Posts Tagged ‘PR tactics’

How Not to Handle Pushy Reporters

June 1st, 2010

Yikes… so here is a confrontation, caught on tape, of local ABC news investigative reporter Dan Noyes in California arguing (and nearly getting into a boxing match) with communications director Marc Slavin of Laguna Honda Hospital.  Noyes wanted to question hospital officials on alleged improper use of funds meant to help patients.  Slavin kept touching Noyes in an attempt to shut him down, and from there the confrontation got testy.  Suffice it to say, this is a case study in how not to handle aggressive reporters.

When serving as in-house PR staff, you must anticipate that your company or business may be subject to activist campaigns, protests, investigative reporters and other, ahem, touchy situations.  The attempt, rightly or wrongly, is to make the people on-site uncomfortable and, ahem #2, box them in a corner.  What are some PR tactics to deal with confrontational visitors in a way that doesn’t embarrass your business?

Always remain calm.  In the video, Slavin was holding his ground as a PR staffer quite nicely until he started slapping Noyes’ camera away.  Big mistake.  Not only has he taken the reporter’s bait, but he may have committed assault and/or battery under California law.  Good media training can always coach you through what to do/not to do.

The mike is hot.  If someone tells you that the camera and microphone pointed in your face aren’t recording, don’t believe them.  Even if that camera and mike are pointed down, assume another lens is pointed at you from somewhere else.

Inventory first, respond later.  The agitator’s intent usually is to provoke a response.  But, until you fully understand the crisis and what’s fueling it, it’s best not to respond at length. Calmly explain that you handle the PR and media, ask the nature of the inquiry, get all relevant questions and facts, and tell them someone will respond at an appropriate time. AND live up to that promise – this step is only good if you follow through on it, and failing to get back to the inquirer only fuels their attacks even more, not to mention hurting your credibility.

If all else fails… No matter what, at some point boundaries may get crossed.  If the person is trespassing, ask them to leave.  If they won’t then call the police – but always go back to rule #1 – always remain calm.

DC PR Firm Dispatch: How McDonnell Should Respond to the State of the Union

January 21st, 2010

As is customary, a member of the opposing political party has been tapped to deliver the response to the President’s State of the Union speech next week.  This year it’s Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s turn to do the deed, and as a rising star in the Republican party, he has high expectations to meet.

When you’re assigned an enormous public relations task – parrying with the President – you owe it to yourself to prepare well.  If this were a contest, you’re battling the toughest opponent there is.

So what should you say in your speech?  To answer that question, let’s reverse engineer Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s absolutely disastrous performance last year when he delivered the response.  That way, we can understand some helpful public relations tactics and considerations for McDonnell.

Maintain appropriate tone.  When discussing America’s standing on the world stage, you’re addressing serious issues in global public affairs.  Therefore, your tone as a thought leader should never stray toward anything silly.  Jindal’s words and demeanor were better suited to lecturing toddlers on the importance of listening to grown-ups, but poorly focused on serious political debate.

Practice before skeptics.  Even if Jindal rehearsed his speech with his staff, he should have done so with people outside politics – after all, this is a speech to the nation, not just political insiders.  When your message will be heard by different audiences, make sure you speak to more than just your base.  Otherwise, you risk having your speech finalized via echo chamber, with no constructive feedback to improve it.

Know the consequences of your attacks.  Bashing a government program, particularly when you are a government official, brings you dangerously close to self-inflicted wounds.  In a typical rant on out-of-control government spending, Jindal harshly criticized taxpayer dollars being wasted on “volcano monitoring” and he emphasized these words to enhance their latent absurdity.  Only problem is, “volcano monitoring” is actually a very important geological monitoring service done by the federal government to anticipate natural disasters.  Just like the one that struck Jindal’s state a few years earlier…

Don’t lie.  We all know that being political is often an exercise in bending facts, but some politicians still think out-right lies are smart strategy.  Jindal’s “aw shucks” anecdote about locals standing up to big bad government bureaucrats during Hurricane Katrina disaster relief was later revealed as a total falsehood.  Once your speech wanders into fantasy, you’ve lost almost all credibility.

Obama v. Apple: Who Do You Think Will Win?

January 18th, 2010

Next Wednesday brings us Apple’s long-rumored/awaited tablet – or some other magical device, a time machine maybe?  Nope, they already got that!  In all seriousness, on January 27 Apple will hold a press event to announce new products.  As is customary, Apple’s events are huge PR bonanzas, dominating coverage well beyond traditional tech and trade media.  With speculation running wild on the tablet’s specifications, this likely will be a massive news story.

The press has been reporting the date of Apple’s event for the past several days.  So why is Obama delivering the State of the Union that same day?  Think about this from the public relations perspective.  With important announcements, it’s wise to plan around anything else that may steal the publicity spotlight.  Obama’s team had to know that Apple’s event is on the 27th, and the Constitution doesn’t require the President to give the State of the Union on a specific date.  Now that Obama has to make the final sell on health care, discuss Haiti and other pressing topics, why in the world would you want to compete with what some say is the biggest tech announcement since the iPod?

And it’s not just the tech companies facing enormous impact, as a tablet could entirely up-end the print media industry.  Apple’s already transformed the music industry radically so it’s not a stretch to think that a new product could do the same for newspapers and magazines.  If such a revolutionary product is announced that day, it hurts Obama’s ability to get his own message across.

That is, unless he video-streams his speech to the new tablet?  Just sayin’…