Media zombies and PR BBQ sauce


So picture the media as a pack of zombies. They are on a mission and are laser focused on one story – Braaaaiiinnnsss.

You are an innocent bystander who hasn’t gotten bitten yet, but you’d love to be on their radar and experience the chase. You do have certain elements of what they are looking for; human flesh, interesting scent – but you lack that enticing …. ‘clincher’ that will get them chasing you down an alley.


Then you think, BBQ sauce! Kinda looks like blood (gross, but stay with me). So you douse a little over your head and make your way to the street.

This entices the zombies. Braaaaiiinnnnss? and they start sniffing your way. Some are curious and come closer to take a look. Excellent!!

But soon, they discover that what you are putting forward is only LOOSELY what they need and now you have wasted their time in getting….. what?


Well, they could let you go on your merry way (unlikely) or they could be so perturbed by your deception that they decide to tear you limb from limb anyway and soon forget about you on the side of the road. Not the experience you were hoping for at all! the end.

So… what have we learned here?

It is rare in the PR world to have your client’s story and mission happen to brush shoulders with one of the hottest scandals-of-the-hour to hit the Canadian (and Global) circuit.

So it could be tempting to align oneself with the news story of the day even though the mission and message doesn’t exaaaactly match up. But when the media come sniffing only to discover that you have misrepresented yourself or wasted their time by trapping them into a sales pitch – they can react one of two ways:

1. Put your name on a list called ‘opportunistic sales hounds, don’t call back, ever’

2. Decide that they are so desperate for a link to the real story that they push you around in a media interview and back you into a spot that you or your public relations team can have a hard time getting you out of.

THE LESSON: Please don’t use BBQ sauce to attract a zombie – it will end badly.

*no actual clients were harmed in the creation of this story.


Tweet-a-Coffee – PR in the customers hands


I love this. Starbuck’s tweet-a-coffee/#!  I love it for so many reasons….first and foremost because it’s a great example of giving fuzz factor to the cold, hard internet AND because it bridges two worlds beautifully – PR and promotion.

I will admit that I am not a Starbucks groupie, and while I enjoy their brand, if I had my choice, I would probably select another cup a ‘joe first. However…

I love that they are trying this (in beta), and have found a way to “be” more giving and thoughtful “by way of” their customers. The friend gets the coffee, customer gets the thanks, but THEY get the residual perception and glory.

For a PR person, you can’t say more about ‘living a brand’ than using a coffee shop (a stand alone location) as the means of evoking; involuntary response, (surprise as they open the tweet), emotion (thank you!) and action (walking into shop to obtain gift and hopefully purchase more). It is the epitome of ‘giveaways’ AND they don’t have to give anything away. It’s more than marketing and promotion – this is Emotion in the palm of your customer’s hand…. am I being over zealous? …perhaps.

What does this mean for me as the PR person? It clearly puts social media strategy into a new light and gets PR people thinking outside of the 140 character box.

PR is about eliciting a response which inspires action – in the past we’ve relied on communications, media, events, media interviews – even the odd PR stunt in downtown rush hour. But let’s always be challenging ourselves on how we can make change and change perception using these ‘ego-centric’ and often self-satisfying social channels.

I love the possibilities – I will work to stretch beyond the walls of social media for my own clients also. Bottoms up!

Can you tell I love this sT@**?

When your Message Goes Dark

in the dark

Using the US government shutdown as an example, scientific experts are now saying that the fallout from the lack of activity has not only undercut the efforts of researchers and scientists forced to shut down labs and projects, but has also lost the trust of the people and any patients relying on that data.

It is a grave reminder of what can happen when a brand or company too, goes into MIA status, whether it is forced into shutdown or just taking stock of their branding, PR or marketing approach.

Don’t let your company ‘Go dark’ or fall off the radar completely. The message should never die.

Here are some cases of Going Dark:

  • At times there are extenuating circumstances that will force a company to reevaluate or realign its core messages in order to come back with a bigger, better social or public presence. In these cases, it is best to stick to the basics – communicate and share what you know, stick with your core values and make it about your customers.
  • Other times, you may have aligned your personal or professional profile to an organization that has disbanded or decided to part ways. It is important here to tie up all loose ends – close related social accounts, pages or blogs – continue to monitor any chat groups or forums you may have started or shut them down if appropriate.
  • Perhaps you are having trouble keeping up with your many communications vehicles and are reevaluating your approach – you might create a very simple posting calendar to take off pressure, and keep you on the radar of your followers who have come to expect updates.

A sudden deep void or MIA status of an account or business not only looks suspicious for all parties involved but can deeply harm your credibility as well as any loyalty from followers you may have worked to build.

There are better solutions than hiding under a rock.

Managing a mini-crisis: Triple ‘A’ approach

Two recent events have brought my attention to Crisis Communications and the flurry of panic that ensues when one finds themselves or their company, the subject of negative attention.

Catalyst CC stands by our Triple ‘A’ approach (Accessibility, Action, Accountability) when coming under negative scrutiny and its effectiveness for CEOs, brands and even politicians.

The first, Hobby Lobby’s response to anti-Semitic remarks about its retail chain

The second, New Media Animation public employee “I Quit” video that went viral

In both cases, the owners of the company had two choices: Stay quiet, or take control of the impending backlash.  I think they both responded well by delivering timely, honest and open statements, neither hiding their viewpoint, but careful to respect any offended parties. They also offered solutions, follow-up or some form of next steps.

Here is the Triple ‘A’ approach dissected;

Accessible: Make yourself open and approachable – whether welcoming a personal platform to address individual questions, or delivering a message through a very public forum leaving room for comments and posts. Oh, and don’t wait a week – you’ve missed an opportunity to appear that you care, and people have already formed their opinion of you.

Action: Obvious solution: take immediate action and rectify the situation – HOLD up! This would have to be determined case by case. But be warned, once you publicly address an issue, the next question will likely be, ‘so what are you doing about that?’. Being genuine and letting people know that you are making moves to review or change a policy or procedure, can go a long way. At least it will bide you time to build a plan.

Accountability: The best way to keep people looking forward, not backwards, is to  reinforce any positive steps that your company has taken and share ‘the good’.  This may require a brief review of key messages – or it may require a complete re-brand (depending on the severity of the situation) Your PR rep can work on building a mini-campaign in order to further solidify your ‘best foot forward’ and some new strategies on how to keep people associating you with this image down the road.

To summarize: News travels quickly – Address it fast, and move onto brighter messages. Seems like common sense right?…

I should qualify this post by saying that not all news is good news, and you would be wise to discuss with your counsel before coming up with any appropriate response.

Next Steps: Too often, corporations work backwards and spend money on trying to rectify a situation rather than building worst case scenarios into their plan from the beginning. A one day crisis training seminar could prepare staff and management for mulitple scenarios and provide more confidence in dealing with media, customers or the public.

triple A

Tis the Season for ‘Gift Guides’

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… wait, that’s September – or is it December?

Nope, for PR folks, it’s Christmas PR preparation time! Your PR rep should already be getting their ducks in a row for how, what and when they plan to pitch the holiday Christmas BLITZ.

Here are a few pointers of how to change up and keep your ‘Gift’ pitch fresh this year: The key – timing, timing, timing.

Send samples! – If you have a particularly unique product, pop it in the mail! Remember to give the reporter or blogger ample time to do sampling, assessments and reviews.

Keep it local – If pitching to a specific country (Canada for example) be sure that the product is available in that country! Also, check website shopping cart status (no glitches!) and make a note of additional things like, taxes, shipping and be sure that all is clear to the customer.

One product, two seasons – Is there an application for your product or service outside of the holiday gift giving season? If so, perhaps you can tie 2 pitches into 1 and provide the initial pitch early on in November, while giving plenty of option for the blogger or journalist to feature it along with their holiday products as well.

Gimme gimme –  Seems obvious, but include where the product is available. Both online and in stores.

Take a pic – A high res photo goes a long way, be sure that it is print-resolution worthy but not so huge that it bogs down their inbox.

Happy Shopping!

Christmas in the post-War United States

Christmas in the post-War United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“PR Launch Kit” for Start Ups, New Business

launch pic

While Catalyst communications choreography specializes in key messaging and communications plans for SMEs – we realize that smaller companies don’t always have the funds to retain ongoing PR services.

That’s why Catalyst is offering our ‘PR Launch Kit’ for start ups, new launches and small business. If you have invested the time in a business plan, why wouldn’t you take the time to have your long term marketing bases covered before hitting GO?

The ‘PR Launch Kit’ ensures that you have the right messages across all marketing vehicles and you get attention from the people who MATTER to your business. (see previous blog “Ready to Launch: PR checklist for your business“)

This package is for those who:

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Invite your clients into the news cycle

News flows by the minute. As PR pros we are best when we are not resting on the media topics of the day, but on how our clients’ business can be added, regurgitated and restructured into the news of tomorrow.

But even if we are emailing the client daily with new ideas, articles for comment or trending stories, often the client does not realize how important their role is in this never ending news cycle.

Often we must train the client to understand the timeliness and importance of sharing their personal viewpoint and their take on a business, product, or event as the expert.

Here are a few ways of getting clients to realize their role as news curators:

Get it in writing. While drawing out the contract or proposal, devote a line around the media coverage section that lays out the responsibility on the client’s end in terms of response time, opinion sharing and your expectations.

Know the business. Encourage your client early on that while you are interested in their public perception, you need to work with them to have a firm grasp of their business – trends, profitability, goal sharing, other. This gives insight to possible and future trends and keeps one step ahead of the media.

Spoon feed. Sometimes when sharing an article or link with no explanation, clients will not know what to do with it or save for later. Pre-empt their response by leading with a few trigger words, ex: “This ___ could be detrimental to our industry because …. ” or “The impact of _____ on employees could mean …” or “The author may also want to consider ….. ”

Trust their words. While we pride ourselves for knowing how to write for media and key words for the right audience, sometimes….. the client just says it best. I have great respect for my clients who have been in their respective industries for years and often, will look for them to speak from their head and heart for just the right turn of phrase which could summarize a point beautifully.

Invite them into the club and make sure they know they are part of a team.
Happy hunting!