Putting the ‘Public’ back in PR

I said pubLIC….

So I’ve been reviewing a lot of articles about “why PR is important”, “what is PR”, etc.

Most offer a good understanding of this diverse area of expertise but often only touch on tactics like Media Releases, Press tours, Trade shows, Product shots (and sometimes) Social Networking … but what I found interestingly lacking was mention of the word PUBLIC when describing PR?

As per my website (soon to be refurbished btw) a crucial part of Public Relations for many SMBs is actually centred around your corporate image and relationship with your immediate public, neighbours and community.

In addition to reaching “as many eyeballs as possible to get the word out about how your product is the greatest” !!!…. PR may also be micro-tailored to include strategies that support an organization’s foundation and its roots.

Let’s say your company’s intention is to gain (or sway) support of a specific group or outlet upon which your success depends (investors, government, industry, community leaders) . A PUBLIC Relations campaign may include things like:

  • Developing a multi-level outreach strategy to specific persons or organizations.
  • Create a mini-campaign or separate event (socially, internally) to build following and likeability among similar groups to the one you are targeting.
  • Maintaining a consistent image and message in front of key audiences – speaking, media, other.
  • Fostering relationships / setting up meetings with influencers and change makers in local communities.

The word ‘public’ is also the number of different “audiences” on which your organization depends for its success, such as:

  • Thought leaders
  • Activists
  • Sponsors/Investors
  • Partners
  • Customers…

Each requires their own key messages to be driven home in order to gain their respect and support.

(… and we wonder why it is SO hard to answer when someone asks – “PR – so what does that involve.” … Got an hour?)

What do you think? Do you often consider these micro-publics in your PR strategy? Or are you focused on the big three – MEDIA, FACEBOOK and TWITTER?

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Coca Cola Journey – Why the press release ain’t dead yet!

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Coca Cola has developed a new digital magazine hybrid which was built to support and eventually replace; corporate website, corporate blog and social media channels – called Coca Cola-Journey. In a recent seminar introducing the new platform,  Ashley Brown, Digital Communications Social Media for Coca Cola, stated “If there is one mission I have at Coke, it’s to kill the press release”…. Finishing up in the clip with “we have committed to cut the amount of press releases by half in 2014.”

OK PR and marketing reps, Insert “Grain of Salt” here.

I agree that we are in a time and place where it is imperative for PR reps to think ‘beyond’ a press kit, static website, launch package, and media release for their client. (But then… I have always operated under this belief). I also think that if there is anyone to explore and introduce this innovative, brand-interactive platform it would probably be Coke. But I do feel that language Brown uses in the intro such as “the corporate website it dead” or “the age of Press release PR is ending” … needs to be taken in context and seen in light of individual corporate goals and corporate brand placement.

So before you create all-interactive-all-the-time strategy for your client, take this into account;

Sure, kill the press release – Easy to say when you have had brand domination for over 100 years….! Everyone knows Coca Cola’s story, history, brand, image, not to mention they are one of the most recognizable symbols in the world! (besides the holy cross) Yes, you can probably afford to cut down your releases by half and people will still be talking about you.

But there exists a place for rich storytelling through media, perhaps now more than ever. Every story has been already told (sold), but it’s up to us as PR experts to find the innovative, moral and socio-economic relevance of our clients and tell their stories in a new way. It can’t be on the journalists shoulders to find those angles, nuances, and myriad of possibilities. Too much already, we are bogged down by headline inertia and everything ends up reading like a tabloid – bite sized, shock worthy, sharable and desensitized.

Are we just wanting to ‘hear the facts’ or do we want to learn, grow and be challenged and engaged with our news? I think Coke has been a giant so long that they don’t know what it’s like trying to get your neck out above the fray in this day and age…. and why should they? They’re Coke!

But for the rest of us – I would argue that the press release is still very much alive and an important tool in the spectrum of outreach and creating touch points with customers.

What do you think? – Is social media a means to an end or the end itself, if so WHEN does it make that fundamental shift in a brand’s journey to take on such a life of its own?

Take the poll PR pros and marketers! 🙂

@catalystpr

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.

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