Posts tagged ‘media’

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

In-House PR is not just a blog anymore. It’s a full-service agency. May I help you?

I’ve been putting this off, but it’s time to make the big announcement: I’m hanging out my own shingle.

My new public relations firm will be called In-House Public Relations, and this blog will be my soap box. The firm, in fact, is named after the blog, which has been around for three years. It’s as good a reason for an agency’s name as any other.

You’re probably thinking, “Oh great. Just what we need: Another one-man PR shop.” I’ve said the same thing myself. But times have changed for me and for the business world. In addition, I bring something special the table: my energy, my outlook and my passion.

For more than 20 years, I’ve helped organizations large and small tell their stories, build their reputations and use strategic communications and engagement to meet their business goals. Being passionate about your reputation permeates an organization, influences the behavior of its employees and makes its stories compelling and credible. That, in turn, leads to business success.

In-House Public Relations will focus on real estate, homebuilding and related businesses, applying what I’ve learned over the past 11 years in that business. My sites also are set on clients in the public safety area, where I can combine my years of communications experience with my even-more years as a firefighter and paramedic. I’ve also worked in telecommunications, automotive, packaging and other areas. Naturally, I’m more than happy to work with any organization.

I moved from journalism to public relations to join the internal team that took AT&T through its historic break-up. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to work with and around people who bring uncompromising quality to the job, as well as a high sense of ethics. By quality, I mean a strategic view, attention to the client’s needs, effective and measurable tactics and a lot of energy to get it all done.  The network of top-notch professionals I’ve put together over the years and through my active involvement with the Public Relations Society of America will become my clients’ network.

Over the years, I’ve successfully used most of the tools in my box: sales support, media relations, crisis management, employee communications, government affairs, special events and social networking. I have the insight and experience of a guy who’s been around the block once or twice and the technical skills to understand the latest social media trends. What’s equally important is I see how they all work together strategically.

So why head out on my own now? I believe the current economy is creating new opportunities. In-House Public Relations is an example of that new economy, and is taking advantage of the opportunities it has created.

As large companies shed staff in response to the economic downturn, those people used their expertise to set up smaller companies. While they might not be able to do things on the scale of their former employers, their smaller scale, lower overhead and more nimble structure enables them to do things their former employers couldn’t do. The Fortune-750 national homebuilder I worked for over the past decade has spun off at least two new homebuilders, a floor-covering store, home-design consultants, sales coaches and others…and now a public relations firm. These new, smaller companies also need public relations counsel, just as they need financial and legal counsel. A firm like mine can use its network to take care of a large national or regional organization’s needs, and we welcome that opportunity. But we have more flexibility and lower overhead, enabling us take care of these new companies’ needs, as well.

I’ve spent most of the past 20-odd years as a client. That is, I was the in-house public relations counsel for different organizations. I know what clients need. I know how I liked being treated. And now I’ve got the opportunity to meet that high bar for my clients.

And now, a demonstration of my new entrepreneurial technique: Give me a call. Let me be your in-house public relations counselor.  At least wish me good luck.

May 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Will charging to read the news change how we pitch story ideas?

More and more newspapers are considering bolstering their financials by charging readers for content, according to an article posted last week in American Journalism Review.  The article discusses the dilemma from a publisher’s point of view, but I can’t help wondering what it means for those of us working with reporters and editors to tell our clients’ stories.

 Reporter Cary Spivak, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, says some papers are charging for all of their content, others are using a meter system and others charge for special stories. Spivak also says some of their content will continue to be available without charge.

How will this change the way a reporter or editor evaluates information we give them? Will publications skew their news coverage by making available more stories that people will pay for, rather than stories that have important political and social impact? Will they ignore stories that might not be as exciting or that don’t sell as well as others?  Will they look for spokesperson stars (“spokestars”?) instead of quotable, knowledgeable people?

If any of these answers are affirmative, it could mean we will have to change how we develop and pitch story ideas. Perhaps we will have to put reputation and point of view in the backseat behind sellability.  Or maybe we will have to pick our spokespeople based on star-ability rather than credibility. 

This is a scenario that could have grave consequences for our profession and our democracy. Of course, if we’re doing our jobs well now, our spokespeople are knowledge and well-spoken and, if we’re lucky, approaching spokestar quality. The stories we’re pitching should be developed to not only present our point of view and bolster our clients’ reputations, but to be exciting, full of information and something that should help a reporter tell a story others will want to read, even if they have to pay for it.

But the idea of stories being judged on their ability to get people to open their wallets instead of their minds gives me pause. What do you think?

February 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm 4 comments

Customer Service Needs To Be On PR’s Radar

My wife, Karen, and I had an incredible customer-service experience at the Culinary Institute of America this weekend. We had dinner at one of the student-run restaurants. The food was incredible and the service was like watching a ballet. With all that, students still had time to talk with us about their curriculum and studies.

What does that have to do with public relations? Everything. Public relations professionals must do better at considering the reputational impact of customer service, especially in today’s social networking world.

 I doubt any PR person wants to run call centers. But what sales department doesn’t want to work with PR? What progressive legal team doesn’t consider public relations to part of their strategy? So it should be with customer service.

Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote about the sorry shape of customer service in their wonderful book, Raving Fans. If you haven’t read it, buy it today. It’s a quick read, but one that will change your view of serving customers. “Good or bad,” the book concludes, every “company had a customer service product that was how well the merchandise suited the customers’ needs and the human dimension of the customer/company relationship.” Another word for that combination is reputation.

Every customer contact is an opportunity to reinforce your organization’s reputation, good or bad.  Every question, comment, compliment or complaint is an opportunity to build relationships and reinforce reputations, especially in the social networking world.

“Social media represents an entirely new way to reach customers and connect with them directly,” say Deirdre Breakenridge and Brian Solis in Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.  “Your new role transcends the process of broadcasting messages and reactively answering questions to investing in and building a community of enthusiasts and evangelists.”

But even in the real world, you can observe customer service and consider its impact on reputation. The student restaurateurs were a good example of good customer service. More routinely, a lady at Staples who walked me through placing an order online because the store didn’t have what I was looking, presenting another wonderful example of customer service. She even helped me fill out the rebate request…all for a $10 sleeve of labels.

When you watch the people who represent your organization to the public, either online or face to face, what kind of reputation are they building for you? We would never let someone talk with the media without some coaching. Should we let people talk to individual customers without coaching from PR when those customers can instantaneously tell the world about their experience?

February 23, 2011 at 2:30 am 1 comment

Builders Show Was A Great Experience

Just back from the International Builders Show where, along with Cathie Daly, CEO of DesignEast Inc.; Randy Hix, an expert on real estate sales management; and Dottie Fawcett, of Constellation Web Solutions; I spoke about repositioning existing active-adult communities for today’s market.

I got to see some things I really liked…and some other things as well.

Top 5 Things I Liked!

  1. Social media being used well. While many tweets were ads, there were some good conversations, geo-tagging, blogs and other applications. I got to meet some of those with whom I’d been tweeting, like Carol Flammer and Kim Banks.
  2. MASCO’s Tweet-Up. Aside from belly-dancing at the Tavern Opa, I met others using social media. Especially enjoyed chatting with Perry Newman and Eric Hochstein, who are introducing Canadian and American businesses; and J. David Halloway, who showed us how American Technical Publishers produces training material the tried-and-true way (books) and as videos and other formats for smart phones, giving customers what the need in their preferred medium.
  3. ProBuild
    QRs like this were used on ProBuild's display to give visitors more info.

    QRs like this were used on ProBuild's display to give visitors more info.

    using QRs in their booth! Each corner had a QR that brought you to a Web page about a different business segment.

  4. Lots of media coverage regular newspapers, video, trade journals and bloggers. It just proves they’re talking about you…you might as well engage in the conversation. I can help.
  5. Lots of talented and enthusiastic people talking about a bright future for the homebuilding industry. Maybe not tomorrow, but a bright future.

 Top 5 Things That Could Have Been Better

  1. The internet service in my room at the Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando. C’mon guys: People attending shows at the convention center are probably working and need fast, dependable internet.
  2. Misuse of social media: When will companies (and their consultants) figure out that social media is a way to have a conversation, not another broadcast medium.
  3. Poor booth etiquette: I saw staffers eating lunch, absorbed in conversations, and (I swear!) sleeping. And, by the way, at what point does the building industry get sophisticated enough that we don’t need cute models in their booths?
  4. A media room full of paper press kits. At least distribute a CD or a thumb-drive. In a high-tech world, a paper folder full of pages sends a statement before a reporter even starts reading. Need help with that? Call me.
  5. Fed-Ex failing to deliver stuff to Southland Log Homes. I wonder who else they let down. But Giles Huggins and his team were doing a great job of overcoming the challenge and I’m looking forward to getting his information shortly.

It was a great show. I met lots of people, saw lots of new ideas and got thinking about a lot of ideas. I’ll be looking for a reason to go back again next February.

January 18, 2011 at 8:30 pm

My Turn: NYC Mosque Debate Has Some Scary Implications for PR

I’ve been watching the debate over the NYC mosque with increasing frustration and disgust, exacerbated by news reports that people think that Pres. Barrack Obama is a Muslim and that his own church-going habits aren’t real.

 Who cares? Is he doing the right thing for the country?

 The whole mosque debate is absurd. If the zoning laws are OK with it, there is no reason that a group of Muslims can’t worship wherever they please, providing the State and City of New York has no legitimate reason for them not to.  This racially motivated attempt to block the mosque belongs in Selma, Ala., circa 1960, not here and now. We’re playing into the hands of Islamic and American Right Wing extremists.

As a PR guy, this has other scary overtones. Decision-making in a democracy is supposed to be about the intelligent exchange of ideas (stop laughing). Over the past few years, discussion, ethics and facts have been replaced with volume and innuendo. He who shouts loudest must be right. So those who aren’t so sure go along, making the volume higher. Reason, facts and morality get drowned out and we make dumb decisions. It’s plain scary.

While the mosque debate may be the loudest argument going on, it’s far from the only one. Many good public servants are finding themselves unemployed by groups using these tactics.

As a public relations person for a homebuilder, I see this tactic used regularly, if at a lower volume. The combination of statements at meetings and letters to the editor (had one the other day that talked about “all the government studies” – yeah? Show them to me!) are basically the same tactic. I’ve seen again and again opponents who don’t know the facts yell or write half truths and innuendos until the volume reaches  the point where it defeats sound judgment and, in some cases, the law. There’s oil leaching into one of New Jersey’s bays from a town that went that route rather than work with us.

I keep thinking of a profound line in Men In Black: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals.” This latest trend of opinion influencing leverages that.  The media – traditional and social – exacerbates the problem, sometimes for readership, sometimes because reporters are caught up in it.

While we have to master the latest technology, maybe its time to also apply the original social media: community meetings, personal letters and other individual contact with persons. A person might listen and make a wise judgement. People, apparently, tend not to.  Who, for instance, is the face of New York City mosque? Perhaps if it had one, we’d be less afraid of it.

What do you think?

August 24, 2010 at 11:28 am

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