July 30, 2008

Images as PR Messaging

Posted in Media, Political Punditry at 2:24 pm by R

With election season come the ubiquitous photos of candidates on magazine covers, in articles and on TV. What those images say impacts our collective impression of a candidate. These images also betray the bias of a publication or the probable endorsement. (This is another fascinating topic altogether.)

After posting about Obama V. McCain in the Media I got to thinking about the other ways media has an impact on our impression of candidates. Visually. I went through my stack of soon-to-be-recycled Newsweeks and TIMEs and flipped through some photos and started to see a trend. It seems that the photographs of Obama are slightly more flattering than the ones of McCain.

A Google Images search produced similar results (from the first page of results):

Obama is routinely portrayed as thoughtful, pensive, presidential and even JFK-esque.

John McCain…well…enough said.

And that’s the power of images!

(Yes there were LOTs of other photos of each candidate on the first page of my search, but notably none of Obama that we’re “candid reaction” shots, nor were there any of McCain that were truly “presidential” looking. Have a look for yourself. Barack Obama search results John McCain search results.)

When representing clients with public figure status (politicians or no), it’s important to control their image. Literally. Figuratively. Make sure that the media have the most flattering picture at their finger tips so as to avoid being portrayed imitating a pirate.

~Robyn

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July 29, 2008

Great Clients Aren’t Born, They are Made

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" tagged at 11:52 am by R

The wisest business people, I have learned, are often the ones who realize that they aren’t able to strategize and execute on all levels of their business. They are willing to accept expertise from people who are knowledgeable in their respective industries and are happy to have those people contribute to the company’s success.

That being said, there are business people out there who think they just know better. When it comes to design or public relations strategy, I’ve come across many who just want it done their way. And that’s not always the best way to do things…especially if they are going to hold you accountable in the end.

I’m paid to act in the client’s best interest, sometimes that means saving them from themselves.

Here are three tactics that I use to nudge clients in the right strategic direction:

  1. Outline the Consequences: Make sure your client understands that if they don’t go with your strategic suggestions then they won’t necessarily get the results they are hoping for.
  2. Manage Expectations: You know what your clients media goals are. Be sure to highlight what they can expect with relation to those goals for each means of execution. As in: “It’s not likely that you’ll see an article in December if I don’t have approval by such and such a date. Otherwise, it’s not likely that we’ll see anything until March or April.” (See how I used #1 and #2 there!)
  3. This is a two-way street, so look both ways: Make sure your client understands that they have responsibilities in getting the job done too. Many clients don’t understand the commitment that is Public Relations. Be clear about what your expectations of them are to get the results they desire.

When you get a client committed and involved in the process, help them understand what to realistically anticipate and communicate what the consequenses of inaction or alternative execution are, everyone is going to be happier.

The goal is not simply to get client coverage, but also to help clients understand the process, understand what is newsworthy, understand how they play a role in the media.

In my experience, these three tactics are critical in helping clients to become familiar with the PR process, establishing appropriate client/vendor boundaries and helping your client see you as a professional and expert when it comes to public relations matters.

It’s my theory that great clients who take direction are open to unique strategy and hold up their end of the bargain aren’t born, they are made through great experiences with PR practitioners who help them understand the trade and the benefits of well-nurtured client/vendor relationships.

~Robyn

July 28, 2008

Journalists as Diplomats

Posted in In the news, Political Punditry tagged at 8:52 am by R

At its core, public relations is defined as developing and maintaining relationships among relevant audiences and various publics.

The definition for international diplomacy must look awfully similar when you get to the heart of the matter.

Which is why Brian Williams interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (watch it here) is so fascinating.

It seems that Brian Williams is not simply filling the role of reporter, but also that of diplomat. It’s as though his press credentials transcend the tensions that exists between Iran and the US and allows for the kind of conversation foreign policy has prohibited up to this point.

That being said, I’m sure that President Ahmadinejad was well coached, as all heads of state must be, to have this conversation. Brian Williams stated post-interview that Iran’s President was well-researched and had plenty of facts in his arsenal about the US economy  and the oil crisis.

But I keep coming back to the fact that it was a journalist sent to do the job of a diplomat. A man skilled in asking difficult questions in a non-confrontational and constructive way who gets answers of the same caliber.

What’s more, I LOVED that immediately following the snippets of interview, the Today Show had Nancy Pelosi on as a guest to get a political reaction. It just goes to show how much impact this interview has and the kind of progress it represents.

This interview was groundbreaking for a few reasons:

  1. It proves that we as a country can have open conversation with people who don’t share our same ideals.
  2. Sometimes it takes the candor of an interviewer to do the job of a diplomat.
  3. Everything is public relations.

~Robyn

July 25, 2008

When Crisis PR is a Personal Crisis (When saying nothing says everything)

Posted in Crisis Comm, In the news, Spin at 9:49 am by R

News is fluttering about regarding the health of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The tech icon successfully battled a rare form of pancreatic cancer back in 2004 and has been in good health since then.

As I type on my Mac, I wish Steve Jobs well and hope he remains in a healthy state. He represents a brand, products and a company that I admire. Perhaps this is why there’s so much speculation and, frankly, inconsiderate snooping into Mr. Jobs’ life and health.

Many second quarter returns are coming out these days and that generally requires a unique brand of PR strategy and messaging. People want reasons for performance, positive or negative. As a company, Apple generally is a strong performer. That being said…

Rumor has been circulating that Jobs is not in good health. Yesterday day both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times ran stories noting that suspicions about the CEO’s health had impacted earnings reports, which showed a 2.6 percent drop.

People (namely nameless hedge fund managers) have been calling for comment on the state of Steve Jobs’ health. But is the health of the CEO of a public company an appropriate topic for public consumption and stock market speculation?

Technically, yes and no. Yes, because if the health scenario is germane to the day-to-day operations and material viability of the company, stockholders should know. No, because health is a private and personal matter. Read Jim Goldman’s (CNBC) analysis of this situation here.

Steve Jobs is a bit of a rockstar. He’s a total personality, a character, so people are more interested in him and his life than your average CEO. While CEOs from other Fortune 500 companies might be able to make a quiet announcement and move on without too much impact on the company or their lives, Jobs doesn’t really have that luxury.

In this special circumstance where major investors have allegedly hired P.I.s to tail Jobs and report on hospital and doctors visits, it seems that it’s time for a new tactic. But ongoing speculation could have a notable impact on Apple’s stock, so maybe something does need to be said…or leaked, to the right people.

Apple’s official position is not to comment on the personal lives of its leadership unless it’s pertinent to the operation of the company. Steve Jobs, when asked about his health said, “I feel fine.”

Even though it’s a personal matter, Apple does need to handle this situation with kid gloves as many people are already linking it directly to stock performance.

My personal execution in any crisis situation is Always Tell The Truth! You can’t be lambasted for being honest about what’s going on. (You can still be lambasted for what’s happening, but it won’t be double the backlash when the press found out you covered it up.)

But this example goes to show that what’s not being said often says just as much as a public statement.

In the meantime, here’s to Steve Jobs’ and Apple’s health.

~Robyn

July 23, 2008

By the way…we are Brazen

Posted in Our News tagged at 7:10 pm by R

No not hussies! (Please we are all married or about to be ;))

We are Brazen Careerists! Brazen Careerist is a network of blogs written by 20-something professionals, such as ourselves covering every topic from finance to workplace success to, well, everything.

It’s an honor to be asked to contribute in our PR/Marketing category, especially since we are a very new blog.

Read Cut Me Some Flack here on WordPress or find us on Brazen Careerist and take a gander at some of the work our peers are doing in a variety of other fields!

~Robyn

Millenials Getting the Short End of the Economic Stick

Posted in Millenial Mumblings tagged , at 12:12 pm by R

Reuters posted an article today entitled:

Young adults face tough economic struggle: study

Someone actually had to “study” that? Because…duh! It shouldn’t have taken a whole lot of effort to come up with that one.

When I graduated from Gonzaga University three years ago people were already writing about how we were coming into the workforce as the most indebted group ever. Credit card companies had been marketing to our set heavily and no one (hello banks you missed a golden PR opportunity) took the time to educate us about the importance of credit and how to use it appropriately (I’ll exclude myself on this one…thank you dad for your wisdom on spending and hard-line monitoring of my expenses:) ).

To top that off education was more expensive that ever before. Many of our peers will be paying student loans back until the edge of their mid-life crisis!

It goes with out saying that the current economic strife is another up hill battle. The rising cost of gas and food is of enormous concern. Thirty-three percent of young adult credit card holders owe more that $10,000 according to Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. What’s more, that balance isn’t moving. Many are only able to pay the monthly minimum.

Dismal as all of this comes across, I have to ask, “Is there an opportunity in this?” If you’re in PR and represent a bank, I think absolutely.

This is a time for education. Knowledge is power after all. Now that the power isn’t in our pocketbooks as spenders, it needs to be in our arsenal of wisdom so we can do things the American way and pull ourselves up by the bootstrap and move along.

Some PR Strategy/Tactical ideas:

  1. Peer-to-peer Guidance: Banking has a treasure trove in its young employees. Successful banks with conservative practices (like UMB Bank who just had its SECOND quarter of earnings — which is HUGE in this banking climate) could set up innovative social networks where select young employees blog or host webinars about issues directly targeted at young bank members.
  2. Co-brand with a purpose: Banks of all sizes can pair up with similarly sized businesses to offer value-added services like a free financial planning session on or around young members’ birthdays. (It’s the new Baskin-Robbins free birthday ice cream cone or the Red Robin Birthday Burger!)
  3. Break the cycle: A wise friend of mine said (when she sent me the Reuters article), “Someone should teach this in college.” She’s absolutely right. Why didn’t the lending bank talk to me about credit when they did the exit meeting for my student loan? Why didn’t they keep in touch with me during my four years at school to keep me informed so that I’d not only be solid financially (and pay them back on time) but also, perhaps, a customer? It was a missed opportunity, but maybe it’s a greater one now.

Maybe we’ve been dealt a bad hand or maybe it’s just the perfect storm, either way, we’ve got the know-how to get out of this fiduciary rut.

Financial Millenials, assert yourself and some of these ideas and add value to your team’s work. Make your voice heard and get some help for the rest of us. 🙂

PR Millenials — you know your charge — keep people talking. Get your financial clients positioned to be part of the remedy. Encourage our newsroom peers to advocate for coverage that’s relevant to their lives and happen to be hot buzz words these days: economics, indicators, struggle, solutions.

~Robyn

Ode to Tony Snow

Posted in In the news, Media at 9:54 am by R

I’m rather late in writing this homage to a great journalist and a stealth PR-man.

July 12th, Mr. Snow succumbed to a second bout with colon cancer. The former White House Press Secretary and Fox News Channel broadcaster left a legacy on both sides of this profession. He raised the level of integrity and professionalism for spokespeople, public relations professionals and journalists alike.

If we served in Congress, Mr. Snow and I would be on opposite sides of the aisle, but I admire him greatly for standing up for what he believed in and executing with honesty a post that proved too challenging in the morality department for others.

Perhaps Massimo Calabresi of TIME Magazine said it best:

Snow was unabashed in his defense of the Administration but respectful, even helpful, to reporters on the beat. His experience as a Fox News broadcaster and radio personality was obvious; his quick wit and verbal dexterity made him fun to spar with, while his grasp of complicated policy details made him remarkably effective. The clincher for a skeptical press corps was his disarming honesty. When he didn’t have an answer, he said the rarest words in Washington: “I don’t know.”

Tony Snow: Man of honesty, dignity, likability and now great communications legacy.

~Robyn

July 22, 2008

Obama v. McCain in the Media

Posted in Media, Political Punditry tagged at 1:30 pm by R

It’s not a big secret. Barack Obama is a media darling. The man has been in US Weekly in his bathing suit for crying out loud! He’s interesting, refreshing and a relatively new face on the scene. But is this good for the voters? Is this good for the election?

Media law requires that political candidates get “fair time,” which is a little fuzzy in language, but basically amounts to roughly equal coverage for each.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism noted in a recent study that of the more than 300 stories on the presumptive presidential candidates between the weeks of June 9 and July 13, Obama played an “important roll” in more than two-thirds of that coverage.

MSNBC and the Associated Press dove a little deeper and talked to some of the newsroom execs who are making the call about coverage.

“We have already been in discussions with the McCain campaign to try to afford them the same or a similar opportunity,” Banner said. “We have gone to great lengths to be fair and provide equal time to both campaigns.”

— Jon Banner, Executive Producer of World News Tonight (ABC)

I believe it. They have to at least make the effort to cover the campaigns fairly. And there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. There’s plenty of interviews that get turned down or that don’t pan out because of travel or the campaign sends a different spokesperson, etc.

But the numbers do tell a different story (courtesy of an article on MSNBC. Read it here.):

Obama —

  • Time, 2006, Cover — second bestselling issue
  • Men’s Vogue, Cover — outsold every issue except the Men’s Vogue Debut
  • Newsweek, six covers in 2008
  • Rolling Stone

McCain —

  • Two Newsweek Covers
  • Several Shared Covers with Obama…

Dee Dee Meyers posted an eloquent blog addressing this issue as well. An important point she makes about the press and it’s coverage of Obama is this:

There are lot of “explanations” for the lopsided coverage: Obama is new and what’s new is “news.” As the first African-American to run a serious race, let alone win a major party’s nomination, Obama is running an historic campaign. Obama has created a “movement,” and Americans are simply more interested in him than in his opponents. Obama is running a smarter campaign, and he knows how to court media attention. It’s also true that intense media coverage is a double- edged sword: the attention is great when things are going well, but it can doom a candidate if and when things start to go badly. And so far, Obama has had way more good days than bad days. Each of those rationales is largely true—and somewhat less than satisfying.

Satisfying or not, the media does seem to be giving its audiences what they want. I think the Obama coverage is, at least in part, a sign of the times. The nation is interested in this already historic figure who is a new comer to the political market place, who brings a fresh attitude and charismatic delivery to every appearance.

Obama should be ware not to go the way of “Beniffer” and be over exposed to the point of disinterest and dislike. He is a little like a celebrity having embraced some of the news outlets like gossip magazines and satirical news shows. And while this has amplified his public figure, it’s a fine line.

John McCain may have big news this week with the potential announcement of a VP. That kind of news will undoubtedly tilt the scales of coverage.

Whatever the coverage is, it is SO critical that we read and watch and comment and converse about all of it. For 18-30-ish voters, this is an important election. Not just because it’s an opportunity to affect change, but because it’s a chance to tell everyone who called our generation apathetic voters to shove it.

Long story longer, media is power. That’s why I’ve got a job. And with respect to this election year the media’s power is a factor. Watch closely, it’s your civic duty.

~Robyn

July 21, 2008

To Get A Job, You Have To Ask For It

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" tagged at 3:26 pm by R

Not so long ago, when I was applying for my first job I sent out a lot of letters. I’m sure I made some hilarious errors that some sweet HR person got a good chuckle out of.

Exhibit A: This is the letter that prompted this post (please note: all the names were changed to protect the innocent)

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Gloria Estephan,

I am a recent graduate of the Barbara Wawa School of Journalism & Mass Communications at The View University. I just completed a 14-month internship as a public relations/media associate for the Fancy Schmancy Event Host Committee.

Attached is my resume and two letters of recommendation. Further references will be provided upon request.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Best wishes,

Gloria

Now that I’m the “To Whom It May Concern” as the hiring manager for Armstrong Troyky, I’d like to pass on some wisdom that will help you get that job.

  1. Tell me what you want to do here. Do you want another internship? Are you interested in a full-time position with us? Do you want to be an administrative assistant, account coordinator, account service rep? I need to know what position it is you want to fill to properly assess your ability to execute the duties of said position.
  2. Tell me why you should be considered. I get plenty of these emails. What I don’t get a lot of are ones that wow me with a stand out skill or marked accomplishment that makes me want to open an attachment (I’ll cover attachments in a moment).
  3. Call me! Yes. I absolutely prefer email. But so do reporters and I call them anyway. Let me know you really are interested in a position by following up with me. My father-in-law always says, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” It’s true, the more (appropriately) persistent you are, the more likely you’ll be to get an answer, even if it is a no.
  4. Attachers Be Ware. Do you know where emails with attachments from strange email addresses go…junk mail. This is why #3 is so important. I might never get your resume, writing samples and recommendations because they were automatically forwarded to the land of no return…my Spam box.

With these things in mind, if I were to do it all over again, this is what I’d do.

  1. Research the company…thoroughly. Know who’s the boss, what work the company’s done, where their most recent client article appeared.
  2. Call the company. Say hi. Find out if they have any jobs. No? Find out if they’d be willing to have coffee or lunch and help you continue your search with the added horse power of their contacts. Maybe most importantly in this step, find out the actual name of the person you should send your CV to.
  3. Send a cover letter in an email with the offer to send an attached resume and writing samples. Trust me this will be appreciated, especially if you note that you don’t want to jam an in-box with lots of info
  4. Be overly courteous. You only get one chance to make your first impression. Whether it’s in writing, on the phone or face-to-face, be as polite and proper and sweet as you can be. Instead of “Further references will be provided upon request,” (which just sounds a little bossy when I read it) how’s about “I’d be happy to pass along more references should you require them.”
  5. Follow up like it’s your full time job. Call to follow up and ask for a time to call back. Ask for  good time to reach the correct person. Be polite, but be persistent. After all, it’s one of the skills we need to know you have if you want to work for our team.

When you are looking for and applying for jobs you have to be your own publicist. Make sure to treat yourself like a client and be strategic and thorough with the messages you are sending and tenacious in follow up.

~Robyn

Study Finds Shrinking Newsroom Equals Decreased Quality

Posted in A walk on the "dark side", Current Events, In the news, Media at 10:49 am by R

Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study recently, called “The Changing Newsroom: What is Being Gained and What is Being Lost in America’s Daily Newspapers.”

This report tells us what we already know:

  • News content is diminishing because of a smaller news reporting staff
  • The focus is on local content
  • Content is moving to the Web, but editorial hasn’t found a way to generate revenue from the shift from print to online

One thing of note, pertinent to our set, is that the newsroom is younger! We are dealing with our peers in the newsroom. We are working with people who have the same technology upbringing that we’ve had, complete with online savvy and social networking in our DNA.

This is a huge advantage for us as PR practitioners and Millenials (refer to Shannon’s post about this phenomenon), because we have an inate ability to converse with a younger newsroom and help propel our trade forward into more interactive and creative avenues of communication.

Things to take away from this study (by the way, the study hasn’t been posted yet on PEJ’s site, but the Assoicated Press and MSNBC did review the findings. Read it here.):

  1. Get local — take national headlines down to the home town. Concentrate on what’s happening in your community to get the most coverage
  2. Help a Reporter Out — Give our newsroom colleagues your best research and most complete effort in pitching. Now more than ever, studies show (literally), they just don’t have time for crap. (Speaking of Help a Reporter Out…sign up for this service…it’s AMAZING!)
  3. Work your age — Often times we as young professionals are battling our youth to make a proper professional impression on our mentors, clients, more seasoned colleagues, established journalists and the like. Here’s a golden opportunity to work your youth. Friend reporters on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, et al. Share common early career experiences. Be a professional friend.

While none of this is earth-shattering news, it’s good to have an authoritative reminder. Print reporting (especially newspaper) has discovered its weakness and defined it and admitted it’s afraid:

“I feel I’m being catapulted into another world, a world I don’t really understand,” Virginian-Pilot editor Dennis Finley told PEJ. “Things are happening at the speed of light.”

This challenge is also a great opportunity for us as young professionals to play up our strengths, fine tune our skills and really pitch in to insure that the quality of the news isn’t sacrificed any further.

My dream is to do such a good job of supporting shrinking newsrooms that PEJ’s next study is called “How Public Relations Professionals Positively Contribute To The News Media and Increase News Quality.” 🙂

~Robyn

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