Archive for the 'Media Relations' Category

Catch a Tiger by the Tale

Okay, okay, I’m as sick of the news coverage about Tiger Woods and his transgressions as the next person. But really, isn’t it just the best case study of how to not conduct your PR? Really?

Of course, if I had just acted like a complete idiot following a fight with my spouse over how I’ve been a complete idiot, I’d be a little embarrassed to speak in public too. But here’s how the public statement could have read on the day following his incident:

As you know, I had a car accident last night. My wife and I had a disagreement and, like most families, we have some things to work out in private. My behaviour was irresponsible and I truly apologize to my fans, whom I may have disappointed.

End of story. But that didn’t happen, and yes I’m sure he was busy working things out in private with his wife. But unlike many others, the dad in this family lives a very public life, makes multiple millions from sponsorships and a popular sport with huge purses. If you live out loud, you have to expect your fans to be listening at all times.

It must be difficult to be a “golden boy” as it were. A notable child prodigy, professional in his teens, and living the life of highly competitive athletics. Heck, this guy made golf cool! Has Tiger Woods had a chance to conduct a private life? Unfortunately, as with other child stars, the public thinks they own him. And in a way, his sponsors do own him. Luckily, they’ve stood behind him. But they also know he will bring them millions of dollars in sales, and that’s a PR story for another day.

If there is a next time, Tiger, tell your own tale so the gossip columns don’t start inventing it for you.

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.

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.

Five tips for news releases that get read

for more RACKAfracka see www.fritzcartoons.com

for more RACKAfracka see http://www.fritzcartoons.com

“So just what is news, these days?” Mr. Higgens asked me the last week. “Should I just go out front and be a flasher? That would get me noticed.”

He’s right of course. On the second part. But is that really news you want for your organization? (I guess it depends on what business you’re in.)

Good media relations are definitely based on offering story ideas and tips to the media that are relevant to their editorial plans, offer interesting links to current events, or present new information that will be of interest to their readers.

I always think back to the days when I edited a women’s magazine. Our tagline line was “Empowering Women,” and a quick scan would have told you that while it was a general women’s magazine, there was a definite feminist slant.

One day I received a typ0-ridden news release from a local strip bar announcing that one of their top strippers was becoming their first female bartender. In the early 90s, this was the bar’s acknowledgment that women, by watching men do their job, could finally move up the corporate pole, er ladder. The accompanying photo was of the new bartender, dressed not as a barkeep, but swirling on her pole. It was news, but I didn’t believe it was news my readers would be interested in.

Here are five tips to help you figure out if you have news of interest – and if it’s good for you to announce:

  1. Be interesting. Would you read your announcement if it was about another business? If you think you should be profiled because you are nice and have a business on main street…sorry, that’s not news.
  2. Do your research. Read the media you are sending to, and learn what they cover and who reads them. Once you envision the readers, it’s much easier to write to them.
  3. Stay informed. Know what’s news in your category and respond to it. If your community is experiencing a rash of break-ins and you have a security business, offer tips to the public to keep their properties safe.
  4. Be genuine. By offering free information to the public, you will earn goodwill for your organization. No media will be interested in a news release suggesting people hire you. For that, buy an ad.
  5. Make it easy. Write your news release as if it is a news story (there are hundreds of templates on-line). Tie it into local news, if applicable, or make your news announcement in the first paragraph or two. Make it easy for the editor and you will earn a fan.

Okay, here’s #6 as an add-on: Include your email and phone number…then be sure to be available if they call. Please remember that the media is doing you a favour, not the other way around. Don’t ask for an interview, then try to dictate the rules. Journalists are very busy and have grueling deadlines; therefore, you are on their schedule. More than one disgruntled person who didn’t return a reporter’s call has had their topic covered but with quotes from a competitor.

As for Higgens, he didn’t flash anybody, nor did he make the 6:00 news. He went home armed with all the local papers, a list of TV stations and an assignment to determine how he can speak to the public.