Author Archives: Jeremy Story

Creativity, Strategy Top Reasons Companies Work with PR Firms

Knowing the value you provide for clients is critical if you work for a public relations firm. It can be easy to fall into the trap of providing the services that you think they should value instead of taking the time to listen to them to understand how they view their needs.gfm-painting

I was reminded of that recently when I read the Global Communications Report 2017 from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The report examines a number of agency and in-house public relations issues, and one chart chronicled the top reasons companies choose to work with PR firms.

Among in-house public relations professionals, the highest-ranked reasons for working with a PR firm included:

  • Creative thinking (69%)
  • Strategic insights (69%)
  • Specific practice areas (62%)
  • Digital and social media (61%)
  • Specific geographic markets (56%)
  • Objective, independent perspective (53%)

Every client is different, but seven in 10 are looking for creativity and strategy. That’s a great reminder to take a step back when you feel like you have been in the tactical weeds too long. Neglecting the big picture to accomplish smaller things may allow you check action items off a list, but it may not be what the client values most.

The Future of Content, and What it Means for PR

usc-annenberg-logoThe USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism recently released its Global Communications Report 2017, and it offers a number of interesting findings that affect the public relations and marketing industries.

One trend that has profound implications for public relations specifically is PESO – paid, earned, shared and owned – content. Historically, public relations has lived in the earned content box, but more than half of PR executives believe that in five years the average consumer will NOT make any distinctions among content that is paid, earned, shared or owned. Read more after the jump…

The Adams County Post

The Denver Post has confirmed that it is moving its reporters, editors and executive staff from its downtown offices to space in its Adams County printing facility. This is just the latest short-sighted decision that the out-of-state owners have foisted on the paper’s talented and hard-working reporters and editors.

Proximity and access are business necessities, a truism that applies both to reporters and public relations executives. Editors are famous for throwing reporters out of the newsroom so they can interact with the public to identify potential stories. And public relations executives should be engaging with their clients face-to-face whenever possible to keep those relationships strong.

Read more after the jump…

Biggest PR Disasters of 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, we take time to reflect on the year’s biggest PR disasters:

lochteRYAN LOCHTE … An Olympic swimmer perpetually overshadowed by Michael Phelps finally finds the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Ryan Lochte is an accomplished Olympian who in almost any era would be recognized as one of the greatest swimmers of all time. Unfortunately for Lochte, though, he swims in the Michael Phelps era. That frustration may have contributed to his decision to “over-exaggerate” – his term ­– the details of an alleged armed robbery at the Olympics in Brazil. After video emerged of Lochte and other U.S. swimmers appearing to vandalize a gas station bathroom, the armed robbery started looking more like a request for restitution. Lochte apologized, but the consequences were swift: sponsors Speedo and Polo Ralph Lauren dropped him immediately, and he solidified his spot as an Olympic punch line for generations to come.

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SAMSUNG … What do the global electronics giant’s mobile phones and washing machines have in common? They both explode.

It was a tough year for Samsung, who twice found itself at the top of the list of the year’s biggest safety recalls. First, it was the company’s flagship mobile phone, the Galaxy 7, some of which were spontaneously exploding. It got so bad that the Department of Transportation eventually banned the phones from all U.S. airline flights. And then Samsung was forced to recall 2.8 million washing machines because they could explode. That caused a viral sensation because no one could really wrap their heads around how a washing machine could explode. But YouTube videos gave us our answer, much to Samsung’s dismay.

Read more after the jump…

My Favorite HR Lesson: The Two-Drink Theorem

My favorite HR lesson came from a soon-to-be-retired lawyer at a Fortune 200 technology company. Tasked with giving an annual reminder to managers about appropriate behavior at our company’s various holiday parties, he decided to condense a 60-minute training down to about five minutes – and it largely centered around his “Two-drink Theorem.”

The theory held that sexual harassment allegations would overwhelmingly be the problem that arose from our company’s parties. And his rules of thumb were:

  1. Someone accused of sexual harassment who has consumed one drink or less will be determined not to have committed sexual harassment (although their behavior may still be loutish).
  2. Someone accused of sexual harassment who has consumed three or more drinks will be determined to have committed sexual harassment.
  3. It is the person who has consumed two drinks that causes the most problems when trying to assess guilt.

His primary takeaway? Only let people have a single drink at holiday parties. Or give them three so his legal staff could just immediately settle claims rather than wasting their time investigating them first. I think he was kidding about that part.

I was reminded of this theory recently when I saw that staffing firm Robert Half has released a

Read more after the jump…

Don’t Waste the Spotlight

At its essence, crisis communications is about taking external negativity and finding a way to transform it into a positive. Are you a business that made a mistake? Find a way to impress your customers with how you responded. They’ll forgive you.

The Cincinnati Zoo ignored this principle when it shut down its Twitter account two months ago in the face of cyberbullying trolls who inundated it with memes and attacks over the death of its beloved gorilla, Harambe. As PRWeek reported:

“The zoo has been the target of keyboard critics since May, after a boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, and zookeepers shot and killed Harambe, a 17-year-old silverback gorilla, to save the child’s life. Since then, Harambe has turned into a source of myriad internet memes.”

The Cincinnati Zoo had a spotlight on it, and instead of finding a way to withstand the pressure and use the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to its mission, it chose to run and hide. Standing up in the heat of a crisis is never easy, but it speaks to what you are as an organization, to your core values.

The Cincinnati Zoo could have used the spotlight to engage the community. It could have developed a program to support a gorilla conservation initiative, or created elementary and middle school curriculum that could be used in schools to educate children about gorillas.

And more than anything, it could have earned goodwill from the community by responding to the ridiculous barbs in a dignified and respectable manner. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is amazing how reasonable you can look when your opponents are unhinged lunatics*.”

The Cincinnati Zoo finally restored its Twitter account last week, but the damage has already been done and the opportunities have already been missed.

*Lincoln may have never said that.

Keep Denver Unique

scfd_logo_c_hWhen it comes to business, Denver is a bit of a ‘tweener. We’re not as big as New York, L.A. or Chicago, of course. But we also aren’t as big as Minneapolis, Dallas or Atlanta. When it comes to the business world, we continue to occupy a level beneath all of those cities.

But in many ways, we rank better than those larger cities. For example, we have teams in all four major sports leagues – the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. And our cultural facilities are better than you might expect in a city our size. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Denver Zoo all regularly present exhibits and programs that rival those in nearly all other major cities.

And that is no accident. Nearly 30 years ago, Denver-area voters stepped up and approved the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), a taxing organization that ensured organizations both large and small would be funded with tax dollars to ensure they could provide the kind of cultural experiences that would enrich Denver and make it even more attractive to local residents and visitors alike.

This year, voters are being asked to approve Issue 4B to extend the SCFD another 12 years. The initiative would maintain a tax of one penny on every $10 spent to continue to fund our vibrant arts and culture facilities. This is one of the best investments Denver voters can make, and I hope everyone will vote to support Issue 4B.

The SCFD is one of the unique things that has contributed to Denver being one of the best places to live in the country, and we owe it to ourselves and our children to continue that innovative approach to supporting culture and the arts in our region.

Deconstructing Hope Solo’s Olympics Implosion

Hope_Solo_(16539697180)In public relations, it often is the small things that make big differences. The U.S. Women’s National Team goalie, Hope Solo, learned that lesson the hard way when she was suspended from the team for six months this week.

What were the little things that went so wrong for Hope?

  1. She used colorful language. Many athletes engage in sour grapes after a tough loss by complaining that the better team actually lost. They will use expressions like, “They didn’t win; we gave it to them.” Hope expressed those thoughts, too, but she made her quote more colorful by calling the Swedes “a bunch of cowards.” In my non-scientific survey, the word “cowards” appeared in 100 percent of the media coverage. Journalists love colorful, which can work for you or against you.
  2. She had priors. No criminal appearing before a judge would expect to catch a break when he or she has been convicted before. And Hope should have known that she had little margin for error based on her previous actions this year alone that included a domestic violence arrest and allowing her inebriated husband to drive a U.S. Soccer vehicle.
  3. She set the stage. A lesson that every professional wrestler learns is that it is okay if they love you or hate you; it is indifference that will end your career quickly. Hope loves the spotlight, and she established herself as the anti-hero of the Rio Olympics before she even left the U.S. by tweeting photos of herself in heavy-duty, mosquito-proof outfits. She thumbed her nose at her Olympics hosts, and she was already the center of attention when she arrived.
  4. She violated the spirit of the Olympics – When athletes are paid mercenaries (i.e., performing in for-profit leagues while being paid millions of dollars), fans tend to be pretty forgiving for lapses in etiquette. But when you act like a jerk on arguably the biggest sports stage in the world that is also synonymous with sportsmanship, it becomes a problem.

Read more after the jump…

The double-edged sword of social media

Pop quiz: Is Twitter an opportunity or a threat for your business? The answer, of course, is both.

Social media allows businesses to connect more directly with customers and prospective customers than in any time in history. And it also allows competitors and detractors to screw with your brand more than in any time in history.

The stakes are real, and so is the data. A recent study conducted by a professor at Belgium’s University of Leuven found:

  • 94 percent of all PR crises either started or were fanned by Twitter, and online trolls were a “key catalyst” for spreading awareness of PR issues
  • 19 percent of PR crises actually broke on Twitter, making the social media platform a bigger threat to brands than Facebook (16 percent), YouTube (4 percent) and blogs (4 percent)
  • Consumers are more comfortable criticizing brands on Twitter. Users are 17 percent more likely to send a negative Tweet than publish a negative Facebook post.

These figures are as stunning as they are frightening. If social media monitoring isn’t part of your marketing budget, you are making a serious mistake.

Read more after the jump…

Beware the Donalds

RumsfeldTrumpEvery few years a mavericky, break-all-the-rules type of leader bubbles up into the public consciousness. He wows people with his “blunt” talk, “refreshing candor” and willingness to address complex issues in a very simple and straightforward manner.

A decade ago it was Donald Rumsfeld. While U.S. Defense Secretary, his treatise on “known knowns and unknown unknowns” made him the darling of the lecture circuit. It even resulted in a book deal – Known and Unknown: A Memoir. And much more recently, Donald Trump has climbed up the GOP presidential nominee rankings through a sometimes-incoherent strategy of attacking almost anything that moves. Supporters admire his “leadership” and “take-action” style, if not his depth and nuance.

Leaders like the Donalds usually have a shelf-life, but the internal and external damage they may do can live far beyond the FOX News and CNN news cycles. The Donalds are charismatic, and serve as role models for many other leaders, including C-level executives.

CEOs who tire of having constraints placed on them with media will point to people such as the Donalds as proof that they should be able to speak bluntly and without talking points. After all, the Donalds prove that people love outspoken leaders who are not afraid of saying what people are secretly thinking.

So here’s some free advice for PR people who work with C-level executives: Don’t let them listen to leaders like the Donalds. Both Rumsfeld and Trump are outliers, and CEOs who seek to model themselves after them will quickly find out that you can’t count on lightning striking every time. And if they try, the clean up will not be pretty.