February 4, 2013
Sunday’s Super Bowl was a nail biter; many say decided on the last play. For those of us in communications it was often the ads and surrounding conversation that held our attention.
In general I was a bit disappointed with the ads. There was the annual tasteless sex in Go Daddy and the blatant sexual overtones of the Calvin Klein ad. The beer ads were their usual boring selves and…I could go on. But I want to focus on four that stood out for me:
Jeep’s Tribute to the US military
Veterans returning from overseas duty get to nearly all of us and the Jeep ad was no exception. Oprah’s voiceover only added to the emotion of this spot. But did it sell Jeeps? Maybe not but it likely helps the brand.
Dodge’s Ode to the American Farmer
My youngest brother is a farmer, keeping my grandparent’s farm in our family and making sure our children understand how food gets to the table. The ad was a fitting tribute to one of the hardest working and least understood aspects of our society. But, like the Jeep ad, I’m not sure it sold any Dodge trucks.
Budweiser’s Clydesdale ad
I’m a sucker for Clydesdale ads and it seems everyone agrees as the ad took the #1 slot. They tell a human story with such emotion. Also, this ad included a social media tie-in with Budweiser’s first Twitter account to name the foal in the ad. This ad reinforced the Clydesdale’s place in our heart yet again. Still makes me a bit teary.
While not in the list of top five ads of the Super Bowl, Oreo definitely won the social media battle. Their ad, set in a library, was well received and sent thousands to their promotion on Instagram…cookie vs crème (all crème here). Then the lights went out in the Superdome and Oreo posted on social channels the tweet that communicators have been talking about since.
By getting a message out as quickly as they did, the company showed the difference between “doing” and “being” social. Of course, all the people were in the room at the right time to approve and execute the concept but that gets into the nitty gritty. Oreo’s social media team is obviously empowered to make instant decisions because they have the trust of the company.
It’s really important for organizations to understand that just doing social media isn’t all that’s needed today.
Organizations need to start living social.
They must understand the audiences and engage. It’s not enough anymore to post without responding. It’s not enough to post without reading the chatter that’s around your post.
The culture within the organization needs to include complete trust in the social media team to make on-the-spot decisions.
These are just some of the things I discuss with clients considering a new or expanded social media presence. Sometimes the answer is to wait to establish a presence until the company’s culture is ready. But we’re also reaching a point where social media is such a critical part of the communication mix, it’s more important than ever to have a presence. So, it’s time to change that culture, establish trust in the communications team, and bust down the silos to make it happen.
Is your company ready? What will it take to get ready? Because people are already talking about your organization and really wish you were listening.
February 22, 2012
It’s no secret to many in the public relations field that I’m a supporter of the Public Relations Society of America. I’ve served the organization for many years as both a local chapter leader and a national Board member and officer. This year I’m serving as chair of PRSA’s College of Fellows. Because of the investment I’ve made in PRSA and the time I’ve spent as a volunteer I feel I’m qualified to speak out.
While I was on the PRSA national Board, and during my many years as a Leadership Assembly Delegate, I’ve seen the organization go through many changes and grow. I’ve reviewed many a member and non-member survey pointing to the needs of the membership. I’ve then watched both volunteers and our hard-working staff bend and change based on data from our members. And I don’t always agree with the changes we make. That’s because when you have 22,000 members (more than 30,000 if you include the student members) there are bound to be some people who don’t agree with everything we do. Especially in the past five years, I have been confident in PRSA’s changes and programs because they are ALWAYS based on research and data. The PRDefined project is no exception.
Three years ago, members asked for tools to help tell PR’s story to businesses and organizations. The Business Case for Public Relations was created by a broad-based group of industry leaders and is available to members and non-members alike. There are incredible resources there that I hope professionals are using. If you haven’t seen it, go look around and I’ll bet you find many useful items.
For as long as I can remember as a national leader, there has been discussion about redefining public relations. The definitions in use today are cumbersome and just not as relevant today as they were when they were created…by a committee. No one wanted to take on the challenge because it would be hard and likely controversial. In 2011, PRSA’s leadership decided the changes in the profession meant it was time to take on the challenge.
So, last September PRSA gathered a group of individuals from a broad spectrum of the industry, including groups outside the US, and put together a process to reach a definition. That process remained focused on research and data. Additionally, because of the complexity of the issue and the many facets of our industry, a representative committee was formed. Members and non-members were involved in the process and the committee set to work…on an impossible task.
Between late November and early December, professionals were asked to complete a form to create their definition. There was also an opportunity to comment, so professionals could discuss any concerns. It was hoped there would be consensus from the crowd-sourced definitions. As with all of the communications from the committee to professionals, there was an opportunity for comments. These were provided to the committee and I am confident they heard the comments that were sent to them.
Then, from January 11-23, the draft definitions were published for comment and discussion by anyone in the profession.
Earlier this week the results were sent out to vote as what was hoped would be the final step of a process. Unfortunately, the definition is…well…fairly cumbersome as one might expect from globally-sought research and a fairly broad profession. What I kept reminding myself, as I chose which option I preferred, is that this is a definition and not the explanation I use of what I do. My specialty is only one aspect of the profession.
What I was not prepared for, and I have to say I’m terribly disappointed in, is the plethora of professionals who’ve chosen to criticize the process using their own tools and mediums instead of talking directly to PRSA. I don’t believe the comments were sent to PRSA and I wonder if these individuals participated in the research process. None of the individuals who I’ve seen criticize the project has commented on PRSA’s blog on the subject.
If you are not happy with PRSA on this project, or another, please tell them. Please tell them directly. There are volunteer leaders you can talk with or you may direct your comments to COO Bill Murray. They need to hear from you on this issue and others. They do listen and they are doing as well as they can to represent the public relations field. It just really isn’t fair to take your concerns to other formats this late in the game. You should have been involved all along. And you should be okay that others’ views, as well as your own, have been taken into account.
I’ve thought about writing this post now for several days and the more I see those volunteers who worked so hard to get to this point being maligned, the more frustrated I get. This isn’t how we would counsel our clients to behave. In fact, it’s the exact behavior we often tell them is inappropriate. So, why are we doing it now.
I can guarantee you that PRSA has taken the time to listen to you. Please take the time to listen to them, learn about the process and color inside the lines. And, finally, if you don’t participate…you really have no right to complain.
February 7, 2012
Are you seeing the world through rose colored glasses?
This phrase has often been on my mind recently as we’re mired in divisive political discussions and this last week in the Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle. It has caused me to wonder if we can ever be unbiased, or ever read straight news stories. I realized we all have filters but they are often in our subconscious. It’s amazing we can hear the same words and listen to the same news story and come away with different interpretations.
When we read the paper, a magazine article, watch TV news or even (my favorites) Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, it is the reporter/anchor’s interpretation of a story; their version of an event. But what we actually hear is yet another version that’s colored by our own beliefs and background. It’s really not something we can control.
As concerned citizens and especially as public relations and communications professionals, we need to make sure we’re doing our best to remove those filters before advising clients or making decisions. I find one of the easiest ways to remove the filters is to gather information from many sources.
- Watch TV news on MSNCB and Fox.
- Read the local underground paper as well as the traditional daily.
- Listen to NPR and talk radio.
- Read a blog you like and then one that’s cited by that person as completely biased and wrong.
- Talk with – and listen to — people you know are on both sides of the issue.
One of the things I like about social media sites like Facebook is when people are excited about a subject, there are lots of posts/messages where I can learn. I suggest you read them critically. It may seem there are many different filters on a subject, but studies show we gravitate to people who are similar to us. It’s only natural.
So, while social media provides new sources, they might not present an opposing view. It’s easy to gain a false sense of security around an issue.
When next you are faced with learning about a subject, check your sources and add a few you might not normally review. Look beyond the normal websites and blogs to those sites, people and blogs you know will offer an opposing view.
And for heaven’s sake, listen to what’s provided on all the sites, and from friends. If you read but don’t listen or learn, you’re just wasting your time. As a communications professional that’s a very dangerous road. You need to understand both sides if you’re going to offer advice.
If we’re going to make this world a better place we can only do this if we look at issues and situations through multiple filters. We will only be able to collaborate on an issue once we realize and accept the many different filters through which others see the same world.
How do you make sure you’re listening to multiple sides of each story?
August 16, 2011
Earlier this week, my friend Rosanna Fiske, APR, wrote a piece for the Poynter Institute about challenges journalists will likely encounter when transitioning to public relations. We’re seeing lots of folks making this transition now as ad budgets are squeezing the size of traditional media. The article raises some excellent points about what journalists face when making the transition. And there is so much more to public relations than press releases.
When counseling clients, my first steps involve a lot of listening and some planning. I first determine the goals, strategies and objectives and get some idea how the client will measure success. Only after having that understanding should we open the toolbox to see which tactics can help achieve those goals.
If you don’t know WHAT you want to do, you can’t possibly know HOW to do it.
So, how does one do this without getting bogged down? By asking some key questions and doing some research. Some baseline questions I consider with each project:
- What are we trying to do?
- Who’s our competition?
- To whom are we talking?
- What do we want to tell them?
- What do we want them to think about/do?
- What do they currently think about us?
- What is critical to our success?
- What are you concerned about?
- What is working currently?
- What do we do better than anyone else?
- How will we know we’ve been successful?
Once we have these answers, there’s normally a path that’s developing to take us to our destination. We can add to that plan and build in checks and balances along the way. As we make our way down the path, I use the answers to help remind the client why we’re doing certain things. For larger projects, I also plan a mid-point check to make sure we’re still on track.
Have any of the answers changed now that we have more information?
From my position as outside counselor, it makes me smarter. From a business standpoint, it helps me achieve meaningful results. That’s my system and I’m sure others have planning systems that work best for them. What are your methods?
August 9, 2011
I was in a meeting recently with a group of seasoned professional communicators. As seems to regularly happen, someone was lamenting the fact they don’t have a seat at the decision making table within their organization. Through the course of the conversation I began to wonder if we bring this on ourselves?
- Do we understand what senior management wants from the communications team?
- Do we offer insight into the stakeholders they don’t get from other sources?
- Do we understand the customer in a way senior management doesn’t but should?
- Can we articulate a strategy that shows we understand what they need?
And…do we offer insight regularly and in a way they want to hear it. Not that we need to say what they want to hear. But we do need to speak in language they understand.
- Do we know enough about the activities of competitors and stakeholders that we can answer questions on the spot?
- Do we appreciate and understand management’s goals or are we always trying to sell our own?
And, my favorite…
Are we offering more than media relations? Public relations today is about much more than sending out a press release.
Instead, it’s a complex series of multi-disciplinary strategies that require analysis and understanding before use. In fact, it’s often advisable to offer management a series of options where they could select from different options.
As professionals, we need to be able to demonstrate the numerous tools in the public relations tool box. It’s not that imperative the senior manager/executive understand how to use these tools, or really even use them. However, they must know that their communications professionals do.
If we don’t understand the perspective and vision of senior management; we can’t expect to have that seat. Because, quite frankly, we aren’t helping them.
I would suggest that these questions, and likely many more, should be front and center before we consider requesting that seat. In addition, find ways to gain some understanding of the language of business. It will make it easier to speak management’s language.
Have you gotten a seat at the table? What did you do to get it? What advice do you have for professional communicators still angling for a way in?