Tag Archives: public relations

treat disease, not symptom

There have been lots of P.R. disasters lately (United, Pepsi, Fyre, etc). While the lesson in corporate communication on how to offer a proper apology is important, there is a more important takeaway from these dust ups.

Don’t have the disaster.

Sure, that’s easier said than done. But looking at most of these meltdowns, you can trace it back to violating one of the primary tenets of good marketing: Treat the customer right. Empower your employees to do the right thing instead of blindly following procedures.

Simple steps. But steps that can’t be slapped on with a press release. They have to be baked in to corporate culture.

Corporate marketing apology

barbers don’t cut their own hair

A quick follow up thought to my post last week about a PR firm’s debacle

  • Barbers don’t cut their own hair.
  • The cobbler’s children have no shoes.
  • A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.
  • And marketers do a poor job of marketing themselves. In fact, they stink at it.

Your ad, PR, or marketing firm should develop a reciprocal agreement with another similar sized shop that is not a local competitor.

The immediate gain could be a mutual sounding board and critic of current client outreach programs. Each PR firm, ad agency, or marketing shop could even create self-promotional content for the other one. This content would be fresh and exciting even for employees since they wouldn’t have gotten tired of it when they created it. It’s like having someone else make a sandwich for you. It’s better.

But the real reason you should create this reciprocal agreement today is for your impending disaster.

A smart marketer would never suggest that a client handle their own crisis communication. But marketers are more than willing to dig deeper holes for themselves.

Set up an agreement and plan that lets the other agency take over your corporate communications when you hit the panic button. Maybe even hold a social media fire drill.

Your crisis partner will have an objective view because when the crisis hits you won’t be able to see the forest for the trees.

PR firms and bloggers are like matches and gasoline

Blogger outreach in PR is like working with gasoline. Work with it correctly and it makes the vehicle go. Do it incorrectly and it blows up with disastrous consequences.

I am amazed at the number of PR firms who have an astounding lack of understanding at not only the basics of public relations, but also the basics of civility and common sense.

Until yesterday, one of the best recent examples of this phenomenon was ConAgra’s PR firm tricking bloggers about Marie Callender food, but some email exchanges yesterday provide us with a classic textbook debacle.

Instead of a recap, I’ll just let you read the story of how a few employees at BrandLink Communications have nearly destroyed their business with a bad pitch to the Bloggess. (warning: profanity-laden)

Their first basic mistake was relevance. While the point of PR is to get mentioned in as many forms of media as possible, too many firms just blast their entire contact list with every pitch. Look at the placement (whether it’s a blogger or traditional print/broadcast outlet) and see if what you’re pitching is similar to the type of content and audience they have.

For some reason, I keep getting emails from a PR firm who wants me to write about MRI machines here on the Shotgun Marketing Blog. They have not researched. Shoddy research doesn’t count either. I get a few pitches a week wanting me to write about guns and/or ammunition.

The well-researched personalized pitch works. Take a look at the 2nd half of Mark Schaefer’s post back when I was pitching bloggers about Brand Zeitgeist.

Another tenet of sending out good pitches is basic proofreading. If you look at the quotes from BrandLink Comm’s original pitch, it’s rampant with spelling and grammar errors. There’s now an entire generation of young professionals who are now sending out professional emails with the laissez-faire style of online communication and texting. It might work with some bloggers, but you’re going to immediately be deleted by the traditional editor who has an AP Stylebook sitting next to the Bible.

While BrandLink Comm had a bad pitch to start with (as The Bloggess tried to tell them with the Wil Wheaton link), this issue was compounded by arrogance, hubris, and rudeness. In PR, you’re basically going with hat-in-hand and asking for help. Be respectful of their audience and their time.

And when you do mess up, say you’re sorry and mean it. BrandComm has sent the Bloggess an email apology and apologized on their Facebook page, but the offensive VP (Jose) continues to be glib and use non-apologies on his Twitter feed.

All PR firms who reach out to bloggers need to have a training with all their employees using this instance as the prime case study. (Need a trainer?)

And always remember, reply-all is the most dangerous thing on your computer.

Update: This is not the first time that Jose has ticked off a high-profile blogger.

Follow-up Post: PR firms, ad agencies, and other marketers should find a partner for disaster

learning as you go

I would venture to say there are very few people who would skydive, ride a bull, wrestle alligators, or climb one of the Seven Summits without experience or at least after watching a very good orientation video.

And yet companies are rolling up their pants legs and wading out into the shark-infested waters of social media without a clue. They’re letting the interns and other untrained personnel control the messaging to some of their most important contacts and setting up a social media disaster.

Social media is currently biting Nestle on the Nestle facebook page.

Protesters are taking to the Nestle page to voice opposition about their alleged use of palm oil from deforested areas in Indonesia. That’s trouble, but a prudent social media manager could handle it (like the way Southwest handled the Kevin Smith incident). Instead, the admin(s) of the Nestle page went on the offensive responding to fans in a derisive and aggressive tone. This is not breaking a social media rule. It’s destruction of basic PR 101. The company should never argue with someone in public (and for all practical purposes, it was the COMPANY not the admin making the comments.)

Overall, this is a great look at how companies should think about their online reputation management mechanics and the need to plan for an online crisis response in the same way you’d plan for a traditional crisis.

My favorite thing about the Nestle incident is that on Friday the admin(s) posted

“Social media: as you can see we’re learning as we go. Thanks for the comments.”

This is true for any brand. Despite what the social media snake-oil salesmen say, there is no one who actually has any real experience in social media.

What companies should have experience in is basic customer service, public relations, advertising, etc and apply those lessons learned in old media to the new model. And if you’re going to jump in the deep end of the pool, you’d better know how to swim and expect to get wet.

that’s just great

Attention Non-profits (and for-profits):
Maybe this is the reason you aren’t getting decent media coverage.

If you’re not putting in the effort to get a pertinent message to the proper media outlet, why should they put in the effort to publicize your cause?

This came from a local office of one of the major national non-profits…mediarelations

(click to make it bigger)

no such thing as bad press?

Marketing Tip — Always put your logo on the buoyant end of the plane.


btw– Supposedly this was the first pic of the event taken from an iPhone and immediately uploaded to Twitter using Twitpic. The MSM then interviewed the citizen journalist nearly a half hour after he broke the story.

Other reports say that Sean Connery was standing near the crash mumbling something about Charlemagne and armies of rocks and trees and the birds in the sky.

welcome to the jungle

It’s bad enough when you mess up your own publicity stunt and damage your own brand. It’s worse when you drag someone else into it.

While last week’s Dr Pepper fiasco hurt the beverage maker, Axl Rose is saying it also hurt Gn’R and is pursuing legal action.

A celebrity is a brand. Some of them have better brand management than many companies. (and some much worse) Yet, it seems to be the marketing idea du jour for companies to randomly pick a celebrity brand out of the phonebook and use it in their own marketing campaign without consultation or approval from the celeb. (See also – Taco Bell vs. rapper 50 Cent.) What it is — is lazy marketing. Instead of building traction with your own attributes, it’s easier to leech onto something else to create an artificial buzz.

Leaders of both Dr Pepper and Taco Bell (who is countersuing) have said in official statements in response to lawsuits from the celebs that they can’t understand why Axl and 50 can’t just take the events in the “fun” they were intended.

What if I started using Dr Pepper’s and Taco Bell’s brand assets to market my business? A chihuahua that appeared on stage with me at speaking engagements. A book entitled the “23 Flavors of Marketing”. I wonder if they think that would be “fun” or would their lawyers attack me with a cease and desist?