The reputation management agency Bell Pottinger issues an apology that isn’t a real apology. And I hate every word of it.
Here’s the backstory:
Oakbay Capital in South Africa hires a reputation management agency, Bell Pottinger. According to Bell Pottinger’s Wikipedia-entry, the agency seems to have had some problems with managing their reputation themselves.
Less than a year later, both Oakbay Capital and Bell Pottinger are being accused of purposely stirring up racial divisions.
Following a perfect storm of criticism in social media, Bell Pottinger decided to issue a public apology.
Here’s Bell Pottinger’s letter:
A manifesto on what it takes to be a ‘digital first’ politician in today’s wired world.
In public relations, political communication is ‘public affairs.’
And as with every dimension of business and society, your local politicians must adapt to a ‘digital first’ world, too. The internet is where most of our opinions are being molded and spread throughout the population.
However, the question is:
Are your local politicians keeping up with the times?
Let’s take a closer look:
Public relations on TEDx: Why brands should target a stupid majority to attract the active support of a smart minority.
How do you succeed with public relations?
Since public relations is such a powerful tool for many organizations, I wanted to share my most powerful recipe for PR success.
I wanted to talk about the importance of identifying a stupid majority to ensure your community’s engagement1. Now, most organizations hesitate because this kind of thinking will require standing up to a powerful majority:
“But what if we make some people angry?”
— Well, what if you don’t?
Brave brands who dare to take a stand together with a smart minority can expect a loyal and highly engaged following2. I also talk about eggs and bacon for breakfast, torches of freedom, and why rock stars sometimes get naked.
A formula on how to succeed with an underdog PR strategy for your business — by identifying a stupid majority.
We all know the story.
Goliath, the giant Philistine warrior, was defeated by the young David, who would later go on to become the king of Israel. David, being inferior in size and combat experience, used a slingshot to defeat the mighty Goliath from a distance:
Instead of fighting Goliath on his terms (strength and power), he used his advantages (speed and accuracy).
The legend endures since we find comfort in knowing that the strongest doesn’t always win. Now, the underdog strategy isn’t just useful for fighting; over and over again, it has proven useful when it comes to public relations as well.
Here’s how you can use the underdog PR strategy for your business:
You seem to think that PR pros only care about publicity, but we don’t. We have, however, begun seeing other people.
Journalism, as we know it, is going to hell in a handbasket.
It’s serious, of course. Journalism is the Fourth Estate, and we all depend on the freedom of the press and its willingness to tell important stories.
Communication as a profession, on the other hand, is doing just fine. The media logic is constantly evolving, and so are we. Obviously, there’s going to be some friction as communications and journalism sometimes overlap. Against such a backdrop, let me pose this rather naïve question:
Is there a way for journalism to let go of the idea that public relations is a problem and instead focus 100% on finding new solutions to their problems?
The annoying corporate habit of mindlessly promoting irrelevant press releases with unclear call-to-actions.
“The press release is dead,” some say.
Well, calm down.
Businesses will have to issue official statements to the general public in the future, too. Neatly packaged information (aka “content marketing“) is great, but businesses must also keep their audience up to speed with what’s going on.
However, there are two common public relations practices for press releases that drive me crazy.
Here’s what you should never do:
Don’t stare yourself blind on trying to reach more people, because it always begins with just one happy customer.
Originally published on Idea Hunt.
Why is it good to be a “contrarian thinker” in PR?
With limited resources, new ventures must focus their marketing efforts. Growth hackers are wisely targeting one ‘low-hanging fruit’ after another to maximize momentum.
Entrepreneurs are building their MVPs (minimum viable products), testing for product/market fit, and when they have it, they scale using various growth tactics.
All good things, of course. And that’s how most startups are doing it.
So, why might it be a good idea to do the opposite?
What makes some brands so explosively exciting? And how can you replicate this ‘explosiveness’ for your business?
Some brands are just explosive.
- What makes these brands so exciting?
- Can you replicate their formula for your business?
As a professional spin doctor, I often get contacted by brands who wants to make a huge splash; they might fancy the idea of inbound communications, but building a community one person at the time takes too long, they argue.
They don’t have the luxury of time and can’t just focus on long-term relationships in their marketing. They must go big — or go home.
In short, they need some PR dynamite. So what’s the recipe for it?
Many leaders, politicians, and communication professionals invest in media training. However, many mistakes are being made over and over. Here’s how to avoid them.
Over the years, I’ve media trained lots of executives and politicians.
Standing in front of a camera or a microphone can be stressful for anyone, especially if you’re facing a crisis. Therefore, many leaders, politicians, and communication professionals invest in professional media training.
Still, many have expressed their concerns about corporate media training in general. They say:
“You can always spot a media trained person. They talk and act like assholes. Honestly, I don’t see the point in whatever guys like you are teaching these people.”
Talking with reporters, especially in tense situations, is difficult. What official spokespersons often do, is that they take what public relations advice they’ve been given — and then they take it too far.
Here’s how this happens (and how to avoid it):
Can there be a unifying definition of public relations? This is the story about the difficulties of finding that definition.
Someone once tried to count all definitions of public relations.
They allegedly gave up after obtaining over 2,000+ different ones. My vanity forces me to add to this already long list, so I had to create a PR definition of my own:
In this post, I’ll take a stab at explaining how organizations structure their PR-function, explain why public relations has such a bad reputation, as well as discussing where the origins of our profession.
Simply put: I’ll answer the question, what is public relations?
Here goes: [click to continue…]
Getting traction for a bootstrapped startup can be tough. I’ve put together a startup roadmap for accelerated PR in a four-step process, including workshop material and spreadsheets.
Doing PR for startups is a special challenge — and a challenge very close to my heart.
Their enthusiasm and naiveté are both mesmerising and contagious and there’s something very special about spending time with people who are taking huge risks to fulfil their dreams.
But working with startups is also risky business for the advisor, which makes it difficult for me to take on more than one or two at the time. Most startups go under and many struggles financially. Many startups are also inexperienced when it comes to working with advisors and agencies.
In short, there’s no way for me to help as many startups as I would like to. And that’s why I decided to write this post, to help startups to get their PR strategy sorted out — despite being bootstrapped and fighting the odds.
Here we go:
What does a Community Manager do all day? I’ve outlined a typical job description for this growing specialization.
‘Community Manager’ is an increasingly popular job title.
I think of the community manager as a classical conductor, dedicated to showing the online community (the orchestra) how to get in sync, never through force or coercion, but by using the magical powers of suggestion alone. It’s an important job, to put it mildly.
But what exactly is the role of a community manager? And what does a community manager do all day?
Imagine two guys. They live in the same place, they have similar jobs, they drive comparable cars and they have matching family constellations and socio-economic backgrounds. They’re both Average Joes. Now, will you reach both of them through the same media channels? In corporate communication, how we group people is often referred to as ‘segmentation’. And [...]
Imagine two guys.
They live in the same place, they have similar jobs, they drive comparable cars and they have matching family constellations and socio-economic backgrounds.
They’re both Average Joes.
Now, will you reach both of them through the same media channels?
In corporate communication, how we group people is often referred to as ‘segmentation’. And how you segment your market is important. In fact, your success depends on it.
But we must stop grouping people on a basis of their age, gender and location. We must find our way back to the ‘publics’ in public relations.
Here’s why (and how):
I often help companies and organizations to deal with internet trolls. Either directly or by setting up new internal processes for dealing with them. It can be challenging to accept that it will take time to repair an online culture gone wrong. In some not-so-rare-cases, the “trolls” aren’t actually trolls, but rather normal and valuable customers who are [...]
I often help companies and organizations to deal with internet trolls. Either directly or by setting up new internal processes for dealing with them.
It can be challenging to accept that it will take time to repair an online culture gone wrong.
In some not-so-rare-cases, the “trolls” aren’t actually trolls, but rather normal and valuable customers who are right to be angry. Such cases call for issues management, crisis management and crisis communication — depending on the specific situation.
But don’t despair. There’s a lot of great tactics to resort to — and I’ve listed them here in no particular order:
Getting in front of other people’s audiences (OPA) is the key to growing your online community fast.
What if your inbound growth is too slow?
One of my favorite blogs, Copyblogger, ran this awesome post the other day — The Smart Way to Use Other People’s Audiences to Build Your Own.
While this might not be a revelation for most of you following this blog, I really find this term useful: other people’s audiences. Or OPA for short. OPA is an acronym that I will start to use frequently in my work — and I think you should, too.
Examples of how to write blogger outreach emails that will get influencers interested in your pitch.
How to write a blogger outreach email?
Is there a science to it?
Well, I don’t recommend using ready-to-go scripts. As a blogger, somehow you can always feel when someone’s pitching you cold with a generic copy&paste template. It’s a lot of work, but I recommend you write individual emails. It’s worth the effort.
However, a little structure is often a good idea.
So, there you are, preparing to pitch some A-list journalists and online influencers for your company. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. In other words: You. As you’re compiling your media list, you can hear your colleagues’ voices echoing in the back of your head: “Oh, wouldn’t it be awesome if we [...]
So, there you are, preparing to pitch some A-list journalists and online influencers for your company. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.
In other words: You.
As you’re compiling your media list, you can hear your colleagues’ voices echoing in the back of your head:
“Oh, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could get [your choice of tier-1 media here] to cover our new line of products?”
“Yeah, totally,” everyone agrees.
And your boss says, “Yeah, we should definitely make that happen!”
As in we still meaning … you. And now you’re trying to come up with a way for your company to get featured. But maybe there’s a better way? If so, it could save you from the humiliation of pitching even when you know it won’t work.
Learn the Honeymoon Outreach Technique and increase your influencer marketing success rate.
This technique will vastly improve your influencer marketing results:
The Honeymoon Outreach.
In the best case scenario, you’ve got some sort of pre-existing relationship with the blogger you’re pitching. But we all know that this often isn’t the case.
Often you have to reach out to a blogger who has no idea of who you are and what you’re selling and why. In a way, this is a sort of email equivalent to cold-calling.
And let me tell you, I really hate all forms of cold calling — as I’m sure most of us do.
So how do you find your way around pitching cold?
It can be tricky to pitch TV news reporters. Since I’m a TV news reporter myself, I want to give you my best pieces of advice on how to do it right. A guest blog post by Lisah Silfwer.
There I’m a video reporter and news anchor, trying my best everyday to find great stories and to convey them as clearly and promptly as humanly possible.
It’s a tough — but fun! — job.
In this post I want to give you my best tips on how to pitch TV news reporters:
What does it mean to “spin” something — and is it bad?
The word spin has a negative connotation.
And yes, this has always bothered me.
Not to the extent that it keeps me awake at night, but it’s a slight discomfort for a guy who has used his online alias Doctor Spin all over the internet since 2001.
Have I gotten it all wrong?
It’s time for PR in Sweden to embrace the fact that the Swedish social media usage has surpassed our traditional news media consumption.
It’s time for traditional PR to act.
It’s time for all of us to embrace the fact that we now consume more social media than news media, according to a recent study.
One could also argue that people are more interactive and more two-way communicative in social networks compared to when they consume traditional one-way mass media.
“Social media” is not a PR “add-on” anymore.
And PR must change now:
What type of courses should you look for in an ideal public relations masters degree for future spin doctors?
So, I was thinking the other day about how I would put together a perfect PR education.
I guess I would compile it something like this:
Good PR doesn’t have to be so complicated. Here’s a matrix to keep things straight.
My no. 1 career advice is to learn how to write well, and how to write well fast.
My no. 1 career advice for young public relations professionals is simple:
Learn how to write well, and how to write well fast.
Learn online writing, press release writing, interactive copywriting, SEO writing, sales copywriting, case study writing, article writing, social media updates, etc.
Being a solid (and fast!) PR writer will be invaluable both to you and to others. It’ll be the cornerstone of your PR career, even.
Here’s why (and how):
Looking for public relations jobs? Discover how to prepare yourself for a successful career in the public relations industry.
Are you looking to score your first job in the public relations industry?
If so, let this article show how you can prepare yourself for a successful career in the public relations industry.
There’s lots of advice on how to get a ina job in any industry. “Create a great resume and put it out there,” they say. Not exactly the strategy of choice for an aspiring PR rockstar, right?
Most advice is a bit different.
PR jobs require a little more than a cover letter and a smile. Our industry tends to be very competitive and just showing up with your diploma in your hand won’t help you make the cut.
Therefore, you should check out these tactics:
Download the classic press release template here (zip bundle with Microsoft Word and Apple Pages included).
In 1906, near Gap, Pennsylvania, a terrible train accident killed 50+ people.
The accident was, of course, a tragedy for everyone involved, but potentially also a disaster for the Pennsylvania Railroad. They retained one of the first public relations agencies, Parker & Lee. The agency had been founded only a year before the accident in 1905 as the third PR agency in the US.
One of the founders, the legendary PR professional Ivy Lee, wanted to help the Pennsylvania Railroad, his first major client, to get the right story out, so he crafted the first ever press release. And rather than trying to suppress the story, which was common practice at this time, he invited the press to the scene. In spite of the unfortunate accident, the Pennsylvania Railroad got good press coverage for managing the disaster well.
Keeping the press (and the public) up to date with an official statement is still something we at times need to do. So how do you write a classic press release?
We are closing up on the World Public Relations Forum 2010 in Stockholm. One of the challenges will be on co-creatiing The Stockholm Accords, a formal documentation on what PR is and does for an organization. This of course, is easier said and done. A small conversation has already started and if you by any [...]
We are closing up on the World Public Relations Forum 2010 in Stockholm. One of the challenges will be on co-creatiing The Stockholm Accords, a formal documentation on what PR is and does for an organization. This of course, is easier said and done.
A small conversation has already started and if you by any chance have read some of the comments under each section of The Stockholm Accords (Governance – Management – Sustainability – Internal – External – Coordination – References – Glossary – About), you will also find out- and inbound links to the on-going conversation.
First, I will acknowledge myself; I’m a practioner in a region with many respected international brands, a flourishing start-up scene, and world leading research in several fields. Especially if we take into account the relative “smallnes” of the Swedish, Scandinavian, and Nordic markets. I’m a thought leader when it comes to PR 2.0 in a region which more international companies should study more closely when it comes to early adopters, social media evolution, consumer behaviour, and communication technology deployment.
Furthermore, I have studied PR academically and practiced it professionally, and therefore I am more than familiar with the theorethical and practical pillars of our industry. I work at one of the largest and most prestigous strategic PR agencies in the Nordics, and I love PR.
And I will be damned if I am not going to have my say in this! :)
“Sustainability” vs. “The communicative organization”
In the model that keeps it all together, sustainability is the common ground for the different levels of the communicative organization. Dealing with transparency issues on a daily basis, it is to me clear that these are two different dimensions of the PR challenges that we are currently facing – and therefore one of them can not be presented as the baseline of organizational PR programmes while the other is not.
This is very important, because this “one-sidedness” is actually the main confusion when it comes to traditional vs. modern PR.
Sustainability is to be regarded as defensive measures such as issues management, crisis- and change communications, as well as an open-systems approach to publics, internal or external. The communicative organization is to be regarded as the art of letting go in a strategic manner. Letting go because it is good to do so from at strategic perspective.
My point is that an organization can not be communicative on all levels if the objective is to ensure (maintain?) sustainability. The human beings within and around the organization must be allowed to be irrational even when their actions or interests conflicts with what is regarded to be measures for sustainability at that particular point in time.
Human beings will say whatever they want to say about an organization, whether it is “sustainable” for the organization or not. This “Factor X” has to be taken into an account, and be seen as a driver of good to great PR; not something that has to be “controlled” or “changed” at any cost in order to ensure sustainability alone. The transition from mass-media to peer-to-peer-media shows us evidence of this shift all around us.
And what about PR programmes as a part of calculated risk-taking and competetive positioning? Today, young brands and brave organizations who are truly communicative in every fiber of their existence, can actually challenge their established competitors without traditional mass-marketing campaigns, just by simply being transparent and generously sharing. By creating long-lasting relations and trust through generosity, engagement, and by displays of true passion which can only be conveyed by human beings. This is the communicative organization, and for many parts it stands opposite the sustainable “avoid-risk-at-all-cost” PR programmes.
If PR wants to be a management tool, the organizational function needs to deserve it. It can not actually be claimed. Therefore, the strategic PR councel must be equipped to advice management on when to use communication for sustainability, and when to use it for calculated risk-taking.
And in short, the model misses the latter dimension of modern PR.
The different strategies for push and pull in modern PR
I constantly see a certain re-occuring pattern in every aspect of our profession, and it seems to be accelerated by our new digital realities. With this perspective, the pattern can be seen everywhere, and over time, I think this line of thinking will be the foundation of how PR strategies are being thought up in the years to come.
But first – some history of where we took a wrong turn: Some decades ago, the open-system approach PR model prevailed as a foundation for strategic communication. But all it really does, is emphasizing that the closed-system approach is bad, and that the PR function exists to help organizations aligning their operations with the irrationalities of the publics, and vice versa.
The PR function as “agents of change” sounds terrific if you are impressed by management terminology, but if you think about it, no matter if you change the organization and its operations, or the publics and their mindsets, how to choose between the two? Neither of them has to be wrong, nor must operational change or ideological public shifts be the only two solutions.
Let us instead forget about the management terminology for a while. Let us take a closer look at the communicative human being in relation to the organization; let us move from PR as a management function for sustainability through change to PR as cultivators of trust. From a stakeholder perspective, the human being is either an ambassador right now or something else. What thissomething else is could be debated, but let us leave them for now.
It is the individual ambassador that carries their very own brand interpretation, not the bulleted key messaging internal e-mails, nor the policy file cabinet in some HQ somewhere. These individuals are the real stakeholders, the real active publics, and they are right now.
Yes, sometimes organizational change is key. Sometimes creating ideological shifts by activating latent publics or changing the minds within a society is key. Yes. But right now? Is it not something we as PR professionals need to do first before changing the world, the industry, and the very business that we are in, or at least before we can deserve our seat at the management table?
Yes, there is. Fisrt and foremost we must acknowledge engagement. In most open-system- and issues management models, an organization’s loyal and loving publics are simply a potential problem already solved. From a sustainability perspective, these publics are not regarded as a PR problem, and left alone to do their thing, whatever it may be.
Does this mean that the PR industry has forgot about the ambassadors altogether? No, not quite. But there has been a prevailant PR tactic, a tactic with its origin in mass-media PR – outreach, publicity, push. It goes by many names, but it is what the organization wants to force upon its market.
And of course, this actually was the way to do it properly for a long time. Maybe you invited a couple of ambassadors to a focus group session, but that was mainly in order to get your mass communication messages just right. Many PR scholars spoke warmly about dialogue, mutual gains, and two-way symmetry. But the truth of the matter was, that the mass-media effects simply had the greatest ROI.
But today, as we all know, mass-media is not one-way anymore. You and everybody else can still reach the masses for sure, but with long tail- and sniper aim effects, it is now more than ever a question about what you want to achieve, rather than becoming known for what you think you are known for. Already accumulated trust, attention, and loyalty has suddenly become something more than just “not a PR problem right now”.
Today, they are the key competetive elements for the risk-taking communicative organization. I firmly believe, that without these somewhat overlooked or forgotten PR assets, there will not be any sustainability either.
PR must therefore take upon itself to safeguard, cater to, and actually also set the organizations ambassadors free. The organizations must be there for all their ambassadors who actually care for them right now. Provide them with what they seek. Listen to them. Help them becoming and expressing who they want to be in their value networks. This must be the first step, before pushing messages across societal networks.
Loose control – Gain influence.
Because it is only when the PR function can make sure the organization can manage their own pull effect, and only then the organization will be mature enough to push their messages. Because today, messages need to travel from peer-to-peer with of course makes the messaging stronger, but the fact of the matter is that your message will only be pushed by your ambassadors – and most likely by exactly no-one else.
The question of whether PR should act in favor of the organisatizon, the publics, or somewhere in between, thus becomes obsolete. Either it works for those it matters to, or it simply does not.
PR in a peer-to-peer society
A great PR programme of yesterday might be to place a pre-tested key message in the mass-media, reaching thousands of which a reasonable percentage is the organization’s target demographic. A great PR programme of today might be to gain and promote new, highly engaged ambassadors on a daily basis over a long period of time.
This is not to be mistaken for word-of-mouth marketing, viral marketing, or influential marketing. This is not about pushing messages to new audiences or shifting mindsets. This is about doing PR simply by taking greater care of those who already cares for you and your organization. Instead of regarding them as “a PR problem already solved”.
This evolution will force PR to work more closely to sales, human relations, customer service, and CRM.
And by gaining ambassadors one at time, the many minds can be influenced long-term by the truly passionate few.
And when you think about it – this new paradigm brought upon us by the peer-to-peer society matches what PR is all about perfectly – publics and relations!
But can The Stockholm Accords be a stepping stone towards such a reality? Let me put it this way; I am 30 years old, I have been passionately determined to change the way traditional PR has been done for some 10 years already, and I plan to fight a good fight for what I firmly believe that modern PR should be about – hopefully for another 70 years or so. For me the question is not whether The Stockholm Accords will reflect the realities of modern PR or not…
Given my line of reasoning, the key strategic question might actually be this one:
Will we – the many passionate young PR professionals who sees nothing but opportunity for our industry in this magnificent shift – will we be passionate and highly engaged ambassadors for The Sockholm Accords or will we choose not to be?
For my contribution, here are my feedback:
- The text must be much easier for its ambassadors to read, understand, and share amongst themselves
- The purpose must be more clearly stated from an outside-in perspective
- PR should not only be explained merely as a defensive and balancing tool (sustainability; agents of change), it should be explained as a part of business risk-taking (the communicative organization; empowering internal ambassadors) as well
- Since it is not all about aligning one with the other and the two-way symmetry open-system approach anymore, why not increase the focus on PR as a tool to engage the organization’s ambassadors?
- Get as much focus on pull as on push, and get them in the right order and context – we live in an era of sharing is caring and the advent of experts, important elements in the future of PR
- The attention economy works in favor for modern PR programmes, and this should of course be reflected in the text
See you there!
Note: The Twitter hashtag #PRofWorld explained.
- Stockholm Accords first draft up for comments. Please contribute, suggest, criticise and help shape the future of our profession
- PR people need cat food at the top table
- The Stockholm Accords interrogated, part 1
- The Stockholm Accords interrogated, part 2
- From Mexico to Stockholm
- Is Your Company Fit for the Future (and for Human Beings)? (blogs.hbr.org)
- Who Has More Power Over Your Organization: Stakeholders or Publics? (theharteofmarketing.com)
- Master’s of Spin: PR Belongs in B-School Studies – BusinessWeek [del.icio.us] (businessweek.com)
- How to Create High-Impact Disruption In Management and Win a Prize (blogs.hbr.org)
- Sustainability Leadership for Social Change: Empowering Local to International Movements (kellytavares.com)