It’s that time of year again: We’re here to review what we view as the year’s biggest bloopers and blunders in public relations and communications. For better or for worse, there was no shortage of scandals and outrageous moments in 2017 across the public and private sectors. Here are what we think were some of this year’s biggest (and preventable) PR disasters.
The Infamous United Airlines Incident
Is there anyone who doesn’t know about the United Airlines incident? This now infamous PR disaster began when a United passenger, Dr. David Dao, was violently dragged off an overbooked United flight. The scene was caught on cellphone videos and quickly went viral. Chief executive Oscar Munoz only fanned the flames with his non-apology for having to “re-accommodate” Dr. Dao. A leaked email from Munoz to employees also called Dr. Dao “disruptive and belligerent.” United recovered slightly a few weeks later when it released a list of ten improvements the company would make to avoid similar incidents.
Mack assessment: As we often say on the Mack Report, honesty is the best policy. While it’s best to admit (and potentially apologize and correct) for a blunder early, don’t think it’s ever too late. It’s also important to avoid playing the blame game; take responsibility for your own mistakes. We think United could have kept the situation more under control by taking credit earlier for its mistake, calling it what it is, showing empathy and apologizing to Dr. Dao.
This is the final of a three-part series on how to conduct a successful interview with the media. Read previous posts about understanding the media and preparing for an interview.
Now that you’ve done your research and prepared your talking points, it’s time for the big event! Follow our top ten pieces of advice below, and you’ll be well on your way to being an interview pro:
This is part two in a three-part series on how to conduct a successful interview with the media. Read the previous post about understanding the media here.
One of the easiest ways you can make sure you have a successful interview is to adequately prepare. Below are our top pieces of advice to help you prepare for an interview.
Know what to expect: Conduct some research yourself: Has the reporter written on this topic before? What angle did they take? This might give you a better sense of what to expect during your interview. You can also ask the reporter what types of questions will be asked to get a general sense (they probably won’t give you specific questions). Make sure you’re up on current events in your field so you're less likely to be caught off-guard by a question.
This is part one in a three-part series on how to conduct a successful interview with the media.
Being interviewed by the media can be nerve-wracking, no matter how many times you’ve done it. However, interviews don’t have to be painful experiences; with the right amount of understanding and preparation, anyone can make it through an interview like a pro. The best way to ensure you start off on the right foot is to understand the media, so you better know what to expect. Before your interview, consider the following points:
Anyone who has spent time in public relations would agree: The industry is built around relationships. Whether it’s with clients, journalists, politicians, you name it-- forming connections is the bedrock of what PR is all about.
Although cell phones and email make it easier than ever to keep in contact with clients, it’s important to remember these strategies should be used to compliment relationship-building efforts, not as a substitute. Overly relying on email or texting also has its hazards.
For example, consider the oft-cited fact from a 1970s study that only about 7 percent of communication is verbal; the rest is from body language and tone. When communicating solely through email, it can be easy for intended message to become misconstrued. Well-intentioned messages can come across as cold and impersonal. If your client seems distant, pick up the phone: Perhaps they have been reading your emails differently than you intended.
Another hazard of email reliance is that a simple task could be stretched out for days. People get countless emails every day: Waiting for email approval on a time-sensitive assignment can cause you to miss deadlines. More often than not, picking up the phone or meeting in person to hash things out is faster and more efficient.
Here at Mack Communications, we strongly believe in taking clients out for lunch or coffee. Taking time out of your day to meet with a client shows them that you think they are important. It’s also simply a good way to get to know someone as a person, and pick up on better ways to approach your work together.
Remember: Clients, journalists, legislators are all people. Give them a ring!
If waiting for positive media coverage isn’t cutting it, consider submitting an Op-Ed. These opinion pieces are a good way to get your message across, promote action, and position the author as a “thought leader.” However, convincing a steely magazine or newspaper editor to publish your writing isn’t always easy. In addition to the usual grammar and style checks, we recommend making sure your Op-Ed has the following elements to give it a better chance of passing muster with an editor.
The saying goes that you should work smarter, not harder. Creating original content for social media and promoting your company to stakeholders can require a lot of time and effort. As part of your media strategy, you should aim to create content that can be repurposed across multiple platforms and at different times.
For example, say your company produces a short informational video on a new service you will be offering clients, with the purpose of presenting the program to board members. Assuming the video doesn’t include any confidential information, you could also repurpose this video in a number of ways. You could include it in a press release when the program rolls out. You could share it on social media (Facebook, in particular) when the service becomes available to the public. You can repost the video one year out, even, in celebration of the program’s success.
Every business owner has heard the chatter about social media: “If you don’t have an account, you’re missing out!”
If you're like many business owners not wanting to get left behind on the social media gold rush, you've looked first to Facebook, which seems to be the most approachable platform. You create a page, put up photos, and invite all of your “friends” to “like” your business. Now, you think, “I’ve got to post about how great my company is,” and you put up daily deals, new products, and blab on about how great your service is.
And… crickets. You’re getting one like per post and it’s from your great aunt Edna who likes everything on your page. When does the gravy train roll through the front door of your office?
The problem is that you’re acting like a jerk. Remember the “social” in social media?
Imagine that you’ve come to a party at your friend’s house and you keep walking around handing business cards to everyone and bloviating about your great products and services. People are going to get annoyed very quickly, and you’re going to end up in the corner, all alone. Some people might even “unfriend” you.
Now imagine that you’ve come to that same party, and you talk to people about their families and how their baseball team is doing this year. You bring up a movie you saw or a concert you went to. You heap praise on the hosts and laugh with everyone when the silly cat gets its head stuck in the cereal box. You’re squeezing another couple dozen bacon-wrapped dates on your cracker plate and talking with Shirley when you mention your company and some of the new products or services you’ve been working on. Shirley is okay with that. She’s even interested enough to ask some questions and then she says that Al- “Come over here, Al”- might be interested. And he is interested!
That's how your business needs to act on Facebook; like a good guest at a friend’s dinner party. For every one promotional post you create, your business needs to put out ten posts about the things the other guests at the Facebook party want to hear about. Think less about marketing and more about public relations.
There are a lot of things that go into social media marketing; appropriate content is a crucial component. Get out of the corner and be a good guest at the party.
It seems like there’s a new social media platform every week; besides the giants like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, there’s Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest. Creating content for this large array of platforms can seem daunting.
However, just because your organization or company can create a profile for each platform doesn’t mean you should. Just like your company probably caters to a specific audience, different platforms appeal to different audiences. For example, LinkedIn is more often used by individuals looking for business/networking content, while Snapchat stories are more likely to contain culture and lifestyle content.
Rather than blindly posting the same press release or story on ten different social platforms, instead consider choosing a few platforms that best match your target audience and then tweak content for each one. As the saying goes: quality over quantity!