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!
Never underestimate the power of brevity. Keeping your message short and sweet increases the odds your audience will stick around to hear everything you have to say. As demonstrated in this article and others, many readers don’t make it past the headline of an online article-- let alone if they have to scroll down the page.
Offline, too, brevity can grant you an air of confidence and competence-- whether in a presentation, press conference, or interview. The trick is knowing when you do need to go into detail: some complex issues or crisis events may require more than 140 characters on Twitter.
Find the sweet spot between rambling and a paucity of information, and your message will come across loud and clear.
Although it makes us cringe to see publicity go bad, we find that sticky situations can lead to lessons learned. After mulling it over, here’s what we think were a few of the top public relations/communications bloopers and blunders of 2016. Let's hope for fewer in 2017!
Ryan Lochte gets rowdy in Rio:
Olympic medalist and swimmer Ryan Lochte made headlines during this summer’s Rio Olympics after sharing a dramatic account of being robbed at gunpoint after a night out partying. However, once the press realized a few of his details didn’t quite add up, the Brazilian police conducted an investigation and revealed a different story: Surveillance footage had Lochte and posse drunkenly vandalizing a gas station. National embarrassment, a public apology, and a 10-month suspension from swimming ensued.
Mack assessment: As we’ve said before, honesty is the best policy. Lochte might have been able to prevent the situation spiraling into an international spectacle if he had copped to his mistake right away, and done damage control from there.
Flint, Michigan's water woes:
After switching water sources in 2014, residents of Flint, Michigan began to complain about dirty, discolored water, rashes and bad aromas. By 2015, water testing done by Virginia Tech revealed elevated lead levels, and the Michigan EPA began sounding the alarm over water quality. Yet even as evidence of the toxicity of Flint’s water continued to mount, officials at the Michigan statehouse downplayed the concerns of residents. By 2016, Obama declared a state of emergency in the city. The state government was pilloried over their handling of the situation, which put tens of thousands of people--including children--at risk.
Mack assessment: This is a classic case of a mismanaged crisis. When things go south, the first step is to acknowledge the crisis and speak to the concerns of the people affected. Too often companies and governments bury their collective heads in the sand, hoping the problem will go away. Ignoring the problem only exacerbates the crisis.
Brain cramp takes down Gary Johnson:
During an interview with MSNBC in September, a commentator asked Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson how he would address the refugee crisis in Aleppo, Syria. Johnson’s response-- “What is Aleppo?”-- was like the shot heard around the (Twitter) world. In what would later turn out to be an accurate prediction, the New York Times speculated that “the stumble could be a serious blow to Mr. Johnson’s campaign.”
Mack assessment: For TV interviews, it’s crucial to prepare beforehand to avoid being caught off guard. Sometimes, though, journalists may throw you a curve ball. Johnson would have benefited from learning how to block a question in order to respond only on topics you’re ready for.
[Photos via CNN]
The internet and social media make it easier than ever to spread information (factual or not) like wildfire. If your company or organization has big news to share, choosing to make a big announcement gives you more control over the message and tone of your news (rather than waiting for the media to find out on its own).
Here are three things to consider before making big announcements:
With today’s endless news cycle, it’s more important than ever to respond to crises promptly and directly. That’s one reason why having a crisis communications plan in your back pocket is so important. It’s good to have facets of your plan memorized however, just in case you get caught off-guard by a particularly persistent reporter.
Although it’s best to always answer as honestly and directly as you can, keeping these five questions in mind may help you have more confidence in reassuring the public.
1- What happened?
Mack advice: Only tell what you know, and avoid speculation.
2- Why did [problem] happen?
Mack advice: Be willing to admit fault, but avoid pinning blame on anyone/department in particular. Making guesses can hurt the reputation of parties in the short run that weren’t involved at all.
3- Can this problem happen again? How do you know?
Mack advice: Be honest. Reassure the public that you’re doing everything to solve the current issue.
4- What are you doing to solve the problem?
Mack advice: Again, honesty is key. People want to see companies take action after a crisis, so give tangible examples of what your employees are doing to solve the problem.
5- Who else can we talk to and where can we receive updates?
Mack advice: It’s important to have a website available for crisis situations that can provide updates to the public. Be sure you can direct people there if asked.