Category Archives: PR

The Ug and Angst of “You Should …”

I’m flawed. I must be.

This weekend I sat in my church seat and found my posture turning stiff and defensive. Was I gritting my teeth?

The “should” message was being shared by the speaker, a good man who really does speak truth anIMG_8715fd wisdom. My bone-rattling spasms in the dark sanctuary had to do with the following:

  • I should be positive
  • I shouldn’t watch the news
  • I shouldn’t watch those shows spewing sexual innuendos and crude jokes (Oh hell, there goes Seinfeld …)

The “I should” and “ should nots” rest on the simple principle of “trash in, trash out,” and that each of us can take captive the thoughts roaring through our brains, mouths and actions. It’s reported that we have 60-80 thoughts per minute bouncing between our ears. Most of them are, well, negative.

The message was on point and didn’t come from a critical or harsh speaker. He admitted his own journey in trying to attract vs. detract – to see the best vs. the worst. Making matters worse, my 12-year-old son is sitting next to me, glaring and grinning at me. He knows. I have opinions—and share them freely *cough*. Let’s just say they’re often not aspiring and full of joy.

I know, I know. I believe, I believe. Positive energy and attitudes are more healthy, or is that healthful? We build more friends and relationships when we build up vs. tearing down.

Here’s The Big But …

What’s the rub? I see “being positive” as “being Pollyana.” Let’s just all pretend everything’s great and perfect. Let’s all smile on the outside while we’re screaming on the inside. Who likes these kind of people, be it at work, at home or at church? Nada.

I believe in “shoulds” and “should-nots,” rules and regs, and dos and donts. Any unit, group or society must have them to remain successful and civil. But … Yes, I always find myself on the precipice of the big BUT. Regardless, I return to lessons I’ve learned before (and over and over and over). Going positive can start with these four things. I need to post these on my bathroom mirror (again).

  1. Don’t fret over all the should and should-nots. Avoid a microscopic analysis of all things done wrong. That breeds indigestion and ulcers. Wake up wanting to be your best. And forgive yourself for screwing up. And others.
  1. Be real. Don’t be who you are not. Be authentic and transparent. Think of others as you journey through authenticity. But be yourself. Too much conformity and Pollyana-type living are foolish and fruitless. Be kind.
  1. Be informed. We can’t deny the bad stuff in our world and lives. Be aware and be active, even if that requires unpopular viewpoints and positions. Sometimes it requires watching TV or reading the news.
  1. Moderate your life. No matter what you are, who you are and whether you’re positive or negative, virtually all things, actions and attitudes must operate within moderation. Extremes may lead to unnecessary troubles.

Sometimes it’s a matter of cleaning house and getting rid of the clutter inside our heads and hearts. A re-boot of sorts.

Maybe we can all do a little cleaning up inside.

Yes we should. Ug, there’s that word again.

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Bill Cosby: Is There Another Story to Consider?

Sexual abuse is no laughing matter. Rape is horrific. As for Bill Cosby and the current accusations and allegations? I find myself struggling with fact vs. fiction.

Could one of the nation’s greatest comics of all time really drug, attack and rape more than a dozen women? Could America’s favorite “Dad” really veil such billatrocities for decades? And what do these women gain with such allegations? Justice? Fame? Money? The questions flood my thoughts.

There’s another factor to be considered: A decades-long hate of Cosby’s approach to racial equality and division. Liberals and organizations propagating racial division will certainly delight in the destruction of Cosby’s reputation. They most certainly will applaud anything that taints his position that blacks must stand up, stand tall, end their entitlement mindsets and take responsibility for their lives.

Here’s an example of Cosby addressing at the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the Brown vs Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court Decision:

Ladies and gentlemen, these people set, they opened the doors, they gave us the right, and today, ladies and gentlemen, in our cities and public schools we have fifty percent drop out. In our own neighborhood, we have men in prison. No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband. (clapping) No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the unmarried child (clapping) … Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic and lower middle economic people are [not*] holding their end in this deal. In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on. (clapping) In the old days, you couldn’t hooky school because every drawn shade was an eye (laughing). And before your mother got off the bus and to the house, she knew exactly where you had gone, who had gone into the house, and where you got on whatever you had one and where you got it from. Parents don’t know that today … I’m talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was two? (clapping) Where were you when he was twelve? (clapping) Where were you when he was eighteen, and how come you don’t know he had a pistol? (clapping) And where is his father, and why don’t you know where he is? And why doesn’t the father show up to talk to this boy?

Yes, Bill Cosby’s message is reviled by racial dividers, haters and opportunists.

I don’t know about Cosby’s guilt. I pray they are not true – for the women, for his family. For him. For us. I do know that anythIMG_8715fing is possible and that each of us – you and me – have a public persona. And private lives that are good, bad and ugly. We all have demons, pain and tragedy. I do know that public figures fight off allegations and claims all the time. Many are true. Many are not.

I feel the outrage of these women. The shock of such claims. The sadness of an iconic man being shamed.

Let us listen. And let justice prevail.

Keep it PRactical …

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Taboos in PR, What the Biz Exec Needs to Know

Every profession has taboos and things that tarnish reputations and business efforts. Public relations is no different. By knowing the taboos, business executives can do a better job finding the PR team that fits their needs, budget and culture.

7 PR Taboos Revealed, Attention Business Executives

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  1. A Press Release Is Not PR. No matter what anyone tries to sell you, one press release is not a business-changing event—or a public relations (PR) program. It is one component that is usually overused and sometimes useless. Effective PR requires a PR person—someone adept, experienced, creative and comfortable walking the tight rope between client needs and reporter needs. And pricing? NEVER pay more than a $500-$1,000 for someone to write a press release. Ever.
  2. No Value. If you don’t value PR, don’t do PR. Often, PR is perceived as a necessary evil – and a drain on the marketing budget. If the executive team doesn’t believe it can add value, allocate dollars elsewhere. Better yet, have someone explain its value—and how it compares to other communications efforts.
  3. Trust or Bust. If you can’t trust ‘em, fire ‘em. There are quality PR agencies and people who know the rules and boundaries—and have the news noses that matter. Sadly, there are many who don’t.
  4. Play Fair, Play Baseball. Not every news release or PR story idea will be a home run. And nobody hits home runs all the time. Expect PR to be like a baseball game. Sometimes there are first-base hits. Sometimes there are strike-outs. Clarify and manage expectations starting from day one. Be specific. Be real.
  5. Avoid Long Legs. I hate to admit what I’ve seen in my career. I know agencies who strut in the young account ladies to woo the prospects – most of whom were all-male Boomers who lapped up the extravagant beauty in the room. Sexism in galactic proportion. Don’t fall for the oldest trick in the book. Good PR is not sex, sizzle, short skirts and long legs. It’s about news smarts, big ideas, hard work and persistent outreach—and usually works best when involving mature (old), frumpy guys and gals.IMG_8715f
  6. Know What You Pay For. So what should you pay for PR? It depends on scope and breadth, and monthly deliverables, all of which should be in a written plan. I’ve seen consistently successful PR programs for $1,500 per month (a small business client). I also recognize that PR programs can be $10K to $20K/month BUT know what you’re paying for, and avoid nickel-and-dimers.
  7. Madness Over Metrics. It’s the PR Achilles Heel. How the hell do you measure the value of a story in The Dallas Morning News? Is the story all about you? Are you one of several sources quoted in the article? Is your key message embodied in the story? Do you measure by number of “news hits” or rank stories in terms of message, or both? It’s a nightmare. Business executives rarely care to see anything except “tonnage”—the number of articles that includes the company name or an executive quote. There are tools for PR measurement. They cost a lot. In 25-plus years, I’ve had two clients willing to pay for such services. Work with your PR agency on the metrics. Stick to them and revise, as needed. Without metrics, there is no way to ascertain success.

This is not intended to assume that the PR industry or its people are largely flacks and quacks willing to cheat companies and clients. Not. Most PR people are hard-working, family-loving professionals doing a job. With integrity.

Now, share YOUR experience working with PR professionals.

Keep it PRactical.

-R

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Filed under CEO, news release, PR, PR agencies, press release, Public Relations, Small Business

Good, Not Great. And No Gloating.

Election Day is over. And the news is a Republican sweep of the House and Senate. The days of the Reid Regime and cronies seem to be at an end.

elephant&donkeyThe news is good. Not great. As for all the Republican squawking about victory and “saving the country,” here’s an admonishment: Do NOT gloat.

IMG_8715fThere is nothing—at least, very little—for Republicans to show and share to the America public, whose votes are far more a sign of disgust with Democrats and Obama vs. their love of the Elephant Party.

What’s this got to do with public relations and communications? Everything. Let’s start with The Message.

The Message.

Communicators evangelize their clients to have a clear, concise message that offers differentiators and competitive advantages. In politics, the message is dubbed a platform. Yet for most—especially the low-information voter—Message is everything. Or nothing. I’ve yet to hear a clear message from the Republican Party. What do they stand for and represent? What are they willing to fight for, based on philosophy, conviction and constituency? Millions are spent on advertising yet The Message is muddled and misdirected. Instead of hope, change, vision, truth, passion and purpose, The Elephants drum up drama, attacks and negative finger-pointing. Granted, The Donkey Party does the same. Be it a political candidate or chief executive, The Message must resonate, then create desire and action. Positivity is powerful. Crapping on competitors isn’t good communications. Or good politics.

The Walk.

If you preach it, practice it. Don’t lie. Don’t hedge. Don’t master the English language so that positions and practices seem vague or vacuous. Say what you mean, mean what you say. In politics, this is all but lost. Money and power have sapped them of conviction and clarity. Has the same happened in your organization?

The Rest of The Story.

For those of us who hate big bureaucracy and growing government, there is a sliver of hope that the United States can shake off the tomfoolery of a six-year national debacle called Obama. But just a sliver. Elephants like big government too, with limitless spending (and terms)–and increasing encroachment of states’ rights and individual liberties.

Regardless of party or politics, our nation—the people, you and me—must decide the future. More indebtedness? A federal leviathan of regulations and requirements? A move from free-market capitalism? Whether Elephant or Donkey, the zoo must be reined in, held accountable. Reformed. Revised.

As communicators, we must be willing to stand up and share The Message that matters, be it individual or corporate. Be it conservative or liberal, or left or t, we must be true to ourselves, our clients and constituents.

We must say it share it, walk it.

Live it.

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When “Contact Us” Translates into “We Don’t Care”

It’s the simple stuff that kills us.

As communicators, we dive into the details of how to best communicate to key audiences. What’s more titillating than a comprehensive audience analysis, psychographics included? Our brains explode with ideas and tactics that integrate and initiate action and interest.

IMG_8715fThen we get slapped with the big hand of Stupid. The simple things that kill our ideas, energy … and workplace respect. Even when it’s not our fault. Hello.

I found this out during the last few weeks not as a communicator but as an everyday consumer. Actually, I was interested in getting more involved in something beyond my “self.” Volunteering for a non-profit was of interest so I outlined the organizations of interest, went to their websites and looked for key contacts. Most didn’t offer what seemed to be relevant contacts for volunteer opportunities, just a basic Contact Us online form. So I filled them out.

Tick, tock. Tick tock … tick …

It’s been weeks. And now? While I still respect the mission of the organizations I queried, I certainly don’t think as highly of them. As for volunteering for them, not likely. So what’s the issue here?

  • Option 1: Messages go into some black hole and are never checked.
  • Option 2: Messages go to a specific person who ignores the inbound correspondence (intentional or not)
  • Option 3: Messages go to several people so that “someone can handle it,” with each person assuming someone else will respond – or no one does.

Regardless, the system is flawed. And the organization is screwed. Volunteers get miffed. Donors get miffed. Anyone and everyone gets miffed. Guess what happens during the annual fundraising event? People remember.

4 Questions to Ask Yourself about Your “Contact Us”

  • What is my company saying when key contacts are not listed online—and only offers an impersonal form?
  • Have I filled out the Contact Us form to test the process in which responses are received and resolved?
  • Do I know who is solely responsible for receiving and responding to incoming inquiries, and are they shared with personnel that need to know, i.e., sales, product development, customer support, etc.?
  • What is the cost per sales lead at my company? Assuming one of three “contact us” inquiries are sales related, how much money is being lost when a response is not provided? Ouch.

Enough said. Go to your company website. Fill out the form. See what happens.

And make changes fast. It’s just good communications.

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You Matter, Even If You’re “Wrong”

Oh my, the things we do—and have done—to fit in.

As a kid, I can remember roaming the neighborhood with boys that were older than me. Yeah, which means I discovered cigarettes as a 10-year-old, saw my first Playboy by age 11 and found my next-door neighbor’s face stuck to what I thought was a glass vase. A bong.

boy4We all want to fit in, be accepted and be with the “in crowd.” So when we’re rejected, criticized, attacked or set apart—physically, relationally or emotionally—there’s great angst and irritation. Fear. Yet fitting in often conflicts with what is right, what is good, our values, beliefs and professional standards. So therein lies the struggle. So at what price do we choose to fit in? How willing are we to stand up for what we believe is true, good, just or unjust? Can we deal with scorn, rejection, disdain? Hate?

The Burden of Conviction

Professionally, PR folks have a code of ethics. In addition, we each have a personal code of conduct. So are we operating our lives, attitudes and actions in concert with the code, or have we become ambivalent or hardened by what we see and hear every day? I’m guilty. You are too. Yet increasingly, I find myself saying no more. Not now. I can’t allow this or that. I won’t tolerate this action or that inaction. I am re-discovering my personal conviction. It is this burden of conviction that we’ve lost somewhere along the way.

5 Challenges for You & Me

  1.  Be alert. Gulliver should have never taken a nap. Don’t sleep through your life. Awaken the heart and spirit. And mind. Live to effect change.
  2. Be informed. Know your stuff. Read. Read. Read. Study what’s being said, by whom. Ask questions, ask why. Today, information is rarely objective or “simple fact.” Example, if you agree with global warming, know why. If you don’t, know why.
  3. Be active. Knowledge without action is empty air and wasted time. Act. Do. Figure out “your part” at work, at home, in your neighborhood or nonprofit. It is the silent doers in the back that make the most impact. The famous and rich? Rarely.
  4. Be outspoken. There is so much clamoring that it’s often difficult to get a word in edge-wise. Share your convictions. Share what you believe is good and right. Agree to disagree, but enter into discourse and debate.
  5. Be you. Most importantly, you must remain true to who you are, what you believe and what is required of you. You matter. Your opinions are valid, whether I agree or not.

Whether we’re talking about our role in the workplace or as a parent – or as an American citizen tuned into the issues of the nation and world—we must respond to the burden of conviction. It’s about being true to one’s self. Thinking for yourself. And acting.

The time is now.

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Filed under America, PR, Roy Miller, Small Business, Uncategorized

Do Small Businesses Need a Marketing Communications Intervention?

Among small businesses, (500 employees or less), I find it rare that they much in the way of communicating with customers, prospects, suppliers, influencers, and even employees. Why? There are three primary reasons:

  1. Marketing is perceived as mysterious, and seems complicated.
  2. Sales is familiar and seems easy (I hire a sales guy, use Salesforce and dial for dollars).
  3. I’m too busy to think about it or do it (We’re developing products, ensuring service, hiring people, keeping people happy, fighting fires and meeting payroll, etc.).

When they meet communicators, they’re usually interested in what we have to say. We’re excited and more than willing to rattle off exactly what their business needs: “Social media is critical, public relations is essential and your website, sales materials and trade show stuff must be new, fresh, and compelling. And, of course, there’s the issue of your corporate brand and how all of this fits into an overall marketing communications strategy. So, let’s get started.”

The business owner is now catatonic. Eyes are glazed over. Is he or she breathing? Their business brains have gone straight to “oh my god”  and “there’s no way I can do all this—no time, no money, no people.”  We just assassinated our prospect.

Here’s how to slow down and showcase the role of marketing communications for small businesses in 7 simple steps:

  1. Break it down. No company can do everything all the time. Through a simple yet comprehensive planning session with the sales and executive team, we discover the business goals and efforts that are already planned. We align marketing efforts with business efforts. Business goals with marketing goals.
  2. Start small. If the business owner and the team are historically sales focused vs. marketing savvy, it’s critical to start small and get them comfortable with how marketing works—vs. sales. Starting small may mean implementing something as simple as a customer letter that is written, printed and mailed every quarterly. An easy First Step is a brief yet consistent e-mail “newsletter” to customers and prospects.
  3. Budget the basics. The same principle applies here. Don’t scope the marketing program so they have to put a lien on their building. Give them some practical perspectives, share a brief strategy/goals statement, and then break out the steps and tactics with hard numbers. Be precise and specific.
  4. Stay nearby and navigate with care. I find that entrepreneurs thrive amid chaos so keeping efforts focused, synced and timely are often the most difficult parts of the project. Pre-scheduled status meetings per week serve to remind everyone “who’s on first.” Keeping everyone committed, aware and engaged is 95 percent of the success factor.
  5. Make it easy. Do everything you can to eliminate redundancy, delays and to-dos. If it gets you what you need to accomplish the task, meet your client for a drink after hours or do a phone call after they tuck in their kids for bed. Accommodate them.
  6. Show progress. Don’t go silent and not correspond with the client for a week. Tune in, communicate and let them know something’s happening. I add calendar reminders called “Quick Touch/Client A” just so I reach out—even if there’s not a lot to say. Quick and easy.
  7. Step back. In our quest to act and generate results, we may forget the most important action required with clients: to listen. They are the experts in their business. We need to leverage that so we can improve and advance their cause—and ours.

When clients and communicators combine their competencies, long term, the outcome is extraordinary. There is strength in relationships and results.

Please follow me at http://www.twitter.com/practicalpr.

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Filed under marketing communications, PR, Roy G. Miller, Small Business, Uncategorized