Everyday PR

Interesting Articles

The Power of Words

This 1:48 second video is a must see for anyone trying to explain public relations, specifically the importance of the most authentic and appropriate messages. The title of “The Power of Words” says it all. View video.

Writing still fundamental to success

Whether online, on paper or on a marquee, it’s all about the writing. Read the four clear facts about the future of writing content at this recent blog.

Why companies fail at business model innovation

Adaptability and self-reinvention – as in business model innovation – are critical in today’s economy and competitive marketplace.  Some companies aren’t stepping up to the plate, and here’s why from the Harvard Business Review.

FB Users: Beware and Prepare

Recent Facebook changes (all of which I define as a huge TMI dump) can backfire on some users.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.  Mashable blog explains.

Dangers of digital sharecropping

Digital sharecropping.  What it is, how to work it, and how to not let it get you. Read more.

Everyone has one and how to stop it

Want to stop the online spewing of hate, intolerance and just plain bad taste?  Then take responsibility.  Here’s how.

The evolution of public relations

Public relations just doesn’t work the way it used to, and here’s why.  Read more.

Can your brand be controlled in social media?

For the best article on brand management and how to protect your brand in today’s world of social media that I’ve seen in awhile, read here.

The price of social media

A man after my own heart, Bill Keller of The New York Times questions the relational price we’re paying for social media.  Read his entertaining, and spot on, feature here.

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.

Hello and Goodbye

When the economy tanked a few years ago, I had the luxury of more time to do more things, one of which was to learn about social media. I became my own client. I set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, et al. Eventually I learned how to best manage them for my specific needs.

I also started this blog to express my take on industry topics or current events from an experienced public relations perspective. I was confident people wanted to know what I thought about such things. I never started EveryDayPR to grow Hart Public Relations. The reality was that I was opinionated, a decent writer and a thinker with some time to learn while trying to keep my business alive.

To my complete surprise, the blog did help grow my company. Combined with other business decisions I made, new clients came, existing clients wanted more, and previous clients returned. The growth was totally unexpected considering that blogging and participation in social media were, in essence, time fillers.

Fast forward to 2012, and I’m extremely fortunate to have a variety of challenging clients, industries and projects.  And I could use more.   While I’m still very much the opinionated writer with an overdose of sarcasm, I’m also a stickler for client service as my top priority, which means saying farewell to a tool that  served me well.

I can’t thank my subscribers and readers enough for their support, comments and feedback. If you’re interested in what’s keeping me busy these days, I invite you to check out my updated Hart Public Relations website at www.hartpr.com (OK, the first version of my website was in 2002, so I’m pacing myself). .

Thanks again, and farewell to my virtual friend.

Did Titanic Folks Have a Crisis Plan?

As the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking has been commemorated in recent days, one can’t help but be reminded of the magnitude of this tragedy. Hundreds lost their lives, some families lost their lineage, and others survived, but barely.

As a public relations practitioner, I can’t help but wonder what, if any, crisis communications plans were prepared before that fateful day. I wonder if architects and engineers involved in the project, but not taking part in the voyage, contemplated a worse case scenario. What about the project’s investors? Then there are the industry leaders and elected officials of that era. Were any of them prepared on how to deal with victims, families, lawyers, manufacturers and countless others following the sinking of what was promoted as unsinkable?

While business leaders are more aware of crisis headlines, being prepared for them is another thing, especially when crisis situations can change by the hour. A politician is caught doing something stupid; a company unexpectedly files for bankruptcy; a community leader is busted; a natural disaster strikes; the list of potential crises is endless.

Recent research shows that the traits of a good crisis manager just happen to coincide with the traits of a good leader, not a surprising thought for PR war horses like myself, but perhaps a heads up for those making decisions about leadership positions.  Fortune recently published an article called What Makes an Ideal Crisis Manager? that cites Justin Menkes, author of the recently published book Better Under Pressure. He concludes that the people who are going to thrive in the future “are those who can use the pressure (of a crisis) to excel and who have translated very difficult circumstances into opportunity.” Hmmm….

Per the article, the three key characteristics of a good leader and crisis manager are:

* Realistic optimism. Exceptional leaders demonstrate an ability to understand the actual circumstances of a crisis and see a chance to excel.

* Finding order in chaos. This combines calmness, clarity of thought and a drive to fix the situation. It requires practice to stay clear-eyed and fearless when the world is tipping. It also requires zeal to solve a puzzle by engaging your staff.

* Subservience to purpose or corporate goals. The commitment to the higher calling or the greater good can make a huge difference. By encouraging a team to come together around some important goal, it cultivates tenacity and encourages collaboration.

Some execs will still avoid the topic of crisis preparedness, which makes a crisis communications plan all the more important. However, those managers who prove themselves to be exceptions to the rule by working well under pressure will survive – and thrive.

What other traits are there of a good crisis manager?


Titans Coach Munchak: Be a Pro

Growing up in Scranton, PA, surrounded by five sisters, Tennessee Titans Coach Mike Munchak learned early on the keys to survival on and off the football field.

Speaking to a crowded room of business professionals this week, the Hall of Famer says his career started as a paper boy earning upwards  of $30 a week. When his interest in sports conflicted with delivering afternoon papers, he paid his sisters a $1 a week to take over the route, a wise business investment at age 14. Never mind that the topic remains a point of contention at family reunions.

That kind of strategic thinking attributes to the Coach’s business philosophy today. A self-described optimist and rule follower, this NFL coach says his leadership starts with being true to himself, being real and authentic, and being a professional, which he defines as knowing what to do and then doing it.

Other leadership qualities he invokes:

1)   Start with a vision. In his case, he wants to win a Super Bowl. So does Titans owner Bud Adams - which leads to the next quality.

2)   You have to want it. If you can’t tell that Adams wants a new Super Bowl ring, then you’re not paying attention. The recent and overt courtship of Peyton Manning exemplifies someone with a vision, knowing what they want and doing everything they can to get it.

3)  Have a plan. Explain the plan. As Monday morning quarterbacks and draft experts, everybody thinks they know more than the actual decision makers, players on the team, sports agents and bean counters. It’s how it works. But Munchak has a rationale for his decisions; you may not agree with his explanation, but he does have one.

4)  Be involved in the plan. This means aligning expectations, consistency and accountability.

5)  Get out of the way. Let people be themselves and do their job.

Key takeaways: You have to be yourself. You have to want it. You have to be a pro.



Shoney’s Manning Ad Stacked to Offend

UPDATE:  Peyton picks Denver. Shoney’s has pancakes on their face. Nissan must make good on its offer. Let the Monday morning quarterbacking begin.

So the Indianapolis Colts drop Peyton Manning (who didn’t see that coming?), and NFL teams across the country are vying for the superstar QB who hasn’t played in a season following multiple neck surgeries. Of course, the ultimate goal (no pun intended) for the franchises is to improve season records and make more money for management and players, because they apparently don’t already make enough.

While I can’t speak for California or Colorado, I can speak as a resident of Tennessee, where all the ideas that are supposed to be kept in the conference room have become mainstream. Nashville-based Shoney’s Restaurant is running ads showing a stack of pancakes with “Peyton, sign here and Tennessee would really be stacked.” And the best part? Peyton would get free pancakes throughout his Titans career at any area Shoney’s!!!

Well, stop the presses. Free pancakes? What a deal maker! Per Mike Stopper, VP of branding for Levenson & Hill, the Texas-based ad agency of record, “..the idea is to show we are a local based company and have ties to the Nashville community and put ourselves out there to make it happen.” Hmmm……

Here’s a thought. If your product/service has a chance of offending someone, then keep the idea in the boardroom.  What about Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker and all the other players who signed on with the Titans? Why didn’t they get free pancakes?

Or what about the homeless people living under a bridge? They call Tennessee their home – do they get free food too? Maybe their tip wouldn’t be as much, but hey, surviving another day in a cardboard box is their version of a win.

And seriously, how in the world can a Dallas-based ad exec, say with a straight face “we put ourselves out there to make it happen?” Really?

Sadly, Shoney’s isn’t the only entity risking offense. Tennessee-affiliated Nissan also announced it would build Peyton a full size pickup regardless of his NFL selection. And our State Legislature took time from their über busy decision-making process to pass a resolution supporting Peyton’s return to Tennessee.

OK, so I’ll never go to another Shoney’s (not really a hardship), I won’t buy another Nissan, and I’ll continue to cringe at such riveting policy making from our elected officials.

Peyton, give us all a break, and announce your decision today.



Words Matter: Lessons From WWI

Never underestimate the value of history. Never stop learning. And never cease to be amazed at the power of words.

A recent study of World War I (I know, yawn, but stick with me) revealed a surprising number of factoids related to modern day language. Not only are these tidbits interesting, but their origins make me wonder what today’s buzzwords, wartime related or not, may mean decades from now.  For instance:

*     Although earlier wars involved global dimensions, the term “world war” was used to signify the extraordinary reach of this unprecedented conflict.

*    “Over the top”, “no man’s land”, “in the trenches” and other similar phrases originate with the trench warfare aspects of battle.

*    Similarly, trench coat, trench foot (frostbite) and trench fever (typhus) were introduced into current vocabulary.

*    “Shell shock” has nothing to do with shrapnel, but rather, a prolonged exposure to the atrocities of battle. Today, the words used are “post traumatic stress disorder” to define the same condition.

*    Historians say steel helmets represent the first use of technology into warfare, followed by machine guns, tanks and submarines. BTW, the word “tank” was actually a code name as it doesn’t accurately describe the hunk of moving metal, but the code name stuck.

*    The British referred to the anonymity of soldiers as “Tommy Atkins”, the American equivalent of John Doe.

*   And on a timely note, daylight saving time was first put into practice by the German government during WWI to conserve fuel and increase productivity for war munitions.

See, who knew?

This 36-lecture series called “The Great War” is by Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Associate Professor History and German historian.



What to Advise Network Execs

Now that the Weekend of Whitney is over, I wonder what network execs are planning next because I’m very interested in the criteria used to determine what celebs get what level of media coverage from a brief mention, a la Danny Gans, or nonstop live coverage, a la Whitney. As a professional public relations practitioner, I also want to figure out how I would advise a network on this subject.

In recent memory, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston garnered truckloads of coverage. Both had phenomenal careers and were immensely talented; both fell from grace; and both were known drug users. So are those key factors for ad nauseam media coverage? If so, I don’t recall such homage given to Heath Ledger or Amy Winehouse.

So how does cause of death factor in regarding to funeral coverage? Is there a sordidness test to pass?

Maybe it’s a talent thing – is that a leading indicator? Does this mean that when Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Glen Campbell, et al, die, their services will receive uninterrupted coverage?

But wait, all those folks are white, so what about race - is that a criterion? Hmmm…..

But wait again, not all those folks grew up in a Protestant church. (I was kind of surprised to hear the networks allow all the references to God and Jesus Christ during Whitney Weekend). For example, Streisand is Jewish. Will that be a good or bad thing in determining the level of coverage her eventual passing receives? What if the person is Muslim? How will that play into the decision making process?

What about the person’s affect on society? There are countless individuals who have made remarkable contributions to society. Billy Graham, Bill Gates, David Ho, Henry KissingerLech Walesa, and the list goes on.  Will these folks get media coverage equitable to the contributions they made to others?

I’m glad I’m not responsible for making these decisions. However, I would caution executives to think about, if they haven’t already, how they’re going to handle media coverage of future deaths of famous people in all walks of life.

In fact, I now know that my advice to decision makers is to start developing a checklist of criteria for coverage – the kind of list that you’d be proud to have splashed on the front page of all newspapers; the kind of list that you’d be able to truthfully state that it’s a “fair and responsible” set of criteria in the public’s best interest; and the kind of list that you’d be able to defend when the family of the next famous celeb wonders why you’re not scheduling a crew to attend.

Any other advice for network executives?


Komen’s Real Problem is Lack of Conviction

The best public relations move in recent days for the Susan G. Komen Foundation was to announce its about face on Super Bowl weekend. By the time the last of the pizza and beer had been consumed, consumers were rehashing Super Bowl bowl ads.

In an unusual turn of events, the color of pink was not positively supporting the Susan G. Komen brand last week.

Last week’s nightmare of “they fund us, they fund us not” isn’t about funding at all. It’s about who the Susan G. Komen Foundation is. It’s about the organization’s values, priorities and purpose. It’s the up close and personal part of branding that decidedly determines who you are and what you stand for regardless of public sentiment.  And therein lies the multi-level problem for this pink-until-you-puke group.

Based on last week’s turn of events, the group doesn’t seem convicted about its core brand.  Sure, there are multiple strategic questions such as:

*  Didn’t they consider the 2009 HHS debacle regarding age guidelines for mammograms?

*  Didn’t they anticipate the types and depths of backlash?

*  As a colleague in Chicago astutely suggested, didn’t they even contemplate phasing out funding for Planned Parenthood as opposed to a huge announcement?

Even if those and other vital circumstances were debated ad nauseam, the reality is that a wonderful cause - to save women’s lives – was founded in 1982 following the unimaginable pain of losing a loved one to breast cancer.

And that’s the point – the purpose of the organization is to help women be healthy. If you’ve hung your hat on that mission, then own it. If society, fundraising and/or the political climate impacts that bottom-line point, then either adapt accordingly or stick to your guns. Too many businesses lose sight of their fundamental purpose and end up with much less conviction, which leads to counterproductivity, inconsistent branding and, in this case, headline news.

Just be who you are. Know who you are. Own who you are. I promise, you’ll be much more effective.


Paula Deen: Three Years of Missed Opportunities

Paula, Paula, Paula. Take the fried cheesecake ball of your mouth and give us all just a tiny little break. You’ve known for THREE YEARS that you have diabetes, yet you didn’t feel a responsibility to share that little tidbit with viewers?

That’s three years of missed opportunities to educate countless Americans about a disease that’s not a death sentence, but mostly quite manageable.

That’s three years of not opening/closing your show with a consistent message about living with diabetes.

That’s three years without your cookware and other products including diabetic friendly recipes.

That’s three years of constantly encouraging viewers to use processed sugar, buckets of butter and deep fryers.

And that’s three years of media appearances without mentioning how to adjust your lifestyle while still enjoying treats.

In 1991, Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive. It took tons of courage for him to make that announcement that easily falls in the “where were you when you heard that?” category. But the basketball great used his situation to educate at a time when AIDS was only discussed in whispers. He didn’t wait months, much less years, before honoring the truth.

From a public relations perspective, the decision not to disclose a condition that’s directly relevant to your occupation is disingenuous. Good public relations is about being authentic. Ethical public relations practitioners insist on disclosure.

Shame on you Paula Deen for not being more forthcoming. And shame on your advisors for not demanding disclosure.

JANUARY 25 UPDATE Deen publicist quits.



It’s 2012: Resolve to Do the Unexpected

This year promises to be historic on a number of levels. From the economy and the White House to healthcare reform and the Middle East. And if you don’t think those broad topics will affect you on a personal level, think again.

In fact, I challenge you to not only think, but to do the unexpected. This is an election year. (Pause now for collective groan in anticipation of the tasteless, baseless and graceless political ads to start). Instead of whining about the ads, the candidates and the pundits, feed your mind with knowledge.

Pick up a book in your choice of format, and start reading it. (I’m reading the six-volume series on World War I and am fascinated by what one might consider a dry subject.) If you’re really looking for something to read, become the 10th person (assuming all the U.S. Supreme Court Judges do so) to read the entire PPACA, aka healthcare reform, and position yourself as an expert.

If you’re not into reading, try audio books. I promise they’re better than talk radio and much less stressful. If you plan to improve your financial situation or make your vote really count this year, do some audio research on those topics to make more informed decisions. And don’t even use cost as an excuse; that’s why there are public libraries, one of the most underrated use of our tax dollars.

If you must watch that big flat screen noise box taking up insane amounts of space in your home (admittedly, I have one and am addicted to pretty much anything food or football related), try watching something non-mainstream. I’m not talking about some premium channel drama that borders on obscene or some cable trash, but interesting programming on The Learning Channel or Discovery. If those kinds of network names don’t grab you, consider The Hallmark Channel for warm and fuzzies, or TVLand for mindless entertainment, but stay away from Lifetime as much of its programming reflects our overly dysfunctional society, and you can watch the local news for that.

The point is to counteract the “garbage in, garbage out” mindset of which too many Americans are guilty.  So what if your pop culture IQ is at the bottom. What difference is it going to make if you don’t watch every political debate and subsequent mud slinging? How bad is it to miss the finale of yet another crime drama?

Feeding our minds by reading and watching interesting programming are only two of countless unexpected behaviors that would be historical in and of itself. I challenge everyone, including myself, to reduce our mental garbage in 2012. Let’s give decision makers and news makers something to worry about.

A Soldier’s Christmas Poem

I’ve been looking for the perfect holiday message. Thanks to a good friend and fellow traveler for sending this to my attention as it serves
that perfect purpose.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney, with presents to give,
and to see just who in this home did live.

I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.

No stocking by the mantle, just boots filled with sand
On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.

With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
A sober thought came through my mind.

For this house was different, it was dark and dreary
I found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.

The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home.

The face was so gentle, the room in such disorder
Not how I pictured a United States soldier.

Was this the hero of whom I’d just read,
Curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed?

I realized the families that I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.

Soon round the world the children would play,
And grownups would celebrate a bright Christmas Day.

They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,
Because of the soldiers like the one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder, how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.

The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.

The soldier awakened, and I heard a rough voice,
‘Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice.

I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more,
My life is my God, my country, my corps.’

The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep,
And I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours, so silent and still,
And we both shivered from the cold night’s chill.

I didn’t want to leave on that cold, dark night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.

Then the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure,
Whispered, ‘Carry on, Santa, It’s Christmas Day, all is secure.’

One look at my watch, and I knew he was right,
‘Merry Christmas, my friend, and to all a good night!’

This poem was written by a Marine. If you enjoyed it, please pass along to your family and friends as credit is due to members of the military for our being able to celebrate this Holiday Season.

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.

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