- 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.
It was at Charlie Kaman’s house in Farmington at a small fundraiser for the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. Glen had a major role in the success of the Kaman-designed Ovation guitar, which he had prominently played on his national television show, and he and Charlie became friends for life.
A devoted Beach Boys fan, I was pumping Campbell for details on his early session work with the group when he was part of the “Wrecking Crew” and his experience of going on the road with the Beach Boys to replace an ailing Brian Wilson (they needed someone who could sing the high notes on their hit record at the time, “Caroline No”).
He was gracious, thoughtful and funny in his responses. Thank you, Glen Campbell, for giving this fan a magical afternoon all those years ago in Charlie Kaman’s living room.
This clip will give you an indication of the magic he could make with an Ovation guitar.
By Dan Tapper
We frequently remind clients of the need to stand your ground when being interviewed by a journalist, particularly when the interview is at least a bit contentious. “Don’t let them dictate what you are going to say,” we say over and over. “Don’t let them speak for you or put words in your mouth. Their job is to ask the tough questions. Your job is to hold your ground and speak for yourself.”
It’s advice that never gets old and never gets any less important. Everything you say to a reporter, on or off the record, has to be the truth. But you get to deliver it on your own terms, not anybody else’s. And if you have messages that you believe in, that you are willing and able to not just stand by but to stand up and tout, chances are you will come out ahead.
Recently I saw a rather perfect example of the value of holding your ground, from an article written by a sportswriter in 2012 commemorating the death of Marvin Miller (pictured at left), the man who formed the first ever Baseball Players Association in the 1960s and, in the eyes of the majority of baseball fans, changed the game forever, and largely for the better. No less a baseball authority than legendary broadcaster Red Barber once said, “Marvin Miller, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, is one of the two or three most important men in baseball history.”
This sportswriter, Joe Posnanski – now a senior columnist for Sports Illustrated – recalled at Miller’s death an interview he did with him 10 years earlier in 2002 about the then-current labor situation in baseball, when a strike was being threatened and the growing sentiment seemed to be many in the public had turned against the players in favor of the owners.
And it’s here where Posnanski pointed out perhaps Miller’s greatest strength—he always held his ground and never once budged from delivering his message. He was able to do this, it seems, because he so fervently believed in his message
As Posnanski wrote 10 years later, looking back on that interview: “For every question, there was an emphatic answer. For every proposition there was suspicion. For every search for middle ground, there was a powerful push back. But, through it all, I don’t think he raised his voice once. Through it all, I don’t believe he ever said one word that hinted at arrogance or dismissiveness. He was just explaining things, patiently, with some humor, without doubt.”
Read for yourself. Here are some excerpts from that 2002 story Posnanski wrote about his interview with Marvin Miller. And take special note at how hard Posnanski pushes him, and how hard Miller pushes right back. His refusal to accept what he saw as flawed premises, his refusal to accept a reporter’s questions as facts – this is, as the saying goes, how it’s done.
“It’s a different world,” I suggested. (Than it had been in the 1960s when the union was born)
“No,” he said bluntly. “It’s the same fight.”
“There are people who blame the players for not cleaning up the game by submitting to steroid testing,” I challenged.
“Do you want someone searching your car without proper cause?” he asked back. “Your house? No. Of course not. But you think it’s fair for people to search your bloodstream or bladder? That’s absurd.”
Some players — current and former — seem to feel like the union has already won so many battles, it should be willing to meet the owners more in the middle.
“I remember when we were trying to do away with the reserve clause (NOTE: This is the clause that essentially tied a player to one team for life; when Miller appealed to an arbitrator that it was illegal, he won his case, the clause was abolished and this directly led to free agency). I marveled at the fact that something like that could be in players’ contracts. … But even more, I marveled at the fact that, when I brought it up to the players, they gave me a response which, in effect, said baseball couldn’t survive without it. They had been brainwashed to believe the reserve clause was good for baseball.”
Yes, maybe, but what about fans? They cannot even relate to the money these players make. How can you expect them to relate to the players’ plight?
“I don’t expect that. Fans never have related. Here’s what I would say to that. Fans don’t seem to understand that the largest pocketbook issue that faces them is the tax money being used for essentially free stadiums for wealthy owners. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars in cities where schools are crumbling and highways and bridges need repair.
“Players make what they deserve to make on the open market. That’s all. And let me say this again: Fans have their rights. But they should have nothing to say on what a player earns. I liken it to an automobile company. Somebody might buy six or seven Chevrolets in his life. Automobile companies ought to listen to the things he has to say about how a car looks, how it runs, how it stands up. All important things. But I don’t think a car buyer has any right to have any input whatsoever on the wages and benefits of automobile employees.”
Here is the full interview for those who wish to read it. It’s a great lesson, from a person who knew as much as any the value of a strong, immovable message.
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!”
When exactly will United Airlines stop digging this hole for itself? Who knows. But the company seems determined to keep going until they hit the Earth’s core.
As millions around the world have now seen, United began its descent into this social and legacy media nightmare when it was announced earlier this week to a full flight from Chicago to Louisville that four people would have to go to make room for four United employees who had to get to Chicago instead.
The seemingly cold, anti-customer essence of that request aside, what happened next was disgraceful—a 69-year old man was dragged, bloodied and beaten, off of the plane after he refused to relinquish the seat he had paid for. Most who have seen the video have likely recoiled at the sheer brutality of it all.
“I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” That’s how United’s CEO Oscar Munoz chose to communicate in his public statement.
Webster’s Dictionary has several different definitions for the word “accommodate,” all of which center around providing something desired, something for which agreeable consideration is made. The final entry is the most succinct: “To make fit, suitable or congruous.”
And while we’re at it, the Webster’s definition of “re-accommodate” is simple: “To accommodate again.”
It’s fair to say that no one who has ever been treated the way this gentleman was—roughed up, battered, possibly knocked unconscious—has ever felt “accommodated.” And surely they would not want to be “accommodated” like this all over again.
Munoz’s tone deaf response was the height of empty corporate speak, as well as remarkably disingenuous and bafflingly unapologetic. The result has been international mockery and condemnation; pretty much universal outrage blew up on social media all day yesterday and it continues today, and published reports have indicated that in just one day United has lost roughly $800 million in value. So far.
No one should have needed hindsight to know that a real apology, followed by a decisive plan to correct the action, was the only option to protect United’s brand and move forward.
Instead the CEO opted to go in the exact opposite direction, doubling down and refusing to do the right thing for this injured senior citizen or for the company. This crisis is not likely to go away anytime soon, not as long as United thinks it can simply pass it off with thoughtless, empty banality.
- 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?”