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Tag: Public Relations

The recent pseudo-unveiling of the man behind @BPGlobalPR has the PR industry all a-Twitter with the “who/what/where/when/why and how” of the situation at hand and, more importantly, its implications on brand/reputation management during times of crisis.

The owner of the Twitter handle in question, who used the alias “Leroy Stick” to pen blog post on Street Giant last week, launched his satirical tweetstream in the weeks following the oil rig explosion that prompted the worst oil spill in U.S. history. As his profile gained followers (as of this writing, the audience is in excess of 134,000), the media took notice-after all, his highly critical, sardonic tone all but guaranteed the source of the tweets was not an official BP spokesperson (see image below).

With last week’s blog post, Mr. Stick shed some light on his motive for becoming a sharp-tongued brand imposter:

“I started @BPGlobalPR, because the oil spill had been going on for almost a month and all BP had to offer were bullshit PR statements. No solutions, no urgency, no sincerity, no nothing. That’s why I decided to relate to the public for them. I started off just making jokes at their expense with a few friends, but now it has turned into something of a movement.”

He then shifted his vitriol from BP to PR professionals at large, writing:

“I’ve read a bunch of articles and blogs about this whole situation by publicists and marketing folk wondering what BP should do to save their brand from @BPGlobalPR. First of all, who cares? Second of all, what kind of business are you in? I’m trashing a company that is literally trashing the ocean, and these idiots are trying to figure out how to protect that company? One pickledick actually suggested that BP approach me and try to incorporate me into their actual PR outreach. That has got to be the dumbest, most head-up-the-ass solution anyone could possibly offer.”

His sophomoric language aside, he actually raises some interesting questions about the role PR plays in the modern communications environment. If brands’ identities are actually owned and defined by individuals’ own interpretations of them (and Mr. Stick suggests they are), then is there really anything PR/communications can do during a crisis like BP’s? If you agree with Stick, the answer is “no.” So, what do you think? Here’s a final thought from Mr. @BPGlobalPR to consider while you decide:

“The point is, FORGET YOUR BRAND. You don’t own it because it is literally nothing. You can spend all sorts of time and money trying to manufacture public opinion, but ultimately, that’s up to the public, now isn’t it?”

A photo from a NASA satellite showed the silvery swirling oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico on April 25 
A photo from a NASA satellite showed the silvery swirling oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico on April 25. Photo credit: European Pressphoto Agency, via Wall Street Journal 

With regard to BP’s uphill PR battle surrounding the wrecked drilling rig that has been hemorrhaging oil into the Gulf of Mexico for more than two weeks, we think an article posted today to Wall Street Journal’s “The Source” blog sums it up best: “[When] “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart is cracking jokes about you in which the punch line is ‘Goldman Sachs,’ you know you’ve got an image problem.”

Indeed, there isn’t any good news in sight for the company—or, more importantly, for the shoreline and surrounding communities—as crews struggle to contain the spill, which is the result of the April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. As urgency to contain the spill increases and more details emerge, BP’s role in the disaster and subsequent fallout has been murky, to say the least: For starters, the rig was owned and operated by Transocean and leased by BP, which was the basis for BP’s position that Transocean—not BP—was responsible for the accident (a statement that was met with criticism).
 
More recently, though, reports show that a plan BP filed with the federal Minerals Management Service for the Deepwater Horizon well, dated February 2009, repeatedly said it was “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.” This news cast a shadow on BP’s massive mobilization to contain the spill (which, according to various reports, has been relatively effective). 
 
Unlikely or not, BP now faces the seemingly insurmountable task not only of stopping the oil flow and limiting its impact ashore, but of rebuilding its reputation in the wake of shattered public trust. According to the New York Times, “Now, the discussion with BP on Capitol Hill is certain to intensify pressure on the company, which is facing a crisis similar to what the Toyota Motor Company had with uncontrolled acceleration — despite its efforts to control the damage to its reputation as a corporate citizen, the problem may be worsening.”
With all hands on deck to accelerate the cleanup and minimize the damage, it’s safe to say that the best PR strategy for now is to stay focused on the task at hand. But then what? 
 
We’d be interested to hear what all the PR professionals out there think—did deflecting responsibility worsen BP’s image, or was it the appropriate response given the situation? And where does the reputation cleanup start once the oil cleanup ends?

Piggybacking off of an earlier post on the quality v. quantity conundrum of reputation management, the process of selecting the most appropriate PR software for your needs is riddled with obstacles. For starters, new solutions seem to emerge almost daily, making it difficult to know where to begin. Then, you must assess each provider’s capabilities against your own needs:

  • What breadth and depth of media coverage is sufficient?
  • What level of analysis are you looking for?
  • Reporting capabilities?
  • Customization?
  • Alignment with other organizational activities?

With all of these questions in mind, the following checklist outlines the most important areas to evaluate when selecting a communications management platform:

  • Issues-centric analysis: This functionality allows users to classify every piece of data, from internal activities to social media conversations, and assign it to a specific issue/topic/campaign. This enables rapid retrieval, roll-up reporting, demonstration of ROI through customizable reports, and identification of trends and patterns.
  • Automation: The most effective communications management applications can be rapidly deployed, configured and reconfigured as needed, and have comprehensive customization options. The biggest failure of most automated applications is the lack of customer service and back-end support, so consider this when seeking a solution.
  • Security: It is critical that the software platform have permission-based security clearances that are aligned with workflow and organizational hierarchies.
  • Collaboration and convenience: The most strategic communications applications use topic-specific collaboration functionality that ties together corporate users, agencies, spokespeople and the C-suite. Collaboration functionality should also promote sharing information across the enterprise. Likewise, convenience is critical and hinges on easy deployment and a user-friendly interface.
  • Media relations/research: Media relationships remain a vital part of PR success, and your communications management platform should support the process of cultivating these relationships by providing information surrounding journalists/bloggers interests, reporting histories, biases and engagement preferences.

For more information on evaluating communications management platforms, check out dna13′s white paper, “How to select PR software that safeguards branding“.


 

Last year, every public relations and corporate communications conference wanted to address one hurdle: how to prove the value of social media to a C-suite that was technology averse or hopeful all this friending and tweeting was just a fad.

Too many CEOs were too hesitant to give social media any kind of meaningful budget, particularly in a recession.

As our last post suggested, however, the C-suite is finally starting to catch up. Chances are, your CEO is already on LinkedIn and sees the potential for corporate growth accelerating with the right social media strategy.

The PR department is faced with a new question: should we hire a full-time social media specialist, or should we reach out to a PR agency with proven social media experience?

Listed below are the merits of each option, followed by suggestions of how to leverage the relationship you do have with IT, Marketing, Customer Service, Internal Communications and other corporate functions that may lay claim to social media turf.

See these articles (Hubspot’s argument for PR firms, Rise’s questions to ask social media consultants, and Jennifer Van Grove’s qualities to pursue in social media candidates) for in-depth discussion of what kind of professional can make or break a social media initiative.

 HIRING IN-HOUSE

 -Their attention to your business’s goals will be undivided; there are no other clients to distract them from your company’s goals.

 -In the short run, an in-house social media specialist can cost less. They usually bring a mix of PR and technology experience to the position — enough for some content creation and enough for some basic coding.

 -In a world that values authenticity, a customer will want the person they correspond with on Facebook to be a full-time employee and may even feel cheated if they find out their online conversation is with a PR firm and not the company they thought.

HIRING A PR FIRM/SOCIAL MEDIA CONSULTANT

-A PR firm will have more experiences to draw from and may bring a broader understanding of your company’s industry to the table.

-A PR firm may cost more, on average, but will bring in a greater number of deliverable results — sales leads, business partnerships and other “measurables that matter” (not just how to measure social media, but how to link its success back to the company)

-It’s possible for a PR firm to address the “authenticity” concern by being upfront with customers.  Many will appreciate the broader experience of an agency representative rather than someone with a narrow focus. 

Of course, there is a third option that we haven’t addressed: spreading the duties of social media across the company.  Zappos and Best Buy are two retailers that have embraced this approach.

I’d argue that, while it’s feasible (even encouraged!), to make every employee of a company a brand ambassador, it’s best to have one entity in charge of the messaging strategy. Otherwise, it’s too easy to lose sight of the company’s goals. 

Of course, the greatest danger of any public relations initiative is to jump in blindly without setting measurable benchmarks or delegating responsibilities at all. 

For those of us in the public relations industry who actualize our communications programs through online conversations and engagement, it’s easy to describe the merits of a social media campaign.

Online advocacy, if launched and managed correctly, tends to create more lasting, sustainable, loyal relationships than traditional media campaigns. Social media initiatives often cost less than most marketing campaigns, and they are an excellent way to create meaningful, original content in a marketplace where traditional media placement opportunities are disappearing left and right.

Nonetheless, one of the roles of the c-suite is to identify the potential downfalls of social media — along with any budget line item.

The best way to illustrate the value of social media to the suits upstairs is to be able to identify and defend the downsides, along with strategies to fill in gaps left by social media tools.

Here is our list of the shortcomings of social media — shocking, we know — and ways to counteract those problems:

NEGATIVE: “Social media campaigns are too risky.”

The public defines what content will “rise to the top” of the online conversation, so they hold power over the popularity of any single campaign. It’s more likely for a one-time, six-week social media campaign to flop than for a six-week public relations initiative – what if nobody notices?

RESPONSE: “Social media engagement is more successful in the long run than PR campaigns.”

Social media is less effective when constrained by a short timetable. Instead, allocate just a few resources to a long-term listening program that eventually evolves into an online conversation – see Tom Smith’s article from earlier this year in Mashable. The same points (particularly point #4) apply today.

NEGATIVE: “The Internet is for consumer products, and that’s not us .”

The most exciting social media campaigns tend to be consumer campaigns. For companies with B2B or B2G business models, the Internet should be left to Burger King, Coke, or TV shows.

RESPONSE: “Tell that to the destroyed printers from Expert Laser Services.”

Relationships lead to B2B sales. Social media allows companies to make direct connections with clients and prospects by answering questions on LinkedIn, engaging customers on Twitter, or even using customers’ ideas to make a better product. Social media engagement may have to be more targeted and goal-oriented for B2B companies than Coke, but that makes it no different than traditional media relations, where one hit in the right trade publication can be more rewarding than The New York Times. The Expert Laser Services campaign worked because ELS created a relationship with contestants based on a mutual disdain for broken technology.

NEGATIVE: “It’s too easy for a social media campaign to backfire.”

When a social media campaign fails, it can fail BIG – look at Microsoft’s laughable online video advertising Windows 7 (we’d link to the parody videos, but most of them are NSFW).

RESPONSE: “That’s why we listen first.”

These social media campaigns failed for a reason – they didn’t listen to their audiences before jumping into the conversation. Instead of blasting information for anyone to come across and mock, listen to what online communities have to say about your company first, and eventually respond to their questions.

NEGATIVE: “We don’t have the manpower.”

Social media can suck hours out of the day – from checking RSS feeds to Tweeting to writing blog posts and creating original content, social media is exhausting for those of us who do it for our jobs.

RESPONSE: “Our existing employees and our customers will be our brand advocates.”

Employees are on Facebook anyway (particularly if they are part of Generation Y). Follow the Coke or Zappos model to set employee social media guidelines and encourage them to gather company followers – make social media engagement part of the corporate mentorship program. Encourage fans to draft their own content and invite industry leaders within your vertical to lead the conversation from your podium. It takes a village to raise a brand.

PRSA 2009 Broadcast

In case you weren’t able to tune in for our live broadcast from the 2009 PRSA International Conference, the entire recording is now available online.

Approximately 3 hours in total, the free broadcast features the PRSA session, “Building a Case for Public Relations”, as well as interviews with:

Click here to view the recording.

 

 

In the latest drama conceived by PR gadfly Jack O’Dwyer, the banged-up celebrity photographer Tony Escheverria plays the social media and the part of the menacing PR profession goes to Mike Tyson.

A feisty newsletter publisher who has railed against business practices of the Public Relations Society of America for years, O’Dwyer made his annual trek to the PRSA conference to churn up story fodder and speak his mind on the dangers of re-writing job descriptions of those who practice media relations.

During a live interview streamed from the dna13 booth, on the PRSA exhibition floor in San Diego, O’Dwyer described PR practitioners as formidable forces who are trained in psychological interview techniques that are only matched by wily professional journalists. Allowing everyday people to interface with PR officers would be as unethical as pitting a lawyer against a layperson in a negotiation, or a pro boxer against a non-boxer in a barroom fight.

The comments came a day before former heavyweight champion Tyson was arrested for allegedly punching a member of the paparazzi at LAX airport. The photographer, Escheverria, also faces charges.

Since the interview had already rambled on for quite some time, and other PR thought leaders were lined up for the live stream, I regretted not confronting Jack about how antiquated his views were seen among the subject matter experts who enjoy massive audiences in social media.

A few hours later, I caught up with O’Dwyer and expressed the viewpoint that plenty of informed and influencial people are not credentialed journalists, in the old broadcast and print sense of the word.



 

His response — which includes reference to people who “Twitter about brushing their teeth” was posted on the dna13 YouTube channel around noon EST Thursday and quickly attracted outraged comments on Twitter.

Jack may be a curmudgeon, but he is no dummy. He is a solid journalist who has built his brand by being a contrarian voice in an industry of PR boosters. His decades-old crusade against PRSA may have kept him too busy from spending enough time to get to know B2B bloggers, citizen journalists and smart tweeters who post content far more insightful than tooth-brushing musings (and who can out-maneuver many supposedly savvy PR pros).

I’m proposing an intervention. If my mother’s 85-year-old husband can use Facebook, I’m guessing we can reshape Jack O’Dwyer’s views of the expertise of “professional” versus social media. Heck, he can write about us while we’re trying to make him relevant in a Web 2.0 world.

Anyone who wants to get on the “Help Jack O’Dwyer Get Social” bandwagon, let me know.  Just don’t show up wearing a PRSA tee-shirt.

Straight from the floor at the 2009 PRSA International Conference, we interviewed Brian Solis, Principal of FutureWorks, and co-author of the recently published “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations“. P.S. It’s available for download here.

In these quick 2 minute videos, hear Brian’s perspective on social media as the new channel of influence, and the leadership role PR should be assuming within the organization as social media gains momentum for brands.

 

Aside from the guy walking around in a kilt to draw attention to a booth in the exhibit hall, the DC contingent committed the biggest fashion fasion faux pas at PRSA’s conference in San Diego.

But it was all for a good cause. 

PR Students and chapter members from the nation’s capital donned cardboard stars-and-stripes hats to draw attention to the fact that Washington would host the November 2010 conference.  

Those who enjoyed southern California’s sunshine, palm trees and temperatures in the 70s may be questioning the choice, but events along the I-95 corridor generally draw large attendence. Plus the interim congressional elections will have just taken place, so DC may be warmer thanks to hot tempers.

While the Public Relations Society of America and San Diego Marriott earned a pretty penney from hosting this week’s annual educations conference and PR trade show, the real winners were makers of advertising premiums.

Branded pens, flash memory sticks and imprinted tee-shirts are de rigueur at exposition. Innovative trinkets were few and far between on the show floor in San Diego this week.

One vendor served up cellophane-wrapped cookies topped with their logo in what I hoped was edible dye. Another company handed out miniature bottles of hand sanitizer to those concerned about catching H1N1 from the suppliers.

One tchotchke I hadn’t seen before was a tiny round tin box shaped like a flower pot.  Inside it was a dehydrated pod of seed-starter soil and a small package of rye grass seeds to grow the world’s smallest lawn. Of course there were chuckles about the possibility that, after adding water, another variety of grass might sprout. 

To encourage PRSA members to visit the exhibit hall early and often, suppliers offered raffle prizes.  To my chagrin, the adorable stuffed dalmatian atop the table at ROI Communications was not a door prize.  It was a great eye-catcher, though, and the Scotts Valley, California, agency gave away hundreds of juggling balls (which will end up as dog toys in many a home by this weekend).