Publicity Does Not Define Public Relations

the oscars
Publicity and public relations do not go hand in hand. As a communications professional it’s easy to make this distinction, but to  the general public it may not be as easy to differentiate the two. The 2014 Oscars are tonight, and while it’s a great event honoring our best and brightest in film, a problem still persists that continues to plague the PR industry, which is suffering from mistaken identity.

To put it lightly, the entertainment industry has belittled the value of public relations. If an actress sleeps with her married director (cough Kristen Stewart) and her reputation is at stake, what are the first words you hear? Public relations. Need to do some damage control? Get the PR person on it, because that’s clearly all we do as PR professionals. Our profession strives for transparency, trust, and a strategic approach to communication. A word like publicity is grouped with public relations so often, that if you don’t study our trade it’s easy to assume public relations is superficial and lacking depth.

Unfortunately we have many forces working against us, with the media as one of the primary culprits. They’ve perpetuated the false idea that public relations is only newsworthy and relevant when a major crisis erupts. Crisis communications is only one of many concentrations that fall under the large umbrella of public relations. Our work is not one-dimensional, but to outsiders I can see why that common misconception is alive and well.

To fix this problem, we must do what we do best. Educate, then persuade the public to maintain a certain point of view about what we really do as communications professionals. We’ve had a difficult time branding this new era of public relations, which isn’t just about manipulating news stories and unethical practices of the early years. Our profession has matured, and it’s time to make an effort to change the negative, uninformed perceptions and attitudes associated with PR.

Advertisements

2008 Obama: Where Art Thou?

President Obama Makes Statement On The SequestrationHow quickly things change after a honeymoon period. I was in love with a, no, the man during my freshman year of college in 2008, and I didn’t even follow politics or listen to NPR news. I’ll admit, he knew his target audience which is key to any successful PR campaign. It wasn’t just a political campaign, but a well-calculated, strategic communications plan to win over an impressionable, young and naive demographic.

Obama used, and still uses social media to relate to me and my fellow Gen Y peeps! Social media! Ask any republican in 2008 what social media was and they’d tell you it’s literally socializing with members of the media (media and Fox News are synonymous in this case). In 2008, we had no clue who this striking, young, questionably American man was but one thing was certain. He was not George W. Bush. I liked the idea of Obama more than his actual plan to turn our nation around. Blinded I was by that damn word. Change. Haven’t seen anything from himin a while (Barack is change in this case. Personification is nifty. Nifty is a fun word. I’ll stop).

As a PR man, Barack’s 2008 campaign is a case study that will be talked about for years to come. A brilliantly executed digital plan, Facebook swag is on full attack and Obama is suddenly cooler than Maroon 5 when they were still together. Still together? I choose not to believe. So the campaign is a success, Obama wins and reality hits. The voter high wears off, and what’s next? He’s still the only one smoking, blowing smoke right in our faces because his team successfully used every great PR tactic in the book to influence our ideas, attitudes and beliefs.

Every brand should strive to do the same, but please deliver on your word so you have more to show for your efforts than a busted healthcare launch and the cutest Portuguese Water Dog I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Weiner Sacrificing his Reputation for a Chance to Become NYC Mayor

anthony-weiner-loses-campaign-manager-suffers-a-brutal-day-on-the-sunday-talk-showsAfter months of ridicule spawning from leaked photos of Anthony Weiner exposing himself to multiple women via Twitter, he’s recently made the decision to continue his New York City mayoral campaign. The man’s got more balls than I do, (see what I did there?) but his choice to stay in the race is unwise on many fronts. He’s surrounded himself with yes men, and he has no business running for mayor with all of this negative publicity affecting his personal and professional life.

His situation is dire. Ultimately it’s his call on whether to ride out the storm or drop out of the race, but at this point he should be more concerned about repairing his severely damaged reputation. Weiner’s dilemma can be compared to a PR firm working with a client in a time of crisis. The client may think they know what’s best as far as goals, strategies and tactics to implement, but a forward-thinking client will take a PR consultant’s advice seriously to eventually agree on an effective crisis communications plan.

Weiner is acting as the client who is disillusioned, uncooperative and stubborn. Dropping out of this race in his eyes would be a blow to his pride, but sometimes you need to swallow that pride and make the selfless decision to cut your losses. If I were his publicist, I would strongly urge him to put the mayoral campaign on hold and focus on stabilizing areas of his life outside of politics. The countless hours he’s spent on the campaign trail could have been better spent improving relations with his wife Huma or attending sessions with a therapist to eliminate his embarrassing problem.

The title of my post says it all. By staying in this race, he’s digging himself into a deeper hole by choosing short-term success over long-term happiness. In order to save his political career, Weiner must take care of personal matters first to show his family, friends, supporters and the voting public that he’s ready to be back in the limelight.

The NFL and its Lingering PR Problem

nflThe National Football League is arguably the most popular sporting league in the world, but it will never reach its full potential unless there’s a concerted effort to rid the league of players who continually damage the NFL’s reputation. Roger Goodell & Co. conduct business as usual with a “too big to fail” mentality, but if they don’t address this pressing issue soon it could lead to damaging consequences for the league and each of its 32 NFL franchises.

Since the Super Bowl in February, 27 active NFL players have been arrested for a number of different crimes. Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is one of those 27, pinned with murder and five related gun charges just two short weeks ago. I thought the Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick incidents would be enough to push the NFL to make drastic changes to its player misconduct policies, but apparently not.

The league’s public relations crisis can be analyzed from a strategic communications perspective. The NFL has a reputation to uphold, and as of now the decision makers have been reactive instead of proactive in combating off-field player misconduct. To salvage the league’s image and restore credibility with the fans, media, and other invested stakeholders, these steps should be taken by the NFL commissioner :

  1. Set an overarching goal that will be the main focus of your efforts. In this case, ” Decrease the number of off-field player incidents.”
  2. Establish strategies, which are the broad approaches you’ll take to achieve the goal. Revising player misconduct policies and enforcing stricter penalties and repercussions are a few good examples.
  3. Identify measurable objectives that will be used to see if the chosen strategies are being met. Banning or suspending players who act out could be an objective that’s easily measured to see if player misconduct decreases due to increased player bans and suspensions.
  4. Tactics need to be implemented to identify the tools you will use to achieve the already set strategies and objectives on a day-to-day basis. Working with the press to get the message out about revised policies and forcing players to seek professional help to fix behavioral issues are a few useful tactics that will aid in achieving long-term goals.

This problem is not going away anytime soon. Regardless of what the NFL decides to do, it’s imperative to take action and communicate goals, strategies, objectives and tactics with those who have a vested interest in the long-term success of the National Football League.

Yahoo Can Keep Buying, But It Won’t Help Their Image Problem

yahoo_purple_large-prvYahoo is vying to stay relevant in this social media centric world, and the company’s recent Tumblr acquisition is proof of their desperate efforts to keep up with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google. So desperate in fact, that since Marissa Mayer’s takeover as Yahoo CEO in July 2012 she’s acquired 11 companies including the $1 billion Tumblr.

While Marissa makes it rain in hopes of getting Yahoo her groove back, she’s failing to realize how far behind Yahoo is in every aspect of contemporary web culture. When I think of Yahoo, AOL comes to mind. They are massive tech companies with the resources needed to make a resurgence, but they missed the window of opportunity to jump on the social media/mobile bandwagon.

I’ll go out on a limb and say the Tumblr takeover was counterproductive at most. It may appeal to advertisers in the short term as far as reaching younger, coveted demographics, but it won’t change the perceptions younger generations have about the company. Brands like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Pinterest, Instagram and Reddit have found their niche and are successfully building their respective brands and users. These companies weren’t afraid to meet the changing digital landscape head-on, and Yahoo’s complacency during this time of rapid change is one of many reasons why they lost their competitive edge.

To ultimately fix this image problem, I’d first avoid making any other $1 billion acquisitions. Embrace the existing and acquired products and services you now have, and focus on improving these products to meet the changing needs of your users. If the products and services you offer are the best they can possibly be, the image problem will eventually fix itself.

Samuel L. Jackson Uses Reddit as an Effective Public Relations Tool

The legend himself, Samuel L. Jackson, made a visit to Reddit this week in an effort to raise money and awareness for the non-profit Alzheimer’s Association. Jackson encouraged redditors to submit 300-word scripts on his r/movies subreddit post. At the end of the contest, Jackson promised to read the highest upvoted script as a monologue, which can be viewed above.

From a public relations perspective this idea is gold. It’s fun, engaging and gives anyone who wants to participate a chance to hear Samuel L’s iconic voice read their written, stolen or borrowed script. Mashable explained that Jackson also teamed up with Prizeo, an organization that works with celebrities and charities to award donors with the chance to win big prizes. Those who donate as little as $3 to his Prizeo page have a chance to sit down with SLJ in the UK for muthaphukkin’ lunch! (all expenses paid)

He could’ve just went on Reddit to do the typical promotional run like every other celebrity, but he branched out in an effort to connect with the movie nerds at r/movies and the reddit community as a whole. It’s a case study we can all appreciate as public relations practitioners. He identified his target audience, engaged them actively with a flawlessly executed contest and made a call to action asking interested users to donate.

I’ve respected this man as an actor for many years, but this effective display of wit and humor have turned me into a fan for life.

Gordon Ramsay Couldn’t Even Save This Failed Bakery Brand

full retardA company’s online reputation is crucial toward building goodwill, trust and loyalty among its customers, but this week one particular restaurant discovered how easy it is to tarnish a brand identity overnight.

Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro took it to a whole new level of crazy earlier this week, and the web had the pleasure of following this embarrassing social media meltdown since it first erupted Monday night. To provide a bit of background, the restaurant is located in Scotsdale, Arizona, and it was recently featured on an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

The two owners, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo, are a dysfunctional duo to say the least. Ramsay tried to salvage this lost cause of an establishment, but even he wasn’t able to tame these two crazies. The episode of Kitchen Nightmares aired in Dec. 2012, and now five months later they’ve made national headlines spurring from multiple social media blunders on social media sites Facebook, Reddit and Yelp.

Online users flooded these sites with negative comments about the restaurant’s unstable owners, sub-par food and questionable business practices, prompting Samy and Amy to respond to the “reddits”, “sinners” and “haters” who were only fueling the fire at this point. It got ugly when the two started sending out threatening Facebook posts with expletives littered throughout. This laughable excuse for a business was trolled hard by the relentless online masses, and the bakery owners did every single thing you should never do when executing an effective social media strategy.

In fact, Forbes compiled a list of six key things you should never do on social media in light of this recent act of social media suicide. If we can take away any piece of advice from this story, I think it would be to never. go. full. retard.