Tag Archive for 'pr'

History’s First Press Release

Pennsylvania railroad

After a Penn Railroad train ran off the rails, PR pioneer Ivy Lee gained the upper hand over reporters covering the story with a subtle account of the accident that minimized the reputational damage to his client.

Is Public Relations Just Fake News In Disguise?

The modern era of managed information began with a succinct press release written by a former newsman on behalf of his industrial client, a northeastern railroad that had just suffered a derailment resulting in multiple deaths. To be sure, ten eyewitnesses if asked to describe the accident would have ten different accounts of the exact same facts. But the one that made it into the New York Times that day is the only one that counts.

The first press release of the modern era was crafted in 1906 by Ivy Lee, one of public relation’s original founders, for his client the Pennsylvania Railroad. Following a derailment that resulted in multiple deaths, Lee arranged for reporters to be transported to the accident scene – under his watchful eye – and at the same time released an account of what happened, complete with asides, misdirections, and human interest.

What ran in the paper that day wasn’t Fake News, but it wasn’t a totally innocent, unbiased account of what actually happened either. It was a subjective report presented as an objective story on behalf of a client in exchange for income.

#FakeNews isn’t a new concept. Public relations is, among other things, an extension of the psychology of people, and towards that end its best known component is shifting public opinion from Point A to Point B beneath the radar. Like any profession its goals aren’t always in everyone’s best interest. Lowlights include the extensive campaigns, presented as news, that promoted smoking, especially when it came to converting women’s attitudes towards the habit.

All news is not created equally, and the concept of so-called Fake News is somewhat of an oxymoron. News that’s fake by definition isn’t news at all – it’s propaganda. The intention of the current campaign, though, is to create the idea that news in and of itself isn’t true. In other words, to shift opinion that casts doubt on journalists and the media.

In a consumer culture we seldom come to a conclusion strictly on merit, as opposed to being nudged in ways subtle enough as to escape detection as a motivating factor for any particular decision that is made. Ford. Or Chevy.

bacon for breakfast? mmmmm!

Enjoy Bacon? Of Course You Do!

Here’s why. You didn’t have a chance.

The original Father of Spin, Edward Bernays took on the Beech-Nut Packing Company as a client in order to salvage their tanking bacon sales as American switched their eating preferences to breakfast cereal, toast, and juice. Together with fellow publicist Ivy Lee he’s credited with founding the profession we know today as public relations, although looking back some might question the morality of his triumphs.

Cue Homer Simpson.

Bernays was a nephew of Sigmund Freud, and his remarkable marketing insight allowed him to successfully pitch smoking cigarettes to American women as patriotic. At the height of the Cold War his campaign on behalf of the United Fruit Company’s Chiquita banana brand led to the overthrow of the democratically elected Guatemalan government. No surprise, then, that when he focused then new marketing techniques on the task for his client he successfully switched on the bacon for breakfast gene that had begun to dim.

Pass the pork.

online newsroom publicity perks

typewriter-72px.jpg

Small businesses can benefit from creating a unique online newsroom.

Invest In Online Assets For Longterm Dividends

As whats left of print media transitions into a hybrid that blends traditional content with digital distribution, private industry is likewise developing answers for inventing new channels of promotion and publicity. Read about how Coca-Cola is a leader in setting up and stocking unique content for both consumer and b2b consumption.

The need for effective strategies is best seen in the use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) as essential marketing disciplines. Both focus on the power of search to direct audiences inbound to content, and those same procedures are being successfully refined and funneled in the establishment of online newsrooms.

Online News: Not The Same As Google News

Online newsrooms are a physical location unrelated to Google News’ rich snippet metatag aimed at specific categories and reserved for branded publications. Yet the preparation of materials for the online newsroom should include some of the same workflow that’s utilized in a Google News approach to pull marketing.

Online newsrooms are also a total departure from the commonly used and outdated drop down menu method of accessing company news and resources, which requires multiple steps before even reaching a starting point and focuses solely on archiving content, not repurposing.

Biggest Difference? An Adventure, Not An Archive

The contemporary onliine newsroom is designed as a visual destination separate from the main website. It’s a unique container offering an assortment of video, audio, text, visuals, and ready-to-wear social content – all delivered in an easy to use User Experience (UX) layout that puts a premium on interesting and engaging presentation to serve various forms of content that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Online Newsroom – Think Investment, Not Expense

Today’s news resource – and that includes all that PR brings to the mix – must deliver solid content quickly and easily to a wide audience with unique needs. Design, creative, IT, and marketing all have a part to play in the successful implentation of a modern online newsroom.

Design your online newsroom to make maximum use of visual breadcrumbs and cues to guide editors, researchers, writers, and curators in finding not just what they’re looking for, but what they need to accurately inform their audience about XYZ Company. Need help? Lets explore a solution custom tailered to fit your needs.

lululemon, cvs fumble crisis responses

cvs, lululemon battle for negative headlines

lululemon and cvs compete for negative headlines

Alternative fitness clothing manufacturer Lululemon’s troubles multiplied following one of the more colorful product glitches to make headlines. The Vancouver lifestyle darling’s line of yoga pants was revealed – yes – to have a manufacturing defect apparant only during down dog, a position that due to the fabric stretching across the wearer’s butt caused a sheer effect that revealed everything to whoever was behind the owner of said pants.

Meanwhile, drugstore chain giant CVS suffered major shots across the bow as a result of a particularly heavy-handed employee health policy that went viral. In order to access the company’s health insurance lowest rates, workers have to submit to a screening for obesity, hypertension, glucose, and several other tags that can signal problems.

problems of their own making

Both companies stumbled right out of the gate. Their failure to either forsee or immediately correct course is unfortunately all too typical of a corporate culture that continues to ignore how brand reputation is affected in the age of social media.

Despite increasingly common examples of how the medium can be leveraged for a positive result regardless of whether news is good or bad, simply ignoring the problem or trying to hammer an alternative outcome despite popular sentiment doesn’t work.

flash pants and worker shame linked to brands reps

For CVS, by far the more effective approach would be to offer employees free or discounted membership in a fitness facility, rather than exacting a two-bit nickel and dime penalty forcing workers to wear the “unhealthy” cone of shame. How does that motivate? If you’re obese, it’s usually no surprise.

For Lululemon, whose corporate rep is usually massaged by a themematic yoga chant as opposed to any heavy lifting, they stuttered and stammered before finally issuing a recall of the pricey flash pants with wording that bore an uncomfortable resemblance to the lame not-an-apology that begins with, “If we’ve offended anyone…”. But not until after the horse had floated over the dam trying to clean up the milk spilt.

3 steps to social management

  1. Be Prepared – have a team in place and empowered
  2. Be Alert – to what’s happening in real time
  3. Be Responsive – to the message that is, not the message you want

new google search challenges content

to earn google rank, get busy with content

Google’s latest product is their highly engineered search algorithm Knowledge Graph. Exactly how it works is a mystery, but best guesses are a wide ranging capability to reference major data sites, including Wikipedia, using a predictive intelligence that intuits a user’s intent beyond the specific search query. I’m just assuming this thing’s got artificial intelligence down cold and am preparing new content accordingly while retrofitting the archives to conform.

Read If Google Can’t Find You, Your Market Never Will for tips on how to upgrade your content and create a strategy for search success.

powersports pays price for poor pr

 

the slippery slope to silliness

Several years ago I put together an easy to follow guide that offers solutions for three of the most common errors made by DIY publicists. Since then I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of powersports announcements distributed under the hi-jacked heading of FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE! So poorly constructed they’re cause to wonder if a Kazakhstan goat herder isn’t ghost writing for the crowd source marketplace, they neither inform nor promote. No offense to my herder friends.

There’s a phrase common enough to pr practitioners (hack) that’s either a label of shame or badge of some distinction, if only among peers. Without naming names – and, sadly, you probably don’t know who you are – I’m gobsmacked at what the aftermarket seems willing to accept under the guise of published, presumed to be positive, information about products, services, and events by the former.

This isn’t about the errant comma, occasional misplaced modifier, or missing apostrophe. I’m raising the alarm over the wholesale abandonment of fundamental principles of grammar, any notion of style, and the essentials of literacy. Who needs complete sentences when an odd lot assortment of disjointed words strung randomly together into incoherent phrases passes as sense.

“air quotes” run amok amid out of control malaprops

I’m usually not a hard-core stickler for AP style, but. The increasingly sloppy gibberish masquerading as product praise not only offends my professional eye, but to the point does serious damage to a manufacturer’s online reputation and in-store brand. Unless, that is, the brands footing the bill think LOL ridicule is a desirable goal.

And it’s permanent. Once published to the web, these unintentional examples of no-talent hilarity circle the internet forever, ghost ships of puff piece silliness showing up on Google search “doh!” in perpetuity.

If you can’t hire a pro – and by that I mean someone possessed of a) basic writing skills and, b) a fundamental understanding that English, not Farsi, is North America’s marketing lingua franca – please take advantage of my basic tips for improving reputation and readership.

bottleneck! your social media workflow

pick and choose what’s manageable

Edelman Digital’s recent post (via David Armano’s typepad driven feed blitz distributed Logic+Emotion blog) announcing their new SlideShare presence adds another layer of social versatility to their expanding toolkit of content sites.

Armano is Edelman PR’s widely followed social guru, operating out of their Chicago office where he spreads knowledge and opinion across the twitter/facebook/linkedin universe. A July post, for instance, presented the case for Google Plus in an extended essay piece that positions the new service as a layer, rather than a channel, then goes on to count the degrees of difference.

so many channels; really, so many channels

But regardless of worthiness, for me it’s yet one more dedicated channel to tend in a garden of tasty greenery run amok. For the small shop and independent practitioner, your fulltime job can easily become a sideline to the babysitting necessary for even basic online maintenance. The connect options presented on their Edelman Digital space (above) include RSS, email, Scribd, SlideShare, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr channels: and that’s just the tip of their social channel spear.

As Delicious prepares to roll out a much needed overhaul courtesy of new owners and YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, I’m split between excitement about what’s to come and concern over management issues. There are no best answers for any one situation. It’s clear, though, that too many channels quickly add up to a weedy, overgrown online presence where your last visited update is months old, stale and reeking of abandonment issues.

aeron chair repair customer service

how do you repair an aeron? you don’t – it’s covered

edit 11-5-2012: Industrial designers Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick describe the original Aeron prototyping at Slate.com.

edit 3-6-2014: download Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair Adjustment Guide PDF.

In 1999 I graduated from a comfortably traditional no instructions needed sturdy and reliable Steelcase to a revolutionary and slightly intimidating Aeron after a test-sitting at the local Herman Miller showroom. This was prompted by the realization that my career as a print creative director would never again come in contact with a drawing board and that digitally correct office accessorizing could ease the transition.

Warranty coverage wasn’t given much thought at the time. Actually, it wasn’t given any thought, even as the notion of extended sitting in my new noir appliance approached certainty. As daily taken-for-granted use stretched well into the aughts, I started wondering if there was a Herman Miller policy for repairing past prime hardware.

Google quickly turned up warranty details – all out in the open, displayed matter of factly in large print and language anyone can understand – and the protocol necessary to initiate the process. Turns out, their warranty covers parts and labor for twelve years from date of purchase. Used to be ten. Applies retroactively.

how can we help you? no, seriously, how can we help?

First, when you purchase an Aeron, there’s not one whisper about shelling out for an additional “extended care” warranty. And even though Office Pavilion, the original dealer, no longer served my region their replacement, Workplace Resource of Florida, didn’t miss a beat. My simple email request for info was immediately answered with the necessary (minimal) paperwork attached: a warranty request form that asked for only basic information, mainly the proof of purchase serial number and birth date shown in the top photo. I filled it out. I waited for a response. Two days later I was in business. No beat down, no obfuscating. Their response in totality: yep, you’ve got a problem. Yep, we’ll fix it.

One month later, I answered a phone call from the tech to confirm the repairs. The repairs on site, I hasten to add. Granted, the chair’s not cheap, but I’d assumed that for a piece of nearly 12-years-old well used merchandise, whatever coverage I had coming would be carried out after drop-off to the nearest point-of-sale for the six to eight weeks necessary to complete repairs.

no user parts accessible? none

Bob the Tech showed up as promised, on schedule, wheeling in his portable work bench, toolbox and a couple of cartons of repair parts. An hour later I had what essentially was a completely rebuilt chair. And not just the visible wear and tear that’s bound to occur over a decade of daily use, either. My Aeron rehab visited every nook and cranny of my high tech and well used furniture. They didn’t have to. They just did.

Red tape? None. Superior service? Yes. Brand reputation? Polished to a blinding brilliance. Thanks, Herman Miller. For designing, marketing, and standing behind a best in class product. If you visit the web site, and I hope you do, please take the opportunity to enjoy a smile at the reference to design integrity in the making of video on the Aeron home page.

business needs rich media pr talent

manship prssa class of 2010

Mark Ragan’s PR Daily post by Arik Hanson highlights perfectly the growing demand for well rounded PR practitioners in the Twin Cities, a need that’s extendable throughout the country.

In it, Mr. Hanson cites employers scrambling for capable content providers or, as he phrases it, media producers. To me that translates into photojournalists, storytellers, videographers and to a lesser extent verbal audio specialists. Add to that list basic graphic design awareness.

facebook’s not enough to make me look

When I visited LSU’s Manship School of Communications (above) as a guest portfolio reviewer for the PRSSA Class of 2010, I was surprised that the current generation – fluent in texting, IM and facebook – was by and large incapable of producing a rich media story on their own. Continue reading ‘business needs rich media pr talent’

temp tattoos from tattly

no committment, no worries

Tattly, the latest effort from talented designer and founder of Swiss Miss graphics blog Tina Eisenberg, offers witty, low cost personal entertainment and a tempting opportunity for powersports brand and marketing managers.

The collection of expertly designed messages and icons includes “knucks,” the answered prayer for every personal injury attorney who enjoys masquerading on weekends as a Sons of Anarchy patchholder. Add fighting rings and you’re done.




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