Crisis Communications

Walking the Line Between True and False in Your Content

By Communications, Corporate Strategy, Crisis Communications, Marketing, Media

There was an interesting article today in the Washington Post about David Sedaris, who’s been getting kudos for awhile now as a contributing writer and storyteller for “This American Life,” the ever-popular NPR program. As the Post states, “Starting with his reading on NPR of a now-beloved story about his experiences as an elf for a Macy’s Santa Claus, Sedaris has grown into one of America’s preeminent humorists.”

The problem, it turns out, is that many of these “realish” stories have had a lot of fabricated characters and events in them, even though they were marketed as true stories, which is what made them so interesting. It seems that truthfulness is really important to journalistic organizations such as NPR.

In this period of amazing pressure to create really compelling and interesting content 24-7, it’s really challenging to create enough to meet the demand and to stay top of mind. I mean, are there really that many really amazing stories out there every day, especially TRUE ones? Who has the time to dig them up? Wouldn’t it be easier to take a pretty average story and maybe gussy it up a bit with a few fictional enhancements? What’s the harm if it makes the point and closes that sale?

In defending Sedaris, NPR execs said things like “…we just assumed the audience was sophisticated enough to tell that this guy is making jokes and that there was a different level of journalistic scrutiny that we and they should apply…” Sorry, not good enough. It’s never made clear on the show that these stories are fictional. Seems like folks are trying to get some journalistic mileage out of them by placing them in the context of real journalism.

So what?, you say. The point of all this whining is this: your company cannot afford to take this kind of license when you present yourself. You must be truthful, open, transparent. You must own your weaknesses and engage your customers to find solutions to them, with their input. You must struggle for missing excellence just as they do. Taking shortcuts or making good stuff up just doesn’t work anymore. Once your credibility is shot, like Sedaris’s might be, then it’s really hard to get it back, if you ever do. Ask JP Morgan. Or Jim Bakker. Or John Edwards.

How McDonald’s Turned Bad PR Into Good Strategy

By Communications, Corporate Strategy, Crisis Communications, Marketing, Social Media

You all may have read in the New York Times this week about how McDonald’s has been experiencing a strong resurgence. I won’t recap it all here, I’ll just provide the link so you can read it yourself.

The gist was that they listened. They absorbed all the negative criticism, most notably re-energized in their ill-fated #McDStories Twitter campaign, and they took stock. They then methodically went about answering these criticisms one by one. They updated their stores. They changed the menu to add more healthy choices. They reached out to mom bloggers and engaged them. They provided amenities like WiFi, couches, TV and high-end coffee. Then they told the world about it through social channels and massive advertising campaigns. As a result, McDonald’s revenue is up almost 13% year over year while their competitors–Burger King, Starbuck’s, Wendy’s–are losing market share.

It’s a simple lesson in how social media and marketing is supposed to work. When the public, your customer, speaks, LISTEN and ACT on what it tells you. It pays!

Why it’s Important to Do Your Hair Before Going on the Radio

By Communications, Crisis Communications, Media, Social Media
[blackbirdpie url=”!/coybarefoot/status/197431400465567745″]

My friends Ginger Germani and Erica Haskins will be happy to see this.

And while you’re pondering what “radio hair” looks like, please listen to the podcast from Charlottesville — Right Now! We talked about reputation management, brand engagement and social media with Coy Barefoot!



Five Simple Ways to Manage a Reputation

By Communications, Crisis Communications, Public Relations

How do you manage the reputation of your company? It’s difficult, and there are many moving parts. That’s why so many hire help from a firm or solo practitioner. Not a week goes by when I don’t hear about a business owner fretting over a bad Yelp review or an article damaging to their business or industry.

There are a few basic elements to managing a reputation, such as:

  1. Publishing content that tells the story of your organization in an authentic way
  2. Monitoring what’s being said and written online, to react to opportunities to respond
  3. Proactively pitch media with real news about your business
  4. Position the leaders of your organization as thought leaders and experts; offer them to media members as interview subjects or authors of whitepapers and editorial pieces
  5. Generate conversation among fans of the business

Of course, if a company’s reputation is bad because its product, service or customer relationships are bad, you may do all of the above and the company will still earn the reputation it deserves. Consider carefully your clients, PR and marketing people. And companies? Don’t expect miracles when you’re unwilling to improve the way you do business.

And now, a little Joan Jett and the Blackhearts . . .


Communicating 9/11: How We Talk and Write About it Does Make A Difference

By Communications, Crisis Communications, Media, Public Relations

In 2007, I shared my very personal 9/11 story. That was also the year I was devastated to learn our daughter didn’t — wouldn’t believe that the events of that date actually happened.  She didn’t remember — was just young enough then, that her absorption of it was at a minimum. In 2008 we took her to the site, to ground zero and finally, it really sunk in.

9/11 was real.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the acts of terrorism, the Associated Press has provided us with guidelines to use when referring to, speaking about or publishing about 9/11.

  • Flight 93: Acceptable in first reference for United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pa. Include airline name and context of crash in subsequent references. Flight 93 memorial is acceptable in all references for the Flight 93 National Memorial at the crash site.
  • ground zero: Acceptable term for the World Trade Center site.
  • The Sept. 11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people: 2,753 in New York. Includes three later deaths from respiratory disease that have since been linked to illnesses caused by the towers’ collapse. 40 in Pennsylvania. 184 at the Pentagon. Total: 2,977 as of July 25, 2011. 2,983 names will be listed on the Sept. 11 memorial, including six who died in the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing.

It’s important to remember, to be consistent in our storytelling and shared memories, to preserve and maintain the language with which we speak about the tragedies of that day, so generations later, history will not be rewritten.