Posts Tagged ‘Add new tag’

PR in practice: protect or serve?

September 7th, 2009 | 2 Comments

When it comes to PR, most companies fall into one of two categories: protect or serve.

The protect companies tend to regard most media as adversaries, or at least as a necessary annoyance. These companies have a lot of secrets, sometimes real, sometimes imagined. Access to top company officers is about as likely as sitting down for a chat with Kim Jong-il.

The serve companies welcome almost any and all comers. They want to tell their stories. Their default attitude toward media is trust, unless they have good reason to be suspicious. Their leaders are open and accessible.

I’ve worked almost exclusively with serve companies, and readily admit not understanding the reasoning behind some of the protect companies. If they have the proper training, why wouldn’t you want your top people in front of the media? Aren’t they the most passionate at telling the company’s story, the ones who live it every day?

In technical companies, why not train your top engineers to deal with the media and use them as your spokespersons? If your customers are engineers, won’t they respond better to someone with a similar background than to a marketing weenie?

I know that there are repercussions when an executive says the wrong thing. But, unless it’s really heinous (and you’re in a bad situation if you work with people who’ll say heinous things), most gaffes can be corrected, and an honest apology goes a long way.

Don’t know about you, but I trust the company that speaks to me more than the one that doesn’t.


PR in practice: PR=personal relationships

August 10th, 2009 | 5 Comments

How close are you to your clients?  Do you know their preferences, their hot buttons, their areas of interest, what kind of information they need to do their jobs better?

For many, PR means stamping out press releases.  But at a higher level it should stand for personal relationships with your clients – not only the clients paying you, but also members of the media and social media, who also should be treated like clients. Here are some things that separate a true PR professional from a release slinger.

  • A true PR pro knows the client well enough to soothe the friction that can often occur in stressful business environments.
  • A true PR pro keeps the client’s best interests at heart and knows when to shoulder responsibility.
  • A true PR pro forgives, but also expresses concerns.
  • A true PR pro is always honest.
  • A true PR pro is a partner, helping the client out in times of need.
  • A true PR pro knows enough about the client’s business to offer analysis, consulting and constructive criticism.
  • A true PR pro will hold the line on a client’s possible excesses.
  • A true PR pro will direct the client to information he or she might be interested in, just like one would do for a friend.
  • A true PR pro sees his or her clients as people, not faceless companies.

PR in practice: The how of self-publishing

May 12th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Last week I wrote about the benefits of self-publishing, especially in an environment where there are fewer trade publications and everybody is shouting into the press release cacaphony.

Many organizations don’t think they have the content to publish their own e-newsletters, community sites or print publications, but there are many sources of information under their own roofs (or extended roofs).  The best sources are often your own engineers and developers, who with good editing can communicate directly and effectively as peers to your customers.

Here are some outlets for generating content:

  • Adapting existing content, especially new product releases and application stories (if these contain puffery, excise it ruthlessly).
  • Tailoring other content from the Internet and strategic partners.
  • Converting technical material and white papers into articles.
  • Presenting profiles of prominent customers and company programmers.
  • Writing editorials on themes of interest to customers and potential customers, including your vision for the marketplace, defining company positions, and relating your technology to bigger industry movements.
  • Establishing forums for exchanging information and answering questions.
  • Providing an outlet for blogs from product managers and technical staff.

This content can be aggregated and presented in many different ways.  It could take the form of monthy or bimonthy e-newsletters linked to a company web site.   It could be part of a community site or a company blog section on your web site.  The best content could be assembled in a 4-color magazine sent quarterly or twice annually to your best customers.

If you don’t think you can generate content yourself or hire an editor to do so, see if there is an existing community site that might be open for purchase.  In this arrangement, you could provide editorial autonomy and funding for the community site to its editors, while generating leads from advertising and promotions running on the site.

There are many possibilities that are cost-effective for generating sales leads and deepening an organization’s relationship with the community.  But to begin exploring them, you have to get past one evil word: “can’t.”

Hey Ford: The door’s still open to my heart

April 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

A headline in the April 8 edition of the Wall Street Journal read:  “Ford Takes Online Gamble With New Fiesta.”

The story is about a Ford initiative to loan 100 young people a Fiesta, then allow them to post YouTube videos, tweets and other social media messages about their experiences.  Ford allegedly has no control over the postings.  It’s a bold experiment, but a good one given one big “if”: If Ford is confident enough in the coolness and quality of the car.

I’m pulling for Ford in a big way, just like I still pull for my ex-hometown Orioles.  Like me and the O’s, Ford and I have had our ups and downs.  Well, mostly downs.

Mustang celibacy

The first car I owned was a used 1965 Mustang, a classic.  Rode like a charm.  But in about the third year of ownership, the floor behind the driver’s seat fell away, leaving just the carpet between a backseat passenger and the pavement.  Friends suggested removing the carpet and powering the car by foot, ala a Flintstones car.  Then, the passenger-side window refused to close all the way during the coldest winter in years.  I’m convinced that this contributed to my months-long celibacy that winter.

Lap of luxury

After the Mustang, I had a grand experiment with a slightly used, huge Ford LTD.  I was in the lap of luxury, riding on pillows with a front seat that stretched door to door.  The car was stolen once when I was attending a new-wave show at The Marble Bar in The Congress Hotel in downtown Baltimore, but fortunately recovered in New Media, Pennsylvania.  I’m sure the thieves enjoyed the luxurious ride, and the LTD had a killer sound system. The good times ended when the gas crisis of the early 80s hit and I traded in my limo for a Ford Pinto.

The Pinto -- cute, but deadly

The Pinto -- cute, but deadly

The tar-pit Pinto

Yes, you know the Pinto by reputation; the one that burst into flames if hit from behind.  The one with the bone-jarring suspension.  My Pinto had a rarely documented problem: on hot days it would leak tar from a seam in the doors, as if a spore from the La Brea Tar Pit was embedded during assembly.

When will he ever learn?

Seemingly without capacity to learn from my mistakes, my first brand-new car was a Ford, a 1985 Mustang.  They made ’em like they used to.  Among the problems: a back end that became disengaged from the front of the car, leaving me a mile away from home at 2:30 a.m. in front of a laundromat where a murder occurred the previous week; massive transmission malfunctions; cruise control getting stuck (and fortunately unstuck) seconds before exiting a freeway; a twisted fuel line that delayed our arrival in our new home in North Carolina; and a broken front bucket seat.

Carrying the torch

I drive a Volkswagen now, but I still follow Ford.  I wallowed in shame as they staked their claim on huge trucks and SUVs.  But lately, I’ve been cheered by a small hybrid SUV, good reliability ratings, and the promise of the little Fiesta (despite the fact that it’s forefather was as wretched as the Pinto). 

Call me a fool, but if Ford calls, I might just open the door to my heart and come runnin’ back.