Sunday, March 7

Stacking The Deck: Fresh Content

The topics might be reoccurring — measurement, popularity, persuasion, media musings, and customer experience — but each of these fresh content picks brings something new to the table instead of rehashing what most people already know.

All five posts focus on application and insight, helping you understand why things work the way they do. In some cases, you might walk away and wish you didn't know. Sometimes the truth is like that.

Measurement can be easier than you think. Popularity does command attention. Conflicts do create allies. Media is much less serious than the news it reports. And customers do rate your company based on expectation and experience. See for yourself.

Best Fresh Content In Review, Week of February 22

Putting the Public Back in PR Measurement.
With 88 percent of public relations professionals believing that measurement is an integral part of the public relations process, most executives would think that there is some sort of standard. It's simply not true. Most firms measure it differently and column inches prevails as the end-all cost vs. exposure analysis for clients. Valeria Maltoni provides some insight into how measurement might be done right.

Popularity Matters – Ignore It At Your Own Peril.
Anyone who knows me might be surprised to see this land in the fresh pick project basket. However, there is a difference between discounting popularity and ignoring it all together. Adam Singer provides a tempered and objective view on how popularity helps propel some people, companies, and messages (whether the work or product has real merit).

How to Use “Us vs Them” Stories to create Social Media Evangelists
Dan Zarrella pens a great post on how to identify one of the oldest and most powerful persuasion tactics on the books: "Us vs. Them." Zarrella uses Apple as his quintessential example, but the tactic is ripe with case studies across social media. Several people have leveraged "Us vs. Them" scenarios to create online followings. If you are the underdog or side with consumers, you will likely win. Simple.

The Mcarp Guide To Sweeps Series Planning
If you haven't been following the republishing of Michael Carpenter's series on Occam's Razor, you are missing out. This post takes a peek inside the networks as they prepare for sweeps and the mad dash to juice the numbers. It's a humorous and revealing look at things inside the newsroom. Check out the entire series too.

Creating Remarkable Customer Experiences is About Two Things
Jay Ehret provides three purposes of a planned customer experience — meeting brand expectations, creating loyal customers, and sparking word of mouth. The post emphasizes the importance of customer service, which is especially timely given the state of the auto industry. When was the last time you really, really loved your car or airline? Ehret reveals why or why not.

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, March 6

Writing For Public Relations: The Importance Of Planning

Planning is one of the single most important functions of public relations and/or corporate communications, and yet it remains the single most neglected function. More than half of small companies operate without it (CDW Report, 2009). Of companies that have plans, most do not update them regularly. Fewer measure performance against the plans they create.

Small companies are not alone. Medium and large companies have plans that are often outmoded or ignored. Even companies that do have plans seem to have little faith in them, given that fewer than 15 percent measure external communication (IABC Research Foundation). And only 15 percent of internal communicators say they can demonstrate a return on investment.

So, every year, I provide students with a basic communication outline. This year, I created a supplement deck using Toyota as the model. The supplement is only a sketch of a strategic communication plan, but it still manages to pinpoint communication challenges, opportunities, and failures experienced by the company in recent months.

The above deck is a supplement teaching tool for Writing For Public Relations at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The intent of this deck is to provide students with an applied case study to underscore elements contained within a handout.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, March 5

Picking Roads: Personal Brand Or Persuasive Persona?

When it comes to personal branding, there are plenty of roads that people can take to reach a destination. Unfortunately, most personal branding tips and discussions prompt people to take a different road than the one they prescribe. In fact, most directions have very little to do with being real and very much to do with developing a persuasive persona (intended or not).

Personally, I don't agree with developing a persuasive persona because it seems to be the polar opposite of authenticity. Even when I think to write about this subject, I always wonder if some people will use the tools for agenda over best intent. At the same time, good people probably need to know the ingredients to identify which is which. So here they are...

Three Ingredients For A Persuasive Persona.

This isn't communication theory as much as it is a psychological proof. The tactics are well known in psychology. They have been applied and studied for as long as there has been formalized propaganda. They were employed by con artists well before that.

• Credibility.

Communicator credibility, the degree someone can be believed, depends on how much expertise they appear to have. Appear is the operative word. Credibility can consist of pure fiction, provided someone has the right fact, message, position, affiliation, frequency, or mass following.

All of these things lend to perceived credibility, which creates a persuasive persona. Whether or not there is any verifiable evidence that they are an expert, such as experience or results, hardly matters. It's the platform that Tac Anderson talks about in his post on personal branding.

• Attractiveness.

By attractiveness, I'm not talking about physical qualities as much as charisma. Simply put, people tend to seek out and gravitate around people they like and admire. It's the basis for most social media tactics: People will like you if you make it about them. Everybody loves to be noticed. It's the rule of reciprocity.

There are dozens of posts that could be written on this subject. It can be influenced by any number of factors: schematics we create about people, the primacy effect, pre-existing stereotypes, sense of personal attachment, dispositional bias, self-serving bias, self-attribution, and all sorts of other stuff. But, the bottom line is still the same. People tend to like the ideas of people they like, whether or not those ideas are right.

• Context.

Every group, over time, begins to develop implicit and explicit sets of beliefs, attitudes, ideas, and protocols. The more you adopt or pretend to adopt those beliefs, the more likely you will receive social approval from the group. It has worked this way for a long time. It will likely work this way for a long time to come.

A tribe, as some people call them online, like any other group throughout time, establishes its own set of rewards and punishments for accepting or not accepting social norms. It's also the basis of most social media outreach programs — listen first and then adopt the norms established by that group. By doing so, agents hope to increase their likability until they establish enough credibility to persuade the group.

Persuasive Personas Aren't Always Real.

These tactics are precisely what social media detractors do not like about some social media personas. Intangible credibility, likability over earned respect, and faux belongingness seem all too apparent to them. They say the public is being duped.

Of course, the detractors are only partly right. There are some very smart, experienced, and like-minded people involved in social media. And, of course, some are not. The latter only seek out the endearment of others to elevate their credibility in order to sell products or launch a paid service space to be staffed by volunteers who will do the work for free.

There is nothing wrong with that, per se. Everyone has to eat. All I'm saying is that there are fundamental differences between personal branding, reputation management, and persuasive personas. And in developing your online presence, I hope you take the high road as opposed to the one I've outlined above. Good night and good luck.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, March 4

Being Entitled: O'Dwyer's Directory

There is one word that ought to be avoided in any position, profession, or personal activity. The word is entitlement.

If you want to know what it looks like, take a peek at the post penned by Jack O'Dwyer, publisher of O'Dwyer's Directory of PR Firms. Entitlement, not ethics as Ann Subervi suggests, is the word that comes to mind with a capital E in this case.

O'Dwyer has made the decision to change his business model. Because compiling the rankings and posting them for a year is expensive, he believes revenue fat public relations firms ought to pony up more and support his publication. Associations too, for that matter. And if the firms don't pony up, then they will no longer be listed.

They all owe him because he paid his dues, did the work, and built a ranking system described as "epidemic" on Google. Many of them owe him because the rankings were once responsible for doubling public relations firms leads any time they popped up on the top ten. Others benefited when conglomerates bought them up.

Everybody, it seems, has benefited. Everyone, that is, except the publisher. His reward for a strict ranking system was increased competition from lax ranking publishers, being snubbed by associations, and being shut out by advertising agencies because they don't need to be ranked anymore. It's tough love when you produce a better product and take on the role of being a outspoken contrarian.

Entitlement Is The Worst Enemy To Innovation, Success, And Happiness.

Entitlement doesn't only afflict O'Dwyer. It afflicts companies that build better mousetraps that no one ever heard of. It afflicts dailies, lamenting the loss of revenue. It afflicts nonprofits, with proven track records but faced with budget cuts. It afflicts bloggers, droning on about how they write better content but can't break the popularity barrier. It afflicts professional associations, with volunteer board members considering past contributions as the measure of their righteousness within an organization. It afflicts spouses who forget relationships require daily refreshers over years together. And so on and so forth.

But entitlement, beyond its formal meaning associated with benefits because of rights or by agreement through law, is a killer. No one is deserving of some particular reward or benefit or authority or payment for simply doing what they chose to do. It's the individual's responsibility to demonstrate a tangible value proposition that sells itself or accept that few will buy in.

The Communication Surrounding The O'Dwyer Brush Up Is Silly.

For a group of communicators, journalists and public relations practitioners alike, the whole of the communication is rank with non-communication. Gawker calls it extortion. Waggener Edstrom Worldwide is irritated because they were singled out. I already included a link to Subervi's take.

None of it has much value, but it is interesting to note that the so-called controversy has given O'Dwyer's Directory of PR Firms more attention than it has received in a very, very long time. That in itself can be an indicator that the age of the publication isn't holding up as a relevant source of information, regardless of how objective or valuable it may or may not be.

After all, that is the real question isn't it? The public relations industry has to decide if the ranking has value. If it does, they will fund it at the new rates. If it doesn't, then they won't. And O'Dwyer has to accept the outcome or prove a value beyond the measure of years in business.

And if he doesn't accept the outcome? Well, it seems pretty pointless to continue firing off public commentary that isn't much different than the one we picked up yesterday. Because if that were to continue, then the Gawker, Subervi, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, et al, would be right. Attacking non-advertisers (listed or not) breaks well away from the business of journalism that O'Dwyer had previously held in high regard. It would go well beyond pay for play. It would be pay for protection from the ranking system.

Of course, I could always be wrong. But if I am wrong, I need to know where to send the invoice for contributing a link to O'Dwyer's Directory of PR Firms. If Google juice has that much value, then I certainly am, gasp ... well, you know.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, March 3

Changing PR: Customers Are Media; Complaints Are News

Never mind all those customers on your company's Facbook page. Don't forget the customers standing right in front of you.

That seems to be one lesson learned by the vice president of Evergreen Entertainment LLC, which operates St. Croix Falls Cinema 8 in St. Croix Falls, Wis. His chain of five theaters is now the target of a Facebook BOYCOTT page that has drawn 5,100 fans and counting, after he wrote the following response to a complaint (* are mine):


Drive to White Bear Lake and also go fuc* yourself. If you dont have money for entertainment, get a better job, and don't pay for everything on your credit or check card. You can also shove your time and gas up your fuc*ing a**. Also, find better things to do with your time. This email is an absolute joke. We don't care to have you as a customer. Let me know if you need directions to white bear lake.

Steven J. Payne - Vice President

Payne has since apologized, but the apology came too little too late. It seems other customers have had complaints about the theater, but never had a forum to complain. From our viewpoint, they represent the most dangerous loss of revenue for a company —customers who never complain but never make another purchase.

Not everyone who comments on the boycott page is sympathetic to Sarah Kohl-Leaf of Taylors Falls, Minn. They say her original letter was the catalyst for the response. I cannot agree with that. Retail customers write impassioned letters all the time. Her complaints:

• Lack of an ability to pay with a credit or debit card.
• An ATM cash machine that was out of cash or service.
• A movie interruption to check ticket stubs against the count.

Payne didn't need to be offended by the complaint. They are all valid, and might explain why more customers are not visiting the company's establishments. Sarah deserved a thank you more than she deserved a fu*k off letter.

Everyone has the potential to be the media.

As the Facebook boycott page takes off, mainstream media is starting to pick up the story, including The Minneapolis - St. Paul Star Tribune, Consumerist, and The Sun in Osceola, Wis.

A few customers are even concerned that the theater chain might not survive. While larger operations might fire an employee for such an infraction, this chain seems to be a family-owned theater.

Three other takeaways to consider: Customers do not have to be celebrities like Kevin Smith to gain traction. The lack of a social media presence may one day come back to haunt your company because you won't have any loyalists to lift you up like Toyota, which did far worse than Steven Payne. And, as always, the initial mistake (with the exception of gross negligence that affects public safety) is never as impacting as how we respond to it.

Ergo, we might not be reading this story today if Payne had accepted the criticism and offered up a free popcorn. And we might not be reading about it today if it wasn't for social media. But nowadays, anyone can become a publisher and every manager has to wear a public relations hat now and again.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, March 2

Helping Others: Sustainability Is Critical

There seems to be a near frigid reaction toward new relief efforts in Chile. The quake killed 700 people, left two million people homeless, and caused widespread devastation across the country. Chile needs immediate assistance, but there seems to be a near tragic lack of empathy in the United States.

Fewer Americans are thinking about Haiti too, where yet another crisis looms. According to UPI, only 40 percent of the homeless population there has received tents, tarps or shelter tool kits. It's a significant issue as most temporary shelters are ill-equipped for the rainy season.

Are Action Plans Matching Attention Spans?

At first, I was inclined to join others in wondering when United States action plans started to match attention spans. But in doing the research, it became apparent that there is a different problem. By helping everyone, our country is struggling to help anyone.

When you consider approximately 16 percent of our population is employed by the local, state, and federal government; 8-13 percent employed by the nonprofit sector (depending on the state); 10 percent are unemployed; and 13-17 percent are falling below the poverty line; it becomes pretty clear that we're running low on people who can help. So what can we do?

The Gift Of Sustainability And Succession.

One of the best aspects of BloggersUnite is its ability to bring together diverse bloggers for a common cause and then direct them and their readers toward organizations already doing the work. Doing so helps maximize the impact with minimal means. It also doesn't compete for limited nonprofit resources.

Let's consider Haiti as an example. While I didn't have a hand in the Haitian campaign (Jason Teitelman organized it) beyond lending participatory support, he did a fine job in helping people help Haitians. There are hundreds of posts. Here are a few...

PSA: Superheroes Needed — Apply Here at Entrepod.
Atlanta Haitian Group Galvanizing Support at Execumama Online.
Action Summary at Pawcurious.
Have you moved on yet? Haiti hasn't by Berkman for BloggersUnite.
Lapli ap tonbe... at Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center.

All of those posts have specific calls to action and support existing and sustainable programs. It's also why I liked one story that went deeper than a post. It was created by Gylon Jackson of San Antonio, Texas.

We interviewed him several weeks ago for our business giving blog. And we learned for Jackson, a post wasn't enough.

He developed an online campaign, including a blog and two social networks, to provide action in an effort to collect 100,000 pairs of lightly used shoes — an idea that promises to last much longer than the dollar equivalent of the donation.

A week ago, Shoes for Haiti Now shipped 900 pairs. There is still more work to be done, but Jackson tells me they have 2,000 more pairs of shoes ready to ship in mid-April. Stay tuned. I'll revisit this story again.

The Measure Of Sustainability Exceeds The Investment.

Incidentally, the Haitian earthquake isn't my first experience helping people in Haiti. In 2001-02, I worked with Kenneth Westfield, M.D., in improving upon his longtime support for Friends of the Children of Lascahobas (Haiti) to develop a sustainable art fundraising event.

The program, while no doubt overshadowed by the earthquake, has thrived, expanded, and earned additional support. As a best practice, it demonstrates how short-term investments can lead to long-term sustainability.

It's also how we've been able to provide support to scores of nonprofit organizations since 1991. Our support is often a short-term investment with an emphasis on long-term sustainability. Without sustainability, programs have a propensity to unravel, especially as they become too reliant on a single donor.

Developing Sustainable Actions Takes Patience And Planning.

Nobody wins when contributions require too steep a sacrifice. Volunteers tend to become burned out. Donations dry up. And organizational objectives shift from long-term sustainability into jumping from the last crisis to the next crisis, degrading the ability to help anyone with every new commitment.

If you want to make sustainable investments, individual and organizational giving works best when it's planned.

Set aside a comfortable amount of time and/or money for giving every month, and save a small percentage of those funds for unplanned events such as Haiti or Chile. In choosing organizations, favor those that have long-term sustainability elements for individual empowerment or succession. (Keep in mind, some worthwhile organizations may not have an empowerment element, given the nature of their cause.)

This will allow you to maximize your contributions. And, for some, the lesson need not only apply to donations and volunteer work. The concept works on that micro or macro level. All that is required is your ability to balance selfish and selfless.

After all, working too many hours tends to diminish productivity. Engaging children in too many activities can jeopardize quality time as a family (especially among working parents). Allowing government to fund too many external programs limits its ability to fund local programs.

Reversed, with each level of our infrastructure investing at comfortable levels, then maybe companies, organizations, and government might be in a better position to help without confusing cause marketing and social responsibility. Or maybe nonprofit organizations would work harder to empower and not enable. Or maybe we can find alternative solutions that still allow our generosity to shine through, like sending shoes to Haiti.

Bookmark and Share

Blog Archive

by Richard R Becker Copyright and Trademark, Copywrite, Ink. © 2021; Theme designed by Bie Blogger Template