Data breaches. Privacy concerns. Delays in public response to customer complaints.
These are just a few of the many ways companies are continually losing the trust of their customers and diminishing the value of their brands.
With 24/7 news cycles, increased investigative reporting on local, regional and national levels, and the prominence and use of social media and other online platforms to make concerns public quickly, now more than ever, companies need to have communications strategies in place for any and all potential scenarios.
Trust is paramount to the success of any business as without your customers and partners, it is difficult to grow or even survive. Make sure you have the key pieces in place to keep trust a top priority.
PR can be a critical piece to any company's strategy. But it also should not be your only strategy to succeed.
It may seem obvious, but in order to ensure you are not overwhelmed or taking on too much from a PR perspective, it is important to prioritize activities. You could easily say yes to all pitch ideas, interviews and press release suggestions. But you will most likely start irritating reporters with too many emails, start seeing a decline in press requests and spend way too much of your budget issuing press releases and media alerts without seeing much coverage.
So what can you do?
Follow a simple rule: If it doesn't meet a business objective, don't do it.
If someone later comes to the team and asks for a press release or media blitz around an announcement or win that doesn't fit into one of those earlier defined buckets, you can just say no.
Of course, there will be exceptions. But these should be just that -- exceptions and not the rule.
Making sure everyone is on the same page with these priorities early on helps avoid frustration and conflict when they are told no.
And more importantly, everyone is focused on moving the business in the right direction together.
If you engage a legal firm, more likely than not, you will not only listen to their advise, but also act on it. So why do so many companies engage a PR agency or freelancer, sometimes with a hefty retainer, only to ignore the guidance they paid for?
Sadly, this is a question that many PR professional face on a regular basis.
In order to save your company money and frustration, it is critical to be prepared before engaging with a PR agency or freelancer.
So are you ready?
Early on in my in-house career, a well-known, well-respected communications professional shared a mantra with our team: "Repetition doesn't spoil the prayer."
Whether you've heard this particular saying or others -- "Repetition is the mother of all learning," "Practice makes perfect" or "If there's no repetition, there is no rhythm" -- the meaning is powerful and oh so true. And not only for communications professionals but for top executives and company spokespeople.
Some may be familiar with the Rule of 7, one of the oldest concepts in marketing, which states that consumers must hear or see your message at least seven times before they will buy from you. There are other similar approaches around repetition, whether it is the controversial 10,000 hours of practice to become world-class in any field or 21 days to make/break a habit. But the concept remains the same: repetition is key.
Sure, we've all gotten annoyed by the annual song of the summer that is on repeat everywhere you go or that same commercial that just won't stop playing, but you can pretty much bet that whether you like it or not, you know all of the words to that obnoxious song and you know exactly what brand or product was being pushed.
Now the examples above aren't the best or even the recommended approach to getting your message across but they show that repetition of your message is critical. Your executives and spokespeople, along with your sales teams and even your interns should know the company's one liner or elevator pitch. What does your company do? Why is it important? Why should anyone care?
Once you have those responses down to a succinct and powerful sentence or two that isn't long winded or put people to sleep with too much jargon...
REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT.
Press coverage of your company is important for a variety of reasons. Living in a data driven society, however, we tend to look only at the numbers, in this case, the number of articles and not what's in those articles.
We need to shift our thinking away from quantity and focus more on the quality.
Focus needs to be put on several factors including:
You might be stoked for a front page feature article in the business section of a top tier daily newspaper, magazine or blog but if your company/product/executive is being associated with a negative topic, does it deserve the same value as a positive mention in a smaller, more targeted publication that all of your prospective customers, partners and investors read?
It's time to focus on quality over quantity.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere these days -- from our phones and cars to advertising and healthcare. There have also been ongoing debates regarding AI taking over journalism, making newsrooms around the world leaner than they already are.
The field of public relations has also been targeted by AI, but like with journalism, there is a larger debate around the lines between artificial intelligence and human intelligence. While data continues to be a larger contributor to the stories being told (earnings, growth, etc), one critical element to all stories is the human perspective. AI is getting incredibly impressive. Sure, computers can quickly spit out sports scores and write up a brief article on the most recent economic numbers. And Alexa certainly can have a sassy sense of humor at times but it is going to be a while before the human element -- the emotions of a story -- can truly be conveyed by a computer.
Until that time, we will still need journalists and PR professionals to wade through the numbers and dig into the human intelligence and emotion of the stories that need to be told.
"And I think both the left and the right should celebrate people who have different opinions, and disagree with them, and argue with them, and differ with them, but don't just try to shut them up." -- Roger Ebert
While the op-ed as we know it has been around for nearly a century, the formats in which people can voice their opinions are rapidly changing.
If you have a point of view on a particular topic, you don't have to wait to publish in the daily newspaper. Rather, you can leverage a whole slew of other channels. Most industry publications accept contributed content (although that is starting to change as well), sites like LinkedIn and Medium offer quick and easy ways to distribute your perspective to the masses, or you can always start your own blog using the likes of Weebly, Squarespace, Wordpress or Wix (like we have here).
While all articles, whether editorial or opinion, should be well researched and based on facts, opinion pieces are just that -- opinions. Not everyone is going to agree with the author's perspective. That's not only good, that's healthy. We need to have differing opinions on important industry topics in order to keep things balanced.
Unless there is a blatant and verifiable inaccuracy that wasn't found prior to publication, there should never been a correction made to an opinion piece. Of course, all industry publications need to protect themselves and should include some sort of note saying that the views of the author may not reflect the perspective of the publication, but the whole point of accepting contributed articles from outside experts is to be able to provide readers with a variety of opinions.
If you don't like what was written, write a rebuttal opinion piece. Share your perspective and the facts that back up your argument on the topic. But to ask a publisher for a retraction or a correction, is inappropriate and unfair to the original author.
The formats have and will continue to change but we need to ensure that opinion pieces remain just that -- opinions.
As often as we say that PR isn't magic and that PR professionals aren't magicians, the more you think about it, we actually are.
Whether you'd like to admit it, we are all lovers of magic on some level. It triggers all sorts of emotions -- the mystery, confusion, awe and even frustration when you are determined to figure out how a particular illusion was performed. At first glance, most magical illusions seem simple, with most getting the standard "Oh that's easy. I could do that!" reaction.
But when you are given the playing cards, the magic metal rings, the three shells and a pea or knotted rope, the illusion doesn't seem as simple, does it?
That's because there are a lot of moving parts -- as well as a lot of practice and expertise -- that goes on in the background to make those illusions seem so simple.
Now, do not confuse illusions with PR spin, please! Illusions are more about making something complex look easy for anyone to do at a glance, while PR spin is just dishonest and sketchy.
It is easy for those not in PR to read various stories in newspapers, magazines and blogs and say "I could place a story like this" or "well, if my competitor/partner can get a story like this, it can't be that difficult."
True, sometimes getting an amazing profile story or mention in a high profile publication is just plain luck. The reporter stumbled upon the company or product and personally fell in love with it. Or timing just worked in their favor.
But more times than not, there is quite a bit that goes on behind the scenes -- sometimes for months -- before that one story publishes. Just like a magician practices shuffling and cutting cards for hours a day to make that one performance flawless.
So while we tend to say "PR isn't magic" or we (PR pros) "aren't magicians", in fact, we are very much so. Just no one sees all the work that goes into it all. And that's the point.
As we are always asking our clients for their predictions for the new year, we felt it was only fair for us to adhere to our own recommendations and share our own predictions. Here are a few things we think will happen in the world of PR in 2018:
What are your predictions? Did we miss any? Share your thoughts in the comments.
We are now a couple of weeks into 2018. Like nearly every year before, so much changed in 2017 and yet, not really. The media landscape continued to evolve: newsrooms sadly continued to shrink, the written word made way for more and more video and the bar continues to rise on what reporters are willing to cover.
In 2017, this was all further emphasized by the tumultuous US political climate, which caused the blinding national and international spotlights to be cast upon media organizations, how they are reporting on stories and whether or not they are "fake news." The increased pressure placed on journalists trickled down to more pressure on PR professionals and the businesses they represent to communicate more clearly and in a more immediate fashion. PR became even more important and influential within individual businesses as a result.
We asked several PR professionals what changed in 2017 so we can look to improve upon how we can all approach PR and the media in 2018. Here's what they had to say:
"I think truth is more important than ever."
"I think the most pressing issue now is the whole “fake news” problem. Ignoring the huge political and social problems created when we undermine any possible independent agency that might question those in power, this is an enormous challenge for PR/communications. Where do you take your stories? How do you deal with it if someone cries “fake news” — which these days, is instantly believed?"
Welcome to ROAMings, a compilation of thoughts and musings about the PR and media industries. This is an opportunity to discuss the “here and now” of the industry, interesting events or case studies, pivotal moments that affect how we approach PR, etc. It isn’t about brand loyalties or preferences -- and we will not be publishing self-promotional materials or talk about our clients in this setting -- but how those brands, individuals and events are leveraging (or in some cases abandoning) PR.