Corporate Communications Archive

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.

The Power of Handwritten Notes

April 12th, 2011

So your business is doing well with PR techniques.  Your PR director, in no particular order, has:

• Followed tweets carefully and responded to inquiries.

• Cultivated and engaged Facebook users to raise brand awareness.

• Built good, trusted relationships with key reporters and bloggers covering your industry.

• Found publicity opportunities outside your industry, broadening your business profile.

• Created a witty newsletter format, distributed on a regular schedule to keep your core business base updated on latest news.

• Used other cool online tactics to keep precious positive buzz going.

Now ask yourself, what do these actions have in common?  They all involve digital communications, either via tweets, status updates, emails, phone calls (digital these days), and apps.  Definitely the right way to go, but here’s a revolutionary idea missing from the mix:

The handwritten note.

Yes, sometimes it’s necessary to go analog in PR, and actually take pen to paper to achieve your goals.  As nice as it is for a client or customer to receive informative and interesting electronic updates, the time your business spends in writing a personal note will also go a long way in generating positive PR.  Word-of-mouth is still an essential tactic in the PR playbook, regardless of what new digital platform happens to be the next bit thing.

Don’t believe us?  Ask yourself this: if you ever received a handwritten “thank you for your business, Jill/John,” you probably remembered it for a long time afterward, and remarked positively about it to friends and relatives.  Publicists toil hard for that kind of client and customer support, so never doubt the power of handwritten notes in your grand digital/global/influencer/stakeholder/let’s-conquer-the-world PR strategy.

Corporate and Litigation PR Must Sing in Tune

April 8th, 2011

Anyone who doubts high-stakes lawsuits require smart litigation PR should ready our post today, where we (continue to) deconstruct the awful media narrative of the music industry self-immolating on its tried and true, counter-productive PR strategy.

Mashable has a great post today about the music industry’s looming trial against LimeWire, the file distribution service they accuse of illegally distributing digital music.  When you have a lawsuit with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, it’s no longer a matter of “if” but “when” the proceedings will get heavy media attention.

We’ve written here and here about how tone deaf the music industry’s PR strategy is.  Not only do the heavy-handed statements alienate consumers, they also show incredible contempt for technological advancement, a trend the music industry has famously ignored at its own collective peril.

But, even if the music industry understood the power of positive and persuasive PR, can we assume that their publicists are coordinating messaging with their legal teams?  Probably not, as the Mashable article shows.  The plaintiffs’ prime argument basically amounts to “technology is evil.”  The best comment to the article so far is this:

Corporate titans and captains of industry, know this – if your media team and legal team aren’t coordinating, and litigation PR doesn’t have a special place in your set of business priorities, you’re only hurting your bottom-line.

Big Record Labels Ready to Rain on Amazon’s Cloud

March 30th, 2011

Once again, technology has improved consumer options for music listening.  And, once again, sadly, the music industry is predictably blowing the dust off its “Obtuse PR Tactics” textbook.

Litigation PR plays a big role in the school of obtuse PR, and offers perspective in understanding what’s about to unfold.  When major corporate entities file lawsuits, smart public statements help advance the case in the court of public opinion.  Not-so-smart public statements, conversely, can hamper public attitudes.

We’ve written before about how record labels are, ahem, tone deaf to consumer sentiment and public perception of mindless business practices.  And they’re about to step in it all over again.

Background: Amazon has stolen the fickle tech spotlight by announcing its new cloud drive music service.  Basically, people can now store digital music on an account and stream songs to integrated devices.  This allows potentially limitless music storage, compared to the hard drive confines of a computer or portable music player.

In truth, Amazon’s move isn’t revolutionary technology; rather, it’s a smart assessment of consumer preferences and leverage of wireless bandwidth.  We’d argue that the shift from cassettes to CDs was way more important, as that transition represented a dramatic boost in enjoying audio quality.

Regardless, the music industry seems ready to fight tooth and nail against advancements and technological trends.  Here are choice music executive quotes on Amazon’s cloud:

“Keeping legal options open.”

“The locker service that Amazon is proposing is unlicensed by Sony Music.”

“It sounds like legalized murder to me.” (Seriously?!?)

In other words, the record labels seem ready to bellow: “We will sue Amazon, as scorched-earth litigation PR is in our collective genome.”  Instead of such statements, what if the RIAA, on behalf of the record labels, simply said:

“Cloud music is an interesting technology development.  We’ll keep our eye on it.”

See that?  Framing the industry’s official position as passively interested in no way compromises litigation potential.  Such a statement certainly helps avoid negative headlines and mistaken context as the cloud music media narrative gains momentum.  Better to be a bit mysterious and noncommittal in this case, as opposed to playing the oppressive tactic of “let’s sue ‘em into oblivion.”

For Parent Companies, Some Kids Just Can’t Leave the House

March 24th, 2011

MySpace’s downward spiral has definitely had its share of train-wreck watchers, but few things could have been more surprising than TechCrunch’s post yesterday about just how rapidly the site’s decline is accelerating.

We’ve written before about what MySpace might have done to save itself, at least with aggressive PR steps.  But, if the site’s numbers are dropping this quickly, all that’s left is what PR playbook News Corporation must run as MySpace’s parent company.

For starters, it’s unlikely News Corp will get caught up publicly on the cost issue.  Yes, $580 million – what News Corp paid for MySpace – could have bought lots of tickets to recent Fox film studio turkeys.  But for a company whose quarterly profits recently doubled to $254 million, it certainly can absorb the loss over time.

So if the numbers aren’t the biggest sting, then maybe the stigma associated with MySpace’s awful and cheesy reputation is what hurts most… right?  Nope, wrong on that account too.  News Corp’s red-headed stepchild Fox certainly isn’t shy about promoting the lowest of low-brown content.  Just look at how Fox Cable Networks’ 75% ownership of the National Geographic Channel has polluted that otherwise globally respected brand.

And of course, c’mon News Corp – calling MySpace the “premier lifestyle and social-networking site” – really??  Ditch this language, please.

Maybe all that’s left is for News Corp simply to own up that the entire transaction was a debacle, revel in the absurdity of the whole thing and move on – such an admission might humanize a notoriously unhumanizable CEO.  And that’s the winning PR strategy.

Ryan Air, Buckle up for Crisis PR

March 14th, 2011

The best PR builds narratives, a story-like approach to communications that hooks the media and keeps target audiences wanting more.  The great thing about narratives is they provide a foundation of messaging for PR clients to return to over and over, offering incredible communications utility.

Still, for every action there’s an opposite reaction, and if your company’s narrative is a bad one, good luck escaping that.  Enter Ryan Air.

Few things are more damaging to a company’s reputation than being incredibly tone-deaf and blatantly contemptuous of core customer base.  Ryan Air’s modus operandi has often been that, having publicly toyed with the idea of making travelers stand during entire flights and paying to use the bathroom.  (FYI – the technical process for weighing the fallout from such moves is called the “Bullsh#t Test” in case you’re wondering.)

One might think, “sure, companies make stupid business moves all the time, but the public eventually forgets.”  Sadly this isn’t the case, and a single tweet show why.

The chatterati were up in arms recently about how a Virgin Blue employee placed a baby in the overhead bin (talk about aggressive child management policies).  While the PR crisis might resolve at some point for Virgin, the collateral damage actually affected outside entities.  Take a look at this tweet, and tell us if it would have ever been posted had Ryan Air not failed the Bullsh#t Test so spectacularly:

This is the stuff that should keep C-suites up at night, with or without jetlag.

Inspirational Bacon

March 8th, 2011

What is the other white meat?  The National Pork Board has made sure America’s known the answer since 1987.  But now the NPB has come up with a new slogan: Pork, Be Inspired.  Along with it they are assembling a comprehensive PR package, which of course includes our favorite avenue, social media.

Their package hasn’t fully rolled out yet, but what we’re seeing so far has some promise and we’re here to give our evaluation.  Of course we’ll throw in a few pointers too.

Social media is all about being, well, social.  Thus the website’s use of the recipe page is a great idea, and since it’s linked to their Facebook and Twitter they’re off to a good start.  The pork blog, Knife and Spoon, is also a key part of their strategy linking tasty ideas and videos.  They can bolster their content with something like Pork Facts, which could offer blog posts explaining little known trivia about pork.  Or they could have blog posts with snapshots of exceptional farms.

We know the traditional PR aspect of this campaign will be strong; we’re interested to see how the NPB roll-out on the social media front will ultimately progress.

The Social Bite at the Apple

February 15th, 2011

Ever heard of a vicious circle?  It’s not the kind of routine that appeals to a business, particularly one seeking publicity.  We get smiles, instead, by thinking about “social cycles” — that is, how we can use social media business to reinforce traditional media publicity.

One of the hardest parts of public relations is delivering the theme or narrative that entices the media.  The nice thing about interactive marketing is that when it’s done well, the digital strategy translates into a traditional media strategy.  At least that’s how Spot Dessert in New York (ahem) baked their smart social media business strategy.

The bakery recently used social media to boost its sales — and along with that new business activity comes attention from larger media sources.  In this case, the Wall Street Journal profiled the bakery, and we’ll bet the reason why is that the social media business narrative is quick, direct, easy to understand, and applies to basic business fundamentals.

The lesson: Hooray for you if your business succeeds in getting customer traction through social media… but don’t stop there!  Pitch the business growth to traditional media and see how far you can ride the social media wave.

How to “Socialize” a Focus Group

February 14th, 2011

… and no, we don’t mean funding an interactive marketing campaign with a government bailoutFord Motor Company’s newest marketing campaign for the Explorer model has gotten a major kick-start with a very effective Facebook marketing strategy.  The lesson is simple but powerful: any business can use Facebook to replace traditional, expensive marketing focus groups.  Here’s how Ford did it, and your business can too.

Instead of relying solely on the traditional focus group model, Ford embedded a Facebook tab on the Explorer’s dedicated Facebook page.  The tab asks site users to imagine a dream adventure with the Explorer, thus letting people create their own brand narrative.  With this feedback, Ford then generated content and a theme for their regular marketing campaign.

Imagine the creative input your company can get – for a fraction of the cost of old school focus groups – from thousands of fans, thus giving them a share of brand ownership over future marketing messages.  When consumers see their input as part of the business, they develop affinity in a way that personalizes the product beyond what regular TV commercials or print ads can do.

Praecere specializes in developing intuitive digital strategies for businesses of all types, and can design a similar interactive Facebook campaign that fits your needs.  We’ll show you how to have an ongoing dialogue with your target customer base, one that becomes an integral business component and benefits your bottom-line.

So in conclusion, bravo Ford!  Sort of like Elvis, 140,000+ Ford Explorer fans can’t be wrong!

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