I sometimes find myself amazed at just how some people approach public relations. Public relations or PR is all about one thing: enhancing a company’s reputation.
We’ve seen some PR debacles played out recently including BP’s cavalier attitude to the damaging oil slick now spreading across the Gulf of Mexico and Toyota’s shock and consternation that their once stellar product reputation has been tarnished and diminished.
Consumers don’t expect companies or people to be perfect but they do expect them to own up to problems right away and offer a remedy, not excuses for what has gone wrong. Sure, the threat of legal action often looms large in slowing corporate responsiveness, but leniency can be received from the affected parties when a remedy and sincere apology are offered.
But it is often the little things that mess up PR or at least takes the wind out of its sails. Whether you consider yourself a journalist, writer or blogger, there are certain things you want to get from businesses when considering running their story or using it as a springboard for a fresh discussion.
Specifically, any one of the following points can spell the difference between a company winning or losing the PR battle:
Generalized Release — Sharing news via a press release is still an important way for getting the word out. So why do some companies send out their news without taking the time to address that information to an actual person and adding a personalized note? Never assume that your news will get read or shared if you’re too lazy to connect with key influencers. Anything less is considered spam.
Dissing Influencers — Speaking of influencers, some PR folks simply don’t understand that niche-dominating bloggers often carry much more weight and influence than traditional media journalists. Bloggers share the news quickly, invite comments from readers and can help make a story go viral within minutes. New media is hot, old media is not…both should be used and respected for what they can deliver.
Belittling the Competition — Competitiveness is to be admired, but it shouldn’t happen at the expense of putting down a competing product. Consumers are much more sophisticated than what you suppose and are looking for solid, factual information. If you have something to say about your competitor’s product offering, then do so by explaining how your product lasts longer or performs better under certain conditions. Brand loyal consumers don’t take kindly to having their favorite products bashed and won’t make the switch if you make them feel stupid for buying a competing product.
Say What?! — Clarity, brevity and common sense are attributes of any good news story. Your news wins if you make your points succinctly, but you’ll lose if you’re long winded, off topic or offer news that is not clearly defined.
As companies work to build up their reputation it makes sense to elicit feedback from a dispassionate third party first to see if a proposed PR campaign is strong. An idea hatched in the bowels of the corporate marketing department may make sense to the PR wonks, but do lasting damage if ill-conceived or presented without proper care.