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Public Relations: Be Honest, Be Authentic

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In the past few years, we’ve seen a whole bunch of public relations disasters. Hollywood has been wracked with them, from famous celebrities to powerful executive producers. Some were handled quickly and with compassion, while others not so much. We have also seen major corporations suffer the fate of PR mismanagement. Some are still trying their best to regain consumer confidence.

You may be wondering why all of this matters. Well, it’s because consumers say authenticity is important when choosing the brands they support. This means that any missteps by their PR departments can derail their fiscal goals. We’ve got some great examples that any business, big or small, can learn from.

 

The Need to Be Honest

In 2016, Wells Fargo had a crisis of major proportions. When the public learned about employees at the bank creating over 2 million fake accounts, customers and shareholders felt betrayed. What made this crisis worse was the PR nightmare that followed. Executives tried to cover up the problem. Then, they couldn’t get their story straight. It was obvious that they were lying to our faces. Today, the bank’s stock is rated as “Sell” and their current campaign to build trust is having little impact. Too little too late.

Had the company been open and more transparent about their problems, they could have stopped the bleeding immediately and worked quickly to gain consumers’ trust. When a company appears to be covering something up, or being dishonest, that’s when the media really takes an interest and starts digging into the story—often making more trouble than usual. Honesty and authenticity are the best policies in public relations.

 

The Need to Be Authentic

In April of this year, Southwest Airlines suffered an enormous setback to their reputation when an engine blew up mid-flight, killing one person onboard. Luckily, the airplane landed safely and the entire fleet was grounded.

At the time of the accident, the Southwest crisis communications team went into action, communicating brief statements on social media and online networks. When they had the complete story to share, they provided the media and the general public with a written statement and a heartfelt video statement by their CEO. Both have a conciliatory tone and avoid the boilerplate tones we so often hear in media coverage. Both are authentic and reassure future passengers that they care about getting them safely to their destinations.

 

The Same Goes for Smaller Business

Reputation management is much the same for small and midsized businesses. There will always be threats to reputation from within as well as outside the company.

One of the best ways to prevent a PR nightmare is to be proactive. This means showing all of the good things that happen in your organization on a regular basis (not just as a reaction to a crisis). Show how your employees engage with clients and the community, because these can help drown out that one, unexpected bad thing that comes along to damage your hard earned reputation.

When a crisis does occur, take a hint from Southwest Airlines’ CEO. Respond as soon as possible after you are completely informed about the situation, respond in a sincere manner on an appropriate platform (sometimes video makes sense, sometimes written), and promise that you are doing your best to rectify the issue and prevent future issues (because you are and you should be).

The Pinstripe PR team can answer any questions you may have about PR crisis preparedness, so reach out if you are interested in planning ahead.

Public Relations Need to Be Transparent, Like Wonder Woman’s Jet

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Transparency is a very important policy for any public relations campaign. In this article we find a connection between transparency and Wonder Woman’s jet.

According to Wikipedia, it all started with an invisible plane that first appeared in 1942. Over the years, that plane evolved into a jet with the ability to travel almost three times the speed of sound and hover in place to allow for tricky landings. In the TV show, we could see Wonder Woman in her invisible jet depicted as a white wireframe that surrounded her. The symbolism of the invisible jet in the era in which it was born may still be relevant to this day, but today we’ll use it to explain a little bit about public relations.

The Principle of Transparency

Transparency in public relations is about how the public “can see how you got there.” People want to see through the fluff to the heart of the issue, just like we can see through Wonder Woman’s plane to find her and her passengers very much revealed. Bad things happen and often do, but it is how you handle those crisis situations that matters. It’s about openness and your ability to share the right information. This builds trust and makes everything you do visible to the public, so there are no questions or, even worse, insinuations from outsiders looking to mar the company’s reputation when something bad happens.

Building transparency shouldn’t appear contrived or fake, especially during a public relations crisis. Being open and honest about your challenges, as well as forthcoming with information, will demonstrate that you are managing the situation and lessen any damaging effects. Honesty, authenticity and requesting feedback are often used to show transparency. And it’s this transparency principle that builds trust and empathy.

Strategy for Communicating

The general public has become less trusting of advertising and marketing. That’s why it’s important to be honest or you may lose their trust and support.

Truth and honesty create authentic messages. You are being honest and forthcoming when you share your challenges alongside your successes. This humanizes your brand. Whether it’s during a crisis or not, clients can gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on, which allows them to be more forgiving and builds empathy for your situation.

Empathy is a powerful tool to help you gather feedback and build support. Gaining support can protect you against future challenges or repair any damage that may have occurred during a crisis.

Transparent Communications

The rise in social media has made it easier for PR campaigns to be more proactive and honest about challenges. These platforms can carry your authentic message to a larger audience and be a point of light during difficult times. To take advantage of this, make sure to be proactive rather than reactive. Social media is immediate – you must be agile and get ahead of any problems or social media can work against you. A great PR campaign spots potential issues and crises before they happen. Keep pushing out positive, honest messaging on all channels so when anyone searches for your company, they find the good things first, those authentic messages that build trust. It’s these kind of transparent communications that I believe in strongly, because they let others know that you really do care.

 

This article is part of a series on how Wonder Woman inspires our marketing philosophy. Throughout the year, we will be featuring more on this topic, so let us know how you feel about it in our comments section below.

 

Budget Season Coming Soon!

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I know, it’s still summer and I’m writing about marketing budgets. How about this? Instead of writing about budgets, I could write about something fun, like branding and networking. But we wouldn’t get to do any of those fun things without a budget. Am I right? So, let’s talk budgeting for your marketing and I promise to make it worthwhile.

Budgeting for What’s Next

You have a budget in place, but it probably needs to be tweaked a little to fit next year’s needs. Marketers have a lot more data to go on these days, so they know what brings in returns and what’s stale. Staying on top of the data means getting the right activities into your mix. There are several activities we think you should put as line items in your budget, if they aren’t in it already.

Building Communities

We are in an engagement economy where businesses need to engage with their clients and their employees to strive for success. When you build a community for your clients, you’re creating a stronger network and engaging with them as an industry leader. This type of engagement opens new possibilities and leads to organic growth through word-of-mouth recommendations. So, it definitely deserves some consideration in your budget.

LEGO has a great example of engaging with their community through LEGO IDEAS. This interactive community setting allows everyone to contribute ideas and vote on great designs. Communities like this are a two way street—offering enthusiasts a platform while providing valuable marketing data. Another example of a great community is the Oracle Interactive Community. This is mixed-use site with a forum and lots of information to support their users better.

To build a community, you’ll need a cause for your platform. Usually, the cause you pick is something that separates you from the competition. It’s how you add value to your business. Then, you can pick your platform where this cause is supported. This will need social media and maybe an interactive website. How about an annual event? Print materials? You’ll definitely need employees to run it all. Starting slow and small to test the waters is always a sure bet.

Public Relations

This area of marketing has changed quite a bit over the past 10 years. I’ve seen how it’s changed and why. Good public relations have developed into consistent, positive messaging that crosses multiple platforms. It also helps with search engine optimization (SEO) and keeps your community connected. The press release is still the foundation, but how it’s used and why have evolved. Spreading the word means spending more time and energy.

Looking at ROI

There is more data available to us than ever before. Marketing is no longer a guessing game. It’s strategic planning and implementation. Contextualized data will show how your clients are engaging with your marketing campaigns. If you’re having trouble seeing what works and what doesn’t, beef up your data gathering and analytics. This may be in the form of analytics software or statistical research.

Striking a Balance

Some experts believe that many traditional marketing activities no longer work. That’s why it’s so important to engage with clients and customers in a more authentic, one-on-one basis. Building a customer community is the perfect thing to do using content marketing, social media, and possibly a website to interact with them. Investments in public relations and getting a better grip on ROI will help your bottom line. These are definitely things we need stay on top of in this dynamic marketing landscape.

 

 

The Combined Power of Public Relations and Search Engine Optimization

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Most people don’t associate public relations (PR) with search engine optimization (SEO), but if you play your cards right, PR can lead to great SEO. In fact, sometimes we undertake PR activities with the specific goal of increasing SEO for ourselves or our clients.

Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

Every day, HARO sends out several emails with queries from traditional media reporters and producers, but also blogs and and other online platforms looking for experts in certain fields and topics, and opinions about popular news items. The list sometimes contains over 50 different queries, ranging in content from health to finance to entrepreneurship to technology. Some of them are very specific and some are more general. The process goes like this:

  • We scan this list looking for opportunities for ourselves and our clients.
  • When we find one that fits, we immediately begin the process of writing the answers.
  • Complete an internal review
  • Request final approval from the client.
  • Once that is complete, we send our response to the query, and then wait for publication.
  • If the reporter decides to use our information in his article, we send a link to the client’s website, name, and sometimes even a bio and website.
  • Post the final article to all social media, including Google+

And there it is – the link back to the client’s site is SEO gold, especially if the site that it’s coming from is a reputable company in a related industry.

A perfect example is the story we contributed to for CEO Nation. The article is a really good social media tips from fifteen different entrepreneurs, including our very own Ginger Reichl! If you check out the story here, you’ll see that this particular article included Ginger’s head shot, name, and a link to our site. The article turned out great, and we learned some new social media techniques as well.

Online Press Release Distribution

Press releases are written for many reasons, including announcements, company news, events, and interesting stories that apply to trending topics. Knowing where and when to distribute a press release is as important and strategic as the writing of the press release itself. For traditional media relations, we rarely use releases anymore – with the exception of major news and investor relations, they typically just get ignored.

However, for SEO purposes, we’ll draft a release for ‘clean up’ work once our usual media relations efforts have been exhausted. There are several free places to distribute press releases online. We make sure that the press release contains the keywords that we want to rank for in search results, and always have the company’s website in the boiler plate at the end of the release. This is considered a backlink, which is, again, SEO gold. Plus, in some cases, we’ve had those releases picked up by a reporter or news outlet and posted on their site, which adds even more to the SEO credibility of the company.

Other content marketing strategies like guest articles and podcasts also have SEO benefits in addition to their traditionally PR role and we will continue to see the lines blur as search continues to drive interest … and traffic.

Connect with us if you need help writing your next press release or finding creative ways to use PR to promote your company.

Truth in Advertising: Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth

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Few things can heighten the suspense of a cop drama like a good ol’ fashioned lie detector scene. The machine has its tentacles on the perpetrator. A large needle jumps for every spike in their heart rate, confirming what was suspected all along.

William Marston, the co-inventor of the lie detector, went by the pen name Charles Moulton, and was the author of Wonder Woman. A bio-drama about Marston’s life, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, was released in 2017 and shows us how he invented the polygraph and why our favorite super hero uses a lasso of truth.

To Uphold the Law

She didn’t need a gun or a laser beam stare. An unassuming lasso was her weapon and one of the things we remember most about Wonder Woman. With her lariat, she could subdue anyone and force them to tell the truth. She even used it on the good guys, as we saw in the recent Gal Gadot film, because she needed the truth to understand more about what was going on in the world.

Seeking the truth is important for a crime fighter, like Wonder Woman, and it’s also important for marketing. We never want to mislead anyone, because that could have a negative effect on clients and customers. Plus, as an advertising agency, Pinstripe is held to the same laws and standards that dictate how companies are able to advertise their products and services.

Under the Florida Deceptive Trade Practices Laws, it’s illegal to make false claims. Things like bait-and-switch and spreading disinformation are also outlined in this law. Any company caught doing this can face extensive fines for each infraction. It’s best to tell the truth and follow the guidelines within your professional community. This is particularly true for the legal, financial and health care industries.

Just the Facts

Media outlets rely on truth and accuracy in their reporting. As you are probably well aware, they have been tested recently, so they’re getting better at snuffing out potential blowback from their audiences.

Because press releases are branding and credibility tools, it’s important for them to have verifiable facts. Any mistakes made could have the opposite effect. Reporters have an uncanny ability to find a different story than what had been intended, especially when the facts are misrepresented.

Nothing But the Truth

With blogs and social media, the delivery of content has been democratized. The messages we deliver to our audiences are a reflection of our brands and illustrate our knowledge, experience, and thought leadership. So obviously, it is critical that our missives are not only truthful, but unique. There are terabytes of content littered throughout the web, making it increasingly simple to cut and paste bits and pieces to make the job of blogging easier. However, plagiarism makes for a terrible brand image. Original work is truthful work. Think of these messages as having a lasso of truth, making your truth easier for others to see.

This article is part of a series on how Wonder Woman’s inspires our marketing philosophy. Throughout the year, we will be featuring more on this topic, so let us know how you feel about it in our comments section below.

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