Self-Serving PR is Never Okay: Just Ask Dane Cook

danecookOn May 30, Boston hosted a fundraiser concert for The One Fund to support victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. By all accounts, it was a great success with numerous celebrities, most with Boston ties, contributing their time to help raise $1.5M for the fund.

Unfortunately, the event and the meaning behind it was marred by the decision to halt live web streaming of the event at the request of comedian Dane Cook. As he explained on Twitter, he didn’t want his new material to hit the airwaves yet and sought to minimize that risk by shutting out millions of online viewers.

It’s certainly no surprise that folks in the Boston area have some rather strong opinions about the topic. Some believe he used this charitable event as a promotional opportunity; others believe he was justifiably concerned about protecting his material. Personally, I question the event producers’ decision to go along with this, as catering to celebrity demands seems to go against the overall spirit of the event.

Which got me thinking: Why, in this social media-empowered world, would anyone pull a stunt like this and not expect widespread negative backlash?

Perhaps Cook and his management subscribe to the old school mindset that ‘any press is good press.’ Or perhaps they just didn’t think it through. History is overrun with stories of brands and celebrities using tragic events for personal gain. As PR professionals, we’ve all been in the position where we’ve had to carefully weigh the potential backlash of a disaster-related story and have advised caution versus the risk of appearing insensitive.

This is precisely why I wanted to weigh in on what Cook could have done differently to avoid – or minimize, at the very least – the damage.

  1. Don’t. Just don’t. Charity events are neither the time nor the place to be opportunistic. If leaking information is too large of a concern, use other content – or don’t participate.
  2. Seek feedback outside your immediate circle/company. Cook’s agent or manager has as much stake in his success as he does. Can they truly be impartial? And where, oh where, was his publicist?
  3. Know your audience. Whether you’re delivering a presentation at an industry conference, visiting a partner in a foreign country, celebrating a company milestone with employees, or entertaining the Boston Strong community, it is vitally important to understand what your audience is all about. Know what they care about, learn what to avoid, and customize your actions to best fit their needs.
  4. Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Yes, social media can be a boon for many, but it also has the potential to be a monster…a living, growing, roiling beast with sharp claws. Don’t ignore it, and never underestimate its potential to both help and harm.
  5. Apologize. A heartfelt apology can go a long way. Sam Fiorella at Sensei Marketing shares some excellent examples of well-executed brand apologies and their PR value.

In the end, Cook’s actions may have been self-serving, but he did fly across the country to take part in an important fundraiser and I suppose he should get some credit for that.

So what if he locked out a couple million viewers (and satellite radio listeners)? Did he really cause any irreparable harm to The One Fund or to those people in attendance at the event? Probably not. Does that make it okay, though? Hell no!

And as this PR firestorm rages on, I’m willing to bet Cook recognizes his colossal misstep for what it is: a big fat PR don’t.

A lesson in social media missteps: Advice for Amy’s Baking Company

o-AMYS-BAKING-COMPANY-facebookBy now most of us have heard of the recent social media meltdown by Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro owners, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo.

The Scottsdale-based couple was recently featured on an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” where, ultimately, the Bouzaglos were allegedly so difficult to work with that Ramsay fired them.

But what started as reality TV fodder unraveled into a crisis communications professional’s dream this past week, when they took to the company’s Facebook Page to respond to criticism and comments.

Instead of quelling the storm, however, the Bouzaglos only added more fuel to the fire. In their misguided attempts at defending their brand, they provoked exponentially more derision via comments on Reddit and negative reviews on Yelp.

The downward spiral continued (although many of the negative comments have been removed, highlights were documented in this Buzzfeed post) until Amy and Sam seemed ready to wave the white flag by declaring that their Facebook, Yelp, Twitter account, and website had been hacked.

But the next chapter of the saga started when, in an attempt to disassociate itself from the surrounding firestorm, the restaurant opened a new Facebook page and posted an update about the alleged hacking.

Strangely enough, though, the tone and content of the posts on the new page were very similar to the “hacked” comments on the original page. This has only incited further interest from Internet trolls who are still flocking to the page in droves (follower counts went from 2,800 to more than 100,000 at this writing) to follow the drama as it unfolds.

As the tirade continues to make news, many people are calling for the restaurant to close its doors. The incident has certainly sparked conversation amid the PR community about brands and how they handle social media, so we wanted to share a few takeaways on best practices for managing similar situations before they become a national debacle.

  1. Pick your battles. The Bouzaglos attempted to take on the entire Internet, it seems, by responding to every Facebook post and creating fake Reddit accounts to take on commenters there as well. Instead, had they prioritized and responded only to a select number, they could have avoided they angry mob that ensued.
  2. Don’t engage trolls. It’s a fact of our digital world that some people get their entertainment by being a thorn in others’ sides. Instead of feeding into this aggressive group, the Bouzaglos should have had the sense to step away and ignore these commenters, as nothing good comes from interacting with them.
  3. Keep a cool head. Online, as in real life, it’s a good rule of thumb to restrain yourself from knee-jerk reactions. Although the Bouzaglos were no doubt feeling attacked, defensive and angry, they would have done well to wait and let their emotions settle before resorting to name-calling, insults and other derogatory language. Remember, everything is permanent once it’s posted online.
  4. Finally, be honest…or be prepared to face the consequences. This is the golden rule of social media, PR and marketing. In the case of the alleged hacking, the last thing the Bouzaglos should have said was what they did: “Obviously our Facebook, YELP, Twitter and Website have been hacked. We are working with the local authorities as well as the FBI computer crimes unit to ensure this does not happen again. We did not post those horrible things. Thank You – Amy & Samy.” Consumers are very savvy and can sniff out the truth, so other brands would do well to heed this warning, as well.

Got any other words of wisdom for the Bouzaglos? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Life Lessons From Mom That Also Apply to a Career in PR

For some of us, “All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” still rings true. Play nice, share with others, don’t interrupt, work hard; the list goes on.

For me, a lot of the advice I call upon in my adult life revolves around what my parents taught me. I use their advice in parenting, how I treat my loved ones – both family and friends – and everything in between. Much of their advice I even apply to my career as a PR executive. In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share my thoughts, and those of my teammates, on how Mom’s early lessons stick with us and still help us in our careers today.

momWhen I was young, I struggled with math. Words always came much easier to me. As the daughter of two parents who worked for a national newspaper, you could say it was in the blood. How could I get through this math monkey on my back and change my perspective? My mother taught me that we all have to do things we don’t want to do. We all have to tackle the hard things. Part of life is this yin and yang of easy and hard. So with the assistance of kind teachers, patient parents, and most importantly a change in me, I switched my thinking and began to use the mantra, “I will not give up.” I heeded my mother’s tough advice. She didn’t have a ton of sympathy, but rather told me over and over, “Keep at it, be tough, and do not give up.”

I am no longer tackling Pi or the Pythagorean Theorem, or cringing after being called up to write on the blackboard in math class  – but each day as a PR professional, I am still faced with challenges that call for mental toughness and confidence. This is when the parts of my job that are harder and grittier than others call for my mom’s good old “don’t give up” mantra. This mantra makes for happy clients, solid journalistic relationships and a constant quest for me to deliver top results while striving to do better.

My PerkettPR colleagues shared what they’ve learned from their mothers as well. Here’s a collection of the awesome advice that they still carry with them in their PR careers.

From Christine Perkett

My mother taught me not to undervalue myself – which comes in handy when negotiating as both employer and vendor. My grandmother taught me that men are like street cars — a new one will always come along. I say the same is true clients – not that I don’t appreciate the ones we have (I so do!), but that they come and go and that losing one is not the end of the world.

 From Susan Sweenie:

My mom taught me that even when dealing with someone tough or not interested, just kill them with kindness. 

From Crystal Monahan:

I’ve had the privilege of having two moms in my life – my actual mom and my stepmother. Although different in innumerable ways, they both share one admirable trait that I have tried to emulate in my life and career. They both possess a remarkable work ethic. They work dawn to dusk if necessary. They have held multiple jobs to provide for their families. Nothing is beneath them – if it needs to get done, they do it. They both understand that nothing in life comes free and great pride comes from a job well done.

I’ve always tried to do my best and work my hardest, and have always appreciated the sense of accomplishment at seeing the results of my efforts whether it’s completing monthly status reports on time, writing a solid press release, or seeing my clients in the media.

Whenever I’m feeling lazy, I think about my two moms and I know they’ve probably already accomplished more in a day than many people do in a week, and I’m inspired to get back to work.

From Susie Dougherty:

“Mind your manners…” Something my mom was a stickler about, much to my benefit. I think most of us (well, maybe not as many as I’d like to think) grow up to be mindful of the simple words and gestures that help make us respected adults. But with today’s email and social media – suddenly a lot of those manners have gone out the window. Thanks to my mom for somehow making those words stick –even as the Internet has fundamentally changed in so many ways how we communicate. I’m still using my manners behind my laptop or iPhone or tablet screen – and I know that stands out to clients, reporters and even my own colleagues.”

From Jennifer Hellickson:

My mom’s a big proponent of the Golden Rule – treat others as you’d like to be treated – and this goes a long way in PR. Going that extra mile for both our clients and our colleagues in the media means trying to not only think from their perspective, but also anticipate their needs, as well. This creates a better working environment for everyone and ultimately allows us, as PR professionals, to better serve the company’s mission.

From Heather Bliss :

Mom taught me so many amazing lessons, but one of the most valuable was to be a good listener and problem solver. She has an uncanny ability to be able to listen to ANYONE, and I mean anyone. Whether it’s a family member, friend, colleague or a stranger on the park bench next to her — if they have a problem my mom has the time and patience to listen and to try and help solve it. I learned how to translate some small part of this gift of hers to my work in PR to really listen to clients and understand the issues they face and try to problem solve solutions as my mother would with quickness and calm.

And, fellow PerkettPR staff member (and new mom herself) agrees:

Johanna Lucia adds:

My Mom always taught me the importance of being a good listener. She helped instill this very powerful life skill in me, and when it comes to PR– we need to hear our clients. Listening to our clients’ wants and needs is a vital part of our role and in helping develop effective PR strategies.

What inspirational mom lessons can you share with us? Do you have a favorite piece of advice learned in childhood that still remains a part of your work habit today? Please share your stories in the comments.

5 Elements of an Effective Press Release

press_release_writing“The shorter and the plainer the better.” –Beatrix Potter

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” – Shakespeare

Minute by minute, a dizzying amount of data is created in this content-driven world. (Don’t believe me? Check out this infographic from DOMO )

And as PR folks, we’re under the gun to get the message across – clearly, thoroughly and correctly on behalf of our clients.

More often than not, this takes the form of a press release, the worth and future of which has become an annual debate. (But that’s another blog post entirely… For our purposes here, rather than dispute its inherent value, let’s focus on a few ways in which we can improve upon the content of future announcements we’re putting out into the ether).

I found a great article by Bill Stoller, The Ten Commandments of a Press Release, where he outlines his top ten “shalts” and “shalt nots.” In it, he argues that “when the recipient of a release focuses only on its content — and not on its creation — the writer has succeeded.”

Stoller’s point is an important one: Good writing allows the reader to focus on the message versus the medium. Although we’re taught to write one way growing up, I tend to think that the most effective press releases today follow these five guidelines:

  1. K.I.S.S. “Simple” works, but “short” is even more impactful in our content-crazed world.
  2. Sell the story, not your company. Yes, we know who is paying for the release, but that doesn’t mean anything if no one wants to cover it, correct? Take the time to create context.
  3. Remember your audience. Resist the urge to use marketing speak or pepper in industry acronyms. B2B or B2C, it’s doesn’t matter; keep it straightforward and interesting.
  4. Do the legwork. Again, know your targets and how they like to receive content. Social media savvy? Try tweeting a link to the release. Very visual? Scrap the words and make an infographic with your information. Make it easy for journalists to do their job, and they may just reciprocate.
  5. See number one. We’re following our own rules here.

Do you have any other principles for better press releases that you’d like to see added to the list? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Measuring the Real Value of Media Coverage

Public-Relations-Results-Measuring-&-Determining-ValueI came across an interesting blog post in MediaPost recently in which the author, travel PR executive Vicky Hastings, noted that quantitative measures are no longer sufficient for measuring the success of PR. Hear hear!

While the ‘what’s’ and ‘how’s’ of PR measurement will remain in debate for years to come, particularly as the industry continues to add social media to their PR mix, what I found of most interest is the recommended approach to measuring and reporting on media coverage.

Like the author of the above-mentioned blog post, we at PerkettPR believe that media coverage should be measured on both quantity and quality. Yes, the quantity of articles is important, but I’d argue that the quality of that coverage is equally important. Even as I write this, however, I know there will never come a day when a client requests great articles over more articles. ☺

Media Coverage ≠ Ad Space
We do agree that the purpose of media relations is not only to generate awareness, but to also obtain third party validation. A journalist-written article about a brand or its product is inherently more valuable than purchased ad space. The author notes that advertising equivalencies (AVEs) should never be used as a measurement for media coverage, and we wholeheartedly agree.

Measuring against AVE’s is an outdated and inaccurate assessment of an article’s value for several reasons – not the least of which is the existence of digital-only publications and the fact that 50 percent of consumers read their news online (The Social Guy offers some insight on how AVEs work – or don’t – in the digital age).

Another big one in my book is that it doesn’t take into account the quality of an article. Granted, quality is a unique and somewhat subjective factor in media measurement. While one can argue that a quarter-page ad in Forbes offers more value than a similar ad in a trade publication, that’s not necessarily true. It may cost more, but it’s the impact of the ad that matters.

Value is in the eye of the beholder
The same holds true for media coverage. The perception of value is largely dependent on the publications that best deliver on an individual company’s PR goals. For example, if the first goal of PR is to drive leads for the sales team, a trade publication read by sales prospects may be more helpful in generating leads than a story in a top business outlet; and will therefore be perceived as more valuable.

Shouldn’t that article then be measured more highly in accordance with its perceived value?

Next, consider the elements that make up that article. Does it hit on the company’s key messages? Does it include a spokesperson quote? A customer success story? Or even a photo or screenshot of the company’s product? Each of these elements not only adds another layer to the story, but also offers greater value. To measure an article that contains all of these elements simply by how much ad space it commands is hardly a true assessment of its actual value.

Measurement Matters
At PerkettPR, we promote a broader view and definition of media measurement to our clients, and by and large, they agree with this approach. But determining what to measure is only half the battle. Figuring out how to measure it is the hard part.

That’s why we’ve developed our own proprietary methodology and reporting process to address this need, but we’re curious to know what others are doing to measure and report the real value of media coverage.

Got any tips or insights you’d like to share? What do your clients ask for or care about most? We’d love to follow this post with a round up of your best ideas.