Written by PollackPRMktg on November 25, 2010.
Written by Noemi Pollack on November 23, 2010.
‘Tis the season to say thanks and, pat downs and virtual scanners notwithstanding, it would behoove all of us to include the TSA among the many things for which we are grateful. TSA’s efforts at keeping us safe in the skies, deserve our thanks…
The public outcry is nonsense. It is emotionally driven and without any rational thought behind it. Just consider what any traveler would reply, when asked whether their own privacy issue would trump taking security risks. C’mon, would anyone want to chance having another Christmas bomber, or shoe bomber or some other murderous-thinking terrorist on board when flying? Isn’t a pat down or a step into the virtual scanner worth taking, in order to fend off a risk?
And yet, the outcry has reached such proportions that it’s now got Washington involved, with both sides of the political aisle jumping on board saying the TSA has gone too far with their new airport security measures. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, when asked on Sunday’s CBS’ “Face the Nation” if she would submit to one of the new pat-downs gave a somewhat stammered answer, “Not if I could avoid it. No. I mean, who would?” Even the Homeland Security chairman called for the TSA to ‘Reconsider’ pat downs…
The popular Drudge Report has been leading the charge in escalating the outcry with screaming headlines that have escalated the public’s ire. First it was, “TSA Warns: Submit Or Pay.” This was followed with “Former Gov. Ventura Will No Longer Fly Due to Abuse He’s Endured at Hands of TSA” and “Tears After Rough Skirt Search,” “Airports Consider Call To Ditch TSA,” and finally a bit of humor with, “Will Turkey Day Fliers Cry Foul?”
TSA deserves all this, for they anticipated none of it.
It is a classic case of naïveté that a program was rolled out without a carefully planned public information campaign behind it. For instance, as a first, a well-orchestrated PR plan could have informed the public, well in advance, of the radiation statistics of the virtual scanner — that it is ten times less than an ordinary lung X-ray. That would have assuaged unwarranted fears and minimized the need for the alternative tactic of so-called “humiliating” pat downs. Second, pat downs could have been explained as necessary, citing that terrorists are getting more creative about what they do to hide explosives in crazy things — like underwear. There could have been videos planned, showing what to expect in pat downs, and that “groping” is not the intent. Third, the TSA airport staff should have received “pat down” sensitivity training to avoid the impression of “groping” and thus have better managed the patted-down public’s expectations of the experience.
The momentum is building for a “National Opt-Out day” — meaning passengers should refuse the new virtual body scanners in use at airports around the country and opt out of that procedure. It is a shame that TSA did not get their act together in time for the biggest travel day of the year, the day before Thanksgiving. All too late… Damage done.
Happily TSA Administrator John Pistole said, “the ingenuity and determination of terrorists trying to bring down an airplane rules out changes in screening policies that have been assailed by some passengers as an invasion of privacy.”
Here’s my message: Get over it and get scanned or patted down, for I personally don’t want to have an opt-outer or non-patted down person get on my plane. Would you?
And THANK YOU, John Pistole for not being dissuaded from keeping us safe….
Written by Kathy Cripps on October 25, 2010.
We introduce our next guest blogger of our monthly series on the 25th of every month, in celebration of our 25th anniversary this year, Kathy Cripps, President, Council of Public Relations Firms.
Kathy Cripps is president of the Council of Public Relations Firms, the U. S. employer-based trade association. Kathy worked with multinational public relations firms and had her own firm for many years; she and the Council are strong advocates for PR firms and the value they bring to clients around the globe.
In two days (October 27) Marc Pritchard, Global Marketing & Brand Building Officer for Procter & Gamble, will speak at the Council’s Critical Issues Forum. The room will be filled with PR agency executives, their staffs and their clients from many different industries. We are thrilled Marc will address the group because when P&G speaks, people listen. Marketers and their public relations firms care what P&G has to say.
There’s a larger significance here as well. Public Relations is important to organizations like P&G. I’m referring to the strategic relevance of our industry to organizations, whether in relation to reputation management, employee communications, crisis mitigation, marketing or public affairs. While the continued economic uncertainty has led to slower-than-hoped-for industry growth, public relations is more relevant and integrated than ever.
As the president of the Council of Public Relations Firms, the U.S. trade association for PR agencies, I have the opportunity to speak with firms around the country about what keeps them up at night, and what excites them about the future. I know public relations is a hard business; running a firm provides its own set of unique challenges, from servicing clients to managing and motivating talent. It’s great to see firms like Pollack and others celebrate significant milestones.
The Council of PR Firms’ Q3 Quick Survey (of member firms) revealed some interesting statistics as firms and clients move into 2011 planning mode. When asked what new business trends firms believe will be most important in 2011, our members cited “more requests for digital and social media expertise” most often (80%), followed by “more competitive pitches” (57%) “a shift away from traditional media relations toward online influencers” (56%) and “integrated campaign development “( 54%). These responses are primarily good news as they represent not only a robust business environment but the expansive platform from which PR now operates.
Twenty five years in business, represents a time to reflect on growth, change and what’s ahead. I don’t think I need to list the many ways the public relations business has changed since 1985. Suffice to say, staying competitive is one of the biggest challenges a PR firm faces today.
Here’s what I suggest to keep a firm healthy — and moving toward the next significant milestone:
As an industry we’re poised for growth – in size and responsibility. Let’s go for it.
Written by PollackPRMktg on October 25, 2010.
Following is the next video as part of our year-long celebration of The Pollack PR Marketing Group’s 25th Anniversary. Happy Halloween!
Written by Geneva Overholser on September 25, 2010.
We introduce our next guest blogger of our monthly series on the 25th of every month, in celebration of our 25th anniversary this year, Geneva Overholser, director of the U.S.C. Annenberg School of Journalism.
Geneva Overholser is director of the U.S.C. Annenberg School of Journalism. She is former editor of the Des Moines Register, ombudsman for the Washington Post and editorial board member of the New York Times.
As the director of a Journalism School lucky enough to include a distinguished and growing department of strategic public relations, I’m struck by the many similarities in the ways our two fields – journalism and public relations – are experiencing today’s fast-changing times. Since I figure we need all the help we can during this Time of Unsettlement, I thought I might share with the blog’s readers my top five thoughts to keep in mind amid the change. They’re journalism-based, it’s true, but I hope you might find them helpful as we confront the many (similar) opportunities and challenges before us. And hearty congratulations on your 25 years!
1. It’s about the public. Change is hard, especially when the good old monopoly days were so generous to journalists. Still, how well journalists’ 401k’s are doing and whether we get to wear the fedora with the press pass is not the primary question. Rather, it ‘s whether or not the public is going to continue to get a high-quality flow of reliable information. When you cast your eye in this direction, the terrain still looks scary, but it also looks wide open and far more promising. And those good old legacy journalists will still, I’m betting, have a powerful role to play.
2. Traditions aren’t what matter; principles are. Here’s an example: I fought with all my might, when I was a newspaper editor, to keep ads off the front page. Now I’d welcome them hungrily – though I’d want to be sure they weren’t designed to deceive anyone. Ad-free front pages were a tradition; being transparent with readers is a principle. Other traditions? The inverted pyramid. The ink-on-paper platform. Paying little attention to what readers have to say. These, we must remember, are not the heart of the matter. Verification, transparency, proportionality, and comprehensiveness: These are what count.
3. Collaboration and participation are the future. Those who partner with others, link to others, aggregate the material of others, concentrate on what they alone can do best and point their news consumers to those who can offer them the rest – that’s what’s coming. Those who participate and collaborate are likeliest to thrive.
4. The good old days had their problems. We left out wide swaths of the community – the poor, people of color, most folks (for that matter) who weren’t in power or hadn’t done something criminal. As we journalists became more and more comfortable, we began to lose track of the old responsibility to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Moreover, our content was too top-down driven, and we tended to get stuck in conventional thinking.
5. We can do it BETTER this time. The people formerly known as the audience want to be (and are!) part of creating information in the public interest now. Helping them become better informed about how to do that (news literacy is key) will make our work ever richer, and our democracy ever stronger.
Written by Michael Pranikoff on August 25, 2010.
We introduce our next guest blogger of our monthly series on the 25th of every month, in celebration of our 25th anniversary this year, Michael Pranikoff, emerging media director for PR Newswire.
Michael Pranikoff, Global Director of Emerging Media at PR Newswire, is responsible for educating PR Newswire staff and customers about the role emerging media in marketing / communications. Michael is also involved in the development of products and services for PR Newswire in the area of emerging media. Michael joined PR Newswire in 1998. Prior to joining PR Newswire, Michael worked for MacNeil / Lehrer Productions which produces the PBS NewsHour. Michael graduated from Syracuse University. Michael maintains profiles across many social networks and social media outlets, connect with him at http://card.ly/MichaelPranikoff.
As I write this, I’m speeding though Germany on the high-speed ICE train from Hamburg to Berlin. I just finished a two-day tour of speaking and throughout this time, I’ve been working on a piece about managing corporate identity in a crisis situation.
Speed has been the underlying theme to just about everything in the past few days. The speed of our communications and the reactions to those messages are faster – and travel further — than they ever have before.
Since the 1950s, when the first press release ran across a wire service (PR Newswire – my employer), the pace of communications has been rapidly changing. Just 20 years ago we all were just getting acquainted with email. Today, we can’t go anywhere without it.
It’s important we listen effectively and react or communicate quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, that seems like an impossible thing to do for many organizations.
In my discussions around the world with communications professionals, there is always a sense of frustration at how long it takes to get a message together and push it out the door. I’ve heard countless stories about how a news release is written, sent around for approval, and two days later it’s returned as a completely different version with a few more messages and several hundred words longer. If this is really the process, then how do we react in a crisis situation?
We’ve all seen examples, where it takes days for a company to react to a situation publicly. Does this sound familiar? This just won’t do anymore. Communications professionals today must be empowered to communicate quickly. In order to do that, we must earn the trust of the corporation.
One way to gain this trust is to design a program that makes it easy for our peers and superiors to see that we know what we are doing. Design a flow chart that shows the steps to take when responding to something, the channels to use, and when to step back and examine further.
The best example of this that I’ve seen comes from an unlikely source – the United States Air Force. In reality, it shouldn’t be surprising that they would come up with a process. What is more surprising is that they’ve been so public and transparent with it, and I applaud them for it.
There are still other stunning examples of companies and organizations that have been responded quickly and effectively to kill a potential crisis situation. Last year, the Transportation Security Administration was able to thwart a potentially damaging story in a matter of hours when a mommy blogger posted a story entitled “TSA Agents Took My Son”. In less than half a day – lightning speed for almost any organization – TSA was able to research the situation and use proper channels (in this case, their blog) to combat this false story.
As my high-speed train starts to slow down to approach Berlin, I’m reminded that while we need to quickly react and respond today, TSA shows us that it only works when the right analysis has been done.
Having a process will immensely help, and I encourage everyone to think with L.A.S.E.R precision: Listen. Analyze. Strategize. Engage. Repeat.
Written by PollackPRMktg on August 25, 2010.
Following is the next video in a series celebrating The Pollack PR Marketing Group’s 25th Anniversary:
Written by Noemi Pollack on August 16, 2010.
Among the torrent of comments and opinions on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and relentless reporting in mainstream media that followed the dramatic exit of flight attendant Steven Slater, 38, who snagged two beers before he popped the emergency exit chute and slid out of the aircraft — came the challenge to PR professionals as to what would be their response if they were JetBlue.
Couldn’t resist, so here goes…
Same response as that of JetBlue — curt, funny, a bit irreverent, true to brand, direct to their customers via their blog and yes, 48 hours later. While it is true that this goes against the grain of every crisis communication principle, I would start by asking what were they supposed to respond to… the rage of a single individual, who had an irrational moment caused by unrestrained anger that triggered him to lose all sense of reason?
An official statement from the corporate office would have given this incident way too much credence.
Past just the brazen surprise of it all, the extended news of this incident got tied to the airline’s cutbacks, which made Slater just a victim of the state of affairs, a part of “an overworked, overwrought and exhausted crew,” thus making a case, or excuse, for Slater’s disruptive behavior.
Nonsense. They teach kids to “use their words” in lieu of having temper tantrums. Good advice for Slater.
Finally came a voice of reason from the Seattle Times, when Peter Loeb wrote, “The point here is, once again, the public is playing victim in this JetBlue incident. Praising Slater for totally unprofessional behavior condones conduct that decimates what’s left of our service-based economy.”
And even better, Loeb went on to say, “Put Slater off the payroll. I am sure he will delight in his 99 weeks of unemployment.”
But disruptions like this one have a cultural appeal. According to The New York Times, “he has become a paparazzi chum, a working person’s James Dean. Fans have set up a Steven Slater Facebook page, shout-outs are pouring in from every corner of the Internet, and at least three Slater ballads are making the rounds on YouTube.”
Somebody is likely to offer him a book deal, a reality show, and get him on the road of talk shows. Yes, he may get off JetBlue’s payroll, but our American culture will most likely turn him into a folk hero and that will bring him compensation well past his JetBlue salary.
The good news is that it will surely be short lived, for even folk culture cannot sustain the total lack of substance.
Remember Joe the Plumber? Probably not. Things like that have a tendency to fade into oblivion.
Written by James Flanigan on July 25, 2010.
Special guest post by James Flanigan. James Flanigan is a business columnist for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and other publications and has covered national and international business and economics for 46 years. James’ blog and information about his current book can by found at: http://jamesflanigan.com/.
For almost half a century, I’ve experienced public relations from the other side of the table, as a business journalist. So I’m going to tell a few stories, parables if you will, with points about PR in each one.
I’ll begin with a public relations man who did his job well and helped me at the same time. I broke in as a business reporter with the New York Herald Tribune, assigned to cover the oil, chemical, pharmaceutical and tobacco industries. Jack Gillespie was public relations for Socony Mobil, as the company was then called, and he figured it would be good if a reporter covering the industry also understood it. So he set up interviews not with top executives but with working oil men who were on temporary assignment in Mobil’s New York offices. Typically, a crusty fellow, uncomfortable behind a desk, would explain the economics of exploration, say, or how natural gas occurs along with oil and can be recovered.
Gillespie didn’t gild the lily; there was seldom a direct connection to a story about Mobil, but there was an indirect one in that industry stories were at least knowledgeable. In any event, no story comes from a single source and critical comment is always available–in those days it was from upstarts like Occidental Petroleum or ENI, the Italian state oil company, which were shaking up the solid front of the major oil corporations. A contrast is a story about British Petroleum, which has run into horrendous public relations trouble currently. In the late 1990s, after BP had acquired Amoco and was preparing to buy Arco, I interviewed its chief executive John Browne, later Lord Browne. Browne, to be sure, had intelligent perspective about the industry, but he was already preaching the company’s “beyond petroleum” environmental message. I wrote a column in the Los Angeles Times after that interview but in subsequent meetings it seemed to a skeptical reporter that image building grew into hype. I didn’t write and declined later offers of interviews because reporting is not stenography and interviews, even with CEOs, do not necessarily a story make. The point is that business is a human story and the most important quality a company can convey in any PR campaign is integrity.
So, I’ll tell one more story about an executive and the late, great business editor James W. Michaels of Forbes Magazine. Each year at Forbes, staff writers had to contact CEOs to compile information for the Jan. 1 industrial rankings. It was tedious work, often to get a boilerplate quote from the CEO. But I called Nathan Cummings, the founder of Consolidated Foods (later Sara Lee Corp.) and he was delightful and informative about the industry and the company. So I asked Michaels why if this guy is so informative, are others dull and evasive? And Jim explained: “Nate owns the company” (which was nonetheless public). “The other people are just hired hands, afraid if they say something in Forbes, they’ll lose their job or be in hot water at the country club.” In PR terms, that tells you not only what you want in a client but what to understand about editors.
Written by PollackPRMktg on July 25, 2010.
Following is the next video in a series celebrating The Pollack PR Marketing Group’s 25th Anniversary:
Written by Chris Paine on July 1, 2010.
Special guest post by Chris Paine. Chris directed “Who Killed the Electric Car?” His next film, “Revenge of the Electric Car” is set for release 2011. Currently, he is working on two projects related to the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. http://www.facebook.com/revengeoftheelectriccar http://www.facebook.com/chris.paine
Exxon Valdez veteran marine toxicologist and author Riki Ott (“Not One Drop”) laid out some disturbing comparisons of the two oil disasters during our recent shoot in Louisiana.
BP is using the same playbook Exxon used on us in Alaska. It’s all about minimizing liability and damages in court. So right off the bat, BP is underestimating how much is spilling, understating harm to the environment, claiming dispersants are “safe” and “not toxic” to marine life, and putting workers at risk because BP doesn’t want to supply respirators. BP says it will pay all “legitimate” claims, but what this means is ‘see you in court.’ Same old story with Exxon.
Here are a few examples:
1). Broken Promises: The oil industry makes false promises to get permits:
-Exxon: Promise: Double hull tankers and advanced vessel tracking so ‘not one drop’ of oil would spill in Alaska. Actuality: Single hull tanker grounds, destroying pristine ecosystem and fishing industry for decades.
-BP: Promise: State of the art drilling platforms with fail-safe safety procedures. Actuality: Multiple reckless decisions lead to massive oil spill threatening wide destruction of Gulf ecosystem, fishing and tourism.
2). Manipulate Government Regulations
-Exxon: Manipulate government regulatory bodies to receive multiple exemptions. Examples: A) Take advantage of OSHA exemptions for colds and flus to mask chemical poisonings of cleanup workers B) Convince EPA and Coast Guard to rubber stamp contingency plans like using low grade “mill pond” buoys instead of “ocean grade” buoys. C) Circumvent vastly variable effectiveness of dispersants for different oil grades by persuading EPA to create one “compromise” effectiveness rating D) Convince EPA to sign off on toxicologist reports for dispersants that have only been tested on older animals, not juveniles.
-BP: Examples A-D above still apply.
3). Spiller in Charge
The oil polluter becomes a ‘super state’ in charge of running response and cleanup. America leaves spiller in charge of cleanup. The Coast Guard sides with industry.
-Exxon: USCG signed off on “miles of beaches” treated. USCG backed up Exxon’s control of images.
-BP: Signs of similar activity.
4). Under-Reporting Spill:
-Exxon: In Alaska, Exxon reported up to 3 times less oil spilt then estimated by independent experts.
-BP: IN Gulf, BP at first estimated its spill at 1000 barrels of crude oil per day, then increased it to 5000 once researchers said it was at least this much. Now independent researchers using satellite images estimate as much as 70,000 barrels a day.
5). Under-Reporting Cleanup
-Exxon: Said that it recovered 10 to 12% of oil on beaches in Prince William Sound but this was based on its own underreported spill size. When you take actual spill size into account, Exxon actually only cleaned up about 4%. Eyewitnesses reported as much of 80% of recovered “oil” as being water in the last of three tankers that off-loaded “oil” from the stricken Exxon Valdez.
-BP: Initially claimed to be recovering 20% of spill with its first siphon but this was based on inaccurate flow meter data . Later estimates for recovered oil per day are considerably lower
6). Minimize public perception of impact
- Exxon: immediately put a flight restriction over area to prevent photography. It also required cleanup crews and workers not to talk to media or take photographs
-BP: Many reports of similar measures. Dispersants used to prevent visible oil slick. Massive messaging effort to minimize public and government reaction.
7). Sick wildlife
-Exxon. Ecosystem collapsed 4 years after Exxon Valdez spill. Pink Salmon eventually recovered but Herring fishery utterly collapsed and 15 of 24 species have not recovered 21 years later
-BP: Effect of oil and dispersants still unknown — and NOAA has not yet initiated comprehensive ecosystem studies despite vast extent of oiled estuaries and marshes.
8). Sick Communities
-Exxon. Medical and social trauma caused by collapse of fishing industry never anticipated or compensated. Domestic violence, divorce, suicide, drugs, and depression rates due to financial stress and cultural dislocation were at historic highs for 20 years with PTSD as high as 99% increases.
-BP. Hospitalized oil clean up workers. Already signs of severe financial stress amongst unemployed fisherman just recovering from Hurricanes Katrina/Rita. Cleanup workers facing illness without proper protection.
9). Minimize liability, Write off legal costs
-Exxon. Exxon appeals $5 billion punitive fine for 20 years until claim to reduced to $507 million – about 10% of original claims. Legal fees become a business expense, written off against revenue from taxpayers.
BP: ‘We will pay all legitimate claims’. “Translation?” says Ott, “See you in court.”
Written by PollackPRMktg on June 25, 2010.
Following is the next video in a series celebrating The Pollack PR Marketing Group’s 25th Anniversary:
Written by Paul Holmes on June 25, 2010.
We introduce our sixth guest blogger of our monthly series on the 25th of every month, in celebration of our 25th anniversary this year, Paul Holmes, the highly regarded PR industry analyst.
Paul Holmes is editor and publisher of The Holmes Report, which provides knowledge and insight to public relations professionals, and manages the SABRE Awards, recognizing Superior Achievement in Branding & Reputation.
I just returned from Barcelona, where more than 200 PR practitioners and evaluation experts gathered to pass the “Barcelona declaration” of research principles, an attempt to set global standards for the measurement of PR.
The principles are much needed. My publication runs the SABRE Awards competition in North America, EMEA and Asia, and so I see something like 3,000 PR campaign summaries a year, and measurement is far from standardized. I see everything from clip counts to advertising value equivalency (roundly condemned by the Barcelona delegates), while relatively few seek to link PR to business results.
I have long believed that public relations is about what the words say it is about: building, maintaining and leveraging relationships between an organization and its publics. As a result, I believe the best measure of success is the impact a campaign has on relationships.
The past few years have seen the emergence of new evidence suggesting a strong correlation between an organization’s relationships and business performance. Specifically, Bain & Company’s Fred Reichheld has looked at the connection between advocacy (the likelihood that someone will recommend a company to a friend or colleague) and performance, and found that advocacy (or what he calls net promoter score: the number of advocates minus the number of detractors) is a strong predictor of future success.
This ought to be great news for the profession, because I believe PR is uniquely positioned to create brand advocates. It is hard for me to imagine an ad campaign that would make me more likely to recommend a product to others, but there are plenty of PR campaigns that have done this: communicating a commitment to CSR, linking products with causes, special events that touch people directly. (It’s also easy to imagine PR failures that create brand detractors: BP being the most obvious recent example.)
There are two obstacles to progress on evaluation, however: agencies and clients: agencies, because they all want a proprietary measurement tool that differentiates them from competitors, at a time when we badly need an industry standard; clients, because they remain fixated on traditional reach and frequency measures at a time when social media are demonstrating that engagement and advocacy are what really matters.
As an industry, we need to develop a standard and sell it to clients if we are going to take advantage of the opportunity for leadership offered by this new social media age.
Written by Noemi Pollack on May 27, 2010.
The British should be familiar with parodies. After all they invented the form…
BP is ripe for mocking, as witnessed by the launch of the faux BP Twitter account, @BPGlobalPR, which already has outdistanced BP’s real Twitter stream, attracting nearly 60,000 followers, compared to the company’s 7,000 followers.
While it is true that the company’s real twitter account @BP_America offers continued updates about actions taken toward a solution of the international calamity, no one buys that the effort alone is commendable. And yet, in reading and watching all the hyperbole that the company puts out, all the gaffes made by its CEO and all the meager attempts at “talking” to a public through full page ads in the NY Times, daily, the company continues to exude a righteous behavior that is irritating and obnoxious, as well as arrogant and disdainful – certainly not characteristics that can endear a company to its many publics.
In the words of a tweeter, “The engineers (may) be busy but PR (folks) are (in) hiding.”
And so, while BP’s PR advisors seem to be AWOL, people turn to mocking.
It’s a real circus out there.
Twitterers are tweeting about the now “extinct mermaids” to the “sharks getting entangled in oil geysers” to changing the word catastrophe and agreeing to call it a “whoopsie daisy.” The faux account has sold “BP cares” T-shirts with the profits from the sales going to the nonprofit Gulf Restoration Network. Apparently its humorous blasts have been re-tweeted by everyone from filmmaker Michael Moore to singer Michelle Branch. And then there were preposterous headlines made by Kevin Costner and numerous TV appearances by Bill Nye, the Science Guy, the children’s show host who is apparently now an authority on the issue.
Apparently the faux twitter account’s fictional character “Terry” who has steadfastly remained in character, weakened and fell out of character when asked as to why this effort, to which he answered, “Companies screw up and then they hire folks like me to come in to make it look like they’re doing something while they figure out how to make money again.”
Well, there you have it – the public mocking of a company…
The curious thing is that according to a dialogue that Ad Age had with BP spokesman Toby Odone, he said that, “he wasn’t aware of any attempts by the company to have the feed taken down.” In playing the role of a real BP spokesman, the bogus one took the opposite stance – the one that the real BP should have taken in the first place by saying, “I’ve heard rumors of fake BP PR accounts, and I assure you if we find out who is in charge of them, we will annihilate them.” In further mocking the company, he added, “BP is doing everything we can to save our reputation and hopefully salvage some oil out of all this.”
Here’s advice for BP: hire the faux twitter account owner for advice as to next moves or push your PR folks out of hiding and make them unleash a PR campaign that is based on critical thought and one that is substantive…
Written by PollackPRMktg on May 25, 2010.
The next video by The Pollack PR Marketing Group as part of our monthly 25th anniversary celebration:
Written by Noemi Pollack on May 5, 2010.
As if the oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, with the potential of a global calamity of unimagined proportions, is not enough of a disaster for BP corporate, the company’s well recognized “Beyond Petroleum” campaign, launched almost 10 years ago, has come back to bite it.
The “beyond petroleum” campaign, which positioned the company as “transcending the oil sector” and as being innovative, progressive and environmentally responsible and performance-driven, now seems more of an empty marketing ploy than a true descriptor of a company on a mission.
It has the stench of public deception.
It is not BP’s first petroleum mess and PR disaster that it has wrestled with, proving that being environmentally responsible has to go beyond a marketing tag line. In 2006, it was disclosed that BP’s Prudhoe Bay pipeline, which supplies 8% of U.S oil production, was corroded and leaking — for many years because nobody inspected it. It is interesting to note John Kenney’s wry comment at that time in The New York Times, “The company that claims to be ‘beyond petroleum’ shut down a pipeline that serves up 400,000 barrels of oil a day. Maybe Coca-Cola’s new line should be, ‘It’s good for your teeth.’”
This time around, according to BP PLC Chairman Lamar McKay, “no preparations for such an accident were made because it was unforeseeable, and seemed inconceivable, that equipment in place to avert an oil-well blowout, would fail,” referring to a valve mechanism sitting on top of the oil well nearly a mile down in the ocean, which failed to shut in the malfunction. Reports surfaced that it had forgone a $500,000 “acoustic trigger” shut-off device required of offshore oil wells operating near Norway and Brazil. Apparently, this valve is the last line of defense against oil spurting out of the earth, but it didn’t seem to warrant another half-million expense.
Wouldn’t an environmentally concerned company have a plan ready for the “inconceivable” even if it was “unforeseeable” and include a plan that addresses the “last line of defense” as well? As Kenney commented back in 2006, “If BP hadn’t been so “holier than thou” in its marketing during the last few years, I doubt that it would be getting hammered right now — at least to this extent. “
Speaking of history repeating itself…
Creating a glorified company image through marketing tag lines, without a genuine effort to become what it says, will always backfire. Far better to take the cautious track and first make a genuine attempt to engage the public in a debate or a corporate rallying cry to change the paradigm – before you preach to the world what you cannot, or have not intention to, uphold.
In an ironic twist, BP was recently named as a finalist for a federal award honoring offshore oil companies displaying “outstanding safety and pollution prevention.”
Retiring the “Beyond Petroleum” posturing, has been urged before and considered, but rejected to date. Now is a good time…
Written by Noemi Pollack on April 22, 2010.
Wearing my PR marketing hat while reading today’s New York Times’ article by Leslie Kaufman headlined, “At 40, Earth Day Is Now Big Business,” I found that the position taken by Denis Hayes (the national coordinator of the first Earth Day and who is again returning 40 years later to organize this year’s activities), regarding how Earth Day had turned into a marketing platform for selling products and services, totally out of whack. Hayes said, “This ridiculous perverted marketing has cheapened the concept of what is really green,” and goes on to dramatically say, “It is tragic.”
Perverted marketing? Tragic? Not really. Opportunistic, yes, but that’s the good side of Corporate America – doing what it does best, but with a capitalistic bent, and jumping on the bandwagon of what seems a worthy and popular cause and — well OK, making a profit in doing so.
In part, Corporate America is actually responsible for supporting the original intent of Earth Day back in 1970 – to raise awareness of the urgent need to save our resources and stop the pollution of the planet — by developing services and products that are green and bringing them to the marketplace. The very marketers that Hayes criticized so harshly, the ones that saw an opportunity of maximizing Earth Day as a marketing platform, are also those that have been responsible for the rise of eco-consumerism, albeit as a by-product benefit.
So I say to the many pioneers of the environmental movement that find that eco-consumerism detracts from Earth Day’s original intent – think again. In part, it is continuing the job that the pioneers intended and spreading it far wider than bullhorn demonstrations ever could dream of.
Just consider what has happened over the forty years that ensued since that first Earth Day, back in 1970, when Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York City addressed a crowd of tens of thousands in Union Square, amidst an atmosphere that The New York Times then likened to a “secular revival meeting.” Forty years ago, only environmental activists thought about re-cycling or land fill poisons or polluted fisheries. Now, before consumers buy, they check labels as to what “poison” might be in cleaning products, think “organic” before buying produce and use recyclable containers where possible, just to mention a few habits that have crept into our norm. We are becoming a society of eco-consumerists, and we have Corporate America to thank for its leadership in environmental innovation, as well as in getting customers to care, and then buy.
So I thank FAO Schwartz for its Greenzys penguin toy that, as an “ardent supporter of recycling, reusing and reducing waste” serves as a good role model for kids, and also Bahama Umbrella for its specially designed umbrella, with a drain so that water “can be stored, reused and recycled,” and the Gray Line, for its “Earth Week” package of day trips to green spots, as well as the many more companies that are turning us into an eco-consumerist society.
It’s become a partnership between environmental activists and Corporate America. One needs the other for the good of all.
Written by Noemi Pollack on April 1, 2010.
Almost a year ago, on April 17 of ’09, in my blog titled, Bringing Brands Down Without A Safety Net… I wrote about Domino’s nightmare customer-generated video, showing disgusting and filthy antics from a server in preparing a pizza. The video exploded virally on YouTube, causing unspeakable damage to the 50-year old reputation of the company. As it turns out, the story had a happy ending, with Domino’s ultimate brand pivot — as they reformulated recipes and opened up a first-ever transparency communication on social networks.
Now it’s food giant, Nestlé’s turn to battle social media wars, as Greenpeace-backed environmental activists used social media in the last two weeks, to attack Nestlé over its purchase of palm oil for use in their KitKat candy bars and other products. As reported by Emily Steel of the Wall Street Journal, the protestors “have swamped Nestle’s Facebook page with negative comments, used Twitter as a loud speaker and, posted a negative video on YouTube.
The activists claim that, “Nestlé is contributing to the destruction of Indonesia’s rain forest, potentially fueling global warming and endangering orangutans.” Yet according to Nestle, only 1.25% of all the palm oil Nestlé used last year was from the Indonesian firm.
Not much chance that Nestlé will be responsible for destroying any rain forest in the near future. Clearly much ado over nothing, but that’s not the point. It’s out there, regardless.
Look, attacks on brands by individuals or consumer groups are not new. The “genie is out of the bottle” and there is no stuffing it back in anymore. Companies will have to live with the fact that social media has offered all those who wish, a speaker’s platform with a “mega-bullhorn,” giving credence to all, without thought as to “from whose mouth it cometh.” Social media channels have enabled the volume to be turned up and the speed to quicken as to damaging rhetoric, leaving brands exposed and naked, with little recourse how to halt the onslaught.
Nestle’s contemporary dilemma has elicited various responses from professionals. Some have suggested that Nestlé should temporarily shut down its Facebook page. Some have suggested they should cut down any two-way communications for now. Others have encouraged the company to post changes that will abate the protests, which it did, but the din continues. Nestlé itself had asked YouTube to take down the videos, but unfortunately only after the videos had spread virally beyond control.
I would offer that preparedness might be the answer. It always was so, but traditionally crises plans were more geared to accidents, product failures, whistle blowers or general company disasters, such as manufacturing delays. A crisis communication plan clearly should include social media “attacks” from consumer groups, replete with a multi-media planned response approach.
I would add that a policy of ongoing transparency, coupled with daily interaction and consumer engagement can, with any luck, catch a disgruntled comment that can get an immediate response, well before it spirals out of control. May be time consuming to do, but necessary…
The Army had it right – Be Prepared.
Written by Mark Havenner on March 8, 2010.
It is arguably widely known in the public relations world that “social media press releases” can tremendously impact the appeal of a press release to both the media and consumers. Popularized by communications professionals like Brian Solis, these releases offer a different tone in language and often include multi-media assets like photos and videos as well as widgets that make the release easy to share. In the past two years, wire services have caught onto the trend and now provide social media release templates in their service packages.
While social media press releases do make an otherwise dry communication tactic more interesting, the real potential of how press releases can evolve has yet to be realized. There are many emerging tools that can make releases compelling, interactive and even viral. Thinking outside of the “press release box” can add a mark of creativity on press communication that not only garners more attention but also invites the recipient of the release to be more involved with the news.
When constructing a social media press release, one should consider assets not traditionally used for multi-media and develop a narrative around the release that will captivate and engage a wide audience.
Following are examples of the potential for creative interactive elements that can be used:
Many companies already know about the power of SlideShare. The ability to create a presentation, upload, and use on other sites as embeddable content, can be an invaluable communication tool. In the context of press releases, this can be a way to organize the message and make it interactive. Also using SlideShare provides the added benefit of having your messages exist in a social and sharable online network.
It is often awkward to have more than one photo on a release, but a SlideShare embed will allow for as many photos as you please and can be easily browsed by the reader. Another use is presentational communication. Putting key points with engaging images can be a visual way to punctuate information within a release.
In particular, releases about new products, studies, or other stories that require a great amount of support data, a slideshow, can encapsulate the information visually for the reader and encourage media to re-use the element in their story.
Podcasts may bring visions of radio production with a mixer board, headphones and cables into one’s head. In reality, podcasts are very easy, extremely popular and effective. In the increasingly mobile world, podcasts are an upward trending way consumers access information. For the purposes of a press release, it can be a one-shot deal or part of a regular program of communication.
Podomatic is a powerfully simple website that allows one to freely record, host, and embed podcasts. Once recorded, they can be shared, downloaded, embedded or distributed throughout social media. Putting key messages into audio in the form of a “news report” or interview can be a powerful way to demonstrate the newsworthiness of the story and also deliver an element that the media would be inclined to use in their coverage.
With innovative sites like xtranormal you don’t need a camera, actors, or location to make a movie. You can simply type in a script and use animated characters, in a setting you choose, to speak the lines. This, like the others, can be easily embedded and distributed online.
Many in the blogosphere have taken advantage of xtranormal and often make humorous movies that offer commentary for their audience. This can also be a valuable tool for press releases. Putting information from a release into a visual conversation creates a shareable element for media to use, but also delivers the messages in an engaging way to viewers.
Here is an example of one I made to demonstrate the point:
All of these methods ultimately accomplish a broader objective of bringing messages out in a variety of vehicles to reach a broader audience. Using sharable tools like the ones mentioned here provide a level of interaction in social media releases that images or twitter buttons alone won’t accomplish. They also provide more reasons to push that “Share This” button.
Written by Noemi Pollack on March 4, 2010.
It took 18 months, hundreds of billions of dollars in Federal loans and a Gallup poll that found consumer confidence in financial institutions at the lowest level since the poll began asking the question 34 years ago, to have banks get into gear and do something about their much-tarnished public image. Apparently the wheels turn slowly with financial institutions…
Here’s how it went: financial institutions continued their staid and true messages of stability and longevity for the first few months of the financial crisis; this was followed by “no message is the best message,” clearly a stance that never works; then messages slowly evolved into a defensive blame game, which quickly turned around into rounds of apologies; and now, finally, recognition seeped in that something needs to be done about re-building public trust of their industry.
It took 18 months and the public remained indignant. Just consider the arrogance of it all…
According to Nathaniel Popper’s report in the LA Times, some banks are now forging new ground in connecting to the public. The surge in marketing has taken banks into uncharacteristic new territories. Bank of America has staffers responding to customer complaints via Twitter; banks such as Citigroup and Bank of America are having their respective CEOs trotted out to make personal appearances at individual bank branches; uplifting ad campaigns are launched such as Citigroup’s, in which CEO, Vikram Pandit says, “It’s clear that we made some mistakes coming into this environment, and we have to acknowledge that.” Bank of America has actually moved away from same old traditional ways by adding a new website that centers on public perception of the bank, rather than products or services.
But nothing has really begun to pierce the intense public anger.
Although the recent moves reflect a recognition that a different approach is needed to contend with the public’s ongoing outcry, I project it to be a long road ahead. For example, just last week in my blog of February 24, titled Chase Bank – The Latest Poster Child For Customer Service Ills, I noted that customers calling the Chase #800 number were getting the same old run around, without change, in their search for a solution to their query. Announcing management, operations and staff changes, as did Citibank and Bank of America, is not sending any message. It is simply news and not likely to tweak up the trust factor until the news evolves into a positive result.
Public Relations counselors would do well to encourage financial institutions to take a page out of the original Community Reinvestment Act passed in 1977 (which requires banks to lend in the low-income neighborhoods where they take deposits) and become active in neighborhoods in which they do business, where they would be seen as partners in rebuilding communities. They could also send a strong message of “caring for a community” by taking an active interest in community education; behave as leaders in the communities by partaking in city councils; and become conversant with customers on social media networks. Investing resources into such a program would “buy” them the much-needed trust — sooner than later.
As a direct example, the Los Angeles Unified School District is in deep financial trouble. Just today it announced a 4,000-teacher/staff/administrator layoff. The implications to the future of education of children are disturbing. Would it not be a great slot for any of the bigger banks to fill? What a hero the bank would be…
I have to add that I take exception to the quote in the LA Times report of CEO of Financial Marketing Solutions, Tim Pannell saying, “We need some really genuine, believable pathos — look you in the eye and say, ‘We acknowledge the troubles, we understand maybe we could have done things differently’.”
Pathos may make everyone feel better, but actual customer engagement will effect a change.
Written by Mark Havenner on February 26, 2010.
Last week a Digital Trenches discussion noted the rising trend in interest surrounding daddy bloggers. But in face of this week’s eMarketer published report, mommies still have that edge with marketers. And for good reason. According to the report, 68% of new mothers began using “mom-centric social media” after having children, and 33% increased their use of social media in general. Couple that with the current estimate that mothers control 80% of household spending, then it becomes clear why marketers prefer Moms. Senior eMarketer analyst Jeffrey Grau commented that moms come together to “share information about product deals” – a valuable bonus to marketers.
Is the value of mommy bloggers in their buying power? Or is it more about their networking power? The evidence is in what marketers approach mommy bloggers for: endorsements. If their value is really buying power, then simply advertising on a “mom-centric” social network like BabyCenter or Circle of Moms would likely get the job done. While that may be happening, the activity getting the most attention in 2009 by, not only the media, but the FTC, was product reviews.
One can easily conclude then that the value of mommy bloggers is their ability to influence other moms and to leverage their buying power. If that is true, then a mommy blogging is something akin to consumer journalism and marketers would be wise to take note.
Here are five ways marketers can earn a mommy journalist’s respect for a highly valued third party endorsement:
Mommy bloggers have an invested interest in their readers and approaching them with a journalistic respect will show that marketers truly understand the value of a mom.
Written by Noemi Pollack on February 10, 2010.
The first time that Pepsi elects to forgo its past 26 years of advertising on the Super Bowl and selects to spend $20 million for a massive multi-channel interactive social media campaign, it collides with the Annual Trust Barometer from Edelman PR, which reports that peer to peer trust has surprisingly waned in favor of more credible sources. Not that, at first glance, one has anything to do with the other, except that just when viral marketing seems like a smart strategy, smarter than even Super Bowl advertising, the Trust Barometer’s survey results show that trust in friends and peers as credible sources has dropped by almost half, from 45% to 25%, in the last two years.
And the parameters of the Pepsi Refresh campaign is all about the populous votes of “friends and peers” who will decide as to which ideas or projects Pepsi should fund in grant money in six categories: health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, the neighborhoods and education. It will be the people’s choice as to which of the 1000 ideas submitted are to receive grants that range from $5,000 to $250,000, figures not to be taken lightly. And the criteria for voting is exactly — what?
How does that work? “Oh this is cool, I think I will vote for this.” Click. Or, “My boyfriend is really into bands, so I think I will vote for that.” Click. How about, “I’ll feel good if I vote for the local health clinic.” Click. Some ideas submitted are more political as in “Help free healthcare clinic expand services to uninsured in rural Tennessee (TN).” Click. (I live in rural TN.) Or I live in Kansas so I vote for, “Build a fitness center for all students in Hays, Kansas community.”
Click. Click. Click. “And the check goes to…” Every month, Pepsi will award up to 32 grants to projects voted on by the most clicks.
By all accounts the “ Pepsi Refresh” initiative is everything that an ideal interactive campaign can be – creative, innovative, highly engaging and very popular, while building on the brand in a fun and social way. But I venture to say that the challenge that Pepsi faces, and that other companies are bound to also face, as they delve deeper into social media’s ever-expanding communication opportunities is that at some point, critical thinking will matter.
Look, the “Pepsi Refresh” program should be nothing like an American Idol segment where voters root for the next star just because they “like.” Nor should it be like clicking on “like” on a photo or comment on Facebook. In creating a program that allows a populous vote to decide on grants, votes that can make a difference as to whether a school’s music program gets funded or whether an elder care facility expands its programs, Pepsi’s challenge is to go against the very fiber of social media’s whims, set a criteria upon which they can deliberate, and turn the populous vote into a credible one.
Failing that, it is but a game — one that is being played out with a lot of money, with no sense of fairness and with little trust in the voters’ selection.
Any serious and worthy projects submitted should not mistake it for anything else.
Written by Noemi Pollack on February 7, 2010.
As if Toyota does not have enough troubles, along comes Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood…
Apparently, during testimony before a Congressional panel Secretary LaHood was asked as to what guidance he would give to Toyota owners affected by a series of recalls. Not one to ever mince words, reminiscent of President Harry Truman’s folksy style, LaHood said, “If anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it. And take it to a Toyota dealer.”
Feels like sound advice to me. You better believe it that if my car had the possibility of brake troubles the only driving I would do is to the dealer. Toyota itself has urged drivers of recalled cars to do so.
But unfortunately the media heard only three words –“stop driving it” and a PR storm erupted as those words, now out of context, ricocheted over the airwaves, print publications, news wires and Internet, unfurling an all around “hissy fit.” Toyota expressed “dismay,” and the Chief of Staff at the White House, Rahm Emanuel, felt obliged to come to Mr. LaHood’s defense, saying that “the President thinks Ray’s been a great secretary,” and adding that “when the Secretary misspoke, he immediately realized he’d said it.”
Misspoke. LaHood did try to modify his words, saying “What I said in there was obviously a misstatement,” adding that he meant to say, “If you own one of these cars, or if you’re in doubt, take it to the dealer.”
Sounds like semantics to me. Same message, softer edges…
In any case, this has once again made the case for being scripted in the first place – and sticking to it.
Look, as communication professionals, we agonize about the possibility of a client breaking with carefully crafted messaging that is painstakingly dissected for any potential risks. In the case of LaHood, being in the position of transportation authority, the risk of going “off message” is that his words can further damage the already tarnished Toyota image with consumers and be “officially” seen, per his position, as escalating fears of safety causing even the White House to issue a statement of confidence in the Secretary. But, damage done. Backtracking rarely works.
Here’s my advice: change the old adage of “Think before you speak” to “Read before you speak.” Helps to stay on message…
Today, the agency introduces a new channel on the corporate blog called “Digital Trenches,” which will feature tactical suggestions and guidance on trending digital communications and marketing topics including search optimization, social media, mobile marketing, online media and the blogosphere.
Written by Noemi Pollack on January 31, 2010.
What a week! Apple finally raised the curtain on its greatly anticipated new tablet, the iPad, sending the Internet aglow for 24 hours, only to have some public nonsense erupt about the use of the word “pad,” which could easily have been but a nonsensical blip, had it not made the front page of The New York Times on January 29; President Obama delivered a much anticipated State of the Union, which instantly flared national emotions, from pride to fury; an American icon turned up as Italian; a German car company unleashed a storm through its Green Police ad campaign; and finally, Toyota delivered an expensive “Mea Culpa.”
1 Blip: Could anyone ever have thought that the name of the new Apple tablet, iPad, would evoke awkward associations with feminine hygiene products? According to Michael Cronan, a naming consultant in Berkeley, Calif., whose company has helped come up with brand names like TiVo and Kindle, “many naming experiments show that women tend to reflexively relate words like “pad” and “flow” to bodily concerns.”
C’mon. Apple’s marketing team must be incredulous. Happily their response was no comment.
2 Blunders: McItaly and Green Police. An American export icon turns Italian, and a German company brings up reminders of the Third Reich. Unreal. Along with apple pie, the golden arches of McDonalds are recognized internationally as very American indeed. And, along comes McItaly, so named because it apparently will use only Italian ingredients. When McDonalds showed up in Moscow in the early ’90, the company also used only Russian ingredients but it did not become McRussia. Speaking of diluting what a brand stands for…. According to The Guardian‘s Word of Mouth foodblog, Matthew Fort, the burgers are a “monstrous act of national betrayal.” Couldn’t agree more.
Audi’s misstep in picking an environmentally friendly name for their Super Bowl social media campaign, as in “Green Police,” without first checking it out, was a huge marketing blunder. Readily available research would have revealed that the name was used in Nazi Germany to refer to the German Order Police. Whether or not consumers will know their history enough to connect the dots, does not justify such oversight. An apology is in order. And also maybe a new marketing team that gets that research can forestall damage to a company’s image.
1 Headache: the $550 million operating cost headache for Toyota, as it recalled 5.6 million vehicles in the United States alone, swallowed production shutdowns and searched for fixes to have the problem go away, sooner than later. However, much like the Johnson & Johnson Tylenol recall of the ‘80s, which left the company unscathed because of its strong and open responses, Toyota is doing what is right in an effort to keep the public trust. Its president has issued a Mea Culpa apology and company communiqués continue to update the public.
And finally the one word that is rarely heard, if at all, in political speeches — Decency. President Obama used this word in his State of the Union address, citing the, “fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people, that lives on.” A word to be remembered…
Thank God it’s almost — Monday.