Archive for August, 2010

Today’s PR Professionals Must Think Integrated

By Rachel Neppes, BERKMAN

With the shrinking of the media and constant evolution of digital communications channels, the public relations practice is quickly taking a more integrated and direct approach to reaching and influencing the public. This includes using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to create direct viral buzz among target audiences, leveraging video sharing platforms, such as YouTube, to add personality and creativity to a story or announcement, and using powerful endorsements to add credibility to a company, product or brand, just to name a few.

Relying on traditional media to reach and influence target audiences is a thing of the past. The simple truth of the matter is that the traditional media is shrinking. However, the good news is that there are a whole slew of new tools that can be used to effectively reach and engage with your target audiences, thanks to new communications technologies and approaches.

But how can we best use all of the new technology tools available to be effective and to cut through the clutter?  Below are a few tips:

  • Develop and Communicate Key Messages: Staying consistent with your client’s key messages is extremely important. Inconsistency can create confusion and prohibit you from maintaining a clear and concise brand identity.
  • Create a Conversation: Consumers are bombarded with new information every day. In order to hold their attention you must give them something new. Simply pushing information about your business will only reach those looking for it. To create new opportunities, you must network with others, creating a conversation interesting enough to attract new faces.
  • Stay Active: In order for these new technologies to work in your favor, you must stay active. One advantage of these new platforms is that they are linkable. You can link your client’s Twitter to their Facebook, their Facebook to their YouTube, their YouTube to their Blog, etc. By staying active on all of these networks and keeping all social networks connected to one another you offer your consumer 4-5 different outlets to receive valuable information. Going dormant on one network could cut off those who favor a certain platform.
  • Listen to Your Audiences: Understand what your target audiences are interested in talking about before joining the conversation. This will ensure that your interactions with them are meaningful and will make an impact on the actions they then take when armed with the information you are offering.

To be successful today in Public Relations, you must understand and welcome these advancements. To ignore this evolutionary process will leave you behind and out of touch with the market. These technologies, if used correctly, however, can be very powerful in not only reaching your target audiences but influencing them in a meaningful way that will benefit your business.

As the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and most companies will experience potentially damaging media coverage at some point or another. In these situations, we look to Public Relations experts like Michael Guzzo from BERKMAN to manage and maintain a brand’s image and reputation. Print editorials written by subjective, investigative reporters can be damaging to a brand’s image, but when handled properly can act as a positive tool rather than a backwards downturn.

Guzzo’s PR prescription? Be prepared, be confident, and never falter.

Although it is not always possible to avoid these situations, there are some ways to prepare your company and/or its spokespeople. First, always research the reporter who wants an interview. Find out what types of stories they write and what views they have on your topic. Having this knowledge will better prepare the interviewee for what lies ahead. Although you never want to approach an interview on the defensive, it’s helpful to prepare responses to what may be uncomfortable questions.

Regardless of how well the interview went, you rarely have control over what is written, and a potentially damaging editorial piece may be released. So, what is Guzzo’s number one rule when dealing with biased reporters? Guzzo says, “Never be reactive. Always be proactive and continuously resonate your brand’s and company’s key messages.”

Direct response to the article automatically puts your company on the defensive, as if you are admitting to wrong doing. Ideally, the article will have opened up a public debate, creating a platform to reinforce your key messages while positioning your spokespeople or executives as experts on the particular issue. While the story is new and hot, the company must consistently relay what the brand represents through the use of social media outlets, blogs, and third party endorsements.

Another important step to take is to ensure that all people associated with the brand – sales teams, customer service reps, front desk personnel, etc. – know how to effectively and professionally respond to any questions about the article. Arm these individuals with established speaking points so that they don’t falter or provide false information if and when they are approached by additional media or skeptical customers. Depending on the nature of the controversy, it might be best to direct all inquiries to a trained spokesperson. Just keep in mind that more runaround is typically misconceived as a lack in confidence.

Most people’s first reaction will be to publicly condemn the accusations made against their company. Staying the course and seeking appropriate opportunities that best position your company will have a much better public response.

Crisis management is one aspect of Public Relations that is not necessarily the most sought after, but mastering this art is crucial when in the make it or break it moments of public relations.