I am unquestionably an introvert. I love people, and I love being around people… until it’s time to recharge. Then, I need to be alone. With a good book, hiking the trail near my home, or simply laying down and staring at the ceiling fan. I need to be quiet, turn my focus inward and regroup. Afterwards, I’m ready to be around people again.
Whether it’s dreaming up the perfect copy for a social media post, crafting a pitch for a key reporter, or strategizing how to report metrics to executives – the daily life of a communications professional requires a lot of widely-varied creative ideas and solutions!
Some days the creativity flows like a river and other days the creative process takes a little longer to get going, which is why I read two recent articles with great interest!
Creativity Isn’t About Talent, It’s a Mood
If you’re a fan of Monty Python, you’re a fan of co-founder John Cleese who – it turns out – is obsessed with creativity. This recent article describes some of Cleese’s best tips for setting the right mood for creativity which include:
- Creating a space/time oasis where you can get away from daily distractions and disturbances
- Sticking with problems just a little longer than when the “easy way out” appears… the alternative is almost always more creative
- My personal favorite: making mistakes because “while you’re being creative, nothing is wrong”
- Embracing humor, because it’s essential to spontaneity and playfulness, two key ingredients to creativity
- Keeping a light hold of the problem you’re pondering, as you’re likely to be rewarded with a creative solution when you least expect it
As 2016 comes to a close, we take time to reflect on the year’s biggest PR disasters:
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.
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.
It’s no surprise to those of us who work here that GFM is the No. 1 place to work in America, according to OUTSIDE Magazine. From unlimited “trusted time off” to an annual teambuilding offsite with Outward Bound, not to mention an onsite treadmill desk (my favorite!) and Beer Club every Thursday afternoon, we’re truly lucky to be part of the GFM culture!
That’s why several of our team members have been with 15-year-old GFM for at least 10 years – a milestone that earns employees a four-week, paid sabbatical to take some time off to reflect, rejuvenate and reconnect. In August, I became the fourth GFM team member to enjoy sabbatical and I divided my time between home and two weeks visiting family in Nova Scotia, Canada. Whether you’re lucky enough to have an employer who offers a sabbatical program or whether you’re simply able to slip away from the office for a short vacation, I compiled a few reflections that I hope provide some inspiration to take with you on your trip – or to simply plug into everyday life! Read more after the jump…
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.
To call my husband a fan of fly-fishing would be a huge understatement. He is passionate about the sport and spends every spare moment he can on the river. I mention this because I’ve had the chance to go fishing with him a couple of times this summer, and while I’m nowhere near as experienced or skilled as he is, I have managed to glean a few PR lessons while standing hip-deep in the water in my waders:
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Not long ago, I posted a blog about what I believe really matters when it comes to company culture. One aspect I didn’t really delve into in that post was employee engagement. I recently came across Cone Communications’ 2016 Employee Engagement Study and wanted to share some interesting insights that I think absolutely relate back to creating a strong company culture where employees look forward to coming to work and want to stick around long-term.
Emotional intelligence, known as EQ, is being touted as a key ingredient to surviving any working environment. Don’t get me wrong, IQ is still important and not to be dismissed. But the EQ is playing a critical role within the PR profession as digital media, client demands and no-such- thing-as-being-offline expectations seem to be the new norm. Read more after the jump…