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Public Relations

Five Elements that Make a Reputation

By | Public Relations | No Comments

It’s not often I’m on the other end of the work that I do, playing the role of community member and answering questions posed by another PR firm about their client, but that’s exactly what I found myself doing this morning.

It’s a great experience to have, a reminder of what it feels like to be the call recipient, the survey-taker, or the person who is forming an opinion about the client in question. This is how firms like mine determine the reputation of a client: is it good? Is it bad? What IS the reputation, and how did it get that way?

Here’s How a Reputation is Formed

  1. Hearsay. Someone you know works at the company, or knows someone who does and you know from what they say how the company is as an employer, and may even know a little bit about what they do, professionally. Sometimes people call this word-of-mouth.
  2. Advertising. Have you seen an ad somewhere? Where? And what did it say?
  3. Strategic relationships. In my community, I know what companies have been openly, visibly supportive of certain nonprofit organizations. I can tell from that affiliation, something about their core values. So whether your company has no visible affiliation of that kind, or one I can’t identify, or one that’s very clear and obvious makes a difference. I know a little something about electronics retailer Crutchfield, based in Charlottesville, Va. and that they welcome pets into their company headquarters and that the company leadership if fond of animals, and, as a result is a long time, big supporter of the local SPCA. That information helps formulate the reputation of the organization through that relationship.
  4. Search Engine Optimization. This one takes work on the company’s part, and on the part of their public relations partner. What SEO means, is what you find when you google a company. What shows up on their online presence, the part they manage, including their website and social media channels, but also what’s been published about them, in the form of reviews, of news stories, and of other content outside of their control. Go deeper than that and look up the employees of the organization. The reputation of a company is only as strong as its members and if you find that there are people with really bad reputations collecting a paycheck from the company in question, that’s going to flavor your perception of the company’s reputation.
  5. Personal experience. It’s not easy to change a person’s perception of a company once they’ve had their own experience of it. Whether you’re a former employee, a disgruntled or even enthusiastic customer, or a vendor, that interaction creates a long-term imprint and puts you in the role of influencing others (see #1 above) through hearsay or word-of-mouth.

Those of us in the PR and reputation management business need first to understand the reputation of our client, and how that reputation has been formed, to begin the work of shaping it for the future.

 

United’s PR Opportunity

By | Communications, Public Relations | 2 Comments

Some people like to play fantasy baseball. I play fantasy public relations.

By now, you’ve heard about the doctor who was forcibly dragged from his United flight to Louisville, Ky when a flight was oversold and seats needed to be made available to United staff.

 

In the wake of the incident, the airline’s CEO released a statement that surely, no PR professional touched.

 

There’s universal agreement among PR pros and the general public that this was a PR failure of epic proportions.

What United Should Do Now

  1. Apologize for the mistreatment of a passenger and take steps to insure nothing like this ever happens again.
  2. Stop overselling flights, and lead the industry in changing policies to make air travel humane, courteous, and pleasant again. (This is where the fantasy comes in because airlines will always oversell flights, hedging against no-shows and missed connections, to make the most money possible on every flight).
  3. Ask the CEO to step down. This guy is a disaster in a crisis. Not what you want in an airline.

If United does this, and puts in place a new CEO with a strong relationship to their PR team, they will be on track to salvage what has become a terrible reputation. The likelihood that any of this will occur is small, because, realistically, our attention span for this kind of thing is short. As passengers, we have limited choices of airlines going to the destinations we seek. We need to select the least expensive option when we shop for airline tickets and our morals will only last so long when we need to fly somewhere. We will keep flying United, even if, for now, we’re determined to do otherwise.

The Importance of Asking for What you Want

By | Marketing, Public Relations | No Comments

In 2010, after working remotely from Virginia for a firm in St. Louis for five years, I decided I just couldn’t do it anymore. The flights, often delayed, once a month back to Missouri, the isolation of being the only person on the team not in St. Louis, and the lack of control over the client work had taken a toll. I knew I could continue my local client work as an independent and began to consider opening my own firm.

There was one big problem. Like most people working for PR firms and agencies, I had signed a non-compete agreement stating that the clients belonged to the firm. Most such agreements require a one-year period in which the former employee steer clear of the firm’s clients. I was prepared to do this, if necessary, but hoped it wouldn’t be.

Since I moved to Charlottesville, every local client I’d gained had a relationship with just me. They knew other members of the firm a little bit, but I was the one who met with the clients regularly, who corresponded with them, and provided the bulk of the deliverables. If I left the firm, who would continue to take care of those clients?

I took a deep breath and I asked my boss to be released from my non-compete. I asked to take my clients with me, allowing me to start my own business. I promised to continue to serve other clients as a subcontractor to the firm and to ease transition.

It was a crazy thing to propose.

But she said yes. That client work gave Jaggers Communications a healthy start. Clients said they didn’t care to what account they wrote their checks, all they knew is they wanted to continue working with me.

Just ask.

CrowdJustice Platform Launches in the US with Legal Aid Justice Center Case

By | Public Relations | No Comments

Our work in public relations and social media strategy sometimes intersects with fundraising efforts, as it did this week when Legal Aid Justice Center launched a crowdfunding effort through CrowdJustice, a platform designed to raise funds specifically to support legal cases.  We think legal help should be available to anyone who needs it, and CrowdJustice was established on that premise. The case Legal Aid is asking to support is Aziz vs. Trump,

“Just hours after President Trump signed his executive order on immigration, Tareq and Ammar were handcuffed, detained, and forced to sign papers that they had neither read nor understood.  Those papers signified a “voluntary” waiver of their legal immigration status.  They were then put on a plane to Ethiopia, the location of their layover on their way to Dulles.  As of this writing, they are still in the airport, unable to leave and with no place to go.”

The goal of Legal Aid’s litigation is to force the United States government to bring Tareq and Ammar back to the United States and to restore their immigration status.  The organization is seeking the same for each of the other ~60 Visa holders and Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) deported from Dulles under similar circumstances.

If you’re inspired to give to this case, or others like it on CrowdJustice, you can do so here. The CrowdJustice platform brings legal aid to the masses, which should be of interest to all of us.

Is it News? Check Your Pitch Against the 8 News Values

By | Media, Public Relations | No Comments

Seasoned PR people and journalists know what makes something news, and what doesn’t. We all hate to see any kind of brand or organization wasting time spinning its wheels pitching news that isn’t newsworthy. What makes something news? Check it against these eight standard news values:

  1. Proximity
  2. Prominence
  3. Significance
  4. Timeliness
  5. Human interest
  6. Unusualness
  7. Conflict
  8. Currency (newness)

Even if you’re clear on what value your pitch holds, you may struggle. “Is it enough?” In fact, it’s better for a story to have proximity, for example, AND unusualness. Conflict AND timeliness. Prominence AND human interest. More value leads to greater likelihood your story will get picked up. If you’re still unclear, scan through a list of headlines in your local paper or favorite online news source (local news may have more diversity in values than that on the national or global level) and see if the values jump out at you.