- Be prepared to tell your side of the story – Take the time to develop your key messages on one page or less.
- First things first – Before you talk, your first responsibility is to get the situation under control and gather the facts.
- Speak with one voice – As much as possible all information should flow through one spokesperson.
- Talk to the media – If you don’t talk to the media don’t blame them if they treat you like you’ve got something to hide.
- Insist on balance – Good journalists are obligated to report both sides of the story and you shouldn’t settle for less.
- Respond to all negatives – As in any political campaign, each and every attack on your credibility must be responded to in some way.
- Be quick on your feet – In this digital era of instant access to breaking news, you must be prepared to mount a rapid response.
- Demonstrate responsibility – A too-legalistic approach to addressing the results of an accident can send a message to your neighbors that you don’t care.
- It ain’t over ‘til it’s over – Continually monitor the media and reevaluate your communication strategy.
- Learn from your mistakes – Don’t expect to do everything right but plan on doing it better the next time.
If there’s one thing journalists love, it is solid numbers that tell a story.
“Our new office building was made with 95% recycled material”
…is tangible proof of this statement:
“Our commitment to the environment starts at the very literal foundation of our building and is a part of our core values as we do business”
Figures such as these provide vital endorsements to your overall message, and become succinct, powerful tools to help tell your story. By creating a visual asset with those numbers (an infographic, video or a poignant picture) the message becomes more powerful and shareable across multiple channels, grabbing the attention of your key audience on platforms such as social media.
Here’s one powerful example. We were working with a client at a university to promote the incredible research she was doing in the field of heart disease.
The data was complex, but the imperative to act was clear: she and her team had surfaced new information on why people were being re-hospitalized, and raising awareness on the topic could save lives.
We took key facts and figures from her research and presented them in an infographic. It broke apart the information using graphics, and gave key takeaways on how to improve out-patients’ quality of life. It made some incredibly intricate details much more accessible to a wide audience.
A white paper or research study is a great asset to distribute to your shareholders and other people who will want to spend a lot of time with that material. However, simplifying the data allows you to share it with other audiences—particularly those who may be interested in the underlying message but lack the personal knowledge of the topic to understand the white paper or read it at all.
If you tease out the most meaningful data and turn them into something like an infographic, you can then distribute snippets of that data to the public via social media, or perhaps accompanying a press release, so it explains complex concepts in an easily-understandable way. In this case, Simpler really is better. The visual component will grab a reader’s attention, and the snippet of data will get them thinking about your brand, and likely even make them want to learn more.
A picture literally can be worth a thousand words when used correctly. Visual assets should serve a functional use and be clear. As an example, the design platform Canva created a great checklist that we have internalized:
- Does this asset enhance my message in some way?
- Is this asset clear and easily read/understood?
- Is this the best possible type of asset for this context?
- How will my audience react to this asset?
Quickly run over these in your head before you include your asset to make sure you’re getting the absolute most out of this device. If your answers to these questions are respectively ‘yes’, ‘yes’ ‘yes’, and ‘with great positivity’, you’re ready to go.
Think you may have something that could use a visual asset? Contact us for more information.
For showing us all how to act in the public eye.
We talk about it all the time in the world of public relations – your public image is a direct extension of yourself, so you really need to treat it right. You only have one public face, one opportunity to define yourself to your audience(s). And you better do it right, lest you wind up being defined by them.
Sunday night was Derek Jeter Night at Yankee Stadium, a night where his iconic Number 2 was retired and he was honored by adoring Yankee fans for a great career. And on that night we saw once more what made him so special.
Derek Jeter played shortstop for the New York Yankees from 1995 through 2014. He was 20 years old when he started, someone barely out of his teens playing in the withering spotlight of New York City professional sports. There really is no tougher audience in this country for a young athlete looking to make himself a success.
When Jeter first came onto the scene he was a skinny kid with world given talent, an effervescent smile that made it seem like every second he was on the baseball field was fun, and a future that held enormous promise if he was able to handle it and live up to the considerable hype.
When he retired in 2014, the skinny kid was long gone. He was a 40-year-old man who, while his world-class skills had slipped, could now do something that his 20-year-old self could have only dreamed of – he was able to look back on a legendary career that had made him one of the greatest, most likable and most popular players in the esteemed New York Yankee history.
And that smile that lit up the city? It was still there. Bright and fresh as ever.
How did Jeter do it? His baseball talents took care of themselves, as did his penchant for coming through in the clutch, right up through his final Yankee Stadium at bat. His personal records and the team records speak overwhelmingly to that – five World Series titles, seven trips to the Fall Classic, 17 trips to the postseason, 14 All-Star Games and more hits, stolen bases and games played than any Yankee in history. His entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame when eligible for the first time in 2020 is a certainty.
But beyond his greatness on the field, there was an ease and grace with which Derek Jeter carried himself that made him more than just a great player, but someone to be admired. He became team captain, with leadership skills most players only dream about. He was there to talk to the media about every success and, yes, every failing, as stand-up a player as has ever worn the Yankee pinstripes. He hustled and played all-out every single time he took the field, whether he was hurting or not. He never gave up or begged out of a game. His on-field attitude evoked a famous line the Great DiMaggio once uttered when asked why he never eased up in the field: “There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time. I owe him my best.”
Off the field, again in that intense glare of the New York City media, Jeter was guarded and almost religiously cautious about what he said and what he did. He was single, superstar athlete in the greatest city in the world, but it’s very difficult to recall one scandal or questionable issue that ever surrounded him. He knew the value of his public image and he protected it, in a way so many people in the public eye likely wished they could have done.
When Derek Jeter was in public, what you got was always the same. He was friendly and engaging. He was charitable (his Turn 2 Foundation he and his family run has become a major success). He asked for respect and received respect in turn, mostly because he carried himself as someone who respected others as much as he did himself.
Jeter became a giant in the sports world for reasons that exceeded his Hall of Fame abilities and performance. To put it simply, he knew how valued he was by the public, and made it a priority to value the world around him just as much. He played his career as a living, breathing lesson in good public relations, and from what we saw Sunday night, he plans to continue to live his life that way.
Thank you, Captain. See you in Cooperstown.
By Dan Tapper
Last night I was pleased to take in my first Hartford Yard Goats game with my son and my parents; it was clear upon touring Dunkin’ Donuts Park prior to the first pitch that despite the myriad issues that plagued the stadium during the construction phase, now that it’s open our capital city has a beautiful, vibrant place to watch baseball during the spring and summer months.
Not only that, but Hartford also finally has a place where mascots can roam free and happy, safe from the perils of the outside world. Because one thing I was reminded of last night is you can never have enough mascots!
One thing I love about minor league baseball is a commitment to entertaining the fans that goes far beyond the game being played on the field. Minor league allegiances, for obvious reasons, tend to run nowhere near as deep as those for the Red Sox or Yankees or Mets or any other major league team, so team management knows more needs to be done to keep people engaged.
This means special package deals for youth organizations, schools, sports leagues, professional associations and any other group you can think of. This means affordable amenities. This means a strong focus on the nearby population, where local heroes are honored and school choirs sing the National Anthem. It means offering dozens of “theme” nights to bring people of all ages to the ballpark where they don’t just get a game but perhaps plenty more to remember.
And yes, it means mascots. Lots and lots of mascots.
I think I counted at least a half-dozen iterations of the Yard Goats mascots “Chompers” and “Chew Chew” gallivanting around the stands and the concourses last night, high-fiving fans, posing for pictures and basically serving as goodwill ambassadors for the team. And those weren’t including the four team-oriented mascots on the field itself, having a grueling race in the middle innings. Or the three Dunkin’ Donuts-themed mascots (Hot Coffee, Iced Coffee and Donuts) who had their own race earlier in the game. (For the record, I had picked the Donut to win and am deeply suspicious that he didn’t. Inquiries will follow).
In a customer-oriented world such as minor league baseball, where a positive, happy public face puts people in the seats perhaps as much as the game itself does, the fun-loving and oversized visage of a dutiful mascot can go a long way towards keeping the people coming. It’s a simple and fun little public relations lesson—a friendly face is often the best way to spark people’s interests. Even if that face happens to be attached to a large and multi-colored goat-like figure.
And lastly, it reminded me of a lesson offered by our fearless leader here at SLPR, the “PR King” himself Gene Sheehan. Gene recalled back during his days as Program Director for WHCN-FM in Hartford in the 1970s, it was decided that the radio station would adopt a giant walrus as its own mascot. (This would prove to be a very popular decision, as rock fans of my generation clearly remember “The WHCN Walrus” as the veritable symbol of Hartford’s rock-n-roll scene during those years).
Gene was personally involved in finding just the right walrus costume to be worn and used as the station’s mascot, and still today he offers sage advice as to why he did that:
“I had one priority in picking out that walrus costume,” he recalls. “And that was to make sure it didn’t fit me!”
- Your Brand is constantly being misrepresented in the media.
- No one recognizes your company name when you go to networking events.
- You’re having difficulty recruiting talent or good business leads in comparison to your competitors.
- You don’t have cohesive communication between your marketing materials, business plan and management team.
- Your organization either does not have or has an outdated crisis management plan.
- You have made a change to your brand or you are about to make a change to your brand.
- You aren’t sure what the “brand” of a company even is.
- You need help communicating internally to your employees.
- Your company hasn’t identified a key spokesperson, or your key spokesperson feels uncomfortable talking to the media.
- You are about to make an important announcement (whether positive or negative)
In these situations as well as many others, having strong, consistent key messages and media coaching from the experts can make the difference between building public support or fading into history.
Interested in how PR can help your organization? Contact Us today!
By Emily L. Rodrigues
When trying to pick the right PR agency for your organization, there’s a lot to take into consideration. While we’d love to work with you, we want to make sure the partnership is a good one. Here is a guide to help you figure out what to look for in a PR agency.
What are your PR Goals?
In order to have mutual satisfaction with the process, it’s good to know what you want so you can communicate well with the firms in order to determine who is most well-equipped to help your brand and achieve your goals. It’s important to have an idea of what you’d like to accomplish before you meet with PR firms, but know that the right PR firm can help you fine-tune and refine your goals during the process.
Who will you be working with?
On a day-to-day basis will you be working with the people who come to the pitch meeting? Or will they be passing work along to less experienced employees & interns? Especially when it comes to your brand reputation make sure you know exactly who you’ll be working with and who will be responsible for which projects.
What is their experience in Media Coaching?
Simply writing press releases and creating media opportunities may not be enough to ensure you are best-representing your organization. Ask if they do media coaching for spokespersons and other staff members who may come in contact with the press.
What is their Media Market?
Who are they connected to? If they are a hyper-localized business without any media contacts in your area, they may not be a great fit. Media contacts can always be made, but you can get started faster if they are already connected to outlets in your area.
What is their Client Load?
Are they overwhelmed? Do they depend almost entirely on one client who will get most of their attention? Give a lot of thought to the type of clients they manage, how long they retain their clients and ask for references. Despite the fact you wouldn’t be the agency’s only client, you need to ensure that if you need them, they’ll be there.
How do they Measure Success?
Do they give tangible goals and objectives laid out? Would you be satisfied with their service if those are the things they achieved? How you measure success for your organization’s PR strategy should align with how your PR agency understands success. Ask questions, make suggestions, and be open about what goals you hope to achieve.
Do they understand or have the ability to learn about your industry?
Some agencies specialize in particular industries, and others have a wide range of clients and enjoy working with a combination of industries. They may have more contacts in a specialized agency, but you’d also be competing for space against the rest of their clients. Whether or not you want an agency that specializes in one area is up to you, but be careful if you notice that the rest of their clients are in an industry different entirely from yours. If it’s not a good fit, don’t be afraid to move on.
Do you like the people you’d be working with?
People working at PR firms are human, so it’s important to make sure the personalities of your team & the PR team you will be working with are cohesive. A good PR team will simply be an extension of your organization.
Written correspondence is essential in our business as well as most others. But one thing on which we always advise clients in the public relations realm is this: if you write it down, assume it will make its way into the public eye.
It may seem overly cautious, but it’s grounded in very sensible and strategic thinking. If all written materials were written with the thought process of, “If the public see this, that would be just fine,” a lot of people would be spared heartache.
One of the more infamous instances of what can happen when the non-public unexpectedly becomes public is the famous “Bedbug Letter” story, supposedly attributed to George Pullman, the famed industrialist who created the Pullman Sleeper Car for rail travel. The story has changed a bit over the years and may even be apocryphal, but its lesson remains.
The story goes that a traveling salesman spent one night in a Pullman sleeper in the late 19th century and encountered a bedbug. Unhappy, he wrote a letter of complaint to Mr. Pullman himself, and was surprised and pleased to receive a letter back from Mr. Pullman sincerely apologizing and explaining how this would never happen again. Which is great.
Which across the bottom, in Pullman’s handwriting, contained this note to his secretary:
“Send this SOB our standard bedbug letter.”
Don’t let this happen to you, not with letters or emails or texts or, yes, even handwritten notes. If you’re writing it down, ask yourself this question first: “Will I be OK if this somehow gets out to the public?”
Last week was the 50th anniversary of the night astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee died on the launch pad while going through what they thought was a routine pre-flight test procedure for Apollo I. They were scheduled to launch three weeks later as the first three-manned space flight, and the Apollo program was the one which would ultimately land us on the moon.
But today is another key anniversary. It was 50 years ago today – January 30, 1967 – that the Apollo program began its comeback, thanks to the straight and stirring words of one of the true giants the American space program.
Up until that point the space program, as administered by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), had operated with an almost clinical level of precision in the “Space Race” against the Soviet Union. Beginning with the epochal single-manned Mercury flights from 1961-63 and continuing on with the two-manned Gemini operation through 1966, the progress we had made from Alan Shephard’s initial 15-minute ride in May 1961 to January 1967, where a lunar orbital mission and eventual lunar landing were now within grasp, was astounding. We weren’t just making good on President Kennedy’s 1961 pledge of “landing a man safely on the moon and returning him safely to earth,” but we appeared to be doing it in record time.
That all changed on the evening on January 27, 1967 when fire quickly consumed the Apollo 1 capsule as it sat on the launch pad during that run-through, tragically taking the lives of those three American heroes. And it could have signaled the death knell for the space program.
Congressional hearings were held. Fingers were pointed everywhere – at NASA, at the builders of the rocket and spacecraft, at government officials who many thought rushed the Space Race along at too hasty a pace. Manned spaceflight was suspended for 20 months. Some wondered if it could be abandoned all together, being not worth the human sacrifice.
Fortunately for America and the world, the decision was made to move on with the quest for the moon. Only to do it better. And safer. And to learn from our mistakes, however tragic they were.
The process began 50 years ago today with a speech delivered by a man named Gene Kranz, Director of Flight Operations for the Apollo program and ultimately Director of Flight Operations at NASA. Just three days after the fire, Kranz spoke words at Mission Control in Houston which many say came to define the very core principles of the American space program. And in doing so, he showed us exactly how to respond to the absolute worst of crises.
“Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness, incapacity, and neglect. Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up. It could have been in design, build, or test. Whatever it was, we should have caught it. We were too gung ho about the schedule and we locked out all of the problems we saw each day in our work.
“Every element of the program was in trouble and so were we. The simulators were not working, Mission Control was behind in virtually every area, and the flight and test procedures changed daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life. Not one of us stood up and said, ‘Dammit, stop!’ I don’t know what Thompson’s committee will find as the cause, but I know what I find. We are the cause! We were not ready! We did not do our job. We were rolling the dice, hoping that things would come together by launch day, when in our hearts we knew it would take a miracle. We were pushing the schedule and betting that the Cape would slip before we did.
“From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: ‘Tough’ and ‘Competent.’ Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for. Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect.
“When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write ‘Tough and Competent’ on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.”
It’s impossible to imagine a more appropriate speech, a more critical time to give it, or the even more crucial decision to not only set forth a new standard of excellence, but to acknowledge past errors in blunt and plain language. Kranz’s speech became as critical to restarting and eventually winning the Space Race as the engineers, scientists and pilots who got us there.
Gene Kranz is still with us today, and hopefully in at least some small way he will celebrate his role in getting the Apollo program back on track. And we should all honor him, in the face of a nearly immeasurable crisis, for standing up as few in history ever have. And showing us all in five immovable words – “Mission Control will be perfect” – how it’s done.
Listen for yourself:
By Emily L. Rodrigues
While no company should encourage crises or hope for negative comments, how an organization chooses to respond in times of challenge and controversy is a huge opportunity to prove the values of your brand. How you respond to these comments can either make your brand look transparent and caring, or sneaky and self-serving. In today’s market more than ever, how the public perceives your brand’s personality will likely affect whether or not they choose to do business with you in the future.
There are people who post negative things on the internet with the direct intention of starting drama. Those people are colloquially known as “Trolls” and no matter how you choose to interact with them, they will do everything in their power to start trouble. However, among the trolls are true concerns and complaints in need of being addressed. Here are some key ways to determine whether a negative comment should be addressed at all, how it should be addressed, and how to make a negative comment into a gold star for your brand personality.
First, ask yourself these questions about the comment:
- Is it True?
- Is it written by a stakeholder?
- Is it in need of clarification?
- Is there a real problem being discussed that needs to be addressed?
If none of these things are true, or it is an individual that posts about you all the time, then ignore the comment and likely others will too. If you answered “Yes” to any of the above statements, it probably needs to be addressed. If it is true, written by a stakeholder, needs clarification, or identifies a real problem with your business, the chances are likely that there are more people who feel the same way. For this reason it is important that you respond publicly to the comment in a timely and respectful manor.
For example: If angry poster Suzie comments, “I have been hung up on by your customer service team 4 times trying to fix my problem. I hate your brand and I’m going to tell everyone I know never to sign up for your services”
A good public reply would be, “Hi Suzy, I’m so sorry you’re having issues with our service team. We’d love to learn more about your issue and try to streamline the process for you. Please private message us with your email and phone number so we can assist you further.”
Why it works:
- It is compassionate. It validates how they are feeling without validating their comments and makes them feel like they have a champion on their side.
- It shows you have an actionable plan to fix their problem.
- It puts the next steps in their hands and takes the conversation offline.
- It shows other people who maybe were coming to your page to post about the same thing that there is someone working on this similar issue, and encourages them to follow the same steps (private messaging the social platform for assistance with their similar problem)
Similar actions should be taken with other types of complaints as well.
For example, perhaps you have a staff of 40 in your finance department and Johnny posts:
“I heard from my friend that you only have 2 people working in your finance department. Maybe that’s why I never get my bills on time.”
A good public reply would be, “Hi Johnny, we’re concerned about your recurring billing issue and would love to hear more. Please send us a private message with your phone number or email address. As to the number of individuals on our finance staff, fortunately for us that number is extremely inaccurate. We have a large team of people working to get you what you need, which is why we look forward to hearing from you and helping you solve your problem.”
Why it works:
- It corrects an inaccuracy about your company without getting hostile or escalating the issue.
- It shows that if they are actually having a problem you would like to help them resolve it.
- It puts the next steps in their hands and takes the conversation offline.
- It shows other people who have heard the same rumor that the number is false, so they won’t continue spreading it.
There are an endless amount of scenarios that can prompt negative comments on traditional and social media, that’s why it’s so important to have a plan in place to respond to this feedback that will encourage people to see your brand in a positive light. For more information on creating a media plan of your own, contact us today.
By Emily L. Rodrigues
When people choose to engage with an organization, whether it’s buying a soda or hiring a company to do work, they are also choosing the personality of your company as well as its merits. People like working with people. As mentioned by FrontStream.com, by creating goals and programs for your company that “go beyond products and profits” you can create a personality people will want to embrace.
If customers feel like your organization cares about the local community, they are more likely to see the organization as trustworthy, accessible, and more human. In contrast, according to KissMetrics.com, “people are less likely to do business with companies that are perceived as irresponsible,” so by demonstrating responsible efforts, you are acting to blunt those concerns. When a business feels like a “friend,” people are more likely to continue doing business with them and recommend them to their families and colleagues.
So what are some ways you can set goals to help shape your brand’s personality? It changes depending on industry and location, but here are some good places to start:
- What human problem does your organization solve and how could your skills be used to help those in most need around you?
- How much time, energy and money can your organization afford to donate to this cause without disrupting the normal course of business?
- What can you do that will make a positive and visible impact on the local community?
- How can you engage your current & future employees in these efforts in order to truly embody the spirit of community outreach from top to bottom?
- How will you measure the success of your results?
- What community partners will you need to engage in order to meet your goals?
- What potential challenges could you face in meeting your goals and what can you do to prevent them?
By answering these questions you will be on the right track for building a great community outreach program. As always, if you have questions contact us for more information.