A couple weeks ago, the Golden State Warriors finally found out they would be playing the Utah Jazz in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. To many Warriors players, the news came as a disappointment, but not because they were concerned about facing the Jazz in a seven-game series. The confident Warriors were simply hoping they’d be spending their off nights in a more exciting city than Salt Lake.
HBO’s John Oliver takes on the media’s attempts to sell his show’s content through sensational headlines and clickbait.
As media outlets look to grow their shrinking audiences and advertising budgets, they are turning to popular online platforms to share stories and drive engagement.
The New York Times for instance, is setting the bar for how it presents its stories online, by including video, graphics, podcasts and photos. It’s refreshing compared to the tired ink and paper version that fewer and fewer people find on their door steps each morning. But, as some media outlets are looking to truly engage and embrace online platforms, there are others that are simply driving their audiences to digital properties to drive clicks, which they will somehow count as audience growth and sell to advertisers.
This trend is called clickbait, content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page or to comment, with the goal of growing audiences and digital revenue. It has nothing to do with journalism, although it can be cloaked as such.
This year, Patagonia announced that it would donate all Black Friday proceeds to grassroots environmental groups fighting to protect natural resources like water, oil and soil. The company expected to rake in about $2 million across its 80 global stores and Patagonia.com. In reality, Patagonia recorded $10 million in revenue – five times what the company expected – and is still promising to donate 100 percent of that revenue to the environmental groups.
The chief executive of Grubhub, an online and mobile food ordering company, learned a lesson last week after he sent out a companywide email that implied that employees should resign if they supported President-elect Donald Trump.
The backlash was immediate and sustained. CEO Matt Maloney quickly moved to clarify his comments, but he damage was done. There were calls for a boycott and media pounced on the executive.
Responding to questions from a Ragan’s PR Daily reporter about the issue, GroundFloor Media’s Vice President Gil Rudawsky said that he began advising clients to update their policies concerning making public political statements earlier this year, and re-emphasized this in the weeks leading up to the election.
“Public comments, even from personal accounts, can be—and often are—misconstrued as being representative of their company’s views,” Rudawsky told Ragan’s. “As a best practice, it is not appropriate for executives to make decidedly one-sided political comments or to push their views on employees.”
And regarding Maloney’s missive to his staff, Rudawsky offered this lesson:
“We remind our clients that while free speech is right, just because you can make political mandates doesn’t mean you should.”
And with social media, you can lose it in even less time. Think about how long it takes to write a tweet. The good news is that for whatever reason a reputation is trashed, steps can be taken to repair it.
As part of GroundFloor Media’s service line offerings, we help businesses, organizations and individuals with reputation management issues. Tools we use include earned and paid media campaigns, enhancing social media and online presence and community outreach.
Many crises start out as legal issues or will lead to legal issues, and it is important to protect your strategy and communications from the other side. Here are a couple of quick tips to help, but remember that everything you say in an email or write down is likely discoverable.
Quick Legal Checklist
- Include legal counsel in strategy calls
- Include legal counsel in all correspondence, particularly when developing strategy and content documents
- Get sign-off on strategy and communications from legal counsel
- Get regular updates from the legal team on case developments, particularly on upcoming legal events that may garner media coverage
To help this relationship work, here is a list of qualities that each side need from the other.
Qualities An In-House Lawyer Values In An External PR Firm:
- Experience: Having a member of the PR team whose worked as a reporter was invaluable in translating the process. What was the reporter looking for? What would he accept from us?
- Resilient: Working with a reporter on background takes persistence and the willingness to go back repeatedly if necessary on issues. They can’t give up and provide the reporter with an excuse to report an inaccurate or unbalanced fact.
- Responsive: A media crisis is a 24/7 grind. Media appreciate getting immediate responses to questions and issues. (It is also a two-way street.)
- Tough: Someone you would want with you in a bar fight.
- Teachable: Work with someone who will get beyond sound bites and wants to understand the details and background. This will involve a desire to dig in and learn about the company and how it does business.
Qualities a PR firm values in Corporate Legal Counsel
- No schadenfreude: leave the legal language for pleadings, not the media or communications to non-lawyers. In a crisis, a good lawyer will know less is more for messaging.
- Value PR: Understanding the proactive and reactive role of public relations, particularly during a crisis, is valuable, and counsel knows it can preserve or help rebuild a company’s reputation. The court of public opinion is just as valuable as the actual courtroom.
- Cool-headed: A crisis can have many different lifecycles, and keeping calm with a focus on the end goal is appreciated.
- Open-minded: A PR response can be much different than a legal response in a crisis, while both have similar goals.
- Backbone: During a crisis, an executive may want to either go out swinging or say absolutely nothing. A good legal counsel will offer a better perspective, and a more moderate and effective approach. Remember: you want to win the war, not the battle.
PR qualities courtesy of Bill Ojile, Partner, Armstrong Teasdale, Denver office; former Chief Legal Officer Alta Colleges
First there were all the rumors swirling around, and then, finally, the tearful goodbye on the show.
The media ate it up; and in everyone’s zeal to get the story, one article, from The New York Times, in particular stood out for how wrong they had it. And while it’s been a few years since The New York Times has had to admit mistakes and apologize on behalf of a reporter, it’s still a little shocking that it happened at all.
For those of us who work in communications and work with reporters on a daily basis, what recourse do we have when a reporter gets it wrong and reports inaccuracies or untruths about our clients? Depending on the egregiousness of the error, usually it’s no more than a tiny mention buried in the back of a newspaper, if at all.
While I appreciate that the Times’ Culture Editor and Executive Editor came to the reporter’s defense, the excuse that the reporter was multitasking is weak. That’s the nature of a reporter’s job — to multitask and cover a variety of stories at once.
What are your thoughts on this story? Was the reporter just multitasking and made a simple error? Was this indicative of downsized newsrooms and reporters spread too thin? How do we make sure that the media continues to tell our clients’ stories with integrity and accuracy?
~ Barb Jones
Authenticity rules when it comes to crisis communication, particularly online.
I just wrapped up the second day of a reputation and crisis communication conference in New York City. Here are some great social media lessons from Southwest Airlines’ Linda Rutherford, vice president of communication and strategic outreach.
Southwest leads not only the airline industry, but the corporate world for setting the standard in social media engagement. They are acutely aware that bad news about their company will break on Twitter, as it did when part of a Southwest plane’s ceiling came off. Photos were being shared on TwitPic before the plane even landed.
Southwest’s social media engagement plan includes the following points:
Don’t be afraid to join the conversation
Make it personal and authentic
Engage in the positive
Have a contingency plan BEFORE a crisis arises
Establish channels before a crisis
Don’t rely on numbers alone
Educate your employees and leaders about the value of social media
Live and breathe social media
Have fun- this in not a burden, it is a gift.
I just landed in New York to take part in the “Reputation Preservation and Crisis Communication Summit.”
The two-day workshop, put on by UK-based Ethical Corporation, features executives from a variety of companies discussing how they protect reputations and respond to crisis.
Companies represented include Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, AIR, Alcoa, P&G, REI and Verizon. We are hoping to learn about some best practices as we continue to grow our crisis-issues management service line. GroundFloor looks forward to sharing what we learn with our clients. In the meantime, if you have any questions, send me a note at email@example.com.