Archive for the ‘pr firm’ tag
Today’s guest post is written by John-Henry Doucette.
Yesterday Gini Dietrich blogged about the latest Wal-Mart PR debacle, but the subject isn’t quite finished.
The quick recap: Wal-Mart, PR firm Mercury Public Affairs, and its former employee Stephanie Harnett are facing a maelstrom of ethical issues after Harnett pretended to be a reporter.
Both Wal-Mart and Mercury denied any knowledge of Harnett’s undercover adventures, called it bad business, and she’s no longer on Mercury’s payroll. Good night, everybody!
Not so fast.
I find myself less interested in Harnett’s comeuppance than I am in how her former employer handles what she apparently gathered.
The Guardian reported one worker at the first press conference talked to “Zoe” (Harnett) in a half-hour “interview.” Harnett took notes on his background and concerns. Some reports specify that she used a recorder to tape the interview or interviews.
So who has her notes and/or files?
Whatever the value of Harnett’s legwork, these are ill-gotten gains. I’m not sure whether these materials are still in the hands of Mercury, which did not respond to calls Friday and Monday.
Do they have written notes? A digital voice file of an “interviewed” worker? Did they review any of it? Is it enough to say, as Wal-Mart has, that it intends to “help ensure this type of activity is not repeated?”
I did reach Dr. Marie Hardin, director of the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication at Penn State to get her take.
Here’s the meat of what she told me:
“I think the ethical thing to do is not to benefit from those notes, which would mean not to use those notes in a way that would put it at an advantage in its relationship with Wal-Mart and the union and with the person who was recorded. …
The ethical thing to do is to share all of the materials she gathered with the people she deceived. …
I think all too often we think about ethics on individual terms, but there are also ethical issues at the institutional level. Those in many ways are more important because they send a message, I think, to the individuals, to their own employees.”
Harnett did not respond to emailed questions or a call to a cell phone number left on an old resume. According to The Guardian, one of the workers Harnett interviewed recalled:
“She said she was a storyteller from the heart.”
Since it made her Twitter profile, perhaps Hartnett believes that. Frankly, I hope she’ll be able to rebound, even if this was – some bloggers, naturally, have doubts – her own idea. We need to punish individual wrongdoing, but the example of Harnett is less important than the example set by her employer.
To me, failing to fully undo whatever a lie gained you or your client – however small its real or perceived value – is the more troubling matter to businesses that truly value ethical conduct.
John-Henry Doucette is a senior communications analyst for the public relations firm Vox Optima LLC. Prior to joining Vox Optima, John was a staff journalist at the Virginian-Pilot and a freelancer whose work has appeared in Parade, The New York Post, and Newsday.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t love Omaha. But I went to Creighton so I have a bit of an affinity for the city. And I do have a handful of close friends who still live there so I get back every other year or so.
So it was my first common connection (other than our profession) to get to know Heather.
And then she read Lisa Gerber’s blog post about why a PR firm leader should attend Counselors Academy and we got to meet her live and in person!
I sat next to her during lunch one day during the conference and learned that, even though she’s been married for a few years, they eloped and her grandmother felt like a wedding was in order. So Heather is getting “married” later this summer.
I love that. I love that she loves and respects her grandmother so much that she’s willing to do this one thing for her. That says a lot about what kind of person she is.
Heather is not from Omaha. She migrated there from California (poor thing), but she’s put on a brave face and even gets excited when she finds Husker-colored beads in New Orleans that she can take back to her faux husband.
She started Bright Sky Interactive last year. When she resigned to go start her own thing, her boss asked if she’d be interested in taking them on as her first client. Uh, hello? Not a bad start to your new business! That doesn’t really happen to most.
She’s evolved that into a digital firm that does everything on the web, phone, and tablet, from a communications perspective.
Has it really been 10 months since the last FIR Live?
It may have been a while, but when we decided to bring the real-time single-topic panel discussion back, we did it in a big way. We’ll be talking about influencer marketing – what’s hype, what’s legit, what works, what doesn’t – with an all-star panel that includes:
- David Armano – EVP, Global Innovation and Integration at Edelman
- Gini Dietrich – CEO at PR firm Arment Dietrich, Inc, and Spin Sucks blogger
- Andrew Grill – CEO at UK-based influence tracking firm Kred
- Zena Weist – VP of Strategy at social software company Expion
Additional panelists will be announced once we’ve locked them in.
FIR Live will take place on Saturday, June 16 at 10am Pacific, noon Eastern and 6pm London. We’re still working out which platform well use, but were leaning toward a Google Hangout On Air. We’ll be back with details when we have them, but as with all FIR Live episodes, you’ll be able to weigh in with a call or comment in the chat room.
For now, be sure to mark your calendars so you won’t miss this provocative and informative discussion about a fast-growing social marketing tactic. If you’re not able to participate live, don’t worry – the segment will be made available as a regular FIR episode for listening when its convenient for you.
FIR Live #24
Saturday, June 16, 2012
10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm UK
(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)
What role does the reputation of a company’s chief executive play in the reputation of his or her company and, thus, the likely business success or failure of that company? It’s a crucial question that draws some fascinating answers in the results of new research conducted by PR firm Weber Shandwick.
The second installment of Weber Shandwick’s global research, The Company behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust – CEO Spotlight, explores how executive leadership and communications from the top are critical to helping reverse the tides of waning respect for companies – a key finding highlighted in The Company behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust, Weber Shandwick’s initial research published in January.
In its latest research, Weber Shandwick says that 66 percent of consumers say that their perceptions of CEOs affect their opinions of company reputations. Executives, like consumers, also do not overlook the importance of a leader’s reputation, the PR firm says – they attribute almost half (49 percent) of a company’s overall reputation to the CEO’s reputation.
Executive leadership is critical to “burnishing the overall reputation of organizations today,” the firm says, “particularly when it’s estimated that 60 percent of a company’s market value is attributed to its reputation.”
Other significant metrics from Weber’s report include:
- 66 percent of consumers say that their perceptions of top leadership affect their opinions of company reputations a great deal or to a moderate degree – only seven percent say their views on the leader at the top have no bearing on corporate reputation.
- More than 80 percent of executives say that consumers’ beliefs about a company’s top leader affect their opinions of the company at least to a moderate degree.
- 28 percent of consumers report that they regularly or frequently talk about company leaders with others. While this rate is far below how often consumers talk about product quality (69 percent), it is a topic that comes up as nearly as often as company websites (30 percent) and community engagement (29 percent).
- 59 percent of consumers say they are influenced by what top leaders communicate. Surprisingly, says Weber Shandwick, company leadership communications outranks investment-heavy advertising (56 percent) and social network conversations (49 percent), as the chart below suggests.
Word-of-mouth, online reviews and search results lead the list of what most influences consumers when they do talk about companies in general.
This is timely information, not the least significance being a primary discussion topic in this week’s episode #650 of the FIR podcast, published today, in which Shel and I discuss the topical and in-the-news-headlines matters of CEO reputation, citing three CEOs at the heart of reputational issues embroiling their respective companies – Rupert Murdoch (News Corporation), Scott Thompson (Yahoo), and Ben Baldanza (Spirit Airlines).
Shel and I usually record each week’s FIR on a Monday. But this week’s show was recorded on May 5, two days ago. Events may have moved along with regard to these three issues although I think the discussion points when we talked about them are valid. We ask what should the communicators in those organizations be doing to address the crises enveloping their firms? Are the foundations rotten that would therefore make any task difficult if not impossible to succeed? What effect may damage to the CEOs’ individual reputations have on their organizations?
It looks like some clear answers to that last question at least emerge from Weber Shandwick’s research.
- The Hobson and Holtz Report – Podcast #650: May 7, 2012: includes discussion topic “dealing with corporate reputation crises – Rupert Murdoch and News Corp, Scott Thompson and Yahoo, Ben Baldanza and Spirit Airlines.”
- Other posts in this blog under the Category ‘Reputation.’
If you want a good lesson in the power of words, branding, and crisis PR, consider the case of a product its maker calls “lean, finely textured beef” and others call “pink slime.”
The campaign to rid supermarkets, schools, and restaurants of “pink slime” is having an effect on its maker, according to the Huffington Post:
Craig Letch, director of food quality and assurance for Beef Products Inc., declined to discuss financial details, but said business has taken a “substantial” hit since social media exploded with worry over the ammonia-treated filler and an online petition seeking its ouster from schools drew hundreds of thousands of supporters. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided school districts may stop using it and some retail chains have pulled products containing it from their shelves.
Beef Products isn’t going to get slimed in the court of public opinion and just accept it, however. They’ve launched a new website called Beef Is Beef to counter the claims of its critics.
A WHOIS trace shows that PR firm Ketchum owns the website.
What happens when a public relations firm sobers up and realizes it actually has limits? When it realizes clients could benefit from content it doesn’t have the bandwidth to provide? This is a serious question that plagued the founders of San Francisco-based PR firm LaunchSquad, and instead of trying to create a new content division, it decided to make a new company instead.
Enter Original9 Media, a new venture that will focus entirely on content creation and occasionally hook up with LaunchSquad on projects. Original9 will be focused on managing blogs, writing blog posts, creating videos, making infographics, and developing mobile apps.
LaunchSquad co-founder and Original9 adviser Jesse Odell (pictured) told us that the current structure of his PR firm didn’t allow for enough content to be made. He said, in many cases, providing content like viral videos and engaging blog posts will work much better for some clients than the traditional PR approach of pitching news and hoping journalists bite.
“To do this well, you have to create high-quality content and do it at a high frequency,” Odell told VentureBeat. “LaunchSquad will do its own content for clients, but it may bring in Original9 to work on other kinds of content.”
Original9 will be led by Jeffrey Davis, a former journalist who worked at Business 2.0, BNET, and Bizmore. Davis has been senior VP and editorial director at LaunchSquad since August 2010, but he will now run Original9 with his instincts for how media thinks.
“This is an amazing time in the world of online media and we see an opportunity to build a company dedicated to providing high-quality content married with distribution and analysis,” Davis said in a statement. “Our goal is to help our clients connect and engage with specific target audiences through great content no matter where that audience is living online.”
At VentureBeat, we’ve been pitched by LaunchSquad many times on behalf of great companies like Evernote, Marketo, and Dolphin. But in those dealings, it’s easy to see where the pitch could fall short. Sometimes it takes a funny video, a well-worded blog post, or striking infographic to grab our attention when so many amazing companies are pitching us news every day. This is a reality that LaunchSquad has woken up to, and from what we’ve seen, this seems like a good move from a marketing perspective.
Even if VentureBeat or other tech blogs don’t cover a deserving company, it now might grab attention from consumers through social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. And sometimes, when a company begins gaining traction like that, then the journalists start paying attention too. And then the circle is complete.
Jesse Odell photo courtesy of Launchsquad
Filed under: media
Azure is used by many companies to host and build web applications through Microsoft’s own data centers.
According to a circulated statement from Microsoft’s outside PR firm, Microsoft first noticed the issue Tuesday at 5:45 PM PST and did what it could to resolve the issues. “Windows Azure engineering teams developed, validated and deployed a fix that resolved the issue for the majority of our customers,” the statement reads. “Some customers in 3 sub regions – North Central US, South Central US and North Europe – remain affected. Engineering teams are actively working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”
As of this writing, the Azure Service Dashboard indicates that much of the services provided by Azure have been restored. But the biggest glaring problem appears to be the company’s SQL Azure Data Sync feature, which is down in every region of the world it serves. This feature allows developers to sync and backup important database and coding.
Vineet Jain, CEO of Egnyte, a cloud storage provider for businesses, said in an e-mailed statement that the downtime highlighted a flaw with traditional cloud infrastructure. Egnyte offers a hybrid cloud solution that helps eliminate downtime. Jain writes:
The outage that occurred today with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform can be crippling and cost millions if not billions of dollars, but more importantly highlights the down side of a pure cloud strategy in the enterprise. While we certainly don’t relish these moments, the downtime can be significantly mitigated if organizations were to adopt a hybrid cloud strategy. By maintaining a behind the firewall presence and syncing that to the public cloud, companies are creating an insurance policy just for these situations. At the same time they can keep downtime to a minimum and insure their employees are as productive as possible in an emergency situation like this. Hybrid cloud is the smartest path to a productive workforce for today’s enterprise.
Did your Azure service go out? How many features stopped working?
Storm clouds photo: divingrocks/Flickr
I love my job. Seriously.
The skeptical among you may read this as shameless corporate cheer-leading, or a PR ploy (given I work at a PR firm). It’s not. You have to understand that I work for a very unique company—in fact, it’s been the most unique career experience in my life. A sixty year old company—technically family owned (not public) with over four thousand employees globally and the CEO of the company wears the last name of the founder, his father.
Which brings me to the video above. I had the opportunity to interview our CEO, Richard Edelman on the topic of trust as it relates to our annual study (Edelman’s Trust Barometer). We teamed up with the Chicago chapter of Social Media Club and opened up our new floor in the Chicago office.
If you don’t have time to watch the entire video (though I recommend it as it’s a great discussion) I’d encourage you to fast forward to the last five minutes. Richard says what every “employee” wants to hear. As a CEO, he believes that the top can do their part by cultivating a culture where failure is not shunned, but embraced as part of the innovation process.
“…that’s the one thing the top can do”
Posted by AndrewDumont
Public relations is just one of those things.
It's something that every company knows they should do, but only see two ways of making it happen — hire an expensive PR firm or cross their fingers and hope for the best. The latter is, well, not really much of a PR strategy. There is a third option, however.
I've written in the past about how to bootstrap your PR efforts, but never really dug into the nitty gritty. It's a time intensive process, but if you're up for the challenge, getting coverage in some of the top outlets in the world is possible, and even likely. I've tried many methods, failed many times, and ultimately boiled it down to this process.
Here it is, Moz family.
Step 1 – The Mirror Check
The first step is what I like to call the mirror check, something that gets glossed over far too often. You need to put yourself in the mind of a writer. People don't want to read shit stories, and writers don't want to write them; it's a simple relationship. Before you dig into the rest of the process, make sure you've got a story that you'd be interested in reading. Honestly. If you can't look yourself in the mirror and say that you would love to read what you're pitching, hold off.
Save your time, and more importantly, everyone else's.
Step 2 – Building Your Publication List
Once you've got a solid story, it's time to start building your list of publications. I've found it helpful to break it into larger categories, such as tech blogs, mainstream media, local press, niché publications and so on. That'll give you a good outline to begin digging into the specific publications you're looking to reach out to.
It's important to note that PR isn't a numbers game, as many think. It's a quality and relevance game, not a shotgun spray. To determine relevance, you really need to engulf yourself in the content of the publication — read at least 5 articles. Without reading the content, you aren't able to truly understand the writing style and typical news they cover. Once you've done this, add only the publications that would be interested in your story, and omit those that wouldn't. It'll save you time when we get to the next step.
Step 3 – Finding the Right Contact
This is so important that it deserves its own step. Again, it's all about relevance, even more so when you're looking for the right person to pitch your story to. What's the sweet spot for one writer, may be completely irrelevant to another. If you pitch the wrong one, well, you blew your shot. You've got to dig deep on this step. Here's the info that my list usually contains:
The first three fields are fairly self explanatory, then we get into the meat of it. The "relevance point" refers to the overlap with the writer's past work. A good way of finding the right person to pitch your story to, is to go to the publication and search for relevant content.
For example, if I'm looking pitch an article on company culture, the best way to find the right person is to search the publication for the term "Company Culture". Crazy, I know. This will bring up a great list of past content that you can dig through to find the writer that normally covers the type of story you're pitching.
Once you've got the right person, the real investigative work starts happening. Depending on the publication, when you click the author's name, you're usually taken to a page with their contact info, bio, social profiles and the like. If you're not as lucky, you'll have to resort to a good ol' Google search (or Bing search to find what you're looking for.
For each author, I like to make sure I've got at least their Twitter handle, Linkedin profile, Facebook profile and personal site (if they have one). What this allows you to do, is not only track down an email address in most cases, but it also allows you to gain a good understanding of their personality. Make note of things they like, what they've done recently, where they're located — it's all publicly available, and goes a long way in making you stand out. Like anyone else, writers appreciate when you take the time to do it right. Drop these hints of deep research in your pitch.
Finally, if you aren't able to track down their email address, use tools like Rapportive to help in guessing the right contact address. If it clicks and data appears, you've got the right email address.
Step 4 – Crafting Your Pitch and Subject Line
A lot of people mess up on the pitch, the eventual email that gets sent off. They get wordy, dance around the purpose of the email, attach a press release and ultimately fail miserably. Like this kid. The pitch needs to show relevance, be compelling and maintain brevity.
To provide an example, here's a pitch that I've used in the past:
Step 5 – Let it Rip
Or, you could make it rain. Whichever you prefer.
This is the culmination of all the work you've put in. Obviously, you can't always time your news in the case of product launches and breaking news, but I've found that Sunday evening is a great time to put it out there. Most folks are lazy, and they aren't willing to put in the time on a Sunday, this leaves a nice window for your pitch and a Monday release date in most cases. It's not a necessity, but it may give you the best odds.
Also, this sounds obvious, but make sure you're ready for responses to your pitch. If the writer is interested, you'll hear back and they'll want more info. Respect their time and get back to them as soon as you can.
The rest is out of your hands.
Some General Don'ts
Before we wrap this up, I want to go over some general don'ts with PR. By no means is this list comprehensive, but it'll steer you away from the big screw-ups.
- Avoid the Embargo – Generally speaking, writers don't like embargoes. It's a liability and a pain in the ass that many would like to avoid. Send your news out when it's ready and available for consumption.
- Lose the Press Release – In my mind, the press release is dead. They're bloated, impersonal and a thing of the past. If you just want links on Yahoo! news, sure, go for it. It's not going to give you the coverage that's really valuable, though. At the very least, make sure not to attach a press release to your pitch. Do it for me, please.
- Don't Double Pitch – Don't send the same pitch to multiple people at the same publication. It shows that you're just firing off as many emails as you can, and it's a sure way to get you ignored.
- Skip the General Address – Most publications recommend that you send to a generic email address like firstname.lastname@example.org, it's the catch-all for poor pitches. People that don't want to see success usually go this route, it's the easy way to spray the shotgun, but it rarely yields results. Use it as your last option, but not the default.
- Put Down the Phone - This may be unconventional for most folks that do PR, but I believe that we live in a digital age, where phones are a secondary thing. Sure, if there's interest, hop on a call by all means. But don't do your pitching via a phone call. It catches folks off guard, and makes the encounter confrontational, with only a few seconds to tell them what they want to hear.
- Don't Suck - Most importantly, don't suck. Be a good person, not someone that's just on the hunt for links. Provide the writer with value, help them do their job and be awesome. It's amazing what good intent can do.
Executing on a PR push is time intensive, and demanding of finesse. It's why PR firms demand upwards of $15,000/month, with no guarantee on output. I'm not a public relations pro. By no means is this the end all be all of PR processes, but it's what I've found to be successful in landing press — earning coverage in Wired, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, Fast Company, Mashable and many more. That said, what worked for me, may not work for all.
As with everything in tech, iterate, iterate, iterate.
If you run across any specific questions as you're working through it, feel free to drop them in the comments or just shoot me a line, I'm always happy to help.
Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!
As a CEO of a startup, my online voice – a blog called Greg’s Corner — is the place where I share my company news, try to differentiate myself from competitors, and showcase the value I’m offering. But until about a year ago, my online voice wasn’t saying much.
I knew what I wanted to say in these posts but I struggled to find the right words to express my thoughts. I knew my blog needed an objective — a common thread between my posts that would drive home the bigger message. But finding the right chemistry between that objective, the words on the screen, and the tone and attitude that would define my voice was no easy task. Increasingly, it took more time and effort than my schedule allowed.
So I hired a journalist.
Actually, he’s a former journalist; a longtime beat reporter and editor who has worked for some high profile publications and is pretty well-respected for his expertise. Unlike many of his newspaper colleagues, he was not handed a pink slip. Instead, he walked away from a journalism gig that was both high-profile and frenzied, and launched a business that offers “content strategy” services to companies looking to enhance their online voices. I was one of his first clients.
Now, he and I collaborate regularly on my blog posts and other writing projects. We’ve developed a objective that centers around positioning me as an expert on safe online marketplaces. He reigns me in when it comes to tooting my own horn. He helps me practice some restraint and diplomacy when I feel compelled to blast my competitors. He makes sure that I’m not just repeating headlines but focusing my thoughts around particular news events.
He’s making me relevant.
More importantly, he’s charging me a fraction of what a PR firm might charge me for a bunch of other services that I might not really need. Because he’s juggling a number of other clients, he’s not devoting 40 hours a week to my blog strategy and content, and that’s OK with me. My blog is an important part of my business but it’s not a full-time element.
We’ve agreed that payment by-the-hour or by-the-word isn’t a good approach for us. Neither of us is interested in watching the clock or counting words. Instead, we have agreed upon a flat-rate price for a set number of posts, an approach that ends up costing me hundreds of dollars of per blog post instead of tens of thousands of dollars per month to retain a PR firm — not that a PR firm could even offer such expertise without former journalists on its staff.
Granted, I could have hired some random freelance writer to help me blog, but I’m getting so much more with a traditional journalist on my team. Our conversations are filled with insight into the news business. He knows how newsroom editors think. He knows how to lure readers into online discussions. He knows which topics will spark some buzz and which ones will generate yawns. And yes, he says, headlines matter.
From what he and I have been able to find, relationships like ours are pretty unique. We’ve heard of only a few instances of companies turning to former journalists to help them develop content for their sites, and most of that is project-based, instead of ongoing. We’ve also found — anecdotally, mind you — that journalists aren’t necessarily out there hawking their skills and going after business relationships with companies.
Truth be told, many of them don’t recognize how much they bring to the table when it comes to meeting business needs. Journalists have made careers out of gathering information and then using words to clearly explain, inform and educate other. They become experts in their beats. And yet they aren’t big on selling themselves or their expertise.
A working journalist who covers the same field isn’t usually available to be hired by a company like mine, due to ethics and and the need to avoid anything that might compromise those values. However, media is a tough industry, and some writers are looking for a career shift into new fields where they can get paid to apply their journalism skills.
The good news for these people is that companies outside of the news business are starting to recognize what they bring to the table. In the long run, as they put their hands on more content outside of traditional news outlets, the core values of journalism — along with some quality writing — could seep into this new, expanded blogosphere, raising its credibility and eventually changing the perceptions around blog posts as forms of journalism.
Greg Collier is the founder and CEO of Geebo, an online classifieds site. He is a California native who now lives in McLean, VA with his family.
Typewriter image via ShutterStock