Media Minute: Can you say too much?

March 17th, 2014

Media Minute: Can you say too much?

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Can you say too much?Where did it go? And why? I’m talking about the missing Malaysian airliner, of course. Its disappearance has become an intriguing saga.

It also raises a question for anyone interested in crisis communication: Can you provide too much information? My answer: Yes, you can. But it’s more dangerous to provide too little.

In the days immediately after Flight MH370 disappeared there were multiple reports about debris sightings that might have come from the missing plane and a variety of misinformation — some from official sources — that had to be corrected.

“At best, Malaysian officials have thus far been poor communicators; at worst, they are incompetent,” one U.S. official told CNN of the misinformation provided in the days following the plane’s disappearance.

As I see it, the debris sightings were useful information even though none of them panned out. The debris was real. The need to check it out was real. Some of the speculation and rumors that proved to be false? That was too much information.

In virtually every case, the sources of the misinformation probably were just trying to be helpful. There’s always an information vacuum immediately following an incident like the disappearance of Flight MH370. And both the media and the public — especially families and friends — are clamoring for details.

In that pressure cooker, the temptation to release “information” that hasn’t been verified can be overwhelming. Giving in to that temptation is usually a mistake.

Here’s my simple guide on how to avoid saying too much or too little:

Say what you know, not what you think you know. When the health or safety of the public — or some portion of the public — is at stake, you owe it to the rest of us to share all relevant information with us. But never speculate. No matter how well intentioned, putting out misinformation will destroy your credibility.

Don’t withhold the bad stuff. It’s always tempting to withhold information that reflects badly on you or your organization. Don’t give in to that temptation. The information you most want to withhold often is the information you most need to share.

Communicate as soon as you can and as often as necessary. If it’s something the public will want to know as soon as possible, don’t sit on information you’ve verified just because your next briefing is scheduled for eight hours from now. Get it out now if it makes sense to do so.

We all have stories to tell. Do 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: Turkey pizza, hold the holiday

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: Debacle or normal startup pains?

November 18th, 2013

Media Minute: Debacle or normal startup pains?

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Debacle or normal startup pains?The rollout of Obamacare has been a bit bumpy. To put it kindly. Is it a debacle in the making? Or simply going through startup pains that will soon be forgotten?

It’s not a trivial question. We all have a big stake in the success of Obamacare or, if it won’t work, it’s quick demise. Successful or not, it’s not going anywhere any time soon. So, we all have reasons to hope it’s successful.

Well, not all of us. What happens with Obamacare promises to a big factor in next year’s elections. Congressional Republicans have doubled down repeatedly on their attempts to kill Obamacare. A successful Obamacare rollout could be an electoral disaster for them. And Democrats will also have to live with the consequences, good or bad, of what happens with Obamacare over the next few months.

So the stakes are high all of us, including the politicians we’ve sent to Washington.

Which brings me back to the question of whether Obamacare is a debacle or not. My answer: It’s too early to say. But talk of the debacle will quickly be forgotten if Obamacare’s rollout turns out be successful.

Remember the “debacle” last year when Apple introduced its own maps app to replace Google maps on its iPhones. The Apple maps had some serious flaws and their introduction was PR disaster for Apple and a PR win for Google.

I recently came across a story on theguardian.com that says the incident has turned into a win for Apple and a loss for Google:

“Apple’s maps have turned out to be a hit with iPhone and iPad users in the US – despite the roasting that they were given when they first appeared in September 2012,” the story says. “But Google – which was kicked off the iPhone after it refused to give Apple access to its voice-driven turn-by-turn map navigation – has lost nearly 23m mobile users in the US as a result. That is a huge fail against the 81m Google Maps mobile users it had there at its peak in September last year, according to ComScore, a market research company which produced the figures from regular polls of thousand(s) of users.”

I’m old enough to remember a number of early “debacles” accepted as successes today.

Seat belts are an example. Before seat belts became mandatory, car makers spent millions telling us they’d make cars less safe and too expensive. And we all heard repeated anecdotes about people who died in car wrecks because they were wearing a seat belt and couldn’t get out of their cars.

After Russia launched Sputnik and put a man in orbit before we could, our space program was widely regarded as a failure. And, reinforcing the message of failure, we saw lots TV footage of unsuccessful launches that ended with rockets burning up spectacularly on their launch pads. John Glenn’s trip into space and the first moon landing put an end to the talk of failure.

What’s my point? All too often those of us in the PR business — and our clients — make snap decisions about success or failure based on what’s happening at the moment.

But that’s not the way the world works. Today’s PR disaster can make long-term success more difficult. And today’s PR triumph can lead to feelings that you’ve won. But today’s feelings of success or failure frequently aren’t the end of the story. And it’s how the story turns out in the long run that matters.

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: 3 Lessons from the Wilderness

October 21st, 2013

Media Minute: 3 Lessons from the Wilderness

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

 Media Minute: 3 Lessons from the WildernessI came across one of those what-were-they-thinking stories last week: A Boy Scout leader destroyed one of the rock formations in southern Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park while another Boy Scout leader captured it on video and posted it on YouTube.

Now, those two men and yet another Boy Scout leader who was with them could be facing felony charges.

What were they thinking? I have no idea. But they handed the rest of us at least three good media-related lessons. Given the number of times I’m forced to learn from my own mistakes, I consider it a bonus any time I can learn from the mistakes of others.

Lesson #1: If you don’t want to see it in print or on the air, don’t say it within range of reporters. YouTube postings are within range of reporters. I was making this point to clients long before social media came along. But Facebook, YouTube and Twitter make this lesson even more important. If you do or say something stupid — and, as this case, potentially criminal — don’t document it on the Internet.

Lesson #2: Going viral isn’t always good. I frequently hear from clients that they want to produce a YouTube video that will go viral. What they really want is to produce a video or some other vehicle for their message that will get their story heard, understood and remembered by as many people as possible. But, more often than not, going viral is a bad thing. The video posted by the Scout leaders went viral. My guess is they wouldn’t have posted it if they had realized what would happen once it did.

Don’t focus on going viral. Focus on telling your story in a way that it reaches your audience most effectively. And, if that leads to a video or other social media post that goes viral, great! That may sound like a small distinction. It isn’t. Focusing on your message and how to deliver it effectively means figuring out what you want to say, who you want to say it to and how to reach them. Focusing on going viral just means figuring out how to put yourself in the limelight on a public stage. Any two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum in a mall can do that.

Lesson #3: Know when to shut up. These three guys did something stupid and posted it on YouTube. The video showed the rock formation being destroyed and their celebratory high fives afterward. Once the smelly stuff hit the fan, they kept talking to claim they did it because they were afraid the rock would fall on its own and kill some kid. Yeah, right.

We all have stories to tell. Need help telling yours? If so, let’s talk. Want to comment on this article? Go here.
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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

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: Inverting your pyramids

August 12th, 2013

Monday Morning Media Minute
Volume 12, Number 19: August 12, 2013

Media Minute: Inverting your pyramids

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Inverting your pyramidsGrab our attention. Tell us your story. Wrap it up.

Welcome to the inverted pyramid journalists learn about from the people who teach them how to write. Start with your most important information. Put the least important information at the bottom.

I’ve never understood why the pyramid’s inverted since that point at top always seems to be the pinnacle to me. But who am I to argue with all those journalists and the people who taught them to write?

Whichever way you turn your pyramid, here’s how it breaks down:

  • The Lead: Grab our attention with a brief lead that entices us to keep reading or listening. Make it brief. Include the who, what, where, when and why of your story. Include a hook to attract our attention.
  • The Body: Explain the details of your story. The body of your story fills in the details you promised to tell us about in your lead.
  • The Tail: Wrap it up with anything else you want us to know and/or a summary of the body of your story. Don’t wait until the end to make your main point or most of your audience won’t see it.

Starting with your most important information serves two purposes. A good lead grabs the attention of your audience. And by making your most important point first you’ve delivered your most important message to people who don’t read the rest of what you say.

In the old days of lead type, journalists were told to put their least important information at the bottom of their stories because when a story had to be shortened the folks laying out the pages in the composing room started yanking lines of type from the bottom and worked their way up until the story fit the space available for it.

But there’s another reason for starting with your most important information. Surveys consistently show 85 percent or more of newspapers readers (if there are any left) skim headlines and read a sentence or two of the stories that interest them.

That’s how people read other information, too, particularly online. Make your main point right away or most of us will miss it.

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: Ejected from the game?

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: They never learn

July 29th, 2013

Media Minute: They never learn

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: They never learnThey Never Learn.

Former Congressman and would-be mayor of New York Anthony Weiner is the latest politician to become a member of that club.

Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after being forced to own up to sexting a half dozen women.

Turn the clock ahead two years and Weiner is a candidate for mayor of New York.

And now we learn the sexting didn’t end with his resignation from Congress.

In a painful news conference with his wife at his side, Weiner acknowledged he continued the behavior that forced him out of Congress after he left office. And then we learned more than one woman was involved in the post-resignation round of incidents.

Several newspapers including The New York Times have joined a number of prominent Democrats in urging Weiner to get out of the mayoral race. At least a couple of the women who were targets of his digital attention have spoken out against him. And his campaign manager has quit.

The Weiner saga keeps unfolding, one news cycle at a time.

For now, Weiner says he’s staying in the race for mayor. But two things ultimately will force him out: His poll numbers will drop drastically and the donations he needs to sustain his campaign will dry up. Stick a fork into Mr. Weiner. He’s done. And he’s probably destroyed any chance for political redemption this year — or ever.

I normally don’t comment on political races in the Media Minute. But Weiner’s behavior is such a classic example of people who never learn when it comes to crisis management I couldn’t resist.

So, let me repeat what I’ve noted here many times before. Crisis Management 101: When you mess up, acknowledge your mistake, fix it and then explain to the rest of us what you’ve done to prevent it from happening again. And when you find yourself in a crisis that’s making headlines, try to find a way to limit the number of news cycles in which the media mention you and your problems.

Telling us you’ve fixed it and then having us learn later on you didn’t is a guaranteed way to destroy your credibility. And keeping a story alive with serial disclosures just makes the problem worse.

So, Weiner may not be able to learn from his own mistakes. But the rest of us can. If you tell us you’ve fixed a problem, make sure you have. And find a way to get your problems out of the news as quickly as possible.

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: Controversy is where you find it

July 22nd, 2013

Media Minute: Controversy is where you find it

By Jerry Brown, APR
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Media Minute: Controversy is where you find itControversy is where you find it — on the cover of Rolling Stone or in a Cheerios commercial, for example.

The Cheerios “controversy” surfaced and died a few weeks ago. If you’re aware of the issue, you’ve almost certainly seen the commercial. If not, here’s a link to it. Or you can Google it.

Everyone I’ve talked to about this particular Cheerios commercial had the same reaction I did: What’s the controversy about? Apparently there are still people in this country who think interracial couples with multiracial kids are controversial. Have they looked around lately? That’s part of mainstream America. And that little girl is cute!

The Rolling Stone controversy is more interesting. Or so it seems to me.

You’re probably familiar with it, too. Some folks believe Rolling Stone glamorized Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by putting his picture on the cover of their current issue.

The photo, which also has appeared above the fold on the front page of The New York Times without kicking up any controversy whatsoever, is accompanied by the headline: “The Bomber How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family Fell Into Radical Islam and Became a Monster

That doesn’t sound very glamorous to me. And the accompanying story is a serious look at how someone who seemed “normal” to those who knew him could commit such a horrible crime.

Once the controversy hit, some stores in the Boston area and perhaps elsewhere, quickly announced they wouldn’t sell that issue of the magazine. And pundits sounded off criticizing Rolling Stone for running the picture.

My own reaction was pretty much the same as my reaction to the Cheerios commercial: What’s the controversy about? Rolling Stone ran a solid piece of journalism examining an interesting issue. The picture fit the story. And they make clear they’re not on his side. They certainly didn’t glamorize him.

But controversy is where you find it. You can choose to be controversial. But you don’t always get to choose when something you do or say will trigger a controversy. That depends on how people react to what you do.

I don’t happen to agree with the people upset by the Rolling Stone cover. But I have no doubt their reaction is real.

Good journalism often is controversial because it examines issues that stir up raw emotions.

So I’m glad Rolling Stone published their story and I believe the photo on the cover of their magazine is perfectly appropriate. It fits the story. And the story’s worth reading.

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?

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.