DC PR firms Archive

Praecere in the News

May 25th, 2011

Hope you’re getting ready for the holiday weekend! When you’re sitting on the beach sipping that fancy drink, take in the latest and greatest on PR news and trends:

• Read our interview in Modern Medicine, discussing social media strategies for plastic surgeons. Yes, even they need to think about PR!

• Praecere President Bobby Zafarnia interviewed in PR Daily re: White House PR fallout after Osama bin Laden raid.

• Wondering who’s offering the best commentary on PR and the hottest news items? Sure you are! Check out (listen to) Bobby Zafarnia‘s interview on the Patrick Wiscombe Show, where we discuss the bin Laden raid, crisis PR, social media, QR codes, and much more.

How and Why Scandals Follow Companies – and What to Do about It

May 19th, 2011

Today’s sex scandal news is not about DSK, but rather Munich Re, a German insurance conglomerate that’s got quite a bit on its hands… or wrists?  Turns out that company executives in 2007 hosted an orgy at a Budapest bath house where prostitutes wore color-coded bracelets indicating their availability for sex favors.

The company’s statement, four years later, rightly takes a stern tone and emphasizes that the party was “a serious violation” of company rules and “would not happen again” – definitely a smart crisis PR move.  But one of the more amazing aspects of this event is that it was documented in a company newsletter … in 2007!  So what does this mean in the crisis management context?

Bad news will almost always leak.  Accounting no-no’s, insider trading, sweetheart deals, civil rights violations – no matter how old or in the past these events may seem in a company’s history, if they haven’t come to light they will.  The question is whether the company is prepared to handle the fallout.

It’s all about the present momentMunich Re’s statement cited above also explains that the executives who organized the event are no longer with the company.  That’s definitely a good point to emphasize, but the problem is that with big faceless corporations, the public perceives the brand as the key actor and not individual executives.  Even though a few bad actors are gone, the stink of the scandal will often remain.

Have your holding statement ready.  We’ve written extensively about the need for prior crisis management planning, and how holding statements are a critical factor.  If the event was chronicled in 2007, then Munich Re leadership presumably knew about it and thus had ample time to plan for negative media attention.

The best crisis management is often about prior planning, at least when your company has the luxury of time, so map the steps out before the spotlight’s on you.

Don’t Get Trumped by False Media Narratives

May 18th, 2011

In the past we’ve written about the PR tactic of riding the media coattails of major scheduled events.  It’s hard enough to drum up publicity from scratch, so when possible, your business should leverage existing high-profile news to your advantage.  For example, accounting firms can get PR mileage around April 15, the same with gyms around national health observances, and so forth.

But in public relations there’s always an exception, and that applies to media narratives.  Just because some item or matter is getting buzz doesn’t mean it’s best to cinch your horse to it.  And the biggest hype-fest of the moment is Donald Trump’s flirting to run for the US presidency.

Had Trump ultimately launched a formal presidential campaign, it might have presented other colorful CEO-types nationwide an opening to extol the virtues of brash business practices, in an attempt to get on the media map.  In fact, numerous talking heads and commentators were absolutely certain Trump would seek high office.

This is the point where smart PR counselors would advise their clients about the highly scientific, intellectually rigorous evaluation process known as the “smell test”…  If at a minimum one is a student of history, then a quick gloss would reveal that every president since 1961 has held a prior political title – and the one right before that had quite a bit of legitimate global stature.

So beware the lure of questionable media narratives, particularly ones based on absolutely outlandish and farcical premises.

Blog Aesthetic Memory Lane!

May 11th, 2011

Revisiting some of our favorite blog posts:

• foursquare’s online apology — crisis PR done the right way: bit.ly/bxcbaY

• How Microsoft re-booted its crisis PR strategy on the XBox: bit.ly/gOfAYK

• Will Verizon need a crisis PR plan for the iPhone? bit.ly/fRM4yC

• Five types of PR agencies to avoid: bit.ly/hFTFQ5

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 Ragan.com.

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.)