Posts tagged ‘responsibility’

Some “Truths” About Public Relations

I often find myself talking about ethics and transparency with young practitioners and with potential clients. Some people, I think, regard such discussions as quaint or even a joke. To me, these are things that set public relations practitioners apart and are necessary to our task of looking out for the long-term reputation of an organization.

Jeff Domansky, APR, publishes a blog called the PR Coach. His column, called “10 PR Truths: How Do You Measure Up”” is aimed at practitioners. But whoever is communicating on behalf of his or her organization should look at these points.

Jeff’s blog post can be seen in its original format at http://www.theprcoach.com/ten-pr-truths-how-do-you-measure-up/ or you can read it below:

Glenn Ferrell wrote a really thoughtful post about the PR profession- Seven Ways to Change the Perception of PR. It got me thinking about truth and truths in PR or any business.

Here’s the reality of public relations. Our profession is constantly under pressure for results. We get slammed by critics from the media, activists and interest groups not to mention consumers and the general public for spinning or even worse, not always telling the truth.

We operate in real time whether it’s crafting a strategy, launching a product, managing a crisis, pitching the media, communicating to employees or responding to customers. When you add social media into the mix, you can go from hero to zero in moments unless you operate with clear fundamentals.

The most successful public relations pros I know get results with integrity and grace despite this challenging environment. I thought about what makes them so successful and came up with 10 PR truths they embrace:

  1. Truth – telling the truth is the foundation for their reputation. Everywhere.
  2. Transparency – disclosure is not an option. It’s a standard.
  3. Trust – they create trust with many, as well as trust others to do their best.
  4. Tell it like it is – the fact is, they deal in facts.
  5. Timeliness – operate with a sense of urgency.
  6. Take action – they lead, they act and they make things happen.
  7. Tell stories – they tell stories that mean something, that resonate and stand out from the crowd.
  8. Take responsibility – they usually share success and take ownership of problems.
  9. Tend to the details – sweating the small stuff is a habit.
  10. Trust your instincts – this is the art of PR. Great instincts come from good experience.

Here are a few favorite quotes about truth worth remembering:

It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.
Mark Twain

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.
Buddha

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
Winston Churchill

Half a truth is often a great lie.
Benjamin Franklin

The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.
Oscar Wilde

Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.
Elvis Presley

Not one of the successful leaders and mentors I know lack any of these 10 important fundamentals. Think about your own PR practices. How do you measure up? The truth is, if you follow these PR truths, you can’t fail! And they would go a long way towards restoring positive perceptions of our profession.

It’s not just the truth, it’s the truths that make the difference.

# # #

What do you think of Jeff’s column? Is it fair to expect your communications representatives to meet these standards?

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August 4, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I’m accredited for another 3 years — here’s why that’s good

I got a note from the Public Relations Society of America the other day informing me that my accreditation has been renewed. That means I can put that APR thing after my name for the next three years.

The second paragraph of the letter warned me to start collecting continuing education and professional development hours because in 2014, I’m again going to need to show that I’m keeping up with whatever the world is throwing at us.

I get a kick out of all the debates I see on Linked-In and other places about accreditation. All I know is that my father, Norman, was an APR (among the first) and the credential served him well and that it has served me well.

So what do those three initials mean to my clients?

Well, let me start by telling you what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that I have any official status that my unaccredited colleagues don’t have. And I readily admit that there are some excellent practitioners out there who, unfortunately, are not accredited. I don’t get to charge clients more for my APR. And I don’t buy the idea that masters degrees in PR have replaced accreditation.

 OK, so it’s nice to put those letters after my name. What does it do for my clients?

Jim Lukaszewski, APR, once told me that APR stood for “accepting personal responsibility.” I told him I was going to steal that line and use it and now I have. But that’s one of the things it means: Clients know that I take responsibility for my professionalism and my behavior.

  • Related to personal responsibility, APR is a pledge to live by the PRSA Code of Ethics and conduct myself accordingly. By extension, it’s a commitment to demand a level of ethical behavior from colleagues and clients. So clients who hire me know that they’ll be treated ethically and that I’ll represent them aggressively, but ethically. They also know that I’ll expect that courtesy returned.
  • Also related to personal responsibility, the APR – and the warning to start piling up new CEUs — is a commitment to professional growth. At my age, it would be easy to coast. Instead, I keep up with developments in my chosen profession. That means I understand social media as well as traditional media. It means I am current with thinking on how the law applies to public relations. And it means I don’t just talk about social media and turn a kid loose to explain it. Instead, I understand it as a tactic and how it fits into a communications strategy.  Clients, then, know they’re getting somebody who understands public relations and communications, and the latest technology and trends in research, communications and measurement, but also has some perspective about how those fit a strategic approach to communications.
  • I enjoy the company my APR puts me in. For clients, that means they get the advantages of a network where I’m usually only a couple of phone calls away from top-notch people to help me accomplish whatever the client needs done.

In short, my APR is a commitment to myself and to my clients to do the best job I can for them. So there’s no debate in my mind that accreditation is good for me and good for my clients.

 Signed: Doug Fenichel–APR

June 14, 2011 at 11:38 am

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

Secret to a successful CSR event: Believe!

Every now and again, I get to brag about my clients. It’s been a good month for doing community relations work that demonstrates that organizations with which I work have a conscience and like doing something for the community.

My big client, of course, is K. Hovnanian Homes. The company also is my employer. It has been working to strike the balance between pushing ahead with a popular community it’s building in Woodland Park, N.J., and protecting and preserving an important piece of history there. The company has entered an agreement with the New Jersey State Museum to identify and preserve dinosaur tracks and other items of geologic interest. You can read out it here: http://bit.ly/inhousepr1027101

Meanwhile, a few days after announcing the relationship with the museum and showing off the rock with the dinosaur track, the company sponsored the third Ride for a Child’s Hope in New Windsor, N.Y., to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, N.Y.

My favorite client – Jockey Hollow Dentistry (a.k.a. my wife’s dental practice) is also doing something good for the community.  She is taking part in Operation Gratitude, and buying back children’s Halloween candy. She’ll then take the candy, along with any donated candy and some dental supplies, pack it all up and send it to Operation Gratitude, which will then send it to our troops serving overseas. Read about it here: http://bit.ly/jhd-candy

And last, but far from least, are my brothers and sisters at the Flanders Fire Company and Rescue Squad. After some false starts, we finally got to show off our pink T-shirts and our membership in the Guardians of the Ribbon. (http://bit.ly/dCgHws )  Firehouses are pretty macho places, and getting guys to wear pink is supposed to be difficult. But our firefighters jumped to join this group. As part of the Guardian of the Ribbon program, the whole fire company has agreed to do what it can to show its support for local women with cancer. The night we took the photo that went the release, we were helping some Boy Scouts earn their fire safety merit badge. Lt. Melissa Widzemok talked to the boys, explaining our pink shirts. Later, one of the boys took Melissa aside and told her about a close relative who was suffering from cancer and had just been told that there was nothing else doctors could do. Money was an issue and the boy asked us for help.

 It doesn’t get any more real than that.

We talk a lot about corporate social responsibility and all the studies that show that given the choice, people would rather do business with an organization that supports causes they like. Many companies adopt a cause and make it a corporate mission and that works for them. But I’ve found that the best results come when the executive in charge of the project genuinely has a passion for the cause. That passion usually becomes contagious. Everybody buys into it and that results in more enthusiasm and better support. And from my vantage, it becomes a lot more fun to work on these projects.

October 28, 2010 at 11:10 pm

The Good Seminar: The Needle In the Haystack of Spam

Public relations people must be  (to put it politely) very much in need of further education.  A day doesn’t go by that I’m not being buried in offers for seminars on this, that or the other thing, mostly related to social media.  Well, maybe somebody just thinks I’m dumb and in need of educamation, but…

As an APR, I’m thoroughly committed to constantly improving my “skill set.” But I could spend my whole career doing nothing but attending seminars, webinars and workshops. And I’m not convinced I would know much more than I know now.

I counted: Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 1, I received at least 23 solicitations for educational opportunities. And that doesn’t include the ones buried in newsletters and blogs I read from places like the Public Relations Society of America, the Daily Dog, Ragan and HARO.  They fill my mailbox like weeds in a garden and cost me time just getting rid of them. If a good one comes, it probably gets deleted with the trash.

You can’t get enough education, especially with things changing as quickly as they are. What worries me is that I could teach most of the classes being pitched to me, even about social media. That’s not a comment on my great wisdom, but on the basic (and safe for the instructor) nature of the offerings. I have this strong suspicion that many of these instructors and educational services providers are coming from (a) practitioners who are out of work or (b) agencies that want me be impressed and hire them. Many are being aimed at unemployed PR people who are feeling a little desperate…and can least afford to spend money on mediocre programs.

If the free market in educational services is to work, we need some way of judging all these classes and the people who are teaching them. We need a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for these offerings.

How do you select programs? I, for one, gravitate toward PRSA-sponsored programs or other classes from other places I’ve grown to trust like Ragan and Bulldog. I’m curious what other people to do.

PRSA is meeting next week in Washington, D.C. Lots of interesting things on the Assembly’s agenda, including improving continuing education offerings since they generate a large sum of money and prestige for the organization. Wouldn’t it be interesting, though, if PRSA (I can’t think of a better-qualified organization) established some standards for classes and teachers and offered some sort of objective rating or approval system? Wouldn’t that make it easier to select classes? And it might run some of the poorer programs out of business.

Whaddya say, PRSA?

October 8, 2010 at 10:47 am 1 comment

‘Tis the season, I guess.

I spent one evening last week with a bunch of eager students forming the Fairleigh Dickenson University PRSSA chapter. PRSSA, of course, is the student affiliate of the Public Relations Society of America.  

While it was the first meeting ever for the Fairleigh chapter, PRSSA chapters are having their annual organizational meetings all over the country. As a public relations professional, it strikes me as an exciting time.  I’m much closer to the end of my career than the beginning of it, and to see the enthusiasm of these young people just starting out charges my batteries.

Throughout the year, I work on scholarship programs, judge contests like the Bateman Award and, if I’m asked to, I meet with students when I attend the PRSA International Conference. When we had an intern program at my company, I enjoyed working with my interns. I always learned from them and felt they left with a little better understanding of what public relations really is. Ironically, one of the most satisfying experiences was when a student worked with me for two semesters and came to me and told me he had decided he didn’t like public relations. Better now, I figured, than after he had finished his degree and started working his first job! Of course, other interns have gone on to major PR agencies, to internships at the Vatican and to counsel state legislators…but I’m bragging now.

While some students leave me shaking my head, most impress me. Bateman Award entries almost always leave me very impressed with the quality of thinking and with the work that’s produced.  I always get a feeling that our profession will be in good hands.

Some things do worry me. As I looked around the room at Fairleigh Dickenson the other night, there were only two or three young men. The number of minority women was equally small. Why aren’t we attracting more men and more minorities into our profession? This, of course, continues to be a topic of discussion every year and I certainly don’t know the answer. But we need to find an answer.

What I do know is this: If you have the opportunity to get involved with young public relation students, I urge you to do it. It keeps you on your toes and is very satisfying. If you’d like to get involved, but don’t how, drop me a line. I’ll hook you up.

And to the students: Have a good year.

September 28, 2010 at 10:52 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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