Storm tips from a veteran PR guy

Storm tips from a veteran PR guy

From the Miami Herald.

Hurricane Dorian is an incredibly frustrating storm that currently has the entire state of Florida in the “cone of uncertainty.” Residents and business owners from the Keys to Jacksonville are in “wait and see” mode. It’s almost humorous to me that the weather service, which is in the prediction business, can have forecasts that are off by 500 miles and still be “accurate,” but I digress. I have been through many hurricanes, including the big dog Andrew in 1992, and I have a few thoughts and communications tips as we wait for the next advisory.

  • Do what you can to help your customers and clients. This morning I noticed a restaurant in my neighborhood left its outdoor flat-screen TVs on and tuned to the Weather Channel. Somebody at Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ realized that even though they aren’t open for breakfast, why not leave the TVs on overnight so people who pass by can get the latest info. The Miami Herald lowered its paywall for the duration of the storm. I think they view it as a public service, and the publishing company has a long history of supplying information during hurricanes. If there’s something you can do to help your clients, even if it’s a little thing, give it a try as you can build goodwill over time.

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So you want a Wikipedia page?

So you want a Wikipedia page?Wikipedia remains a subject of great interest in PR and marketing circles. I have written about it before and even included a section on the internet encyclopedia in my book, How to Protect (Or Destroy) Your Reputation Online. The site continues to confound even the most experienced marketers as Wikipedia’s notorious editors work hard (and even neurotically) to avoid being manipulated by marketing people. Wikipedia is both a search engine darling and a status symbol for individuals and companies.

If you would like a personal Wikipedia page or one for your business, here are a few things to remember.Read More

Use Case Studies to Boost Your Marketing

case studies by David PR GroupSo much of today’s marketing is unoriginal and gray. Lots of websites look alike, many folks are blogging about the same topics (except me), and each day it becomes harder and harder to showcase your business creatively. Today, I want to suggest beefing up your use of case studies in your marketing. Here’s why:

A case study offers a glimpse into how your company operates and shows a prospective customer what you do, what the results can be and how you treat your clients. A good case study gives a prospect a chance to imagine what working with your company might be like in addition to weighing your offers or pricing.

Case studies offer an opportunity to showcase a company’s culture and what makes it different. You get the chance to be authentic, unique, transparent (or whatever the current buzzword is). Let your clients do the talking and offer a real review of your company with less marketing spin.

Here are a few key things to think about when creating case studies:

Find a hook. As a reader, you are always attracted to a hook in a case study. Does the client sell an interesting product? Does a top executive have a non-traditional background? Do they have a long history in business? Every business has something in its story that’s interesting. It’s the job of the writer of the case study to uncover it.

Don’t worry about the numbers. Some clients might be hesitant to participate in a case study because they don’t want to reveal financial information or disclose specific results. If you have found a good hook and can tell a good story, the financial results are less necessary. Besides, you want to focus on customer experience or some other factor in a case study, not just the numbers. Remove the financials (or at least downplay them). and you will get a much better case study.Read More

Will you fly on a Boeing 737 Max?

Will you fly on a 737 Max? | David PRBooking flights for summer travel is in high gear so here’s a question: Will you fly on a Boeing 737 Max, assuming its anti-stall problem gets fixed to the satisfaction of the FAA? For a couple reasons, I don’t think I will; but more importantly, I question whether the 737 Max will ever fly again.

For those who don’t know the backstory, the 737 Max is the latest iteration of Boeing’s 737 aircraft which first started flying in the late 1960s. Its stabilization system, and perhaps a flawed iterative design, have been blamed for two crashes that killed 346 people. The planes have been grounded until further notice, and American Airlines, for example, has cancelled all 737 Max flights through August 19. (If you are looking for more details about the system/design issue, I found this article interesting, Is the Boeing 737 Max Worth Saving? )

When planes crash, we eventually learn what happened (black boxes and the like), and in most instances the crash is caused by something specific that has little to do with the plane itself. Birds fly into engines as happened during the Miracle on the Hudson, improperly stowed hazardous materials catch fire and a Valuejet plane plummets into the oblivion of the Everglades, or some form of human error leads to a catastrophe. Most of the time, it’s weather, terrorism or pilot error – but not a flaw with the plane itself. And even in the case of TWA flight 800 which exploded in 1996 after faulty wiring ignited the plane’s fuel, that was a problem on one aircraft that wasn’t detected on the whole fleet of then 747s.

Boeing’s problem impacts 344 planes operating around the world, and the issue affects all the planes due to the overall design and the systems that keep them in the air. When planes fall out of the sky because of a flawed design or a botched system, consumers will rightfully panic and it’s hard to imagine the flying public embracing the 737 Max, even if it gets the thumbs up from the FAA.Read More

Social Media Lessons from an Unborn Royal Baby

Social Media Lessons from an Unborn Royal BabyBritish royalty news is usually not my cup of tea, but last week a reporter asked my opinion about the “delayed announcement” of the impending birth of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby. Harry and Meghan are breaking from recent tradition and will not offer a photo opportunity for the press on the day after the baby’s birth — as has been the case with William and Kate’s children.  (I’m not big on protocol, so I’m calling the princes, dukes and duchesses by their first names.) While this may seem like tabloid gossip and blog author pandering, the media relations strategy surrounding the birth provides a lesson in controlling your narrative while also shedding light on how social media attitudes might be evolving.

First, the scuttlebutt on the big reveal. Obviously, the birth of a new royal baby is widely anticipated news, but it is monumental in the United Kingdom. Harry and Meghan’s child will be seventh in line to the throne and in the spotlight forever. After the birth of the most recent royal babies, William and Kate had a public photo op on the steps of the hospital the day after the little ones were born. Kate set an unbelievably high bar. This satiated the British press and the royal-loving public around the world. Meghan and Harry are saying “nope.” Can you blame them? After my kids were born, I was exhausted and all I did was watch and get my hand nearly clenched off. In my opinion, the last thing new mothers want to do is get their hair done and step out in high heels for pictures. Most new moms want to be home in their pajamas and slippers with only their newborn and immediate family. I’m guessing Meghan feels this way – and Harry will agree if he chooses to remain married.

Some will say the royals have an obligation to cater to the media, but few people owe less to the press than Harry. Crazed reporters and paparazzi contributed to the chaotic scene which led to the death of his mother. Recently, he has said he has a low opinion of social media: “Social media is more addictive than drugs and alcohol, yet it’s more dangerous because it’s normalized and there are no restrictions to it.”

All signs point to Meghan and Harry setting a new standard for media relations. They have shown they won’t kowtow to the British media. My guess (with a big nod to my The Crown loving wife) is that they will release the first photos of the new baby on their Instagram account for everyone to see – with no special treatment afforded to the traditional press. They are making the rules, controlling the narrative and not giving a darn what anyone thinks of it.

More importantly, this could be a sign that the social media pendulum might be changing its arc. Too often today, celebrities and regular people alike over-share on social media. I have regularly said in my online reputation presentations that we need to resist the urge to digitally document everything that we do. We are not that interesting! Everything we do does not deserve to be tweeted, Instagrammed or Facebooked. My hope is that actions taken by Harry and Meghan will filter down to the rest of us commoners.

My favorite part of this is that the lessons – set your ground rules, be transparent and don’t back down – are coming from an unborn royal baby.

–John

For Southwest and Airbnb, Response Makes the Crisis | David PR 

For Southwest and Airbnb, Response Makes the Crisis | David PR How you respond to a crisis often impacts your business more than the crisis itself.  Evidence of this emerged last week with two high-profile incidents in the travel industry.  First, Southwest Airlines, typically a reputational darling, got dinged for its handling of passenger complaints following the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.  Next, Airbnb took a hit after reacting too slowly when a family found a hidden camera in the room they were renting.  In each case, the company wasn’t the source of the original problem, but how they responded caused damage to their reputations. 

The international grounding of the Boeing 737 Max impacted dozens of airlines and thousands of passengers, and it represented a logistical nightmare for every airline. While travelers might equate it with a weather delay, the reality is that the planes have been removed from service entirely. This caused a decrease in capacity that doesn’t get fixed once the weather clears.  And it’s not Southwest’s fault that the planes are out of service.  However, when the airline was slow to re-book passengers impacted by 737 Max 8-related cancellations, many went to social media to voice their displeasure.   

A family visiting Ireland booked a room on Airbnb. Simple enough, but the husband is an IT expert and discovered a camera hidden in a smoke detector.  This is in violation of Airbnbs rules but not technically the rental property matchmaker’s fault.  Yet, when the family called the problem to the attention of Airbnb, it took the company more than a month to remove the property from its listings.  Callousness in the response hurt them more than the actual issue.  Many news outlets covering the story focused on educating consumers about how to look for hidden cameras.  Others jumped all over Airbnb for its incredibly slow response.  Consumers are left to wonder if this is a rampant problem. 

When dealing with a reputational crisis, here are some tips: Read More

Weaponization of Reputation

Weaponization of ReputationThreats are part of life, and we learn about them at a young age. Profanity earns soap in the mouth. Bad grades and your phone is taken away. And my childhood demon, failure to eat vegetables means no dessert. The internet has taken threats to another level as some folks have taken to threatening your reputation as a means to an economic end. We are witnessing the weaponization of reputation.

Last week, attorney Michael Avenatti, famous for representing porn star Stormy Daniels, was arrested and accused by federal prosecutors of trying to extort Nike for $25 million. From CNBC:

Prosecutors said Avenatti threatened to hold a press conference accusing the company of being involved in bribing amateur basketball players. Avenatti allegedly timed his threats to coincide with Nike’s quarterly earnings call and the kickoff of the NCAA basketball tournament. According to a criminal complaint, Avenatti offered to refrain from that press conference “only if Nike made a payment of $1.5 million to a client of Avenatti’s in possession of information damaging to Nike … and agreed to ‘retain’ Avenatti and [the co-conspirator] to conduct an ‘internal investigation’ — an investigation that Nike did not request — for which Avenatti and [the co-conspirator] demanded to be paid, at a minimum, between $15 [million] and $25 million.”

So if you believe the allegations, Avenatti was trying to shake down Nike, but the muscle was not that he would turn-in the swoosh company to legal authorities but rather that he would use his media platform to ruin the reputation of the Nike brand. He threatened a virtual whack to the reputational kneecaps, allegedly.Read More

What is a Thought Leader and Do You Want to be One?

Thought LeadershipWhen I first started in the public relations business, I heard the term “Thought Leader” and kind of smugly laughed it off. My young PR guy brain believed it to be a euphemistic term for being influential, or a concept bandied about primarily in MBA classrooms. Today, I’m wiser (at least a little) and now completely understand the concept and believe it offers a great marketing opportunity for executives.

What is it?

“A thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.” Source: Wikipedia, which coincidentally can help you become one.

Next, sounds like a good thing, do I want to be one?

You do and for several reasons: 1) Being a thought leader distinguishes you and sets you apart from your competitors. 2) It adds credibility and name recognition. 3) It brings you new opportunities, which might be new business or marketing-related. 4) It helps keep you on the top of your game. Once you become a thought leader, you have to nurture it and continue to build upon it.Read More

Bezos Flips Script on National Enquirer

In the 1996 movie Ransom, Mel Gibson stars as an executive whose son is kidnapped by a bad guy played by Gary Sinise. The boy is held for ransom, and in the movie’s most famous scene, Gibson appears on the local news and pours $2 million in cash onto the anchor desk.  He then says:

This is your ransom. Two million dollars in unmarked bills, just like you wanted. But this is as close as you’ll ever get to it. You’ll never see one dollar of this money, because no ransom will ever be paid for my son. Not one dime, not one penny. Instead, I’m offering this money as a reward on your head.

I couldn’t help but think about this scene when I read Jeff Bezos’s blog post last week, targeting the publisher of the National Enquirer David Pecker. Just as Mel turned the “hunter” Sinise into “the hunted” in the movie, Bezos flipped the script on the National Enquirer.Read More

How Companies Make Money on Instagram

How companies can make money on InstagramWe often hear about celebrities getting paid big bucks to endorse products on Instagram. Reality television personality, model and entrepreneur Kylie Jenner purportedly earns $1 million per sponsored post.  She has 124 million followers.  According to the Instagram Rich List compiled by Hopper HQ, others who are said to be cashing-in include singer Selena Gomez ($800k per post), soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo ($750k per), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ($650k per) and a whole slew of entertainers, sports figures and Kardashian family members making six figures. Note: I’m not certain that stars like Selena Gomez, for example, are actually getting monster checks per single post. A quick peak at her Instagram feed shows several sponsored posts for handbag company Coach – for which she has a widely reported $10 million promotion and design gig. Is part of her deal a number of Instagram posts per year, for example?  Regardless, when you have more than 100 million followers who value your endorsement, it equates to tremendous reach, even if the figures might be inflated.

While this is fun from an entertainment-news-brain-candy perspective, it’s not necessarily useful information for companies which don’t have million-dollar marketing budgets.  The typical small business isn’t paying a celeb like The Rock to rep their product.  So how should you use Instagram for your business?Read More