Blog Aesthetic Memory Lane!

May 11th, 2011

Revisiting some of our favorite blog posts:

• foursquare’s online apology — crisis PR done the right way:

• How Microsoft re-booted its crisis PR strategy on the XBox:

• Will Verizon need a crisis PR plan for the iPhone?

• Five types of PR agencies to avoid:

Happy reading!

Is Vogue Taking Crisis PR Lessons From Asad Regime?

May 11th, 2011

In a recent post we offered Vogue Magazine a four-step crisis management plan to dig the publication out of its ongoing PR crisis.  As many media watchers know, Vogue published a spectacularly ill-timed, fawning profile of Syrian First Lady Asma Asad, whose husband’s regime continues to lead a violent and murderous campaign to crush popular dissent in his country.  To date, the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria estimates that nearly 800 people have been killed in the crackdown, and 9,000 are in detention.

Vogue’s leadership apparently has taken a very patient wait-and-see approach to managing the PR fallout from glamorously featuring a family with the blood of thousands of citizens on its hands.  That was until yesterday, when Vogue executed the mother of all careless crisis public relations tactics.

Vogue deleted the Asma story from its website.

Yes, Vogue Magazine “disappeared” the article, much like Syria’s government “disappears” citizens who protest the Asad regime.  Instead of smart crisis management, Vogue’s literal “nothing to see here” approach feeds precariously into an all-too-easy-to-script media narrative.

The elementary failure of Vogue’s PR strategy is that the Syria story simply will not go away, and not for a long time.  As long as the Arab Spring continues, as long as Syrian forces use violence to counter protests, as long as Syrian secret police get caught on camera beating and torturing citizens in full public view, Vogue will not escape this crisis PR nightmare of its own making.

Crises, Crises Everywhere, and Not a Plan to Use

May 9th, 2011

Finally!  DC is getting its spring, and leaving winter weather behind – we’ll take it even as late as May if we have to, but… one thing that never goes out of season is smart crisis PR planning.

It’s amazing how all sorts of businesses and organizations, big and small, never consider crisis management as a necessity to plan for, as if they’re magically immune from reality.  So here’s a nice laundry list of how real it can (and often does) get:

Hospital: what if one of your patients leaps out a 3rd floor window?

Car dealership: what if a test driver runs over people in the parking lot?

Downtown bakery: what if the store catches fire and destroys the adjoining building?

Labor union: what if the treasury is embezzled?

Online password storage site: what if your database gets hacked?  (Still can’t believe this one really happened – they’re supposed to protect passwords!)

Tourism bureau: what if your CEO is caught making a racist rant?

Unintended comedy aside, these hypotheticals are meant to illustrate the incredible range of incidents than can destroy a business or organization’s reputation very quickly.  That’s why prior crisis public relations planning is so vital – and, it’s always much better and easier to plan in advance than to scramble when things are in disarray.

Once the media, regulators, naysayers, critics, cynics, or other interested audience gets whiff of the negative incident, you won’t have time to generate a holding statement, talking points, anticipated Q&A, media train spokespeople, get a team in place, and execute other crucial tactics.  Plan in advance to buy time — and ultimately, goodwill.

There Went Your Big PR Announcement – Now What?

May 4th, 2011

Wait… you’re reading this blog today?!  And therein lies an important PR lesson.  When something so monumental and historic suddenly happens, you can bet it will supplant every other major story in the news.

In this case, Osama’s killing quickly silenced numerous media storylines.  Goodbye (for the moment, anyway) Syria, Libya, tsunamis and nuclear power plants, tornados, Sony data leaks, celebrity crime waves, sports playoffs, and so much more.

Strategic public relations is all about planning, planning, planning, and then pulling the trigger.  In other words, you want to line up talking points, fact sheets, media training, media targets, and other elements before launching your PR campaign.  That way you maximize the likelihood of publicity and positive press.  Now, if you’re smart and plan this way, usually a target date is selected to start the publicity blitz.  Think grand opening, product launch, major announcement – these are not accidental events.  They are major milestones that happen only once, so they need to be squeezed for every possible PR opportunity.

But what happens when something like Obama vs. Osama suddenly happens?  Say you’re a CEO who’s spent months planning a new product launch, put millions of dollars into the next-big-thing, only to have a major event out of your control take place.  Gone is all the media attention you worked so hard for and deserve…. or maybe not.  Three things to consider:

First, you did plan for these contingencies… right?  Every major PR blitz must be viewed as a chess game, and that includes a big happening that can steal your prime position.  You must anticipate political events, stock market crashes, a competitor beating you to the punch, and more.

Second, if you don’t have a Plan B in place, you might get away with delaying your announcement.  Still, this is rarely ideal, as PR campaigns often tease media about the big announcement ahead of time, and you don’t want to leave interested audiences hanging without a strong explanation (FYI – such non-eyebrow rolling explanations rarely exist).

Third – and most importantly – if a delay is out of the question, at least know that the major event will lose media attention over time.  That means your prior planning needs to consider how to get multiple bites at the media apple.  Simple one-offs never make a good PR strategy; you have to think about the long-term and how to leverage a single announcement into an enticing media opportunity for weeks and months to come.

Praecere in the News

April 27th, 2011

Praecere President Babak Zafarnia offers crisis PR tips to franchise businesses on AllBusiness.

Zafarnia was also featured on CNN’s Situation Room as a crisis PR expert, commenting on activist group The Yes Men targeting GE over tax liability issues.

Our article on “Five Types of PR Agencies to Avoid” was syndicated by

How Vogue Magazine Can Apologize for the Syria Issue

April 27th, 2011

As the time this post goes online, Syria’s brutal crackdown on citizen protestors continues.  President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have massacred an estimated 350 people since Syrians began popular uprisings several weeks ago.  Sadly, Assad’s reign of terror follows in his father’s footsteps, who ruled Syria with an iron grip and himself committed genocide against his own people, killing 10,000 of them in one episode.

Syria’s regime is notorious for torture, plotting assassinations, consorting with terrorist regimes… seriously, one gets breathless taking inventory of the Assad family’s legacy of murder and tyranny that has spanned decades.

So, as this blog comments routinely on media aesthetic, we (along with countless others) were perplexed and repulsed to see Vogue Magazine give a fawning profile of Asma al-Assad, Syria’s first lady, in its March issue.  Enough has been said about this insulting and disgusting feature in Vogue, so this post isn’t about heaping more (richly deserved) scorn on the magazine’s editors.  Rather, we’re here, in the interest of professionalism, to offer advice to Vogue on how it can right this epic wrong.

Stop defending the story.  Chris Knutsen, the story’s editor, stood by the story even though it ignored the Assad family’s atrocities.  The first step in crisis PR is for the client to acknowledge publicly that something bad or questionable has happened.  That Vogue insists on standing by its tragically timed profile flies in the face of this basic tenet of crisis management.

Stop being absurd.  Seriously, Mr. Knutsen?  The editor even went so far as to not rule out doing a similar profile of North Korea’s dictator!  (Thankfully, as The Atlantic points out, Kim Jong-Il is not believed to be married.)

Apologize immediately.  Smart crisis PR counsels the client’s leadership to get out in front of the issue (no pun intended) to avoid further damage.  In this case, notoriously frigid Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour can film a brief but sincerely apologetic statement on the matter and post that online; it’s only a small gesture but shows that the Vogue brand realizes how hurtful this issue was.

Profile the heroes, not the murderers.  If fashion is about new trends, what bigger trend dominates the news – and culture, society, global interaction – at the moment than the Arab SpringVogue could do itself a huge favor, and celebrate democracy, by profiling the brave and courageous leaders of the Middle East’s freedom movement.

Just like that, four simple tips that any fashion authority can – and should – embrace.

Client News

April 26th, 2011

My Guy Trip Press Release, announcing launch of adventure travel service in California. (Link takes you to PDF press release.)

The Publishing Industry’s Lame Crisis Management Playbook

April 20th, 2011

Greg Mortenson – author of now-in-question memoir “Three Cups of Tea” – is giving the public a real-time crisis PR train wreck situation to watch.  This past week, both 60 Minutes and venerable adventure author Jon Krakauer questioned the veracity of Mortenson’s best-selling account of building schools in Pakistan.  It ain’t pretty – Krakauer’s blistering critique is titled “Three Cups of Deceit.”

Many angry voices are joining this debate about the latest high-profile memoir scandal; after all, the media narrative has strong legs given the tremendous fallout from James Frey’s fabricated (and also best-selling) memoir “A Million Little Pieces.” Mortenson’s attempt at damage control is riddled with double-speak and thinly veiled “oops” which do no favors for his cause.

But we’re not here to talk about the fabricated content; rather, as crisis management observers, we’re interested in how Mortenson’s publisher, Penguin/Viking Press, responds to the public outcry.  Anyone can rightfully heap scorn on Viking for having first made a ton of cash and now examining Mortenson’s book for inaccuracy(s).  So, Viking’s claim that it will “carefully review the materials” is extremely flat-footed on the crisis PR front.

How about a stronger condemnation, discussing next steps specifically and improvements in the internal review process, and communicating grave concern about the damage this does to future memoirists?  Why isn’t this Viking’s standard crisis management plan?

Ideally big publishers will be careful with checking the accuracy of future memoirs, that is if they want to preserve any sort of credibility with this medium.  But even if they do review manuscripts for truth vs. fiction beforehand, what is the crisis PR plan they have in place when – not if – the next great memoir is revealed as a total flight of fancy?

9 Ways to Overhaul Your Corporate Blog

April 18th, 2011

Editor’s note: We are privileged to have Dan Bischoff of, a mighty PR guru of extraordinary industry insight, provide The Blog Aesthetic a guest post today!

It’s an honor to guest post for Praecere. Public relations has changed dramatically in the last few years, and Praecere is at the forefront of this evolution.

Blogging has become an essential part of marketing and PR. It supports lead generation, provides engaging content needed for social media and search engine optimization, establishes a company as a thought leader in its industry, and can be used as a tool to get media attention.

If your blog can deliver content your prospects find interesting, informative, and entertaining, they’ll see you as a trusted source of information – an advisor, an industry leader.  If all things are equal when choosing between two companies, the prospect will likely choose the company with a great blog.

In fact, in the DemandGen and report titled “Inside the Mind of the B2B Buyer” 66% of people say “consistent and relevant communication provided by both sales and marketing organizations was a key influence” in choosing the company they ultimately made a purchase from.

Any business can set itself apart with good blogging, no matter the industry or how boring you think your business is. I’ve put a list together that can help freshen up your blog. Please add to the list in comments.

1. Define Your Purpose

Before you start your blog, answer these questions: Who is your audience? Who is the competition for your audience? What is the focus of your blog? What goals are you trying to achieve? Have you set metrics for measuring those goals?

Did you notice most of those questions revolve around your audience? The blog shouldn’t be about your company as much as it should be about your customers and prospects. A successful blog is a resource for your audience. The purpose of your blog should be how it engages and interests that audience.

2. Create a Blog Calendar

To build and maintain a following on your blog, it must be consistent. Ideally you want at least three blogs every week; the more the merrier. Place them live at the same time every day. For example, plan to publish a blog every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 9 a.m. Put together a calendar and schedule blog posts, otherwise it won’t get done.

3. Mix and Mash

Brainstorm a variety of topics around your industry and company. Create short and long posts. Have meaty posts with lots of information and others that are less serious. Move beyond the written word with photos, infographics, charts, videos, and presentations.

4. Stir Conversation

To engage readers, you want them to participate in the conversation. Write many of your blogs as if you are having a conversation and want people to respond. A blog shouldn’t be a soap box, but rather a two-way conversation with each reader. Don’t fill in all the blanks; sometimes leave a post undone and ask for the reader’s participation.

5. Compelling Headlines

As people judge a book by its cover, they judge a blog post by its headline. Don’t underestimate how important a good title is; it may be the most important part of your post. A few tried and true headlines include numbered lists (5 Reasons …,  7 Ways …,  etc.), how-to posts (How to Survive Prison), why’s (Why Richard Branson’s 5 Tips to Success are only 4.5), surprising headlines and odd analogies.

6. Share Everything

If you your blog can’t be easily shared online, then you are wasting an opportunity. Make sure you have social share buttons and RSS feeds near every blog post.  [Ed. Note: new Praecere site coming soon with these features!]

7. Guest Bloggers

Guest bloggers can extend your network, add credibility from third parties, and provide a fresh, new perspective to your blog. Contact respected people in your industry and invite them to guest blog on your site. Always offer to provide a link back to their site. Those links not only help send visitors to their site, but also with SEO through quality link building. Also look for opportunities to guest post on other blogs.

8. Blog in Real Time

Keep an eye on current events and news, especially around your industry. Write a blog post to respond to news and how it relates to your industry. Praecere does a great job with these types of posts. They can show up quickly on the first page of Google as more people search for that trending topic. You can also use real-time, newsy posts with the media. Pitch them on doing a story about that subject and send them a link to your blog.

9. It’s the Appetizer for Lead Gen

A good blog post massages a viewer and warms them up to your services or products. The right calls to action placed on those pages can drive significant leads. Good calls to action on blogs might be a newsletter sign-up, RSS feed sign up, a download of a free whitepaper, etc.

These are just a few ideas to make a great blog. Any other ideas that have worked for you?

Dan Bischoff is the Director of Communications at Lendio, a company helping entrepreneurs and startups succeed through obtaining the right business loans and funding. Previously he was the VP of and the online PR manager at He has been a journalist and editor in various media outlets – including the Associated Press, The Salem Statesman Journal, the Deseret News and the Park Record. Follow him on Twitter at

Praecere President Babak Zafarnia Interviewed on CNN’s Situation Room

April 14th, 2011

Watch Babak Zafarnia‘s interview on CNN’s Situation Room, where he discusses crisis public relations per GE’s getting hit by a fake press release.