A Reporter’s Advice on Media Relations

By | Communications, Crisis Communications, Media | No Comments

A reporter friend texted me about his frustration with communications professionals who are either hamstrung by their bosses and unable to do their jobs, or who otherwise fail to conduct media relations in a timely manner. The situation doesn’t help anyone, as no one can do their job, and the public doesn’t get the correct, or sometimes, any information. “How do we get you to teach the communications professionals in this town how to communicate?” he said.

I have taught many people how to work with the media, and especially how to communicate in a crisis. I think it’s good to hear directly from the media how they want to receive information from their sources, as a refresher for all of us. Here’s the gist of what my reporter friend wants all people working in communications to know.

  1. It’s important to say something. Saying nothing means information comes from other sources, and the rumor mill is very active.
  2. It is critical to understand how quickly rumors spread and whip people into a frenzy. Social media can make any communicator’s job even harder, as the battle to correct misinformation mounts depending on how long the true story is delayed.
  3. You really can ask for something to be off the record. We understand that there are times you can’t tell us at the time, but you CAN say, “Hey, I can’t tell you much yet, but off-the-record, don’t send everyone home for dinner just yet.”
  4. Stop trying so hard to protect your people or control the narrative. In most cases, your subject matter expert is smart, capable, and willing to answer questions. Let them. You will get grilled less often if there is regular, proactive communication. If you never say anything, it looks like you’re trying to hide something.

I’ll add to this that it is OK, in the case of a crisis to say that you don’t have all the information, while sharing what you do have (stating the facts), and that you will get back to the reporter as soon as you have more to say. If you’re waiting for your client or boss’s approval before sharing information, you can at least let reporter’s know that you’re working on it, rather than leaving them hanging.

How to Note the Holidays Professionally

By | Marketing | No Comments

Happy holidays! I know it seems a tad early, but it’s the right time to get rolling on any plans you may have as a business, to celebrate the season. If you send out a card or purchase gifts for clients, there’s limited time to update your list and make sure all your names and addresses are correct.

Our favorite end-of-year mail comes from clients, vendors, and partners with a personalized touch. Cards that reflect the company’s brand are delightful. Handwritten notes are extra-special. Work with a design partner to get the look of your holiday message just right. While we like a whimsical approach, don’t stray too far from a professional look, or from your brand. The recipient should be able to recognize pretty quickly who has sent a holiday greeting!

Gifts can be expensive, so we get it if you skip the gift altogether. Some clients, however, certainly rate a gift of food or other thoughtful treat. Remember if you’re going the food route, there should be enough to spread around to all employees. (A client told me about the dozens of fruit baskets they receive from their various clients and vendors and invited me to make off with one when I visit in December. It’s worth noting: maybe fruit baskets are too often given. If you’re considering that this year, take a more creative approach.)

Do you have a typical plan for tackling the holidays? We hope you do.

Why is it so Hard to Define Public Relations?

By | Public Relations | No Comments

PR people themselves have a tough time defining their own industry for ages. There are blurry boundaries between PR, marketing, advertising, and other disciplines. No one knew where to fit social media when it exploded on the scene fifteen or more years ago, and now it fits under the PR umbrella in some ways, as well.

It’s not that complicated, if you think of PR as the deliberate management of shared information about a person, brand, corporate or nonprofit entity and the public. 

Tell your story (correctly, in a way that influences action) by hiring a PR firm, consultant, or employee. HOW it is done, is where all those other disciplines (media relations, social media, grassroots outreach, networking, etc.) come into play.

Stop it with the Spin Already

“Spin” is a word that makes ethical PR practitioners cringe. Spin is propaganda. It is the practice of pushing a biased interpretation to your audience, to influence outcomes. This is quite common in politics. If a prospective client were to ask us for this kind of service, we’d turn them down. It’s not what we do.

We work with people who have stories to tell about their business, what they offer, who does the work, and what audience they serve. We’re honored to help our clients tell these stories, to connect with the right people, to engage and build relationships, and to grow in their success. That’s good PR, and that’s what we do.

Walking Your Talk: Nobody Does it Like The Ritz

By | Communications | No Comments

The Ritz-Carlton has their messaging down pat.

“We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” reads their motto, and I’ve always thought that was just lovely.

Employees of the Ritz carry wallet cards called Credo Cards. On them, the essence of the brand is printed, including the credo, the motto, the three steps of service, the brand’s values, the “sixth Diamond,” and the employee promise. They call all of these elements The Gold Standards and I highly encourage you to go take a look — it is most impressive.

I’ve long used the credo card example to demonstrate to clients what is possible in clarifying what is true about their brand, the promises they make to their audience, and what commitment they make in serving that audience. We work with clients to distill those messages down to a framework not unlike the Ritz’s example. I always think it’s great if we can get an organization to create a credo card of their own.

What’s good about the credo card example?

Consistent messaging throughout an organization means that everyone is on the same page. The experience your customers get is universal. There’s a kind of security in that kind of consistency, and when customers trust your brand, it inspires loyalty.

If you are able to create such strong messages internally, that points to a pretty healthy company with a well-defined set of values and goals.

Does your brand have its messages down pat like this?

I think I need a visit to the Ritz to do more research!

How to Use Instagram for your Business

By | Social Media | No Comments

With every new social media tool, there’s a learning curve to using it to benefit your business. It might be intuitive to use it personally, but if it’s not, the business angle can be a bigger leap.

Here are five tips to help you make the jump:

  1. Establish or convert to a business account. Here are the detailed instructions from Instagram. 
  2. Create a strategy for capturing or gathering photos of your work. What’s the most visually compelling way to share the story of what you do?
  3. Follow your intended audience, and others in your space. With whom are you trying to build relationships? What relationships already exist? Make sure, as you move forward, that you are tagging and engaging with your community.
  4. Use hashtags to make sure you show up in the feeds of people following a hashtag. For local business, I follow the #charlottesville and #cville hashtags. This is a great way to find new people to follow.
  5. Remember that Instagram is a very different platform from Twitter or Facebook. I don’t recommend automating because links in posts on Insta do not work (you must put a link in a bio or create action buttons to enable linking for users) and generally, linking to content on other platforms is a good idea! It’s more work, to be sure, but I still recommend posting customized content to the platforms you choose to use for your business.

How about you? Have you been using Instagram for your business?