Archive for the ‘Messages’ Category

Media Minute: Silence can be golden

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Media Minute: Silence can be golden

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Silence can be goldenWant to be quoted by the news media? Then be quotable when you’re talking to reporters.

But you don’t always want to be quoted. Bloomsburg University student Jake Close learned that lesson the hard way recently.

His picture and a comment about whether the Washington Redskins should change their name appeared in a “Your Opinion” feature in his hometown newspaper, the Bloomsburg (Pennsylvania) Press Enterprise.

Jake’s problem? He was wanted for skipping bail in New York. The local cops saw his name and picture in the paper, realized he was wanted in New York and arrested him.

What was the comment that got Jake into hot water? He suggested the Redskins keep their name but change their mascot to a potato. He probably got a nice chuckle out of seeing his joke in print — until the cops showed up and hauled him off to jail.

So, remember the rule: Be quotable if you want to be quoted. But you don’t always want to be quoted. If you don’t want to be quoted, keep quiet.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

Media Minute: Redskins should change name now

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Media Minute: Redskins should change name now

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Why Redskins should change name nowThe Washington Redskins should change their name now — or as soon as possible.

I’m not making a moral argument. Just offering some PR advice.

When you’re in a fight you can’t win, it’s usually a good idea to find a way to end the fight. The Redskins can’t win this fight. So, they should find a way to end it. The only way they’ll do that is by changing their name.

This issue isn’t going away. It’s a moral and cultural issue for opponents of the Redskins’ name. It’s hard to argue that keeping the name reaches the same level of moral importance for those opposed to changing it.  They’re fighting for the status quo.

It’s hard to see how supporters of the status quo gain any strength. If anything, the tide is moving in the other direction.

The critics are likely to get stronger over time. Fifty members of the U.S. Senate signed a letter last month urging the Redskins to change their name. And the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the team’s trademarks last week on grounds that the team’s name disparages Native Americans.

All of the senators who signed the letter are Democrats. So, it’s still a one-party issue there. And the Patent Office’s action apparently won’t have any major practical impact. But you can count on there being be more pressure applied until the inevitable change ultimately happens.

Team owner Daniel Snyder claims he has poll results showing most fans want to keep the team’s name. And some fans undoubtedly will be upset when (not if) the name is changed. My guess is most of them will get over it pretty quickly. The popularity of athletes and sports teams rises and falls with their performance. A winning NFL team in Washington — whatever its name — will have strong local support if it wins.

To build local support for a name change, Snyder should ask fans to come up with the new name. I wouldn’t commit to using whatever name gets the most votes no matter what. You might end up with a successful campaign for naming the team something like the Washington Gridlocks. But a workable name with strong fan support would provide community goodwill from the start.

And there are marketing opportunities for the team and the NFL. Just think of all the new jerseys, pennants and other team paraphernalia that would be sold.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

Media Minute: An apology isn’t always enough

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Media Minute: An apology isn’t always enough

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: An apology isn't always enoughNow that he’s had time to see the reaction to his post-Belmont rant, owner Steve Coburn has apologized for this “coward’s way out” comment following California Chrome’s fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

Too bad he didn’t have some pre-race media training — or simply the common sense to know that his post-race rant made him a sore loser.

Despite the apology, Coburn did himself — and his horse — lasting damage. To the degree that Coburn and California Chrome are remembered at all, Coburn’s rant will live on as part of California Chrome’s legacy.

Picking a fight or losing your temper in front of cameras is generally a bad idea unless a lot of people will agree with you. There’s no reason to believe a lot of people will take Coburn’s side when he said racing a horse in the Belmont without also running it in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness is the “coward’s way out.” Winning the Triple Crown is hard. That’s why doing it is so special and so few horses have done it. If you want to win the Triple Crown, you enter all three races and run faster than everyone else who shows up.

Coburn made a mistake with his rant. He’s apologized for it. But the damage is done. Don’t make the same mistake. Know what you’re going to way, and why, before you open your mouth in front of a camera or a reporter.

And if you’re not sure how to handle yourself in those situations, get media training from an experienced professional.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

Media Minute: Good advice, badly delivered

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Media Minute: Good advice, badly delivered

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Good advice, badly deliveredI think it’s safe to say things aren’t going well when you feel compelled to tell employees not to use words or phrases like “deathtrap,” “widowmaker” and “rolling sarcophagus” to describe your products.

I’m referring, of course, to the General Motors memo with a list of 68 words and phrases GM employees documenting potential safety issues were told to not to use.

The GM employees were told to avoid the word “defect” because it could be seen as an admission of guilt. Other words on the list included “bad,” “terrifying,” “dangerous,” “horrific” and “Hindenburg.” The phrase “Corvair-like” was on the banned list, along with “unbelievable engineering screw-up” and “this is a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

Written in 2008, the list of banned words predates the dustup over the ignition-switch recalls that have killed at least 13 people and inflicted repeated hits to GM’s reputation over the past several months.

But it surfaced in the news media just a few weeks ago, unfortunate timing for the folks at GM because it served as an opportunity for another round of stories on the ignition-switch recalls and how poorly GM has handled them. I suspect I wasn’t alone in missing the fact when I first heard about it that the memo was six years old and not written in response to the current situation.

The admonition to stick to the facts and avoid offering opinions when describing potential safety issues was good advice, I believe.

But it was badly executed. The list of banned words and phrases was too specific, too long and ultimately caused the kind of harm it was designed to prevent.

I’ve often advised clients to avoid putting certain information in writing so their words won’t come back to haunt them in the media or a lawsuit. But I don’t put that advice in writing, either.

Anything you distribute to a large group of people — and sometimes a small group of people — is going to be shared with others, potentially including your enemies, your competitors and the media. That doesn’t mean you never share sensitive information in writing. But say it carefully. And use caution when deciding how widely to share it. Distributing a memo with a list of “banned” words to a large group of employees has a good chance of being leaked to the media.

Offer your employees guidance. But try to do it in a way that does no harm.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

Media Minute: Wrong questions, wrong answers

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Media Minute: Wrong questions, wrong answers

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Wrong questions, wrong answersIf you ask the wrong questions, you usually get the wrong answers.

For example, I recently found these questions in my inbox:

“What does it take, in your experience, to achieve good public relations? What are good public relations? If I am already issuing periodic press releases, is that enough?

“What if I have a whole social media marketing plan and I am distributing monthly newsletters, tweeting weekly, writing articles and publishing them in online magazines and talking about everything I do (my company does) on Facebook and Linked-in. Is that enough?

“I believe the above is a more tactic(al) view of PR tools, what about the strategic view of PR?

“And the million $ question — is there real value is paying a retainer of tens of thousands of shekels to a PR firm? Sometimes I feel that despite all the tools that I use, I am not breaking a glass ceiling when it comes to awareness. Can a good PR firm help me and my business? Is a traditional PR firm or a digital marketing firm more advisable today?

“I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences on the above.”

A lot of people seem to think the key to successful PR is using the right tools. But the tools are just tools to help you reach the right audience effectively with right message.

Should a carpenter use a hammer, a saw, a screwdriver, a level, a ruler — or all of them? Depends on the job to be done. S/he probably won’t use a saw to drive nails or a hammer to cut a board. And a master carpenter is going to build a better cabinet than I would even if we use the same tools and materials.

I suggested to the author of the opening questions that she start with a different set of questions:

  • What’s your objective? What do you want to happen as a result of telling your story?
  • Who’s your audience? Unless you have a monopoly on air and we need to buy it from you to breathe, the answer is not everyone.
  • What’s your message? What do you need to say to your audience to persuade them to do whatever you need them to do to meet your objective?
  • How do you reach your audience with your message? Getting a story into the Wall Street Journal may sound like success — unless your audience doesn’t read the Wall Street Journal.

Once you know the answers to these questions, then you can start thinking about which tools to use and how often to use them.

Does the questioner need to hire a PR agency? Maybe. Does she need to hire a large, expensive agency? In her case, probably a waste of money. She’d be better off working with an experienced independent practitioner, a small agency or hiring an employee to do her PR work.

Starting with tactics is often tempting. We’ve all done it. But it’s a bad place to start if you don’t know the answers to the questions I listed above and if you don’t have a strategy for delivering your message effectively to your audience. There’s no cookie cutter list of the right tools to use. And good PR is about building relationships, not just delivering a message.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

Media Minute: Credibility Crater

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Media Minute: Credibility Crater

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Can you say too much?Have they finally found Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? I hope so. But I’m a bit skeptical. And, I suspect, I’m not alone.

Normally, I’d probably assume the “pings” heard over the weekend were from the plane. But there have been so many conflicting stories and false hopes that I’ll believe they found the plane when there’s solid proof.

There’s an important lesson in that: Once you’ve lost your credibility, it’s hard to get it back.

As I see it, the search for the missing plane has been nothing short of remarkable. And the ships picking up the pings aren’t responsible for all the conflicting stories and false hopes. But it’s sometimes hard to make those distinctions.

Whether you’re dealing with a crisis or everyday business, honesty is important. And transparency is absolutely essential when you’re addressing a situation in which people’s lives have been lost or are in jeopardy.

It’s important to tell us what you know. But it’s also important not to speculate about what you don’t know. Unfortunately, there’s been far too much speculation in this case.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Looking for tips for telling your story more effectively? Check out Jerry’s content-focused blog at www.JerryBrownPR.com.

Media Minute: Turkey pizza, hold the holiday

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Media Minute: Turkey pizza, hold the holiday

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Turkey pizza, hold the holidayGoliath never learns, it seems.

You may have seen the story last week: The manager of a Pizza Hut store in Elkhart, Indiana, was fired for refusing to open on Thanksgiving. The manager said he didn’t want to make his employees work on the holiday.

The dismissal created an uproar online and in the media. Did store manager Tony Rohr take his story to the media or did they pick up on it from online comments? I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. Once he took it online, the chances of it getting to the media were pretty high. And once it got to the media, Pizza Hut was bound to lose.

Rohr was fired by the owner of a Pizza Hut franchise in Elkhart. The company’s corporate headquarters was smart enough to recognize this was a sure PR loser for the company and quickly issued a statement saying it respects employees’ rights not to work on a holiday, that the vast majority of Pizza Huts are closed on Thanksgiving, and that the company “strongly recommended that the local franchisee reinstate the store manager and they have agreed.”

David 1, Goliath 0. And not a surprise. Variations of this saga have played out in the media many times before and almost always come out the same.

Which brings me to a final point. Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink, Tipping Point, Outlier, etc.) has a new book out. The title is David and Goliath. It opens with an interesting analysis of why the Biblical David was the odds-on favorite to win his fight with Goliath — just as the David of last week’s Pizza Hut saga was the odds-on favorite to win his fight.

We all have stories to tell. Contact me if you need help telling yours.
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Check out Jerry’s content-focused blog at www.JerryBrownPR.com. And visit his Entrepreneur Community Online Advisor page at http://bit.ly/18KOmgg.

Media Minute: The rabbit ears stunt

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Media Minute: The rabbit ears stunt

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: The rabbit ears PR stuntA tip of the hat to Time Warner Cable for their brilliant publicity stunt last week.

They offered free rabbit ears — TV antennas for those of you too young to remember rabbit ears — to any subscribers who want to watch CBS programming while the contract dispute that has kept CBS programs off Time Warner Cable in some markets for the past three weeks continues.

Many people, including some PR professionals, dismiss publicity stunts as unworthy of respect. Not me. I love good publicity stunts. And I rank this one up there with the best.

CBS wants more money from Time Warner Cable in return for allowing the cable company to carry CBS programs in cities where CBS owns local affiliates — which includes New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston.

Central to Time Warner Cable’s messaging: They’re trying to keep prices down so they don’t have to raise their prices to consumers.

Offering free rabbit ears was perfect because it gave Time Warner Cable an opportunity for a tangible, easy-to-remember way to tell their side of the story to their customers and the media and paint CBS as the villain.

Not everyone will agree with Time Warner Cable’s side of the argument, of course, least of all CBS. But you’re never going to get everyone to agree with you. The best you can do is tell your story in a compelling, visible way and hope you win most of your audience over to your side.

What about you? Have you staged any good publicity stunts lately? If not, is there a good one in your future? I hope so. And I’d love to hear about it.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?
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Check out Jerry’s content-focused blog at www.JerryBrownPR.com. And visit his Entrepreneur Community Online Advisor page at http://bit.ly/18KOmgg.

Media Minute: Ejected from the game?

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Media Minute: Ejected from the game?

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Ejected from the game?With today’s expected suspension of Alexander Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and an unknown number of other players, baseball and drugs will be making big headlines for some time to come.

The stakes are extremely high for everyone involved — the players, Major League Baseball and the players’ union. At least some of them will come out losers. It’s not clear to me any of them will come out winners.

Among other things, the events that will unfold in the wake of today’s expected suspensions will be a good case study in communications strategy. To succeed, everyone involved will need realistic, achievable objectives and clear, credible messages to convince the rest of us they deserve our support.

The players will be fighting for their careers and reputations. The stakes are especially high for A-Rod, given his celebrity and where he is in his career. Even if he isn’t banned from the game for life, one of the possibilities mentioned in stories leading up to today’s expected announcement, any lengthy suspension could mean the end of his career as a player. Being banned for life would also preclude A-Rod from being able to manage, coach or participate in any of the other baseball-related jobs players turn to when their days on the field are over. Avoiding a lifetime ban is probably the most he can hope for at this point.

Major League Baseball turned a blind eye to drug use among players for many years. So, one of the league’s objectives will be to convince fans and other members of the public that those days are over. But it also has to guard against overreaching. If Rodriguez or others challenge any disciplinary action against them, the league’s evidence better be overwhelming.

The players’ union balked for years at allowing effective drug testing. Part of the union’s job is to defend its members. But union officials will have to decide whether the players involved in this case are worth defending. Whatever it decides, the union will make some people unhappy.

The lesson for the rest of us? Total victory isn’t always a realistic objective. And fighting for total victory when it’s unachievable can lead to total defeat. A realistic objective and the right message to go with it are essential.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?
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Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show, KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archives. And check out Jerry’s content-focused blog at www.JerryBrownPR.com.

Media Minute: Murder or self-defense?

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Media Minute: Murder or self-defense?

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Murder or self-defense?Murder or self-defense?

Regardless of where you come down on the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin altercation, the case is a good example of the importance of messaging.

Important enough, for example, that Zimmerman’s brother skipped being in the courtroom on Saturday night to hear the verdict so he could make it to New York in time to be available for interviews with the national media the following morning.

With this weekend’s acquittal, Zimmerman won the first round in the messaging battle over what happened the night he shot and killed Martin.

The fight’s not over. Zimmerman still faces the possibility of federal civil rights charges and a lawsuit by Martin’s family for civil damages. Once the legal fights are over, my guess is there’s a pretty good chance of a lucrative book deal for Zimmerman.

So, the stakes are still high. And both sides will be working for months to come to promote their versions of the story: Was justice served at Zimmerman’s trial or did he get away with murder?

Ultimately, of course, we all see the outcome through the lens of what we believe happened that night and our own moral values.

Both sides have worked hard to shape our opinions on those issues. And both sides know a truth important to keep in mind when you’re developing the messages for your story: You can’t convince everyone that you’re right. Focus on influencing your supporters, the people who haven’t decided where they stand and the people who start out on the other side but are persuadable.

Don’t make the all-too-common mistake of trying to convince the people who will oppose you no matter what. If you spend time trying to convince them, you’ll lose the argument.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?
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Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show, KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archives. And check out Jerry’s content-focused blog at www.JerryBrownPR.com.