were they undertaking?  What’s the gimmick?  Well, what they’re doing is no gimmick, and frankly, its pretty exciting.

You see, T.G.I. Friday’s is focusing on food again.

I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but in reality this could turn out to be a master stroke for T.G.I. Fridays.

A little history for you.  About a three decades ago, T.G.I. Friday’s was an innovator.  Their menu had options that many folks had never seen at the time.  A 9-layer dip?   Using the freshest ingredients in the kitchen?  Unthinkable!  But as time went by, T.G.I. Friday’s fell into the same trap as all the other casual dining chains.  They got lost in the shuffle.

Deviled Eggs from T.G.I. Friday's new menu

The T.G.I. Friday’s people decided to take a look around as noticed that there was a niche in the casual dining market that wasn’t being catered to.  The “foodie” market.  They noticed that, though television ratings for food shows weren’t growing, the number of educated eaters was on the rise.  This was their heritage, after all.

So T.G.I. Friday’s brought in Roger Kaplan to revamp the menu try and get T.G.I. Friday’s back to its roots of using fresh ingredients at all their locations (Opting to get away from the pre-packaging of so many other chains ), and creating innovative menu options that T.G.I. Friday’s was once known for.

“We’re not trying to create a new T.G.I. Friday’s,”  Kaplan said, “we’re just reinventing back to our heritage to put the shine back on what we do.”

T.G.I. Friday's wants to food to shine

And truly the food is no joke.  The appetizer menu has unique selections like cheddar deviled eggs and hummus that hearken back to T.G.I Friday’s outside the box roots.  The portions are larger as well, designed for people to share, which is something Kaplan thinks T.G.I. Friday’s needed recapture.  Finally T.G.I. Friday’s made sure to create several new, tasty vegetarian selections so those not inclined toward meat won’t feel left out as they have in the past.

“We wanted to do something more for vegetarians that steamed broccoli,” Kaplan said.  They have, and items such as the Mediterranean Veggie Pizza will attract us meat eaters as well.

Vegetarians deserve good food too.

So will T.G.I. Friday’s new focus on food put them back at the top of the casual dining mountain?  We’re not sure, but by getting back to their roots and re-branding itself back to when they were the food innovators, T.G.I. Friday’s is putting the focus back where it should be…on the food.

And that’s definitely a good thing.

 

 

 

 

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You just did what?

As a former reporter and current public relations professional, there are situations that come up that just make me shake my head and wonder, “what were they thinking?’

This is one of those examples.  (Apparently it was taken down by Clear Channel, but you can see more here or here, and for a picture of the sent email go here.)

You see, KOA Radio is a large radio station here in Denver and every politician wants to be on their airwaves.  Needless to say, the reporters and hosts know their business and how to conduct an interview.  The last thing these professional reporters want is to have the P.R. people for a guest to suggest questions for them to ask, particularly when they are similar to these…

Q. In what ways are you a better choice for this seat?

Q. What do you bring to the Senate

Q. What is your greatest accomplishment?

Q. How’s life on the campaign trail?  Are you having fun?

Yikes!

So here is a bit of advice when preparing your client for an interview.

DON’T SEND QUESTIONS TO REPORTERS!!!!!

You see, the vast majority of reporters are professionals who really do take their business seriously.  Feeding a reporter questions does five things.

1.  Gives the reporter the impression that you think they aren’t good at their job, that you feel you have to help them, and that you have no respect for them.

2.  Gives the reporter the impression that your client is so stupid that they can’t even have a conversation without being given the answers ahead of time.

3.  Ensures, without a doubt, that the reporter will ask tougher questions then they normally would have.

4.  Ensures, without a doubt, that none of the questions you give them will be asked.

5.  Ensures, without a doubt, that you will be mocked publicly.

Here’a a better way to get ready for that interview.  Spend your time prepping your client.  Put the hardest questions you can think of to your client and then critique the answers.  This will do more to make sure your client looks good than trying to rig the interview.

So next time you have an interview planned, take my advice.  Save yourself from an epic public relations fail.  Prepare your client and not the reporter.   Believe me, you’ll thank me for it later.

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Halloween is upon us and its amazing how far people will go to find that awesome Halloween costume.  What might not occur to some folks is that creating a great public relations strategy has a lot of similarities to finding that perfect costume.  Here’s a few tips that will help make your P.R. and your Halloween costume, awesome.

IT MUST BE UNIQUE

Find a one-of-a-kind costume

An awesome Halloween costume has to be one that no one else is wearing.  Why?  No matter how much time or money you spent on it, if lots of people have the same costume, someone else’s will be better and will get all the attention.  A unique costume lets you shine, even if it has a flaw or two.

Your public relations strategy needs to be unique as well.  If your company does the same stuff other companies do, you can bet that someone else will do it better and get the attention.  Instead, find out what is unique about your company.  For example, I worked with a company who sold software which is very ordinary.  When it came to how they treated their employees, bringing them lunch everyday and hosting ping pong tournaments, they were extraordinary.  Additionally, their employees were very diverse and actively charitable.  By focusing on their treatment of their employees, and their contibutions to their community, we could highlight their unique qualities and get them public relations attention they normally wouldn’t have received.

IT HAS TO BE AFFORDABLE

You don't need a lot of money to have a great costume

We’ve all heard the stories of folks spending thousands of dollars for their Halloween costumes, but that’s just not normal.  Great costumes don’t need to cost a ton of money.  In fact some of the best and most memorable costumes cost little or no money at all.

It is similar for public relations.  Not all of us can be Nike, spending millions and millions of dollars for their public relations.  That’s a good thing.  Public relations doesn’t need to cost a ton of money to be effective.  Just ask the folks who made the movie “Halloween.”  They made millions simply by word of mouth.  You just don’t have to spend a lot to get positive P.R. results.  That doesn’t mean you should look to spend nothing, but spend only what your comfortable with.

IT HAS TO FIT

Perhaps a size, or ten, too small

Nothing is worse than a costume that doesn’t fit right.  Its just not comfortable.  You end up spending Halloween adjusting your costume instead of enjoying your evening.

Public relations is the same.  You want public relations that fits your company.  If not, you’ll be focused on all the tweaking that needs to be done to the strategy rather than concentrating on your messaging.

IT HAS TO BE USER FRIENDLY

No party hopping in this costume

Every Halloween there’s one person who has an interesting costume, but its so cumbersome and rigid that they have struggle while trick or treating and all they can do at a party is stand in a corner.

That’s not good.

No one wants to have a bulky, rigid costume.  It limits what you can do.  That cool party everyone just heard about and is heading to right now?  You’ll have trouble just getting out of your door.  You want to mingle?  Good luck with that. Your costume limits your options and you end up doing nothing all night.   Not very fun.

What's your awesome Halloween costume?

An inflexible public relations strategy does the same thing.  Your business may have the flashiest P.R. around, but if it takes a ton of effort to make it go, your not gonna use it.  It weighs you down and limits your opportunities.  Make sure your P.R. is user friendly so that it gives you the flexibility to take advantages of opportunities that come your way.

As you can see, finding that perfect Halloween costume and creating an excellent public relations strategy have a lot in common.  You need to be unique, stay within your budget, and create something that is both flexible and user-friendly.   Follow these tips and you’ll find that your public relations, like your Halloween costume, can be awesome.

Happy Halloween everyone!

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