Archive for August, 2009

The art of the apology

Apologizing has come out of the lawyer’s office and into the PR advisors. Thank goodness! At last, spokesperson’s can talk like human beings instead of having to face critics who think they don’t care.

That said, if you are going to apologize, you better mean it. Here’s my two cents:

Senior Spokesperson

The apology should come from the most senior person available. Your customers and investors don’t want to hear from a PR person – they want the president. If the CEO or president are unavailable, they apology should come from the next in line who has responsibility for the organization.

Sincerity
The apology must be sincere, and from the heart. If the president is too nervous or not a good speaker, it isn’t the end of the world. I’d prefer to hear from a nervous sincere president than a polished salesperson. Better yet, coach your C-Suite before apologies are ever needed. An empty apology will be detected very easily.

Acknowledgment
The spokesperson should acknowledge the error that was made. Whether it was distasteful matter in the media or an accident at a work site, sincere acknowledgment of the issue lets stakeholders know that you take the issue seriously. “It appears that the accident was a matter of human error as the tool that fell to the sidewalk from the 3rd floor should have been tethered.”

Commitment
Let the public or your stakeholders know that you will act responsibly to ensure the incident isn’t repeated. Make a commitment to resolve the issue. For example, new measures or training will be put in place, corrective or punitive actions will be taken, a thorough investigation will take place.

Follow-up
Your job isn’t done. Follow up with the spokesperson to ensure the actions are taking place, then report back to your stakeholders.

An apology is only as good as the sincere action that follows it.

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The New News Age

Around the world, we are experiencing a major shift in how we gather, distribute and receive our news. It’s funny, in a non ha-ha way, that I’ve had at least a dozen journalists from as near as my hometown to as far as Los Angeles and New York ask me what I think the future holds for news media. Those on the inside are just as lost as many are on the outside.

I was thinking this morning that it’s a bit like the other effects we are seeing in the world economy. You know, where giant monopolies took over certain sectors, and everyone bought stocks expecting to make millions, but then the mortgage crisis happened and lots of companies (and people) lost their shirts. Sounds familiar to us in media and PR, not just for the news value. When corporate monopolies bought up all the media, news also became about making money, not about passionate storytelling or finding the great little nuggets that make towns into communities.

I live in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. Our two commercial television stations are both at risk of closing, one in fact signs off the air on Monday. Many of our radio stations have been sold to off-island interests. Our daily newspaper, the Times Colonist, features regular articles from the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, or The Province. Financially, that makes sense as they are all owned by Canwest. Except, and this is a big except, people stop reading papers with less local coverage, ad sales drop and good reporters are unable to work on local stories they are passionate about. The Times Colonist has already dropped its Monday edition, and I can’t help but wonder if the skinny little Tuesday paper will be next. And let’s face it, if it doesn’t make financial sense for Canwest to retain CHEK television, maybe we’re an audience that could be served by their Vancouver station. RIP local voices.

Of course, that’s about the business of news. Those with passion – the journalists, editors, news directors, filmmakers –  are the ones with the most to lose. Or are they? There are some very savvy entrepreneurs who are going straight to the audience.

For all the naysayers who say citizen journalism isn’t credible, think again. Take Salim Jiwa. An award-winning journalist with The Province, Jiwa took his buy-out this year and founded http://www.vancouverite.com, an online news site that covers both local and international news. While not exactly citizen journalism, www.vancouverite.com also isn’t a big online news aggregator like CNN or MSN. Jiwa has reciprocal arrangements with other news organizations to build his inventory of stories and takes leads from citizen journalists.

What does this mean for the public? Better access to reliable news, where and when you want it and the ability to interact instantly with those who report it.

What does it mean for those of us in public relations? We will see, but I leave you with this thought: If the story you are pitching isn’t newsworthy, you shouldn’t be pitching it in the first place.

Find Waldo, er Maggie

I’ve been missing in action in the blogosphere, as my one remaining reader can attest. I have to apologize as I’d like to say I’m a great role model for my clients.

Well, I might be a crummy role model, but I have been a great coach. For example, my clients Scott McDonald and Kazuyo Iga of Rocky Mountain Soap Company have embraced both social media and PR to become superstars here in Victoria. In just a few short months, they’ve sponsored events and supported fundraisers, launched a Facebook page and Scott (@FootButterGuy) has 673 followers on Twitter. More importantly, the store’s sales are skyrocketing! More on this in a following blog.

Then there’s our client Moss Development who have built 24 gorgeous waterfront condos in Tofino. What with online ads, bloggers and traditional media, The Shore only has 7 condos left.

And then there’s the whole training thing. We had a wonderful co-op student Linnaea whom I enjoyed mentoring as much as she enjoyed learning. Below is a photo of her at the awesome event we did at Church & State wines when they were presented with the Lieutenant-Governor’s award of excellence in wine making.

Linnaea at Church & State Wines

Linnaea at Church & State Wines

So, dear one remaining reader, I’m back in the writer’s chair and I promise I’ll keep up the work.