Everyday PR

The Good, the Bad, and the Beauty of Memorial Day

I don’t gush at weddings; I don’t tear up at ads for starving children; and the only reason I might cry at movies is because I think they’ll never end (The English Patient, Titanic, etc.)  But the flood gates open the second I hear about someone who has served our country in an unimaginable way. 

Meet Army Staff Sergeant Bobby Henlin whose courage goes far deeper than his permanently disfigured burns he suffered when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb in Iraq. On his fourth tour there and the only survivor of five soldiers with him that day, Bobby has turned his tragedy into comedy and in his words, “can help way more people that that bomber will ever hurt”. Pass the tissues.

Thanks to Bobby and all the past and present heroes of our Armed Forces this Memorial Day for ensuring our freedom through the good, the bad and the beauty of their sacrifices.  May the true purpose of this day never be forgotten.

Top Botched Brands in Past Week

Geez, you miss a couple of end-of-the-world predictions, and all your brand equity is shot to hell.  Family Radio Founder Harold Camping appears bewildered at the reality that his May 21 apocalypse didn’t happen.  What’s even more amazing is that people bought into his doomsday brand despite its shaky and shady past. 

From body builder to baby maker, Arnold's brand has definitely changed.

Other top botched brands in recent days include:

*     Arnold Schwarzenegger’s disturbing revelation that he has a 10-year-old son with a member of his household staff.  The former California governor’s brand as an actor-turned-politician-to-turn-back-to-actor is now questionable.

*    The head of the International Monetary Fund is on house arrest after posting a $1 million bond for rape charges of a hotel maid. BTW, what is the IMF anyway? In any case, its brand is botched, thanks to Dominique Strauss-Kahn

*    In a consistent series of brand botching, Charlie Sheen bashed Ashton Kutcher for accepting a job on Two and a Half Men.  Sheen’s brand is pretty much at the point of no return – boo hoo. 

*    Cyclist icon Lance Armstrong’s past may be coming back to haunt him concerning doping allegations.  The finger pointing and hearsay are so far down the path that Armstrong’s brand can’t help but be botched. 

*     “You Light Up My Life” songwriter Joseph Brooks commits suicide while awaiting a trial on rape charges.  A Grammy-winning writer who’ll now be more remembered for his dark decision on death than for his uplifting lyrics. 

Wow, some brands just blew their equity to pieces in recent days.  That’s the thing about  brands – sometimes authenticity comes through despite the “brand”.  

Any other botched brands I missed?

Heads Up: Weird Wedding Hat for Sale

Much has been made of Princess Beatrice’s hat/kitchen trivet/pet holder/target practice/entrance gate emblem thing that she wore on her head last month at the Royal Wedding.  Despite the ridicule, mockery and certain induction into the “what were you thinking” fashion hall of fame, the Prince’s cousin has made a questionable decision into a good cause.  She’s auctioning off the hat for two childrens’ charities.  Even before the official auction, bids for more than $30,000 are being offered. Great idea! Maybe that was her strategy all along -  doubtful but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.  In any case, two virtual Cups of Joe to Princess Beatrice for turning a “I’m so embarrassed for you” public relations image into a good thing.

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

Gap in Leadership Means Gap in Profits

Today’s post is from Ellen Bryson, president and CEO of Bryson Trails,  a management consulting company that gets it.  Ellen’s strategic mindset, grasp of the unspoken and tireless leadership make her the success that she is.  Ellen can be found on Linked In or visit her website.  Fact: Companies that focus on strategy generate significantly higher financial results and higher rates of growth than their competitors.  Apparently that’s easier said than done.

Results of the 2011 Talent Survey show a significant gap in leadership effectiveness and the ability to drive change in the post recession environment. Of the 1328 employees surveyed nationwide, results indicate the following:

*    Leaders play a vital role in meeting business goals; 56% of respondents agreed, but only 12% rated their leaders as extremely effective.

*    A leader’s involvement is essential in meeting profitability targets; 56% agreed, however, only 14% believe their leaders are extremely effective in doing so. 

*    Fifty six percent of the respondents felt their leader’s involvement was necessary in delivering service, but only 17% felt they were extremely effective. 

*    Lastly, 44% of the respondents agreed that their leader plays a vital role in retaining talent, but only 7% believe they are extremely effective in accomplishing employee retention.

These findings demonstrate the need for leaders to evolve their skills as they are confronted with new barriers to growth that have arisen out of the recent recession. New leadership skills are required to increase productivity and engage the workforce. In this environment, it becomes increasingly important to align employee’s jobs with the business strategy so that employees feel a deeper, personal connection to the company. Employee development and training are essential for equipping middle managers with the tools and expertise needed to help drive this change since they provide the bridge between strategy and execution.

The most successful companies develop a process that can help gain clarity and focus while aligning the organization around vision and strategy. The basic premise shifts executive team focus from operational issues to strategic priorities and decision making.  Here’s how the process might look:

1. Develop a strategic plan with three year, one year and 90-day priorities.

2. Communicate the plan throughout the organization.

3. Utilize a meeting framework to drive results, define accountabilities for the week, month, quarter and year.

4. Accomplish 3 to 5 priorities every 90 days. Set new priorities for the next 90 days. Expect results.

5. Identify and measure (at least weekly) your top 3 to 5 business drivers.

6. Align company from top to bottom around strategy. Make sure your human systems such as recruiting, interviewing, hiring, managing, and rewarding align with your strategy.

7. Develop leaders within your company by utilizing real business problems that arise in executing strategy as team building opportunities.

So why don’t more companies focus on leadership? 

Burson Marsteller: Stop the PR Pain

UPDATE:  May 15, 2011 – And the pain (mostly self inflicted) of Burson Marsteller continues with more being thrown under the bus.  Wired summarizes latest injuries.

May 13, 2011 – This week’s boondoggle by heavy hitter Burson Marsteller does not exemplify all public relations agencies and should not be considered standard practice.  The agency, recently hired by Facebook, was busted by a reporter after an agency rep tried to bash privacy features of a new product by Google without disclosing client name. 

And then the reporter publicly bashed the agency rep by publishing their email exchange despite the standard confidential disclaimer placed on said correspondence.

And then Burson Marsteller issued a statement  that bashed Facebook’s confidentiality requirement, saying said the agency should never have agreed to such and that the relationship was over.  In other words, everybody threw everybody else under the bus.  No virtual Cup of Joe for any of the parties involved with this one, and I can only hope that it’s not too crowded or too painful under that bus.

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

OBL Crisis: What Not to Do

Being childless, I’m hardly qualified to offer parenting advice so I’ll do the next best thing – share what a friend recently told me.  Whenever she or one of her siblings got sick as a child, her mother would make them all sleep in the same bed, wallow in all their cooties, and not come out until they were back to normal germ levels.

Is Secretary Clinton showing signs of horror or allergies?

The White House, the CIA, the Department of Defense and whoever else was involved in the plan to kill Osama bin Laden should take the same approach.  Everybody should have hunkered down in the same room, wallowed in all the details surrounding the operation and not ventured out until key questions could have accurately and consistently be answered regardless of who was doing the speaking. 

Finite things like time and location shouldn’t be fodder for ambiguity.  Either the guy had a weapon or he didn’t; he was either on the first floor or the third floor; his wife was either used as a human shield or she tried to shield; combat either lasted four minutes or 40 minutes and the indiscrepancies go on.  You’d think that officials would know what was and wasn’t factual if they were watching the assault in real time as was initially promoted, especially after seeing Secretary Clinton’s infamous hand-covering-mouth photo.  Turns out that she was reacting to allergies.

In a crisis communications, accuracy is imperative. Crisis situations demand facts AND fact checking, followed by double and triple confirmation of those facts. I don’t care how many reporters are chomping at the bit for a grain of information, the reality is they don’t want to report inaccurate information because it affects their credibility, not to mention their chances of a future journalism award.  Nobody accessorizes their office or mantle for almost getting it right.

In the adrenaline of a crisis, nearly all plans and logic go AWOL.  Emotions override. Competition trumps. Speed wins.  If you want to handle or respond to a crisis like most, then bow to hysterical higher-ups and antsy reporters, stay the course of ambiguity and inaccuracy, and follow up with apologies and explanations. 

However, if you want to prevent the egg-on-face outcome, keep yourself and/or your client hunkered down until you’re confident that undisputable facts can be released, even if it’s one fact at a time.  Explain that you’d rather be right than quick.

Granted, the approach requires unbelievable patience, confidence and fortitude. The story will eventually be overshadowed by the next crisis, but your credibility, including your accuracy, leadership and demeanor, will long be remembered.

Any other crisis management tips?

Navy Seals Define Discipline

Not a huge surprise on this one, but this week’s virtual Cup of Joe goes to the Navy Seals team that took out Osama Bin Laden.  Regardless of your politics, you can’t help but admire the discipline, stamina and dedication of these highly trained individuals.  They’re the kind of patriots who likely do so much more behind the scenes in the name of freedom than we’ll ever know or want to know.  Three virtual Cups of Joe to each of them – my treat!

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

Is PR a Verb, a Noun or a Career?

I never cease to be amazed at how the words “public relations” are used in strange ways.  A recent episode of the British comedy Absolutely Fabulous, (my all-time favorite guilty pleasure) showed PR being referenced as a verb when Eddie tries to explain to her daughter what she does for a living.  “I PR things! People, places, concepts..I PR darling”, she says as if that clears up all confusion.  She can’t explain it because she doesn’t understand it.

Ab Fab's Eddie and Patsy do a lot of celebrating.

Let’s face it – when someone asks a PR person what they do for a living, half of us want to label the profession as a noun and say “I provide PR services” rather than try to elaborate about branding, messaging, planning and being real.  But how real is real?

Case in point: An opposition spokesman to Libya’s Qaddafi described the Colonel’s recent rambling speech as “public relations for the world….We know he’s not being genuine.”  Score one for the spokesman who at least understands the importance of authenticity in one’s image. Or does he? In other words, Qaddafi’s penchant for not telling the truth, breaking promises and manipulating ploys are who and what he is.  Similarly, look at Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinegad.  He’s tyranical, dismissive of the United Nations and repeatedly questions all things Jewish.  But he is who he is, and that’s authentic. 

On the other hand, music icon Dolly Parton is well known for her heart felt sincerity, yet she is totally reliant on her anything-but-real hair, nails, lips, etc.  I guess you could say she’s genuinely fake.  Speaking of hair, Donald Trump loves being himself regardless of if or who it offends.  I guess you could say he truly annoys, but at least it’s real.    

The bigger questions we have to ask ourselves, especially those of us in public relations, include things like:
*  Do we understand our role and what we do?  *  Are we okay with working with clients who don’t understand our industry?  

*  Can we live with representing a cause or a client who may be genuine, but is also a jerk?  

Maybe we should take the lead from Ab Fab’s Eddie, and just use public relations as a verb and say “we PR things”.  Then people would nod their heads like they understood our sincerity.   

What do you think?

Coke: An eternal brand

Talk about branding!  The 125-year-old Coca-Cola continues to globally grow, drown out competitors, add new consumers and fulfill a marketer’s dream.  For more about its limitless branding and longevity, read here.

Susan Hart

Susan Hart, APR, is an independent public relations consultant with 25+ years of experience. Beginning as a journalist, she represents clients in health care, financial, technology and real estate. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America, she serves as Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee for her local PRSA Chapter.

Follow me on Twitter

Subscribe to the main feed via RSS