Disaster? Crisis? End of the World? Nah, just a bad tweet.

I’ll skip the ranting about what a ‘real’ crisis is (see also: Carnival, a brand I still like). Instead read Tegan Ford, whose ambitious thesis tries to make sense of how social media  impacts a public relations crisis.

PR crises .. we’ve already forgotten?

Maybe not forgotten, but certainly not hot topics any more. Most of these things have a short shelf life, relegated to a few back links when the pundits dredge it up when hyping their latest brand “disaster” click bait story. That has no customers leaving, no stocks tanking, no mass exodus of employees. Ahem.

Pace. This fake Twitter fight of comic vs. automated responses barely qualifies as a blip in my book. Moving on.

Lesson: Nothing new – if you’re going to brand and market on Twitter, know what you’re doing and be prepared for anything, including having your brand jacked into a hoax.

Chick-fil-A. Atlanta is the backyard of this company and no one stopped going. No one. A blip on the 2012 radar, mentioned in context of activist groups lobbying against certain brands. I don’t recall any mass of franchisees leaving or customers permanently boycotting. It’s a product [some] people like, sold by a company [some] people respect and by all accounts, still thriving.

Lesson: Reputation. Values. Quality. Service. Start there.photo-33

Paula Deen. During the height of this I joined eavesdropped a conversation of several women, most of them of color. The general consensus – surprising to me – was 1) she’s a different era blah blah 2) media needs to let it go and give her a break, giving the ‘victim’ claim legs and 3) they know if their sense of racial justice has been offended or not, so the press and pundits should stop telling them how they need to feel and think. The biggest concern: get to Walmart before they sell out of gooey cakes.

Plenty of advice out there, on what Paula Deen could do. Given the givens, I’d say Ms. Deen is a tell-all book, a ‘kiss and cry’ apology tour away from some type of comeback. She’s a known name, a brand; she probably won’t rebuild the full empire, but if Martha Stewart can do it I don’t see why not.

Lesson: Hire smarter; communication strategy is better when the legal, PR teams work together.

Home Depot. Bad joke, stupid tweet. Ugh. This one annoyed me for many reasons. I never heard one whiff of complaint from a ‘real’ not media/marketing person. Home Depot pulled the crappy “aim, point finger, fired!” excuse as they blamed their SM agency. Like so many other blink-and-you-miss-it mistakes, I neither saw nor read one story about a lasting negative impact.

Lesson: Crisis or marketing proof perhaps? They’re a giant brand and if they sell what people need cheaper than the competition, the cash registers will keep ringing.

Duck Dynasty. Are people still fuming or reverse fuming at Cracker Barrel? Not the first time that brand has caught media ire, but I hadn’t caught anything about them lately and the bruhaha about this show seems to barely have carried over to 2014. Or I just stopped paying it any attention.

While they get royalties from product licensing, A&E is in the business of making money by producing TV shows that sells cable TV ads. If they have enough of a target audience for marketers, and those marketers think they’ll gain more than they’ll lose, the show and advertising will go on – though with lower ratings.

Lesson: Media training. Know your audience, know your customers. No such thing as bad publicity – except when there is.

It’s not a mistake so long as you, me.. someone learns from it.

I suppose I came down too hard on PR smartie Gini Dietrich — sorry my friend, really was not my intention — when discussing the Home Depot crisis du jour. (FWIW it was so fly by night, I had to go back and look up what we were discussing.)

She’s right – the big lesson is that there ARE lessons we can learn from these events and that a well-written blog post or case study can help others avoid these kind of mistakes.

  • It is helpful to study and follow these cases – with a qualified, critical eye.
  • It’s important to understand the nature of the issues; look past the hype to properly gauge impact and access damage to the brand.
  • Don’t make matters worse by over – or under – reacting; have strategy for a proportional response.
  • Accept responsibility; don’t throw people – the ones you vetted and hired to do a job – under the bus.
  • Apologize, be genuine, make amends, move on. Putting it on autopilot, copy and pasting the same apology, treating public relations and social media as ‘set and forget’ marketing – that’s asking for trouble.
  • PR 101: Don’t screw up in the first place. But when you do, a foundation built of quality products and services, a carefully crafted reputation that comes from being a good company – makes it that much easier to weather any storm.

What’d I miss? Sure there were other flaps and foibles, other gaffs and mistakes. Please remind me – and what we can learn from them.

 Photo credit: not hard to find many funny and many offensive memes for this post, that one from RollingOut

Comments (4) | Trackback

Three Thoughts for Thursday

Along the lines of inspiration coming from anywhere, a post can come from a beer tasting and a movie. Kinda freeform ideas, FWIW:

3 thoughts on business: 

1. Innovation. Went to the Red Brick Brewing for a beer tasting was a special night – the Employee brew off.

  • This was open to all employees, not just the ‘beer’ guys, because this company is all about the love of beer, not just profit. Loves me some smart HR.
  • The marketing manager explained that THIS was their focus, this is how they learn from their customers what to offer and sell, by giving folks an open invitation to come and try. competition

2. Competition. The night being young and all, I went to see the movie RUSH, based on a rivalry of two Formula One drivers.

  • While I’m not a huge racing fan it goes to show what sports can do – tell a compelling story. (And not for nothing, the players in this had some smart, entertaining media savvy.)
  • More importantly, it shows the power and NEED for healthy competition. Just like the rivalries we follow in sports, so too are they important in business. Easiest example of that now – the Tech Wars. Apple and Google, Apple and Samsung, Apple and Microsoft – yes, I overdose on the Apple, but it’s hard to miss my point: all these VS. of the tech giants against each other, they all DRIVE each other to do better, offer more, try harder. And we as the consumer tend to win.

3. Differentiation. Back to the brewery for this one.

  • It’s not meaningless attempt to revolutionize a product or market sector. Cars have four wheels and probably will for some time hence; the beer was still a malt beverage, served in a glass. Evolutionary improvements can drive markets.
  • There’s always a catch; last night’s: a lot of good beers didn’t win the competition. What really wowed the tasters? The ones that tried different things. The nights winner, Fiery Gizzard, – you gotta look at all the names, some great creativity there – was a love-or-hate it concoction where spicy met citrus.

RedBrickBeerAt the core of these – to a PR like myself anyway – is communication, open and flowing sans walls, departmental lines, silos, ceilings, limits.

You create and discover, learn and study and explore. It’s keeping your eyes on the prize, the leaders of the pack and the up-and-comers, helping you put together that dream team that can in fact build a better mouse trap or craft and market a crazy-but-it-works beer. Talking, listening and really hearing what others employees, investors, customers need and want and are willing to buy – that’s the brass ring territory right there.

These traits hardwired are into the strongest corporate cultures. Look past the win today or the sale tomorrow, look to the future you want and the plan it will take to get you there.


No comments | Trackback

Brand Image is in the eye of the Beholder.

Can’t help it, the Macklemore-Ryan Lewis tune “Thrift Shop” is one of my jams. Fun, catchy and it makes a pretty keen observation on marketing to our consumer culture:

$50 for a t-shirt? I call that getting swindled and pimped. I call that getting tricked by a business.” Cracks me up since while I’d never pay that much for a tee just because it has Brand X on it, I’d be happy to get it for $14.

How did I not know about this?!

I’m a diehard clearance rack shopper at Macy’s, happy to peruse Marshall’s and TJMaxx for deals and bargains. One store that I’d never considered was ROSS.

Maybe it was the signage, maybe the “Dress for Less” tagline; can’t say I’d ever paid attention to their ads. But whatever it was, the image I had for ROSS made me think it wasn’t for me. OMG was I wrong.

ROSS has cute stuff! It’s not wall-to-wall designer, but I’ve found some nice dresses, bought cute gifts and housewares. Scored Michael Kors shoes! Told a friend about my ‘new’ store and she was like, ‘been going for years.’ I was like, ‘so you’ve been holding out on me then?!’

I’m paying attention to the ads and wow, is the marketing off brand. Is it that they’re going only for the bargain shopper? The lower end? Is that why the marketing seems to ‘miss’ the middle, and high? Whatever the reason, they need a rebrand.1243048824goodchance

Image is Everything

Think what your marketing, your communications say about your organization, your small business.

  • Are you going for ‘value’ but landing on ‘cheap’? Details matter. If you’re courting the high-end market, you won’t you convey ‘gotta have it at any price luxury’ when you use cut-rate photography, design, printing, ‘buy now’ hard sell.
  • If you talk ‘customer service‘ as a cornerstone of your brand, then relegate it to a subset of sales, it’s just a setup for crappy service. Call center ‘support’ staffed with nothing more than a script and no empowerment in the company only hurts your reputation – and drives customers to someone who does it better.

Close your eyes. Picture what you want customers to see, what you think they see when they hear your name.

Take a hard, honest Kitchen Nightmare Meltdown look: Your website. Your brochures and ads. The stories you tell. The lobby the greats guests, your showroom floor. The photos you splash on Facebook and Pinterest.

There’s a reason global companies like Apple, Disney, Coke know from reputation and PR, service and image; the details represent what they need them to. These things are all part of your brand – and they communicate your company’s brand image.

If you’re telling the wrong stories, building the wrong image in the eyes of your stakeholders – I can help you create the right one.

Ever been pleasantly surprised or galactically disappointed by a brand experience that was completely off? Tell me.

Photo credit: Bluntcards also crack me up.

No comments | Trackback

Pork Chops with a side of Thanks

This is good! Smart, clever and fodder for (hopefully) a quick-and-easy blog post.

Two Words. And a Gift in Return.

It’s so simple right, “Thank You.”

Maybe it’s a little note card or an email, could be a DM or LinkedIn message — when someone does something for me, I try to say “thank you.” I’ve got some cute ‘coffee cup’ note cards, even add Starbucks gift cards to them on occasion.

It’s marketing. It’s social. It’s good PR. It’s etiquette, good customer service. And how often we forget that a simple “Thank You” could be even more.

someecards.com - Thank you for the gift, party, dinner, or other gesture that required significantly more consideration than this ecard

Daily deals being not quite dead yet, I ordered a Groupon a few weeks ago. It was a 6-pack of Cameron Hughes wines, a label I’d seen before and knew this to be a nice bargain for some drinkable vino.

Treat every customer, online and in person, as though he or she is the most important customer in the world.” – Gary Vaynerchuck, The Thank You Economy

Opened my box and inside was a great little “Thank You” postcard. On the back was a recipe for Chinese Spiced Pork Chops which would pair nicely with the wine, bringing the VALUE we so often speak of in hushed and reverent tones.

You bet I’ll keep it, remember this label for years to come. It was a simple, cost-effective way to bring their brand to a whole new level.

Small Business, Take Note!

This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t dumb luck. Someone developed a strategy for business success.

This wasn’t a last minute whim, someone executed on a thought out plan with the customer in mind. This was professionally designed and printed, communicating a strong, positive brand image. Rather than just talking value, this brand delivered.

Think of the touch points you have with your customers – connecting doesn’t end when the credit card runs through. What comes next matters.

This is why I reply to almost every comment, why I thank people for RTs – I truly appreciate what others do for me and want to make sure they know it.

Tell me: When has a brand or business surprised you with their service after the sale?

Comments (2) | Trackback

My Brain Hurts: SoloPR Summit Recap, Day 2

“My brain hurts. In a good way.”

Think I wasn’t the only one feeling that after the LOADED second day of the Solo PR Summit.

Author, speaker, {Grow} blogger and former super model Mark W. Schaefer kicked off the morning with a compelling keynote on the Web, Social and Influence.

  • Ah the dread pirate Klout, but he makes you think about the social web in a different way.
  • Moving content is action, influence realized.
  • Mark “hits the nail on the head – it’s not about ‘more’ content; it’s about ‘better’ content.” – Jodi Echakowitz

someecards.com - If we can't solve it via email, IM, texting, faxing, or phone calls, let's resort to meeting in person Tom Martin told us how-to Painlessly Prospect for Customers, no cold-calling required and generally rocked the shiznitz outta the place. IIRC he snagged a couple marriage proposals too.

  • Cornerstones and Cobblestones. Brilliant content mapping, maximizing opportunities for content, ways to share it across different media and networks. Tips:
    •  Thank you page doesn’t end there, redirect them back to blog or home page.
    • Record presentations, convert to long and short vids for #2 search engine, YouTube.
    • Forget ‘vanity’ plug ins for ‘popular’ posts; recommend related content, targeted to reader.
  • Holy inbound content marketing, Batman! Your website (and its blog, papers, contact forms) are the Terminator – a 24/7 365 machine designed to help you lure, hook and ulitmately reel in top prospects by driving them through the filter system. And give you a valid email address.
  • Hails from New Orleans, land of food, drink and Mardi Gras so win.

Food for body and mind. We had a working lunch as we had our choice of guided discussion.

Karen Swim talked Client Management with her group; Profitable Media relations was hosted by Monique Caradine. Alas I couldn’t clone myself to be in three places at once, I joined the Specialist or Generalist panel, an interesting talk on both niche industries as well as skills led by Daria Steigman.

someecards.com - Let's discuss my freelance rateSetting Fees with Jenny Schmitt and Greg Brooks.

  • As I  hinted in the Solo PR Summit Day 1 recap, I outted myself as a cheap hooker (Greg’s joke/analogy). Bad me! We spend a lot of time, work very hard to develop our talents and skills, build our expertise and hone our creativity – we should be paid for it damnit!
  • Different ways to run the math, but it all added up the same: get paid what you’re worth. Pick the lifestyle, business you want and structure accordingly.
  • On hourly rates – Client: “My lawyer doesn’t cost that much?!” Greg: “Get a better lawyer.”

If you’re not measuring..  A highlight was Kami Huyse on the much needed Measurement for Solo PR, how to show value and success.

  • More than 400 measurement tools – some of the Solo PR (non-existant) budget friendly variety.
  • Real-time analysis of the SeaWorld Harlem Shake video.
  • Not one wisp of AVEs!

Adaption vs. Extinction. Bad Pitch Blog’s Kevin Dugan on how PR pros can ID trends and changes in the market – and capitalize on them.

  • If you’re worried about making Bad Pitch Blog, you probably won’t. Interesting: most pitches aren’t exactly bad, they’re irrelevant, off-target.
  • Stop fighting to hold on to old models that no longer work; evolve and adapt.
  • “One Size Fits (No One At) All.” ITA!

someecards.com - I need a time billing code for not doing shitMore Done, Less Time. In this case, time with Sarah Evans. As a multi-tasking efficiando, I say word.

  • Finally found some IFTTT shortcuts I’m comfortable trying. I can’t automate reading, vetting content – but the filtering and gathering, that will give it a go.
  • Workflows sans email and 27 different browser windows (it’s like she’s seen my desktop). She’s a Tracky champion but project management tool of choice will do. The idea is to stop bouncing emails around cyberspace; instead put all the tasks, deadlines, supporting files in one place where everyone can see, monitor, send.

From the trenches. Success stories from Kristie Aylett, Kellye Crane, Kelly Davis and Heather Whaling. Always nice to learn from the pros first hand what they are doing, what is and isn’t working. Everyone’s doing this their own ways, for their own reasons.

  • Age, experience, location don’t matter as much as expertise, skill, know-how and ability to get it done.
  • Different strokes – solo, subcontracting, virtual agency, boutique firm, group consortium – for different folks; find what works best for you.

Woefully incomplete. If you were there, let me know what you thought. If you weren’t and want more, just ask.

Comments (7) | Trackback