Posts Tagged 'Public Relations'

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.


So you want to be in PR…

People often ask me how to get into public relations. Here’s a summary of what I tell them:

Get an education. Being good with people or enjoying events isn’t enough. There are a lot of ways to get PR training, and I don’t want to promote one over the other. I’ve hired people with creative writing degrees, communication degrees, English Lit degrees, and PR certificates. Once you’re done, don’t stop. Lifelong learning is a requirement, and should be a passion, for PR professionals. Take courses – almost anything is relevant – as often as you can.

Polish your writing skills. Write, write, write and then write some more. Know the basics: style, structure and grammar; become a grammar nut; learn CP Style; and practice creative writing so you can create cheeky headlines and write compelling copy for websites and other marketing materials.

Read. Read the news, search the web, check out blogs. Know about local issues, national issues, what bestsellers are out and what makes compelling reading. If you don’t read, you can’t write.

Stay on top of current events and be a trend watcher. You’ve got to know what’s news to help people make the news.

Be a sponge. Learn everything about anything. Do you know a construction worker? Ask her or him about trends in the workforce, the different jobs on a site and absorb the terminology. A huge part of my job is learning about industries and issues so that I can help my clients communicate more effectively. The more you know, the more you have to draw on when you’re standing in front of the media or a boardroom.

Keep your skill set wide open. PR requires a diverse set of skills. Yesterday, I made a presentation to clients (public speaking), finalized a communication plan (strategizing), proofread marketing materials (editing), brainstormed slogans with my team (creativity) and reviewed the logistics of an event (detail-oriented). To be a good practitioner, you need to keep yourself well rounded. Don’t get caught up in having a specialty.

Volunteer. There are a lot of great organizations looking for communications help. Gain experience by volunteering for them, then put it on your resume.

Maintain a portfolio. Keep all those essays you stayed up all night writing. Lay out your best writing samples in a professional and creative way. Interviewers don’t want to just hear you say you’re a good writer. They want to see that you are.

Promote yourself. Your first job is to do your own PR. What are your potential employers looking for?  How can you make yourself standout?

Network. Get out there and meet people. Keep in touch with classmates and past colleagues. You never know who will lead you to your dream job.

Find a mentor. Make friends with someone who has been in the industry for a while.  They’ll be able to offer you advice, can be a reference for you and might even give you some good job leads.

Join a professional association. The Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) or Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in the US are wonderful resources for networking, job leads, professional development, mentorship and more. If you are enrolled in a PR program, you can join for a student rate that more than pays for itself.

Please post your questions, and I’d be happy to answer them. And good luck!

May debates!

I can’t even begin to tell you my glee at the power of public voice and two-way communications in getting Elizabeth May of the Green Party into the leaders’ debates.

The website PR Ethics defines two-way communications:

James Grunig, one of the leading public relations scholars in the world, proposes his model of two-way, symmetrical communication as the best way to achieve ethical decisions. He bases his theory on the following assumptions:

  • Collaboration, working jointly with others, is a key value in ethical decisions.
  • The process of dialogue with different people allows for both listening and arguing.
  • Not everyone will get what they want, but dialogue will lead to the most ethical outcome.

This approach requires the public relations practitioner to balance their role as advocate for their client with their role as social conscience.

The Green Party  launched a great social media campaign on September 7th, including blogs, You Tube posts, and a Facebook site dedicated to the topic which enlisted 6,084 members in a matter of days. My son, an avid Green canvasser, received an email with links to an online petition. Today’s Globe and Mail and several Canwest papers ran editorials asking what the big deal is. Canadians mobilized to be heard.

This morning first Jack Layton, then Stephen Harper and finally the network media consortium gave into public pressure. In 2007, public opinion polls showed 77% of Canadians favoured Green party inclusion  in  debates.

Does two-way communication in PR work? You bet. And my glee arises from the fact that good PR allows citizens a voice in their communities and the opportunity to shape their future.

In fact, I’d bet my APR on it. Thanks James Grunig.

National Post Launches Canadian Terrorism Campaign

Terrorism: [teruh-riz-uhm] – noun

1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization

I received a phone call at Artemis PR & Design today and the conversation that followed went roughly like this:

Caller:    Hello Mrs Kerr? (sic)

Me:        Uh, yes.

Caller:    This is mumble, mumble from the National Post calling.

Me:        Oh, yes.

Caller:    Would you like to reinstate your subscription now?

Me:        No, thank you.

Caller:    Oh, well, when will you reinstate?

Me:        Thanks, but I’m not planning to renew.

Caller:    May I ask why not?

Me:        Well, we don’t need the paper version of your publication here at my business anymore.

Caller:    I see, well, you know with the northern advancement of the US Air Force and the lysteria outbreak spreading west, I’d think you would want to keep up on current events…

Me:    Good-bye.

What the heck? So if I don’t subscribe to the National Post, I’m going to be bombed by the US Air Force right after contracting listeria? Will this being happening anyway, or is the National Post going to send me these evil threats. (Sort of like when Time magazine sent me a calculator with a little solar clock. But much creepier.)

The Post’s tagline is A Better Read; more like You Better Read.

As if striking fear in my heart is the only way to sell their newspaper. It’s like newspaper terrorism. When I was the editor of a women’s magazine, we tried to boost subscriptions with contests and free books. Our subscription desk never threatened anyone with unibrows or varicose veins.

The National Post should be ashamed of supplying their telemarketers with scripts that contain this crap. It’s not selling; it’s just bad PR, crass marketing, offensive, rude, and a desperate attempt to sound relevant.

Kinda like its former chairman.

Washed out with the Tide

As a fellow itcher who recently bought Tide detergent, I was interested to see Darren Barefoot’s post regarding Procter and Gamble’s lack of response to complaints on their microsite. Essentially, a reader commented on Tide’s message board:

“Has anyone else experienced itching afte using 2X Ultra Tide Mountain Spring scent ? I never had an allergic reaction to anthing, but it seems I developed this generalized itch after I started using this product…”
This was back in on December 24th. Another reader added to the comment in May, followed by another 17 over the summer. Finally, on August 27th, after Darren’s post, a member of Tide’s marketing team posted a response. Where the heck were they?
Key rules in public relations are research, two-way communications and timely response. Here is my unsolicited advice to the folks at Procter and Gamble:
  • If you are going to use any form of communication with your customers, learn how to use it properly; not just the technology but the rules of engagement.
  • Ensure you have a team member assigned to regularly monitor its progress.
  • Never – ever – put yourselves out there if you don’t want to hear the bad news along with the good.
  • Respond quickly. It’s not only good manners, but it shows you care about your customers. Which of course you do, right?
  • Report back on what you are doing to correct the problem.

I’ll be expecting to hear about the new itchless Tide by mid-September. And by the way, I threw mine out.

PS While adding my links for the above I noticed that Tide has another 69 posts bidding them goodbye on another thread. I think P&G has a bigger PR problem than I thought. Time to monitor their message board, me thinks.

Left Coast PR

It’s funny…as many Canadians watch the listeria crisis unfold in Ontario, we in BC seem to be more concerned with the US presidential election. Sure, I’m as interested as the next person as to what happens if the US elects an African American president, but what about PR issues here in Canada? A series of small earthquakes has been rocking our left-coast world for the last 48 hours…are we prepared? There will be municpal, provincial and perhaps even federal elections this fall…will we vote? And cold cuts…will we still buy them?

These are the issues I hope to poke holes in over the next few weeks, while asking how we could have handled the public relations better. Because we always can.