Despite the threat of snow looming in the skies over Baltimore, the State of PR panel went off without a hitch. The panel consisted of veteran PR pros Jeffrey Davis, APR of Sawmill Marketing and Judith Phair, APR, Fellow PRSA of PhairAdvantage, and was moderated by another veteran Harry Bosk, APR of The Write Image. It was a great discussion with plenty of participation from the audience. Two of the biggest takeaways are
• PR is not dead! Although the tools of PR have changed, the fundamentals – the core – of PR is the same (e.g., relationship building, strategic planning, crisis communications, media relations).
• Ethics is an area where PR pros and PRSA can and should take the lead. This is especially true in this digital age where control and accuracy of information is a challenge.
Other tips included:
On client relations…
• Be upfront with clients to manage their expectations on media placement. It’s unethical to make unrealistic commitments.
• Conduct media relations training with clients.
• Develop a crisis communications plan including generic tweets that communicate but don’t give out specific information. Always be sure to only give out what you have, not what you believe, i.e., don’t give out information that you can’t confirm.
• Technology is opening new opportunities. You can now be exactly where your audience is.
• It’s not enough to know how to do social media; you need to know what to do to make it most effective.
• Listen before engaging. Find the needs. Also know – and understand – your audience
• Personal contact is still number one.
On media relations…
• Contact media via Twitter – use the DM option. More effective than emails.
• When working with media, PR professionals must be accessible and prepared to respond immediately.
The Panel also talked about the importance of following thought leaders and relevant media as well as reading and consuming news every day. They each shared their go-to reading lists…
I mentioned the For Immediate Release network of podcasts as my go-to “secret” source for keeping up with social media. Also, Scott Monty, head of social media for Ford, is a great source. And Christopher Penn has an excellent newsletter to keep you on top of what’s happening in PR and social media (and more):
In addition to several daily newspapers, including the Financial Times for a more global news perspective, I get daily feeds from the Public Relations and Communications Professionals group on LinkedIn and subscribe to a variety of specialized daily news and news trends lists from various sources;
Since many of my clients are in the education arena, I find Inside Higher Ed, an online newsletter published daily, a great source. You can subscribe here for the daily feed.
I also subscribe to the daily InVocus Media Articles Blog. Contact InVocus Media Blog Articles email@example.com to get information on subscribing. I should also add that InVocus Media Articles blog is filled with news of media staff changes, new assignments, etc. – critical stuff!
And daily postings from Poynter Institute – great stuff on what’s going on in the media business. You can contact Poynter Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Reputation: Realizing Value from the Corporate Image” by Charles J. Fombrun, Harvard University Press. It’s an old book but the principles still apply.
This post was written by Laura Crovo, SVP, Public Relations Director of MGH
Earlier this year, a survey from German consultancy Gartner Communications found that while nearly 85% of companies worldwide have general crisis plans in place, only 20.7% have social media crisis plans set. Moreover, a staggering 78.6% of in-house communicators said they were pretty unprepared or so-so when it comes to social media crises.
What this shows is that more and more brands are embracing the importance of social media marketing, without adequately preparing for the risks. This isn’t to say that brands shouldn’t be jumping headfirst into Facebook, Twitter and the like – they just need to treat them as they would any other communications avenue by making sure they are ready to tackle any challenges.
Several major brands have been dinged via social media recently – whether it was due to a product deficiency, customer service problem or employee transgression. But, what’s added insult to injury in many of these crisis situations are slow, inadequate and insincere responses to the calamities at hand – probably due in large part to a lack of social media crisis preparedness.
So, what should brands do?
- Stop looking at “general crisis communications” and “social media crisis communications” as two different things. When planning for catastrophes, you need to think about all possible implications – including media coverage, internal dissent, social media furor and upset stakeholders. Whether it’s sending an email to your staff, responding to a reporter’s questions or posting to your Facebook page, all of these tactics need to be treated as equally vital in the communications process.
- Be prepared before hitting the launch button for the Facebook page. This is a critical part of the social media process. Brainstorm all of the possible critiques or problems, and develop potential responses or messaging so you don’t waste precious time that could escalate a social media snafu. For instance, if your business is a restaurant, be prepared to deal with claims that your food stinks, your servers are rude, your prices are outrageous, and your daily special gave someone food poisoning.
- Pay attention – all of the time – to what people are saying about your company and where they are saying it. Even if you don’t have a Facebook page, brands need to understand that there’s always a chance that people will talk about you online. Each comment needs to be evaluated individually to determine whether, how and when you should respond. There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking, you should be transparent, gracious and accountable (as appropriate).
- Respond in a prompt manner. The world of social media moves much faster than traditional communications, and any lag can just serve to fuel the fire. Similar to how you would respond to a media query in traditional PR, it’s important to quickly address issues on the web, even if only to let you your consumers know that you are taking the issue seriously and looking into resolving it.
PR and social media are not mutually exclusive – and this could not be more evident than when it comes to crisis communications. Companies must take the time now to develop plans to handle situations whether in traditional or social media platforms, or else they could be found on the wrong side of a really angry and vocal Facebook contingent.
“Quality was [Toyota’s] differentiator and now it’s their Achilles heel,” says Brenda Wrigley, chair of the public relations department at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Her comments appeared in a Forbes article this week, which draws a partial comparison between Toyota’s handling of the current PR crisis involving faulty accelerator pedals to Johnson & Johnson’s text-book handling of their 1982 PR crisis involving Tylenol bottles that were tampered with and poisoned. (J&J immediately recalled 20 million bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol from store shelves and replaced them with new product in tamper-proof packaging, sending a clear message to the public that it values consumer safety over profits.)
Over the past two weeks, Toyota has issued recalls on millions of cars, stopped production of eight of its models at plants across the globe, and ordered dealers to pull cars off their showroom floors. The problem with the accelerators isn’t entirely new, but it has rapidly escalated into a crisis. Some critics say that Toyota, in its aim to be the world’s top car manufacturer, has outgrown its quality control measures, thus undermining the essence of its brand.
What do you think? Are Toyota’s current crisis management efforts sufficient to maintain consumer confidence in a brand that has been synonymous with quality? What message is the current recall and halt on production sending to consumers? Is Toyota’s handling of the problem comparable to J&J’s handling of the Tylenol crisis? How would you handle the current crisis?
Visit Toyota’s Web site for official information about the recall.