Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Study Shows Most Companies Not Prepared for Social Media Crisis. Are You?

Ragan’s reported that while many companies are eager to employ new social media technology to promote their businesses, most are not equipped to handle threats associated with that technology.

The report was based on a recent study conducted by the Altimeter Group. So, how does a company know if it is facing or is susceptible to facing a social media crisis? According to the study, “to qualify as a social media crisis, an event must have one of these four effects: It causes major media coverage, necessitates changes in company processes, directly causes a decrease in revenue, or results in fines from the government.”

While some companies have put social media policies into place to monitor their online presence in an effort to control branding, reputation and even the safety of trade secrets, many have not communicated these policies efficiently to their employees and have not regulated them or even updated them as new social media outlets surface. To rectify this, the report suggests that “processes for what to do should be shared companywide. Companies should have formalized social media crisis response plans ready to go. More than half the companies surveyed didn't have one.”

Think about your company’s online social media activity. Do you know what’s posted daily about your company and where and why it’s being posted? Do your read the comments section on your blog or corporate Facebook page? Furthermore, do you really know who you’re following on Twitter and who is following you?

Ongoing social media training programs for employees and high-level administrators is an integral part of crisis management and is vital in ensuring that a social media crisis doesn’t damage your business. Companies should develop a solid crisis communications response plan, not entirely unlike a natural disaster response plan or fire safety plan, that incorporates a strategy for what employers and employees will do and say should an emergency arise.

If a social media crisis hit your company today, would your employees know what to say to the media when they call?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Being Successful in an Economy that’s Not: How PR Can Help reported this week, “As political leaders deal with growing investor fears that the country may relapse into another recession, PR agencies have seen a short-term uptick in corporate client activity related to navigating economic volatility.”

In this time of economic uncertainty, a business must relay a message of certainty to temper fears. Regular communication to stakeholders, customers, and potential customers is
vital, and reaching out through direct mailing, online, and through media mechanisms shows key constituents that you are still alive and that there is still positive movement in your company.

News articles that announce corporate achievements and human resource growth, a once a month e-newsletter, a corporate representative as guests on television shows or radio broadcasts, and meaningful social media efforts contribute to what we call “TOMA” or Top of Mind Awareness and convey fiscal health.

Another way to utilize public relations in a sour economy is in creating a crisis communication
plan to manage image and messages in the event that your stocks do slide. While most
shareholders will automatically hit a panic button, a crisis communication plan will help them
slow down and will encourage them to contemplate a future recovery instead of dwelling on the

The heart of public relations is building and maintaining meaningful relationships with
stockholders and customers that will weather the ups and downs of economics. To maintain
these relationships, investors must know that you are as invested in your own company as they
are, which means reaching out to beef up resources in order to remain viable and visible. Hiring a solid PR firm will actually upgrade your business during an economic downgrade.

How is your company strengthening its resources in this challenging economic time?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Celebrity Spokesperson: Helpful or Hurtful?

by Spencer Watson

When trying to promote a product or company lots of planning goes into it. Many companies are taking the celebrity approach. If you choose to have a celebrity spokesperson then you need to make sure you choose the right one.

Business owners should look for candidates who mesh well with their target audience and key demographics. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a teenager (no matter how famous) promoting products or services geared toward wrinkle creams. Make sure you hire a stable-minded celebrity as well. Some companies have faced the plight of hiring

someone to be the face of their company only to have that spokesperson do something on the personal time that would not reflect the company in a positive matter.

According to, A-list celebrities don’t come cheap. Unless you’re a multimillion-dollar behemoth of a company, odds are you won’t be able to afford top-tier movie stars and pro athletes. Celebrities in this stratosphere are probably starting in the mid six figures, depending on the project. If you don’t have that kind of budget, start lower on the “celebrity chain.” Businesses with more of a community focus can utilize local celebrities, such as TV news anchors, retired sports figures and other neighborhood standouts.

We want to hear from you: Do you think having a celebrity spokesperson for your company is a risk worth taking?

If you would like to contact Spencer Watson personally, he can be contacted at

Thursday, June 23, 2011

10 Tips for Using Social Media for Your Business

Social media is an easy way to give your business an edge over your competition. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue. The 2 most popular are Facebook and Twitter. According to, here are some of the top ways to use social media.....

Offer something special. Offering first looks at a new product or idea can cause buzz and improve sales. Post special deals in a tweet or a facebook post about a sale your company is having. Example: 50% coupon.

Frequently update.
Updating your social media sites frequently will keep your readers interested. Update at least once week or your readers will become bored and places to locate the information elsewhere.

Feedback. Social media is an easy way to get instant feedback. You can ask questions or use surveys on social media sites to receive answers to questions you might have for your customer base.

Interaction. You must remember that social media works both ways. If you expect to ask questions, you must be ready to answer questions.

Know your customers location. A growing number of social networks are designed specifically for users on the go, and some, such as the mobile application Foursquare, offer tools specifically for businesses.

Allowing your customers to interact. Include forums or communities on your company’s websites and social media sites. This function allows your customers to interact about issues or show excitement over a new product.

Help others promote you. Social media can help you find passionate customers who are more than willing to spread the word about your company.

Do not promote too much.
Your followers are interested in your company or they would not be following. However, I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys a spam of advertisements.

See what people are saying. Using social media opens conversation about anything and everything. This can help you determine your reputation in the eyes of others.

Social Media is free. The majority of social media sites are free. This means quick turnaround because you will be able to receive publicity and advertisement without having to pay a dime.

Picture Source:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Community Relations during Natural Disasters: Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You

The recent natural disasters that have affected our globe cannot be ignored. Almost immediately after an earthquake near Japan triggered a Tsunami, a chain of new disasters followed, including an outbreak of deadly tornadoes across the South as well as the flooding of the Mississippi River.

As soon as these disasters occurred, companies and organizations who were equipped to do so, sprang to the aide of those in need. For instance, American Behavioral a Birmingham-based behavioral health care organization serving clients nationwide, began receiving calls from their client companies. They put a plan into action to deal with what they knew was going to be the beginning of a severe emotional reaction that would follow those who were affected by the storm devastation.

In the days after the storm, American Behavioral sent out fliers and resource materials to all of their Human Resource contacts with information about dealing with the emotional impact tornadoes may have on their employees and family members, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of those suffering with a severe reaction, and ways that supervisors can help their employees to cope.

They also began sending on-site counselors to conduct group critical incident group debriefings and individual sessions with employees to the affected work areas to client companies affected by the storm, which ranged from banks, retail stores, fire and police departments, manufacturing plants, nursing home facilities, to hospital and other healthcare facilities.

American Behavioral has offered to provide expert advice to local and national publications through media alerts and pitches, establishing the organization as a dependable and credible go-to source on this topic. By providing tips and guidance on the human resource and financial toll on companies, as well as the emotional and financial toll on employees, American Behavioral is able to help both citizen victims as well as corporate victims of these disasters. Through this, American Behavioral is also able to introduce those company owners and employees who do not have behavioral health benefits, to a service that can help them be more prepared in the future.

This is an example of community relations between client and provider at its finest.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tip Sheet: Apply the Golden Rule in Your Client Relationships

Originally posted at

By Helene Solomon

Public relations pioneer Edward Bernays would have had a field day today. Long before integrated communications and social media, when business relationships were somehow more simple, clients hired Bernays to move public opinion; and he invented the press release to do just that. His brand of “propaganda” was considered revolutionary, and unquestionably gave birth to modern-day public relations.

But PR in the 21st century is much more than 20th century propaganda. To be successful, today’s PR requires a team effort between clients and PR agencies to understand the unique issues of the client’s space, prepare for the unexpected, stand out in increasingly crowded fields and keep up with the latest trends and technologies.

For any public relations agency/client partnership to be successful, it’s important to work in close collaboration with the in-house communications team and the rest of senior management.

According to a recent study conducted by Glasscubes, nearly 90% of PR pros said they would achieve better results if the agency/client relationship were more collaborative. Following are five tips on how best to build those agency/client relationships, and improve collaboration.

• Become your client’s biggest fan. Not just on Facebook. Understand their pressures and what keeps them up at night, anticipate their needs and challenges and be an advocate for their issues. If you want to build a thriving partnership, the agency team must learn to think like the client. Understand the corporate culture. Align your thinking with theirs—not so you would necessarily do what they would do, after all one of the advantages an agency has is a fresh perspective. Recognize their business goals and objectives and know what they are trying to accomplish long-term in their sales and marketing plan.

• Review and test the crisis plan. If recent events have proved anything, it’s that every organization needs to have a crisis plan. It needs to be tested, exercised and well communicated throughout the organization. No ifs, ands or buts. It is the best way for agencies and clients to get to know each other. It takes you from the first date to marriage faster than any other exercise.

• Be proactive, not reactive. Think one step ahead of them. Be the first to send over media coverage and relevant industry news. Suggest fresh, creative ideas that show you follow their space and competitors closely. Be accessible, and respond quickly and thoughtfully to client questions, comments and concerns. Add value by always being on the lookout for other ways to help. For example, if you know they have been bedeviled by lack of access to a key influencer, figure out how to get them to that person. It may not be directly billable by the hour, but will pay great dividends down the road.

• Make the in-house team look good. There’s a general understanding that if you help make your client contact look good in front of their manager, you will boost their ability to achieve their annual performance goals that may mean a raise or promotion. It’s the agency’s job to consistently produce results that prove the value and capabilities of the in-house team. This way, when it comes time for the decision-makers to update annual business plans and review budgets, the in-house team has the evidence to make a strong case to keep the agency, and possibly expand their role and budget.

• Excel in the vast world of social media. A recent study conducted by Yankee Group revealed that nearly 60% of customers feel company outreach via social media would improve their loyalty to that company, and 70% wanted access to company experts and support via social media channels. In-house marketing professionals may understand social media, but it’s up to the PR agency to excel as leaders of its spheres of influence, recognizing where it would benefit the client most.

Today’s PR agency is doing a lot more than writing press releases. We’re also selling relationship building, executive visibility, brand awareness, alignment with public policy, strategic counsel on partnerships, crisis planning, reputation protection as well as a true commitment to the client to support them in all facets of their business. And we’re not in it alone. At the end of the workday, we are one team, working side-by-side with our in-house partners to meet the same goals. We just have different e-mail addresses.

Helene Solomon is the cofounder and CEO of Solomon McCown & Co., a Boston-based strategic communications firm, and a member of the PR News Advisory Board. She can be reached at

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Selling Happiness: Boomers Look for Youthfulness, Optimism and Social Consciousness

I once had an editor that said, “I know I’m old. I just don’t want to be reminded of it all the time.” He made the comment in reference to the under-45 mission our magazine had tacitly adopted, which manifested itself in the photographs and language we used throughout the pages. Fresh-out-of college young ladies were shown planting flowers, just-married young couples walked parks together with toddler in tow, and the use of “cool” and “hot” in story headlines became ubiquitous.

Thing is, my editor’s philosophy was supported by hard research garnered through reader surveys and studies. Younger readers, predictably, wanted to see their peers in the magazine. However, interestingly enough, those same studies uncovered that older readers had no objection to seeing a younger, modern, and trendier stories and photos. Furthermore, they actually preferred this spin.

A recent study by the Geppetto Group reports that those in the Boomer generation are still looking for uplifting mechanisms and are even “identifying” with youthfulness when selecting brands. As well, adults beyond adolescent age want to see that companies are socially conscious through green efforts and sustainability. Far beyond advertising, however, public relations can be a primary engine for conveying freshness, optimism, and social responsibility in a brand.

For instance, a company that hires a PR firm to build its social media will be seen as
youthful and in-tune with the day. As well, it will be seen as socially conscious, by taking an electronic, non-paper route to reach their audience. Public relations firms often guide companies into strategic philanthropy so that the company is seen in the public eye as community-invested, in-touch, and reachable.

I once set up a story for an elder care company with a local newspaper. The photography
for the story was as strategic as the pitch. Although the article focused on a company
that goes into the homes of elderly, often ill, adults, I made sure that there were younger people photographed with the elderly so that there was a component of life and vitality to the article.

In keeping with the findings in the Geppetto Group study, public relations firms would do well to explore and identify a fresh mindset for their clients in order to reach a maturing audience who is looking to stay vibrant.

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to STOP annoying reporters and START building relationships

By Mickie Kennedy

Want to get your press release or important story in the paper?

Don’t do what many of your peers do—pitch all the livelong day and not interact with a reporter like he or she is a human being. Instead, focus on developing a relationship with your local journalists. You may be surprised at the results.

Here are 10 tips to help you get in their good graces.

1. Don’t pitch (at least not all the time). Pitching is obviously a necessary part of your job, but reserve it for the end of your conversation.

2. Reference their work.
Want someone to feel important? Talk about what’s important to him or her. For journalists, it’s their past stories and columns. You don’t have to memorize every word, but rest assured a little reference to past work will make them smile—and remember your name.

3. Talk to them like humans. Reporters are very busy, so don’t flood their inboxes with inane banter. However, once in a while when you do talk to them, don’t just stick to business. Ask about their kid’s school play, or whether that big story they were working on panned out. And remember, no jargon.

4. Learn their schedule.
Speaking of being busy, learn what times and days it’s best to talk. This includes knowing when to call and when to email. Not only will they appreciate that you took the time, you also stand a chance to actually get a hold of them when you need to.

5. Lend a hand. Offering help when he or she needs it makes a reporter’s life much easier. This can include anything from being a source to helping find facts about your industry for a story. When the time comes to fill in a story for the paper, they’ll come to you.

6. Comment on their stories. Another way to help reporters get their stories noticed is to comment on them. This can create a dialogue between the two of you, and even a real rapport. If their site is relevant to your followers, share it on Facebook and Twitter.

7. Be on call. If you’re actively helping out a reporter, remember to be on call. You’ve always expected them to answer the phone at suppertime and at 7 a.m., so do the same for them. If they call on your vacation, answer the phone!

8. Write a story for them. Want to really get on their good side? Don’t just send a press release for your story, go ahead and write the whole thing. This way there’s a big chunk of work that’s already done. Make sure you follow the style of their publication.

9. Speak clearly and concisely. When a reporter does contact you, don’t ramble on at a thousand miles an hour. Make sure you know what you want to say, and say it with clarity and conciseness. Don’t give them an excuse to dump the story because they need to call you back for clarification on a few points.

10. Be Nice! Above all, be civil and polite. You’re busy, the reporter is busy—everyone is busy. It’s no reason to be rude. Even if the person on the other end seems harried, remaining calm and nice on your end usually does them in. Keep in mind the old saying about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar!

This article previously appeared in PR Fuel, a service of Press Release

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What Public Relations Can Learn From Real Estate

Driving by the “for sale” signs in the front yards of properties on the market barely yields a passing glance these days, due to the sheer volume and mundane appearance of the signs. Even those who are aggressively looking will resort to online MLS listings before entering a house simply based on a sign in the yard. A new cable series, “Selling New York,” details the extravagant strategies that real estate agents of the Upper East Side, who are more like public relations and marketing agents, employ in order to promote a property and get potential buyers inside. The tactics go far beyond those 8 x 8 cardboard signs posting a realtor’s basic info.

These agents sometimes hire five-star chefs to provide hors d'Ĺ“uvrs, as agents representing buyers walk around. They sometimes rent furniture by the latest designers to stage the area in a way that makes potential buyers feel like they’re already at home. In effect, once they get potential buyers inside the properties, the spaces themselves do the talking, and the real estate agents are able to close a deal.

In keeping, public relations firms nowadays have to employ modern tactics to get clients into their doors. For many, those “for sale” signs are no longer effective, as the market has become flooded with so many pitches that look and feel the same. Power point presentations are becoming flashier, web sites are becoming more interactive and social media has become the tool of choice to capture the attention of potential clients. Business cards, which will still always be a staple of basic business transactions, have gone digital—potential clients are impressed when just a bump of a phone yields an electronic contact card that is automatically saved to their handheld.

Take a look at how you’re selling your public relations products. Are you leaving it up to the “for sale” sign, or are you selling your prime property in style?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tuning in to Opportunity: How Companies can use online videos as the new TV

Tuning in to Opportunity: How Companies can use online videos as the new TV

Think about the amount of time each day you spend listening to a radio. Next, think of the time each day you spend watching TV. Finally, think about the time you spend in front of your computer each day. In each of these scenarios, the time growth is exponential. You may not have noticed, companies and organizations have been carefully watching the technology trends and have made a point of incorporating online videos into their efforts to reach you, the audience. In fact, predicts that in five years, B2B firms alone will spend 20 percent of their annual budgets on social media, which includes communication through online videos.

Far beyond simply being engines for online ads, companies, nonprofits, even politicians and celebrities are posting online videos as public relations tools to reach a people who are quickly trading in their television remotes for iPads.

Does this mean that television is fading and going the way of hard copy newspapers or those radio broadcasts you used to tune into on the weekends? Not at all. It simply means that television, as well as those same newspapers and radio programs, are learning to utilize new methods for reaching patrons.

According to a recent study by Nielsen, online video usage in the U.S. is up considerably from the same time last year. Results showed that time spent viewing video on personal computers, Macs, and laptops from home and work locations increased by 45 percent in January 2011. The study showed that this year, viewers streamed 28 percent more video and spent 45 percent more time watching.

Among favorite sites to tune in were MSN, Windows Live and Bing, which were the fastest-growing video brand month-over-month, increasing 26.1 percent. Furthermore, top online video brands used by unique viewers in February 2011, included AOL Media Network, YouTube and Facebook.

If the audience is allocating more time to online video, then, logically, they are spending less time utilizing other media. So, how can companies incorporate online videos into public relations campaigns? Look at BP after last year’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill or Toyota after the massive recall. The companies not only ran spots for television, radio, and newspaper, but also invested a great deal of time, money, and effort in posting their public relations message all over the internet via online videos that were crafted to patch up their reputations and sell the repaired image to the online viewer.

This year, look for even more companies and organizations to tap into online viewership in even more creative ways. In this society of instant access, these online videos will be tweeted, texted, instant messaged, and so on. The message will be accessible from anywhere and will penetrate everywhere.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

IPhone’s PR Glitch: Is there an App for Good PR?

If we’ve preached it once, we’ve preached it a thousand times. No company is immune to crisis. All companies, large and small, should have a solid crisis communications plan. Why are we reiterating this? Well, take a look at Apple in recent days. Web reports say that their techno trophy—the iPhone—has been experiencing an application glitch since New Year’s Day. The alarm feature has not being going off properly, which according to Yahoo News, has left users “fuming” (and likely late to meetings, flights, etc.). According to, three NBA stars were “victims” of the glitch, causing one player to completely miss a practice and two others to be late.

What a way to start the new year. Way back in November of 2010, CNN reported that Apple told its customers to manually adjust their alarm clocks for Daylight Saving Time, because the alarm app did not automatically do this. Was this the cause of the problem? Who knows? Answering tech questions is beyond our expertise, but we can speak to the PR problem that has resulted from the glitch.

Here’s the thing. The application glitch itself is not what causing the Apple’s PR problem—it’s reportedly the way Apple is handling the problem. reported that thousands of users took to social media outlets to rant and rave about their dissatisfaction with the product. Users who missed meetings and appointments due to the problem made Twitter and Facebook their sounding board because they felt that Apple was not listening to them.

Apple apparently did not offer an explanation for New Year’s alarm problem, but told customers the phone would be fixed by that Monday. Offering as much information as possible within legal and corporate guidelines is imperative to customer satisfaction in a situation like this. Communication with the customer is essential—especially if communication tools are one of the products your business sells. Apple will do well to learn from this mistake and create a hotline or special service line for customers who experience application glitches in the future. After all, the iPhone is supposed to have you talking, but not like this.