May 17, 2013
by Roger Pynn
Headlines aren’t anymore just what you see in print or on a web page. A tweet can be a headline, too … and the one below from The Huffington Post deserves to get someone to the woodshed for a few whacks on the backside.
Follow the link and you’ll see that the story is about a university president who resigned after several contentious issues got in the way of her leadership … but she did not, as the tweet says, sell her school’s football stadium to a prison company. As you’ll read, the school entered in a naming rights deal with a company that operates prisons on a commercial basis under government contracts.
Argue the concept of privately managed prisons on the editorial page … but for the sake of whatever credibility is left in journalism, be sure your headline writers and tweeters get it right – regardless of how they feel about the issue.
May 13, 2013
by Roger Pynn
Anyone concerned about the future of journalism (in all its forms), and attendant issues of accuracy, transparency and “paper trails,” should read this intriguing article from Chris Dannen at FAST COMPANY’s Co.LABS.
You may think by the time you’re through that all they’ve done is to apply the concepts of Microsoft’s Track Changes or some other group editing tool to the business of online journalism. But this is so much more, and actually goes to a point I made last week commenting on an earlier post.
I had written about a misleading headline that simply wasn’t supported by the facts in the story. Rather than updating the story in a way that noted the mistake and let readers know the paper cares about these issues, OrlandoSentinel.com simply replaced it. It clearly points to the “rush to publish” mentality and the pressures on newsrooms that are underfunded and understaffed. Editing is falling by the wayside in many cases.
Dannen’s article points to what could be a new way for journalists to not only address the important issues facing online media, but perhaps to also boost their following, click-through rates, reader loyalty … and, eventually, the bottom line.
May 6, 2013
by Roger Pynn
Newlywed, 4 others killed in limo fire | Video
Updated: 7:47 a.m.
Who wouldn’t click that headline? I wonder how many of you clicked it before you read this post.
It was shocking. You had to be sad before you got to the story.
And when you’d finished you realized it was wrong. It may be true, but officials refused to confirm whether the deceased included a bride, or even that it was – as some had reported – a bridal party in the limousine.
In all communication, what you say first is critical to your effort to inform, entertain or persuade your audience. We all understand the economic pressures facing the media, but their woes will only worsen if they continue to fail at the basics … which include assuring that headline writers carefully ready the stories they are trying to introduce.
May 2, 2013
by Roger Pynn
It has become so much a part of our media culture that we probably let it roll off our backs, but what has been done with weather reporting has become a perfect example of how over-commercializing something can destroy its credibility. The messaging sent by broadcasters and online content providers is straight out of Little Red Riding Hood.
Broadcasters – especially television, but radio can’t escape the charges – learned long ago that weather was hot news. Meteorology departments were given monikers like “Severe Weather Center” and “Storm Center,” when in fact most of the time they were reporting on sunny days and beautiful nights.
As newspapers evolved into digital products with print companions, it was a no-brainer to follow suit because the business became all about clicks and there’s nothing like a headline like the one we saw yesterday (“Weather: Rain falling ahead of massive storm“) to produce clicks.
It warned the storm would produce “heavy rain, possibly two to three inches, lightning and hail through the afternoon into tonight” – enough to prompt us to tell our staff to get a head start toward home, rather than have them driving through violent weather during rush hour. After all, it said “this afternoon’s thunderstorms could also generate wind gusts of up to 50 mph.”
It is still drizzling this morning … which is the most that ever happened, and I’m still glad we sent people home. After all, they were seeing the same story on their screens and we could hear the chatter about it. They’d have been nuts not to have been concerned.
With Florida getting an early dose of dramatic weather this year, I suppose we’re in for a lot of this “exciting” coverage. One can only hope that our news community – with so much invested in Doppler radar systems and other high tech monitoring tools – will be vigilant about the tone of the message.
March 21, 2013
by Roger Pynn
Having recently attended a local event where there were so many “sponsors” that they had to set a table for 20 in the center of the room, then give each advertiser a chance to get up and speak, this post from Seth Godin really caught my eye.
Rude as it was, at this breakfast meeting the expected happened. Instead of listening politely and actually paying attention to the people who had paid for their meal, attendees began to chat among themselves and the buzz quickly rose to a loud hum.
Why? Well, OK … a lot of boorish people are out there these days. But, equally to blame were lousy sales pitches being made by a group of business people who actually thought they would establish a selling opportunity by boring a bunch of people with their story.
We rarely encourage our clients to spend good money on this type of sponsorship opportunity. But, if there are collateral advantages – such as honoring an award recipient or repaying a favor – we make sure that if they stand up to the microphone the message is short and sweet and non-commercial.
The chances that you’ll make a sale are virtually zero, so don’t make a sales pitch. If you’re a sponsor granted two to three minutes, take one.
I’d far rather my client say “Hey, folks … isn’t this a great gathering? You’d probably like an extra minute to chat with the person next to you, so consider that our company just paid for that minute … and if we can ever be of help to you, don’t hesitate to call … here’s my phone number … “
I guarantee the people in the room will chuckle, they’ll tell people about it and they’ll remember you.
What more could you ask?
March 13, 2013
by Roger Pynn
We’re a society that just loves to watch people fail (for proof, just see the lineup of “reality” shows on television where winning may be the end game, but week-in and week-out the elimination of some participant is the highlight). It happens in business, too, and media (real and social) act like pit bulls when they think they’ve sunk their teeth into the ear of an emerging failure.
Nowhere has that been more obvious for the past year or so as people have been shredding retailer J.C. Penney (JCP). There’s been no shortage of experts criticizing the company’s every move and predictions of its demise have been everywhere.
So this L.A. Times story caught my eye. While like all business stories it regurgitates JCP’s woes of the past year, but it actually goes pretty deep into CEO Ron Johnson’s strategies, which are not surprisingly very reminiscent of the thinking he was famous for at Apple.
But what struck me as most important among them is that Johnson isn’t looking over his shoulder every day at 5 p.m. as the stock market closes. He’s not acting like the typical CEO of a publicly traded company, focusing all of his communication on analysts and investors. Instead, he’s focused on executing strategies that will “give a reason for a lot of customers who haven’t been to JCP lately to come check it out.”
Johnson says that he will take a focus on operational, marketing and communication issues, rather than investor meetings. “The doubt is in the business community and not with the customer,” said Johnson. “The business backdrop is interesting, but my focus is totally on the customer. That’s where I need to spend my time.”
Amen to that. Don’t worry about what’s being written. Worry about what it takes to get the writers wanting to write about you all the time because you’re so good at what you do.
March 7, 2013
by Roger Pynn
It was a call like many I’ve had over the years. A good, well-meaning friend thinking he was doing me a favor … paying me the ultimate compliment: referring me a piece of business. The only problem was that his client whom he wanted me to talk with is in trouble.
Perhaps I look like a firefighter. But I’m not. We do put out fires … when our clients need us to, but those are clients we work with and for on an ongoing basis … people who clearly have recognized the need to communicate with their stakeholders. They have engaged us to help them protect their reputations, communicate their messages and be sure they have the needed relationships (media, community, employees, etc.) that enable them to communicate … in good times and bad.
We don’t just show up when someone is in trouble and wave a magic wand. Media and the public can tell the difference between a sincere effort to communicate and the words of a paid mouthpiece.
We’re not 911. So if this is the first time you’re communicating, and you’re in trouble, maybe you should call 911 because the flames may already be nipping at your heels.
February 27, 2013
by Roger Pynn
A Forbes guest post by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes (@invoker) offers great insight into the evolution of what people are paying attention to and why. What he’s talking about is how business has learned that the basics taught by public relations practitioners for decades is even more applicable with the advent of social media networks like Twitter.
I think he’s right that paid social media is set to surge, both because the nature of the beast(s) eschews all the failures of traditional paid advertising and because the medium forces communicators to target not only demographics but psychographic motivations of their audience.
Demographics tell us everything we want to know about an audience. As Holmes points out, “Tweets can be targeted by country and city, gender and even device. If so inclined, a brand could blast out a Promoted Tweet to female Blackberry users in Tanzania whose interests include enterprise software and college basketball.“
Psychographics may tell us why that same Tanzanian female techie is interested in college basketball. And so, I believe, the real surge will come as social media networks sharpen their most important tool … research. They’re doing plenty of it. The challenge will be to ask what PR people have long held is the most important question: “why?”
It is far more important to the success of paid social media that advertisers understand motivation. Then those posts from people you don’t know may become so intriguing that you become their follower, their friend … and hopefully their customer.
February 27, 2013
by Roger Pynn
I was brought up in a household full of positive thinkers. Seeing things positively was infused in us almost as if we had an IV attached to our soul. And although I’m in a business that demands we anticipate what can go wrong, this post from Seth Godin is a great reminder that public relations people need to spend at least as much time seeing what can go right as what can go wrong.
We’re often judged for our ability to manage communication in a crisis … and that’s important, for sure.
But Godin reminds us that visualizing all that can go right is likely to result in award-winning results.
One of our firm’s 5 Steps to Professional Success reminds our team to “Analyze the big picture, not just the snapshot.” And while one might see an ominous cloud in the step that says to “Focus on what keeps the client awake at night,” a positive thinker would assume that clients probably fret about too much focus on the negative.
February 26, 2013
by Roger Pynn
You can’t live in Central Florida and not be aware of the presence and power of the motorsports industry. It has an enormous impact on our economy and it is a part of the regional culture. And while I doubt we would have been any less interested had Danica Patrick broken through NASCAR barriers on any other track, for a lot of folks there was a sense of pride that she made her biggest statement yet at Daytona International Speedway.
And when terrible things happened at Daytona on Saturday just a day before the Great American Race, it hit home for folks here who know that we are home each year to our own version of the Super Bowl every February. Folks all over the world saw the horrific crash and television network stations nationwide were quick to show video taken by fans in the stand as debris flew into the stands. It was all over YouTube in minutes.
All-in-all, I thought the folks at the track did a good job of PR basics … responding to and updating media, expressing their concern first and foremost for the injured fans and their families and making it crystal clear that they were focused on fan safety. The overnight repair of the “catch nets” that are supposed to keep cars on the track and out of the stands was pretty amazing … demonstrating not only the commitment to safety, but the agility of the company that draws so much tourism and profit to Daytona Beach. (Full disclosure here … our firm represents the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and we know how important those visitors are.)
One question that looms over NASCAR PR’s head this week, however, as the racing body pursues answers to what caused the accident to go beyond the track and into the stands where so many were injured: what really prompted a decision by NASCAR to block a YouTube video of the wreck posted by a fan?
The decision and initial claims that copyright interests drove the move beg questions about NASCAR social media policy, and where and how decisions like this are made.
NASCAR needs its fans … whether they are visiting the World’s Most Famous Beach or any of the tracks around the country. The sport is evolving on many fronts (safety, auto technology, marketing and fan experience among them) and the organization needs to be sensitive to the nature of social media. Fan video is a fact of life.