Archive for July, 2011

Blogging is a great tool for small business owners

If the various ways of communicating and engaging on the Internet has “democratized” (is that really a word?) the media, it also has “equalized” (OK, a little better, but I hate ize words) public relations and business communications. One person really can run a worldwide business out of his or her basement.

While public relations used to be something used only by the largest companies, the craft’s ability to engage people means that small business, whether they know it or not, are engaged in PR. With that in mind, I had a great time the other night meeting with a group of small business owners at the Mendham (NJ) Business Association about blogging. The slides I created and presented are on Slideshare and  you can see them here.

Blogging is a great way to engage your customers, clients and even employees. I found some of the reasons people weren’t blogging interesting:

  •  “I have nothing to say.” Of course you do! You’re a business owner, which means you’re knowledgeable and passionate. You could write every day about your customers, tips on doing whatever it is you do or issues in your field that impact your clients (or customers or whatever you choose to call them).
  •  “I don’t know anything about the Web.”  Sites like WordPress and Blogger make it simple and tell you everything you need to know.
  • I don’t have the time.” So who does? Keeping your posts short is one of the keys to good readership. And if they’re not perfectly composed but the info is interesting, who cares?

Blogging is one of those activities that’s easy and fun. It’s just another habit to develop. We talked about the need to be honest and authentic, but when you’re speaking to business owners in a small town, that’s usually a given.

Let’s watch for some new blogs from businesses in Mendham, N.J.

July 22, 2011 at 8:06 am

Apple vs. Android Lawsuits: PR Should Be Part of the Strategy

Apple has filed a lawsuit against several of its Android-using competitors, claiming the Android devices violate certain patents. Earlier this week, a court issued an important first decision in the case. There will be lots of appeals and companion cases.

 

Apple vs. Android

Is that Apple going to diminish the effectiveness of my Android tools? Where's the customer engagement?

I have no clue who will ultimately prevail in this battle. I hope we, the users, will, but I’ve seen no evidence that Apple is concerned about that. I’m an Android user, and I won’t forgive Apple easily if they take away or diminish my HTC Thunderbolt and my new Samsung Galaxy 10.1 (I love toys).

While the Apple vs. Android debate is great stuff for barbecues and water-cooler debates, these legal actions can impact reputations, sales and investor confidence. For that reason, lawyers should include public relations people when they undertake or defend against an action like the one launched by Apple. While the lawyers are worried about the fine points of the law and how to sell them to judges and juries, someone has to worry about the reputations of the companies involved in the lawsuits.

Whatever the legal arguments, public relations people need to:

  1. Explain in simple terms why the highly technical infringements are so important that they threaten the company and – equally important – its customers and employees;
  2. Head off those who will say the company is turning to the courts because it can’t compete in the marketplace through innovation;
  3. Assure customers that they will be protected, no matter what the outcome.

I’m not seeing much of that from Apple or any of the Android manufacturers.

Innovators should profit from their innovation. But high-tech, pharma and other innovating companies know they can’t protect innovations from competitors for long. While innovators certainly have a right to protect their intellectual properties, they should also consider that their defensive actions impact their reputation and the confidence of their customers, employees and others on whom their success depends. Similarly, those accused of violating intellectual property laws also have their reputation and consumer confidence on the line.

PR needs to be part of the intellectual properties strategy for both sides of these controversies. Apple, HTC and Samsung PR folks…where are you on this?

July 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Crisis Communications: Not Just For the Big Guys

More than three-quarters of companies recently surveyed by one of the nation’s largest public relations firms say they expect to have a crisis within the next year, according to PRWeek.  More than half of them agree that the rise in digital communications and new media make a crisis more likely and more difficult to manage.

While the Burson-Marsteller study, as reported in PR Week (I’ve posted the brief article here), is talking about large companies, it’s an issue smaller companies should think about, too.  Digital media and social networking make it possible for even a sole proprietorship to play in the big guys’ sandbox. What small businesses often don’t realize is that if they play in that big-guy sandbox, they must accept some big-guy liabilities.

Because In-House Public Relations is new and small, I talk with a lot of small businesses. They’re thinking about increasing sales. Very few want to talk about crisis management. Increased sales activities, however, means increased exposure (I know: It’s a problem you’d love to have).  I’m aware that small business people don’t often have time or money for a full crisis plan, but I try to at least have a conversation about crises:

  1. Being a small business in today’s Internet-driven business climate means more people are seeing you. That means you’re more vulnerable. An angry customer or employee, an innocent mistake, a problem with materials you use and you’re in the soup.
  2. Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you’re any less vulnerable. The wrong tweet or Facebook posting can land you in hot water. And you probably don’t have the financial cushion big companies have to ride out a crisis.
  3. Take a few minutes and develop a mini-plan:
    1. Understand what a crisis is: Anything that can threaten your reputation and your business.
    2. Have a list of who gets called ASAP. I tell people to put me on the list, along with the lawyer, insurance agent and financial counselor.
    3. Set up a way of monitoring what’s being said about you on a daily basis in the social world. That can be as basic as a Google alert or as complicated as monitoring and participating in social media channels. Don’t neglect traditional channels either.
    4. Think about your worst nightmare and have a plan – at least in your head – of what you’d do if it happened.
    5. Make sure someone else knows about this miniplan in case YOU are the crisis.

 It’s not much, but at least it starts the discussion.

 I’d love to hear from entrepreneurs and small business people: Have you thought about crisis management? If you’d like some help thinking about it, call me.

July 7, 2011 at 10:29 am


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