Tag Archives: pr

That’s Not What I’m Here To Discuss

Also known as “No Comment”

nocommentHere’s some PR analysis from Matt Wilson at Ragan.com on a recent interview with former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. As reported at Mediaite, after MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell posed a question about spying, Oren’s earpiece (conveniently?) had “technical issues.” Coincidence?

Another approach could have been to state, “Sorry, but I’m not going to offer you any insight there…” then steer the discussion back to his message: “what I can tell you is…” and then: key talking points.

Other phrases useful in this situation:

  • “I’m not going to speak to that, but…”
  • “I understand your question, but we’re here today to talk about…”
  • “This has been addressed elsewhere (only if so), but right now…”

The lesson here is to acknowledge the inquiry directly and politely, but not offer any additional information — then promptly get the conversation back on message. It can be tricky in the heat of the moment, especially on a controversial issue, but this can also be a more honest approach in the direction of getting PR right. It’s more likely to help ensure an interviewee’s points are heard, and is far friendlier than a blunt “no comment.”

Check out these additional options offered by Ragan’s PR Daily: Alternatives to “No Comment,” and see this video of awkwardness compiled by Huffington Post of politicians dodging reporters.

What do you think? Have you ever been asked something where your only answer was “no comment?” Do any examples of question-dodging come to mind? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Twitter PR Win For Sainsbury’s

This is a particularly good Twitter PR moment from a while back for UK grocer Sainsbury’s I happened upon lately. It works because of the follow-up, and also for the brief interjection of personality and humor:

And then…

But what really counts is that Sainsbury’s followed up the comedy moment with direction for the customer to call them directly.

SainsburysThis has all the makings of Twitter being done right for customer service and PR:

  1. The brand shared an actual human-like response
  2. It was funny
  3. But they take it seriously; hence the phone redirect
  4. We’re talking about it

I noticed this via a LinkedIn discussion from Twitter for PR Communicators about PR Daily, who noticed it through AdWeek.

Also, rest in peace, Ultimate Warrior.

What do you think? Is this use of humor appropriate? Have you ever experienced a humorous interaction from a brand via Twitter or some other channel? Let us hear from you in the comments.

In The News? LinkedIn Knows!

Perhaps you have a role as a spokesperson for your business or your public relations clients that sees your name, or their names in print, broadcast or on the web. If this is the case, then you’ll want to be paying attention to LinkedIn more closely.

LinkedIn is rolling out a new feature where you or your contacts are mentioned in your email if they (or you) are “in the news.”

LinkedIn Mentioned In The News

I reached out to LinkedIn for details on this, including how to disallow it, should a site member wish to be excluded from the program. I also asked how they differentiate between users with similar names (how do they know to highlight the right Richard Smith, for example?) Here is their response:

We do have back end algorithms that differentiate members with similar names. We also offer functionality to disable this from your settings. You can turn your activity broadcasts on or off and select who can see your activity on their homepage from the Privacy & Settings page.

LinkedIn Trust & Safety

So if you’re already famous, get ready for more exposure. And if you aren’t famous already, LinkedIn can now help you get there – unless you’d rather it not, in which case you might want to review your settings.

What do you think? Are you active on LinkedIn? What are your observations of the site? Do you find this new feature beneficial or intrusive? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Inside McDonald’s: PR 101

As one who pays attention to the public relations world, I often notice especially good or especially bad examples. One especially good example I noticed recently was McDonald’s CEO, Don Thompson, in a brief CNBC piece, Inside McDonald’s.

insidemcdonaldsCNBC fires several tough-ish questions at Thompson, all of which he answers in plain English, followed by one very important thing: he steers the discussion back to his points. Even the classic, “(controversial topic) followed by, “how do you feel about this?'” comes back around to “we’re about opportunity” in a conversational manner.

Talking Points & Must-Airs

It’s pretty clear that in preparing for this interview – and you know there was some serious preparation – keywords definitely included, “opportunity,” “innovation,” “real food,” and a few others that stand out to anyone who’s ever done any sort of media analysis. Still, Thompson comes off as sincere, keeping his cool (very important), and gives a textbook example of handling questions on one’s feet.

Reporter: You said last year the menu to you seemed to lack a bit of energy. You didn’t want to repeat what you did last year. What went wrong?

Thompson: Well, I’ll say it’s less than what went wrong, it’s what didn’t we do? It’s always about the opportunity. Some of the opportunities we had were… (and: back to talking points).

Inside McDonald’s is much less of a hard-hitting exposé than a top-level look at how things operate. Regardless of what you think of McDonald’s (they are not paying me for this, and I do eat there occasionally) or the merits of this production vs. others – see Netflix for some less-than-friendly reviews – the interaction between reporter and executive here is what makes this worth watching.

Here’s Inside McDonald’s in its entirety via Bloomberg.com:


What do you think? Have you seen any examples of good or bad PR lately? Have you ever developed talking points or been in a similar media situation yourself? Let us hear from you in the comments.

American Apparel’s “Bored During the Storm?” Campaign: PR Stunt or Well-Intentioned Goof?

Really, American Apparel?American Apparel AdvertisementIt would seem obvious these days that capitalizing on catastrophe via social media is in poor taste. So why would an otherwise savvy brand like American Apparel appear to be doing exactly that?

Given the very poorly received efforts of Kenneth Cole during protests in Egypt, you would think other retailers would have a clue by now, right?

It’s one thing for a business somehow connected with a major upheaval to approach the line between altruism and marketing. And it’s certainly a fine line. Consider American Express’ Sandy-related communication efforts for its travel customers:

But it’s another thing entirely to risk the appearance of piggybacking on disaster for advertising’s sake. Sure, it gets some buzz, but is it worth all the backlash?

As reported by Huffington Post:

CEO Dov Charney did not express disappointment over American Apparel’s marketing team capitalizing on Hurricane Sandy. “I don’t think our marketing guys made a mistake. Part of what you want to do in these events is keep the wheels of commerce going,” he told Business Week. “People shopped on it. We generated tens of thousands of dollars from the sale, but we’ll probably lose a million dollars from this (storm) event at a minimum. We’re here to sell clothing. I’m sleeping well at night knowing this was not a serious matter.”

And here’s another take from American Apparel’s representatives, via Fashionista:

When reached for comment over email, an American Apparel spokesperson told us, “Of course we’d never mean to offend anyone and when we put the email out yesterday it came from a good place.”

So, is this really a big deal?

However in poor taste it may now seem in the wake of Sandy’s devastation, American Apparel’s approach was not in mean spirits, even though it’s easy to characterize it as such. The company has a history of corporate responsibility – along with a history of pushing the envelope through its marketing for PR purposes. And it serves them no purpose whatsoever to appear flippant or dismissive. Upon investigation, it’s clear they don’t wish anyone further misery from Hurricane Sandy, what with their acknowledging as much in the subsequent damage control. As reported by ABC News:

Ryan Holiday, spokesperson for American Apparel, responded to ABC News in an email:

“For us, this is about us working like crazy to get and keep our stores open. We’ve got employees who can’t work when stores are closed due to weather and the biggest Made in USA factory in the country that sits idle–we would never try to offend anyone or capitalize on a natural disaster, this was simply an effort to mitigate some of the effects of the storm on our business.”

Fair enough. So what next?

My advice for American Apparel right now:

  • Turn your affected stores into recharge-stations with power strips and free wi-fi for all so someone can tweet some good about you. Buy generators if necessary. It won’t cost much and ROI would be huge.
  • Give 20% off to ANYONE, nationwide, referencing the ad for the next week to capitalize on the viral nature of the campaign, requiring a tweet or Facebook post with hashtag #aacares or similar. Cost to you: minimal.
  • Donate 20% of profits for the next week to northeast U.S. chapters of the Red Cross. Yes, this will cost some cash, but there’s no arguing with a monetary statement.
  • Just  be proactive somehow to make this right. Or risk being one of the “don’ts” of social media. Better to be one of the “OK, we get it” stories instead.
What do you think? Is this a PR blunder or a marketing gimmick? Are you more or less inclined to shop American Apparel now? Do these suggestions make sense, or is there something you would recommend? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Pulitzer Prize – NOT!

Is one of the bulwarks of writing using reverse psychology public relations?

I wouldn’t even have noticed this if it weren’t for the fact that it seems to be happening two years in a row. In these days of e-readers and scannable headlines taking attention away from traditional print media, the Pulitzer board (you know, the ones responsible for that prize) did not see fit yet again to issue an award in a major category.

Where's My Prize? Joseph Pulitzer Ponders.

Where’s My Prize? Joseph Pulitzer Ponders. Click for original photo by Pete Toscano*

Last year it was Breaking News (the category) with no prize, which resulted in several snarky tweets, including my own, pointing out the “breaking news” of there being no actual breaking news worthy of an award.

This year, despite having selected three works as potential winners, the board awarded no prize in the Fiction category. This has upset some publishers, but on the other hand has resulted in news coverage about guess what: the Pulitzer Prize.

No Prize = More Coverage?

Not only that, but the works nominated in the Fiction category are now all receiving publicity, rather than the case of simply one title appearing on the list that fewer people might pay attention to.

So how about that? The absence of the award brings attention to even more works. In the short-term, this is a good thing, but I can’t help thinking that it may devalue the overall impact of the prize. Because I’m sure there will be ample hyping of “Pulitzer Prize nominee” more so than in years past for these titles. Also, I agree that it sucks to be nominated when there’s no winner in the category at all. If not for the bonus PR and the glory of being noted in the blogosphere (obviously), it would seem rather anticlimactic.

The board has gotten away with this stunt for two years in a row, but what does that do to the credibility of a prize that’s become a metric across so many fields? In the meantime, here are the nominees – go check them out.

And here are some books I’ve read that, while not winning any Pulitzers, I’ve still found entertaining enough to hold my interest lately.

What do you think? Read any good books lately? Does this anti-tactic actually justify the means for more coverage, or do you think is this even a tactic at all? Let us hear from you in the comments.

*Photo licensed under Creative Commons.

Looking for a Job in PR? Know Your Social Media.

You gotta’ walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Click to view video

In this video, Mark Ragan talks with Weber Shandwick VP of Digital Communications, Jason Wellcome, about how social media is playing an important role in the hunt for Public Relations talent.

Social media is changing how résumés are viewed in the PR industry

Wellcome says, “this whole transition to social media and the earned side of the pie has bode well for communications and PR, but there’s still a lot PR folks have to consider in their businesses to optimize that change.” I’d say that applies doubly if not more so for job seekers — and not just in PR, but across industries.

As LinkedIn has all but made it their goal to be nothing less than a deathblow to the paper résumé, our digital selves become ever more relevant. As far as going totally paperless, I don’t think we’re there yet (and the Wall Street Journal agrees) but having your digital act together is mandatory. Even if you aren’t in the PR industry, you’re definitely in it for yourself if you’re looking to get hired — so be your own best representative.

As Wellcome says, “Everyone’s media now.” And if you claim to know more about “the space” than what your activity actually shows… you ain’t getting the job. Best part of what he says about PR candidates here:

Three things that make PR candidates stand out:

  • Passion
  • Curiosity
  • Not fearing the trial & error of finding out what works.

I say these are great qualities to have not just for PR, but in any industry.

What do you think? Do these apply to your field? Have you recently been on the job hunt, and did social media play a role ? Have you ever screened candidates’ social media presences when hiring, or been screened yourself (that you know of)? Let us hear from you in the comments.