"Cringeworthy." It's the word that comes to mind
for PR, social media and marketing folks when we see an action by a brand or
person that is unlikable (at best), goes viral and is then mishandled.
It's enough to make you feel shock, embarrassment, even
anger. All natural emotional responses—and ones that are now commonly expressed
through public social media outlets.
Take, for example, the now-infamous Applebee's incident. On
or around January 25, a server from one of the franchise’s St. Louis locations posted
a photo of another server's receipt where the tip had been zero'ed out with the
comment: “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?”
Most will agree that the customer's action was rude, while
many will argue that the employee's response was unwise. But it's a safe bet
that everyone—at least in the marketing world—will maintain that Applebee's
wasn't prepared for how to handle the situation.
Think this couldn’t happen to your brand? Think again. We
live in what feels like an increasingly graceless world. Instead of mannerly
actions, we can choose to attack, rebuff, sneer or just generally stir the pot.
Everyone has an ill-tempered side; that's part of being human. And, humans are
your customers and clients.
What people say about your brand is not fully within a marketer's
control. What is? Your attitude, your response and your counselors. You
about the Applebee's incident elsewhere,
but at Balcom Agency we want to remind you that you can make the best of a bad
situation like this, should you find yourself in one, by avoiding these
You don't think anyone will pick up on the
Ignorance isn't bliss. You can't predict what may be coming
your way, but you can be engaged in ongoing discussion about your company and
public perception. Don't be out of the loop; just about anything can be
newsworthy or sharable. People care about personal experiences, and company
actions often make the news.
You don't have a 21st century plan in place to prepare
for negative posts, comments, emails and tweets.
The formal complaint letter mailed to headquarters is long
gone. When someone is upset, they can let you know in just a few minutes. Be
sure to keep real-time knowledge of your Facebook page, Twitter feed,
comment/suggestion email box and blog comments. Responding quickly, and honestly, to concerns
can keep a situation from getting out of hand—and it's just the right thing to
do. Communicate like a real person (instead of engaging in corporate speak),
and be respectful, even when the kindness isn’t returned.
You don't have a third-party marketing partner to advise
It's hard to be the master of every trade. As a business
owner, division leader, manager or employee you may not have experience in
crisis communication or social media management. Be sure to hire the right
partner to advise you. You'll need them to be up to speed on your business
prior to a difficult situation, so consider a PR and/or social media retainer
(we offer both at Balcom) as a best practice for your company.
And remember what they say about an ounce of prevention. Get a plan in place ahead of time so you're not scrambling to keep your reputation afloat if and when disaster strikes.
PR can drive web results, just like advertising, social media and other endeavors. It's all a part of the right marketing mix. In fact, it's actually one of the best ways that PR can make an immediate, and traceable, impact on your company or organization's communications efforts. Each PR tactic you undertake—from pitching a story to media to pursuing speaking opportunities—can lead people to find out accurate information. It also can lead to immediate decisions.
How many of us have read a story in a newspaper or magazine—and then immediately Googled the product we saw? I know I have (tactic used: media relations). Think about the last time you listened to someone speak well about an issue you cared about. Did you not go look up their organization and consider a donation or membership (tactic used: speaker's bureau)?
So which PR tactics should you consider? Each of the following could be a part of your plan:
Targeted media relations. Before you pitch an idea to any reporter, you should know what they write about and why your company/organization is worth their time. But when you find the right outlet, a reporter who "gets" it, and a product, service or human-interest story worth telling, the result can be beautiful—both online and offline.
Researched blogger outreach. People who write blogs want to share information—but like reporters they prefer to talk about things that are relevant to their content area of coverage. If you come across a blog talking about a subject you have an answer to (such as a product or service solution), you should be able to pitch them on a future blog post mention. If they decide to write about your company/organization, chances are they will link directly to your site.
Informative e-Newsletters. Although not strictly a PR function, e-Newsletters are ideal for communicating directly to interested parties (persons who have opted-in to receive them). A monthly or quarterly e-Newsletter sets you up to deliver relevant content right to consumers. If you use imbedded URLs, you can lead readers to additional information on your site.
Speaking opportunities. Qualified speakers are often welcome at organizational events around town. Prepare a great presentation on a topic of interest in your field, and be sure to inform people about the need that your product or service solves. Don't oversell them—but lead them to your website for information on why you and your company may be a good solution to their problem. Those who are really interested will look you up.
The above suggestions are only a few web-driving ideas that you can consider that are grounded in public relations. But whatever marketing ideas you choose to try, keeping public relations as a part of the mix can help your company or organization taste online success as well.
I'm all about the dictionary. Give me a word or phrase that you don't know (and perhaps I don't know) and soon after you'll find me trying to define it or find a synonym for it. VisualThesaurus.com happens to be my online dictionary of choice these days, but I can bet you've used a website like Dictionary.com or Merriam-Webster.com to check out a definition in the past. We're all becoming masters of new subjects because it is so easy for us to look up the original or best current definition.
Try looking up "public relations" (or "PR") sometime. Even though it is part of marketing, and a core competency for any communicator, public relations is a field (and a term) that is often misunderstood. In fact, PR has come to mean just about anything these days. For some people, it means what we should call "publicity," or trying to raise awareness through news outlets (also known as media relations). For others, PR is a catch-all phrase for goodwill between a company or organization and its customers, clients and/or members, so all interactions are meant to be classified as "good PR." Others are convinced that PR is a sporadically-used tool, only helping to combat negative opinions or "spin" situations around so the truth is better perceived by audiences. (This definition, in particular, should be removed from any marketer's vocabulary.
None of those hit the mark, really—especially if PR is only regarded as a way to "fix" behavior.
Here's the problem with relying on those types of definitions: PR is about a relationship, first and foremost. The one that exists between your brand and the people who know you, have heard of you and are yet to even hear of you. PR should be focused on the company or organization you are now, and about communicating who you want to be with everyone who comes in contact with you. And, just like any healthy person-to-person relationship, you keep on working at it by communicating well and often.
You might be interested to learn that the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently sought to find a modern definition of PR, and released this updated understanding of the phrase on March 1, 2012: "Public relations is a strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics." Most of us in the industry are pleased with the direction of the description because we understand that PR is a constant endeavor that involves planning to communicate well with others, executing on that plan, listening to the feedback received and giving that feedback high consideration as you make company decisions.
Whether you choose to engage the media (publicity/media relations), or increase knowledge about your company through event outreach, public relations activities can set you up to reap benefits. And that kind of return on investment rarely requires further explanation.
Submitted by Ashley on September 1, 2011 - 11:00am
While on vacation recently I had the chance to sail on San Diego Bay twice. Many interesting ships docked at the piers caught my eye, but one needed no introduction. Standing out among the grey vessels was a massive white ship bearing a familiar emblem. A symbol of hope for the past 100 years, a red cross on a white background has represented medical aid since the 1860s. Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in the 1880s (one of several humanitarian aid organizations that use the universally recognized red cross symbol) and subsequent leadership has built the nonprofit's brand recognition through the years. By now, most Americans can identify the red cross and associate it with something compassionate: giving blood, hurricane relief, and necessities such as shelter and food. Even floating hospital ships, like the U.S. Navy's "Mercy" that I saw in San Diego, are familiar because we've been exposed to the symbol often.
Now, more than ever before, the things an organization stand for are easy to find out—just check their social media endeavors. Some charities and nonprofits may shrink from using social media because they are worried about direct interaction, or because they don't understand the fundamental change in communication that has taken place. The Red Cross, however, embraces it all willingly—Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flicker and a multipurpose blog are part of the organization's efforts.
Here's what I've appreciated while looking at the American Red Cross through a marketer's lens:
Content is recognized as the vehicle for engagement. At Balcom we often talk about blogs and why they are essential for search engine optimization. Yet content is really about connection with others once they have found your cause. What do I not know about the organization? Why should I care? The popularity of Google Reader and other RSS feeds demonstrate that people are willing to keep reading if an organization stays interesting. Articles, graphics and even suggestions on what to read (other blogs, media coverage, etc.) can be found on the Red Cross blog.
Readers and followers are invited to help solve the problem. Sometimes you just need to ask for help, and make it easy to follow through. The American Red Cross is one of the first organizations I heard about embracing mobile text giving. Their "Text 2 Help" program is active at any time (text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief), but full campaigns are utilized in large crisis situations such as the Japan (2011) and Haiti (2010) earthquakes. For some people, recognition for being a part of the solution is a motivator. When someone tweets that they donated blood, the Red Cross re-tweets them and also posts a recap called "Follow Your Blood Donors" on the blog. If you have a Facebook status that mentions the Red Cross, you just may end up as the "Status of the Day." Giving of yourself does not go unnoticed or unappreciated by the organization.
Fun and human interest are never pushed aside. The Red Cross' Twitter feed is clever, pithy, informative and encouraging. If a person's tweet is funny, they highlight it. If someone bruises a little after giving blood and tweets it, the Red Cross thanks them and acknowledges the pain. If they are excited, the Red Cross cheers them on. Giving should be a positive experience, even if it hurts a little.
The American Red Cross has found the right balance in social media, keeping its ship on course and yet making enough waves to keep us all interested.